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UC San Diego-Based Mathematics Testing Project Goes Viral

Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project expands its online testing platform to help promote math readiness and performance in students nationwide

The University of California San Diego, which hosts the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) within the Division of Physical Sciences, is blazing a digital trail for success in math for thousands of students and teachers across the country. Up until now, while California educators and students could use MDTP online resources, accredited educational institutions outside of the state could access only paper MDTP materials with annual licensing agreements. But, with the support of a new corporate partner, UC San Diego is extending access to MDTP’s online testing platform beyond the state for the first time.

Established in 1977 and known for producing reliable diagnostic mathematics tests for students in grades six through 12, MDTP is a program jointly supported by the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) to promote and support student readiness and success in college mathematics courses. It operates through 10 regional sites in the state and is funded through the California Academic Partnership Program. MDTP develops diagnostic tests with a team of workgroup members that includes faculty from UC, CSU, community colleges and secondary schools. The members extensively review exam content to ensure that it appropriately tests student knowledge and skill, as well as considers students’ various levels of competence. Diagnostic reports are generated for each student who takes the tests, with detailed analysis and summaries provided to teachers to address student needs.

Kimberly Samaniego, director of MDTP at UC San Diego, said that the project’s expansion opens online access to MDTP tests and results for teachers and students in a 21st century nation, providing instant and robust feedback about student preparedness in mathematics. The diagnostic results help teachers, schools and school districts understand the strengths and areas of weakness of their students in different courses of mathematics. These results can be used to inform teaching practices, interventions, support and program reflection.

“Technology-based assessment systems provide immediate results, which allows educators to respond to student’s mathematical common misconceptions and areas of unfinished learning in real time,” said Samaniego.

UC San Diego Marshall College alumna Genevieve Esmende (’99, BA, applied mathematics with a teacher education minor) uses MDTP as a math teacher and member of the Instructional Leadership Team at Wangenheim Middle School, where she has taught since 2004.

“When I give the MDTP at the beginning of the school year, I can see the misconceptions my students are coming in with,” said Esmende, adding that the results help her identify students’ strength and weaknesses in math. “Then, I develop warm-ups or activities to address these misconceptions.”

She said she then gives the test again in the middle of the school year. “This allows me to see if there is growth among the students. Also, this allows me to assess my own teaching to see if students have developed a better understanding on the concepts they struggled with initially."

Esmende noted that students are aware that taking the test helps her to better understand what they know and don’t know, but she asked two of her students for their thoughts about the MDTP exam.

“While taking exams, it was sometimes stressful when you couldn't remember or understand something,” admitted one of the middle schoolers. “But, it is nice in a way because it reminded me of the topics we learned. It took a lot of concentration and time as well to process these ideas."

Esmende’s students also showed awareness of the importance of the program.

“I think it's important to participate in the testing program because it shows the teacher what I know and don't know,” said one student. “It also helps me understand what I don't know and what I need to work on for future assignments.”

A second student replied, “I think it is important to participate in the testing program because you get to see your growth in math from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. You really get to see how much you learned.”

With the extended digital platform, which corporate partner Knowledge Tools and Desktop Services is designing, MDTP will have the potential to benefit thousands more teachers and students across the country.

“Our agreement with Knowledge Tools is a great example of the fundamental impact UC San Diego has on California and the rest of the country through its innovation and commercialization efforts,” said William Decker, associate director of UC San Diego’s Research Affairs Office of Innovation and Commercialization.

According to David Wheelock, owner and chief programmer of Knowledge Tools and Desktop Services, online testing provides an efficient, environmentally conscious and economic alternative to paper testing.

“These tests are a breeze to administer and offer a hassle-free and efficient testing environment,” he said.

“When I took the exam, I was a little nervous about it,” said one of Esmende’s students, “but to be honest, it was not too bad since I already knew that it will not affect our grades.”

MDTP develops diagnostic readiness tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and supplies these diagnostic tools to secondary schools in California free of charge.