Tag Archives: U.S. Students’ Low Math Test Proficiency Could Have Consequences For GDP

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:

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG11-03_GloballyChallenged.pdf

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.
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/formula-written-for-math-success-640962/#ixzz1ym9qos5j

Citation:

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

Medicine

http://oss.msu.edu/academic-assistance/why-is-math-important

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 ©

Perhaps the biggest math challenge is how to teach math

1 Feb

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?

The report looked at the performance of students who graduated high school in 2011 on two tests: the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the exam administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the 2007 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), a national exam considered the gold standard in testing.

The analysis focused on mathematics, Peterson said, because “math skills are the most significant for economic growth.”

Resvoits 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).

Here is the citation:

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG11-03_GloballyChallenged.pdf

Sarah D. Sparks reports in the Education Week article, Study Helps Pinpont Math Disability about a study regarding how students learn math .

Burgeoning research into students’ difficulties with mathematics is starting to tease out cognitive differences between students who sometimes struggle with math and those who have dyscalculia, a severe, persistent learning disability in math.

A new, decade-long longitudinal study by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, published Friday in the journal Child Development, finds that 9th-graders considered dyscalculic—those who performed in the bottom 10 percent of math ability on multiple tests—had substantially lower ability to grasp and compare basic number quantities than average students or even other struggling math students.

“Formal math requires some effort, and it requires effort to different degrees for different children,” said Michèle M. M. Mazzocco, the director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger. “Just because someone is having difficulty with math doesn’t necessarily mean they have a math learning disability. This study points to a core marker” of true dyscalculia.

The study, she said, may help researchers and educators understand the underlying causes of persistent math problems and identify the students who need the most intensive instructional support.

Math-learning disability affects about 5 percent to 8 percent of school-age children nationwide, about as many people nationwide as are affected by dyslexia. Yet experts say research on the reading problem has for decades dwarfed studies of math difficulties by 20 to one…

“We know that basic numeracy skills are a greater predictor of later success in life than basic literacy skills,” said Daniel Ansari, one of the pioneers in the neuroscience of dyscalculia, speaking at a research forum on the disability held in Chicago last month, who is unconnected to the Kennedy Krieger study.

See, Girls and math phobia  https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

Barry Garelick has written an interesting article, Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity which appears at Education News:

While there has been a good amount of research and effort into early interventions in reading and decoding instruction, extremely little research of equivalent quality on the learning of mathematics exists. Given the education establishment’s resistance to the idea that traditional math teaching methods are effective, this research is very much needed to draw such a definitive conclusion about the effect of instruction on the diagnosis of learning disabilities.1

Some Background

Over the past several decades, math education in the United States has shifted from the traditional model of math instruction to “reform math”. The traditional model has been criticized for relying on rote memorization rather than conceptual understanding. Calling the traditional approach “skills based”, math reformers deride it and claim that it teaches students only how to follow the teacher’s direction in solving routine problems, but does not teach students how to think critically or to solve non-routine problems. Traditional/skills-based teaching, the argument goes, doesn’t meet the demands of our 21st century world.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the criticism of traditional math teaching is based largely on a mischaracterization of how it is/has been taught, and misrepresented as having failed thousands of students in math education despite evidence of its effectiveness in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Reacting to this characterization of the traditional model, math reformers promote a teaching approach in which understanding and process dominate over content. In lower grades, mental math and number sense are emphasized before students are fluent with procedures and number facts. Procedural fluency is seldom achieved. In lieu of the standard methods for adding/subtracting, multiplying and dividing, in some programs students are taught strategies and alternative methods. Whole class and teacher-led explicit instruction (and even teacher-led discovery) has given way to what the education establishment believes is superior: students working in groups in a collaborative learning environment. Classrooms have become student-centered and inquiry-based. The grouping of students by ability has almost entirely disappeared in the lower grades—full inclusion has become the norm. Reformers dismiss the possibility that understanding and discovery can be achieved by students working on sets of math problems individually and that procedural fluency is a prerequisite to understanding. Much of the education establishment now believes it is the other way around; if students have the understanding, then the need to work many problems (which they term “drill and kill”) can be avoided…..

Having seen the results of ineffective math curricula and pedagogy as well as having worked with the casualties of such educational experiments, I have no difficulty assuming that RtI plays a significant role in reducing the identification of students with learning disabilities. In my opinion it is only a matter of time before high-quality research and the best professional judgment and experience of accomplished classroom teachers verify it. Such research should include 1) the effect of collaborative/group work compared to individual work, including the effect of grouping on students who may have difficulty socially; 2) the degree to which students on the autistic spectrum (as well as those with other learning disabilities) may depend on direct, structured, systematic instruction; 3) the effect of explicit and systematic instruction of procedures, skills and problem solving, compared with inquiry-based approaches; 4) the effect of sequential and logical presentation of topics that require mastery of specific skills, compared with a spiral approaches to topics that do not lead to closure and 5) Identifying which conditions result in student-led/teacher-facilitated discovery, inquiry-based, and problem-based learning having a positive effect, compared with teacher-led discovery, inquiry-based and problem-based learning. Would such research show that the use of RtI is higher in schools that use o-based math programs and teaching? If so, shouldn’t we be doing more of the RtI style of teaching in the first place instead of waiting to heal reform math’s casualties?

Until any such research is in, the educational establishment will continue to resist recognizing the merits of traditional math teaching. One education professor with whom I spoke stated that the RtI model fits mathematics for the 1960s, when “skills throughout the K-8 spectrum were the main focus of instruction and is seriously out of date.” Another reformer argued that reform curricula require a good deal of conceptual understanding and that students have to do more than solve word problems. These confident statements assume that traditional methods—and the methods used in RtI—do not provide this understanding. In their view, students who respond to more explicit instruction constitute a group who may simply learn better on a superficial level. Based on these views, I fear that RtI will incorporate the pedagogical features of reform math that has resulted in the use of RtI in the first place.

While the criticism of traditional methods may have merit for those occasions when it has been taught poorly, the fact that traditional math has been taught badly doesn’t mean we should give up on teaching it properly. Without sufficient skills, critical thinking doesn’t amount to much more than a sound bite. If in fact there is an increasing trend toward effective math instruction, it will have to be stealth enough to fly underneath the radar of the dominant edu-reformers. Unless and until this happens, the thoughtworld of the well-intentioned educational establishment will prevail. Parents and professionals who benefitted from traditional teaching techniques and environments will remain on the outside — and the public will continue to be outwitted by stupidity.                                                           http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/barry-garelick-math-education-being-outwitted-by-stupidity/

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.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©