American schools are struggling to improve math scores, which plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this, some researchers are pushing for a new approach to math instruction established on research-based practices. This movement, which is still in its early stages, is similar to the phonics-based "science of reading" movement that has recently transformed literacy instruction.
Experts say math research has not received as much funding or attention as literacy research, especially beyond the elementary level. As a result, the math instruction that schools are currently using is not as effective as it could be. The United States trails other high-income countries in math performance, and more students are graduating from high school with deficits in basic math skills.
What is the Science of Math?
There is some debate over which specific practices belong under the banner of the "science of math." However, researchers agree on some core principles.
The most important principle is that math instruction must be systematic and explicit. Teachers need to provide clear and precise instructions and introduce new concepts in small chunks, building on older concepts. These approaches have been shown to be effective in numerous studies.
Another important principle is that math instruction should focus on both procedural and conceptual understanding. Procedural understanding refers to the ability to perform mathematical operations accurately and efficiently. Conceptual understanding refers to the ability to understand the underlying concepts behind mathematical operations. The science of math movement emphasizes the importance of both types of learning.
Similarities to the Science of Reading
The science of math movement is similar to the science of reading movement in several ways. Both movements emphasize the importance of systematic and explicit instruction. Both movements also emphasize the importance of both procedural and conceptual understanding.
In addition, both movements have gained traction in recent years, as researchers have accumulated more evidence about effective teaching practices. However, the science of math movement is still in its early stages, and it has not yet had the same impact on math instruction as the science of reading movement has had on literacy instruction.
The Future of Math Instruction
The science of math movement has the potential to transform math instruction in American schools. However, it is important to note that it is still in its early stages. More research is needed to better understand how to implement the science of math in different classrooms and contexts.
In addition, it is equally vital to overcome the resistance of some educators and policymakers who are reluctant to change how math is taught. However, as the evidence for the science of math grows stronger, it is likely the movement will continue to gain traction and have a positive impact on math scores in American schools. And probably well beyond.
Picture: SUMUP Tournament 2022 (Arcanys Early Learning Foundation)