While numerous districts in Colorado are discussing whether to increase high school math credit requirements to match the CCHE college entrance requirements, the feds have just released a report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. This panel based their research on scientific findings, much like the previous National Reading Panel did with reading curricula.
Many have argued there's a link between higher order thinking skills and mathematics. If the foundation isn't built by middle school, it makes math achievement even more difficult in high school. Yet the Math Panel found the need for students to learn fundamental math concepts by middle school was critical if students would be able to master algebra in high school.
Here's an excerpt from the report:
The report respects the role of teachers as those in the best position to determine how to teach a given concept or skill. Instead of defining methods for teaching, the report offers a timeline of when students must master critical topics. The panel determined that students need to develop rapid recall of arithmetic facts in the early grades, going on to master fractions in middle school. Having built this strong foundation, the panel stated students would then be ready for rigorous algebra courses in high school or earlier. Noting changing demographics and rising economic demands, Secretary Spellings stressed the significance of the panel’s findings on algebra.“The panel’s research showed that if students do well in algebra, then they are more likely to succeed in college and be ready for better career opportunities in the global economy of the 21st century,” said Secretary Spellings. “We must increase access to algebra and other rigorous coursework if we hope to close the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers.”
The entire report is at: http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/index.html