I only knew about the National Math Advisory Panel Report from the blogosphere. But, since I was on vacation, I went ahead and read it. All 120 pages of it.
And the one thing that struck me is a peeve I’ve had from my day one as a teacher: They repeatedly called for reliable research. Of the hundreds of studies they pored through, only a couple dozen qualified as valid research.
I used to try to amuse my self at professional development meetings by asking for cites to the research every time someone said “research based”. That got really frakking boring after about 2 months. For all the talk of research, you never actually get to see any of it. The one time that I did, it was a case study at a 120 person (each class had 60 kids) culturally homogeneous school in Minnesota. No control, margins of error almost as large as the data set (they actually had graphs that they did linear regressions on – they looked like a spear going through a cloud).
I want research. I started off as a physics major before I went into engineering. In the public sector, I worked for companies that lived and died by research. I’m not sure that what I’ve seen in the education field qualifies as research. As math teachers, we are supposed to understand the language of statistics, patterns, and measurement. If anyone should be able to tell the difference between useful and complete garbage, it should be us. I’m sad to say, though, that I have seen very little of it in the education field, and the stuff I have seen seems to say that all that other research based stuff doesn’t actually work.
The most striking thing about the report was that they could draw very few reliable conclusions, and most of their recommendations were for further areas of (rigorous) study.
Among the things they did agree on: teacher quality makes a difference, math teachers need high levels of content knowledge, spiraling sucks, and textbooks need to be trimmed down. I’m down with all of that. I’m just wondering how this thing is going to either be spun or red taped to make it completely useless.