Category: Assessment for Math

Shifting Assessment in a World with WolframAlpha

I let my students use Wolfram Alpha when they are in class and when they are doing their homework (um, how would I stop them?).  Because of this, I’ve had to shift how I assess on more formal assignments.  For the record, it’s the same adjustment you might make if you were using ANY kind of Computer Algebra System (CAS). The simplest shift is to stop asking for the answers to problems, and just give the students the answers.  After all, they live in a world where they CAN easily get the answers, so why pretend that it’s the...

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Help Students Pay Attention to Test Details

Students lose SO many exam points because they just don’t read the directions and pay attention to details.  On the first exam, they usually discover this … but they don’t REMEMBER it for the other exams. This is a very simple exercise that takes about 1 minute at the beginning of the test. Just have the students repeat after you: I promise … to read all the directions … for all the problems on the exam … And if I finish early, … I promise … to RE-read all the directions … to make sure I haven’t missed some...

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A Better Mousetrap for Multiple-Choice Math Tests

We’ve been having a rather spirited discussion in my department about a common final exam for one of the math courses, and the need for an easy-to-score learning assessment (i.e. multiple choice). The two biggest problems regarding math and multiple-choice tests are Students cannot show and get credit for work. Students can too easily “try out” answers to each problem (especially on factoring problems and equation solving problems). Regarding #1, there is, I think, a point in the semester when students should be able to demonstrate that they can do problems, correctly, to completion. Especially in algebra-level courses, there is often not a lot of work that they could show that I might give them credit for. If it’s a 50 question final exam, and each problem is worth 2 points for 100 points total, how much partial credit can there really be? Students who get every single problem 75% right do NOT deserve a passing grade of 75%. Every problem 75% right means 100% of the problems done with some kind of mistake. That is not a “passing” performance. Now… on to issue #2. I think I have a solution to this problem… seriously. Why do we have to use the five choices on scantron tests as only 5 unique answers? Why not let these five choices (A,B,C,D,E) generate 25 unique answers instead? Take a look at my...

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