Math instruction and learning in the United States is the most pressing scholastic problem that actually has implications for the economy.
America’s Math Problem:
An Equity Approach to K-8 Math is Needed
NLET works on the personalization and universalization of math learning at the level of each student progressing through the standards, understanding which ones are critical to future learning and to how math applies to life and success, including lucrative work in finance, engineering, medicine, health, programing, essentially most of the higher paying socially mobile jobs and careers.
Education in the U.S., more than any other subject, produces three high level negative consequences that need a systematic approach.
Teacher Supply: The first issues is complex, social and instructional. We do not have – never will have – an adequate number of properly training math teachers capable of individualizing instruction across all social, demographic and cultural backgrounds and capable of bringing students to a conceptual understanding, not just an operational one.
Dependent Learning: The second issue is that math, like English, is a continual scaffold of learning and challenges stretching across all of K-12, or K-14. The beauty of this is that the math standards are well understood. However, teachers, schools and policymakers do not require a demonstrated competency approach where each student is able to build a firm foundation, standard by standard, before they are progressed, and if they slip back they are remediated.
Type of Learning: The value of math is not the forced learning of math operations and memorization. Rather, it is the deeper conceptual understanding of what math is and what it does, as well as simply ”doing math.” Math is one of the two keystone subject areas necessary for success in successive grades, in preparation for college or a career, and it affects the entire economy. Too often math is seen as a bitter pill and is not given the attention it deserves because instruction does not lead to deeper. This lack of depth precludes many STEM related careers to individuals and deprives the country of stronger analytic capabilities.
Competency-Based Longitudinal Math Learning
Public Math is a concept that suggest math instruction, math assessment and math learning could be part of a large public infrastructure that is open and available to anyone at any level. The equity issues with math pertain to uniform teaching quality and staffing across all classrooms and courses in the country. While people acquire language actively and passively outside the classroom through friends, family, relatives, television and the Internet, certainly there is no public counterpart of math learning.
The Khan Academy has effectively demonstrated that math can be on a public and open site and used by schools, colleges, students and learners. The difference between Public Math and the Khan Academy is that Khan Academy is excellent at learning resources, modules and assessments tied to standards and progressions. It is not intended as part of the school or the learner, but supplements both well.
Public Math, on the other hand, is a math learner infrastructure that is designed to be individualized on one hand and rolled up as a classroom or course learning environment on the other hand. Indeed, Public Math could easily use components of if not all of Khan Academy. The difference is more than one math resource, tool or publisher could use the data and progression infrastructure of public math. In fact, math progress across the country could be looked at through Public Math.
In addition to working on the Infrastructure, NLET will also develop tools and apps that can run on the Public Math infrastructure. We believe a first step might be a math standards tracking app to be used by teachers, students, families and schools.