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Report card shows U.S. students need to improve math skills

  • Story Highlights
  • Department of Education takes look at how American kids are doing in mathematics
  • Fourth- and eighth-grade students from more than 7,000 U.S. schools assessed
  • Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey ranked high
  • District of Columbia had lowest marks in both grades, but its scores are up since '07
By Kelly Marshall
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. schoolchildren still have work to do when it comes to mathematics, the secretary of education said Wednesday.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says U.S. schools need to be better equipped to teach math.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says U.S. schools need to be better equipped to teach math.

Arne Duncan, releasing a report on the Department of Education's latest examination of how well American children are doing in mathematics, said no one should be satisfied with what it found.

"Today's results are evidence that we must better equip our schools to improve the knowledge and skills of America's students in mathematics," he said. "More must be done to narrow the troubling achievement gap that has persisted in mathematics, and to ensure that America's students make greater gains toward becoming competitive with their peers in other countries."

Fourth- and eighth-grade students from more than 7,000 public and private schools nationwide were tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress for the report, titled "The Nation's Report Card: Mathematics 2009."

Massachusetts students had the highest marks at both grade levels. Other high-performing states were Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

The area with the lowest marks in both grades was the District of Columbia, though the report showed that the district -- along with Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont -- had improved its scores since the last tests were taken in 2007.

The average scores were categorized at each grade level into four groups: below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced.

According to the Department of Education, some of the skills required to achieve a basic level of understanding of mathematics at the fourth-grade level include performing simple computations with whole numbers; showing understanding of fractions and decimals; and solving simple real-world problems.

To achieve a basic level of understanding at the eighth-grade level, students must be able work with whole numbers, decimals, fractions and percentages; be able to solve word problems and use diagrams, charts and graphs; and be able to solve simple algebra and geometry problems.

Scores were slightly higher in the 2009 report than they were in 2007, but Duncan said more needs to be done.

"Our students need to graduate high school ready to succeed in college and the workplace," he said. The National Assessment of Educational Progress results "are a call to action to reform the teaching and learning of mathematics and other related subjects in order to prepare our students to compete in the global economy."

All About Education StandardsU.S. Department of EducationMathematics

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