Math’s Double Standard

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Far too many students in the U.S. give up on math early because it does not come easy and they believe only students with innate ability can really be “good” at mathematics, a notion that is all too often reinforced by adults who believe the same thing. Yet, in most other countries students accept that mathematics—especially advanced math courses—can be challenging, but know that with enough motivation and perseverance, they can learn difficult material. The uniquely American attitude towards math—the perception that only people who are naturally gifted at math are good at it—leads to a dangerous corollary: that it is ok to be “bad at math.” This is a significant factor in the comparatively low math achievement of students in the U.S., which limits students’ education and career options and makes it harder for the U.S. to compete. Low levels of math attainment lead to fewer science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers, fewer degrees in STEM fields and ultimately threatens our innovation and technological preeminence.

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