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K-12 Math Education: A University View Professor Clifford Mass Department of Atmospheric Sciences University of Washington Bellevue Math Program

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Bottom Line Students are coming to the State’s colleges and universities without adequate math skills and knowledge. This situation has worsened over the past 10 years. Part of the problem has been the transition to reform or discovery math in K-12.

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Not my opinion only… The decline in math skills is universally noted by math and science faculty. Two years ago, nearly 300 UW faculty members in the sciences and technical fields signed a petition stating this fact. Most are “dumbing” down the math level of introductory classes. Even majors are having problems.

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Objective Evidence

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Roughly 30% of Washington State students required remedial math during their first year in college. Approximately 50% of the students required math remediation in community and technical colleges.

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The revenues of math tutoring companies in Washington State went up by 340% from 1994-2004 $149 million in 2004, compared to $44 million 10 years earlier.

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Large Numbers of UW Students Are Taking High School Level Math But Algebra was REQUIRED to get in!!

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Poor Performance on the Math WASL-- Which is NOT a Difficult Exam

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Atmospheric Sciences 101 Math Assessment Exam Roughly 200 sampled each year

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Math Assessment Exam 2006

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2009: No improvment

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Only 53% knew the definition of a cosine

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Only 57% could do a simple long division without a remainder! 231/7=33

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Only 14% could solve a simple algebraic equation y = x (1-x) solve for x

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Same Results in Other Classes

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And these are students at the flagship university of the State! Most students had had high school GPA above 3.6

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What about Bellevue In the same assessment exam the average score for Bellevue students, students from a rich district with good demographics, was 59% Virtually the same as the rest!

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Why the decline? Poor state math standards –Some improvements made recently at the behest of the state legislature (F to B-) Poor curriculum and textbooks –Dominance of “discovery” and “reform” textbooks that lack essential materials and follow an approach that has no scientific basis. –Heavy use of calculators, lack of direct instruction, lots of group and discovery projects. Lack of math knowledge of many teachers, particularly in elementary school.

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Discovering Math Has Major Weeknesses “ these books have far too much verbiage for students to read, and too little in the way of clearly stated mathematical principles. Definitions, computational algorithms, and formulas seem to be stated vaguely when they are stated at all” UW Professor of Mathematics, Jack Lee

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Discovering Math was pronounced “mathematically unsound” by the Washington State Board of Education. Here is what their consultant mathematicians had to say: “Discovering was the weakest, with all three areas considered inadequate.” “One way Discovering Algebra and Discovering Advanced Algebra compromise mathematics is by leaving important mathematics undefined and assumed.” “The use of technology in Discovering Algebra in lieu of algebraic approaches contributes to the lack of opportunity to develop algebraic skills”

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Holt

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Discovering Algebra

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An Essential Problem Many districts seem unwilling to let objective information and true math experts provide critical guidance. Case in point, Seattle, where Discovering Math was chosen even AFTER it was found unsound in ALL reviewed areas by mathematicians hired by the State Board of Education.

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The End

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