The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Available Online
Mathematics Illiteracy a Serious Problem in U.S.
Did you know thatů.
- 78% of adults in the U.S. cannot explain how to compute the interest paid on a loan
- 71% cannot calculate miles per gallon on a trip
- 58% cannot calculate a 10% tip for a lunch bill
The National Mathematics Advisory Panel released its final report after nearly 2 years of hearing testimony and examining more than 16,000 research publications and policy reports. The panel noted that there is a "vast and growing demand for remedial mathematics education" at community colleges and 4-year colleges nationwide and also discussed the disparities in mathematic achievement related to race and income. According to the panel, "Success in mathematics education matters at the level of individual citizens because it opens options for college and career and increases prospects for future income" (p. 4).
The panel called for a change in the way we prepare students for algebra, streamlining the mathematics curriculum in grades PreK-8, and using high-quality research to inform instruction.
The Importance of Algebra
The importance of algebra was emphasized in the report because, as the panel reported, "The sharp falloff in mathematics achievement in the U.S. begins as students reach late middle school, where, for more and more students, algebra course work begins" (p. xiii). The panel discussed other findings linked to the study of algebra:
- The probability a student will enroll in a 4-year college correlates substantially with completion of high school math beyond Algebra II.
- The majority of workers who earn more than $40,000 annually have two or more high school credits at the Algebra II level or higher.
- Two-thirds of the students who took Algebra II in high school reported they were well-prepared for the demands of the workplace.
The Importance of Teachers
The panel indicated that substantial differences in mathematics achievement are attributable to differences in teachers, but refer readers to the report of its Task Group on Teachers for a full discussion of the findings.
The report concluded with a discussion of the extreme need for rigorous research related to mathematics education. The panel called for training additional researchers as well as funding for a "a pipeline of research . . . that extends from the basic science of learning, to the rigorous development of materials and interventions to help improve learning, to field studies in classrooms" (p. 65).
Math Centers to Extend Learning
Math centers can encourage students' independence and increase enthusiasm for learning by giving students opportunities to make choices, work together, and talk about math. When students work in small groups, they are more likely to explore different approaches to problem solving, and to question, take risks, explain things to each other, and have their ideas challenged. In this way, centers help bring math content to life through fun activities.
When English language learners (ELLs) work cooperatively in math centers, they benefit from both watching other students and practicing their math and language skills in a safe, non-threatening environment. Because of the cooperative, problem-solving nature of math centers, ELLs are more likely to be engaged and enthusiastic about math than with textbook problems, which often pose the greatest language challenges for ELLs.
SEDL's National Center for Quality Afterschool has lesson suggestions for math centers online which could also be used in the regular day school classroom. These include Measuring Hands and Feet, Finding Pentominoes, and Using Gift Certificates.
Inadequate instruction often lies at the core of poor mathematics performance in middle school, according to SEDL program associate Concepcion Molina. Molina was interviewed for an article in April 2008 issue of SEDL Letter, "Muddle in the Middle: Improving Math Instruction at the Middle School Level."
Algebra as a K-12 experience is discussed in the December 2003 issue of SEDL Letter in an article titled, "It's Elementary: Introducing Algebraic Thinking Before High School."
Mathematics Lessons for ELL Students Online
Integrating Mathematics, Science, and Language (aka Paso Partners) is a series of lesson plans focusing on math and science activities for English language learners. Long a SEDL best-seller, it may be downloaded free of charge online.
Mathematics Curriculum Info Online
SEDL's National Center for Quality Afterschool has a searchable database of mathematics curricula. Afterschool Curriculum Choice: Mathematics Resources was developed by the PEAR, the Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency at Harvard University and the SEDL National Center for Quality Afterschool. The database contains information about a variety of curricula at a range of grade levels. Information related to cost of staff training is also included.