Mathematical Proficiency for All Students: Toward a Strategic Research and Development Program in Mathematics Education

By Deborah Loewenberg Ball | Go to book overview

SUMMARY

The teaching and learning of mathematics in U.S. schools is in urgent need of improvement. The nation needs a mathematically literate citizenry, but most Americans graduate from high school without adequate mathematical competence. In the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 17 percent of grade-12 students nationally performed above a basic level of competence.1 Furthermore, achievement gaps have persisted between white students and students of color, and between middle-class students and students living in poverty. As both a matter of national interest and a moral imperative, the overall level of mathematical proficiency must be raised, and the differences in proficiency among societal groups must be eliminated.

Improving proficiency in mathematics and eliminating the gaps in proficiency among social groups is and has been the goal of many public and private efforts over the past decade and a half. States and national professional organizations have developed standards for mathematics proficiency and assessments intended to measure the degree to which students attain such proficiency. Various programs have been developed to attract and retain more effective teachers of mathematics. New curricular materials have been developed along with training and coaching programs intended to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to use those materials. However, these efforts have been supported by only a limited and uneven base of research and research-based development, which is part of the reason for the limited success of those efforts.

This report proposes a long-term, strategic program of research and development in mathematics education. The program would develop knowledge, materials, and programs to help educators achieve two goals: to raise the level of mathematical proficiency and to eliminate differences in levels of mathematical proficiency among students in different social, cultural, and ethnic groups. In the short term, the program is designed to produce knowledge that would sup-

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1
National Center for Education Statistics, 2001.

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