Common assessment in algebra and trigonometry

MS 101 Algebra and Trigonometry summer 2017 administered a course wide student learning outcome common mathematics assessment (CMA).

A student using Desmos earlier in the term, the textbook available on her smartphone

Summer 2017 twenty-six students from two sections each with 13 students sat the CMA. As with any course, the focus and parameters vary by instructor. My own approach includes open book evaluations, the elimination of rote memorization, a de-emphasis on trigonometric manipulations, the use of trigonometry in contexts such as Scalable Vector Graphics, and the use of the Desmos graphing calculator.

I was not involved in writing the CMA, which was administered as multiple choice and true/false questions using from within Schoology learning management system.

Performance on the CMA from two summers ago, the last time the course ran in the summer, averaged 51%. This summer the overall average was 50% with the 8:00 section averaging 47% and the 3:30 section averaging 53%. Performance was statistically indistinguishable from two summers ago.


Not only was performance on the common assessment identical to two years ago, but the average on the final examination in the 8:00 section was 73%, the same average seen on the final examination two years ago.

Specific areas of deficit on the CMA are directly related to the particular areas of mathematical focus that I selected. Given that questions were sometimes asked in different ways than I tend to phrase them, and that changes in vocabulary can make significant differences for students whose first language is not English, coupled with the different choices in focus, the results are not discouraging.

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