Tag Archives: Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement

Study: Early mastery of fractions is a predictor of math success

26 Jun

Joy Resmovits has an interesting article at Huffington Post. In U.S. Students’ Low Math Test Proficiency Could Have Consequences For GDP Resmovits reports:

U.S. students rank poorly in proficiency on both domestic and international math exams, a problem that could cost the country $75 trillion over 80 years, according to a new study.

U.S. students fall behind 31 countries in math proficiency and behind 16 countries in reading proficiency, according to the report released Wednesday, titled “Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?

Resmovits is reporting about the report, Globally Challenged: Are U. S. Students Ready to Compete? The latest on each state’s international standing in math and reading by Paul E. Peterson, Ludger Woessmann, Eric A. Hanushek and Carlos X. Lastra-Anadón. Here is a portion of the Executive Summary:

Proficiency in Mathematics

U.S. students in the Class of 2011, with a 32 percent proficiency rate in mathematics, came in 32nd among the nations that participated in PISA. Although performance levels among the countries ranked 23rd to 31st are not significantly different from that of the United States, 22 countries do significantly outperform the United States in the share of students reaching the proficient level in math. In six countries plus Shanghai and Hong Kong, a majority of students performed at the proficient level, while in the United States less than one-third did. For example, 58 percent of Korean students and 56 percent of Finnish students were proficient. Other countries in which a majority—or near majority—of students performed at or above the proficient level included Switzerland, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands. Many other nations also had math proficiency rates well above that of the United States, including Germany (45 percent), Australia (44 percent), and France (39 percent). Shanghai topped the list with a 75 percent math proficiency rate, well over twice the 32 percent rate of the United States. However, Shanghai students are from a prosperous metropolitan area within China, with over three times the GDP per capita of the rest of that country, so their performance is more appropriately compared to Massachusetts and Minnesota, which are similarly favored and are the top performers among the U.S. states. When this comparison is made, Shanghai still performs at a distinctly higher level. Only a little more than half (51 percent) of Massachusetts students are proficient in math, while Minnesota, the runner-up state, has a math proficiency rate of just 43 percent. Only four additional states—Vermont, North Dakota, New Jersey, and Kansas—have a math proficiency rate above 40 percent. Some of the country’s largest and richest states score below the average for the United States as a whole, including New York (30 percent), Missouri (30 percent), Michigan (29 percent), Florida (27 percent), and California (24 percent)….

Performance of U.S. Ethnic and Racial Groups

The percentage proficient in the United States varies considerably across students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. While 42 percent of white students were identified as proficient in math, only 11 percent of African American students, 15 percent of Hispanic students, and 16 percent of Native Americans were so identified. Fifty percent of students with an ethnic background from Asia and the Pacific Islands, however, were proficient in math. In reading, 40 percent of white students and 41 percent of those from Asia and the Pacific Islands were identified as proficient. Only 13 percent of African American students, 5 percent of Hispanic students, and 18 percent of Native American students were so identified….

Here is the citation:


Mary Niederberger of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes in the article, Formula written for math success:

Mastery of fractions and early division is a predictor of students’ later success with algebra and other higher-level mathematics, based on a study done by a team of researchers led by a Carnegie Mellon University professor.

That means more effective teaching of the concepts is needed to improve math scores among U.S. high school students, which have remained stagnant for more than 30 years….

The study said a likely reason for U.S. students’ weakness in fractions and division could be linked to their teachers’ “lack of a firm conceptual understanding” of the concepts, citing several other studies in which many American teachers were unable to explain the reasons behind mathematical solutions, while most teachers in Japan and China were able to offer two or three explanations.


Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement

  1. Robert S. Siegler1,
  2. Greg J. Duncan2,
  3. Pamela E. Davis-Kean3,4,
  4. Kathryn Duckworth5,
  5. Amy Claessens6,
  6. Mimi Engel7,
  7. Maria Ines Susperreguy3,4 and
  8. Meichu Chen4Abstract

Identifying the types of mathematics content knowledge that are most predictive of students’ long-term learning is essential for improving both theories of mathematical development and mathematics education. To identify these types of knowledge, we examined long-term predictors of high school students’ knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement. Analyses of large, nationally representative, longitudinal data sets from the United States and the United Kingdom revealed that elementary school students’ knowledge of fractions and of division uniquely predicts those students’ knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement in high school, 5 or 6 years later, even after statistically controlling for other types of mathematical knowledge, general intellectual ability, working memory, and family income and education. Implications of these findings for understanding and improving mathematics learning are discussed.

  1. Published online before print June 14, 2012, doi: 10.1177/0956797612440101 Psychological Science June 14, 2012 0956797612440101
  1. » AbstractFree
  2. Full Text
  3. Full Text (PDF)
  4. Supplemental Material

Math is important for a number of reasons.

Michigan State University’s Office of Supportive Services succinctly states why math is important:

Why is math important?

All four year Universities have a math requirement

Math improves your skills:

  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Deductive Logic and Reasoning Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills

A good knowledge of math and statistics can expand your career options

Physical Sciences – Chemistry, Engineering, Physics

Life and Health Sciences – Biology, Psychology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Optometry

Social Sciences – Anthropology, Communications, Economics, Linquistics, Education, Geography

Technical Sciences – Computer Science, Networking, Software Development

Business and Commerce

Actuarial Sciences



In Perhaps the biggest math challenge is how to teach math, moi said:

There will continue to be battles between those who favor a more traditional education and those who are open to the latest education fad. These battles will be fought out in school board meetings, PTSAs, and the courts.

There is one way to, as Susan Powder says, “Stop the Insanity.” Genuine school choice allows parents or guardians to select the best educational setting for their child. Many policy wonks would like to believe that only one type of family seeks genuine school choice, the right wing wacko who makes regular visits on the “tea party” circuit. That is not true. Many parents favor a back-to-the basics traditional approach to education.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/perhaps-the-biggest-math-challenge-is-how-to-teach-math/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©