Do We Teach Math the Wrong Way?

A new report shows just how far behind American students lag when compared to other countries in math education.

A new report published in the journal Education Next finds that the U.S. is decidedly lacking in number of "highly accomplished" math students. Other countries have a relative plethora of students performing better the 94th percentile of performance among Americans taking the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)—the point where the study considers an American student "advanced." In 2006, 30 countries, including Taiwan, Finland, and even Estonia, outperformed American students on the PISA math test.

The Hechinger Report's HechingerEd blog suggests that the reason American students are falling behind in math has to do with the way we teach the subject. A comparison done in the spring looked at the relative methods for math instruction here and abroad.

Math education expert William Schmidt, of Michigan State University, argues that the U.S. math curriculum seems to throw too many topics at children in early grades and does not structure its subject matter, so that one topic builds into another. He also argues that by testing kids via multiple choice exams, it's hard to deduce where they're getting things wrong. Finally, the teachers in American schools are notoriously bad at math, which doesn't help in training a new generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user attercop311.