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Math standards emphasize basic skills

Chicago - Students in the United States should receive more mathematics instruction to learn not only how to perform computations, but also to understand why they might need the answers, a teachers group said last week. In a refinement of math-teaching standards set forth a decade ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics issued a list of guidelines and goals for children from pre-kindergarten through high school.

In its 402-page document, the group said that elementary school students should receive an hour a day of math instruction, slightly more than the average time spent in schools now. Older students, it said, ought to study math all four years of high school, and all age levels should be able to use calculators. The organization, made up of roughly 100,000 teachers, administrators, university faculty, and policymakers, also recommended that students should master basic algebra and geometry by the time they enter into high school.

The recommendations written by the group in 1989 did not offer specifics about how much math instruction students should get. In the past, critics of the recommendations have derided the teaching of so-called "fuzzy math" in many schools, where approximate answers to word problems receive a measure of approval.

Report on educating disabled children

WASHINGTON - A record number of children with disabilities are being educated in classrooms alongside their nondisabled peers, often without teachers specifically qualified to instruct them, the Education Department said last week. In 1996-97, 46 percent of the nation's 5.9 million special-education students spent most of their time in a regular classroom, up slightly from the previous year's 45.9 percent, the department said. However, the annual report to Congress also detailed some trouble spots: Besides a shortage of teachers for students who need extra help, there is a lack of state-provided services for youths in prison, special-education preschoolers, and blind children. Four out of 5 teachers with special-education students in their classes feel ill-prepared to teach them, officials said.

Compiled from news wires by Sara Steindorf

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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