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New Assessment Series from NCTM

Written by Wendy B. Sanchez and Nicole F. Ice
(News Bulletin, September 2005)

Given that high-stakes assessments are driving so many educational decisions across the nation, teachers are under significant pressure to prepare their students to do well on such assessments. NCTM’s position on high-stakes assessment has consistently been that more emphasis should be placed on teaching a high-quality mathematics curriculum than on preparing for tests. During her August 25, 2004, online chat, “Embracing Accountability,” NCTM President Cathy Seeley said, “I honestly believe that when we focus on teaching a wellbalanced mathematics curriculum and get students actively engaged in rich and appropriate tasks, our students will learn mathematics. When they have learned it well, they will do fine on any test.”

One way to teach such a balanced mathematics curriculum is to use good assessment materials during the teaching and learning processes. In an effort to help teachers use assessment as an essential feature of these processes, NCTM is publishing a series of four books to offer samples of student assessment items that are aligned with the recommendations in Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.

The Mathematics Assessment Sampler series will contain a volume for each of the grade levels, pre-K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. The volumes contain items that focus on students’ conceptual knowledge as well as their procedural skills and that reflect the mathematics that all students should know and be able to do. The items are intended to help teachers learn how their students think about mathematics as well as how they communicate their mathematical understanding. The series will help teachers use the information that they gather about students’ thinking to tailor instruction and further develop students’ understanding of mathematics.

The items themselves are compiled from state, provincial, national, and international assessments as well as from the private sector and original work. Samples of students’ work, with commentary, has been provided for some of the items, along with a rubric for scoring students’ responses. The series contains items in a variety of formats, including multiple-choice, short response, and extended response. Since the preponderance of high-stakes assessments are in multiple-choice format, the series presents sample multiple-choice items that can be helpful to teachers’ instructional decision making. The items are sorted according to the Content Standards for number and operation, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. To respond to the items, students will be required to use the processes of reasoning, problem solving, communication, representation, and connections advocated by the Process Standards in NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.

This series of books will be a valuable resource for teachers as they continue to strive to meet NCTM’s vision for school mathematics. The first volume in the series—Mathematics Assessment Sampler, Grades 3–5—was released in July. The volumes addressing grades 6–8 and 9–12 are scheduled for the fall and early winter. You will be able to purchase the Mathematics Assessment Sampler series through NCTM’s online catalog, at

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