Federal

Basic-Skills Advocate Hired as Math Adviser by Ed. Dept.

By Sean Cavanagh — April 25, 2006 1 min read

The U.S. Department of Education has hired a math scholar with well-publicized views about how that subject should be taught as a senior adviser.

W. Stephen Wilson, a mathematics professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has advocated a strong grounding in basic math concepts before students move into problem-solving. That belief was recently articulated in a 2005 report by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, co-written by Mr. Wilson, which argues that state standards ignore far too many fundamental math skills.

Mr. Wilson, 60, said he was recruited by the department and is on leave from his university post.

The professor comes aboard as the Bush administration is preparing to name a national panel to identify best practices for math teaching. Mr. Wilson predicted that its composition would be free of any agenda regarding how the subject should be taught.

“It clearly has to be a balanced panel in order to have legitimacy,” he said in an e-mail response to Education Week questions. The central question, he said, is: “What mathematics is necessary in elementary school so that a student can progress successfully to college-level mathematics? The answer is, both skills and understanding.”

Johns Hopkins will pay Mr. Wilson’s $151,200 annual salary, which the federal government will reimburse, according to department spokesman Chad Colby.

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