Why does math practice suck?
Reuters article Posted August 01, 2019 09:19:31A recent study from Stanford University researchers finds that math practice is not as effective as it could be for many students in the early grades, even though it is much more effective for students who are learning at grade level.
The researchers studied the mathematics of about 10,000 fourth-graders who were assigned to a math class for four weeks a year beginning in 2018.
They found that the math students who completed the course did worse on some of the test-taking measures than the math peers who completed it.
The findings were published online in the journal Child Development.
“The results are encouraging, but we need to do a better job of communicating what we’re finding in terms of the effect of math practice on students,” said lead author David M. Wiegand, an associate professor in the department of education at Stanford and a senior author of the study.
“If we want to increase the impact of math instruction, we need more math teachers and more instruction that is designed to help students understand how to think about math.”
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), about 30 percent of fourth-grade students took math tests in the 2018-2019 school year.
About 10 percent of those students took the test at grade five, and about 6 percent took it at grade six.
The authors found that math students in grades three through five who were tested on math skills scored worse on tests of comprehension, spatial reasoning, spatial awareness and reasoning.
Math students in fourth- through eighth-grade grades who were also tested on their math skills performed worse than those who were not.
Wiegand said he is interested in studying whether a specific set of math skills or an individual student’s specific learning style can make a difference in students’ performance.
For example, he said, if a student needs a certain amount of practice on certain math skills, might it make more sense to emphasize math practice in that context or would the individual student have to take more practice in order to achieve that level of proficiency?
“I think the more we can do to encourage students to understand the different types of math that they’re doing, the better off they’ll be,” he said.
“It’s an interesting study, and it gives us some interesting information that we’re going to need to be able to share with policymakers and policymakers will have to work with us on how to design better programs for those students.”
The study involved analyzing the test scores of 2,944 fourth-grader students who had participated in a yearlong program in a Stanford mathematics class called the Maths with Kids (MATC) course.
They had participated for four-year periods in the class since kindergarten, including for two years in kindergarten and one year in fourth grade.
Students in the MATC program also had their scores evaluated annually by researchers who measure math skills and are trained to do this.
The math skills assessment measures students’ math scores on a range of measures, including reading, writing and math comprehension.
Math scores are evaluated by asking students questions about math concepts, such as how to represent numbers, compare a number to another number, use mathematical formulas and compare their answers to others’ answers.
The test measures the students’ understanding of math concepts and how well they can apply those concepts to their own lives.
Math proficiency, which is defined as proficiency in at least 20 of the 30 math skills assessed by the researchers, is calculated using a combination of these math skills assessments and standardized tests of reading, math reasoning, reading comprehension and spatial awareness.
The test scores were analyzed by using a regression model to identify predictors of the math skills proficiency scores, including math skills scores, parent involvement, teacher’s ratings of student math performance, and school district’s math program.
The research team also used mathematical reasoning tests to identify the predictors.
The team found that while math proficiency improved in the matriculating students, the impact on students’ reading scores and math reasoning scores did not improve.
Math practice was associated with a significant decrease in the likelihood that a student was able to learn the concepts of numbers, numbers and functions.
For instance, students who were asked to solve a problem that included numbers and function words on a math test were more likely to be unable to do so and were more successful in their math learning.
However, the team also found that students who took a math course at grade levels other than grade four, and who had been taught by math teachers who were experienced in math and who were less likely to have experienced math as a second language, did not show these same problems.
The study does not address whether the math practice would work for all students.
In the MATc program, for instance, many students who have not been exposed to math as part of their school day are not taught math in their classrooms.
Another study published in 2016 by the National Center for Educational Statistics found that there were more than 4 million students enrolled in math courses at public and charter schools in the United States