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Thursday, November 15, 2007

U.S. Students Match Many Nations in Math, but Lag Behind Asia

American eighth-graders match or outperform students in most countries in mathematics, according to the American Institutes of Research. That holds true even in states that generally do poorly in education. But U.S. pupils in the top-performing states lag behind Asian countries like Singapore and Japan.

Reports like these have business and education leaders worried that the United States may be losing its edge in math and science, but Public Agenda research shows most Americans don't share that concern.

Our "Important, but Not for Me" study, in particular, found that parents and students are aware of the United States’ slippage in international standings and recognize that students who complete advanced courses can expect a successful future.

But students and parents don't seem to see how this applies to their own lives. Three-quarters of students say that math and science are irrelevant to their lives. When such courses are required for college, it seems to make the difference. In the survey, parents and students both said they would be most motivated by arguments that relate to future opportunities for young people in higher education or in the job market.

Arguments about national competitiveness are not likely to work, the report concludes. The research found that parents and students are less moved by this argument than they are by the idea that a strong math and science background might give a leg up on college applications.

Math achievement gaps by race and gender have also been a concern for leaders. Our "Reality Check" survey on math and science found no
Significant differences between the attitudes of high school girls and boys about math and science education. And minority students are more
likely than whites to say math and science are "absolutely essential" and that their school doesn't give them enough emphasis.

Find out more about "Reality Check: Are Parents and Students Ready for More Math and Science?"

Read The New York Times story:

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