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Students’ reading and math scores are abysmal. So why is only one getting attention?

U.S. students’ math scores lag behind also dreary reading ones and have struggled even before the pandemic, but changes to the math curriculum to combat the problem have been slow moving.  

Over the past few years, reading curricula have seen changes in dozens of states, as lawmakers and experts have united around the “science of reading” to improve literacy and fight learning loss.

But similar efforts have not manifested for math, despite lower scores in national assessments, and some experts say that’s because this is one problem that can’t be fixed with new state laws.

“There are places where this science of reading has been legislated, right? But it’s a frightening thing to think that the same thing could happen for mathematics, because there isn’t, like I said, one clean answer here,” said Ted Coe, a mathematics expert with the Northwest Evaluation Association, an education research organization.  

“But so much of the mathematics that we teach and learn depends on so many factors, and it would be a frightening thing if somebody tried to legislate how to teach mathematics,” Coe added.

Program for International Student Assessment results showed U.S. students hit an all-time low in their math scores last year, while reading scores appear to have plateaued. Out of 81 countries, the U.S. was sixth in reading and 26th in math.

“I think that the science of reading has captured the imagination of the public in part because parents and adults understand the value of literacy to their own well-being as citizens and employees. And as parents, they’re able to help their students with reading,” said Michelle Stie, who works on program design and innovation at the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).

“So math does sometimes get a little short shift in our imagination, maybe because of our own experience and in school. But I do think [the emphasis on] reading is because it is something that we all know and appreciate the value of, and it does capture our imagination,” Stie added.

And student’s math problems haven’t been completely ignored at the state level.

Read more at The Hill