FAQsFrequently Asked Questions

Symphony Math Assessments
Symphony Math Instructional Program
Administration Panel


Symphony Math Assessments

Q Where does Benchmarker tell me how a student did on each CCSS cluster or concept?
A Benchmarker is not a diagnostic assessment. It only provides a benchmark measure of overall mathematics learning against the Common Core State Standards. More detailed performance data is available on a concept-by-concept basis for students using the Symphony Math Intervention.
Q Why can’t we see the percent of problems answered correctly on the assessment reports?
A The Symphony Math assessments are Computer Adaptive Tests. This means that they do not determine mathematics learning levels based on a percentage of problems answered correctly as might be done on an end of chapter test in the classroom. Computer Adaptive Tests determine learning levels based on the difficulty level of problems that a student can reliably answer. Its possible that two grade three students both answered 70% of the problems they solved on a Benchmarker assessment. However, one student answered mostly first and second grade problems while the other student answered mostly third and fourth grade items. In this way the percent correct can be misleading, as it does not account for the level of difficulty of the problems that were answered at a rate of 70% correct.
Q Are the assessments timed?
A The assessments are not timed. Students may have as much time as necessary to complete an assessment. Occasionally there are specific assessment problems that are timed. These are designed to measure CCSS fluency standards. Students are prompted with an announcement that for the next problem they must answer as quickly as they can.
Q Can we give the assessments more often than three times a year?
A No. Presently there are only enough assessment problems in the program to allow for three annual administrations.
Q Are the assessments suitable for young students who have never used a computer or a mouse before?
A A Symphony Math assessment should not be the first time a student has used a computer before. Students must have some basic experience with the computer-mouse user interface. The challenge is that some students arrive in kindergarten competent in clicking and dragging and responding to the computer interface while other students have never used a computer. This must be a local determination.During the field-testing of the Symphony assessments we determined that PK and K students, on average, are capable of effectively interacting with the assessments. But there was considerable variability. If this is a concern we recommend skipping the fall assessment and making the winter assessment the first for K students.

Any computer-based assessment results must take into consideration if the student was comfortable with the interface just as we might investigate whether a young student was comfortable using a pencil or speaking with a diagnostician in other math assessment formats.

Q The Benchmarker report says that one of my students has a percentile rank score of 54. What does that mean?
A The percentile rank and grade level equivalent scores compare the assessed student to a nationally representative sample of students of the same grade. A student who received a percentile rank score of 54 performed better than 53 percent of the students in this sample.
Q One of my students was not feeling well during a Benchmarker session. I don’t think the results are valid. What should I do?
A You may delete invalid tests from the Student Settings screen of the online administration panel. The system will behave as if the assessment was never taken and the student may be assessed again.
Q How do I know the Symphony assessments are valid?
A We established the validity of the Symphony assessments in several ways. First, the problems were written in alignment with the Common Core State Standards. Thus, Symphony assessments addresses standards that students currently see on state tests, as well as topics that students will encounter in later years when CCSS computer-based state assessments are implemented. Second, we correlated the performance of students from New York and Illinois on the Symphony assessments with their scores on their respective state’s mathematics tests. In both cases, we found excellent correlations, thus validating the content and the scoring of the Symphony assessments. Finally, the construction of the Symphony assessments is supervised by professional psychometricians with extensive experience in commercial and state-level testing. In-depth research was performed into the quality of the test as a whole, as well as that of the individual questions. We recently reported some of the findings at the International Association for Computerized Adaptive Testing (IACAT).
Q How did you norm the assessments?
A The Symphony assessments were constructed and validated using students from all over the United States. To obtain national norms, the Symphony scores of samples of New York and Illinois students were equated to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), using the New York and Illinois state tests as a bridge. These states were selected because their state performance on NAEP is very similar to the national average. Having this bridge allows us to express students’ performance on Symphony mathematics in terms of national percentiles.

Using Symphony Math

Q I see that the topics taught in Symphony Math fall mostly within our kindergarten through grade four curriculum. However, some of the problems look very challenging and the concepts are taught to a deep level. Is it appropriate to use the program with older students who do not have a solid math foundation?
A Yes, Symphony Math may be used with older students. The program is designed with an age neutral interface that does not use cute cartoon characters or childish themes that make older students feel the program is inappropriate. Symphony Math addresses fundamental math skills that struggling students need to master in order for mathematics to be meaningful. The program has been used with middle-school and high-school students in remedial settings.
Q For how long and how often do you recommend that a student use Symphony Math?
A We recommend 15- to 20-minute sessions three to five times a week. We recommend that students not be permitted to use the program more than 30 minutes in any one day.
Q I noticed that Symphony Math does not have the usual cartoon characters, music, and narratives that I have seen in other educational software. Won’t kids get bored without those cute multimedia experiences?
A The Symphony Math philosophy is that children are innately curious about their world and if we design a learning environment that presents mathematical concepts in an interesting and developmentally-appropriate manner, they will be engaged by these patterns and relationships and will not need unrelated stories, characters, or music to maintain their interest. We believe children are intrinsically motivated to learn about math and Symphony Math is designed to tap into this capacity.
Q Why is the program called Symphony Math?
A A “symphony” is something characterized by a harmonious combination of elements. Commonly this is associated with music. The integration of all of the different instruments in a symphony orchestra is one example. In the name Symphony Math, the term refers to the goal of our design philosophy which is to integrate a variety of teaching approaches and methods into one harmonious learning experience for each student. Some students need to explore concepts. Some need to work on mastering number relationships. Others need to work on applying their conceptual knowledge. Symphony Math is designed to evaluate a student’s needs and coordinate a variety of learning environments and teaching strategies to provide an appropriate and enjoyable learning experience.
top of page
Q In other educational software programs our school has used, the instructions are more explicit and even show the student exactly what to do or how to solve the problem. All the student has to do is copy what they were shown. Why does Symphony Math not model and explain exactly what students are supposed to do?
A One of the most important skills in math is problem solving. In order to be able to apply what they have learned and to solve novel mathematical problems, students must develop the disposition of active thinkers who identify problems and seek out their solutions. Many of the learning tasks in Symphony Math are presented as puzzles that need to be “figured out.” Students find satisfaction in making these connections without being told in advance exactly how to solve the puzzle. The program does provide scaffolding in the form of instructional feedback when errors are made and in the form of a Help Button that can be selected for a clue that will lead the student a step closer to the answer.
Q Why doesn’t Symphony Math teach all of the different math strands and benchmarks required by my state standards? Topics like time, money, and data do not seem to be taught in depth in Symphony Math.
A The primary pedagogical premise of Symphony Math is that many students struggle with mathematics because they do no have an in-depth understanding of the big ideas of mathematics. Symphony Math is designed to provide students with understanding of the most important math concepts. Research has shown that an in-depth understanding of these big ideas of math leads to improved performance on a variety of math topics. Your students should continue to be taught all of the topics and benchmarks they are required to know. Concurrently they can receive extra practice with Symphony Math on some of the most important and difficult-to-master foundational concepts.

Symphony Math Administration Panel

Q Why am I missing some features of the Administration Panel that I need, like deleting a student or teacher?
A There are different levels of access available to perform administrative functions from the online Administration
Panel. Each level of access has a varying degree of ability to control students, classes, and other functions. In order to delete students, you must login as a Symphony Math Account Administrator. For a full description of the levels of administration access, please see Chapter 12 of the Symphony Math Teacher Guide.
Q How do I contact Symphony Technical Support?
A Symphony Learning tech support is available to school staff.
Toll-free: (800) 234-3030
Fax: (800) 234-3030
email: support@symphonylearning.com
top of page