What do Americans have against math?

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Irony seems to flourish in tough times.

In a week in which the stock market is schooling us on the power of subtraction, comes a study today that says Americans have no respect for math.

The study in the Notices of the American Mathematic Society says the United States fails to encourage its students in math, fails to identify and encourage kids who could become the world’s top scientists and engineers, and the few girls that do succeed are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries that don’t consider math experts “nerds.”

Ouch.

The study said tests designed to identify math-gifted kids identified “bright” kids, but not necessarily mathematically-gifted ones. And it said the tests filtered out kids with math ability if they were poor… or, as the study said, “(students)who lacked one or more of the socio-economically privileged environmental factors necessary to be recognized by this mechanism.”

China. Romania. Russia. Korea. The list of the brightest kids in math in the United States were actually the children with roots in those countries.

U.S. kids are not taught to write “rigorous essay-style proofs,” the study said, and it seemed to suggest the only decent math being taught is at “math camps,” which won’t get you a prom date in our culture.


When asked why, a typical response is, “Only Asians and nerds do math extracurricularly).” In other words, it is deemed uncool within the social context of USA middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism. Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.

Every parent in America could change this starting today. Why don’t we want to?

(Photo: Getty Images)