Developing Multiple-Choice Assessments for Math

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

A variety of multiple-choice math assessments are found all over the web. Can you tell which have quality items? After reading this lesson you will have the ability to tell and also write your own.

Multiple-Choice Questions and Math

Is the best way to assess a student's knowledge of math concepts through an open-ended question? Some may agree because of a common belief that multiple-choice questions are only good for testing basic knowledge and skills such as knowledge of vocabulary words or facts. Others will argue that the real value of multiple-choice math questions is to test higher level skills such as comprehension and application. They have many advantages! They're accurate, objective, allow for quick scoring and feedback, and also give teachers the opportunity to diagnose student difficulty by analyzing incorrect responses. Let's delve into the world of the multiple-choice math assessment question.


The Question Stem

Each multiple-choice question is made up of a question stem which presents the task to the student. Experts advise that the most effective way to set this up is in a question format instead of as an incomplete statement. Stems should be clear, concise and not contain extra information that are irrelevant to the student in solving the problem. You also don't want to give any clues as to what the correct answer is.

Answer Choices

Multiple-choice questions will usually have four answer choices. Only one should be correct, and three should be incorrect. The incorrect choices are sometimes called 'alternative responses,' or distractors. Distractors in multiple-choice math questions should highlight mistakes that students commonly make. A taxonomy was created for math distractors by a researcher named Doug Gardner and three of his colleagues. He used four levels to categorize common student errors based on understanding or lacking understanding in operations, which are computations, and concepts, or procedures needed to be successful in a problem. Consider this question about Marco.


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