What's going on in high school science and mathematics classrooms?

David Bressoud, Macalaster College,  St. Paul MN USA. and former President of the Mathematical Association of America in his MAA Blog Launchings for 1 September 2019, highlights the report, National Survey of Science & Mathematics Education (NSSME), which describes results from the survey was run in 2018 with funding from the National Science Foundation

We at SIMIODE are finding more and more high school programs which feature courses in differential equations and are attempting to reach out to these teachers to include them in our SIMIODE efforts. Indeed, we had three high school teachers attend our NSF sponsored workshops for writing and using modeling materials in differential equations coursework.

Bressoud says, "The report contains a lot of interesting information about teacher preparation, beliefs, and practices."  whereupon he sites a good number of them. 

One observation made is, ". . . while commercial textbooks continue to be the primary instructional resource (for 93% of classes), only 64% of teachers base their instruction on the textbook at least once a week. Much more common (81% of classes) is instruction at least once a week based on units or lessons that the individual teacher has created. Beyond textbooks or other printed materials, 20% of classes rely on access to free websites at least once a week, 12% to websites that have a subscription fee or per lesson cost. This is not for lack of access to computers; 87% of classes report adequate access to instructional technology."

Further observations include, "Regarding what actually happens in the classroom, the following table pulls out some of the practices that teachers reported using at least once a week. I do find it interesting that while 73% of classes have students work on challenging problems at least once a week, only 64% have students figure out what the challenging problem is asking."

Bressoud offers this data which we find interesting,

Most of these teachers hold enlightened views of teaching: 95% agreed with the statement

    “Most class periods should provide opportunities for students to share their thinking and reasoning.”

A strong 84% agreed that

    “It is better for mathematics instruction to focus on ideas in depth, even if that means covering fewer topics.”

Only 29% agreed that

    “Teachers should explain an idea to students before having them investigate the idea.”

The report is important for high school teachers of mathematics to read to learn about collegial approaches and it is also important for undergraduate teachers to learn what students coming to them have experienced, e.g., trying challenging problems and using text books less and less. Gives us something to think about.


  1. classroom
  2. high school
  3. teaching

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