Weekly Math Updates

March 13 , 2008


  • National News - The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel
  • NPR Report
  • Cool Art from Nails

Hi folks,

Thought I'd better get this news out.  All good.

National News - The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel

The Bush Administration's panel has released their math report and it looks like a good piece of work. I can't say I've read it yet since it was just released but based on the people involved on the committee I think there is a strong possibility that this could significantly affect things nationwide. 

In looking over the main findings which start on page 16 of the pdf (page xvi of the document) there are a number of very positive statements made in several key areas.  I suggest you browse the entire list but a few things I noticed are as follows:

-Focused and coherent progression of math skills toward success in algebra (the number one predictor of college success)
-Emphasis on teachers being able to do math themselves before being able to teach children (#7, 17-19)
-Computational proficiency and automatic recall of facts, fluency with standard algorithms (#11)
-Focus on effort, not ability (this emphasizes the work ethic and nature that math is not inherent talent)
-DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE NONSENSE IS DEAD (#15-you just need prerequisite knowledge)
-Drop the use of calculators before algebra. It impedes automaticity (#29)
-Students should be allowed to advance at their own pace including advancing faster than peers (#30)
-Shorten the topics (ie. be like top nations such as Singapore)
-Future studies on education must have methodical and stringent criteria to qualify

Here's just a couple of excellent quotes on items I didn't mention above.  The first is a slam to fuzzy math. Saxon and Singapore approaches have always been balanced between students discovering answers and the teacher directing learning.  The second is another slam to fuzzy math advocates in that "real-world" scenarios don't improve computation and problem solving.  ASD should reconsider Connected and Interactive math asap.

"All-encompassing recommendations that instruction should be entirely “student centered” or “teacher directed” are not supported by research. If such recommendations exist, they should be rescinded. If they are being considered, they should be avoided. High-quality research does not support the exclusive use of either approach."

"The use of “real-world” contexts to introduce mathematical ideas has been advocated, with the term “real world” being used in varied ways. A synthesis of findings from a small number of high-quality studies indicates that if mathematical ideas are taught using “real-world” contexts, then students’ performance on assessments involving similar “real-world” problems is improved. However, performance on assessments more focused on other aspects of mathematics learning, such as computation, simple word problems, and equation solving, is not improved."

Unfortunately one of my national contacts had to suggest a wager as to when the publishers of fuzzy math programs would announce they've been doing all these things all along. :)   (deep sigh)


NPR Report


In this 6 minute audio segment NPR shares an excellent piece with this summary:

The "fuzzy" math lessons that kids come home with drive parents crazy and confuse even teachers. So, two years ago, alarmed by all of the fuzziness and U.S. students' lackluster performance on international math tests, the Bush administration asked a panel of experts to bring more coherence and depth to the math curriculum. But only one state has even come close to doing what the panel envisions: Massachusetts.

Cool Art From Nails

After finding the NPR piece above I stumbled on another piece on their site where someone has created some pretty cool artistic structures from nails.  Check it out here and click the image for a gallery of shots.


Till next time,

Oak Norton

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