Sunday, August 14, 2005

Research on math instruction

This could be a hopeful sign that what was done for reading instruction at the fed level will now be done for math instruction.

Science Magazine reports on a new federal research initiative:

As assistant secretary for vocational and adult education at the Department of Education (ED), Sclafani is championing a $120 million initiative in secondary school mathematics that is built in part on money shifted from the same NSF directorate that funded the Houston grant. The initiative, included in President George W. Bush's 2006 budget request for ED now pending in Congress, will give preference to studies that test the effectiveness of educational interventions in the same way that medical researchers prove the efficacy of a drug. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of new approaches to teaching math, Sclafani says, will help school officials know what works, and they can then scale up the most promising new curricula and teaching methods. "Randomized studies are the only way to establish a causal link between educational practice and student performance," she says.
It's also encouraging that the EHR division of NSF might have less tax money to do damage to math instruction. NSF-EHR is the chief tax-financed promoter of fuzzy math.

The proposed math initiative at ED would be a competitive grants program to prepare students to take Algebra I, a gateway course for the study of higher mathematics and the sciences. Applicants will be encouraged to use RCTs and quasi-experimental designs to measure whether the reform works, Sclafani says. The initiative comes at the same time the Administration has requested a $107 million cut in NSF's $840 million Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorate. The cuts include a phasing out of NSF's portion of the $240 million Math/Science Partnership program...
See here for more on NSF-EHR's role in promoting fuzzy math.

David Klein, a math professor at California State University Northridge, has identified NSF-EHR as the institution that has done the most damage to math education:

The principal funding source of fuzzy math for the past decade has been the federal government by way of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) division of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The EHR is the directorate within the NSF that funds K-12 education projects. No single institution in the United States has caused more damage to the mathematical education of children than this low-profile bureaucratic unit of the National Science Foundation. The damage that the EHR has caused, and continues to cause, contrasts sharply with the NSF's overall admirable and important role in supporting fundamental scientific research.


Anonymous said...

This is incredibly good news.

Anonymous said...


On second thought (still haven't taken time to read through the article).....we need research on grade school math, too.


Instructivist said...

It very much looks like a tentative effort. And -- as you say -- there should also be a focus on grade school.

Anonymous said...

Check out this middle school 'research':