NCTM Issues Position Statement on Formative Assessment

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Through formative assessment, students develop a clear understanding of learning targets and they learn how to assess themselves and improve their own learning. The public voice of math education identifies five elements of assessment to do just that.

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:

     1.The provision of effective feedback to students
     2.The active involvement of students in their own learning
     3.The adjustment of teaching, taking into account the results of the assessment
     4.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.
     5. The accommodation of students' need to assess themselves and understand how to

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

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the public voice of mathematics education, providing vision, leadership, and professional development to support teachers in ensuring mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students. With 80,000 members and more than 200 Affiliates, NCTM is the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving mathematics education in prekindergarten through grade 12. The Council’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics includes guidelines for excellence in mathematics education and issues a call for all students to engage in more challenging mathematics. Its Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics identifies the most important mathematical topics for each grade level. Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making advocates practical changes to the high school mathematics curriculum to refocus learning on reasoning and sense making. NCTM is dedicated to ongoing dialogue and constructive discussion with all stakeholders about what is best for our nation’s students.

Media Contact: Tracy Withrow, Communications Manager, twithrow(at)nctm(dot)org, 703-620-9840, ext. 2189.


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