Academic journal article Education

Why Our Students Fail Math Achievement?

Academic journal article Education

Why Our Students Fail Math Achievement?

Article excerpt

Statistical Data Provides a Powerful Search light

'Why our schools fail math achievement?' Is a very important and a complex question. Importance of education in general, and mathematics (math) in particular, in the modern world of competitive international markets and rapidly changing technologies and job opportunities is quite well known. Educationists and administrators have been making an effort at improving the state of affairs, in their own ways. At any time we are too near the scene of action and are unable to notice the trend of events. A bird's eye view would be very helpful in the proper appraisal of the situation. Statistics gives us a powerful tool to understand the true trends. It is in the powerful search light of educational statistics that we propose to examine the answer for this question and indicate measures for success.

National Center of Educational Statistics (NCES), a wing of the Federal Department of Education, has been collecting statistical data regarding the performance of school students in mathematics throughout the USA for more than 20 years. They have devised a special system for assessing mathematics performance of students. Their scores range from 0 to 500 and are based on the questions designed by a team of experts. The questions range from simple problems suitable for testing the 4th graders to those suitable for testing the 12th graders. The same questions are set for the 4th graders, 8th graders, and the 12th graders, but the proficiency levels considered as appropriate for the respective levels are, of course, different. Tests are set to students selected as samples from different categories. This enables them to collect valuable information about the state of mathematics achievement throughout the school years and in different regions, and for different socioeconomic parameters. The socioeconomic parameters include factors such as ethnicity, parental education, family incomes, neighborhoods, etc. The data is analyzed and presented in the National Report Card. During the last decade they have also collected information about the effects of school-related parameters on performance in mathematics in schools. The parameters considered are student/teacher ratio, teacher time on academic work, principal's time on academic tasks, parental involvement, resources, instruction costs in dollars per student, etc. All this data makes a treasure of information for educational planning.

Recently in October 1994, NCES has published three books to highlight the problem of raising mathematics achievement in schools (Dossey, Mullis, Gorman, & Latham, 1994; Mullis, Jenkins, & Johnson, 1994; Mullis, 1994). NCES has to be complemented for doing the splendid job of collecting and presenting data on such an important topic. The effort is specially valuable in that their data is based on actually conducting the tests on school students in real life situation, and there is no simulation or imagination in the process. Moreover, it correlates the academic performance of students with several other social and school-related parameters and is based upon surveys, extensively carried out throughout the USA for over two decades.

Remedial Measures Being Adopted by Schools

One of the latest publications of NCES gives several tables indicating that schools have been adopting several measures to improve mathematics achievement (Dossey et al., 1994) In the 4th-grade, about 75 % get priority in mathematics teaching; In the 8th-grade, it is 56% for the top third schools and 75% for the bottom third schools. For 71% of the 4th graders, mathematics instruction extends to four hours per day; for 55% of the 8th graders it is more than two hours per day. Half of the 8th and 12th graders have home assignment of 30 minutes each day. For 96% of the 4th graders and 76% of the 8th graders, heavy instructional emphasis is put on learning facts, concepts, and problem solving skills. Training programs are being offered for teachers; ability-grouping of students is being tried; projects and small-group activities are being promoted; use of calculators and computers has been on an increase. …

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