Ensure Your Children Learn Math

A strong mathematics background is critical in today’s economy, so what can parents do to ensure their children learn the mathematics they need to succeed?

First, make sure that your child gets into the strongest math courses they can at the earliest possible grade. Unfortunately many students are “tracked” into weaker math courses as early as fourth grade, and most are between sixth and eighth grade. Once your child has been placed in classes with a weaker curriculum, it’s extremely difficult for them to ever catch up. Early placement can have a powerful effect on long-run success.

Second, find out what mathematics content they are getting in the classroom. Just because a class is labeled “Algebra I” doesn’t mean that they’re really learning algebra! Compare what studying at each grade with what’s in the Common Core Math Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics), which are based on the curricula of the top-achieving countries and have been adopted by nearly every state. If your child isn’t getting grade-appropriate math, discuss it with your child’s teacher, and if that doesn’t work with school administrators. You’d be amazed at the impact involved parents can have on schools.

-William H. Schmidt is University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University and author of Inequality for All