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September 29, 2023

American Math Education: The Calculus Isn’t Good

Our students are math illiterate, and that deficit is putting their future in the red.

The American education system is failing students. This has been observed not only by highly concerned parents but with glee by foreign nations that are leaving our students in the dust of ignorance.

In Baltimore, for example, this has been a sad state of affairs for years. Last spring, however, 40% of the high schools in Baltimore didn’t have a single student who was proficient in math. Of its top five highest-rated schools, only 11.4% of students even merited the title of “proficient.” Baltimore is seemingly the most egregious example of academic failure, but the problem with mathematics is widespread.

Is it the way Americans teach math that is the problem? Perhaps.

Math, as a subject, is notoriously difficult to teach because of how abstract it is. Math curriculum has also done a pendulum swing from one extreme in terms of teaching method to the other. In an earlier era, the emphasis was on rote learning and repetition. However, the opposite is now in vogue.

Common Core, an Obama-era “innovation,” was a sad attempt by the U.S. to model itself after Singapore’s approach to math education. Singapore has consistently scored in the number one spot worldwide for math, science, and reading. (Side note: Axios lists 2012 as the year when math scores really started their rapid decline. Coincidence? Probably not.) The thought behind Common Core — and its sister curriculum marketed toward the homeschool crowd, Singapore Math — is to teach the “why” behind math concepts in an attempt to make math more concrete for children. It’s an interesting concept; however, it was a failure on so many levels, particularly in the early grades where those foundational math skills are so deeply important.

As for the best method for teaching students in older grades, USA Today had several suggestions: Instead of teaching math as a series of formulas, apply it to real-world problem-solving situations; teach all the concepts together to show how the different disciplines work together in harmony; make it more exciting; and, of course, make it inclusive — because that’s the real issue with math. (Insert eye roll.)

The way America teaches math is likely part of the problem, but it has a toxic partner in this downward spiral: a culture of complacency and devaluing of education.

That culture starts in the home. Many parents are not math lovers and therefore inadvertently or overtly send the message to their kids that it’s not a good subject or that it’s too hard. Older children often develop the attitude that math is only useful if that’s the field of study they want to enter into. Math is becoming an ever-more important skill with the advent of AI.

The Associated Press complained that our students have disastrously low scores in mathematics compared to the rest of the world. The AP even went so far as to say: “The nation needs people who are good at math, employers say, in the same way motion picture mortals need superheroes. They say America’s poor math performance isn’t funny. It’s a threat to the nation’s global economic competitiveness and national security.”

We can all agree with that. If the U.S. is falling behind other nations, particularly when foreign adversaries like China will make that deficit hurt, it will eventually become a danger for our nation. This decline, however, was preventable.

Today’s math is a gobbled mess of disjointed lessons with equity-based math thrown in. Math, as we have been informed by our elitist overlords, is racist. Or they are deliberately making it more convoluted than it should be.

There does seem to be a calculated effort to destroy the education system by leftists who have, like the aliens in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” taken it over and hollowed it out. In previous pieces, this author has pointed out that leftists benefit from having an ignorant, malleable population to indoctrinate and dissuade from actually thinking.

The message that students are being fed in the public schools now is to hate America. Why would they then want those students to have improved math scores and to be competitive with other nations? Isn’t that counterintuitive to the narrative? Isn’t the whole point of this anti-America message to enforce a penance for past American sins and to make slaves of the population? We deserve to be last, according to this ideology.

There are so many reasons for parents to take a good hard look at their child’s education and perhaps take that education into their own hands. Let’s raise a generation that succeeds in math despite the government’s attempts to sabotage that effort and humble us on the world stage.

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