Curry School's Berch Discusses Mathematical Learning

Aug. 19, 2008 — Daniel Berch, associate dean for research and faculty development at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, recently participated in a conference in Nashville, Tenn. to discuss findings of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel report "Foundations for Success," published earlier this year.

Berch was one of two members of the national advisory panel, appointed by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon, who gave talks at the "High Schools That Work" staff-development conference sponsored by the Southern Regional Education Board.

As a member of the panel's Learning Processes Task Group, Berch and colleagues reviewed hundreds of research studies about how children learn mathematical concepts and procedures. Berch's talk focused on the panel’s findings on children’s development of the mathematical concepts and skills that serve as the critical foundations for learning algebra, and their implications for instructional practice.

Berch discussed several findings at the conference: the importance of one’s belief in the role of effort and effort itself in improving mathematical performance; how conceptual understanding, computational fluency and problem-solving skills need to be acquired concurrently; why students find the learning of fractions so difficult; what brain science can tell us about mathematics learning; and how concrete examples in math can sometimes hinder the learning of abstract concepts in mathematics, and the successful transfer of that knowledge.

According to the report, "A strong grounding in high school mathematics through Algebra II or higher correlates powerfully with access to college, graduation from college and earning in the top quartile of income from employment. The value of such preparation promises to be even greater in the future."