Math in the United States

A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps.


 The United States of America, a world of dreams and ambition and goals. A new world full of success and intelligence. However, we are not proficient in the subject of math. Why is it that we are “ranked in the bottom five” and “are only able to do basic arithmetic”? While this new implemented Common Core is slowly improving American children’s math brains, there are still unsettling statistics regarding the subject of math achievement.


Figure 2. Percentage distribution of 4th- and 8th-grade students across National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics achievement levels: Selected years, 1990–2013

In 2013, some 83 percent of 4th-grade students performed at or above the Basic achievement level and 42 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in mathematics. While the percentage of students at or above the Basic level in 2013 was not measurably different from that in 2011 (82 percent), it was higher than the percentage in 1990 (50 percent). A higher percentage of 4th-grade students performed at or above Proficient in 2013 than in all previous assessment years. In 2013, some 74 percent of 8th-grade students performed at or above Basic and 35 percent performed at or above Proficient in mathematics. The percentages at or above Basic and at or above Proficient in 2013 showed no measurable change from 2011, but they were higher than the percentages in all assessment years prior to 2011. The percentages of 12th-grade students performing at or above Basic (64 percent) and at or above Proficient (26 percent) in mathematics were each 3 percentage points higher in 2009 than in 2005.


The graph above shows the steady increase in math achievement over the recent years for 4th and 8th graders. While we are improving in math learning there is still a big percentage of students still below Basic math or are at or above Basic math. Is there any other way to improve these skills so that most of our students are performing above Basic math and are proficient at the subject?

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