Is math curriculum outdated? Parents say it’s unengaging and disconnected from reality

"For students, math is a boring subject," said one Florida parent. "If they don't get it, they get turned off; they don't want to deal with it."

In recent years, families have gotten a front-row seat to their child’s education thanks to remote learning and increased transparency from their schools. As a result, they’re noticing flaws left and right. In fact, according to a new survey, parents say current math instruction methods don’t cut it anymore.

Districts across the country have set their sights on improving student achievement, particularly surrounding math. Summit School District in Colorado aims to close the gap between white and Hispanic students through an overhaul of its math curriculum materials by making them more accessible to traditionally underserved students. Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee wants to update its 8-year-old math curriculum to address pandemic-related learning loss among students. To no surprise, this is a change that most parents and teachers around the nation want to see.

The study, done by public relations and research firm Global Strategy Group and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reveals that most parents think math curriculum needs to be updated and applicable to the real world.

“The biggest problem with the way math is taught today is that it does not reach all students,” said one Texas parent. “The most important way that math instructions needs to change is to make it relevant, more real-world scenarios. Some of the more traditional math instruction is not preparing a lot of students for life after school including jobs.”

Furthermore, most teachers (53%) “strongly agree” that students who excel at math early on “are more likely to succeed later in life.”

“From the earliest grades, we see students divided into math people and non-math people, and that’s tragic,” said Bob Hughes, the K12 director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, during a press call with reporters Thursday. “We know all students can succeed in math, and when students fail algebra, they’re more likely to drop out and not graduate from school.”

So what does an ideal math education look like, according to parents? Based on the findings, students would benefit more if:

  • It was relevant to real life (64%).
  • It was more practical (54%).
  • It focused on creative problem-solving (52%).
  • It was engaging (50%).

“For students, math is a boring subject,” said one Florida parent. “If they don’t get it, they get turned off; they don’t want to deal with it. But if something is engaging and bringing them happiness and something that they can relate to, I believe that they can be more successful.”

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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