The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations
benefits to students. Across the studies, it appears that positive results are enhanced when accompanied by adequate professional development and the use of pedagogical methods consistent with those indicated by the curricula. The benefits are most consistently evidenced in the broadening topics of geometry, measurement, probability, and statistics, and in applied problem solving and reasoning. It is important to consider whether the outcome measures in these areas demonstrate a depth of understanding. In early understanding of fractions and algebra, there is some evidence of improvement. Weaknesses are sometimes reported in the areas of computational skills, especially in the routinization of multiplication and division. These assertions are tentative due to the possible flaws in designs but quite consistent across studies, and future evaluations should seek to replicate, modify, or discredit these results.
The way to most efficiently and effectively link informal reasoning and formal algorithms and procedures is an open question. Further research is needed to determine how to most effectively link the gains and flexibility associated with student-generated reasoning to the automaticity and generalizability often associated with mastery of standard algorithms.
The data from these evaluations at the elementary level generally present credible evidence of increased success in engaging minority students and students in poverty based on reported gains that are modestly higher for these students than for the comparative groups. What is less well documented in the studies is the extent to which the curricula counteract the tendencies to see gaps emerge and result in long-term persistence in performance by gender and minority group membership as they move up the grades. However, the evaluations do indicate that these curricula can help, and almost never do harm. Finally, on the question of adequate challenge for advanced and talented students, the data are equivocal. More attention to this issue is needed.
The data at the high school level produced the most conflicting results, and in conducting future evaluations, evaluators will need to examine this level more closely. We identify the high school as the crucible for curricular change for three reasons: (1) the transition to postsecondary education puts considerable pressure on these curricula; (2) the criteria outlined in the NSF RFP specify significant changes from traditional practice; and (3) high school freshmen arrive from a myriad of middle school curricular experiences. For the NSF-supported curricula, the RFP required that the programs provide a core curriculum “drawn from statistics/probability, algebra/functions, geometry/trigonometry, and discrete mathematics” (NSF, 1991, p. 2) and use “a full range of tools, including graphing calculators