Q&A #6497

Math assessment

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From: Ralph (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Jun 14, 2001 at 13:52:37
Subject: Re: Math assessment

Dear Shannon,

Well, the good news is that with the vast majority of the students passing
the multiple choice portion of the test, it would seem that they have
sufficient content knowledge to do well on the test (or else they are REALLY
lucky guessers :)  I don't believe the poor performance on the open response
part of the test is necessarily a confidence issue.  We're finding again and
again that students seem to have a great deal of difficulty "talking" (or
writing) mathematics, even when they "know" the math.

Part of this difficulty likely stems from the fact that, until recently,
students often weren't asked to or expected to "explain" their answers or
reasoning, and the focus was on "the answer".  With attention shifting to
asking students to explore, explain, interpret, etc. as well as "getting the
answer", it's not uncommon for students to struggle at first.

Although there's no "easy" answer to your question, ONE way to get students
doing better on the open-response type of questions is to give them many more
opportunities to formulate explanations to the problems that they are
solving.  One very good resource for ideas in this regard is available from
the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)-you can check it out
by going to the NCTM website:


and clicking on their publications catalog. The book is entitled Mathematics
Assessment: A Practical handbook for Grades 6-8. You mentioned that students
had more trouble with "easier" problems, which sounded like they were
"computation" based.  If that's the case, an excellent book that has many
investigations in number, complete with samples of student responses, etc. is
a book called "It All Adds Up", by Penny Skinner.  It is available from Math
Solutions Publications--you can find the information at their website:


and clicking on Publications.  Good luck!

 -Ralph, for the T2T service

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