# ASSESSMENT OF STUDENTS IN MATHEMATICS COURSES

BY

SUBMITTED TO
DR. JAMES WILSON
FOR COURSE EMT 705
THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS EDUCATION
ATHENS, GA 30602

## ASSESSMENT OF STUDENTS IN MATHEMATICS COURSES Introduction

The concept of assessment refers to the accounting of knowledge of a student or a group of students. It is a tool that helps a teacher to ascertain whether the goal of a curriculum has been achieved. There have been a lot of changes in the methods of assessment in the classroom. Problems have been a central part in mathematics curriculum but problem solving has not. Recently the mathematics educators accepted the idea that the ability of problem solving needs special attention.

Assessment is changing for many reasons. Changes in the skills and knowledge needed for success, in our understanding of how students learn, in relationship between assessment and instructions are changing our learning goals for students and goals for students and schools. So we must change our assessment strategies to tie assessment design and content to new outcomes and purposes for assessment.

Assessment has five common features: assessment situation, response, interpretation, meaning to the interpretation of student's response, and reporting and recording the findings from the assessment. In this paper I shall discuss the features I have used in my classroom. This paper is organized as follows: section I will deal with the review of literature, section II will deal with the assessment of my classroom teaching in a secondary school, and section III will deal with summary and conclusions. References will be provided at the end of the paper.

### Review of Literature

Swan (1993) argues that collecting students' work, mark the answers for correctness, and then write a numerical or letter grade by a comment have some shortcomings. First, the purpose is confused. Second, the focus of attention is too narrow. He discussed assessment for two different outcomes: using mathematical and general strategies and achieving positive attitudes toward mathematics.
Nagasaki and Becker (1993) discussed the classroom teaching in Japan. They observed that Japanese mathematics lessons involve whole-class instructions. The teachers appreciate the students' ways of thinking and the importance of formative evaluations. But many teachers depend on summative evaluation using paper-and-pencil tests. The classroom practice and assessment techniques are also used by teachers. They agree that even a problem has only one solution, there may be several ways to find the solution. So the students are encouraged to use different techniques to arrive at the solution. So this generates incentives to different ways of thinking.

Marshall (1988) discussed some current approaches to the assessment of problem solving. They discussed some procedures that require how knowledge is accessed, stored, and retrieved in human memory. They observed that in most testing situations, we want to know whether an individual has a good understanding of the basic principles that govern the domain of knowledge, and the whether the individual can use that domain. They argued that our testing procedures must be aimed at larger and broader conceptual structures. They recommended two procedures that shift from statistical or psychometric models to cognitive models of learning and memory. They argued that their procedures make explicit and direct links among the testing, teaching and learning process.

### Classroom Assessment in a Secondary School

Teaching in a high school classroom is quite different than teaching an undergraduate course. The students in high school are mostly teen agers and many of them are immature. I taught in high school in overseas during 1961-1974. Then I started to teach in a university. I came to USA in 1980 and taught undergraduate courses in SUNY at Albany in 1981-82 academic year. I moved UGA and taught undergraduate courses during 1983-1989. Then I taught in college during 1989-1993. I taught in a public school in Georgia during 1994-1995 academic year. I was assigned to teach courses on algebra, geometry, and general mathematics. The classroom environment in public school is quite different than the classroom environment in schools in overseas or colleges in USA and overseas. Soon after I started to teach in a public school in Georgia, I realized that classroom discipline is the most important part of teaching. Classroom control is the key to success in teaching in secondary schools. The team of management, parents, teacher and the students can handle the discipline problem in the best possible way. In many cases the students are from single or no parent or no direct guardian situation. These students create most of the discipline problems and cannot be corrected completely even with the intervention of the administration. The students of the school represent the minority section of the population. The two classes of general mathematics composed of the students who need special help. Two sections of algebra students and one section of geometry students have the potential to do well in the courses.

I applied different methods of assessment in different courses. In all courses I wanted the students to get involved and participate in problem solving, and create similar problems in the book. This created interest and enthusiasm among the students. I used to assess the students using five different methods: class participation, class work, homework, quizzes, and tests.

### Assessment in Geometry Courses

This class composed of the students from tenth to twelve grades. These students are more matured than the students of algebra course. I started to teach the basic elements in geometry with proof. Soon I discovered that I should not teach any proof in the informal geometry course. The book prescribed for this course discussed two column proofs in detail. Most of the students were interested in simple proof but as it was not required they were reluctant to do it. In this course I used to assess the students using five methods of my assessment techniques. The students tried to draw different geometrical figures and solve their problems. They were not used to construct geometric figures. They were reluctant to use compass and ruler. But I helped them to use them in the class room. Finally they became interested in construction of geometric figures. The homework, class-work, quizzes, and tests composed of problems relating to geometric figures. The students liked the multiple choice tests better than the tests in which they have to draw or write something. It would take a large amount of time to grade the essay type tests but it was very useful to the students. I would also give some multiple choice questions in the quizzes and tests. So the tests were a mixture of multiple choice and essay type questions. The students liked the class participation part of my assessment technique. This improved their creativity and skills to express their ideas. I used to average their scores and give a final grade.

### Assessment in General Mathematics Course

This class comprised of the students from ninth and tenth grades. These students need to learn basic operations in mathematics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They are also exposed to decimals, symbols, and simple algebraic operations. These group of students have serious behavioral problems. So the most important task was to keep them involved in the class lessons. I used to provide worksheet at the beginning of every class. I would explain similar problems on the worksheet. Then I asked a student to create a similar problem and solve it on the board. Every student has to do some problem on the board as a part of their class participation. When every student is familiar with the concept of the problem, I would ask them to generate few problems and solve for class work. The worksheet was to be solved as a part of homework. Many of the students would not finish the worksheet. So I would give them time to solve the worksheet problems in the next class. I would give them a quiz at the end of every week and a test at the end of every two weeks. The students became very interested in making up their own problems. I would put more weight on the class participation part of my assessment criteria. I would average the scores and give a grade.

Summary and Conclusions

Assessment of students achievement is changing, largely because today's students face a world that demand new knowledge and abilities. In the global economy of the 21 st century, students will not only need to understand the basics but also need to think critically to analyze and make inferences from the analysis. Helping students develop these skills will require changes in assessment at the school and classroom levels, as well as new approaches to large-scale high states assessment.
Assessment in a mathematics course is a complex and changing situation. The students are exposed to a wide variety of technologies and they need to relate mathematical problems with the real world situation than before. So the assessment techniques are also changing over time. It has been observed that the involvement of the parents in the learning process is very important. The conference with the parents increased the level of involvement of many students in the learning process. So the parents need to be informed in different stages of the progress of a student. If the parents are interested in the level of learning of their children and they have control over their children, conferences with them improve the performances of those children significantly.

### References

Charles, R. and Silver, E. (1988), "The Teaching and Assessing of Mathematical Problem Solving", Vol. 3, NCTM, 1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091.

Webb, N. and Coxford, A. (1993), "Assessment in the Mathematics Classroom", NCTM, 1906 Association Dr., Reston, VA 22091.

Assessment Standard for School Mathematics, NCTM, May 1995
1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091.