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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'School math' is boring: Students want 'real math'

"Math is important, but we’re being taught the wrong kind of math," say high school students in a YouthTruth survey. While 57 percent say everyone should learn math, students want to learn math that will prepare them for careers and financial success. In particular, concludes the report, "they view understanding taxes as a crucial aspect of adulthood and an integral part of comprehending the financial system, which they find frustratingly opaque."


In focus groups, many distinguished between "school math," needed for college, and "real math," needed for life. (My high school taught "Business Math" in the 1960's.)


Only 47 percent say they tend to work on interesting problems in math classes.


Most have a "growth mindset," the survey found. More than 70 percent say they can learn math through hard work. However, only 61 percent report that they keep trying when math gets hard.



Schools need to connect formal mathematics to students" career and real-world aspirations, Jen de Forest of YouthTruth told Education Week's Sarah Schwartz. "We're leaving all their motivation un-sparked."


Students' interest in managing their finances is "a proxy for wanting to understand power and how government works,” said de Forest. “There’s a connection between this desire for math literacy and a desire for citizenship.


Students' confidence is encouraging, said Susan May, the director of curriculum at the Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. However, they need to see the "power of math" goes beyond taxes. “We have failed to portray to students the value around modeling problems, modeling phenomena in the world, making predictions, statistical analysis.”


"Some states, including Ohio, Oregon, and Utah, have tried to better align math course pathways to students’ college and career goals," writes Schwartz. Twenty-two states have signed onto the Dana Center's Launch Years Initiative which create broader options for advanced math.


Schwartz mentions California's controversial new math framework, which "suggests that math can be a vehicle for students to address important issues in their lives and communities, including social inequities."


Math and science professors and STEM professionals argued proposals would politicize the subject, she notes. A modified version was approved.


It sounds to me as though high school students are more interested in making and managing money than in analyzing the evils of "late-stage" capitalism.

246 views8 comments

8 коментарів


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
12 січ.

Without additional precalculus, students will have a hard time making the money they want to manage. Of course, if their educational system required mathematical merit as a prerequisite for admission into the STEM programmes that are the most lucrative & popular around the world, that should motivate them to study harder -- but that goes against the grain of the current Zeitgeist, which wants to give equal opportunities to everyone in the United States, regardless of their actual inability to access such curricula if they lack the competence assumed by the curricular authors.

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rob
12 січ.

Someone should write a book: "365 Days of Real-Life Math", just to give teachers something to use when kids say "when will I use this in real life?" I wonder if a lot of the younger teachers don't know much math themselves, making it hard to teach others.

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Bill Parker
Bill Parker
11 січ.

Students will complain about anything, but if they don't understand the basics and fundamentals, nothing will help them in math...a recent article shows that many students at the college level cannot subtract two negative numbers and get the correct answer or add 1/3 and 1/2 to get the correct answer (which is 5/6)...this stuff I learned in elementary school back in 1973-1974 (5th grade)


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Darren Miller
Darren Miller
12 січ.
Коментар для:

Absolutely agree. 100%. Top notch comment. Yeah, this.

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Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Malcolm Kirkpatrick
11 січ.

My Math BA required a total of 30 credit hours of Math out of 124 credit hours total. Conventional school is a huge waste of students' time and taxpayers' money. I have huge gaps in my math understanding. I sometimes feel like I'm listening to a classical concerto with the knowledge that there's a huge chunk missing in my aural spectrum. I know that I'm blind to infrared and ultraviolet. We have been institutionally lobotomized.

We could do so much better.

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Darren Miller
Darren Miller
11 січ.

Students will complain no matter what. For the past few years I taught a Financial Math class--yes, we covered taxes, car payments, the stock market, and spreadsheets--and students were about as engaged in that class as my trigonometry and stats students.

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superdestroyer
11 січ.
Коментар для:

How does one teach the future value of money unless one knows exponentials. And how does one teach net present value or future value using an excel spreadsheet with the understanding of a high school students.

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