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This article was excerpted from Chapter 1 of the report of the same name. The sample survey data are from the NAEP  
For more than a quarter of a century, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students in the United States know and can do in various academic subjects. In addition to the main NAEP assessment, NAEP periodically conducts special studies focused on areas of interest to educators and others. Topics for some of these studies arise as a result of how students performed on NAEP; others are generated simply from research questions about teaching, learning, and assessment of student achievement. This report focuses on studies in mathematics; special studies have also been conducted in, for example, reading and writing.
Studies covered by this report This report presents information from three special studies conducted as part of the NAEP 1996 Mathematics Assessment: the Estimation Study, the Study of MathematicsinContext (also referred to as the Theme Study), and the Study of Students Taking Advanced Courses in Mathematics (referred to as the Advanced Study). The Theme Study and the Advanced Study were administered for the first time in 1996. The Estimation Study, on the other hand, had been administered twice before, in 1990 and 1992.
Audience and purpose of this report This report is intended primarily for mathematics educators and others concerned with mathematics education, such as curriculum specialists, teachers, and university faculty in schools of education. The three studies reported here were designed to provide greater detail on how students perform on particular types of mathematics questions.
The first study was designed to explore students' skills in estimation. It was implemented at three grade levels and was the only one of the studies that provided trend information. Findings from the Estimation Study include the following:
*Significant difference from 1990.
Significant difference from 1992. NOTE: Because the Estimation Study was scaled separately from the main mathematics assessment, it is not appropriate to make direct comparisons of the average scale values obtained in a given year across the two scales. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 1990, 1992, and 1996 Mathematics Assessments. (Originally published as table 2.4 on p. 18 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)
The Theme Study was administered at three grade levels and was designed to assess problemsolving abilities within contexts that allow students to make connections across mathematics content areas. Each student was given a block of questions centered around a single theme. For example, one fourthgrade Theme block was about planning a Butterfly Booth for the school's science fair. Of the six questions posed, one was classified as measuring Procedural Knowledge; the remaining five were classified as measuring ProblemSolving abilities. Questions were designed to assess content in four content strands: Number Sense, Properties, and Operations; Measurement; Geometry and Spatial Sense; and Algebra and Functions. In addition to solving the problems, students were generally asked to provide explanations of their answers, using mathematical computations, drawings, or words. Findings from the Theme Study include the following:
NOTE: Because results from the Theme Study did not lend themselves to development of an achievement scale, results are reported simply in terms of percentages of questions that students answered correctly. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 1996 Mathematics Assessment. (Originally published as table 3.3 on p. 33 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)
NOTE: Because results from the Theme Study did not lend themselves to development of an achievement scale, results are reported simply in terms of percentages of questions that students answered correctly. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 1996 Mathematics Assessment. (Originally published as table 3.12 on p. 70 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)
The Advanced Study was administered at grades 8 and 12 and was designed to provide students who were taking or had taken advanced courses in mathematics an opportunity to demonstrate their full mathematical proficiency. Findings from the Advanced Study include the following:
#Estimate too small to report. NOTE: Because results from the Theme Study did not lend themselves to development of an achievement scale, results are reported simply in terms of percentages of questions that students answered correctly. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 1996 Mathematics Assessment. (Originally published as table 3.26 on p. 112 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)
