Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, August 23, 2010

Math Tests

How do you assess / measure / evaluate how well someone has learned a subject? Alas, in the education business it often means you must give them a test / quiz / assessment.

I tried to look up the question, "What is a math test" and I get no useful answers from Google.

I found free tests, copies of tests, reports about tests, rantings about unfair tests, free test preparation hints, offers of paid test tutoring, and sites that offer everything but rational discussion. I read papers about how badly we (in the USA) perform compared to other countries. And so on.

I found this statement: "valuing what we measure rather than measuring what we value.”

Which is a nicely-stated philosophical quandry but not very helpful in a discipline like math - which is all about measuring things whether we value them or not.

I got distracted and played with the Toy Theatre Site for awhile. I tested myself on all sorts of elementary math (of course it's fun when you can solve all the problems correctly). I especially liked the water pull.


In Excel Math, most of our curriculum grade levels provide 24 tests of various sorts. We have placement tests, weekly tests, quarterly tests, year-end tests, and a few others. We offer questions that require calculations, multiple-choice, match-the-answers, fill-in-the-blanks, bubble-in-the-oval, write-us-an-essay, and charting or graphing.

They are not designed to make kids' lives miserable, I assure you. Nor are they designed to hold them back or to propel them forward in life. They are problems from the curriculum itself, which offer a chance to demonstrate mastery of the topics taught throughout a math education.

Luckily, once we leave school there aren't too many tests that we need to take. There's occasional one at the DMV for a driver's license. If you want to be an attorney or a realtor you take some tests. There are forms to fill out, and a few "competitions" for a job. But in general, adult life is free of scary formal written assessments of math competency.

Unfortunately we also use the word test to describe the results of medical research as well as for learning assessment.

And we are asked the same kind of questions "How did you do on your test?" or "did you get the results of your test?" as if it were something you could study for. Co-mingling those concepts isn't the best way to free ourselves from the fear of testing.

Score poorly - maybe I flunk school. Score poorly - maybe I die. It's no wonder people fear testing.