American high school students perform best in math when they believe they can succeed. This may seem obvious, but this thinking rang very true in a recent study conducted by SIAM, which polled more than 400 high school math teachers nationwide on the formula for success to improve student scores and interest in math. Information from the survey was targeted to those outside the direct SIAM community, whose eyes may be open by these insights on how to improve U.S. math scores.
The study found that more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) cited lack of confidence as the biggest stumbling block to a student’s ability to succeed in math, while almost half (45 percent) of those surveyed said students would perform better if they were less distracted by extracurricular activities, time with friends and social media, and concentrated on the task at hand.
As far as what parents of high school students can do to help their children succeed in math? Respondents said parents should avoid talking negatively about math, such as how “hard” or useless it is (74 percent); they should encourage the student to ask for help when needed — whether from a teacher, friend or other outside resource — if the parents themselves don’t know the answers (71 percent); and they should show an interest in their child’s studies and discuss what they learned in math class that day (46 percent).
“Contrary to public opinion, the results of the survey demonstrate that success in math is not based on nature, but rather, an aptitude for math can be nurtured with effort, motivation and self-assurance,” said Michelle Montgomery, M3 Challenge project director at SIAM. “The results also reinforce the importance of making math relevant to everyday life as a foundation to increase students’ desire to learn.”
The teachers queried for the survey are all coaches of student teams participating in the MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, a national Internet-based contest organized by SIAM.
Read more about the study here.