What’s the Problem with Math Education?

By staff writers, eSchool News — A new report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) tackles the U.S. algebra and mathematics dilemma and is the latest to suggest that not all students should be pushed to take algebra in the eighth grade.

Solving America’s mathematics education problem,” by Duke professor Jacob L. Vigdor, examines cultural shifts that have resulted in new waves of interest in students’ mathematics performance.

Despite a renewed focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, high school students continue to perform poorly on math tests. That trend continues into college, where many new college students enroll in remedial math courses. The report notes that “the proportion of new college graduates who majored in math-intensive subjects has declined by nearly half over the past 60 years.” The U.S. is in danger of slowed or lost progress if these trends continue, the report warns.

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From eSchool News: Are American Schools Too Easy?

From eSchool News, July 13, 2012, by Jeff Festa — Millions of kids simply don’t find school very challenging, a new analysis of federal survey data suggests. The report could spark a debate about whether new academic standards being piloted nationwide might make a difference.

The findings, released July 10 from the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank that champions “progressive ideas,” analyze three years of questionnaires from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test given each year.

Among the findings:

  • • 37 percent of fourth-graders say their math work is “often” or “always” too easy;
  • • 57 percent of eighth-graders say their history work is “often” or “always” too easy;
  • • 39 percent of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.

The data suggest that many kids simply aren’t pushed academically: Only one in five eighth-graders read more than 20 pages a day, either in school or for homework. Most report that they read far less.

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From eSchool News: One Teacher’s Thoughts on Why Kids Hate Math

From eSchool News, July 10, 2012, by Patrick Welsh — When summer school opened July 9 at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., where I teach, remedial courses in math had more students than any other subject.

That is because of the high failure rate not only in math courses, but also on the state’s standard of learning exams in math. The summer school pattern is similar in most high schools around the country, where kids will be trying to learn the math they never figured out during the year.

I worry that we’re pushing many kids to grasp math at higher levels before they are ready. When they struggle, they begin to dread math, and eventually we lose thousands of students who could be the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. If we held back and took more time to ground them in the basics, we could turn them on to math.

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