Behind the Headline: Montgomery County Math Team Elevates Math to Competitive Sport

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Montgomery County Math Team Elevates Math to Competitive Sport
Washington Post| August 5, 2012

Behind the Headline
Teaching Math to the Talented
Education Next | Winter 2011

 High school math teams are a bright spot in what is otherwise a bleak outlook for the United States in mathematics, notes Ariana Eunjung Cha. Her article, in Sunday’s Washington Post, takes readers inside an elite math team in Montgomery County, Md. made up of future Marc Zuckerbergs and Sergey Brins. (Brin competed on the Montgomery County team while in high school, and Zuckerberg competed on a top-ranked team at Exeter.)

But will the U.S. continue to educate enough of these superstar math students?   According to a study published in the Winter 2011 issue of Education Next, the U.S. trails other developed countries in producing high-achieving math students. The study found that 30 of the 56 other countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) math test, including most of the world’s industrialized nations, had a larger percentage of students who scored at the international equivalent of the advanced level on our own National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.

Are more competitons the way to get more top math students? In the Summer 2010 issue of Ed Next, June Kronholz wrote about the growth of academic competitions – bees, bowls, and Olympiads, in the U.S .  She noted

Americans thrive on competition. It’s why our phones are smarter, our farms are more productive, our athletes run faster, our pop stars are raunchier, and our lives tend to be better—except for the raunchy pop stars—every year. But American schools have been suspicious of competition for generations, and are generally horrified by the idea that success should be accompanied by a reward like a title, a trophy, or a cash prize.

-Education Next

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