Math proficiency begins with teachers

Students in the U.S. continue to trail far behind their peers abroad in math performance (“Why elementary school math should be taught by specialists,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 21).  4:38 AM There have been many reasons offered for the disparity, but I believe that the problem begins in elementary school, where teachers lack the wherewithal that their Asian colleagues do.

Why this is so is controversial, but I submit that colleges of education are largely to blame.  They don’t provide future teachers with the same kind of pedagogy that Asian colleges of education do.  As a result, children learn how to do basic computation, but they don’t really understand what that means.  In other words, students get the right answer, but they get little else.

The problem compounds in high school, where algebra persists in being the single subject that is the cause of so many students dropping out.  It’s the predictable outcome of what had been building up for years in elementary and middle school.  If students don’t understand arithmetic, it’s unlikely that they will master algebra.

It’s time for colleges of education here to study more closely what colleges of education in Asia have been doing for decades.

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