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Teaching Mathematics in Grades 3-5 Classrooms

by Thomas L. Good - April 07, 2008

Background: The National Mathematics Advisory Panel was appointed by President Bush in April of 2006. The panel’s charge was to make recommendations for improving mathematics learning and capacity in the United States. The National Math Advisory Group was divided into four major task groups; Conceptual Knowledge and Skills; Learning Processes; Instructional Practices; and Teachers and Teacher Education. Besides these major task groups there were three sub groups: Standards of Evidence; Instructional Materials; and A National Survey of Algebra teachers.

Purpose/Objective: I first describe the historical failure of reform efforts in American Education. I then briefly discuss reasons for this failure and note that calls for reform generally ask for too much change too quickly. I suggest that one major problem in recent math reform is that reformers have called for expanded math content (e.g., estimation, problem solving, statistics, infusion of technology, and so forth) to be added to the traditional elementary school curriculum without removing anything. Thus, reformers have created a crowded curriculum without sufficient time to teach all content well, and when teaching the cluttered curriculum, teachers place too little attention on students as social beings.

Research Design: This paper elaborates on an invited address to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP), in October, 2006 at Stanford University. My invitation was to speak on mathematics instruction. I narrowed my scope to focus on mathematics instruction in grades 3-5. The paper reviews and interprets past research and raises new issues.

Conclusions/Recommendations: After a critique of the NMAP report Good offers strategies for dealing with the so-called “math problem,” including eliminating some of the math taught in 3-5 grade classrooms, making mathematics more meaningful, and an increased use of active teaching. Finally, I suggest the need for field experiments that alter the normative or typical curriculum and instructional practices in measured ways.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 07, 2008
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15196, Date Accessed: 6/15/2021 3:29:28 PM

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About the Author
  • Thomas Good
    University of Arizona
    THOMAS L. GOOD is the Editor of the Elementary School Journal, and is the Head of the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Arizona. His research interests include the study of teacher-student communication in classrooms as they unfold in both the formal and informal curriculum.
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