America’s Math Problem:
Mathematics education from kindergarten to the first year of college, and mathematics teacher preparation, in the U.S. have structural problems that make it difficult for students to be successful in mathematics into high school and college.
Difficulties typically begin in upper elementary school. Student proficiency declines from 4th grade on. Many struggle with learning fractions, long division and pre-Algebra. These deficiencies make Algebra very challenging for many students in late middle school and in high school. Lack of Algebra knowledge is a barrier to access and completion in higher education and transition into some jobs.
More serious difficulties arise for many high school students and adult learners as they access community colleges and public universities with math deficiencies. In order to continue in community college and achieve an associate degree, students have to pass a college-level Algebra or Statistics course. Since each student enters college with varied levels of math competency, it is difficult to bring all students to proficiency individually.
At the beginning of the math preparation in elementary school, teachers tend not to have the mathematical content knowledge to provide a solid foundation for student math learning in later grades. Growing teacher shortages and increasing reliance on substitutes and noncertified teachers contribute to this problem.
Student performance in math is both critical for future success and often the primary barrier for achieving educational and career goals. We need a systematic approach.
A Systematic Approach:
NLET’s approach the “math pipeline” issues revolve around several areas of focus:
- Foundational Math (K-8) – NLET focuses on tools to keep track of the standards-based math taught and learned by grade and student. We believe that math learning grades 3 to 8 should be in a singular system that allows the progression of math learning to be better managed. We also believe universal math supplementary learning should be available for K-5 teachers.
- Transitional Math (grades 9-12, first year college) – NLET is working on powerful new platforms for learning Algebra and Statistics starting in high school and first year college. We believe these could be used in regional collaboratives spanning high school, summer bridge programs, dual enrollment and college.