half the fourth graders in the 1996 NAEP sample reported that their students used rulers or related tools at least once a week, and teachers of 95% of the fourth graders reported frequencies of at least once a month. Teachers of a quarter of the eighth graders reported that their students used objects such as rulers at least once a week, and teachers of almost 80% said their students used them at least once a month.
Eighth-grade teachers reported considerably greater use of calculators in their teaching than fourth-grade teachers did. Teachers of over half of the eighth graders in the 1996 NAEP sample reported that their students used calculators almost every day, and teachers of less than a tenth claimed never or hardly ever to use calculators. Teachers of less than a third of the fourth graders, in contrast, said their students used a calculator in class at least once a week, teachers of only 5% said almost every day, and teachers of more than a quarter said never or hardly ever. Eighth graders enrolled in algebra were reported to use calculators more frequently than those in prealgebra or eighth-grade mathematics, and at both grades 4 and 8 the reported frequency of calculator use increased from 1992 to 1996.
The teachers of about a quarter of the 1996 NAEP sample at both grades 4 and 8 reported that their students worked in small groups or with a partner almost every day, and teachers of more than 90% of the students had them working that way at least once a month. Teachers of about a third of each sample said that at least once a week their students wrote a few sentences about how to solve a mathematics problem, but teachers of another third said their students never or hardly ever wrote up their solutions. Few students at either grade wrote reports or worked on projects more than once a week, and teachers of about two thirds said their students hardly ever did project work. For nearly half of the eighth graders and more than a third of the fourth graders, their teachers reported that almost every day they had students discuss solutions with one another, and teachers of almost all students held such discussions at least once a month. According to these survey data, standards-based efforts to increase attention to realistic mathematics problems may be having some effect:
In 1996, substantial proportions of students from grades 4 and 8 were working and discussing mathematics that reflected real-life situations at least “once or twice a week.” Teachers of 29 percent of fourth-grade students reported that their students did this “almost every day,” while teachers of 45 percent reported that their students did this “once or twice a week.”