Just for Teachers: The Importance of Math
No matter the time of year, math always finds a permanent spot on your never-ending to-do list. You know strong math foundations are critical, but how can you easily explain the importance of math to the students and families you serve? Whether building early childhood number sense or teaching AP Calculus, you play a big role in how math is perceived. Keep reading for simple talking points and free classroom resources.
Math by the numbers
Beyond daily life and future careers, mathematics is proven to have substantial impacts from a young age. Let’s add up a few reasons.
- 81% of students who fail a math class in 6th grade fail to graduate high school.
- Early math knowledge is a key predictor for later math success and college and career opportunities.
- Early knowledge of fractions and division predicts high school math achievement.
- Fact fluency speed is a significant predictor of standardized test performance.
- Math achievement alone explains a 30% to 60% variance in the chance of being “on track to college readiness.”
Why is math important for my students?
Students are behind
The 2022 Nation’s Report Card released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed that 4th- and 8th-grade mathematics scores had the largest decline since initial assessments in 1990. You experience this daily as you work to not only keep students on track but to help them catch up and make substantial learning gains.
Math impacts students’ futures
Strong math foundations set students up for productive citizenship and employment. Early math skills are “essential prerequisites” for career, college, and technical skills, and research shows taking advanced high school math courses (like algebra and geometry) influences future adult earnings.
Math improves thinking
Math fact automaticity frees up working memory, which allows your students to devote energy to advanced problem-solving and new skills. Math also helps students think critically and develop growth mindsets.
Why is math important to me as a teacher?
Your role is crucial
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) calls teachers “the crucial factor in high-quality mathematics teaching and learning.” No pressure, right? While overwhelming, continuous development and strong classroom practices can help you keep propelling students forward in math.
Your math knowledge matters
Harvard researchers found that teachers with deeper math knowledge provided “richer learning opportunities” for students, including clearer explanations, more insightful questioning, and better responses to students’ ambiguous comments.
According to NCTM, teachers must “develop, maintain, and deepen” their math and pedagogical knowledge. Professional development can help you grow, along with peer collaboration, evaluations from your administration, and trying new math strategies in the classroom.
Your mindset makes a difference
A Stanford study found that teachers who approached teaching with a growth mindset, believing all students could succeed at math, resulted in “dramatically improved” student test scores and math mindsets. A separate Stanford study found that elementary students with a “positive attitude toward math performed better in the subject.”
As a strong math teacher, you can help students connect math to everyday life and develop critical thinking skills to see math in real-world ways.
Class time and resources count
No matter your experience with math, research-based, easy-to-implement math tools can support instruction. NCTM notes that “ample instructional time is essential for mathematics learning,” advocating for increased math time on outside-of-school interventions and frequent planning time with other math teachers.
Why is math important for my school or district?
Funding and rankings
Math achievement measurements have impacts beyond your classroom walls. While each state, district, and community is different, test performance and graduation rates often impact school rankings and access to funding.
For example, multiple factors influence Texas school accountability rankings, including standardized test scores (including math), graduation-related milestones, school progress, and reduced achievement gaps. In New York, performance on math state tests impacts overall school quality snapshots and student achievement ratings. Talk to your administrator to learn more about your state’s specific guidelines.
Your daily efforts influence math mindsets and impact student learning in powerful ways. Never forget that your instruction paired with strong community and family engagement can undoubtedly “change the path for students.”
Math resources to try today
Adaptive technology helps students master math facts.Free 30-Day Trial
Game-based missions help students excel at fractions.Free 30-Day Trial
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