Oral vs. written exams: What are we assessing in Mathematics?


  • Milica Videnovic


One of the most striking differences between the Canadian educational system and most European educational systems is the importance given to oral examinations, particularly in mathematics courses. In this paper, seven mathematics professors share their views on mathematics assessment, and
their thoughts about the types of knowledge and understanding in mathematics that can be assessed on written and oral exams. Four out of seven professors were born and educated in Bosnia, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine, and they are currently teaching in Canada. The other three professors were born
and educated in Canada, the United States, and Germany, and they are all currently teaching in Germany. With the increased emphasis on closed book written examinations, the results in this study show that written exams alone are not sufficient to assess students’ conceptual knowledge and relational
understanding, and therefore, there is a critical need for implementing the oral assessments in mathematics courses.


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