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Opinion: Math Education Needs to Better Fit Society’s Needs

Opinion: Math Education Needs to Better Fit Society’s Needs

Though there’s a recent push for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to America’s students, one political scientist argues that the way we teach math needs to be reformed.

Journalism professor and National Geographic contributor John Wihbey took a look at a new book from political scientist and professor Andrew Hacker, The Math Myth, which argues that math should be taught to better address the needs of modern-day society. According to Hacker, math instruction is more archaic than it is anything else.

Though Hacker agrees that students specializing in things like engineering degrees might need a more specific math curriculum, he argues that math education for the rest of students is “morally misguided” and "deeply flawed.”

"He questions the benefit of advanced math, such as trigonometry and calculus, and says he’s 'waiting to be shown that agility with polynomials produces sharper insights on other topics.”

"Little has been said about how the canonical math sequence—algebra through calculus—fits society’s needs now, and where the jobs of today and tomorrow fit in that spectrum. We know that computer coding and data science are good career bets, but you can’t just say those are 'math jobs,’” Wihbey said. 

On the other hand, he points out that "research underscores the strong correlation between math knowledge in the early grades and later achievement.”

The problem is that "America’s vast problems with inequality mean that many young learners fall behind long before they ever 'solve for X,’” something that Hacker does not touch on.

A more strategic placement of teaching advanced skills and a refresher on how to make them engaging, Wihbey says, might just be what American needs to boost national math test scores.

Read the full post.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor



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