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How Math Instruction Evolved in 2023, and What’s Ahead

From debates about how best to develop students’ early fact fluency to arguments over whether high schoolers should take calculus or data science, math instruction has been at the center of some of the year’s biggest education news.

Math scores nationally are at a low point. Fourth and 8th graders’ achievement on the test known as the “Nation’s Report Card” plummeted in the aftermath of the pandemic, and other metrics have shown that students aren’t yet regaining academic ground.

At the same time, longstanding disputes in the field—about course progressions, instructional approaches, and even the goals of math education as a subject—are heating up once again.

In July, for example, California adopted a controversial new framework to guide math instruction in the state, after years of public debate about the decisions in the document: whether students should be tracked into different course sequences, what courses should be the priority in high school, and how inquiry and direct instruction should be balanced in the classroom.

As students’ math performance has declined, and debates about how best to raise scores have grown louder, Education Week has tackled questions of instructional best practice head on. (Education Week’s word of the year for 2023 was “math,” tallying more than 1,350 mentions in our coverage since Jan. 1, 2023.)

Education Week assistant editor Sarah Sparks reported a package of stories about the need for stronger geometry and statistics instruction—skills that are in demand for high-paying jobs in STEM fields.

In May, Education Week published a special report on building math foundations, covering research-based practices for elementary school teachers tasked with helping students learn their math facts and decipher word problems. We also explored the differing philosophies held by K-12 teachers and postsecondary math education instructors in a series of three stories drawing on data from EdWeek Research Center surveys.

What’s next? Watch the video to hear from assistant managing editor Stephen Sawchuk about what’s ahead for math education in 2024.

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