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Testing times: making the most of assessment

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Testing times: making the most of assessment

iMaths 29/10/18


Note: iMaths is in its final year and will be discontinued at the end of 2024. If you’re looking for a primary maths resource written for the Australian Curriculum Version 9.0, explore Maths Trek.

Assessment is a critical part of the learning cycle. As a teacher, it gives you an invaluable insight into students’ levels of understanding and achievement, helping inform where adjustments in teaching might be needed. It also provides you with the opportunity to give your students sought-after feedback.

Effective assessment is best carried out as an ongoing process, not just as a final test. By using assessment for learning, as learning and of learning, you can get a clear idea of where students are, where they’re going and how best to get them there. With iMaths, you not only have all the tools you need to make assessment relevant and reliable, but also the flexibility to choose the types of assessment to suit your students.

Assessment for learning

By using assessment for learning, you gather evidence about students’ levels of understanding and use that to enhance your teaching. Also known as formative assessment, this type of assessment is best used before and during a unit of work so you can adjust your teaching strategies and give feedback according to your cohort’s needs. Studies have shown effective assessment for learning can essentially double the speed of student learning1.

In iMaths, assessment for learning is supported by the Readiness Test, which is designed to be done at the start of the year. This allows you to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, and to prepare teaching strategies to fill any gaps in knowledge.

However, assessment for learning does not need to be done as a formal activity – often it is done simply through observation, questioning and conversations with students. To assess a class quickly, pick a Topic from the Student Book or iMaths Online and lead a class discussion about it. Alternatively, split the class into groups and observe students as they work on the three levels of Differentiation Tasks that accompany each Topic.

Assessment as learning

Assessment as learning is when students reflect on their growth and development as learners. This type of assessment requires students to think about their thinking (metacognition), and assess their own strengths and weaknesses as learners. Research shows reflective thought transforms knowledge that is acquired during a task into knowledge that is available for subsequent tasks2.

While assessment as learning is largely a student-led process, teachers still play a vital role in setting learning goals that encourage students’ growth and development. The Investigation Rubrics in iMaths set clear standards for achievement, providing the opportunity for students to set goals and then self-assess their work against the criteria. You can also project the Discuss the Rubric slideshows in iMaths Online to facilitate class discussion about self-assessment.

iMaths also supports assessment as learning through the ‘Communicating and reflecting’ questions provided with every Investigation. These questions encourage students to reflect on their learning strengths and weaknesses in the context of the activities they have just done. Students can also work collaboratively on the ‘Communicating and reflecting’ questions, opening the opportunity for peer assessment – another valuable aspect of assessment as learning.

Assessment of learning

Typically coming at the end of a unit, term or year, assessment of learning – also known as summative assessment – culminates with a grading that helps compare student achievement against outcomes and standards.

Effective assessment of learning must be based on valid, reliable activities – something iMaths provides. iMaths includes an End-of-year Test with questions that have been specially curated to gauge students’ understanding of the content strands. Similarly, each Investigation has been carefully designed to include relevant activities, and each Investigation Rubric assesses student performance across the proficiency strands. These different types of assessment give you ample opportunity to provide quality feedback to students, which is an integral part of the assessment of learning process3.

iMaths also includes everything you need for creating portfolios that show evidence of student achievement. The iMaths Tracker Books provide structured review for each Topic, the results of which can then be collated into the Student Assessment Profile, while Differentiation Tasks, found at iMaths Online, can be used for testing at any time that suits you. Best of all, every answer you’ll need is available in the iMaths Teacher Books and at iMaths Online.

We spoke to iMaths author Carolyn Smales, who says assessment for learning, as learning and of learning are best used in unison, rather than discretely.

Teachers must assess and collect data along the way to inform their own teaching direction for each student. Investigations provide opportunities for teachers to see gaps in understanding both individually and as a class.

It’s vital that teachers also assess students as they learn, to make sure each student is on track and to inform their teaching. This can be done during an Investigation as children make their own plans and pathways, and ask questions about their own learning.

Teachers will then make an assessment of learning with an exam and Investigation results, using our rubric, as one part of the assessment picture. Tracker results and teacher observations can then be used for the rest.

When done well, assessment has the power to optimise teaching and learning. iMaths offers all the features needed to help teachers effectively utilise assessment for learning, as learning and of learning, ensuring students have every opportunity to improve their achievement, confidence and motivation.


  1. Popham, WJ 2011, ‘Formative assessment­—a process, not a test’, Education Week, 30(21), 35, viewed 20 September 2018,
  2. Van der Walt, MS, Maree, JG & Ellis, SM 2008, ‘Metacognition in the learning of mathematics in the senior phase: Some implications for the curriculum’, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 14(3), 205–235, viewed 20 September 2018,
  3. Callingham, R 2010, ‘Mathematics assessment in primary classrooms: Making it count’, 39–42, from Teaching mathematics? Make it count: What research tells us about effective teaching and learning of mathematics, Australian Council for Educational Research – Research Conference 2010, viewed 20 September 2018,
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