Mathematics Education in America: A Troubled System in Need of Change

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Mathematics Education in America: A Troubled System in Need of Change On a trip to Fidler concrete in Goshen, Indiana, a man ordered forty feet of rebar for home use. When he went to pick up the rebar, the adult employee in charge asked the man what size pieces he would like. The man asked for six-foot sections. The employee furrowed his brow and said, “Now, if it were five foot sections, that would be ten of them for forty feet, right?” The man replied, “No, ten of the five footers would be fifty feet.” The employee pondered that and said, “So in the six-footers…Ah, I’ll just give you twelve. That should be enough.” This is a true story. In this one experience, the employee showed a lack of ability…show more content…
Furthermore, numerous studies like “A Nation at Risk” and the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) have demonstrated decisively that math competency in the United States is well below the world average. How the only remaining superpower on Earth can see these facts and not act to improve the situation is incomprehensible. In the middle of the twentieth century, courses in mathematics were not optional in this country. The space race with the Soviet Union forced the United States to cultivate mathematicians and scientists capable of working with complex mathematics, physics, and rocket science. Around the time Sputnik was launched, student achievement in mathematics reached higher levels than ever before. Since that time SAT I scores have shown a marked and consistent decline from 1963 to 1983, a clear sign of decreasing mathematical competency. At the same time America, which used to be at the top of the manufacturing pyramid, was being surpassed by Japan in automobiles, by South Korea in steel, and by Germany in machine tools (“A Nation at Risk”). Without the push from the space race, the need for scientists, engineers, and mathematicians was not emphasized by the government, and therefore not emphasized by schools. America turned apathetic toward mathematics and a mathematically illiterate public was the result. In 1983 the United States Department of Education released “A
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