better decisions can be made, and mathematics instruction should gradually but steadily become more effective. Unfortunately, too many new programs are tried but then abandoned before their effectiveness has been well tested, and lessons learned from program evaluations are often lost. Without high-quality, cumulative information, the system of school mathematics cannot learn.

  • Additional research should be undertaken on the nature, development, and assessment of mathematical proficiency.

We are convinced that the goal of mathematical proficiency for all students is the right goal. Not surprisingly, however, much of the research on mathematics teaching and learning has been conducted to address narrower learning goals, since shifting, relatively narrow goals have been the norm. Although we have interpreted much of that research for this report, extensive work remains to refine and elaborate our portrayal of mathematical proficiency. In many places, our conclusions are tentative, awaiting better evidence.

We urge researchers concerned with school mathematics to frame their questions with a view to the goal of developing mathematical proficiency for all students. Evidence from such research, together with information from evaluations of current and future programs of curriculum and professional development, will enable the United States to make the genuine, lasting improvements in school mathematics learning that have eluded it to date.


The goal of mathematical proficiency is an extremely ambitious one. In fact, in no country—not even those performing highest on international surveys of mathematics achievement—do all students display mathematical proficiency as we have defined it in this report. The United States will never reach this goal by continuing to tinker with the controls of educational policy, pushing one button at a time. Instead, systematic modifications will need to be made in how the teaching and learning of mathematics commonly proceed, and new kinds of support will be required. At all levels of the U.S. educational system, the formulation and implementation of policies demands sustained, focused attention to school mathematics. We hope this report will be the basis for innovative, comprehensive, long-term policies that can enable every student to become mathematically proficient.

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