We’ve been having a rather spirited discussion in my department about a common final exam for one of the math courses, and the need for an easy-to-score learning assessment (i.e. multiple choice).

The two biggest problems regarding math and multiple-choice tests are

Students cannot show and get credit for work.

Students can too easily “try out” answers to each problem (especially on factoring problems and equation solving problems).

Regarding #1, there is, I think, a point in the semester when students should be able to demonstrate that they can do problems, correctly, to completion. Especially in algebra-level courses, there is often not a lot of work that they could show that I might give them credit for.

If it’s a 50 question final exam, and each problem is worth 2 points for 100 points total, how much partial credit can there really be? Students who get every single problem 75% right do NOT deserve a passing grade of 75%. Every problem 75% right means 100% of the problems done with some kind of mistake. That is not a “passing” performance.

Now… on to issue #2. I think I have a solution to this problem… seriously. Why do we have to use the five choices on scantron tests as only 5 unique answers? Why not let these five choices (A,B,C,D,E) generate 25 unique answers instead? Take a look at my new take on “multiple-choice” and tell me what you think:

Dr. Maria Andersen has spent most of her career teaching, writing curriculum, and developing digital products for learning. Recently she returned to the classroom, having new teaching adventures in K-12 middle and high school.