Math Works

Wednesday, October 1, 2008Printer-friendly version

Achieve's research with employers and the postsecondary community makes clear that to be college- and career-ready all high school graduates need four years of high school mathematics, including the knowledge and skills typically acquired in Algebra II. And it's not just Achieve's research that shows the importance of a rigorous mathematics education for all high school graduates; there is plenty of evidence from a variety of sources that all high school graduates, no matter what their post-secondary plans are, benefit from a rigorous mathematics curriculum.

While the research is there, it has not been compiled and made accessible to the variety of stakeholders involved in conversations about standards. Given the importance of these issues to the ADP agenda, Achieve has attempted to do just that in a toolkit entitled "Math Works."

The Math Works materials include fact sheets focusing on frequently asked questions and a broader policy paper that synthesizes the current research base on why math is so important to all students as well as the U.S. economy. Power point presentations and resource information are also available as part of the toolkit.

Another notable component of the toolkit is a series of brochures that show how advanced math skills are used in a variety of jobs. The Mathematics at Work Brochures present case studies drawn from leading industries nationwide, such as information technology, advanced manufacturing and healthcare. They provide concrete examples of how advanced math is applied in these jobs and identify the prerequisite mathematical skills needed to successfully enter these jobs. In healthcare, for example, radiographers rely on geometry, spatial relations, measurement, inverse laws and problem solving to produce CT images that will allow radiologists to properly diagnosis injury and illness. Importantly, all of the jobs highlighted in the brochures are accessible to high school graduates without a four-year college degree.

Across the country, skepticism remains about the need for all students to take advanced mathematics in high school. People still fail to understand - and in some cases just don't believe - that advanced mathematics is actually used in the workplace, particularly in jobs that do not require a bachelor's or more advanced degree. In some cases, the skepticism derives from people's limited understanding of how the workplace has changed from when they first entered it. The dramatic changes in manufacturing in the last half-century are a good example of an industry where the infusion of technology has increased the value of "brains" over "brawn." Jobs that didn't require advanced math before frequently do today.

In other cases, the cynicism is rooted in what appears to be a uniquely American phenomenon: it is acceptable not to be "good" at math ("I can't even balance my checkbook") in a way that we would find unacceptable in literacy and writing. Other cultures expect that everyone can succeed at math if they persevere - and international assessments show that this core belief pays dividends in performance of students and later in job creation and innovation. Mathematics is the foundation for higher order thinking, is key to accessing and completing postsecondary education, and leads to better workplace preparation. This is why advanced mathematics is fundamentally important for ALL students.

The Math Works toolkit will help state leaders respond to this skepticism, and we will update the materials regularly to reflect the latest research and examples. You can access the toolkit via Achieve's Web site; hard copies of the materials are also available upon request. More.

Additional Resources