math surveys

What do students really think of math? And does it matter?

Such insights may help improve national math gains, experts say.

When it comes to interest in math, 51 percent of students participating in a recent survey said they are naturally interested, while 25 percent cited a good teacher sparked their interest, and 11 percent said the prospect of a better college and career path is what motivates them.

The figures come from a survey sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation and unveiled by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. All students in the survey are participants in the Moody’s Mega Math (M3) Challenge, a national mathematics competition that involves high school juniors and seniors committing a 14-hour weekend day to using mathematical modeling to recommend solutions for real-world problems.

When grappling with a mathematics problem, almost one-third said they keep at it until they come up with an answer, with two-thirds reaching out to a teacher, the internet or a friend. When learning math, 64 percent of students said understanding the underlying concepts behind the formulas works best for them, while 23 percent cited practice at solving math problems to be most effective.

The Moody’s survey follows the December 2016 unveiling of results of an international math quiz by Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that showed U.S. high school students lag behind their global peers in math, ranking 40th in math out of 72 countries last year. The U.S. score was down 17 points from 2009 and 20 points below the average of others taking the quiz, which saw Singapore come out on top, followed by Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada.

(Next page: How poor mathematics skills can determine college success)

Laura Ascione

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