National Academies Press: OpenBook

Helping Children Learn Mathematics (2002)

Chapter: Overview

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Suggested Citation:"Overview." National Research Council. 2002. Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10434.
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Overview

The major observations and recommendations of this book establish new goals for mathematics learning and lay out a course of action for achieving those goals.

  • All students can and should be proficient in mathematics.

  • Mathematical proficiency involves five intertwined strands: (1) understanding mathematics; (2) computing fluently; (3) applying concepts to solve problems; (4) reasoning logically; and (5) engaging with mathematics, seeing it as sensible, useful, and doable.

  • For all students to become mathematically proficient, major changes must be made in mathematics instruction, instructional materials, assessments, teacher education, and the broader educational system. In particular:

    • Instruction should support the development of mathematical proficiency for all.

    • Instructional materials should integrate the five strands of mathematical proficiency.

    • Assessments should contribute to the goal of mathematical proficiency.

    • Teachers should have the support that will enable them to teach all students to be mathematically proficient.

    • Efforts to achieve mathematical proficiency for all students must be coordinated, comprehensive, and informed by scientific evidence.

  • Mathematical proficiency for all cannot be achieved through piecemeal or isolated efforts. All interested parties—including parents and caregivers, teachers, administrators, and policy makers—must work together to improve school mathematics.

Suggested Citation:"Overview." National Research Council. 2002. Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10434.
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Results from national and international assessments indicate that school children in the United States are not learning mathematics well enough. Many students cannot correctly apply computational algorithms to solve problems. Their understanding and use of decimals and fractions are especially weak. Indeed, helping all children succeed in mathematics is an imperative national goal. However, for our youth to succeed, we need to change how we're teaching this discipline. Helping Children Learn Mathematics provides comprehensive and reliable information that will guide efforts to improve school mathematics from pre—kindergarten through eighth grade. The authors explain the five strands of mathematical proficiency and discuss the major changes that need to be made in mathematics instruction, instructional materials, assessments, teacher education, and the broader educational system and answers some of the frequently asked questions when it comes to mathematics instruction. The book concludes by providing recommended actions for parents and caregivers, teachers, administrators, and policy makers, stressing the importance that everyone work together to ensure a mathematically literate society.

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