International Mathematics Assessments for Schools (IMAS)

I.  Introduction

International Mathematics Assessments for Schools (IMAS) is a world class mathematics assessment test for middle primary, upper primary and lower junior secondary students.  The test is organized by IMAS Executive Council.

The organizer strongly feels a need to conduct a mathematics assessment test among schools, countries and regions to test the students’ achievement and to serve as a guide paper for students to improve themselves. This test serves as one of the motivating factors attracting students not only to test their abilities in mathematics but also to challenge their abilities in broadening their mathematical scope. 

II.  Aims and Objectives

The aim of the IMAS

  1. To provide an achievement test in mathematics for all students and a mathematics competition for students with good performance;
  2. To develop a world class mathematics assessment with international perspective measuring students’ performances in three cognitive dimensions – Knowing, Applying and Reasoning at Middle Primary (Grade 3 and 4), Upper Primary (Grade 5 and 6) and Junior Secondary (Grade 7 and 8) level;
  3. To promote effective learning of mathematics in both primary and secondary schools through a public recognized performance measuring platform.

The objectives of the IMAS are

  1. To inform stakeholders, i.e. students, teachers and parents, of the performances of the students in mathematics at different level of attainments in well defined reports;
  2. To better serve the needs of students through a more user friendly format of perennial assessment that offers options for participants in terms of topics as well as difficulties of materials being assessed through a public mathematics assessment which to be held once a year.
  3. To usher in an innovative assessment culture, i.e. participants can choose when they would like to sit for the assessment of content as well as level of difficulties of items being assessed.  Participants take the initiative in assessing one’s competencies and capabilities.

III. Are there differences among IMAS and other international attainment tests?

At present, there are several achievement tests conducted by different educational groups. These tests included PISA, TIMMS, and many others. The introduction of IMAS is not just another international assessment tests. The main difference of IMAS and other international mathematics tests is that IMAS is not a one-off testing. There are two rounds of tests, followed by a summer camp in mathematics. More importantly, the IMAS is not aimed for testing students, but to develop students’ mathematics ability and creativity. The following table shows the important attributes of the IMAS.

Aims To assess students’ performance in three cognitive dimensions, knowing. Applying and Reasoning for purpose of enriching the universal education of mathematics.
Participants Upper primary and lower junior secondary students.
The Test Sets in a real world, rather than pure mathematical environment, with situations to which the students can relate.
Its Emphasis IMAS emphasizes items which require the use of scientific, explorative, and creative approach to solve problems.
What does it Measure? IMAS measures students’ working knowledge of mathematics developed from natural ability and learning styles.

Emphasis and Measurement of TIMSS and PISA

The following table displays the characteristics of TIMSS and PISA. Though IMAS and the two tests shared some common basic philosophy on mathematics testing, IMAS is more focused on the development of mathematics ability and is served as a tool to inform schools and teachers on the development of students’ ability in mathematics.

Aims To assess the knowledge of students, assessment items exhibit a range of difficulty and complexity. To test literacy in mathematics, with a view to improving educational policies and outcomes.
Participants Fourth- and eighth-grade students 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance.
The Test Designed to collect information on students’ backgrounds, attitudes and beliefs related to schooling and learning, information about their classroom experiences. Require students to apply their mathematical knowledge to solve problems set in various real-world contexts.
Its Emphasis Emphasizes on items which require the mathematical facts and standard algorithms. Items demand connections between existing knowledge
What does it Measure? Measures traditional classroom content and curriculum attainment. Measures students’ ability to apply what they have learned to real-world situations and to communicate their solutions to others.

The questions in IMAS are designed with the following framework. There are four areas of mathematics involved in the test paper. Questions in each area involve knowing, applying and reasoning.

  Numbers and operations Algebra Geometry Measurements

Knowing means the ability to recognize conceptual work and answers are obtained based on concept and calculation.  Applying means selection of appropriate concepts and working procedure to solve problems.  Reasoning means using logical deduction based on deduction and concepts to obtain answer.

  1. The Organizer

The IMAS is organized by the body of Executive Council composed of

A. Mr. Cheng, Chun Chor Litwin– Senior Lecturer, Hong Kong Institute of  Education, Hong Kong;

B. Mr. Sun Wen-Hsien- President, Chiu Chang Mathematics Foundation;

C. Dr. Promote Kajornpai – Specialist Supervisor, Office of Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, Thailand

D. Ms. Elvira SH- Head, Directorate of Kindergarten and Primary Education, Ministry of National Education, Indonesia;

E. Dr. Simon Chua– President, Mathematics Trainers’ Guild, Philippines.

Under the direction of the IMAS Council, an Academic Committee is formed to administer the operation of the mathematics test. The membership of the Committee is as follow:

Academic advisors:

Prof Zhang Jingzhong—-Fellow, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Mr. Cheung Pak Hong—-Principal, Munsang College (Hong Kong Island)


Prof. Andy Liu —- Professor, Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences University of Alberta, Canada.  

