The Hierarchy of Instruction in Math with Let’s Go Learn

Math competency and 21st-century employment are inextricably linked. However, no matter how you slice it, U.S. student scores on NAEP mathematics assessments demonstrate that year-to-year student achievement is faltering. Further, multiple subgroups are impacted by dismal performance. A recent movement using the umbrella term “Science of Math” offers an approach that K-12 math teachers may want to add to their toolboxes. 

Roots in the Science of Reading

Inspired by the Science of Reading movement’s success in improving reading proficiency, math researchers and educators began exploring evidence-based solutions. They observed the potential for similar success in mathematics, especially across diverse student populations. Unlike a discovery-based approach, the Science of Math emphasizes mastery of foundational skills and a defined hierarchy of instruction.

Science of Math Embraces Pedagogy of Science of Reading

How strong is the link between the Science of Reading and the Science of Math? Dr. Sarah Powell, an associate professor of special education at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the movement’s pioneers, has this to say: “Take every single thing that’s been written about the science of reading, and hit ‘find/replace’ for math” (Korbey, 2023).

Proponents of the Science of Math suggest that teachers should combine procedural knowledge and conceptual knowledge because they support and enrich each other.  Teachers and academicians who advocate for the Science of Math propose an instructional model built around explicit instruction. Teachers explain concepts, processes, and strategies, and then model them. Students then engage in guided practice and strengthen mastery in independent practice.

However, Dr. Powell proposes that many children need explicit instruction and support in mastering math basics before they engage in inquiry and discovery. To some, the Science of Math is controversial. According to Barshay (2023), “In its most extreme version, this new math movement revives an old fight between advocates of teacher-led instruction of step-by-step procedures against those who favor student discovery and a conceptual understanding of math.” When Powell and her co-authors published “Myths that Undermine Maths Teaching,” they ruffled the feathers of math heavyweights in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics as well as popular mathematician Jo Boaler (Barshay, 2023).  Skeptics such as these see the new movement as a return to rote memorization and skill and drill methods of the past. The table below summarizes the myths Powell et al. have identified in the publication and the alternatives that the authors propose.

On the Science of Math website, the goal for math instruction is described as follows: “to ensure that all students, regardless of background or status, have equitable access to high-quality math instruction. To guide the Science of Math, we rely on well-researched instructional strategies and research about how students learn.”  Over the next months,  more people – employers, politicians, academicians, parents, and teachers – will join in the search for a solution to the math dilemma.  The future of many U.S. students may ride on their mastery of mathematical thinking. Cowen (2023) has stated, “The downsides of not addressing the problem of math education in the U.S. are steep. Numerate people are needed for the military, for careers in science and medicine, for careers outside science, to close wage gaps among demographic groups and to ensure that the U.S. and all citizens can grow and succeed and stay competitive.” 

Addressing the Math Dilemma: Why the Science of Math?

The Science of Math seeks to ensure equitable access to high-quality math instruction for all students, regardless of background or status. The instructional strategies are well-researched, aligning with the goal of nurturing mathematical thinking among students, which is crucial for their future success in various fields. This initiative adheres to a systematic and explicit hierarchy of instruction, ensuring that students progress through well-defined stages.

HOW LGL Supports the Science of Math

Let’s Go Learn’s math programs empower all evidence-based platforms with a focus on the individual student. By choosing a personalized learning model for math, Let’s Go Learn breaks the cycle of fixed pacing guides and narrowly taught math content. Before students begin grade-level instruction, they take an online diagnostic assessment. The platform then diagnoses learning gaps with 44 math sub-tests aligned to our hierarchy of instruction. 

The LGL system assigns learning paths with lessons designed for each student’s Zone of Proximal Development. Every LGL Math Edge lesson provides explicit instruction and practice that is in a student’s ZPD and cognitively accessible through animations, songs, graphics, and interactivity. Students are engaged with properly leveled content that reinforces newly mastered skills and concepts during gamified instructional practice.

Because practice activities are designed to feel like games for students, individuals are motivated to play until they reach optimum “scores” that act as progress indicators. Practices deepen conceptual understanding and critical thinking and can be used for independent practice, small-group instruction, or whole-class teaching. As students work through the various explicit and leveled instructional lessons, the responsive platform employs direct instructional feedback. If an answer is incorrect, a learner can understand why and practice until mastery is reached.

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