American Teenagers Are Getting Worse at Math

American students are falling behind the rest of the developed world

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Battleland Photo Staff

Battleland's calculator.

New international standardized test results show that American 15-year-olds are getting worse at math.

The Program for International Student Assessment, administered to 15-year-olds from 65 developed countries, is releasing data Tuesday that show U.S. teens only score in the middle-of-the-pack among developed nations in reading and science, the New York Times reports. While those scores stayed the same since 2009, Americans’ math scores dropped; 29 countries performed better in the subject.

Students from Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and Shanghai were at the top of rankings, but Ireland and Poland pulled ahead of the U.S. this year.

[NYT]

7 comments
JohnDoeson1
JohnDoeson1

Give these kids programming classes (without the damn typing and word processing prerequisites--I hated that) to learn proper application of math: I learned more about Trig and Calc AFTER high school when I taught myself several programming languages.

Also, get them started in electronics courses early (Arduinos have made it easier for beginners).

School districts need to put money into actual education than the expensive, fleeting technology they keep implementing (tracking devices, smart boards, etc.)  We used to have to take our own notes: write everything down by hand (which helped to remember the subject.)  Now, we tell students to bring laptops and teach them to Copy/Paste everything instead.

We're just tethering our kids to more expensive leashes instead of teaching them how to best run free off the leash...

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

jfdavis--What you are talking about is practical math. Bookeeping, which I have done, is basic math though the grids, etc. might have Algebra underpinnings. I grew up in the family service station, retail sales business, have worked on cars, restored houses, and spent 20+ years restoring boats, all of which are basic math. I also have a MSJ, spent 12 years in the news and news photography business mostly with the Associated Press which was technology-driven, no math required. 

I did calculate via geometry the volume of a cylinder fuel tank once but had to go online to recall the formula. How hard is it to mix two parts A to one part B epoxy, etc. I took a dozen calculus, trig, geometry, etc. classes and engineering calculus and chemistry at the Virginia Military Institute, I still have never used them. They were a waste. Basic practical math that covers personal and business finance, carpentry, etc. is plenty. Those wanting to go into other areas can take additional math, though, with computers, much can be processed via computer rather than spending an hour calculating an advanced math problem.

I taught high school and college English. Today, i work with poor inner-city kids who have limited skills. Learning how to read and write, work with others ( a skill), use a computer for basic job search, info research, etc. is far more important especially as GOP-domineering states have dramatically cut public education at the K-12 and college levels and have continually shipped manufacturing jobs overseas or to Mexico, five million under Bush-Cheney alone.

MartiWilliams
MartiWilliams

This is what we get for cutting education budgets...Remember...these are the kids that we hope that will care for us, and govern this country...We are lost...


ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The US is also behind in science and reading which are more important. Can Americans honestly say they have used all the required math--Algebra, Calculus, Trig, Geometry, etc. that they studied in high school or the advanced math of calculus, quadratics, integrals, etc., or chemistry in college ever since?

Only those going into specific career fields like engineering, physics, etc. need those math skills while even as an English major I use reading, writing, comprehension skills daily.


RichardAB
RichardAB

There have been many education-related issues lately, on the TIME website and on TIME Magazine.

My general comment is: as long as education is going to be considered as functional and efficient only for a business- and work- related point of view, it won't receive the importance it deserves.

Education is (general) culture, and learning all those wide arrange of subjects is to learn the whys and hows of life and humanity, if not only for the sake of culture itself, which would be a good enough reason.

AndrewScottEvans
AndrewScottEvans

@JohnDoeson1 The problem is that programming classes get awful when kids already cannot do math. Forget basic circuits. Circuits and digital circuits, despite their ease, produce a lot of drop outs. Attrition in programming classes is already 60% + in computer science programs considered average or better. Algorithms would be a nightmare. Could you imagine an introductory java class that could not prepare students for the SE7 I let alone teach a basic factory or dare I say singleton or proxy pattern? I can and that would be what it looks like.


I think its time for tough love. More Fs are needed to ignite a rocket under the student. Succeed or die. Its an instinctual thing, especially when hammering students with the prospect of eternally being stuck in the service industry or as law clerks doing petty research their entire life. First math, then tech, but yes incorporate the tech later. Students should be able to do design patterns, they are simple. Second graders can build a circuit. Why can't high school students do the basic algebra?

jfdavis668
jfdavis668

@ThomasHall I work with someone who is an IT project manager. In a refresher course, she couldn't subtract one number from another, and then divide by a third number. How could she get through college with such a woeful lack of mathematics knowledge? Do people realize that when they build a spreadsheet to manage a budget, they are using Algebra? When you type a formula into a cell, you are solving for x. Carpenters and plumbers use Geometry all the time. Surveyors use Trig. Querying a database involves set theory. If you understand Math, you understand concepts you didn't even realize were Math.


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