kitchen table math, the sequel: National Mathematics Advisory Panel Releases Final Report

Thursday, March 13, 2008

National Mathematics Advisory Panel Releases Final Report

On March 13, 2008, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel presented its Final Report to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education. Copies of these ground-breaking reports, rich with information for parents, teachers, policy makers, the research community, and others, are provided below.

Foundations for Success: Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel

Final Report PDF (851 KB) Word (1 MB)

I ranted and raved about the Math Panel's report over at Mindless Math Mutterings.


SteveH said...

"But without substantial and sustained changes to its educational system, the United States will relinquish its leadership in the 21st century. This report is about actions that must be taken to strengthen the American people in this central area of learning. Success matters to the nation at large. It matters, too, to individual students and their families, because it opens doors and creates opportunities."

I'm glad to see two things here: that they talk about changes to the educational "system", and that they talk about what it means to individuals, not just the economy.

SteveH said...

" ... many observers of educational policy see Algebra as a central concern. The sharp falloff in mathematics achievement in the U.S. begins as students reach late middle school."

The problems start in K-6! It's not a high school remedial problem (i.e. blame the kids).

SteveH said...

"This Panel, diverse in experience, expertise, and philosophy, agrees
broadly that the delivery system in mathematics education—the system that translates mathematical knowledge into value and ability for the next generation—is broken and must be fixed."

"... the delivery system ... is broken..."

I would say that the content is incorrect too.

So, there is a concensus by national leaders (including those from NCTM) that the focus on constructivism is wrong; that it will take more than supplementing "math facts" to fix the problem.

SteveH said...

1. "The mathematics curriculum in Grades PreK–8 should be streamlined and should emphasize a well-defined set of the most critical topics in the early

Get rid of the mile-wide and inch-deep curricula with more time for mastery of the basics.

2. "Use should be made of what is clearly known from rigorous research about how children learn, especially by recognizing a) the advantages for children in having a strong start; b) the mutually reinforcing benefits of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic (i.e., quick and effortless) recall of facts; and c) that effort, not just inherent talent, counts in mathematical achievement."

a) It depends on what you call a "strong start".

b) Balance. Who decides the details?

c) Are they going to get rid of social promotion? Are they going to take responsibility for learning?

3. "Our citizens and their educational leadership should recognize mathematically knowledgeable classroom teachers as having a central role in mathematics education and should encourage rigorously evaluated
initiatives for attracting and appropriately preparing prospective teachers, and for evaluating and retaining effective teachers."

This is pretty wishy-washy. Our state requires subject area training for 7th grade and above, but what should you do about the lower grades? A proper curriculum has to be selected and schools have to make sure that the teachers are properly prepared. A good curriculum is essential. I don't want to see more training in Everyday Math.

4. "Instructional practice should be informed by high-quality research, when available, and by the best professional judgment and experience of accomplished classroom teachers. High-quality research does not support the contention that instruction should be either entirely “student centered” or “teacher directed.” Research indicates that some forms of particular instructional practices can have a positive impact under specified conditions."

But what if "high-quality" research isn't available? "Accomplished classroom teachers"? How do you filter out opinion and assumptions? This is a bone tossed to NCTM that basically allows them to decide everything about teaching practice.

5, "NAEP and state assessments should be improved in quality and should carry increased emphasis on the most critical knowledge and skills leading to Algebra."

"Increased emphasis"? Who decides what this is? How can state standards EVER be raised to the point where it helps kids, with no help at home, get to algebra in 8th grade? State stadards NEVER help individuals. Dual tracks or accelerated classes can.

6. "The nation must continue to build capacity for more rigorous research in education so that it can inform policy and practice more effectively."

This will work ONLY if you agree on exactly where you are going. I want to see the details. So far, this is only happy talk.

SteveH said...

Education in the United States has many participants in many locales—teachers, students, and parents; state school officers, school board members, superintendents, and
principals; curriculum developers, textbook writers, and textbook editors; those who develop assessment tools; those who prepare teachers and help them to
continue their development; those who carry out relevant research; association leaders and government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. All carry
responsibilities. All can be important to success."

Many will still continue to disagree and schools will continue to assert their authority to make the decisions. They might accept input and talk in generalities, but they will decide on all of the details. If the "system" is "broken", then they have to address specifically how the system can be fixed.

SteveH said...

"A coordinated national approach toward improved mathematics education will require an annual forum of their leaders for at least a decade. The Panel recommends that the U.S. Secretary of Education take the lead in convening the forum initially, charge it to organize in a way that will sustain an effective effort, and request a brief annual report on the mutual agenda adopted
for the year ahead."

Ugh!!!!! Yakity yak, yakity yak.

This is a top-down solution to a problem that can be fixed for many kids right now in a bottom-up fashion! Parents of individuals know what they want right now. They don't need no stinking 10-year panel that will look only at statistics, not individuals. Statistics set low expectations. Individuals set high expectations.

SteveH said...

They make this seem so very complicated. Just define some quality curricula, define some proper state standards and tests, then get to work. Some states are already doing this. Get the rest on board right now.

SteveH said...

"A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an
emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm in
elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided."

