Focus on algebra, U.S. panel tells schools
To catch up with other nations in math, schools should teach fewer topics in more depth, it says.
American students have fallen below top-performing nations in math because their courses skim the surface of too many topics, critics say.
Now a prominent national panel is calling for schools to focus on key topics that promote success in algebra, a gatekeeper for higher-level math and science. Its closely watched report, released Thursday (see www.ed.gov/mathpanel), is part of a growing chorus of voices calling for reform in US math education.
"There's starting to be a critical mass behind doing something," says Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., and a board member of the nonprofit Math for America, which recruits and trains math teachers. "I'm optimistic that ... the various groups within states ... will look at this [report] and will change their curriculum objectives."
The changes offered by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel are significant.
Key pre-algebra skills would get more focused attention, experts say. The report's emphasis on algebra stems partly from research showing a correlation between doing well in the subject and going on to gain a college degree and earn a good income. Growth in math- and science-related jobs is outpacing growth in other fields 3 to 1.
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