Assessment in Mathematics

13 Jan

A group of educators are brought into a room and asked to grade the exact same math test taken by the exact same student.  The mark achieved on this test?  Well the mark varied by 30%.  Wait a second… I thought math was black and white, right and wrong, good and evil… Why such the difference?

Over the course of my education I have thought a lot about assessment and especially how I am going to approach it when I teach.  I understand that there is a numerical grade given to students and I just do not think that it necessarily reflects any knowledge or understanding of the student.  Assessing doesn’t have to be done through marking to get a grade, because what does a grade really mean anyways?  Why is it that students need to be tested to prove their knowledge?  Do we not notice students understanding in numerous situations and do we not assess those things?  Regardless of these numerous things that we assess there has to be a numerical grade assigned to a student.  Marks are only reflective of a person’s opinion, so do they really matter?

Today in our EMTH 350 class we were asked to assess tests.  This is the first time I had been asked to do this, but not the first time that I have marked something.  I saw in many different instances that I knew the student fully understood the assignment and the problem yet made mistakes along the way.  What is more important; getting the right answer or understanding the process?  Process over product is a concept that I often think about and have always felt true.  When it comes down to it though, society asks a grade of us for our students.  In such a competitive society, with scholarships and university and so on, how else are we to gauge a students performance?

What really is assessment?  My understanding of it is that when you observe a student you can understand what they understand and what they are doing wrong.  Most importantly you are understanding how to fix those problems.  Assessing is something that happens all the time, but how can we measure it?  Do we need to?

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