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Experts Will Study How to Improve Math Teaching in U.S.

I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

A new committee of experts will look for the best ways to improve math education in the United States.

The effort is part of the American Competitiveness Initiative that President Bush discussed in his State of the Union message in January. The program calls for spending more than two hundred million dollars to improve the teaching of mathematics.

The Education Department says the experts will examine how to prepare for, and succeed in, learning algebra. One goal is to decide about teaching higher-level math at younger ages. American fifteen-year-olds performed below the average in math on the most recent Program for International Assessment.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says: "To keep America competitive in the twenty-first century, we must improve the way we teach math."

But there is disagreement about which teaching methods are the most effective. Traditional ones depend heavily on memory and tests. Newer methods are based more on developing creative problem-solving skills.

Supporters of the traditional way say it may not be exciting but students get the right answers. Critics say many students never understand why the answers are correct.

Some say the best way to teach math is to combine the new and traditional methods. The debate is similar to the one over the best way to teach reading.

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel will be led by Larry Faulkner, a former president of the University of Texas at Austin. The seventeen experts also include the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

A study has found that less than half of American high school graduates are prepared for college math. Other studies suggest that strong math skills developed in the early teen years can lead to college success.

The experts will consider scientifically based research and then advise the president and the education secretary. Margaret Spellings says all high school graduates need solid math skills. And she says the nation must give more high school students the chance to take advanced math and science courses.

The new advisory committee gives its first report in January. A final report is expected by February of two thousand eight.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.