In 1970, only nine percent of all jobs in the U.S. were considered technical. As the world’s reliance on technology has grown, so too has the demand for people who can think in the abstract terms of math and science and, today, technical jobs make up nearly one-third of all employment opportunities. Schools have tried to keep pace with the demands of an increasingly competitive technological world by stiffening their mathematics requirements and invoking a system of high-stakes testing, resulting in a widening disparity between those who learn math with relative ease and those who struggle with math disabilities.
While it is true that people can still succeed without achieving advanced competency in math, a deficiency in certain basic math skills dramatically limits a child’s opportunities. The following statistics suggest why and underscore the importance of early recognition:
In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States, pushed by the space race with the Soviets, introduced “new math,” a movement away from everyday problem-solving toward a focus on abstract structures, patterns, and relationships.
In the early 1980s, schools raised graduation requirements for math and introduced minimum competency testing in response to a government report on the state of education titled “A Nation at Risk.”
In the late 1980s, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics revised content and methods standards for the teaching of mathematics. At the same time, standards-based tests with rigorous math sections were included as part of the graduation requirements in many schools.
While tougher graduation requirements in mathematics have had a generally positive effect — improving overall math proficiency in the U.S. — many students are failing to graduate or go on to college because of them. This can have a profound effect on a young person’s future. For example, in 1997, the typical college graduate’s income was 73 percent higher, on average, than that of the typical high school graduate.
Back to Math Home