Interpreting numeracy assessment data

This page describes how to analyse and interpret student numeracy data using different assessments.

For information about types of numeracy assessment tools and the data they can help you collect visit numeracy tests and what they assess.

Locating students on a developmental pathway

To effectively plan a program for a student with learning difficulties, it's essential to first understand their strengths and areas of need. To do this, you will need to correctly interpret the numeracy assessment data you have collected.

Student data might be used to better understand the types of numeracy procedures a student can use independently or the numeracy language they know, understand and can use.

To get an accurate measure, use assessments like the Mathematics Online Interview or the Assessment for Common Misunderstandings and analyse and note where students answered correctly or made errors. Patterns in these results will provide you with information about a student's numeracy needs.

Once you have described a student's abilities in these areas, you can then locate them on a developmental pathway, such as the National Numeracy Learning Progression or the Victorian Curriculum F–10: Mathematics. These pathways indicate the year level of a student's skill in each area and the subsequent knowledge and skills that should be taught.

Understanding assessment and test results

A student's performance on tasks and tests can be described in many ways. It's essential to understand these terms and what they mean for how students learn. For example, some assessments compare your students' abilities with children of the same age or year level. Others describe knowledge and skills without referring to other students.

Norm-referenced tests

Assessments that compare a student's abilities with others are known as norm-referenced (standardised) tests. Each task or test has a range of average scores. This is the range for students who do not have learning difficulties for that task or test. If a student's score is within this range their outcomes will be described as average. If it's well below this range, this may indicate a learning difficulty or disability.

Criterion-referenced tests

Some tests assess specific skills or knowledge without comparing students to others. These are called criterion-referenced tests and tasks. They do not tell you a student's total score. Instead, they tell you whether a student has achieved certain objectives or criteria.

Examples include tests that assess how well students can apply procedures they've been recently taught in maths.


The percentile rank system tells you how many students scored equal to or below a particular student on a task or test. For example, if a student's score is at the sixteenth percentile this means that in a group of 100 students, 16 students would have had the same score or a lower score on the task or test. This also means that 84 of those 100 students would have had a higher score.

A score in the sixteenth percentile is well below average. However, a percentile rank does not show how many questions a student answered correctly.


The stanines system divides the range of possible scores on a test into nine groups called stanines. A stanine score tells you which group a student's score is in, with the lowest score being Stanine 1 and the highest being Stanine 9.

Below average scores fall into Stanines 1, 2 and 3.

Average scores fall into Stanines 4, 5 and 6.

Above average scores fall into Stanines 7, 8 and 9.

Stanines provide a helpful way of looking at data and information about scores. A score in Stanine 2, for example, is as far below the average as Stanine 8 is above the average.

Standard scores

Standard scores provide a measure of a student's performance on a test against other children of the same age. They show how far above or below the average range a particular student's score sits.

You can find more information on Deciding if a student has a learning difficulty in numeracy.