"Computational Skills vs Graduation Rates" Chat Room

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This is the place for discussion for the Thesis team of Barb Olson, Tim White, Christine Osthus, and Sue Hendrickson.

-- Anonymous, April 23, 1999

THE IMPACT OF COMPUTATIONAL MATH SKILLS ON HIGH SCHOOL GRATUATE RATES

Barb Olson Tim White Christine Osthus Sue Hendrickson

Purpose

The general purpose of this research is to determine if a correlation exists between computational/arithmetic skills and graduate rates. Some high school teachers are dissatisfied with the math curriculum/expectations beginning at the elementary level. Current trends let by NCTM and their standards suggest a de-emphasis on computational skills. The role of the calculator has become more and more frequent to do computations for the students to enhance problem solving applications. Convincing documentation has not been found to support this new trend. The data supplied by this study may help schools redefine their K-12 math curriculum.

Definitions

Computational skills: The ability to perform the four basic operations of arithmetic on whole numbers, integers, fractions, decimals, and percents.

Basic operations: Multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Problem solving: Synthesizing, analyzing, and applying mathematical strategies to real-life situations.

NCTM: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

NCTM Standards:

Prior Research

Murnane, Richard J. and Frank Levy. Teaching the New Basic Skills. New York: Free Press, 1996.

Mr. Murname and Mr. Levy explain how the basic skills particularly the manipulation of fractions and decimals correlate to securing a job with higher wages.

Steen, Lynn A. What Employers and Educators Test: The Mathematics that Really Counts. Northfield, MN: St. Olaf College, 1997.

Ms. Steen points out the importance of basic math skills in various employability tests and college entrance exams. She asserts that the level of ability is usually no higher than the eighth or ninth grade level.

Curriculum Development Project No. 84-AWD(233)NB Final Report. Defining Math and Science Competencies in vocational Programs. 31 Dec. 1984 (ED255684)

This pamphlet lists the required math curuculum for various vocational positions. It supports the Ms. Steens report regarding the level of mathematical skills required for many non-college bound students looking into the industrial work force.

Creech, Joseph D. High School Graduation Standards: What We Expect and What We Get. Goals for Education: Educational Benchmards, 1996.

The Author states that the currect trand of raising high school graduation standards has not necessarily resulted in higher achievement. He also states that 30% of new college students need remediation in language arts or mathematics or both.

What Work Requires of Schools A SCANS Report for America 2000. Washington, DC: Department of Labor, Jne 1991.

The report by this commission explains the importanace of basic competencies and fundamental skills necessary for new employees in todays work force.

Hypothesis

The lower the level of computational skills of students, the lower the liklihood those students will graduate from high school.

Population

An ideal population would be students from high schools across the nation. The lack of available resources, and common testing instruments, however, may force our population to be more localized in the Duluth and Superior area.

Sampling

Databases from Duluth and Superior Districts 3 classes 1998 graduates from 1995 freshmen scores 1988  1985  1978  1975 

-- Anonymous, April 23, 1999

Instrumentation

As part of our information-gathering, we shall interview elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and post-secondary teachers. We shall randomly select 10 each of the first two groups, and 5 of the last group. During the interview, our questions will center around the teacher's perception of the level of computational skill of her/his students; the perceived handicap or non-handicap presented by a lack of computational skill; ways in which the teacher deals with students' computational deficiencies.

We shall access data from Achievement Test scores in Duluth and Superior, drawing a sample of math computation scores from 5th-graders in spring, 1991 -- the class that graduated last year. From this sample, we shall identify the scores that are below 60%. For students with these scores, we shall track math computation and math problem- solving scores in grades 8, 10, and 12; ACT scores (where available); final overall GPA; and the number of students who graduated on time.

From the data collected, analyses should be able to: 1) determine if a correlation exists between math computation scores and math problem- solving scores. 2) determine if trends exist in computation scores over the 6-year period. 3) determine if a corrleation exists between math computation scores in 5th grade and ACT scores. 4) if the graduation rate of students in the subset studied differs significantly from the graduation rate of the class as a whole.

-- Anonymous, April 26, 1999

Sorry I was late arriving at the library Mon. PM. Explanation in your e-mail messages. This looks good! Again, when is the deadline for this proposal paper? I'd be glad to put it all together in a form that would look like the example in the book if you guys want.

