The study from the Regional Education Laboratory at WestEd found that, in Arizona and Nevada, older ELLs had difficulty passing state math and language arts exams, even if they had tested out of English-proficiency support programs. The WestEd researchers examined two cohorts of English-learner students in each state—one cohort of 3rd graders and one of 6th graders—over three years.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers the Program for International Student Assessment every three years to 15-year-olds around the world, periodically publishes reports based on slices of the data. This month’s report offers takeaways for math teachers from the 2012 results.
It finds that students who report using memorization alone when studying math are successful with easier problems but struggle with more difficult ones. Researchers also note that, contrary to conventional wisdom, “fewer students in East Asian countries reported that they use memorization as a learning strategy than did 15-year-olds in some of the English-speaking countries to whom they are often compared.” The percentage of U.S. students who say they learn by heart is just above the OECD average. Macao-China, a high performer, used memorization the least.
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2016 edition of Education Week as Math Education