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

By Deborah Loewenberg Ball | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
CONCLUSIONS

The United States needs to improve the mathematical proficiency of all students in the nation's schools. The personal, occupational, and educational demands placed on all Americans in the 21st century call for a level of mathematical proficiency that in generations past was required of only a few. Moreover, as both a moral imperative and a matter of national interest, the nation should move to reduce the gaps in mathematics proficiency that now exist between the economically advantaged and the disadvantaged and among the diverse groups that populate the nation.

However, the U.S. educational system faces serious problems that impede the attainment of these goals. Many students are taught by teachers who are underprepared to teach mathematics, and those poorly prepared teachers are disproportionately working with students from less-advantaged backgrounds and students of color. Useful mathematics curricula and mathematics education programs exist, but they are weakly implemented in many, if not most, American schools. Teacher development programs to help teachers achieve the required professional skills are uneven in quality, and too often those who need these programs the most do not participate in them. Nevertheless, the research, education, and education policy communities now have the knowledge and resources to make significant progress in mathematics proficiency. The nation can and must do better with the knowledge and resources it already has.

The message of this report by the RAND Mathematics Study Panel is that the research and education communities need to know more and do much more if the nation is to achieve adequate levels of mathematical proficiency for all students. The research and education communities need to identify the knowledge that can enable teachers to help their students develop mathematical proficiency, and they need to develop robust ways of helping teachers acquire and use that knowledge. The research and education communities also need to learn how children, who bring different personal experiences to school with them, learn the mathematical practices that are essential to effective day-to-day use of mathematics. Moreover, we argue that algebra, and more generally the

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