Why Do Americans Stink at Math? – New York Times 07-23-14

Salient to Investors:

Elizabeth Green at Chalkbeat writes:

  • Americans have come up with better ways to teach math but have failed to implement them: from the 1800s to the failures in the 1960s and 1980s through to today. The reason is the absence of a good system for helping teachers learn to teach them. Other countries like Japan have implemented similar approaches with great success.
  • John Allen Paulos at Temple University calls the mathematical equivalent of not being able to read – innumeracy.
  • On national tests, nearly two-thirds of 4th graders and 8th graders are not proficient in math. Over 50% of 4th graders in 2013 failed the temperature reading test. In Massachusetts, math students are more than two years behind their counterparts in Shanghai. A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy.
  • The cognitive-science research suggested a startling cause of Americans’ innumeracy: school. By focusing only on procedures and not on what they mean turns school math into an arbitrary process divorced from the real world of numbers.
  • Most US education schools have little interest in the science of teaching. Methods courses are usually taught by the lowest ranks of professors – chronically underpaid, overworked and, ultimately, ineffective.
  • Dan Lortie says teachers learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught – an average of 13,000 hours of instruction over a typical childhood. Suzanne Wilson says the very people who embody the problem, teachers, are also the ones charged with solving it.
  • Textbooks have received only surface adjustments, despite their Common Core labels.
  • In Japan, meetings between math-education professors and teachers are standard, yet American teachers have almost no opportunities to watch one another teach.
  • An important lesson that Japan can teach the US is the belief in patience and the possibility of change.
  • Across all school subjects, American teachers don’t receive anything like the preparation, support and tools they need.

Read the full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/why-do-americans-stink-at-math.html

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