Performance tasks help uncover deeper levels of student understanding by measuring a student’s ability to think through a complex problem that may have more than one correct answer.

They call for students to apply their knowledge within an authentic learning experience, which may take anywhere from minutes to days to complete. These items will be scored using rubrics based on the cognitive skills being assessed.

Below is a typical mathematics performance task found in Common Core assessment. It is comprised of several related constructed-response sections, each of which aligns to a single Common Core standard and comes with an associated rubric. Some sections may align to the same Common Core standard. Rubrics are each scored separately; students are not penalized for applying incorrect answers from one section to subsequent sections of the performance task. In addition, the sections of the performance task are scaffolded in order to provide all students an equitable starting point for demonstrating their mathematical knowledge. The sample below shows the stimulus of the performance task, which provides the context upon which all sections are based and around which all questions are asked.

As noted previously, the performance task is scaffolded, so Part A is a relatively simple task; students are asked to place the provided data points on a line plot (4.MD.4). However, they are first required to convert some of the given fractions from simplest form to a common denominator (a Grade 3 Common Core standard) in order to correctly place them on the line plot. This requires more quantitative reasoning than if the data points were identical to the scale of the graph.

Part B continues the learning trajectory for 4.MD.4 by asking students to use the information from Part A to answer a comparison question. Students may solve the item by the “traditional” method of subtracting fractions, or they may use the graph they created in Part A, or they may use any mathematically viable method that results in a correct answer. This open-endedness in the solution method allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the construct in the way that makes the most sense to them.

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