The New York Times has an article today, “Math Skills Suffer in U.S., Study Finds“, which announces an upcoming article in the Notices of the AMS by Janet Mertz, Jonathan Kane, Joseph Gallian, and Titu Andreescu. The Times writes:

The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.

Previous studies have used math SAT scores to measure mathematical ability. However this is not a good measure when looking at top performers, since typically they all get 800’s. In this study the authors look at data from the Mathematical Olympiad and the Putnam exam.

For example, they point out that only three American high school girls have competed in the Mathematical Olympiad since 1974 when the US began sending teams. They contrast that with Bulgaria, East Germay/Germay and the Soviet Union/Russia whose IMO teams have included 9, 10 and 13 girls since 1974, respectively.

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Fortunately there are some of us fighting against this sad state of affairs. Math Circles are springing up around the country (http://www.mathcircles.org) and in Dallas we are particularly fortunate because Dr. Titu Andreescu, one of the study’s authors, has founded the Metroplex Math Circle (http://www.metroplexmathcircle.org) which has attracted and encouraged many young men and women.

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metroplexmathcircleon October 11, 2008at 11:56 pm