Student opinion: This is how to fix the declining math and reading scores

Education systems have always put an emphasis on math and reading in the classroom. However, despite the significance instructors have put on these two subjects, the nation’s rankings in mathematics and reading have dropped significantly over the last decade.

While it is easy for many people, especially parents, to blame the pandemic for the seemingly sudden decline in the academic rankings, the root of the problem goes back even further than 2020. The switch to remote schooling merely exasperated the already existent issue. 

In a story by The Hechinger Report, Andrea Yon, a teacher at a middle school in rural South Carolina, expressed how prior to the pandemic, some of her students in the seventh and eighth grade were reading at a fifth-and-sixth-grade level. The U.S., a country that once had high literacy levels, is now watching them slip away.

Educators don’t set enough time aside for independent reading either, as researched by Education Week

Young students especially gain a wealth of knowledge by reading books they’ve chosen for themselves. Independent reading also allows these students to read at their own pace and level. However, according to an International Literacy Association report, 70% of teachers say there is not enough class time to allocate for independent reading. Despite the importance of independent reading, it has no longer become a priority in the education system’s curriculums. 

Unfortunately, low reading levels are not the only problem in American education. 

Studies by the National Assessment of Education Progress show that mathematic literacy in students is rapidly declining. Many people often find themselves on one side of the extreme when it comes to math — either they love it, or they hate it. Students who find themselves not as inclined to numbers, mathematical equations or formulas can easily become overwhelmed and associate math with anxiety. Math anxiety is real, and data from the University of Chicago shows that students who cultivate fear and a negative mindset towards the subject inadvertently affect their grade. 

One component for the increasingly low scores in mathematics is the negative mindset students possess when it comes to solving equations. Another factor to this rising issue, however, is that teachers try to make school a one-size-fits-all policy, but this shouldn’t be the case. Every student learns and processes things differently.

When it comes to subjects as daunting as math, teachers need to help their students learn in a way that works best for them. If instructors continue teaching all their students in the same way, not every student will walk away from class having learned something, and the decrease in math rankings will only continue.

There is an overt problem in America’s education system, and it must be fixed. 

The solution is simple. According to Education Week, to boost the scores in reading, school administrators should begin implementing things such as independent reading times in the curriculum. This will give students the ability to increase their vocabulary and grow in their love for reading. This will also give teachers an additional opportunity to help their young pupils with pronunciations and phonics, all while they read a book they love and one not related to academics. 

How can the decline in math literacy be reversed? Teachers play a huge role in the lives of their students. University of Chicago professors found that encouraging students in subjects they struggle with can drastically change their mindset, and in turn, their grade. Furthermore, fostering a classroom that allows students to explore a variety of methods to solve formulas will help students better understand the concepts and retain the information. 

There is always something new that can be done to improve the education system. Making substantial changes in the classroom, no matter how big or small, will positively impact students’ learning capabilities and overall academic rankings.

Daniel is an opinion writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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