Math Instruction: Increasing Student and Staff Performance Through Assessment and Intervention

by Judy Martin, M.Ed.

Expectations for student performance and achievement in mathematics have increased dramatically, fueled, not only by state (Standards of Learning) and national (No Child Left Behind) standards, but by the increasingly technological society in which we live. Students' competency in mathematics is critical for their future success in our high-tech world (Furner & Berman, 2004). According to The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2005 (Perie, Grigg, & Dion, 2005), although improvements have been noted, only a third of our fourth- and eighth-grade students are performing at proficiency level or above.

An unfortunate by-product of increased math demands placed on students is math anxiety (Tobias, 1993), which is found from the elementary school years through college to the work place. Further, research shows a correlation between math anxiety and student performance (Furner & Berman, 2004 ). One way to reduce stress, is to conduct an assessment to determine the best instructional match for the student.

Specifically, an instructional assessment helps to establish a match between the student's prior knowledge, readiness to learn and what is to be learned (curriculum demands). When this match is determined, effective instructional practices can be implemented and optimum learning can take place (Gravois & Gickling, 2003). With success comes improvement in student attitudes, confidence, and achievement in mathematics.

Strategies should revolve around the dimensions of math. Gravois and Gickling (2003) identify the broad math domains as:

  • Reasoning - Understanding and knowing how to solve math problems
  • Connecting - Using clues to unlock rules, steps, and strategies for solving problems
  • Communicating - Explaining solutions to math problems in logical order
  • Problem-Solving - Discovering solutions to math problems using reasoning, connecting, and communicating

The Instructional Strategies That Support Authentic Assessment Within the Dimensions of Math [pdf] insert in this newsletter provides more specific information about the dimensions of math, essential questions, and instructional strategies.

Furner, J.M., & Berman, B.T. (2004). Confidence in their ability to do mathematics: The need to eradicate math anxiety so our future students can successfully compete in a high-tech globally competitive world. Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal, 18(1), p. 1-33.

Gravois, T., & Gickling, E. (2003). Instructional consultation team manual. College Park: University of Maryland.

Perie, M., Grigg, W., & Dion, G. (2005). The nation's report card: Mathematics 2005. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

Tobias, S. (1993). Overcoming math anxiety. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Date: February/March 2007