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   Bush Administration Set To Unveil New Math, Science Education Plan

Approach to Teaching Math Debated:

Bush Administration Set To Unveil New Math, Science Education Plan

The Bush administration, according to David J. Hoff in an article in Education Week on November 20, 2002, will soon be “entering the fray on an issue that has split advocates of a basic-skills focus and educators of a more progressive bent.”

This project, says Hoff, is not as “well defined” as the administration’s $5 billion Reading First program, in part because the research on what works in science and math education is inconclusive.

The math portion of the Bush program is encountering controversy. While some educators want to stress basic skills In mathematics—memorizing multiplication tables and mastering basic computational skills—others, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, believe students will learn better if the subject is approached by teaching “mathematical concepts” before basic skills are covered.

Tipping the administration’s hand as to preference in approach, the Education Department has already granted $400,000 to leaders of the basic-skills movement. All parties concerned with math and science education in the US, however, have to agree that what’s being done now in the public schools is not working very well. U.S. middle school and high school students have scored at or below the international average in both math and science in tests administered starting in the mid-1990s.

The Bush initiative will involve such federal agencies as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The one-year $400,000 grant mentioned earlier will be used to craft a college curriculum for math teachers. Currently it is possible for elementary teachers to teach math with only one year of college-level math.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, already has developed an outline of what K-12 students should be taught at every level. These standards have been used to develop textbooks and have shaped standards in many states. Still, the standards have encountered criticism from those who say they lack rigor and emphasis on basic skills.

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This story was published on January 8, 2003.
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