National Mathematics Advisory Panel

In the U.S., the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (on request from the President himself) has delivered a report to the President and the U.S. Secretary of Education. This final report was delivered on March 13, and is freely available for anyone to download (pdf or Word document). I know this is old news already, but I will still present some of the highlights from the report here. Be also aware that there will be a live video webcast of a discussion of the key findings and principle messages in the report. The webcast will be held tomorrow, Thursday March 26, 10-11.30 a.m. Eastern Time. This discussion will be lead by Larry R. Faulkner (Chair of the Panel) and Raymond Simon (U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education).

A key element of the report is a set of “Principal Messages” for mathematics education. This set of messages consists of six main elements (quoted from pp. xiii-xiv):

  • 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 grades.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • NAEP and state assessments should be improved in quality and should carry increased emphasis on the most critical knowledge and skills leading to Algebra.
  • The nation must continue to build capacity for more rigorous research in education so that it can inform policy and practice more effectively.

During their 20 month long work, the Panel split in five task groups, where they analyzed the available evidence in the following areas:

  • Conceptual knowledge and skills
  • Learning processes
  • Instructional practices
  • Teachers and teacher education
  • Assessment

These groups are visible in the main chapter headings of the report.

After having presented their principle messages, the panel present 45 main findings and recommendations for the further development of mathematics education in the U.S. These 45 findings and recommendations are split in the following main groups (strongly resembling the list of task groups above):

  • Curricular content
  • Lesson processes
  • Teachers and teacher education
  • Instructional practices
  • Instructional materials
  • Assessment
  • Research policies and mechanisms

These are the main issues in the forthcoming video webcast. All in all, it is an interesting report, so go ahead and read it!

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