14 things math students say about online learning’s future

One-third of high school students surveyed would choose either full-time or part-time online education
By: | April 8, 2021
(Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics)(Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics)

In what may not come as a surprise to superintendents and their teams, a significant number of competitive high school math students hope online learning is here to stay.

The Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics surveyed 16- to 18-year-olds in the U.S. and U.K. who participated in this year’s MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, an annual online contest.

“While the majority of students said they prefer 100% in-class learning, surprisingly, one-third said they would choose either full-time or part-time online education when things return to normal after the pandemic,” said Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge program director at SIAM.

Here’s what else these math students said about online learning:

  • 67% of students, most of whom worked online during the pandemic, prefer learning completely in-person
  • 29% favored hybrid with up to half of their time online
  • 4% prefer online full-time or most of the time
  • 73% said they don’t learn as well virtually
  • 9% said they learn better online
  • 19% saw no difference in their ability to learn

The No. 1 benefit of online learning cited by students was saving time spent traveling to school and transitioning between classes. They used that time for extra studying and other activities.

(Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics)

(Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics)

Many students also said they were able to get more sleep and design a more flexible daily schedule.

On the other hand, 76% found it harder to stay focused during online learning while two-thirds felt lonely or isolated. Around 40% said their teachers increased the workload during online learning but didn’t explain assignments sufficiently.

Finally, these students said math and science were the most challenging subjects to learn online. They recommended that teachers use more visual tools and videos to explain key concepts.