NCTM issues position statement on formative assessment

Formative assessment is an essential process that supports students in developing the reasoning and sense-making skills that they need to reach specific learning targets and move toward mastery of mathematical practices, according to a new position statement issued by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Through formative assessment, students develop a clear understanding of learning targets and they learn how to assess themselves and improve their own learning.

Formative assessment serves both the teacher and the learner, enabling the teacher to change what he or she is doing and the student to understand where he or she is in relation to the learning goal. In other words, formative assessment provides information that changes what both the teacher and the learner are doing.

“For students to understand mathematics deeply, they must have the opportunity to make sense of what they are doing,” said NCTM President Linda Gojak. “Integrating effective formative assessment in the classroom provides students with constant feedback that guides their learning and provides teachers with ongoing input,” said Gojak.

The NCTM position identifies five elements of assessment that improves learning:

The provision of effective feedback to students
The active involvement of students in their own learning
The adjustment of teaching, taking into account the results of the assessment
The recognition of the profound influence that assessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of students, both of which are crucial influences on learning
The accommodation of students’ need to assess themselves and understand how to improve
Furthermore, formative strategies embedded in instruction provide opportunities for students to make conjectures, incorporate multiple representations in their problem solving, and discuss their mathematical thinking with their peers. Effective formative assessment has a positive impact on student achievement and how they perceive themselves as learners.

For the complete position statement, visit