Math education in America is failing to prepare students for the 21st century. That’s the message that comes across loud and clear in the video The State of Education- A look at the state of education in America. Although I’m Canadian and teach in a Canadian secondary school, I believe the points the video makes applies to both Canadian and American education systems.
Bob Compton executive producer of the video 2 000 000 minutes and Molly Brand President of the American Counsel of Education offer some explanations. Bob Compton, notes that in China and India students focus on academics and set very high goals and then strive to achieve these goals while in America students divide their focus on sports, academics, extra curricular activity and jobs. In America, the goal for students is to be well rounded. In China and India high academic achievement is valued and rewarded- different cultures, different values, different outcomes.
Students in China and India take four years of chemistry, four years of physics, four years of biology and four years of math while in American students take one year of chemistry, one year of physics, and one year of biology. Almost all Chinese students take calculus yet only 13% of American students take it. Clearly, American students aren’t well prepared for the high wage , high technology, high growth industries for the 21st century.
Molly Brand argues that the education system in particular is failing kids when it comes to math education. Forty percent of high school seniors can’t understand grade 8 math. Brand says that if she could change one thing it would be for teachers at the middle school level to be qualified, certified math teachers to give students a better grounding in math. Not having a good grounding in math has huge repercussions
Students know that they need to be able to do algebra in order to graduate. Since many students can’t do algebra, they drop out in grade 10. Surprisingly, at least to me, students who graduate from high school earn the same money as kids who drop out in grade 10. It takes post secondary education to earn big money. Yet, half of highschool students don’t graduate.
Brand ends on an optimistic note by saying that American graduates are more competitive, more creative and more entrepreneurial than their counterparts in Indian and China. That’s the advantage American’s have over Indian and Chinese graduates, and that ‘s what American schools need to nurture because that is their strength.
Now, I have a couple of questions? First, if it is the case that we can only compete in the more creative and entrepreneurial areas , what are school doing to nurture students’ right brains. Schools seem to value the creative arts less and less. Programs in the arts are getting cut all the time in favour of “the basics”.The art program at our school will take a hit nextyear and classes were canceled. Second, why do we have to specialize in either left brain activities or right brain activities. Why can’t we be excellent at both?