Every three years, the OECD, in the PISA assessment, studies 15-year-olds around the world to measure performance in reading, mathematics, and science. The results of the 2012 PISA assessment, which had a particular focus on mathematics, just came out and the United States does not fare well: “Among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in mathematics in 2012 and is ranked 26th.” I worry not so much about the rank, but about the low absolute level of proficiency to get this rank.
The U.S. students’ particular strengths and weaknesses are even more distressing:
Students in the United States have particular strengths in cognitively less-demanding mathematical skills and abilities, such as extracting single values from diagrams or handling well-structured formulae. They have particular weaknesses in items with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems.
Thirty-five years ago, the situation was similar. A large study of 13- and 17-year-old students across the United States, the second National Assessment of Education Progress (1977-1978), concluded: “Students appear to be learning many mathematical skills at a rote manipulation level and do not understand the concepts underlying the computation” (Sanjoy Mahajan)
What can we do as a nation to start turning this around. Creating a common curriculum with higher expectations is a good start, but in order for us to start closing the gaps in math, we will need to address the instruction and practice that our students are receiving.
Join us on Sunday night at a special time, 8:30 EST for a powerful edition of #IAEdChatRI, as we combine our two state chats to work together on solving a major issue in US education today.
Don Miller -