It is really laughable how our society keeps ignoring the 3 real reasons Americans are falling behind in math. There was yet another article posted on Big Think describing how Americans keep falling further behind in mathematics on the world stage. According to this article, America now ranks 22nd among its global peers. For those of us who have been around for a while, we can’t help but ask, “What happened?”
It wasn’t that long ago that the United States pretty much set the worldwide standard for science and math. We used to be the country that cranked out the math geniuses. We used to have the universities that others in the world wanted to attend for our mathematical prowess.
Research Keeps Missing the Point
There is no shortage of essays available online today that discusses the math deficiency of the United States. Most of them attempt to identify the reasons for this shortfall. They often say that math is not properly taught in America anymore and that our teaching methods are faulty. And they also claim that math requires too much rote memorization.
These two explanations are complete garbage. Our teaching methods for math worked fine for over a century, so how did they become ‘faulty’ all of a sudden? And as far as rote memorization, it is more of a challenge to find subjects that don’t require lots of rote memorization – like reading for instance.
Another insane reason they give for our poor math ranking is that ‘math creates too much anxiety’. Of course it creates anxiety – you’re supposed to have anxiety before tests and examinations – it is when you don’t have anxiety before tests that you should be worried. How will our students get better if we keep making excuses for them?
Now let us get to the real reasons that Americans are falling behind in math. In a general sense, these reasons pertain to incentive and priority. I contend that the priority and incentive for excelling in mathematics has been steadily falling in United States. Don’t believe me? Keep reading ….
3 Reasons America Has Fallen Behind in Math
Schools now value Social Justice far more than teaching Math
Sadly, we are now seeing our schools and colleges turn into bastions of social justice, rather than for higher learning. Think for a moment, when was the last recent headline you saw that promoted the learning of mathematics or even held it in high esteem?
Mathematics is no longer important or valuable to colleges any longer. They believe it is more important to promote the political views instead. Listed below are recent headlines that illustrate this fact:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that schools and universities today no longer view the teaching of math as a priority or a valued endeavor – and it is getting worse with each passing day.
Students believe they’ll live in a world of income equality
For years and years, colleges and universities have encouraged students to enroll in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curriculums. These fields of study have historically rewarded college graduates with much higher salaries – particularly for new college grads – so there has always been an income incentive with pursuing these fields.
In recent years, we have seen colleges offer extra incentives for female students and minority students to pursue STEM degrees. However, in spite of these aggressive incentives and promotions – such as free tuition, students are still pursuing degrees in other fields. Why would students pass on the opportunity to earn a larger salary? While having their tuitions waived?
The reason is that many students today are accepting the notion that socialism will make all things equal in our society. As we have seen from extreme members of the Democratic Party and other celebrities, the ideal of living in a socialistic world is being vigorously promoted. And it is millennials who are mostly embracing the idea.
When they believe that everyone will earn equal incomes one day, why should they pursue a STEM degree today that would require much more work and effort?
The Notion of Optional Testing
Many students today are living under the expectation that they will be tested less for their studies. This insane notion was first introduced by Obama who wanted less testing in schools:
And like barking seals, we see more and more universities offering a “testing optional” curriculum. When you remove testing, you remove the “reward” of receiving a good grade for working hard. Where’s the incentive to master a subject when students are not given the opportunity to validate their skill level?
As we apply this “testing optional” model to learning mathematics, it is virtually impossible to generate students that will perform at a high level globally in mathematics without testing them. This is the very essence of math, it is a precise field of study – there is only one answer to mathematical problems. And students who excel in math learn to find that one correct answer over and over again.
Let us take the “testing optional” model one step further. Would you like for your surgeon or for your airline pilot to be a graduate of a “testing optional” curricula? Can you see the outrageousness of such a notion?
As the United States continues to plummet mathematically on the global stage, we will have to accept one eventuality. This trend will continue because we do not have the means do anything but watch it happen. Without providing the incentive for students to perform at their highest level, and without schools and colleges treating the teaching of mathematics as a high priority, it is a lost cause.