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Mathematics and Science Partnerships - Scientifically Based Research in Mathematics

Student Achievement and School Accountability Conference
October 2002

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Text (slide 19):

Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching and Learning Mathematics

Q. What are the "math wars"?

A. Reform efforts during the 1980's and 1990's downplayed computational skills, emphasizing instead that students should understand and use math. In extreme cases, students were expected to invent math with little guidance. Reactions to those efforts led to increased attention to memorization and computational skills. The clash of these positions is referred to as the "math wars."

Q. Which side of the "math wars" is correct?

A. Neither--both are too narrow. Students become more proficient when they understand the underlying concepts of math, and they understand the concepts more easily if they are skilled at computational procedures. U.S. students need both more skills and more understanding.