While test scores on the national scale disappointed many American educators in 2017, causing them to question their ability to prepare their students adequately for assessment, there is one state that came out on top and rivaled some serious international participants – even Singapore. Massachusetts state has been pioneering education in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) for years, and recent results of the international PISA tests showed their contributions are not going unrewarded. While they still have room to improve in math, especially if they’re going to continue competing internationally, it’s important for the rest of the country to look to them as an example.
It has been 25 years since the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, focusing on developing students’ proficiency in the maths and sciences. What’s resulted is the state proudly holding the #1 spot in the country for over a decade, making graduates from Massachusetts high schools more prepared to pursue post-secondary study in fields with high career development opportunities and jobs like engineering or IT. Experts in mathematics pedagogy like those at Knowledgehook will tell you that this improvement did not happen overnight. It requires teachers to become stronger, and encourages parents to take a more active role in helping their children’s success along.
By comparison to others, Massachusetts is a relatively wealthy state, and not every school district in the country can invest in such substantial curricular changes, but what they can do is take small steps towards improving their students’ understanding of and engagement with tough subjects. One way to do this is by asking students to use their knowledge to solve real, tangible problems right in front of them. Another way is providing teachers with tools for creating lesson plans, especially those that may feel ill-equipped to teach subjects beyond their own expertise. As well, teachers should be given a clear idea about what types of learning their students respond best to.
Individual schools can introduce educational applications into the classroom to help students with retention that cost substantially less than revamping their whole curriculum. These apps can help educators begin to tackle a large-scale problem quickly. Students engage with mathematics by participating in games and adventures – the results of which are recorded to assess performance day to day. By recording students’ answers, teachers can see which activities promote the most optimal results and can take tips from the app to make their own lessons more effective. Parents can even help their children along by doing practice questions with them at home.
Many educators across the United States want to see their students’ math scores improve, and while they can appreciate Massachusetts state’s success, they’re not always privy to the same resources. What will inspire them is the proactive attitude the state has taken over the past two and a half decades, and research what programs they can implement, using the budgets available to them, to make a positive and lasting change, and improve the academic experience of the younger generation.