Behind the Headline: The Math Revolution

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The Math Revolution
The Atlantic | March 2016

Behind the Headline
Game Plan for Learning
Education Next | Spring 2016

In this month’s Atlantic, Peg Tyre writes about the remarkable number of American students performing at extremely high levels in math and looks at how they got there. She writes

You wouldn’t see it in most classrooms, you wouldn’t know it by looking at slumping national test-score averages, but a cadre of American teenagers are reaching world-class heights in math—more of them, more regularly, than ever before. The phenomenon extends well beyond the handful of hopefuls for the Math Olympiad. The students are being produced by a new pedagogical ecosystem—almost entirely extracurricular—that has developed online and in the country’s rich coastal cities and tech meccas. In these places, accelerated students are learning more and learning faster than they were 10 years ago—tackling more-complex material than many people in the advanced-math community had thought possible.

Tyre visits some of the settings where this extracurricular math learning takes place–math camps, math circles, math competitions, contests, websites, chatrooms, and afterschool programs. She notes

Parents of students in the accelerated-math community, many of whom make their living in stem fields, have enrolled their children in one or more of these programs to supplement or replace what they see as the shallow and often confused math instruction offered by public schools, especially during the late-elementary and middle-school years.

Tyre looks at how and why the instruction in these extracurricular programs differs from the instruction offered in a typical school math class. She concludes

Perhaps the moment is right for members of the advanced-math community, who have been so successful in developing young math minds, to step in and show more educators how it could be done.


An article in the new issue of Education Next looks at the role of academic games, contests and competitions in motivating students, particularly at the high school level.

In the article, Greg Toppo, the author of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter, digs into the writings of sociologist James Coleman on how interscholastic academic contests could engage American high schoolers in learning.

The article is part of an Education Next series commemorating the 50th anniversary of James S. Coleman’s groundbreaking report, “Equality of Educational Opportunity.”

– Education Next

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