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September 14, 1979 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-14

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Page 6--Friday, September 14, 1979-The Michigan Daily

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Study blames 'back to basics'
for drouuino math test scores

NEW YORK (UPI)-Math students
are trying harder and doing worse, ac-
cording to a report issued yesterday
which puts the blame on the back-to-
basics movement.
The National Assessment of
Education Progress (NAEP) report on
math, funded by a division of the U.S.
Department of Health, Education and
Welfare, claims:
" Kids show ability at addition, sub-
traction, multiplication, division. The
report doesn't say how much of the
credit for this goes to pocket
calculators.

" But decimals, fractions, and per-
centages stump them. And word
problems-the kind that come up in
everyday life-dumbfound them. This
is more true today than it was five
years ago, according to the report fun-
ded by HEW's Institute of Education.
OVERALL, THE report claims,
mathematical achievement is
declining-which makes this report
another piece of evidence being cited by
those who contend that the nation's
schools may be failing. SAT (Scholastic
Aptitude Test) scores dipping more
than 20 points over the last decade are

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the biggest sign.
About 71,000 students took part in the
assessment of math ability among the
nation's 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds.
Through such scientific samples, the
NAEP has been measuring progress in
10 subjects in the nation's schools since
1969.
The math assessment took several
years and was administered by
Research Triangle Institute in Raleigh,
N.C.
TO GET A handle on math w
progress-or lack of it-analysts com-
pared math achievement between the,
first NAEP math survey in 1973 and the
1978 one.
Shirley Hill, President of the National
Council of Teachers of Mathematics,
said the reports reinforce warnings that
narrowing the math curriculum in the
back-to-basics movement-pushing.1
addition, subtraction, division;,,
multiplications-would be at the expenr-
se of problem solving.',,
"There is great alarm over the lack,
of skill in computation in decimals and:
percents shown by this assessment. But:.
I am far more concerned about the lack;
of ability in problem solving. All arein
creasingly important to be;
knowledgeable consumers.
"AND AS THE calculator becomes
an indispensible tool the understanding.,
and use of decimals assumes a more, ,
prominent place in problem solving."
"It is obvious that there is little
benefit to be gained by concentrating
extraordinary efforts on computing
skills and minimal competencies if out
graduates cannot effectively apply
mathematics in the real world-solving,,
everyday problems," Hill said.
Hill, professor of mathematics
education at the University of Missouri,.
Kansas City, said: 4
"Throughout the report there is
evidence students proceed
mechanically and thoughtlessly
through problems, seeking a familiar
route or a rigid rule to apply."

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