This book grew out of a conference sponsored by the Educational Testing Service and the University of Wisconsin's National Center for Research in Mathematical Sciences Education. The conference was held in Princeton, New Jersey, and its purpose was to facilitate the work of a group of scholars who are especially interested in the assessment of higher-order understandings and processes in foundation-level (pre-high school) mathematics. The conference brought together an international team of scholars representing diverse perspectives: mathematicians, mathematics educators, developmental psychologists, technology specialists, psychometricians, and curriculum developers.
Discussions at the conference focused on issues such as the purposes of assessment, guidelines for producing and scoring "real-life" assessment activities, and the meanings such terms as "deeper and higher- order understanding," "cognitive objectives," and "authentic mathematical activities." International trends were highlighted, as well as current problems, challenges, and opportunities within the United States.
Assessment was viewed as a critical component of complex, dynamic, and continually adapting educational systems. For example, during the time that chapters in this book were being written, sweeping changes in mathematics education were being initiated in response to powerful recent advances in technology, cognitive psychology, and mathematics, as well as to numerous public demands for educational reform. These changes have already resulted in significant reappraisals of what it means to understand mathematics, of the nature of mathematics teaching and learning, and of the real- life situations in which mathematics is useful. The challenge is to pursue assessment-related initiatives that are systemically valid, in the sense that they work to complement and enhance other improvements in the educational system rather than acting as an impediment to badly needed curriculum reforms.
To address these issues, most chapters in this book focus on clarifying and articulating the goals of assessment and instruction, and they