With math scores falling globally, top high school math students point to academic burnout as a key factor. Among their recommended solutions to boost math performance? Tackle the root cause of burnout, get diversion through non-academic activities, and make STEM classes more applicable to everyday life.
That’s the finding of a survey of 16- to 18-year-olds in the U.S. and U.K. conducted in March by Philadelphia-based Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). The survey gathered responses from 1,000 11th and 12th grade students from across the U.S. and sixth form students in England and Wales, as well as some of their teachers, to get their insights on the impact events of the last three years have had on math performance. The students queried are participants in this year’s MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge (M3 Challenge), an annual internet-based, intensive math modeling contest organized by SIAM.
“The poll shows that even top students have been struggling with school-related pressures, with 83 percent saying that they have experienced or somewhat experienced academic burnout in the last two years, and 32 percent saying their anxiety over math has increased,” said Dr. Karen Bliss, Senior Manager of Education and Outreach at SIAM. “Yet, rather than following the downward math performance trend, the majority still did well in math, with 35 percent landing even better math grades than previous years and 55 percent maintaining their average.”
Bliss explained that by exploring the motivation and practices behind the survey participants’ academic success, the SIAM study may help other students boost their math scores.
According to the survey, the majority (57 percent) of students queried said that motivation to get into a good college or university is what helped sustain their interest in math over the last few years. For 35 percent of respondents, getting a scholarship or a good-paying job was a motivating factor.
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