Math Achievement: Where We Stand and What We Know
From unlocking the mysteries of the solar system to following a baseball player’s stats, mathematics gives students the keys to understanding the world around them. Yet the most recent international comparison studies reveal that the United States ranks 15th out of 47 in TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) and 25th out of 40 in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).
Mathematics has always been one of the cornerstones of education's "three R's." Now as the focus of No Child Left Behind adds mathematics requirements to those for reading, the pressures of achieving Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) will focus attention on improving mathematics achievement. The first step is the official debut of mandatory every-year testing for grades 3 through 8 in the 2005-2006 school year. With NCLB’s emphasis on research-based programs, the time is ripe for development of new programs that incorporate practices that have proven efficacy.
Research about mathematics education, although not as advanced as reading research, does provide some direction that educators can apply to their schools.A substantive body of research shows that we must teach mathematics concepts as well as procedures in order to prepare students to solve the mathematics problems they will encounter beyond their elementary years. Memorizing basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts is important. Automaticity with facts allows students to focus on higher-order mathematical processing. Teachers who are knowledgeable about mathematics content, how students learn mathematics, and techniques for teaching mathematics are the biggest contributors to student math success.