Friday, October 10, 2008

Math Skills Suffer in U.S., : NY Times article

The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.

From the New York Times at:

Here is a letter sent in Missouri that certainly fits with what is happening nationally.

Dear State Representatives,

I am a high school math teacher who lives in St. Charles County and grew up in Buffalo, Missouri. I attended Missouri State in Springfield back when it was called SMS, then later completed a degree in Mathematics at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. I have been teaching high school math for 17 years now, and am currently teaching Algebra 2 and Calculus. I am writing to you today to express my concern regarding the state of our K-12 Math standards and assessments.

This "Revised Draft of Missouri's K-12 Mathematics Core Concepts, Learning Goals and Performance Indicators" was posted by DESE on Tuesday: goals_draft_100708.pdf

In my opinion, the Algebra 2 content described in this document will not prepare students for success in later math and science courses. I also believe that our state's Algebra I End of Course Exam is not a valid measure of a student's knowledge of Algebra I at the level required for success in Algebra 2 and beyond because it inadequately addresses the "Major Topics of School Algebra" as described in the the National Mathematics Advisory Panel's final report.

My deep concern is that with these goals and performance indicators in place, the already-existing gap between high school and college math will widen, making completion of a four-year degree even that much more difficult for the students of our state to attain. As was noted in the selected findings section of the 1999 Toolbox Study ( )

Of all pre-college curricula, the highest level of mathematics one studies in secondary school has the strongest continuing influence on bachelor's degree completion. Finishing a course beyond the level of Algebra 2 (for example, trigonometry or pre-calculus) more than doubles the odds that a student who enters postsecondary education will complete a bachelor's degree. [pp. 16-18]

Our state has taken important first-steps to ensure that our high school graduates are prepared for college-level work by creating MDHEs Curriculum Alignment Initiative and Missouri's P-20 Council. Please feel free to share this information with your constituents and discuss these matters with local school officials, high school math teachers and college or university math faculty. I believe that citizens throughout the state should be encouraged to review these K-12 math documents and provide valuable feedback to these leaderships organizations.

Sincere thanks for your leadership and service,

Lisa Jones

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