Why does so much educational software measure “number of questions answered”?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but we’ve done it before too.

It is a classic ‘quality over quantity’ vanity metric. “Your students have answered 5000 questions this week” sounds impressive… like students are doing some serious learning. But are they?

Judging student outcomes or even engagement by ‘questions answered’ makes as much sense as judging an essay favourably by its large word count.

Like word count, ‘number of questions answered’ is easy for computers to measure. Certainly a lot easier than what really counts — whether we’ve adequately prepared our students for the Real World™.

But if those questions were easy, if they were largely testing basic recall of facts, what have we really achieved?