The main aim of assessment should be to provide information to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics. For this to be achieved teachers need to be clear about the learning goals for their students and set assessment tasks that reflect the critical learning objectives. With information on students’ achievement and progress teachers can group students and plan activities to meet the needs of the students. Assessment is therefore an integral part of the teaching programme.
An authentic assessment task is one that closely resembles the learning goal and learning experiences of the students. The language and format of the assessment should be familiar to the students. Assessment also occurs through informal class observations, questioning, and conversations with the students.
Assessments that reflect the important learning goals not only help the teachers develop a responsive teaching programme but can enhance the students’ ability to take responsibility for their learning. Assessment tasks convey to the students what learning goals are most important. When students are clear about their learning goals and receive specific feedback on their achievement they can monitor their own learning and set goals.
Assessment can also be used to make decisions about the teaching and learning of mathematics at a syndicate, school or cluster level. For this reason information is often required for accountability and reporting purposes. Again the assessment tasks need to be authentic and provide information that can be used to benefit the teachers and students.