It may come as no surprise that math is more popular in a tech-savvy state like Washington than it is almost anywhere else in the country.
That’s according to a new survey that shows Washington and South Carolina tied at first place for math popularity, with 75% of respondents indicating they enjoy math.
The survey was released by homework-help website Brainly in time for World Maths Day on Oct. 15. The global “holiday” was declared in 2007 to encourage people around the world to appreciate math and engage in mental math gymnastics to keep their skills sharp.
“Not only is this good for your child’s development, but it helps you keep your brain engaged, healthy and strong!” a Brainly spokesperson wrote in a statement releasing the survey results.
According to Brainly, here are the top five states where Americans like math and the percentage of students who say they enjoy it:
1. South Carolina (75%)
2. Washington (75%)
3. New York (69%)
4. Kentucky (67%)
5. California (66%)
And here are the five states with the smallest percentage of students saying they like math:
46. Tennessee (59%)
47. New Jersey (57%)
48. Virginia (54%)
49. Arizona (53%)
50. Maryland (50%)
Individual states’ affinity for math notwithstanding, American students as a whole tend to fare worse in math than those in other countries, “due in large part to the weakness of math instruction here,” Ballard High School advanced-math teacher Ted Nutting wrote last year in a guest essay for The Seattle Times’ Education Lab.
One thing that could help is teaching kids to understand math concepts, rather than merely to memorize math facts, according to an Education Lab guest essay by Ana Redmond, the founder of infinut.com, which uses touchscreen games to teach math concepts to elementary-school children. In other words, kids should know not just “6+3=9” but “If there are six cars in the parking lot, and three more come in, there are now nine cars in the lot.”
“Math is not computation. Math is patterns and symbols that have meaning. Math is a means of communicating complex ideas,” Redmond wrote. “… As Albert Einstein famously said: ‘Any fool can know; the point is to understand.’”
Students quickly forget what they learn in a traditional algebra class, but linking algebra to real-world problems helps them retain the information, according to a study published in 2016 in Community College Review. In a growing national trend, math courses are being redesigned to be more relevant to students. Some schools, such as Seattle’s Foster High School, have made strides in test scores and graduation rates in part by transforming how they teach math.
Want to celebrate World Maths Day? Try a few mathematical puzzles, or grab a paper and pencil to do some skill-level-appropriate math problems with your kids.
For parents and students who don’t yet love math, Brainly offered some tips for making the skills less intimidating, more useful and more fun:
- Notice the math used in every day life, from measurements in recipes to timers on video games. “Showing a child that they’re already doing math will help them recognize that math is everywhere,” according to Brainly.
- Learn new skills yourself. Even if you can’t help with your kids’ homework — which Brainly reports 64% of parents struggle to do — seeing you persevere will encourage your kids to do the same.
- Buy or make a conversion chart that translates kilometers to miles, grams to ounces, or liters to gallons. While those may not be math skills people use every day in the U.S., they’re “extremely handy to know,” Brainly recommends.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.