The PISA worldwide ranking measures students’ achievements in math, science, and reading. U.S. students have been consistent with their spectacularly bad results over the previous years. Currently, they hold the 37th place according to their mathematics results. Most students have trouble solving even basic math problems.
It’s not something that just happened. Americans continually score low in their math skills when compared to students from other countries.
“I hate math” is a common statement by students at any level. Why does this happen?
Are there specific reasons why the U.S. educational system is failing to make math more engaging?
Why Are U.S. Students Bad at Math?
- The Schools Don’t Implement Successful Methods of Teaching
Akihiko Takahashi, a Japanese math teacher, was inspired by the American methods of teaching math. He implemented those methods in his own approach, and he became a hugely popular math teacher in his country. But when he came to the USA, he realized that although the Americans invented great methods of teaching, they weren’t really implemented in the schools.
American schools have been trying to introduce better methods of teaching math since the 1800s. However, eac attempt caused great confusion, and it didn’t take long before the teachers went back to their conventional practices.
The main problem is that schools and teachers don’t remain consistent in their efforts to make math more approachable. They are okay with old-school methods based on memorization. When students get math help from professional services, the teachers don’t know why that happened. But what else can a student do when they don’t understand their teacher? Turning to a tutor or an assignment helper is their only solution.
- Young Students Don’t See the Point in Learning Math
As Neil deGrasse Tyson said, math is the language of the universe. The more equations you know, the more you can converse with the cosmos.
That’s incredibly inspiring. But to children, it doesn’t mean much.
American children are not dumb. However, if you ask them what they want to become when they grow up, most of them will say that they want to be athletes, musicians, or actors. That’s the culture we’ve built. Children are inspired by people who became successful not because of their academic achievements, but because of their physical performance and different talents.
Our children want to become popular; not smart. That’s why it’s difficult for modern schools to put math in the context of what they want to become.
- Math Is Perceived as Something Boring
Teachers present math through problems that need to be solved. They teach different equations, they give assignments, and they expect the students to solve them in order to get a good grade.
Numbers and formulas don’t make much sense when the student doesn’t understand what they mean. They can easily learn the Pythagorean theorem and give you a solution. Will they have fun solving the assignment? No; because they don’t see what use they would get from it.
Students don’t understand the purpose of math. It’s not about solving problems; it’s about understanding them. It’s about creativity and logic, which the current educational system does not promote.
Imagine taking an art class that only teaches theory of color. It would get so boring without any practical implementation of knowledge, right? Math is the same. Students keep memorizing formulas and solving assignments. At the same time, they have no idea what they are doing. All they care about is getting a passing grade on the test. Once they finish school, they assume it’s okay to forget all about the math knowledge and skills that they obtained. They can always rely on a calculator when they need to make a simple calculation.
Is There a Way to Solve This Issue?
The only way to make U.S. students better at math is to present the subject in a more relatable manner. They need to see how math is going to help them in any career they plan to pursue. They must see how important it is for understanding everything that happens around us.
In addition, teachers have to present math in a way that makes it fun for students. They already know what methods can result with success. Most of them have already tried them in the past. The problem is that they weren’t persistent enough.
As long as we stay persistent in implementing modern methods of teaching math, the results will inevitably come.