Discussing Falling Math Test Scores In 2023 Shows How Ignorant Society and Media Are About Mathematics, Education, and Children

Sunil Singh
4 min readDec 5, 2023

If you haven’t heard by now, “alarm” bells have been going off about the declining math test scores according to PISA.

Here is the graph that is being used to put the nation in a panic state. The Globe and Mail headline refers to this line as a “steep decline”. Globe and Mail needs to go back to math class as to what the definition of “steep” is. But for low-hanging-fruit journalism, it might as well be this:

Math Test Scores According to Journalists and Politicians

Canada is still above average in comparison to other countries, but dammit, in this age of trying to squeeze out a story in the most provocative way with the least amount of relevance, enter low-rent, click bait journalism. We’re not talking just one political pole — everyone wants to jump into the scrum of declining math scores, and offer their two cents of complete and utter bullshit.

Pink Floyd has sold over 30 million copies of The Wall, which aimed its crosshairs at the authoritarian motives of education — which still exist today.

Pink Floyd was correct. Every media type who has ever printed an article about math education never bothered to to listen to the band or that album.

Art always trumps media, government, and education.

Always.

It has been painful to read some of the drivel. It’s all full of nonsense around “back to basics” and more emphasis on STEM. Did you ever come to think that kids HATE writing tests. That kids are getting exhausted being tested. That kids give zero fucks about their scores?

Did any journalist ever take that into consideration? No.

The problem is NOT so much of HOW mathematics is taught. The problem is more — and has been for decades — WHAT is taught. The mathematics in most K to 12 schools is boring.

I should know, I quit teaching ten years ago because of that very reason — and I got paid. Imagine the torture students have to go through to wade through the asinine journey of multiplying decimals(by hand), memorizing times tables, long division, painful mnemonic memory aids like FOIL, CAST, SOHCAHTOA, etc. I am too bored to even expand on what any of them are. Just know they are the usual suspects in the crime known as contemporary math education.

Why are scores falling? Well, one, IF you care, it’s because NOBODY but out-of-touch, profiting adults cares about such things.

You know where journalists and politicians stand here in relation to mathematics? Of course you do. Clever vandals. And vandals in general are not interested in depth or nuance, they are only interested in winning at all costs. Hence, mathematics education is about compliance and transactional learning of the most out-dated concepts about learning mathematics.

Both my kids are in high school. When they were young, they loved math. Now they hate it. I don’t blame them — as I hate it more.

There is no past, present, or future in math education. There is no discussion/teaching of its thematic development through every race, culture, and civilization. There is no discussion/teaching of current dilemnas/problems. There is no discussion as to what future mathematics problems might arise/need to be solved.

That’s because mathematics in schools is a skeletal remain of what mathematics truly is. It might has well have fallen from the sky 100 years ago, dropped in a test tube by aliens, landing on some remote beach.

Mathematics has no origin in schools and its purpose for learning it is so anachronistic and authoritarian, that the ONLY response when test scores start to fall is go into panic mode.

Kids hate math. Kids have hated math for generations. You can change all the methodology you want, but until you make the mathematics captivating, rich, relevant, and purposeful, kids will feign interest — especially on a test.

It’s not about test scores. Even if every student on the planet got “perfect”, what kind of society are we going to create for the future that will help us get out of this divisive miasma that has blanked the planet for the last five years.

If you are concerned about declining test scores, you are only concerned that we are not going to have enough clever vandals to out duel each other.

Sunil Singh is an author, math educator, and International speaker on the power and beauty of rich mathematics.

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