We learn to walk one step at a time. Our vocabulary—and stories—come together one word at a time. This is true of virtually every skill. We do not jump from novice to expert by skipping the steps in between. Yet when it comes to math education in the U.S., for several decades the path has been a bit jagged and fragmented. The lessons have been taught in strands, with conceptual connections not always threaded together. For example, algebra and geometry were long considered “high school math,” even though their building blocks came into play much sooner.
The shift to Common Core math standards, signals a push to more clearly integrate basic math concepts, and in the process, help the U.S. regain lost ground in academic leadership and also help ensure the next generation’s competitive edge. The race definitely begins in the early grades.
A paper titled “How Important Is Where You Start? Early Mathematics Knowledge and Later School Success,” by Amy Claessens, University of Chicago, and Mimi Engel, Vanderbilt University, accessed through Teachers College Record, emphasizes that “A growing body of research highlights the importance of children’s early skills for later school and life success.”
The stakes are high. Using data from the U.S. Commerce Department, a document titled, “Why STEM Education Matters,” published as part of the National Math + Science Initiative, notes that “STEM job creation over the next 10 years will outpace non-STEM jobs significantly, growing 17 percent, as compared to 9.8 percent for non-stem positions.” It points out that the U.S. is failing to produce enough skilled STEM workers, suggesting that “the U.S. may be short as many as three million high-skills workers by 2018.”
Not every child will become a math lover, but it’s more important than ever to establish basic competency. Consider helping kids make math gains a resolution for the new year. A few early-grade math workbooks that incorporate Common Core standards include:
Transition Math K-1
Addition & Subtraction 1-2
Time, Money & Fractions 1-2
Math Basics 2 Deluxe Edition
Math Basics 3 Deluxe Edition
Math Basics 4 Deluxe Edition
Multiplication & Division 3-4 Deluxe Edition
Math Basics 5 Deluxe Edition
Let 2014 be a year for math achievement. Also, share what your kids are seeing, saying, and doing when it comes to math—both in the classroom and outside of it.