Explicit Instruction in Math Can Reduce the Achievement Gap

A retired math teacher says he knows how Seattle Public Schools’ achievement gap in math can be reduced.

The Seattle Times published a guest op/ed by Ted Nutting who taught math in the school district for 17 years. He writes:

In mathematics, American students do poorly by international comparison. This has been true for decades, and it is due in large part to the weakness of math instruction here.

If Seattle Public Schools ever hopes to eliminate its gaps in achievement between students of different racial backgrounds, it must address that problem.

I taught math in the Seattle schools for almost two decades. In my experience, what works is explicit instruction. That means explaining concepts in a clear, straightforward way, showing each student how to use them and following up with lots of practice – including rigorous tests.

Some may find this method old fashioned. But you can see explicit instruction at work in three Seattle middle schools where the achievement gap is shrinking. Mercer International, Aki Kurose, and David T. Denny International — where students of color are the majority — post solid math scores and are narrowing the achievement gap much more than other schools.

A study, “Middle Schools that Narrow the Opportunity Gap in Math,” prepared last year by district staffers Anna Box and Marni Campbell, points this out. Seventh graders at each of these schools have shown continued progress on the state test, sometimes surpassing citywide proficiency rates. Until recently, all three schools scored well below the city average.

What a surprise! Teaching kids the straightforward way to solving problems and then drilling it until they know it works? I mean I’m utterly shocked that works because we’ve been told the exact opposite of that from those who have pushed reform math into the classroom and then doubled down on it with Common Core.

Now, I just wonder if this could possibly work anywhere else other than Seattle?

Read Mr Nutting’s entire piece here.

2 thoughts on “Explicit Instruction in Math Can Reduce the Achievement Gap

  1. You can’t read Mr. Nutting’s entire piece, from either link given here, because the page darkens and becomes blurry, and the paper insists that you either stop ad-blocking (which I wouldn’t do, even if I knew how), or become a subscriber. Peggy Barton

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