More/Less Trains Question in Assessing Math Concepts

Kathy Richardson is the author and developer of the Assessing Math Concepts (AMC) series of assessments, the Developing Number Concepts (DNC) series for Kindergarten through Second Grade Mathematics and Number Talks for the Pre-K and Primary Classroom. Kathy, Program Director for Math Perspectives, is one of the most respected early childhood mathematics educators.
Kathy answers questions from teachers across the country who are using AMC, DNC and Number Talks. If you have questions for Kathy, please send them to Math Perspectives at

Hi Kathy! A few things have come up recently in analyzing assessments and I figured I would reach out and ask the expert herself! No rush on these; thank you in advance for your thoughts.

When assessing using More/Less Trains, sometimes students can answer with the right number but use the wrong language. For example, children will respond to “how many less” by saying “3 more” or “3 more less.” Would you consider this “ready to apply”?

Math Tutor, NC

I love hearing from you. I hope you will continue to ask questions or share stories about the kids.

The More/Less Trains assessment is intended to find out if the children can see the differences between quantities and figure out how many more or less. I accept imprecise language like there is “more less” because I am interested in finding out if they are able to notice the relationships at that level. When they can see and describe the differences, I know they can benefit from working with comparing numbers, with the end goal being knowing the differences between numbers without counting. How children use the language is not part of the assessment but still important as they  work to compare numbers. Keep modeling the correct language when opportunities arise. Make note of which children use imprecise language and check in to see if they begin to say “less” or “fewer”. They need to learn the correct language before you can leave that concept totally behind.

If you have questions for Kathy, please send them to Math Perspectives at

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