Numeracy tests and what they assess

This page describes the numeracy assessment tools available for different age ranges and the aspects of numeracy they assess. These tools will help you to understand a student's numeracy learning difficulties.

Types of numeracy tests

There are generally two types of assessments.

Norm-referenced tests

Norm-referenced tests compare a student's abilities with others. Each task or test has a range of average scores for students who do not have learning difficulties with 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, it may indicate a learning difficulty or disability, such as dyscalculia.

Students' outcomes are measured as raw scores and then converted to standard scores, percentile ranks, a stanine score, or an age/year level norm. For more information, visit Interpreting assessment data.

Criterion-referenced tests

Criterion-referenced tests assess specific skills or knowledge without comparing a particular student to others. They do not tell you about a student’s performance in an expected range, but whether the student has achieved certain criteria.

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

Assessment tools

The Insight Assessment Platform features information and online tools to help teachers assess the progress and learning needs of all learners, including those with learning difficulties.

Some of the tests mentioned below may incur a cost. Your school may be able to purchase these tests as part of the wide range of practices and school activities supported through Tier 2 school-level funding: 'purchasing specific equipment, adaptive technology, devices or materials to support learning'. You can find more information (in the Guidance section) on Disability Inclusion Funding and Support: Policy.

Observations of a student's performance during numeracy learning and numeracy interviews

Observing how students approach numeracy learning and tasks and the thinking they use provides useful data for decision making. The quality of observational data is determined by what you observe and how, and the anecdotal records, checklists and rating scales you use.

The schedule for early number assessment

Structured interviews with students about numeracy, such as the Schedule for Early Number Assessment (SENA), provide valuable information about a student's approach to numeracy learning and numeracy learning difficulty.

The interview can tell you:

  • what students know and can do independently and with scaffolding
  • their level of engagement with numeracy tasks, motivation, self-efficacy and persistence
  • how they overcome barriers and obstacles in learning
  • their use of cognitive strategies
  • their use of metacognition for numeracy.

SENA 1 assesses a student's knowledge and skill in the areas of:

  • numeral identification
  • forward and backward counting by saying number word sequences
  • subitising and use of counting strategies
  • early addition and subtraction
  • multiplication and division.

SENA 2 assesses a student's knowledge and skill in the areas of:

  • early arithmetical strategies
  • numeral identification of numbers greater than 1,000
  • counting by 10s and 100s from any number
  • combining and partitioning to 20
  • place value 10s and ones
  • multiplication and division to multiplication and division as operations
  • area multiplication.

SENA helps you to interpret the numeracy strategies being used by each student in each area. The developmental trajectory for each area on SENA 1 is as follows:

  • numeral identification: four levels (emergent, numbers 1–10, numbers 1–20 and numbers 1–100)
  • forward and backward counting by saying number word sequences: six levels (emergent, initial 1–10, intermediate 1–10, facile 1–10, facile 1–30 and facile 1–100)
  • subitising and use of counting strategies: three levels (emergent, perceptual, conceptual)
  • early addition and subtraction; five levels (emergent, perceptual, figurative, counting on and back, facile)
  • multiplication and division: three levels (unable to form groups, able to form groups, able to find the total by).

This protocol assesses both the quality or sophistication of the student's forward counting for each range of numbers and the highest range to which the student can apply it.

Use SENA to understand a student's numeracy learning difficulty

SENA can help you to understand the nature of a student's numeracy learning difficulty. For example:

  • SENA is a criterion-referenced test. You can match a student's performance on each section of the SENA 1 and 2 with achievement standards on the Victorian Curriculum F–10: Mathematics. The highest level achieved by a student in each area will help you in deciding whether the student has a numeracy learning difficulty.
  • You can create a numeracy profile for a student who has a numeracy learning difficulty by collating their outcomes for each section of the SENA 1 or 2 on the Individual Analysis Sheet and comparing their performance with content descriptors on the Victorian Curriculum F–10: Mathematics.
  • Mapping the student's outcomes on the SENA onto the Victorian Curriculum F–10: Mathematics will indicate the areas of numeracy in which the student shows delay. You can also look for evidence of more general delay in other areas of learning and development.

You can find more information on mathematics and numeracy assessment on Mathematics Teaching Toolkit.