When children in primary grades study math, they are learning
more than how to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers.
Solving math problems helps students develop strong analytical
and problem-solving skills that are vital for academic and
personal success. In Early Math Matters, SREB explores
why early math is so important and provides recommendations on
how state leaders can raise the math achievement of their
This report explains why early math learning is so important, the
current state of math instruction, issues with elementary teacher
preparation and professional development, and how math anxiety
impacts achievement. It also presents recommendations state
leaders can use to help raise the math achievement of their
It’s no secret that aspiring
teachers with strong math backgrounds tend to be drawn toward the
secondary grades, where they can just teach math. In fact,
results of the 2018 National Survey of Science and Math
Education showed that just 3 percent of elementary teachers
surveyed held a degree in mathematics or math education, compared
with 45 percent of middle grades math teachers and 79 percent of
high school math teachers.
We’ve all likely heard someone say, “I’m bad at math,” or even “I hate math.” In the United States, math is too often considered a subject that either comes naturally or doesn’t — there are “math people,” and everyone else can expect to struggle with it. If you stop and think, though, this makes as much sense as saying we’re all naturally good (or bad) at sports, or music, or writing. It’s true that becoming skilled in any of these areas may come more easily to some people than others, but we generally understand that no one becomes expert at baseball without learning the game and spending a lot of time practicing.
Adrienne Dumas has heard it from kids for years, like so many teachers and parents: “I just don’t have a math brain.”
A math teacher at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Mississippi, Dumas disagrees, and with good reason — her Algebra 1 and geometry students have a 100 percent passing rate for the past three years on the state test. Dumas and other teachers offer their tips for math success in a recent SREB High Schools That Work newsletter.
This report presents results of teacher and student surveys on
how powerful Mathematics Design Collaborative practices are
shifting how teachers teach. It also summarizes student
achievement data from schools using the strategies in four
states. In vignettes and testimonials, teachers who completed
SREB professional development on MDC share how they have grown as
teachers and how their students’ understanding of math
concepts has improved.
Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Schools, visited
Moore High School in December to look at its technology program.
And she did, but she also got a pleasant surprise when principal
Mike Coyle showed her to an Algebra 2 classroom.
Mathematics department chair Nancy Nix reported that the
superintendent was “blown away by the level of student engagement
and mathematical discourse.”
Want to see where good teaching happens? Watch what students are
doing in the classroom. Sounds obvious, maybe, but as SREB senior
vice president Gene Bottoms says, “We observe teachers
and what they’re doing all the time — but we miss a big piece of
the puzzle if we don’t see what the kids are doing as a
So SREB asked My Student Survey to see how our training in
powerful literacy and math teaching tools is paying off in the
The role of the administrator — attending professional
development sessions with teachers and principals and
participating in classroom observations and coaching visits — is
critical to the successful implementation of the Mathematics
Design Collaborative. To support teachers, leadership must
understand math achievement gaps in students and the classroom
process that teachers are taught to address the gaps.
Jeanne Glover, math specialist at the
Jonesboro Public Schools district in Jonesboro,
Arkansas, was trained in the Mathematics Design Collaborative
during the 2013-14 school year with SREB math consultant
Amanda Merritt. Glover believes the MDC tools
fit well with her K-12 mathematics vision for the district.
So Debbie Blankenship, math teacher at
Douglas MacArthur Junior High School, joined two
other district teachers for initial MDC training in May 2014.