Think back to your school days: was math difficult for you to learn? Was it your least or most favorite class? Do you still struggle with math? Here’s a tidbit about math and the long-standing implications of NOT getting the best math education as a child. Introducing, math:
Math had a way of predicting kids’ futures. Teenagers who mastered higher-level math classes were far more likely to graduate from college, even when putting aside other factors like race and income. They also earned more money after college.
Why did math matter so much? Some reasons were practical: More and more jobs required familiarity with probability, statistics, and geometry. The other reason was that math was not just math.
Math is a language of logic.It is a disciplined, organized way of thinking. There is a right answer; there are rules that must be followed. More than any other subject, math is rigor distilled. Mastering the language of logic helps to embed higher-order habits in kids’ minds: the ability to reason, for example, to detect patterns and to make informed guesses. Those kinds of skills had rising value in a world in which information was cheap and messy. (p.70)
Why were American kids consistently underestimated in math? In middle school, Kim and Tom [two of the kids interviewed and followed in the book’s accounts] had both decided that math was something you were either good at,or you weren’t, and they weren’t. Interestingly, that was not the kind of thing that most Americans said about reading. If you weren’t good at reading, you could, most people assumed, get better through hard work and good teaching. But in the United States, math was, for some reason, considered more of an innate ability, like being double-jointed.
The truth was that American adults didn’t like math or think it was critical to kids’ life chances. In 2009, most American parents surveyed said it was more important to finish high school with strong reading and writing skills than with strong math and science skills. It was almost as though math was optional, like drawing. Half of those parents said that the science and math their children were learning in school was just fine, and they were right, based on a standard from a different era. (p. 77)
If you’re American, do you agree? I’m curious to see what you think. Stay tuned, for upcoming installations…
If you missed the first installment in this series, click below for the link!