"Avoided". Oops. Is this a loophole for Everyday Math? So, the national panel states that Everyday Math should be avoided. Quick! A press release to all town newspapers!

SteveH said...

"School algebra"

I like this. It keeps them from redefining it into "Real World" algebra.

SteveH said...

"Mathematically gifted students with sufficient motivation appear to be able to learn mathematics much faster than students proceeding through the curriculum at a normal pace, with no harm to their learning, and should be allowed to do so."

I would argue that many non-gifted students would benefit from acceleration, but if they can establish proper curricula and paths to algebra in 8th grade, then this isn't as big of a problem.

SteveH said...

I have a long way to go, but does anyone know whether NCTM will accept this document. It appears to be very specific about content and "school algebra". It basically comes out and says that the underpinnings of Everyday Math are not acceptable.

The system is broken and Everyday Math is unacceptable. Supplementation is not a solution.

So, will NCTM accept the document and will it drive the development of new textbooks? Will it put Saxon or Singapore Math on the short list of curricula that schools select? Will it drive proper teacher training?

Can it change educators to believe in something that they've never believed in before?

concernedCTparent said...

Steve, I hope the answer is YES.

Catherine Johnson said...

boy, so far so good --- I think

I'm jumping from place to place but the report comes down squarely against spiral curricula & squarely in favor of more kids enrolled in "authentic" (they define authentic) algebra in 8th grade

great section on real-world problems, too

Catherine Johnson said...

It basically comes out and says that the underpinnings of Everyday Math are not acceptable.

I agree.

concernedCTparent said...

That's my take on it so far as well. I wouldn't want to be the Wright group right now.

Our district is in the third year of a five year "commitment" to Everyday Math. Does this report give us an out? Boy, I sure hope so.

When the question was raised as to what would our district do if Everyday Math did not meet the recommendations of the Math Panel, there was certainly some "dead air". The best they could come up with is supplementation which clearly won't cut the mustard.

SteveH said...

"When the question was raised as to what would our district do if Everyday Math did not meet the recommendations of the Math Panel, there was certainly some 'dead air'."

I'm impressed! Somebody actually asked. I'm not sure if anyone at our schools even knows much about the panel. If anything, they would think that any effect would be years away.

"The best they could come up with is supplementation which clearly won't cut the mustard."

You can't have "closure" (as defined by the panel) when you jump from topic to topic on a daily basis - on purpose.

It will be interesting to see how they spin this one.

concernedCTparent said...

I've been tactically planting(accurate) Math Panel updates through my contacts on our district math task force. When one of the insiders asked me what questions I would ask of the force if I could, that was one of them.

I want to know-- where do we go from here? Clearly, Everyday Math isn't what we should be doing, so now what?

(I know what I would want, but what my district will actually commit to is yet to be seen.)

LynnG said...

A quick search of NCTM's website shows that they "Welcome" the Math Panel report. Go to to read the press release.

LynnG said...

To be fair, the NCTM isn't welcoming the report in the same way they'd welcome piles of cash. Oh, they do ask for cash, in case there was any question on that, and cash is what NCTM wants more than another report.

The Panel's report is "only a first step."

NCTM urges "funding to put the Panel's recommendations into action and to identify and develop expanded, rigorous, research needed to guide future actions."

The 16,000 research reports reviewed by the Panel weren't enough for NCTM. NCTM (and NSF) sponsored much of that poor research rejected by the Panel. So let's give them more money.

LynnG said...

"While many of the recommendations in the Panel’s report are supported by high-quality research, others extend beyond the report’s definition of research. The use of calculators, student preparedness for algebra, and effective approaches for teacher retention will require extensive and ongoing research in order to identify approaches that can be broadly applied." (from the NCTM press release).

Why has NCTM supported programs that heavily push calculator use (like Everyday Math and TERC) if we need more research? NCTM is conveniently ignoring their own hypocrisy. We had plenty of research to push calculators down your kids throat, but now, we need rigorous research to remove those things from your first grader's classroom.

Give me a break.

concernedCTparent said...

Lynn, they need to remove those things from our kindergartener's classrooms as well.

Yep, you're so right. They are ignoring their own hypocrisy.

SteveH said...

We had plenty of research to push calculators down your kids throat, but now, we need rigorous research to remove those things from your first grader's classroom."

I've said this before. They pick curricula based on whatever they feel at the moment, but they require proof from others for change. How convenient.

So, their position is that the report points a direction, but there needs to be more research, and that means more money for them. Their hypocrisy is amazing! They get to decide (manipulate) all of the details.

There is a simple solution. Large school districts can offer Singapore Math as a parental choice.

VickyS said...

Reportedly, the article in USA Today best captures the essence of the National Math Panel report.

Also, there are reports of five task groups and three subcommittees that should now be available online (I have not checked).

LynnG said...

There are a number of supplementary documents available now with the main report:
There are five "Draft Task Group Reports" but I think those were available previously. The look the same as the draft reports issued months ago.

There are 3 Draft subcommitttee reports, including the algebra teacher survey. I've seen that survey for awhile on the site.

At the bottom of the page is an abbreviated 2 page "fact sheet" summarizing the major points of the final report.

LynnG said...

The short "fact sheet" is probably about the right length to send to local board of ed members.