-- Anonymous, April 26, 1999

Thesis Proposal Final 1st Draft 4/28/99

RESEARCH PROPOSAL

THE IMPACT OF MATH COMPUTATION SKILLS ON HIGH SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT

Sue Hendrickson Barb Olson Christine Osthus Tim White

Purpose

The general purpose of this research is to determine if a correlation exists between math computation skills and specific academic outcomes, i.e., problem- solving scores, ACT scores, GPA, class rank, and graduation rate. Some high school teachers are dissatisfied with the math curriculum/ expectations beginning at the elementary level.. Many teachers think that basic facts no longer need to be committed to memory, and that facility in computation is no longer essential; a calculator can do these laborious tasks, freeing a student for higher-order thinking skills. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics suggests that computation skills should be de-emphasized and real-life applications, communication, and connections should be emphasized. Although we agree with many of the new developments in mathematics education, we also think that a lack of computational skill constitutes a significant handicap and negatively affects many aspects of a students school career.

Definitions

Computational skills: The ability to perform the four basic operations of arithmetic on whole numbers, integers, fractions, decimals, and percents.

Basic operations: Multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Problem solving: Synthesizing, analyzing, and applying mathematical strategies to real-life situations.

NCTM: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Prior Research

Murnane, Richard J. and Levy, Frank (1996). Teaching the new basic skills. New York: Free Press.

Mr. Murname and Mr. Levy explain how the basic skills, particularly the manipulation of fractions and decimals, correlate to securing a job with higher wages.

Steen, Lynn A., (1997). What employers and educators test: The mathematics that really counts. Northfield, MN: St. Olaf College. Ms. Steen points out the importance of basic math skills in various employability tests and college entrance exams. She asserts that the level of ability tested is usually no higher than the eighth or ninth grade level.

Carlson, Janet (1984, December 31). Defining math and science competencies in vocational programs. Olympia, WA: Commission for Vocational Education.

This pamphlet lists the required math curriculum for various vocational positions. It supports Ms.Steens report regarding the level of mathematical skills required for many non-college bound students entering the industrial work force.

Creech, Joseph D. (1996). High school graduation standards: What we expect and what we get. Goals for Education: Educational Benchmarks.

The author states that the current trend of raising high school graduation standards has not necessarily resulted in higher achievement. He also states that 30% of new college students need remediation in language arts or mathematics or both.

SCANS Report for America 2000 (1991). What work requires of schools. Washington, DC: Department of Labor.

The report by this commission explains the importance of basic competencies and fundamental skills necessary for new employees in todays work force.

Hypothesis

Deficient math computational skills in grade school adversely affect many aspects of a childs education, including problem-solving ability, performance in mathematics classes throughout schooling, GPA, graduation rate, and ACT scores.

Population

An ideal population would be students from high schools across the nation. The lack of available resources, and common testing instruments, however, may force our population to be more localized in the Duluth and Superior area.

Sampling

Databases from Duluth and Superior Districts for 1998 graduates.

Instrumentation

As part of our information-gathering, we shall interview elementary, middle school, secondary, and post-secondary teachers. We shall randomly select 10 each of the first three groups, and 5 of the last group. During the interview, our questions will center around the teacher's perception of the level of computational skill of her/his students; the perceived effect from a lack of computational skill; ways in which the teacher deals with students' computational deficiencies. We shall access data from Achievement Test scores in Duluth and Superior. Our sample will be the entire 10th grade class, spring 1997, from Denfeld High School and Superior High School (approximately 300-400 students per group). For these students, we shall track math computation and math problem- solving scores in grades 5, 8, 10, and 12; ACT scores (where available); final overall GPA and class rank; and the number of students who graduated on time.

From the data collected, analyses should be able to: 1) determine if a correlation exists between math computation scores and math problem- solving scores.

2) determine if trends exist in computation scores over the 6-year period.

3) determine if a correlation exists between math computation scores in 5th grade and ACT scores.

4) if the graduation rate of students in the subset studied differs significantly from the graduation rate of the class as a whole.

-- Anonymous, April 28, 1999