School & District Management

Ed. Dept. Proposes $120 Million Math Agenda

By David J. Hoff — February 12, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Department of Education wants to spend $120 million on research into mathematics education as the first step in its five-year effort to improve the quality of math and science instruction and raise student achievement in those subjects.

Speaking here last week at what the department billed as a one-day “summit” to launch the project, agency officials said the research agenda for math education would investigate the best methods and curriculum for teaching the subject and the best ways of improving teachers’ knowledge of the field.

“The place to start is with more rigorous curriculum and high-quality teachers,” Secretary of Education Rod Paige told the invitation-only group of math education advocates, business leaders, and government officials at the Feb. 6 event.

Research identifying what has to happen to write challenging curricula and to prepare the teachers who will deliver it will be the early focus of the undertaking.

“The research in math is really in its infancy,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the director of the department’s new Institute of Education Sciences, said in his speech. “What it provides in policy and practice is educated guesses.”

Moving Ahead

The Bush administration has been planning its math education project since late last year. It has already made a $400,000 grant to advocates of basic-skills instruction for a project that will define what teachers ought to know before they enter the classroom. (“Bush to Push for Math and Science Upgrade,” Nov. 20, 2002.)

Later, the administration intends to start a similar venture to explore the curriculum and teacher quality in science, officials at the math event said.

In addition to producing new research, the math and science initiatives will work to gain public support for the overall goal of raising student achievement.

At last week’s math gathering, one of the analysts already at work on the Education Department’s teacher education grant said his research suggests U.S. students aren’t learning the rudimentary skills they need to excel in upper-level math.

“Students lost ground in most computation skills in the 1990s,” said Tom Loveless, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. For example, half of 8th graders enter high school unable to compute with fractions, a key skill needed for algebra, said Mr. Loveless, who based his research on an analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“These basic skills are necessary to advance in mathematics,” he added. “Basic skills should be a floor, not a ceiling.”

But the best way to teach those basic skills remains unclear, Mr. Whitehurst said in his presentation.

Some research, Mr. Whitehurst said, suggests that students can learn mathematics skills through so-called discovery learning, in which they use “manipulatives” or draw pictures to portray such tasks as addition or subtraction. But other research says that the more teachers guide students in hands-on instruction, the better students can learn, he added.

For discovery learning, “there is a time and a place,” he said. “But it is not every day.”

Nearing Balance

Advocates of programs that incorporate discovery learning said the balance in Mr. Whitehurst’s summary of the research heartened them.

Prior to the meeting, some had worried that the math initiative would be biased toward basic skills, and might eventually lead to federal policies that favored that approach. (“Federal Influence Over Curriculum Exhibits Growth,” Feb. 5, 2003.)

“He raised legitimate questions,” Johnny Lott, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, a 100,000-member professional organization, said of Mr. Whitehurst. “That was very encouraging.”

In Bush Budget

Mr. Whitehurst’s institute—the Education Department’s research arm—would receive $25 million for the math education agenda under the fiscal 2004 budget that President Bush submitted to Congress last week, according to David Thomas, a department spokesman.

The rest of the funding would come from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Congress still must appropriate the money.

Education Department officials will convene a meeting March 13 to discuss the next steps in the math education agenda.

A video of the Feb. 6 event was to be posted by late last week at www.connectlive.com/events/deptedu.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion If You Can’t Maintain an Initiative, Maybe You Shouldn’t Do It
Schools are often really good at finding new initiatives to implement but aren't always good at maintaining. Here's a model to consider.
5 min read
Screen Shot 2022 01 21 at 7.57.56 AM
Shutterstock
School & District Management Schools Are Desperate for Substitutes and Getting Creative
Now in the substitute-teacher pool: parents, college students, and the National Guard.
10 min read
Zackery Kimball, a substitute teacher at Bailey Middle School, works with two classes of students at the school's theater hall on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. Many schools have vacant teaching and/or support staff jobs and no available substitutes to cover day-to-day absences.
Zackery Kimball, a substitute teacher at Bailey Middle School in Las Vegas, works with two classes of students at the school's theater hall on a Friday in December 2021.
Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP
School & District Management 3 Ways School Districts Can Ease the Pain of Supply Chain Chaos
Have a risk management plan, pay attention to what's happening up the supply chain, and be adaptable when necessary.
3 min read
Cargo Ship - Supply Chain with products such as classroom chairs, milk, paper products, and electronics
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Vulnerable Students, Districts at Greater Risk as Natural Disasters Grow More Frequent
New federal research indicates the harm from fires and storms to school facilities, learning, and mental health is disproportionate.
4 min read
Helina Thorp, right, 14, expresses frustration while unsuccessfully trying to log in to her school distance-learning classes in Placerville, Calif., after Pacific Gas & Electric intentionally shut off power to prevent wildfires amid high winds in September 2020.
Helina Thorp, right, 14, expresses frustration while unsuccessfully trying to log in to her school distance-learning classes in Placerville, Calif., after Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to prevent wildfires amid high winds in September 2020.
Daniel Kim/The Sacramento Bee via AP