The Decline Of Math In US Schools

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) did a recent study that proved that there is a decline in math education in America. Out of the 30 countries that ranked on top based on Science and Reading scores, US has the highest discrepancy. The gap between math and the other two subjects factored by PISA was immense. This disparity is not new. Over the 16-year course of PISA performing the test, math has declines slowly and steadily while the scores of science and reading have remained stagnant.
One reason for this may the emphasis on project-based learning and group activities. The time when textbooks were the main source of learning been replaced by these new strategies. Because textbooks are seen as algorithmic, math is now being taught using projects. But creating a good project that actually trains a child in math is extremely hard. Furthermore, it required dedicated time on part of the teacher. Something that few instructors have. This has led toyoung children not grasping the concepts of math. While project-based learning is great in principle, more needs to be done if the decline of math is to be stopped in American schools.

Comparing US School Math With Other Countries

Given that USA is the leader in science and tech on the planet, the basic tools provided to future innovators are bleakly incompetent. As of present, a high school student of America can select the level of math they want to learn. This choice is made on the aptitude and interest the student has in math. The very basic level one can pick is algebra and geometry. At a more advanced level a child can choose AP statistics and AP calculus BC. In rare cases, some schools offer multi-variable calculus too.
But even the advanced program classes are not very tough when compared to the curriculum of other countries. No abstract proofs are required and solving a problem is pretty straightforward like working out an integral. Since math is the tool to understanding other, higher sciences and engineering it is imperative that the coursework for it be changes. How does a student integrate in the Maxwell Equation in AP physics, if the basic math is not strong? Real world applications become only of value when the foundation of concepts is robust and unmoveable. American education needs to bring a paradigm shift to their curriculum if they want to catch up with other countries.

Understanding Advanced Math

Before we can jump to comprehending what is advanced math, we need to know the other two categories – Beginner and Intermediate. Till the time a child reaches high school, they are taught beginners’ mathematics. It includes:
· Arithmetic
· basic geometry
· trigonometry
· basic algebra
· basic calculus
After high school and at undergraduate level, a student it taught intermediate mathematics. The coursework for this may include:
· Calculus including vector/multivariable calculus
· Differential equations
· First courses in more theoretical topics like abstract algebra, analysis, topology and others.
Once an individual has crossed both these levels, they reach Advanced mathematics. It is taught during graduate school and the foremost way to differentiate it from other forms is that it is vague. Both beginner and intermediate level math offers problems that are bite-sized and are known to have a solid solution. The same logic doesn’t apply to advanced math. The problems at this junction can be highly trivial or worthy of an entire thesis. Advanced math also removes the boundaries between different topics and courses that were clearly demarcated in the other two levels.
The complications that arise with advanced math prove that it is not the cup of tea for everyone and should only be opted for with careful thought.

Which Student Should OptFor Advanced Math In College?

A high school student in America who performs well on calculus BC or has taken classes on multi-variate calculus can choose advanced math at undergrad level. A course in both types of calculus prepares an individual to study any technical subject in college where the math is taken to a higher level of abstraction.
Also, students who were blessed with teachers and instructors who taught for more than for the tests can select higher studies in the math. Teachers who took the time to introduce proofs and provide better insight to concepts and theorems prepare a student for advanced math.
If both these above-mentionedconditions have not be met and person hopes to enrol in a course that incorporates advanced mathematics in the future, then they should look for competitions like AMC and USAMO. These competitions involve curriculum from number theory and proofs that help build the foundation for higher level learning of the subject. But a tale of caution would be to not take on the material only to have a feather in the cap. The last advice would be to judge the level of interest and capability the student has within before selecting a course that requires advanced math.