Problem solving is a critical 21st Century skill and Gastonia middle schoolers are being left behind.
The performance of Gaston County Schools (GCS) students on recent standardized tests is evidence of the need to strengthen science and mathematics education. The 1,807 students who attend middle school within Gastonia city limits make up 26% of the GCS middle school population. Those schools are Southwest, Grier and York Chester Middle Schools.
According to the district’s 2016 report card, less than 3 in 10 of these students are on track to be college or career ready by the time they graduate high school. Less than 50% of our children are on track to be college or career ready in science and just 24% are on the right track in math.
The math scores are the most staggering of all.
TWENTY. FOUR. PERCENT.
So, what’s up with math?
“Students are often good at answering the first layer of a problem in the United States,” said Schleicher. “But as soon as students have to go deeper and answer the more complex part of a problem, they have difficulties.”
Before you get started, this is not the place to debate about “putting too much emphasis” on mathematics or STEM. This is about basic middle school math, the kind you’ll actually use.
For a recent article published by the Associated Press, Jennifer C. Kerr, interviewed Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD (the organization that presents performance data about average and medium term trends in Science, Mathematics, and Reading) about why American students are failing math. “Students are often good at answering the first layer of a problem in the United States,” said Schleicher. “But as soon as students have to go deeper and answer the more complex part of a problem, they have difficulties.” In other words, they don’t understand.
You can check out the results for yourself here.
As the parent of a middle schooler, you may feel isolated and discouraged when it comes to helping your child understand math, but you are not alone and there are many things you can do to help your student succeed. Below are some tips to help you get your middle schooler on the right track.
DO Subscribe To and Read the newsletters distributed by your child’s teachers. These newsletters are not just about upcoming events. They are packed with information on what your child is learning, what homework they will have, and links to resources for extra help.
DON’T do your child’s homework for them. Your middle schooler is learning to understand abstract concepts and ideas. Instead, if your child is having a hard time focusing, engage them in conversation about the homework. Additionally, having conversations with your child about the why of a word problem will help her to focus on concepts, instead of procedures which will help to deepen your child’s understanding; this will be key to success in high school math.
DO study and go over notes from class daily. Your child needs to learn good study habits. Having your child read through notes from class helps them to develop good study habits. This also presents an opportunity to discuss anything that your child does not understand.
DON’T hesitate to ask for extra help. Schedule a conference, hire a tutor, or enroll your student in an after school program that offers project-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning opportunities. Project-based STEAM learning provides an opportunity for your child to apply what they are learning in school to the real-world, deepening their understanding.
By Ciera Mack, eSTEAM Club (Esther’s STEM + Art Club)