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Time Management and Math Class


Q. How should we define good time management when it comes to math class?


According to a prominent think-tank that often tackles educational policy, the Brookings Institution, research shows that adding 10 minutes of math instruction to an eighth-grader's day translates into a jump in math skills.


The findings come as a handful of states and school districts experiment with packing more minutes into the school day and, in a few cases, more days into the year.


The study examined eighth-grade math scores in 20 countries, and found that five of seven countries that added instructional minutes from 1995 to 2003 showed improved skills. Of the 13 countries that subtracted time, 10 got worse results. The three exceptions were Latvia, the Netherlands and the USA.


Most U.S. eighth-graders got 45 minutes of daily math instruction in 2003, down from 49 in 1995, but their scores on the Trends in Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS, an international comparison) improved slightly. Researcher Tom Loveless says that is an anomaly, and more time in class could help boost scores.


But it's by no means "the" answer. He said that even 450 more minutes of math, or two weeks' worth of extra math classes, would shrink the gap between the USA and top-scorer Singapore by less than 5%, he says. You can't expect kids to sit in math classes for four hours a day, seven days a week, no matter HOW far behind we might rank.


There are many voices calling for better math curriculum that allows teachers to make more productive use of the time they already have. Others contend that they really do need more time, even with a better teaching philosophy and textbooks.


It's smarter to make school days a few minutes longer than to extend the academic year, as a few states have done, Loveless says. That avoids burnout and tremendous added costs.


Ten more minutes of daily math instruction are associated with a 19-point gain (on an 800-point scale). Adding 40 days of 45-minute math classes yielded 8.5 more points.



Homework: Read an excellent analysis of the use of time in mathematics achievement from the Brookings Institution through the Brown (University) Center for Educational Policy:


By Susan Darst Williams Math 14 2008


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