It’s the evening before the National TriMathalon competition. A free math event for students in grades 3-6. The event triggered some thoughts about math education and math in the United States today. So instead of math “tips” I thought some thinking about the state of math in our country would be appropriate.
According to labor studies 80% of the jobs that are being created today future require math and science skills. To meet this prospect, our educational systems and the learning of our students needs to be highly science concepts. The problem is that currently United States scores on international testing of math skills ranks 25th among industrialized nations, and in some test ranks even worse in science.
Of course there are lots of people out there who are critics of the current instructional systems critics of how we perform teach educate and encourage our children. And this is great evidence for them. But although it's easy to criticize it's not so easy to develop and implement solutions. So I asked myself, what's the latest information about proposed solutions and how can we help all of our children excel? Multiple questions with quite a few different answers depending upon who you talk to.
But the latest developments in the efforts to help children in mathematics and all educational fields is a thing called the common core standards these standards have been adopted across 46 of the States in the United States and are being implemented over the next couple of years. At the same time they are causing a lot of controversy simply because of the placement of math skills in the new curriculum. Development of the standards has resulted in placement of many different skills different grade levels than before. Quite a few have been moved to lower grades. And there's a lot of confusion because of this.
The thing to remember is the skills are the same skills that we were talking about before the new standards. And they are still what we need for our children to successfully do math. The shifting of the grade level does not affect that. But standards and objectives alone are not what it is necessary for math to become what it needs to be.
We need to encourage children we need to have them develop an attitude towards math that it is not something that is “hard, difficult, I don't know what, I can't do it, I can't understand it”. And that takes time patience and good instruction.
The TriMathalon is a competition for students in the lower grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 to show them that math can be fun, interesting and that “you can do it and be a winner”. We need to encourage children in their math and to help them be involved in efforts like this; so that, instead of being fearful and scared, students come to enjoy math. And in doing that we will improve math understanding and skills through involvement in the subject.
As a last thought encourage your kids, encourage your teachers and MATH whenever and whenever you can. I will be back next month with more tips and hints on doing math and encouraging math with your children.