American high school students don’t understand math concepts as well as students in most other developed countries, according to PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), an international survey. The U.S. ranks 24th out of 29 countries, reports the Washington Post.
Students from Finland and South Korea scored best in the survey, which measured the ability of 15-year-olds to solve real-life math problems.
. . . A previous study, released three years ago, showed that U.S. students were in the middle of the pack when it came to reading but lagged in math. Since then, the United States has fallen behind countries such as Poland, Hungary and Spain by some measures of math proficiency.
U.S. students are scoring better on the math section of the National Assessment of Education Progress, a federal survey. But the test is “far too easy,” says Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution.
“We have downplayed arithmetic,” Loveless said. “By and large, American students don’t know how to work with fractions very well and don’t know how to work with decimals. This handicaps their performance internationally.”
A more detailed international survey of math and science skills will be released next week. U.S. students are expected to do well in elementary school, then fade.
Update: PISA measures students’ ability to apply math skills to practical problems, the Christian Science Monitor points out. While whites and Asian-Americans score much better than black and Hispanics, “even the highest US achievers in mathematics literacy and problem solving were outperformed by their peers in industrialized nations.”