The role of MAP test in a Balanced Approach to Mathematics

May 26, 2023

When reflecting on MAP scores, it is important to understand that a balanced approach to teaching and learning mathematics is about solving authentic problems, making sense of the situations, and drawing conclusions – this trio allows students to transfer what they have learned to new situations.  

  • Mathematicians explore authentic problems and persevere in solving them using a range of mathematical approaches.  
  • Mathematicians apply a range of mathematical representations / models to make sense of complex situations.  
  • Mathematicians construct and critique mathematical arguments to draw conclusions and make informed decisions in authentic contexts.  

Teaching students to transfer information to new situations requires time, taking concepts deeper, and exploring different representations and models to solve and understand concepts. Instead of teaching skills/tricks, and moving quickly over concepts without understanding, and relying completely on memorization, which could provide better MAP data in the short run.   

When using a balanced approach to teaching & learning mathematics, students should be allowed time to go deeper, exploring and understanding mathematical ideas and concepts, in order to transfer what they have learned and apply to new situations. Even though this won’t produce the highest scores in the short run, in the long run students are proven more successful in their future schooling, test scores, and in applying the learning to new authentic problems.   

“Math teachers, especially, must use the MAP assessment as a blood pressure check… it’s like going to the doctor. It’s a “how are you doing” at this point in time? That is why is it’s important that everybody in the school is shouting from the mountain tops that MAP is not the traditional achievement test. It can’t be when it’s designed for students to get 50% of the questions correct and 50% of the questions incorrect. It’s an instructional tool first and foremost. Teachers need to believe that and parents need to be educated on that because if they aren’t, the pressure on teachers (and admin) to “improve” MAP scores is misguided at best.” Amanda DeCardy, Ed.D. International Partners Account NWEA

If we value short term gains in MAP scores,  it will encourage teachers to teach the quick tricks to have the immediate gain of the improved scores, instead of the delayed gratification of teaching students to have a deep understanding with the goal that they can successfully transfer their learning to make sense and solve new authentic problems, and be successful in their future schooling and after school life. 


Caty Romero

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