In 1726, Harvard University hired its first mathematics professor and soon after began to demand proficiency in arithmetic as a requirement for admission to college. This marked the beginning of mathematics being taught in high schools, and by the early 1960s, it had been widely introduced from kindergarten through eighth grade. Despite initial enthusiasm from researchers and support from the National Council of Mathematics Teachers (NCTM), the new mathematics curriculum proved difficult to maintain in real classroom situations. Teachers, whose classrooms were packed with baby boomers, struggled to introduce new concepts of mathematics, often with little training.

They couldn't understand the concepts of New Mathematics on their own, and they worried that many of the fundamental concepts they had learned (multiplication tables, for example) were alien to their children. Although many school districts tried to allay parents' concerns by teaching classes to understand New Mathematics, both parents and students continued to struggle. The latest results of an international adolescent test ranked the United States ninth in reading and 31st in mathematical literacy among 79 countries and economies. The United States has a lower than average proportion of best-performing math students, and scores have remained essentially stable for two decades. Classes here often focus on formulas and procedures rather than teaching students to think creatively about solving complex problems involving all types of mathematics, experts said.

This makes it difficult for students to compete globally, whether in an international exam or in universities and careers that value sophisticated thinking and data science. There is a growing chorus of mathematics experts who recommend ways to bring America's mathematics curriculum into the 21st century to better reflect what children learn in the best-performing countries. Some schools experiment with ways to make mathematics more exciting, practical, and inclusive. Most American high schools teach algebra I in ninth grade, geometry in tenth grade, and algebra II in eleventh grade, something Jo Boaler, professor of mathematics education at Stanford University calls “the geometry sandwich”. In higher-performing countries, statistics or data science (computer-based data analysis, often in conjunction with coding) is a more important part of the mathematics curriculum. Most American classes focus on teaching memory procedures, he said.

Some states, such as Utah, have made the change. Common Core Academic Standards, a version of which most states adopted, say high school mathematics can be taught in any format. Does Common Core work? Despite new standards and more testing, reading and math scores haven't changed in a decade. The Freakonomics podcast presented an episode in October on the peculiarities of the United States mathematics curriculum. Organized by University of Chicago economist Steve Levitt, it highlighted Boaler's work and garnered significant feedback, given the specificity of the topic, Levitt told USA TODAY.

Levitt participates in the movement to change traditional mathematics teaching. He said high schools might consider reducing the most useful elements of geometry and the second year of algebra into a one-year course. Then, students would have more space in their schedules for more applicable math classes. In the U. S., around 3,300 students this year in 15 school districts in Southern California are taking a new Introduction to Data Science course that includes data and statistics, real-life data collection, and coding to analyze the data.

The course was developed by the University of California-Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District, and counts as statistical credit. The class presents a scripted curriculum with interesting exercises, such as having students record how much time they spend grooming and then comparing it to national data collected for the United States Time Use Survey. Teachers are trained to teach the class, as many have not been exposed to programming before, said Suyen Machado, director of the Introduction to Data Science project. Students who took the new course showed significant growth in their statistical understanding throughout the year according to studies. Students said they felt learning to program was a valuable skill. About six years ago San Francisco school leaders tried to address the problem.

They stopped teaching algebra I in eighth grade. Students take the same three-year sequence of middle school math courses, and all are enrolled in mixed-ability classrooms said Lizzy Hull Barnes math supervisor for San Francisco Unified School District. The changes led to a significant increase in disadvantaged students enrolling in higher-level math classes as third and senior students Barnes said. Driving Success for Black and Latino Students Didn't Hurt Progress for High-Performing White and Asian Students Improving Math Skills of Older Students in U. S.

UU is related to messages students hear about why mathematics is important and who does it well when they are younger. Those messages often come from their elementary school teachers many of whom didn't like mathematics when they were students New research suggests that when teachers improve their attitudes toward math it can help increase student test scores At Stanford Boaler and his team designed an online course for teachers with research that shows that anyone can learn mathematics with enough practice intelligence is not fixed and mathematics is connected to all kinds of daily activities. They recruited fifth-grade teachers from a county in central California to take and discuss the course In one year participating teachers' students recorded significantly higher state math scores compared to previous years The jumps were particularly significant for girls and low-income students Boaler said. Beyond data science some districts design courses that include more real-world mathematics and topics such as financial algebra and mathematical models The approach has led other countries to success Teens in Netherlands post some of best math scores world PISA assessment largely because exam prioritizes application mathematical concepts real-life situations Dutch teach mathematics rooted reality relevant society Veteran Dutch mathematics experts participated design PISA which began 2000 delivered every three years sample 15-year-old students developed countries.