K-12 Momentum: November 2023

Student sitting a computer

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In my elementary school math classes, I remember collecting a lot of wood. As dutiful third graders, we spent hours learning our multiplication tables, exploring number lines and struggling with fractions. And there is little doubt that form of deliberative practice paid off for some. Early math fluency is the bedrock of later math learning. As students increasingly learn more difficult math concepts, they need to execute basic mathematics with automaticity. Research tells us that the students’ cognitive load may be overwhelming and make mastering later challenging tasks even more difficult. But is exposure to simple procedures, and disconnected conceptual knowledge, enough to foster the student motivation necessary to study math through Algebra and beyond? Probably not. We see math skills and interest decline over time. A recent foundation sponsored survey of middle school students found that students want to know why they are learning math. What insight does math provide into the operation of the world? With its confusing symbols and complex equations, why is algebra a critical skill to master? Mathematicians are right to be ecstatic about math’s intrinsic beauty. But its beauty also stretches to application, the power to solve the vast and endless challenges in the wider world. Over the next decade, the foundation will work with educators to see math as a critical, interdisciplinary tool to understand complex phenomena in science and social studies. We yearn to see every student learn the joys of conceptual, procedural and applied math. We need to give more students the chance to use it to solve complex problems they care about.

Bob Hughes
Director, K-12 Education

Quick Reads

MUST READ: American Math Educator Survey

Out now from RAND, The American Math Educator Survey is a key source of insights on the state of math education from the teacher perspective. With topics ranging from learning loss, absenteeism, staffing challenges and instructional materials, this report promises to be helpful to leaders at all levels. Dig in for yourself here.

Curious about Practical Measurement?

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently released a new website on practical measurement for instructional improvement. Practical measures are used to identify improvement goals and to learn continuously. Learn more.

Preview: New research on math narratives

How do students really feel about learning math? Wonder: Strategies for Good and Goodwin Simon Strategic Research worked with students, math teachers, and parents to understand the social and cultural narratives that impact how students feel and think about learning math. The first phase of research included 150 6th-9th grade students, 99 parents and 54 math teachers from across the country. Join an upcoming webinar on December 7 to learn more. Register here.

Gallup/Learning Heroes: Parents say their child is on grade level — but most aren't

New data from Gallup, in partnership with Learning Heroes, shows nearly eight in 10 U.S. parents (79%) say their child is receiving mostly B’s or better, and almost nine in 10 believe their child is at or above grade level in reading (88%) and math (89%). But the reality is many students are deeply behind grade level and need intervention to recover unfinished learning. Visit GoBeyondGrades.org to learn more about these new insights and for resources to support all students.

Headed to the Learning Forward conference? Come to our session!

Learning Forward’s annual conference is December 3-6. At the conference, we’re hosting a session focused on the insights featured in the April 2023 issue of The Learning Professional during session 2229, “Learning from Networks for School Improvement” Explore promising practices, lessons learned, and impact achieved with a subset of the authors.