est progress is made when together they offer converging evidence, that is, a coherent picture of how mathematics learning occurs. The interpretation and use of research always require a search for commonalities in evidence from diverse sources.
Finally, most published studies in education confirm the predictions made by the investigators. Information obtained from research therefore is particularly useful when it goes beyond the sought-after effects. The interpretation and use of such information require an examination of the conditions under which the effects were obtained and other possible effects. For example, the students in the groups under investigation may have met other learning goals than those targeted by the instructional methods.
High-quality research should play a central role in any effort to improve mathematics learning.
In summary, high-quality research should play a central role in any effort to improve mathematics learning. That research can never provide prescriptions, but it can be used to help guide skilled teachers in crafting methods that will work in their particular circumstances. For many important issues in mathematics education, the body of evidence is simply too thin at present to warrant a comprehensive synthesis. Where convergent evidence is not available, we have attempted in this report to suggest the sorts of evidence that would be needed for good inferences to be drawn.
The Committee on Mathematics Learning was created at the request of the Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education in the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement. The sponsors were concerned about the shortage of reliable information on the learning of mathematics by schoolchildren that could be used to guide best practice in the early years of schooling.
The charge to the committee lists three goals:
To synthesize the rich and diverse research on pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade mathematics learning.
To provide research-based recommendations for teaching, teacher education, and curriculum for improving student learning and to identify areas where research is needed.
To give advice and guidance to educators, researchers, publishers, policy makers, and parents.