US Math School Education Is in Crisis


School education is the social institution that most of all influences the lives of children and adolescents. Therefore, the high quality of all aspects of schooling is crucial for the thriving well-being of society. However, recent data show that math education in the United States is in serious trouble. Richards notes that “the latest results of an international exam given to teenagers ranked the USA ninth in reading and 31st in math literacy out of 79 countries and economies.”

The current generation of teachers and other education-related specialists have a duty to society to rectify the situation. According to Toulmin, a thesis statement needs to be formulated to clarify and analyze the issue. Math education in US schools has several critical structural and conceptual problems, and the situation will only worsen if not some reform is undertaken.

Meta Issue of US Math Education

One of the structural problems of math education in US schools is of a Meta nature. It is the uncertainty of K-12 math education at primary, secondary, or high levels. Experts involved in educational structures argue that uncertainty is most of all characteristic of the measures applied to achieve K-12 curriculum goals, especially in terms of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (Holmlund et al. 16).

Holmlund et al., “visioning, however, is insufficient, as what is envisioned and what is implemented are often very different” (17). It and the fact that many math teachers have more knowledge about the nuances of communication with students than mathematical models and formulas contribute to students’ decreasing performance in this discipline.

US Math Education Is Still in the Past

Another reason for the crisis in the current US math schooling is that it is outdated. According to Levitt, “most high-school math classes are still preparing students for the Sputnik era.” The formal education system still adheres to the “geometry sandwich,” when students start to learn algebra in high school, while other countries have long abandoned this approach or significantly reformed it (Richards). Data science is a current trend in mathematics and related disciplines such as programming.

Moreover, experts say that this branch of science will be relevant for a very long time (Levitt). Learners need to know the principles and nuances of data fluency to integrate into society and the economy successfully. It is what current math school education in the US is lacking.

Current Approach to Math Education in Schools Is Out of Touch with Reality

It is safe to say that those aspects of school education that are conventionally considered modern are, in fact, out of touch with reality. Levitt says, “the math tools I see people around me actually using, seem to have nothing to do with what my kids are learning in school.” Students will never need most of the formulas and theories that are taught to them currently in classes in their personal and professional activities. Richards argues that students should be given space to get creative in solving math problems instead of rigorously cramming educational materials.

It is what will provide students with an understanding of mathematical principles and models. It is also worth noting that creativity is the path to independence. It is one of the essential qualities in adult life that students, especially high schoolers, should develop before entering adulthood.

A Counterargument

Conversely, one might say that the learning expectations of the US math school education are too high, and students’ performance is good in reality. As noted above, the education system still has some models and standards from the time of the Space Race. Researchers claim that this time was the peak of the STEM disciplines in the US (ARGunners Magazine). The counterargument is another educational system that also was highly efficient during the Space Race.

The Russian education system was able not only to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union but also to improve. “The growing PISA math scores” show that students’ performance in STEM disciplines is getting better with each year (Froumin and Remorenko 247). A comparison of similar cases shows that math school education in the US has critical structural issues; it is not a matter of perception.


This paper explores the structural problems of US math school education and proves the thesis that it is in crisis. Provided evidence shows that the field of education needs significant changes for schools to continue to give millions of young Americans the high-quality knowledge they need to enter into adulthood and higher education safely.

The last notable effort was the Common Core, but this educational reform has been labeled as controversial. More than a decade has passed, and no unambiguous improvements have been observed in the US school educational system. Perhaps policymakers should look at the educational systems of the European Union countries with which the US shares common cultural patterns. There are other successful examples, such as Russia, South Korea, Australia, and Canada. Either way, it is obvious that fundamental changes are needed.

Works Cited

“America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up (Ep. 391).” Freakonomics, uploaded by Steven D. Levitt. 2019. Web.

ARGunners Magazine. “How the Cold War Affected Education in the United States.ARGunners, 2020. Web.

Froumin, Isak, and Igor Remorenko. “From the “Best-in-the World” Soviet School to a Modern Globally Competitive School System.” Audacious Education Purposes, edited by Fernando M. Reimers, 2020, pp. 233-250.

Holmlund, Tamara D., et al. “Making Sense of “STEM Education.” in K-12 contexts.” International Journal of STEM Education, vol. 5, no.1, 2018, pp. 1-18. Web.

Richards, Erin. “Math Scores Stink in America. Other Countries Teach It Differently – And See Higher Achievement.USA Today. 2020. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "US Math School Education Is in Crisis." October 13, 2023.