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Learning about the TASC

Page history last edited by mark.trushkowsky@mail.cuny.edu 7 years, 4 months ago


Some FAQ on the math section of the TASC...




I have heard that one of the most important things to understand about the math section of the TASC is that it will be a moving target. What does that mean?


The contract between New York State and CTB/McGraw Hill stated that there would be a slow ramp up to the Common Core standards for adult education and any new assessment for earning a high school equivalency diploma. The idea was that our students should be on the same timeline as high school Common Core assessments - once high school students are taking Common Core assessments, our students will be too... but not before.


That is a good thing, because it means our students (and our instruction) doesn't have to reflect the highest standards of the Common Core immediately. It means we have time to develop our instruction.


On the other hand, this presents a serious challenge for us, since as you have heard, the TASC will be a moving target. What that means is that the problems will get more and more "rigorous" and challenging with each passing year.

  • In 2014, the questions will be at Depth Of Knowledge Levels 1 and 2.
  • In 2015, the focus will shift to more cognitively demanding math tasks, with problems at DOK Levels 2 and 3 (with some DOK 1)
  • In 2016, the focus will shift to even more complex math tasks - the exam will be mostly DOK Levels 2 and 3 (with some DOK 4 and very little DOK 1)


<<To learn more about Depth Of Knowledge (DOK), click here>>


Start trying out and building towards those DOK level 2 and 3 (and 4) problems now. If you wait until 2015, it will be too late. These kinds of problems take time and require practice and revision on our part as teachers.


For more ideas and resources to prepare for this moving target, see the 4 Recommendations on the CUNY CCI math main page.



I have looked at The TASC Math Sample Items and the TASC Readiness test and I am freaking out a little bit. This looks like college math to me. I'm not sure I know how to do this math, let alone teach it. 


You are not alone. The sample questions and the TASC Readiness test are quite different from what students have faced on the G.E.D. in the past. The are challenging because they are procedural problems that deal with higher level content, a lot of which is what students learn in CUNY Start or in their developmental mathematics courses at CUNY. Now, with fewer resources and less time, it seems like we have to build Rome in a day.


But there are a few things you should keep in mind.


  • The cut scores (passing scores) for the TASC are normed against the performance of actual, real graduating high school seniors.  The cut scores for the G.E.D. were set the same way. That means that the passing score for the TASC will be set to match the performance and abilities of 60% of graduating high school seniors. Our students may see problems like these on the TASC, but until high school students can do that level of math, our students will be able to pass the TASC without being able to answer them. Keep in mind that on the first round of Common Core assessments, only 30% of 3rd though 8th graders in NYC were found to be proficient in math. In Rochester, NY, that number was 5%. This is why students only need to answer 6 or 7 (out of 20) questions correctly on the TASC Readiness Test in math.


  • The sample math questions are just some sample problems to give a sense of what the TASC will look like. Those 11 questions do not represent the scope of the content that will be on the TASC, nor do they necessarily represent the full range of difficulty - students may face a lot of questions that look like these sample questions or they may only face 1 or 2. We just don't know yet. 


  • It is ok if you do not know the math, yet. The bar was just raised on everyone. We need to remember the same message we convey to our students - don't beat yourself up for the math you don't know. You can learn it. For some ideas and resources for improving your math content knowledge, click here.


One thing you may notice about the TASC sample problems is that though they are challenging in terms of their content level, they are not necessarily challenging in terms of the Depth of Knowledge level of the problems. Almost all of the problems can be solved by a formula or a standard procedure - of course, you need to know the formula or procedure in question. Remember, these sample problems are for the 2014 TASC, when the DOK targets are level 1 and 2. In 2015 and 2016, students will face problems reflecting higher DOK levels.



What are the basic, nuts & bolts for the TASC math section?


  • Students will have 90 minutes
  • There will be a calculator section and a no calculator section. The calculator will be the Texas Instruments TI-30XS. Click here to see some videos on how to use this calculator.
  • In 2014, there will be 40 multiple choice questions and 12 questions requiring a gridded response
  • Students will not have to memorize formulas - they will be given a formula sheet
  • Content Area Focus:
    • 15% number and quantity
    • 25% algebra
    • 25% geometry
    • 25% functions
    • 10% statistics and probability (this is a big shift from the current G.E.D. math section, where there is a lot of graphs, data and charts. It is important to keep in mind that students will still need to know data, statistics and probability, but just not on the math section. Data, statistics and probability will appear in the science and social studies sections of the TASC.


So there has not yet been a lot of information released telling us what the math section. What should I teach my students?


Remember the normed cut scores! Current G.E.D. passing scores are set by the abilities of graduating high school students. TASC passing scores will be determined in the same way. Graduating high school students will not have suddenly and magically increased the math they can do by several grade levels. Which is to say that students who develop the skills (now and in the near future) to pass the 2002-2013 G.E.D. will be able to pass the TASC. At least for a little while.


There are always ways to improve our instruction, but we want to do it in ways that address the needs of our students, that make sense in terms of the research of how people learn and which connect with our experience and teaching instincts.


Here's what you should do:

    • Learn more about the Common Core. This website is set up to help you do just that. Go through the 4 recommendations on the the CUNY CCI math main page.
    • Read some of the lessons in the teacher resources and try them with your students
    • Commit to trying a few of the Common Core math tasks with your students



Do we know anything about the math content that will be emphasized on the TASC?


CTB/McGraw Hill has said the emphasis on the mathematics section of the TASC will be in the following topics, taken from the high school standards of the Common Core.


It is very important to remember that these emphases are from the high school standards. They are built on deep conceptual understanding that public school students are presumed to have developed in elementary and middle schools. We do not yet know how long it will take for 60% of the high school students used in the norming process to be proficient in these math topics. We do know that New York State was decided that high school students will not face 9-12 grade Common Core assessments until the year 2022.


In many cases, these topics are more on par with the COMPASS (the current CUNY initial math placement exam). They are a far cry from the math content HSE students saw on the 2002-2013 G.E.D. and they are likely a far cry from what 60% of graduating high school students can do.




  • Arithmetic with Polynomials and Rational Expressions
  • Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities
  • Creating Equations
  • Seeing Structure in Expressions




  • Interpreting Functions
  • Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models




  • Geometric Measurement with Dimension
  • Modeling with Geometry



Number & Quantity

  • The Real Number System 



Statistics and Probability

  • Making Inferences and Justifying Conclusions (Medium Emphasis) 
  • Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data (Medium Emphasis)
  • Conditional Probability and Rules of Probability (Low Emphasis)


For all of the Math content emphases in one printable document, click here













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