“I’m just not good at math….” Common statement. Often with a giggle or a shrug. And, widely accepted. Well, stop it. Please.
When our children pick up on this cop-out, they’re in trouble and so are we. I’m not talking about differential calculus, hyperplanes, matrix equations, chaos theory, algorithms or other forms of higher mathematics. Sure, algorithms are important in our high-tech data-driven computerized society. But this is not about anything highfalutin.
I’m worried about school kids give up off before they can add or subtract or multiply. I’m worried about students who will graduate and can’t manage their ATM card. I’m worried about young graduates going into the workforce unable to calculate a 2 percent raise. Or a 20 percent off sale. I’m worried about all those credit card solicitations and, when you get your first credit card, you end up in a debt spiral because you’re befuddled by the interest rates.
These problems often start in elementary school when a student or a handful or students, in a class of 30, get behind and check-out. They may barely get by, or they may go on to middle school or even high school just as lost and stuck in a word of math illiteracy. Imagine not being able to read or write. Now imagine a world where numbers are like a foreign language you can’t decipher. There is a clear link between how a student performs in 8th grade math and whether they graduate. Yet, according to the Anchorage School District data dashboard, math is the most common class to get an “F” in.
The bottom line is that basic math is critical. Not just because you need it to graduate. But to get by in life. That’s why United Way and our partners are working to make sure that at-risk students are getting the help they need to pass math.
There are ways you can help. Remind the kids in your life about the importance of math in their daily life and future careers. Help with homework. Let the teacher know your child needs help. Get a tutor. Volunteer in class. Call us and we’ll give you ideas.