Little research backs math programs

Almost all the math programs used by middle schools lack evidence of effectiveness, says a federal evaluation. Education Week reports:

Most of the off-the-shelf mathematics programs used in middle schools across the country have little or no rigorous evidence attesting to their effectiveness, concludes a federal research review released last week.

The U.S. Department of Education analysis was based on a review of studies undergirding 44 math programs used in grades 6-9, including some of the nation’s most popular textbooks for those grade levels.

. . . The researchers found only five that had a research record strong enough to meet their standards. Of those, just two — a pair of computer-based algebra programs called I CAN Learn Mathematics and Cognitive Tutor — had studies showing that students actually learned more with their programs compared with other programs.

The researchers set high standards, preferring programs backed by randomized controlled studies. Programs that didn’t make the list may be effective, but there’s no research.

Connected Math, Saxon Math and a computer-based program called Expert Mathematician also made the short list.

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  1. I don’t find this study surprising. I believe that this problem is widespread through the educational establishment.

    The lack of rigorous studies led to the adoption of the disastrous ‘whole-language’ approach to reading.

    All too often the education establishment leaps after methods that sound good, with little or no actual testing in large scale controlled studies. Thus, much of the expensive production of illiterate and innumerate graduates.


  2. Bill,
    Of course the educational establishment shuns rigorous scientific testing, because their theories cannot be challenged by the mere social construct that is reality. There’s nothing that they believe can prove that their theories are wrong, even ample evidence that they’re wrong! Try challenging that mentality, it’s like trying to knock down a brick wall with your bare hands.
    I should note that when I refer to the educational establishment I’m not referring to classroom teachers, rather the ed. school professors and school administrators who choose the faulty curricula which continue to harm our children.

  3. Is Singapore Math included among the ones with no evidence?

  4. I could not find any of those titles at Amazon. Are they sold to educational institutions only or can we plebs purchase them?

  5. You can get Saxon Math at

  6. Wacky Hermit says:

    Sorry, I just realized you might be looking for Saxon for homeschool. The link I gave is for the classroom version. If you want to use Saxon for homeschool you will need to get it from a retailer like (there are lots of them besides this one that sell Saxon). I got a Saxon curriculum for homeschool on eBay, so you might try there.

  7. Steve LaBonne says:

    And for Singapore:


  1. chris correa says:

    Teaching matters

    Would you prefer a good teacher with a bad textbook or a bad teacher with a good textbook?

    Joanne Jacobs notes that there is little evidence on what math programs actually work. The “What Works Clearinghouse” has not yet released their summary rep…