Improving Mathematics in Middle School: Lessons Article Review

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Improving Mathematics in Middle School: Lessons from TIMMS and Related Research

Ensuring American students receive a world-class education is an increasingly important topic, especially as the world becomes more globalized. The social and economic implications for this education are profound. This paper reviews the article, "Improving Mathematics in middle school: Lessons from TIMSS and related research." Support is provided for the underlying principles found in Silver's article.

"Improving Mathematics in Middle School: Lessons from TIMSS and Related Research"

Ensuring American students receive a world-class education is an increasingly important topic, especially as the world becomes more globalized. The social and economic implications for this education are profound. This paper reviews the article, "Improving Mathematics in middle school: Lessons from TIMSS and related research." Support is provided for the underlying principles found in Silver's article.

Overview: "Improving mathematics in middle school: Lessons from TIMSS and related research.":

Silver (1998) reviews the results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The findings were not encouraging. In general, Silver found "a pervasive and intolerable mediocrity in mathematics teaching and learning in the middle grades and beyond." Children in middle school, and even those graduating from high school, were found to perform significantly below their peers in other countries. This poor performance is indicative of a mathematics curriculum in schools, as well as instruction methods, that are simply not as challenging as found in other nations.

Silver (1998) summarizes the major findings of the TIMSS. In regards to student achievement, American 8th grade students have performed below average internationally, in mathematics, including countries that are direct economic competitors of the United States. However, in some mathematical topics, American 8th graders perform relatively better to international averages. In algebra, data representation, fractions, probability, and analysis, Americans before approximately on average, but in geometry, proportionality, and measurement they perform below average.

Silver (1998) further surmises that American schools' curriculums are too wide in breadth, with little depth. In addition, they were found to be repetitive and not sufficiently demanding, when compared internationally. The teaching structure was found to be lacking in structure, and is not geared toward understanding or intellectual challenge. Disturbingly, the results of this study, to Silver, are not surprising.

Silver (1998) notes that there are insights into the characteristics of the American mathematics curriculum and classroom. The challenges revealed with the TIMSS are due to deeply rooted education practices, as such there will need to be a significant commitment in resources and time for changes to be made. Silver makes three recommendations regarding these changes. The first is to "make a serious national commitment to improved mathematics learning by all students. (in addition...) expectations for all our students need to be raised." The second recommendation Silver makes is that the American curriculum should be more ambitious and the classroom instruction should be enhanced. Lastly, Silver recommends that America invests in teacher development, specifically in expanding the knowledge of higher grade teachers, to meet the additional challenges of the higher grade levels.

Literature in Support of Silver's Analysis:

House and Telese (2008) also used the TIMSS to "simultaneously examine relationships between mathematics beliefs, classroom instructional strategies, and algebra achievement of adolescent students in the United States and Japan" (p. 101). The authors note the importance of mathematical skills for students' future career options. Algebra, specifically, is a critical facet of mathematics in middle school. In addition, students must master these basic algebraic skills in order to perform well in higher level mathematics courses (p. 102).

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