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Posted 05.31.06
 
 
   

MU Researcher Appointed to Presidential Math Advisory Panel

Experts Nationwide will Research Ways to Improve Math Education

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- By graduation, United States high school students are being outperformed in mathematics by their international counterparts. Addressing the issue, President Bush has formed an advisory panel, which includes a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, to make recommendations on strengthening math education so Americans can compete better in the global economy.

David Geary.The National Mathematics Advisory Panel consists of 23 members and includes David Geary, a Curators' professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. The panel is modeled after the National Reading Panel, which reformed reading standards and influenced the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Similar guidelines for improving math performance and achievement are expected when recommendations are made to Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

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"This is a big push to invest in math education and math development, and do it in a way that works," said Geary, whose research focuses on children's math development and learning disabilities.

The panel, which met in May, will examine scientific-based evidence related to the teaching and learning of math, particularly pre-algebra and algebra. The group will evaluate basic math instruction and comprehension in early grades. The goal is to develop strategies for middle and high school students to learn algebra successfully and be prepared for advanced math courses. The result, Geary said, may help Americans become more competitive and productive in jobs requiring extensive math knowledge. He said limited math skills have led to fewer U.S. college students pursuing high-paying technology, science and engineering careers.

"The pipeline of students entering these fields isn't sufficient," Geary said. "The problem is students in this country are not prepared compared to those from East Asia, India and some European countries. They must have a serious math background in high school. Toward 12th grade, Americans are at the bottom of the industrial barrel in mathematics, which means we're not going to be able to sustain a competitive advantage in technology and science.

"There are all sorts of issues the panel will study: How do kids learn? What works? What is the best way to instruct, and what do teachers need to know? We will clarify what's important."

During its first meeting, the panel established four committees. One will focus strictly on math principles, researching basic and advanced concepts and procedures. Another, which includes Geary, will examine learning differences - for example, how students learn math and why they have problems with various concepts and procedures. The two other committees will focus on teacher instructional practices and teacher preparation.

Geary said the national panel will meet again soon to determine the overall direction of the study, share drafts and discuss committee topics. An interim report to Bush and Spellings is due by Jan. 31, 2007, and a final report is due by Feb. 28, 2008.

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