kitchen table math, the sequel: the nativity gap, part 2

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the nativity gap, part 2

from Erin Johnson:

The 2007 TIMSS does break out the US results by race. In 4th grade the US Asian subgroup performs only slightly less than the top Asian countries but by 8th grade the US Asian subgroup performs significantly lower.

4th grade US Asians: 582
4th grade Singapore: 593

8th grade US Asians: 549
8th grade Singapore: 599

Highlights from TIMSS (pdf file)

Note that the math scores of Singapore stay the same from 4th to 8th grade, but the US Asian subpopulation (as well as the entire student population) declines.

If math performance was purely an IQ phenom, we would expect that those 4th and 8th grade levels would be comparable, but this is not the case.

Also, there is evidence from Whitehurst that math curricula does matter. So it is not inconceivable that differences between math in Asia vs the US might account for performance differences.

Anecdotally, having used Singapore math it is easy for me to see why Asian math programs would be significantly better at enabling kids to learn math.


Catherine Johnson said...

Erin - do I have the right link for Whitehurst?

Erin Johnson said...

Catherine - Yes that is the right link. Thanks.

ChrisA said...

Say it ain't so.

Color me surprised. ;-)

concerned said...

Thanks for the post!

Another offering from Whitehurst is Spurring Innovation Through Education: Four Ideas

My favorite part –
Link K-12 Curricula to Comparative Effectiveness

Little attention has been paid to choice of curriculum as a driver of student achievement. Yet the evidence for large curriculum effects is persuasive. Consider a recent study of first-grade math curricula, reported by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in February 2009. The researchers randomly matched schools with one of four widely used curricula. Two curricula were clear winners, generating three months’ more learning over a nine-month school year than the other two. This is a big effect on achievement, and it is essentially free because the more effective curricula cost no more than the others.

You can find the study he refers to here:

He goes on to say: The federal government should fund many more comparative effectiveness trials of curricula, and schools using federal funds to support the education of disadvantaged students should be required to use evidence of effectiveness in the choice of curriculum materials. The Obama administration supports comparative effectiveness research in health care. It is no less important in education.

There are similar results for middle school math which can be found here:

My question is…
Why the heck are these programs still in our schools?

In the 1999 Open Letter to Richard Riley, our country's great mathematicians and scientist tried to stop big gov from promoting this junk.


Pragmatic Mom said...

That is really interesting that Asian American's decline in math by grade 8...I wonder if that is because most parents can not tutor their kids in math at this point because it starts to get harder?? most Asian parents, including myself, are making our kids do home supplementation rather than pay for tutors or classes for math. (that is because we are spending lots of $ for tutors in subjects we can't teach like music).

My kids use Singapore Math to supplement their school math.

Pragmatic Mom
Type A Parenting for the Modern World
I blog on education, parenting and children's lit

Catherine Johnson said...

Hi Pragmatic Mom - your blog looks great!

I believe that a good part of the reason for the decline is incoherent U.S. curricula.

Catherine Johnson said...

concerned - re: our tax dollars being spent on verifiably lousy curricula, I hear your pain.

I FEEL your pain.

My district purchased Open Court, then tossed it out for Fountas & Pinnell.

Which means we've actually SPENT MONEY on a decent reading curriculum and then SPENT MORE MONEY on a lousy reading curriculum.

salt in the wound