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Adding + It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics
teachers, and parents. Although some readers may feel that substantial advances are already being made in reforming mathematics teaching and learning, we find real progress toward mathematical proficiency to be woefully inadequate.
These observations lead us to five principal recommendations regarding mathematical proficiency that reflect our vision for school mathematics. The full report augments these five with specific recommendations that detail policies and practices needed if all children are to become mathematically proficient.
The integrated and balanced development of all five strands of mathematical proficiency (conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning, and productive disposition) should guide the teaching and learning of school mathematics. Instruction should not be based on extreme positions that students learn, on one hand, solely by internalizing what a teacher or book says or, on the other hand, solely by inventing mathematics on their own.
One of the most serious and persistent problems facing school mathematics in the United States is the tendency to concentrate on one strand of proficiency to the exclusion of the rest. For too long, students have been the victims of crosscurrents in mathematics instruction, as advocates of one learning goal or another have attempted to control the mathematics to be taught and tested. We believe that this narrow and unstable treatment of mathematics is, in part, responsible for the inadequate performance that U.S. students display on national and international assessments. Our first recommendation is that these crosscurrents be resolved into an integrated, balanced treatment of all strands of mathematical proficiency at every point in teaching and learning.
Although we endorse no single approach, we contend that instruction needs to configure the relations among teachers, students, and mathematics in ways that promote the development of mathematical proficiency. Under this view, significant instructional time is devoted to developing concepts and methods, and carefully directed practice, with feedback, is used to support learning. Discussions build on students’ thinking. They attend to relationships between problems and solutions and to the nature of justification and mathematical argument. All strands of proficiency can grow in a coordinated, interactive fashion.