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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

What works in teaching English (discussion) may not work in teaching math

The most effective use of class time depends on the subject, concludes a study conducted in high-poverty English high schools, reports Hechinger's Jill Barshay.

"Students who spent more time in class solving practice problems on their own and taking quizzes and tests tended to have higher scores in math," the study found. In English, "teachers who allocated more class time to discussions and group work ended up with higher scorers in that subject."

Teachers in both subjects spent little time lecturing.

U.S. teachers are "encouraged incorporate 'math talks' as a way to develop mathematical reasoning and help students see multiple strategies for solving a problem," writes Barshay. "Progressive math educators might also favor group over individual work." This study suggests that's ineffective.

"Doing a lot of practice problems during school hours is a big part of the algebra tutoring programs that have produced strong results for teens," she notes. "Advocates of project-based learning once tried to develop a curriculum to teach math, but backed off when they struggled to come up with good projects for teaching abstract math concepts and skills. But they had success with English, science and social studies."

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