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Assessment can have many legitimate purposes including:

  • summarising achievement (summative assessment)
  • informing learning and teaching (formative assessment)
  • assisting students to evaluate their own knowledge and understanding (self assessment).

Assessment can take diverse forms including:

  • tests
  • written work samples
  • observations
  • interviews.

The mental computation strategies exercised by an individual learner vary considerably.

Strategies are chosen in response to the:

  • context of problem
  • numbers involved
  • numbers of steps required
  • location of the unknown.

Naturally, this diversity of response is greater when working with a group of learners.

To nurture mental strategies, teachers should listen to and interpret the strategies students use.

Teachers should respond to students in a way that accepts their current thinking but promotes improved fluency and flexibility.


Interviews and observations are the most appropriate forms of assessment for mental strategies because these forms allow students to explain their strategies.