Journal article

Mathematical errors made by high performing candidates writing the National Benchmark Tests

Publication Details

Author list: Bohlmann C, Prince R, Deacon A

Publisher: AOSIS OpenJournals

Publication year: 2017

Journal: Pythagoras

Volume number: 38

Issue number: 1

Start page: 1

End page: 10

Total number of pages: 10

ISSN: 1012-2346

eISSN: 2223-7895


When the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs) were first considered, it was suggested that the

results would assess entry-level students’ academic and quantitative literacy, and mathematical

competence, assess the relationships between higher education entry-level requirements and

school-level exit outcomes, provide a service to higher education institutions with regard to

selection and placement, and assist with curriculum development, particularly in relation to

foundation and augmented courses. We recognise there is a need for better communication of

the findings arising from analysis of test data, in order to inform teaching and learning and

thus attempt to narrow the gap between basic education outcomes and higher education

requirements. Specifically, we focus on identification of mathematical errors made by those

who have performed in the upper third of the cohort of test candidates. This information may

help practitioners in basic and higher education.

The NBTs became operational in 2009. Data have been systematically accumulated and

analysed. Here, we provide some background to the data, discuss some of the issues relevant

to mathematics, present some of the common errors and problems in conceptual understanding

identified from data collected from Mathematics (MAT) tests in 2012 and 2013, and suggest

how this could be used to inform mathematics teaching and learning. While teachers may

anticipate some of these issues, it is important to note that the identified problems are exhibited

by the top third of those who wrote the Mathematics NBTs. This group will constitute a large

proportion of first-year students in mathematically demanding programmes.

Our aim here is to raise awareness in higher education and at school level of the extent of the

common errors and problems in conceptual understanding of mathematics. We cannot analyse all

possible interventions that could be put in place to remediate the identified mathematical problems,

but we do provide information that can inform choices when planning such interventions.


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assessment, Education, Mathematics

Last updated on 2018-23-01 at 11:46