Mastery Quizzes

One Piece of the Assessment Puzzle

©James R. Olsen
Western Illinois University


Background — Why did I develop a Mastery Quiz System?

I found that while teaching high school that there are certain skills and concepts that students need to learn well, and in a timely manner. Examples include multiplying and dividing by signed numbers, definitions of the trig functions, distributive property. Skills and concepts that will be built upon in the course. I found that some students wouldn't learn/memorize things until the night before the exam--but I had been trying to build on basic concepts throughout the unit.

I've used mastery quizzes

in high school:

in college:

Disclaimer: I am not crying for "back-to-the-basics." On the contrary, I am for multiple forms of assessment, problem solving, the use of calculators and computer algebra systems.

I see mastery quizzes is one piece of the assessment puzzle.


My mastery quizzes are:


The purpose of the mastery quizzes is simple:
Monitor student progress toward some of the central mathematical concepts and skills that all students need to know and be able to do.

My reasons for using mastery quizzes are:
1. Get the students to learn the material in a timely manner.
2. Confidence builder for students.
3. Certain concepts and skills will continually be used.
4. The teacher knows that everyone can do it.
5. Tells the students what is important.
6. Partial credit can sanction flaws in understanding. What may appear to be an "oops-mistake," may actually be a flaw in understanding--these surface if 100% is required. After not passing the second time in class, one purpose of taking the quizzes after school is that I get a chance to help the student one-on-one and find out what their conceptual or procedural gaps are.


Algebra I mastery quiz topics (and links to example quizzes)
Trigonometry mastery quiz topics (and links to example quizzes)
Calculus mastery quiz topics (and links to example quizzes)

To Create a Mastery Quiz System follow these steps.

A. Decide on the topics. Estimate how many mastery quizzes you'll use.

B. Start brainstorming on questions.

C. Get a clear focus on the questions. Optional: Write an announcement sheet to hand out to the students.

D. Have enough variety that students can't just get the answer by rote memory.

Variety within the quiz (question to question)
Variety from quiz version to quiz version

E. Finalize version 1 of the first mastery quiz.

F. Write subsequent versions. (I use four versions per mastery quiz.)

(G. Do Steps Band F for subsequent mastery quizzes.)

Jim Olsen ~ Mathematics Department ~ Western Illinois University ~