American students remain stumped by math. The 2019 scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress test — known as NAEP — were published last month, showing that performance for fourth- and eighth-graders hasn’t budged since 2009. That’s a year after the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, convened by President George W. Bush, concluded that American math achievement was “mediocre.”
The panel offered dozens of ideas for improvement, leading with the common-sense suggestion to strengthen the elementary math curriculum, which it deemed diffuse, shallow and repetitious in many schools. But improved curricula won’t help unless we acknowledge another significant problem: Many elementary teachers don’t understand math very well, and teaching it makes them anxious.
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