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U.S. students not measuring up in math

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Cambridge, Mass. (UPI) Nov 10, 2010
The percentage of U.S. students in the class of 2009 with advanced skills in math is lower than in most of the world's industrialized nations, a study found.

The study, sponsored by the journal Education Next and Harvard University, says the United States ranked 31st out of 56 countries in the percentage of students performing at a high level of accomplishment, a Harvard release reported.

The study shows only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced level in math, compared with 28 percent of Taiwanese students and more than 20 percent of students in Finland and South Korea.

In a state-by-state analysis of the percentage of students performing at advanced levels, the study found most U.S. states rank closer to developing countries than to developed countries.

Thirteen developed countries have more than twice the percentage of advanced students as does the U.S., including Germany, Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan and Austria, the study found.

"Public discourse has tended to focus on the need to address low achievement, particularly among disadvantaged students, and bring everyone up to a minimum level of proficiency," Paul E. Peterson of Harvard University said.

"As great as this need may be, there is no less need to lift more students, no matter their socioeconomic background, to high levels of educational accomplishment."

earlier related report
Program aims to improve kids' math skills
Champaign, Ill. (UPI) Nov 10, 2010 - A U.S. researcher says his software program will make it easier and more enjoyable for elementary school students to learn basic addition and subtraction.

University of Illinois education Professor Arthur Baroody says the program, Number Sense, can build on a child's natural tendency to see out patterns and relations to learn simple mathematical reasoning strategies, a university release reports.

"Everyone agrees that kids need to learn the basic facts, but there's far less agreement among educators about how this can best be accomplished," Baroody said. "Many drill and practice programs have been developed to help kids memorize the basic combinations by rote. The theory is that if children hear or practice 9 plus 7 equals 16 repeatedly, they'll eventually just remember it."

But while most kindergarteners can count and know the number that comes after 7 is 8, many children can't readily specify that 7 plus 1 is 8, and they either count to determine the sum, guess or don't respond, Baroody said.

"However, once children connect with their existing knowledge that adding 1 results in the next number in the counting sequence, they can reason out any adding-1 combination, including those they've never practiced before," Baroody said.

"As children practice this reasoning strategy, it eventually becomes automatic and they can figure out any add-1 sum very efficiently."

Similarly, adding 8 or 9 to another number is "notoriously difficult for children to solve," Baroody said, but a Number Sense technique teaches to think about such problems as easier 10+n and subtract-1 problems: for example, if 10+7=17, then 9+7 is 1 less than 17, which is 16.

Baroody developed the software over the past seven years with funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

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