Vice Chairman:

Prof. Zhu Huawei —- Professor, Guangzhou University, China.  


Prof. Simon Chua —- President of Mathematics Trainers’ Guild, Philippines.

Mr. Wen-Hsien Sun — President, Chiu Chang Mathematics Education Foundation, Taiwan.

Mr. Zheng Huan —- Guangzhou University, China.

Mr. CHENG, Chun Chor Litwin—- Senior Lecturer of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong.

Other members are the research team headed by Prof. Zhu Huawei and specialists endorsed by individual participating countries.

All other participating countries in the first IMAS will be invited as official members of IMAS in 2012.

V.  Entrance Qualification of IMAS

There are no preset requirements for students who want to participate in the IMAS. Students may sit for any level of assessment which they found suitable. That is, a student could sit for an assessment test at a higher or lower level; for example, a primary 3 student may sit for the upper primary assessment test. This opens up the frontier for the bright and able student to test their abilities through a public recognized measurement. The IMAS is meant to support the advancement of education for the gifted as practiced in many countries.

VI.  Schedule of the IMAS

There are two rounds of IMAS test in one academic year. The first round of IMAS will be conducted in early November for middle primary, upper primary and lower secondary students while the second round of IMAS will be conducted in the succeeding year around the last week of January. The IMAS Executive Council will sponsor a Summer Camp in July each year with the aim to promote creativity and problem solving skill among students. Hence, the IMAS is not all about traditional paper and pencil test, it is also about developing dynamic and interactive approach to learning mathematics in an appropriate environment.

VII.  Format of the Assessment and Award

The first round of IMAS is for all participants, and the second round is for students who perform well in the first round. The format of the tests in each round is as follows, with the sample question included at the appendix.

  1. First Round of IMAS – Twenty-five problems will be given. The participants are given one hour to finish the ability test.  The first twenty problems are in Multiple-Choice type while the last five problems require integer answers between 0 and 999 inclusive. The distribution of the problems are: Problems 1 to 10, classified as EASY category, each correct answer is given 3 points; Problems 11 to 20, classified as AVERAGE category of which each correct answer will be given 4 points while Problems 21 to 25, CHALLENGE category, every correct answer will be given 6 points.

To encourage students to work mathematics and to recognize students’ achievement, the IMAS will provide award for students entering the tests.  The level of awards of individual student is relative to the performance of other students in their country, of the same year level during the first round of IMAS. The award scheme is as follows:

  • High Distinction – Student whose score is above 95 percentile
  • Distinction -Student whose score is above 85 and below 95 percentile
  • Credit – Student whose score is above 50 and below 85 percentile
  • Participation – Student whose score is below the 50 percentile

Every participant is awarded with a certificate with a personal report.  The IMAS individual certificate means a lot to the participant as it promotes positive effects about one’s performance based on the given assessment.  The report will be in the form of standards of achievement, informing the participant their achievement in addition to the percentile rank. Assessment results could facilitate learning when strengths and weaknesses of their performance are identified.  This information can be shared with mathematics teachers in the region via the feedback loop in seminar and workshops. 

  • The Second Round of IMAS is conducted for those students who achieved to be in the top 5% to 10% of all participants of each country. In this test, there are fifteen problems: Problems 1 to 5 are multiple choice type where each correct answer will be given 4 points, Problems 6 to 13 call for short answers where each correct answer will be given 5 points, and Problems 14 to 15 call for detailed solution (or working process) and full mark of each correct answer is 20, partial marks may be given for incomplete answer. 

In each participating country, the participants whose scores are in the top 5% percentile will be awarded with a Gold Medal; participants in the top 6% to 15% percentile will be awarded with a Silver Medal and each participant whose score is in the top 16% to 30% percentile will receive a Bronze Medal.

VIII.  IMAS Summer camp

The IMAS will also organize a Summer Camp for developing mathematics learning. This will provide good opportunities for all participants to meet each other and promote friendships among students from different countries as well as learning mathematics in cooperative and collaborative manner.

The Summer Camp is conducted by the IMAS Executive Council. It will invite participants who perform well at the middle primary, upper primary and junior secondary of each country to attend the Summer Camp. The Camp will be conducted at Guangzhou, China. The Council will provide free meals and accommodation to all invited participants.  One teacher of each participating country will also be invited and his/her meal and accommodation expenses will be sponsored by IMAS Executive Council. However, the participants and all official delegates will have to pay for their round trip travel expenses from their country to Guangzhou.

XI.  Charges and Logistics

  1. There is an Entry Fee of US $3 per participant payable to the IMAS Executive Council.
  2. The organizer of each participating country appointed by the IMAS Executive Council Printing will be responsible for printing and marking of the papers.