Mathematics Project

The State of Math Education, in Charts

By Sarah D. Sparks & Laura Baker — July 31, 2023 1 min read
Illustration of various data
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. students’ math performance dropped significantly during the pandemic and has yet to recover. But students at all levels of K-12 schooling have been struggling with geometry and statistics concepts for far longer.

Teachers have limited time and comfort with these math topics compared to algebra or number sense, experts say, making it more likely that geometry and probability get short shrift during the school year.

Momentum may be building for change.

“Many states are going through revision of their standards right now, and they’re including a lot more statistics and data science into their curriculum,” said Christine Franklin, the K-12 statistical ambassador for the American Statistical Association.





Teachers report limited background in some math topics

In nationally representative surveys in November 2022 and April 2023, K-12 math educators told the EdWeek Research Center that they had limited professional development in either the content or teaching approaches for statistics and geometry content.

“Many teachers are not really comfortable with teaching [data concepts], because it wasn’t something they had in their teacher preparation programs,” Franklin said.

“One of the issues that we’re trying to deal with is not only the professional development of teachers, but the professional development of teacher educators,” she said. “Most of the teacher educators are trained in [algebra-focused] mathematics, not statistics. So they are also in a position that they’re not comfortable with knowing exactly what they need to cover in the classes and how to cover them.”



Workforce needs to expand

Experts say it’s important for schools to prepare and engage more students in statistics and data science careers, which the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow significantly faster than most other career sectors.

Moreover, these math-related jobs pay better than many other fast-growing career areas, such as athletes, cooks, or wind energy technicians.


Dive Deeper

This story is part of Miscalculating Math, a deep examination of math instruction.
Overview and key data: Advocates say reforms in math teaching are pushing out statistics and geometry and driving a drop in students’ math scores. Here’s what you need to know.
Q&As: Hear three professionals talk about how they use statistics and geometry in their careers.
Handy guide: Find tips, lesson ideas, and free resources for beefing up instruction in statistics and geometry.
Quiz: Test your knowledge of math concepts, and then see how U.S. students fared.
Complete Coverage: There’s even more to explore on this topic. Check out the complete collection, Miscalculating Math.

Laura Baker, Creative Director contributed to this article.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Mathematics From Our Research Center Teachers Are Evenly Divided on the Best Way to Teach Math
Educators are divided as to whether students learn math best through procedures or from solving real-world problems.
2 min read
 Conceptual photo of of a young boy studying mathematics using fingers in primary school.
Kilukilu/iStock/Getty
Mathematics Young Students Gravitate to Math. How Teachers Can Build on That Curiosity
A focus on rich, real-world problems makes math more interesting, relevant, and enticing to students.
8 min read
Photo illustration of young boy working on math problem.
F. Sheehan for Education Week + iStock / Getty Images Plus
Mathematics What the Research Says 4 Questions to Boost Algebra Gains for Middle Schoolers
More than 1 in 3 public school students now takes Algebra 1 in middle school. Here's how to make sure they succeed in this gatekeeper class.
5 min read
Photo of a Black male teacher giving a math less to Junior-high Black students.
Martine Severin/E+
Mathematics Q&A Teacher Group Wants a Focus on Low Math Performance, Too
A teacher-led nonprofit releases recommendations focus on how to avoid “math aversion” in middle school.
5 min read
Photo of teacher in front of class.
E+ / Getty