Reading and Math Educators Tackle Education Challenges

More than 100 renowned math and reading educators from around the country convened in Chicago last week for the 2008 National Reading and Mathematics Leadership Conference, hosted by Pearson, the world's leading education publisher. Following the theme, "Research Into Practice," distinguished authors and researchers led participants in discussions of research-based strategies for tackling 21st century education challenges.

Using compelling new studies as a jumping-off point, participants discussed issues around literacy and math, including targeting instruction to meet the needs of all students, the role of assessment in teaching, both the positive and negative impacts of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and the need for high-quality teacher professional development.

"By bringing these top educators, authors and researchers together to delve into the key educational challenges facing schools today, we learned a great deal about how we can best meet their needs now and in the future," said Bob Roliardi, Executive Vice President of Pearson Schools. "All of us will continue working together in our effort to improve teaching and learning for students across the country."

Woven throughout the three-day conference was the importance of students developing an understanding of key concepts whether they are learning reading or math. In a combined kick-off session, math expert Dr. Nita Copley, College of Education, University of Houston; and reading expert Dr. Jeanne R. Paratore, Associate Professor, School of Education, Boston University, both shared their perspectives on the importance of conceptual development, demonstrating real-life examples from successful classrooms.

Other sessions focused on new strategies for using research to inform teaching and national leadership issues in math and reading.

Dr. Francis "Skip" Fennell, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and a member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, provided participants with an overview of the research process that the panel followed to develop its recommendations on improving math education in the U.S., which will be released on March 13. Modeled on the National Reading Panel, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel has examined and summarized the scientific evidence related to the teaching and learning of mathematics, with a specific focus on preparation for and success in learning algebra.

"Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about access to formal coursework in algebra at grades seven or eight," said Fennell. "For some students, that may be a great idea. For all students, we must be sure that they have a strong background in the prerequisites for algebra, including conceptual understanding and proficiency with fractions, decimals, and percent, before they take the next step in learning algebra."