Why the United States of America is unsuccessful in teaching mathematics to its students


Mathematics is the language of God, for it is the science of how the natural world functions, how it is structured, and how it evolves and changes over time, whether that be through understanding gravity, how populations of organisms are altered over time, or how various chemicals react with one another. A vast quantity of mathematical discoveries has been procured in history, including compound interest and the Riemann Hypothesis, along with the emergence of influential mathematicians including the ancient Ionian polymath of Greece, Pythagoras, and Aryabhata of India. 

In the 20th century, Alan Turing, an English mathematician and cryptologist, deciphered the German Enigma during World War II. It was the world’s very knowledge of science and mathematics that allowed us to combat environmental catastrophes, be introduced into outer space, and industrialize our societies. Now, one could argue that considering all of the mathematicians and the mathematical discoveries that have emerged throughout human history, students in the U.S. and abroad would be fairly well-versed in mathematics. However, that conception is far from the truth for most American students. 

In 2022, the median SAT score of students in the U.S. was 1050, with a median of 529 for evidence-based reading and writing and a median of 521 in mathematics. You may claim that since most American students perform more robustly in evidence-based reading and writing than in math, it is a positive gospel. To a certain degree, that statement would be true. Since its fledgling state, the United States has been internationally recognized for its knowledge in the humanities. However, we have not maintained an equivocal efficacy with math. 

The U.S. scored 478 in mathematics compared to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) average of 480. The OECD is a forum where delegates of 37 democratic governments with market-based economies convene to elaborate policy standards that assist in the maintenance of sustainable economic developments worldwide. Estonia’s average OECD score in mathematics, meanwhile, was 523. On the global scale, the U.S. places 38th out of 71 countries in math. 

Isolating statistics from the discussion, I have enrolled in a multitude of online mathematics courses, predominantly the Russian School of Mathematics. The rigor in this institution’s classes is much higher compared to the American school system, and the content is substantially more accelerated. The courses challenge the thinking of the student, providing complex problems that require the students’ utmost concentration and ability to connect subjects. In the U.S., most schools do not challenge their students adequately in mathematics, and even science, for that matter. Students are not guided in utilizing their intuition and/or critical thinking capabilities when approaching higher-range mathematics problems. 

My suggestion to the lack of emphasis on mathematics in the U.S. is to devote more funds toward upgrading and heightening education. Schools could begin teaching subjects such as statistics and high-level algebra to students toward their later years of middle school, thereby allowing students to transition into calculus courses during the beginning years of high school. Enlightening students with advanced mathematics curriculum in schools throughout the nation will considerably contribute to a first-rate education that is provided to students. A lack of emphasis on academic areas including science and mathematics will only inhibit us from advancing our civilization, technologically and economically. Therefore, we need to ensure a rigorous and challenging mathematics curriculum in the U.S. to enhance the critical thinking and problem-solving abilities of most American students.