Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Provincial Math Assessment for Learning: 90% Computation Based?

Assessment for Learning Saskatchewan Learning Math Test for Grade Eights

I am going to give my grade eight class the math assessment for learning this spring. I thought it would be interesting to look at it in terms of what Conrad Wolfram has to say about traditional math teaching. He claims math is 90% about the teaching of computation. He, like Dan Meyer, Alfie Kohn and Joseph Ganem, call for more open ended math instruction where the conceptual and creative components are more emphasized. Meyer is particularly interested in posing questions based on real world, everyday math challenges.

One of my ideas is that we are going to have to assess our students differently if we are going to teach them differently. I wondered if our provincial math assessment was heavily weighted towards computation. So I decided to take a look. I went through all of the practice questions for the 2011 test and tried to sort them according to Wolfram’s categories. You may disagree with my choices. Have a look at the results and the questions themselves.

My Analysis of the Math AFL using Conrad Wolfram’s four components


Posing the question

Taking real world problem and making it into math formulation


Taking math formulation and applying in real world verification


AFL Question #


M (17, 22), SA (5a,b,c, 7, 8a,b,c, 9a,b, 10a,b,c)

C (1-16), M (2-6, 9-13, 18-20, 23, 25), E (1-2), SA (2-3, 4a, 4b, 6a,b)

M (24)

M (1, 7, 14-16, 21), SA (1, 2, 6c)

Total questions












My analysis of our provincial math assessment for learning initially looked to me like a well thought out test. After a more careful analysis, it looks like it is heavily oriented towards computation (62%). More importantly, there are no questions reflecting a student’s ability to pose questions given real world situations. I am not surprise by this as Dan Meyer and Conrad Wolfram’s ideas on this are relatively new.

I continue to look for ways to incorporate all of Wolfram’s components into the teaching/learning of math. I have a long way to go as far as devising ways to assess the learning of these divergent and creative skills.

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