Recent studies have shown that kindergarteners who are exposed to complicated math concepts actually do better in math when they get to elementary school, regardless of initial skill level. Researchers report that many students already know how to count or recognize shapes before they even get to kindergarten, but teachers still spend a lot of math time on those concepts, effectively offering nothing to students.

In an article for the New York Times Motherlode blog, MindShift contributor and author Annie Murphy Paul explains why the perception that U.S. students are bad at math might indicate schools aren’t challenging students enough.

Research on Children and Math: Underestimated and UnchallengedJohn Konstantaras/Chicago News Cooperative We hear a lot about how American students lag behind their international peers academically, especially in subjects like math. In the most recent Program for International Student Assessment, commonly known as PISA, students in the United States ranked 26th out of 34 countries in mathematics.

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  • Heike Larson

    That’s just not true in Montessori! We introduce quite advance math concepts in preschool–such as arithmetic into the thousands, fractions, and ideas like equivalent shapes. All this happens with hands-on materials: our students even solve a puzzle called the Trinomial Cube, which is a physical representation of the trinomial (a+b+c)^3.

    Montessori math is really the best. Read more here:

  • Brock Dubbels

    Lets cut the sky-is-falling rhetoric. For the past 10 years, whenever a statistician that knows something about classrooms and data analysis desegregates the sample for income, the USA comes in first (except for the city of Shanghai).

    Here is a recent explication:

    Here’s what the mainstream media will NOT tell you about 2012 PISA. When comparing U.S. schools with less than 10% of students qualifying for free/reduced lunch, here’s how U.S. students (of which almost 25% are considered poor by OECD standards and of which nationally on average about 50% qualify for free/reduced lunch) rank compared to all other countries including one I chose to purposely compare – Finland (of which about 5% are considered poor by OECD standards):

    Science literacy

    U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=556 [1st in the world]

    Finland – ranked 4th in the world

    Reading literacy

    U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=559 [1st in the world]

    Finland – ranked 5th in the world

    Mathematics literacy

    U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=540 [5th in the world]

    FInland – ranked 11th in the world

    The NCES also disaggregated the mathematics data further based on seven total proficiency levels (Below Level 1, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, and Level 6). The outcomes, as expected, were perfectly aligned with what we would expect in terms of the levels of poverty our students endure.

    For example, on the mathematics literacy scale, U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced lunch had 94% of students score at a “Level 2″ proficiency or above (a “Level 2″ proficiency equates to being able to use basic mathematics in the workplace), whereas schools with more than 75% free/reduced lunch had 54% of students score at a “Level 2″ proficiency or above, of which 46% of the 54%, scoring at a “Level 2″ proficiency or higher, scored at a “Level 2″ or “Level 3″ proficiency with only 6% scoring at a “Level 4″ proficiency, 2% scoring at a “Level 5″ proficiency, and so few scoring at a “Level 6″ proficiency, the reporting standards were not met. Virtually no students from schools with less than 10% free/reduced lunch ranked at the “Below Level 1″ proficiency (reporting standards were not met), and a mere 5% were ranked at “Level 1″ proficiency. On the flip side, a whopping 46% of students in schools with more than 75% of free/reduced lunch scored at a “Level 1″ proficiency or at “Below Level 1″ proficiency (28% and 18% respectively).

    The dissagregated data for science and reading, based on the various proficiency levels, followed the example set in mathematics, although maybe not quite to the extent of variability when comparing schools with less than 10% free/reduced lunch to schools with more than 75% free/reduced lunch.

    This is not a new phenomenon. For every administration of PISA and TIMSS, when controlling for poverty, U.S. public school students are not only competitive, they downright lead the world. Even at home nationally, when controlling for poverty, public school students compete with private school students in Lutheran, Catholic, and Christian schools when analyzing NAEP data.

  • Sheryl Morris

    Here is one way to begin a love of numbers:

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