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New Report Reveals Deficiencies in Mathematics Education

New Report Reveals Deficiencies in Mathematics Education


A report released last month by the Education Trust marshals findings from several large-scale studies of mathematics achievement β€” both national and international β€” to argue that improving mathematics achievement in the United States will require a coordinated K-16 approach involving both K-12 and higher education.

The report provides one of the most comprehensive looks to date at what happens to American students as they progress through the system and how their mathematics experiences compare to those of their peers in other countries.

β€œAdd It Up: Mathematics Education in the U.S. Does Not Compute,” finds that while mathematics achievement is up at every grade level, these gains are largely attributable to growth at the elementary level. Mathematics knowledge learned in high school actually declined.

Moreover, while the country overall has been making improvements, African American and Latino youth did not share equally in the gains, causing the achievement gap to mostly widen. The report also documents a startling 50 percent decline in mathematics degrees since 1971 and a shrinking supply of math teachers, adding up to a deeply troubling situation for mathematics education in our country. Indeed, the pool of mathematics majors is so small that even if all of them became mathematics teachers, it is unclear whether we would have enough to meet projected needs.

β€œYou don’t have to look at the research very long to see that falling short in one area relates to failure in others,” says Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust and author of the report. β€œThe short supply of mathematically proficient teachers hampers our efforts to dramatically raise student achievement, which in turn, produces fewer college students interested in entering math fields, leading to a smaller supply of math majors, especially math majors who want to become teachers. It’s a dangerous downward spiral.”

The report also includes brand new data on the percentage of secondary math classes taught in the United States by teachers lacking a major or a minor in math, including the first ever national look at middle grades mathematics teachers. The data show that nationally, 61 percent of all middle grades students are taught mathematics by teachers who did not themselves study enough mathematics to earn even a minor in math, math ed or related fields. Rates are even higher in schools serving low-income and minority students.

β€œIn order for our K-12 students to make continued and increased gains in mathematics, higher education needs to produce graduates with a deep and flexible knowledge of math,” Haycock says.

For more information and highlights of the report visit the Education Trust Web site at .

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