Teacher Carrie Stark once relied on math games to engage her students. She found that the kids had fun, but the lessons never stuck.
A few years ago, she turned to more direct explanation after finding a website on a set of evidence-based practices known as the “science of math.” “You have to explicitly teach the content,” says Ms. Stark, a math teacher in the suburbs of Kansas City.
Why We Wrote This
While the “science of reading” movement has taken off, a comparable approach for math is still in its infancy. Some researchers and teachers are exploring ideas that they hope will lead more students to being comfortable with numbers. This story is part of The Math Problem, the latest project from the newsrooms of the Education Reporting Collaborative.
As U.S. schools work to turn around math scores, some researchers are pushing for more attention to a set of research-based practices for instruction. The movement has passionate backers but is still in its early stages, especially compared with the phonics-based “science of reading” that has inspired changes in classrooms across the country.
To some observers, the less advanced state of research on math reflects societal values, and how many teachers themselves feel more invested in reading.
The movement also has critics, who push back on its focus on algorithms. Proponents say those step-by-step procedures are necessary, along with memorization of math facts.
People feel the need to choose sides between “Team Algorithms” and “Team Exploratory,” says Elizabeth Hughes, a leader in the science of math movement. But “we really need both.”
For much of her teaching career, Carrie Stark relied on math games to engage her students, assuming they would pick up concepts like multiplication by seeing them in action. The kids had fun, but the lessons never stuck.
A few years ago she shifted her approach, turning to more direct explanation after finding a website on a set of evidence-based practices known as the “science of math.”
“I could see how the game related to multiplication, but the kids weren’t making those connections,” says Ms. Stark, a math teacher in the suburbs of Kansas City. “You have to explicitly teach the content.”