Asymptotic Education This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 20, 2008
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“We’re going to start this year with a review of fractions!” The fact that my sister is hearing that sentence in fifth grade is discouraging. Her class hasn’t even started utilizing variables, though my fourth-grade cousin in India is solving quadratic equations. Still, we continue to ask ourselves why American children are becoming less interested in mathematics and science.

Being an Indian-American has helped me see the perilous shortcomings of U.S. public education compared to other nations. The learning curve is a term referring to the relationship between time and the amount of knowledge learned. In American school curricula these days, such a curve can be best ­described as exponential, while those of other countries are much more sensibly linear. The potential of students is completely disregarded with drawn-out emphasis on basic concepts in math and science in early years. Then, to make up for lost time and match the standards of other nations, America has only one option: bombard students with advanced trigonometry and calculus from ninth grade onward.

In no way is such a workload impossible to manage; however, students have to exert a considerable effort to get through the concepts. For the world to ever think positively of U.S. math and science education, student learning has to involve developing an interest in the topics – not simply getting a good grade. Math and science ­especially test one’s reasoning and logic capabilities. Limiting the ­development of these skills so early in children’s lives restricts their potential, forever causing them to struggle and lose the desire to learn.

Though students might be more challenged in elementary schools if curriculums were enhanced, it is undoubtedly better for students to have lower grades on elementary school report cards than college transcripts. Ultimately, kids in American elementary schools should be allotting less time to decorating posters and more to reading beneficial books and learning. Otherwise, students may never reach their ultimate goals, but stay as lone asymptotes to the ever-advancing world around them.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 19 comments. Post your own now!

Ken W. said...
Jun. 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm
It is true that the U.S has a lower standard in Math and Science. However, the U.S. excell in many other areas. Looking in only one area is a shortcome of this essay. However, I do agress with the point in this essay. The U.S. should start upping the standards in math from the start.
HopefulWolf This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

Math is not my strong point, and I see nothing wrong with that. America allows children to explore various interests, not just the subjects society views as important. I am aware math is neccessary, but quadratic equations for a fourth grader?

The U.S. school system puts enough pressure on kids as it is.

J. Rae said...
Aug. 15, 2010 at 12:51 pm
This is greatly written, and I totally agree. But I don't like how you keep saying "America". It isn't America that is lowering the standards just to pass student on. It's American government, and the teachers. I'm sure that many people in America would love to make our education better, but we don't really have a choice. Since we are forced to go to public schools in our disrtict, if we choose not to go to private, there isn't any reason for the schools to do better. It's not like we could go t... (more »)
Nevin D. replied...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm
Well, I have to disagree with you in some respects: if the majority of people in America were complaining that their children were being undertaught, government would listen. The school system is highly based on public opinion and knowledge and the notion of Western society that when the majority of elementary school children, as they do, come home and seem to struggle with their homework that they are incapable of doing more. Moreover, most Westerners don't see the stuggle pmost high schoolers ... (more »)
serena said...
May 24, 2010 at 8:15 pm

 I agree. I'm two years ahead of my age group and I'm mostly into reading and english and that kind of thing, I don't like math in general, but I love algebra. I think science is very interesting. (my parents are both geologists--that might say something.) 

I think that the review in everything is just useless. It doesn't help anyone to learn; they already know and the time would be better spent learning something new.

I think i would be more interested in math (i love... (more »)

Nevin D. replied...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 3:28 pm
I suggest doing some self-study, taking  books out of the library, especially AP review books meant for the high school learner, if you want to learn calculus and explore. Though, by your comments that you don't like math in general but you like algebra, it seems you haven't gotten that far into math to realize that basically the premise of all math is the same - the application of axiomatic principles toward the conclusion of something more complex. Maybe in algebra class you see the... (more »)
kale-style said...
May 17, 2010 at 9:25 am
I myself, though I was put into the "advanced" group of kids throughout elementary school, found  and still find myself bored out of my skull, especially at the beginning of the year, when review is the new black--it's everywhere. Even this year, a year ahead as a 9th grader in 10th grade Geometry, at the start of the year, we were reviewing mean, median, mode/fractions, etc.! This is too slow--America needs to kick up quite a few notches to keep kids and teens interested.
Nevin D. replied...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm
I completely agree!
Thinker said...
May 12, 2010 at 12:58 pm
Love the algebric allusion!
Thinker said...
May 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm
I actually enroled in a college math program to make up for the math I am missing, I have always liked math and science, in fact I am at a tech school to learn more. The fact of the matter is that the subjects with the least logic put behind there curricula are Math and Science. It's as if writing and art are the only valuabe education programs left in the US. People think less of me because I have technical tallent! They will tell me that I go to the "Stupid School", even though I am enrolled i... (more »)
Nevin D. replied...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm
I think that perception is simply cused by the fact that most kids believe that technical schools are trade schools that kids who need more assistance with subjects and therefore likely need a jumpstart n their career go to. I agree that this perception is unfair to those who may be going to a gifted technical school rather than an assistance-oriented one, though at the same time, I think the best science and math high schools are public ones that emphasize (and rightly so) a well-rounded ... (more »)
nancydrewgirl replied...
Dec. 30, 2011 at 1:08 am
And yet it's the English and the Arts programs that are having all of their funding cut off. You make some good points, but what you fail to recognize is that the US actually places Math and Science in higher regard than the arts. We are fighting to keep our Liberal Arts programs running while the STEM programs recieve all the money we are lacking. Art is being pushed out of schools and shunted to the side. I'm not saying that Math isn't important, because it is, but don't you dare say that a... (more »)
TheUnknownGuest said...
Jul. 30, 2009 at 2:37 am
You make me think. Thanks! And science has been my favorite subject since 5th grade and I just finished 8th grade. I just started getting good grades in the end of 8th grade too.
Nevin D. replied...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm
glad to hear it!
stranger101 said...
Jul. 29, 2009 at 10:41 pm
Your article is very well written and presents a good point for those elementary students who do have the potential and capability to understand more than basic math concepts. However, I think it is harsh to claim that the American system's emphasis on math basics puts them behind. When I was in elementary I needed that reinforcement in the basics to be able to understand and pass math. I then gained a solid understanding which allowed me to enter pre-algebra in sixth grade and now I am takin... (more »)
Leila replied...
Feb. 18, 2010 at 8:16 am
this article is very well written and presents several important points with firm logic and reason, uncommon among TeenInk opinion articles, which are filled with editorial-like writing from some third-rated newspaper.
Nevin replied...
Feb. 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm
thanks Leila. In response to stranger101, I think your standards as to what is basic and advanced are being skewed like so many others by American ideals. Pre-Algebra and basic concepts prior to it involve arithmetic and number theory that are essential to all types of higher level math. While I admit some people like yourself might need much practice with these concepts before they grasp them, you can gain such practice while applying algebra and geometry in elementary school. This might cause ... (more »)
firstsnowfalls This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 19, 2009 at 12:45 am
Very true. Thanks for the insight. I agree. It is the same way in many other countries, like Australia, where their educational systems are much more well-run,
Abigail_W replied...
Dec. 2, 2009 at 2:11 pm
I could not agree with you more.
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