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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

The $1 trillion math error

Weak math skills could cost young workers as much as $1 trillion in the coming decades, warns a a new study. National test scores show an erosion in eighth-graders' math skills, writes Kevin Mahnken. That will lower their odds of success as adults.


"After controlling for the possible effects of race, gender and educational attainment of parents," researchers found that eighth-grade math scores correlate with "high school graduation, college enrollment, and life earnings from age 28," he writes. Girls in states with improving math scores are "less likely to become teen mothers, while boys were less likely to be arrested for violent crimes or institutionalized."


The Education Recovery Scorecard shows how much learning students lost in the pandemic years in 29 states and the District of Columbia.


John Bailey also looks at the costs to children of disrupted schooling: "The average U.S. elementary-school student lost more than half a school year of learning in math — and nearly a quarter of a school year in reading — during the pandemic."

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8 Comments


Guest
Nov 08, 2022

Actually when students don't master the principles of add, subtract, multiplication, division, place value, fractions, and percentages, they're going to struggle in math starting with algebra and going beyond, which will pretty much shut them out of most fields which require a high degree of math requirement...


There was a time in most UC system schools where business majors were required to take and pass calculus (early 80's mind you)...since calculus deals with rate of change and is very advanced algebra and trig, this is what the article is referencing


Without mastery of the basics, you cannot succeed in later courses (since math is for the most part a foundation subject)...

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Guest
Nov 08, 2022
Replying to

One cannot argue that people are losing money by not being able to learn math and then say that it is OK that people not be able to learn math because they do not have the talent. Please try to be consistent.

In the real world, engineering and certain physics/chemistry specialities pay well before they are hard to do and not everyone can do them. There is no A for effort in chemical engineering.

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Guest
Nov 08, 2022

Perhaps I missed all the references to calculus in the post above. What I didn't miss, however, are the references to *elementary school* and middle school math.

--mrmillermathteacher

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Guest
Nov 08, 2022
Replying to

I've spent years volunteering with underprivileged elementary school kids. You're right, there are a handful that can't master the concepts, or need to move so slowly, with so much repetition, that they will not progress through upper level math, even if they understand it, because they will run out of years in school. They will not move into careers that require advanced math. But, there is a much larger number of kids who are capable of learning at fractions and decimals (I stop there because that's what is mentioned above) but struggle because nobody required them to learn to multiply. They can't do long division. They can't find equivalent fractions. These are both a direct result of not bein…

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Guest
Nov 08, 2022

Once again, an article written from the point of view that everyone can learn calculus if the schools are good enough and everyone tries hard enough. In reality, the type of student who can master calculus is going to be positively correlated with many good things throughout their life. Having bad students take calculus or algebra II does not turn them into good students, good students can master calculus and algebra II.

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