This short book is based on Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Both are products of the National Research Council’s Mathematics Learning Study Committee, a multidisciplinary group of scholars, educators, researchers, and administrators with differing perspectives on school mathematics but a shared commitment to making it as effective as possible. Our committee has sought to move the discussion beyond the narrow views that have characterized past debates about how to improve student learning. We have not focused on a particular aspect of school mathematics, such as the curriculum or textbooks. Instead, we have taken a comprehensive view of what it means to be successful in mathematics. By examining, debating, and synthesizing the available research evidence, we have come to a consensus about how school mathematics needs to change to prepare students for life in the 21st century.

This book examines school mathematics during a critical period in a child’s education—from pre-kindergarten (pre-K) through eighth grade. During these years, students need to become proficient in mathematics if they are to be successful at higher levels of education and in the workplace. This book focuses on the domain of number, which is at the heart of preschool, elementary school, and middle school mathematics. Many of the controversies about school mathematics concern the learning of number, and it is the most thoroughly investigated part of the curriculum. But our concentration on number is not meant to imply that school mathematics from pre-K through eighth grade should be limited to arithmetic. On the contrary, school mathematics in the early grades needs to give significant attention to additional mathematical domains, such as algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics. We use the domain of number to illustrate what might be done throughout the curriculum.

This book, Helping Children Learn Mathematics, is addressed to parents and caregivers, teachers, administrators, and policy makers, all of whom must work together to improve mathematics learning. The book concludes with lists of recommended actions for each of these groups. Many other groups also must contribute, including textbook publishers, the creators of state and national learning standards and assessments, and education researchers. For those groups, Adding It Up provides more detailed guidance.

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