Assessment in Mathematics, June 19 through 23, 2006

Guest Discussion with Myrna Manly on Assessment in Mathematics, June 19 through 23, 2006.

Discussion Announcement | Discussion Summary | Full Discussion

Discussion Announcement

Dear Colleagues,
I hope this email finds you well.I'm pleased to announce the following Guest Discussion, which will begin on Monday of next week:
June 19 – 23, 2006
Topic: Assessment in Mathematics
Guest: Myrna Manly – please see Myrna’s bio below. Myrna will respond to your email posts once per day – feel free to send your post to the Assessment Discussion List, or to me so that I can post it for you (

Myrna Manly, a mathematics teacher with experience at many
academic levels, retired in 2001 from a position as professor of mathematics at
El Camino College. In addition to
instruction, she has been involved with the assessment of the mathematics
proficiency of adults in various roles: as the Mathematics Specialist for the
1988 version of the GED test; as a member of the numeracy team for the Adult
Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL); and as the numeracy consultant for a
similar international survey to be used in developing countries, the Literacy
Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP). She is the Past President of the
Adult Numeracy Network (ANN), is the author of The GED Math Problem Solver, and
also works with states and programs facilitating staff-development workshops
aimed at improving mathematics instruction to adults.

Myrna is presently writing a paper with Mary Jane Schmidt
and Lynda Ginsburg on the components of numeracy for NCSALL (National Center
for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy). The paper reviews the
literature, describes the fundamental elements of adult numeracy, and makes
recommendations for further research, particularly with respect to curriculum
and assessment. Look for this resource
soon from NCSALL.

Recommended preparations for this discussion Myrna has provided several questions below to get you thinking about math assessment:

  • It is
    known that students and teachers come to value what is assessed. What is your opinion of the influence
    that the standardized mathematics assessments (GED, TABE, CASAS) have in
    your classrooms? Are they assessing the mathematics that is important for
    the 21st century? Do you think that they all assess the same
    mathematics? What do you think is missing from each?
  • Computation
    skills are easy to assess. How can
    we assess other important aspects of mathematics like strategic problem
    solving, conceptual understanding, and reasoning?

  • Describe
    instances where you have seen a student’s “math anxiety” interfere with an
    accurate assessment of his/her abilities. Do you assess math anxiety in
    any way? What strategies have you used to reduce it? Any luck with them?

  • Which
    classroom techniques do you recommend for informal, ongoing assessment of
    a student’s progress in learning mathematics?

In addition to the above questions to stimulate discussion,
Myrna has provided these sites for math assessment. Please take a look at these sites and post your questions and
comments to the Discussion:
Assessing Mathematical Knowledge of Adult Learners: Are We Looking at
What Counts?
This technical report from NCAL was written by Joy Cumming,
Iddo Gal, and Lynda Ginsburg in 1998. It discusses assessment principles
and evaluates their implementation in common numeracy assessment tools.

The Inclusion of Numeracy in Adult Basic
Dave Tout and Mary Jane Schmitt, 2002. This chapter from NCSALL’s annual review contains a section on
assessment that includes a description of assessments in adult education from
Australia and The Netherlands.
Will This Be on the Test? This
article discusses the importance of including significant mathematics on
tests. It includes a good example of a
test item that goes beyond procedural skills. This document in an overview of NCTM’s
assessment principle for K-12 mathematics.

Large-scale surveys
of adult skills:

Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL)
Framework (begins on p.137):


Data Tool:

National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)


Hard Copy Resource:
Adult Numeracy
Development: Theory, Policy and Practice,
Iddo Gal, ed., 2000. Hampton Press, Inc. This book has a section
on numeracy assessment with one article discussing assessment issues and
principles using examples from the US and Australia and another article
describing the use of “Supermarket Strategy” materials for diagnosing the
skills of individual learners in The Netherlands.

Thanks everyone, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all next week to chat about math assessment!

Marie Cora
Assessment Discussion List


Discussion Summary

The discussion focused on participants’ sharing resources,
tools, strategies and interventions related to teaching math for the GED,
working with individuals who have learning disabilities, and working with math
anxiety in testing. In addition to
providing a list of questions to consider in preparation for the discussion,
the discussion guest, Myrna Manly, provided a series of resources that prompted
comments and further sharing from subscribers.
People discussed both print and web resources available for teaching
math, as well as described some activities and strategies that they employ in
particular situations.

Some of the themes related to math and confidence included
an analogy to learning how to (or teaching someone to) swim, and the notions of
learned helplessness and learned anxieties.

Discussion participants suggested strategies including the
use of journaling, manipulatives, and realia as methods for building confidence
in math and developing activities.

Myrna asked subscribers what they thought about the national
focus on lower level computation skills and number procedures, and participants
noted that they felt this was due to both program methodology as well as the
math assessments available at this time.

Another participant raised the
point that the NCTM Standards (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)
were generally accepted by ANN (Adult Numeracy Network) and followed by the
EMPower curriculum, but questioned whether we have any tests/assessments that
fit with these standards at the ABE level, and if not, what the consequences of
this might be. Myrna responded that
there is indeed a paucity of assessments, and those that exist presently narrow
the scope of math.