WASHINGTON, December 8, 2008—The December 2008 issue of Educational Researcher (ER) provides a timely scholarly examination of Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. With peer-reviewed articles from leading education research experts, and under the guest editorship of Dr. Anthony E. Kelly of George Mason University, this ER issue presents diverse perspectives on substantive research in mathematics education and contributes to the discussion of valid methodological approaches.
The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) was created in April 2006 by executive order of President George W. Bush to advise the U.S. Secretary of Education on ways to improve mathematics instruction across the nation. After two years of extensive research and hearings held around the United States, the panel prepared a final report that synthesized existing research and offered 45 recommendations on mathematics education.
The December ER picks up where the Foundations for Success report leaves off, by creating a forum for scientific dialogue and an exchange about broad strategies in the conduct of mathematics research. Eleven articles address a range of opportunities and challenges in preparing teachers and children to deal with critical 21st-century issues in mathematics education.
With an introduction by Guest Editor Anthony E. Kelly and rejoinder by Mathematics Panel Chairs Camilla Persson Benbow and Larry R. Faulkner, the special issue of ER is an invaluable resource for experts who seek to develop a coherent strategy for research and for policymakers who make critical decisions about mathematics education. According to Benbow and Faulkner, the dialogue presented in this ER issue "adds intellectual depth to what has become a national policy discussion."
A majority of the contributing researchers took issue with the NMAP's heavy reliance on quantitative studies. Hilda Borko and Jennifer A. Whitcomb, in their commentary on teaching and teacher education, summed up a common theme: "Different designs and methods are better for different purposes....multiple types of scientific inquiries and methods are required to generate the rich body of scientific knowledge needed to improve education."
In addition to the panel's narrow filter for research, scholars' concerns included:
The researchers noted that the report, while summarizing each subpanel's report, contained no integrative work. Patrick W. Thompson, in his commentary on curricula content, wrote that the panel's "emphasis on proficiency with standard procedures in arithmetic and its lip service to 'conceptual understanding' will do little to address the fundamental problem of mathematics education in the United States—namely, the systematic inattention to students' development of meanings that will support an interest in mathematics that results in taking more, and higher level, coursework."
This special issue of the Educational Researcher aims at adding information and insights for research and evidence-based policy related to mathematics education. These ER articles "are intended to broaden the terms of the ongoing discussion of effective instruction as well as to draw sharp distinctions where there is disagreement," concluded Kelly.