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College Students Are Struggling With Basic Math and Professors Are Blaming the Pandemic

College Students Are Struggling With Basic Math and Professors Are Blaming the Pandemic

“We’re talking about college-level pre-calculus and calculus classes, and students cannot even add one-half and one-third.”

I bet every one of these students struggling with math is completely up to speed on equity, gender, social justice, etc.

FOX News reports:

College students are struggling with basic math, many stuck at 9th grade level; professors blame the pandemic

Many students who lacked hands-on, in-person teachings due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and school closures are now struggling with basic math at the college level, according to some professors.

“Years of academy training wasted,” Buzz Lightyear once famously said, but that fictitious line is now the reality for students at George Mason University, Temple University and other colleges across the country who once excelled at math and have been forced to relearn the basics as pandemic schooling failed to reinforce their learning.

Other schools are grappling with the same problem as academic setbacks from the pandemic have followed students to campus. At many universities, engineering and biology majors struggle to grasp basic functions such as fractions and exponents.

Some students are even being placed into pre-college math, starting a semester or more behind their programs’ requirements. Others are taking proactive action to avoid potential setbacks.

George Mason University said an alarming number of students were arriving with gaps in their math skills, and fewer students are getting into calculus — the first college-level course for some majors — and more are failing. Students who fall behind often disengage, disappearing from class.

“This is a huge issue,” Maria Emelianenko, chair of George Mason’s math department, told The Associated Press. “We’re talking about college-level pre-calculus and calculus classes, and students cannot even add one-half and one-third.”

The issue became so prevalent that the northern Virginia school is hosting a week-long Math Boot Camp to help catch students up on math lessons that did not stick during pandemic schooling.

[Added by FS: Who could have seen maths illiteracy coming? Oh, right, everyone.]




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If this were a JC I could understand it but why is George Mason admitting students who are stuck on 9th grade mathematics? Furthermore why isn’t the K-12 school district they graduated from footing the bill for the necessary remedial coursework to teach these unprepared students what they should have learned in when the students were in their charge? Sending the bill to the K-12 school districts whose graduates are unable to demonstrate subject matter mastery seems very fair and would likely be effective in aligning the incentives of the teachers and administrators with those of the students.

    It seems that the American left (that is, communists and their Chicomm handlers) have won the day.

    With GOPe rats like McConnell, Romney (Mittens and Ronna), Boehner and the like no wonder the left breezed in its slither into power in every instution in America.

    Keep an eye on McCarthy: he appears to be folding.

      Local school boards can reverse a good deal of it. So can State Board of Education, especially so in the six States where the members are elected. So can State legislatures and Gov in States with ‘strong’ Gov. Which means voters have to do their part instead of being passive or in many cases complacent. Sure the teachers unions and big ED will push back and use the placement of the local elections off cycle in Spring to maximize their organizational advantage but it isn’t impossible, just harder to do. Putting our faith in Congress to fix local schools seems like a bad idea.

        stella dallas in reply to CommoChief. | September 9, 2023 at 8:47 pm

        ” Putting our faith in Congress to fix local schools seems like a bad idea.”
        Not only a bad idea but the Constitution does not give the power to the federal government.

    Still believe that there isn’t an active plan to dumb down Americans so that a majority of us will vote ourselves into the NWO?

      CommoChief in reply to pfg. | September 2, 2023 at 6:03 pm

      Dumb down? No. Replace legitimate education with propaganda? Yes.

        The Laird of Hilltucky in reply to CommoChief. | September 2, 2023 at 6:27 pm

        Isn’t that a distinction without a difference?

          One is based on direct efforts while the other is a symptom or secondary effect. The teachers unions and big ED have demanded and gotten huge amounts of $ thrown at them but little to no improvement in Student performance. IMO, most of that is due to poor quality teachers and stupid policies that deter excellence and merit in the classroom. The ideology of DEI/CRT is the main problem with decline in student performance as a secondary impact. Remove the propaganda and return to demanding excellence and performance will improve. People generally respond to incentives and will meet the standard set for them. Whether it is a high or a low standard most people will try and reach it, the folks that won’t aren’t worth worrying about until they decide to reform their attitude and actually try to meet the standard.

    henrybowman in reply to CommoChief. | September 2, 2023 at 6:24 pm

    “why is George Mason admitting students who are stuck on 9th grade mathematics?”
    How would they know?
    School systems like Baltimore’s pass everybody regardless of performance, and SATs are rayciss.

    A 4 year degree now requiring 5 years is a 25% increase in revenue per student.

    healthguyfsu in reply to CommoChief. | September 2, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    I live in the state. George Mason and VT are in some kind of dick measuring contest to see who bring in larger classes. It’s gotten so bad that the schools are putting freshmen up in hotel rooms because they don’t have enough dorm space for their admission classes.

    It’s wreaking havoc across the whole state’s system (system is more figurative than literal because the commonwealth does not have a University system).

Basic math takes place in grades 1-4. The pandemic happened a few years ago for these college age students,
Something here is not adding up.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to herm2416. | September 2, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    The way basic math is taught in this country is a disgrace. Back when California schools were in the top rankings, way back in the 1950s and 1960s, the methods shown were horrid. Our Hungarian refugee students, and ones from Asia and Germany FLEW through the tests, then were marked down for not doing the problems using the method being taught. There were a lot of fights over that.

I can see why math isn’t pushed. First off, a calculator in every device is such a wonderful convenience that it has diluted our ability to properly calculate and solve equations. You see it on social media where 2+3(5÷8)-7(3×7)=X. Solve for X

One out of nine knows order of operations.

Secondly, the ability to comprehend mathematics beyond a basic level leads to too many smart people that start questioning authority. We can’t have an ordinary Joe Outsider invading territory controlled by those that have held “influence” for far too long.

    Word problems and algebra problems are logic and comprehension.

      herm2416 in reply to 1073. | September 3, 2023 at 6:41 am

      Amen! I could do those in my head. Of course, I couldn’t show my work. I could never understand which formula to use in high school, but I could answer the question. Which is more important?

goddessoftheclassroom | September 2, 2023 at 2:44 pm

I graduated high school in 1982 and college in 1986.
I took the minimum number of math courses for college: 3, through Algebra II (the teacher for the trig course was the same for my geometry course, and she was evil).
We did not have calculators.
I had to take a math placement test in college, and to my delighted amazement, I scored in the advanced range. I took the advanced chemistry courses to satisfy my distribution requirements; I also took BASIC programming to meet the “mathematics” requirement for my Virginia teaching license.
I am proud to the point of vanity of being able to calculate fractions for cooking, percentages for sales, and rudimentary arithmetic in my head faster than my 28-year-old son can with a calculator!

all the big brains in DC can do basic math but somehow , it does’t seem to help much

none of them actually tell the American people the pure mathematical truth

within 5 years, 1/2 of the collected taxes will go to paying the interest on the national debt

and within 10 years, everything will have to take a 25% haircut

not just somethings but everything

that’s the moment things will get sporty

    CommoChief in reply to REDACTED. | September 3, 2023 at 11:50 am

    When the Social Security cuts come and the crowd out effect of far higher debt service payments limits ‘non discretionary’ as well as ‘discretionary’ spending on popular federal programs it will be interesting.

    The problem isn’t in DC so much as as in the electorate. The AARP has convinced folks that any plan to reform Social Security is pure evil and must be opposed. They got their wish and no changes were made when they were smaller and easier to absorb. Silent gen and Boomers could have been largely exempted except around the edges. Now? Everyone gonna take a haircut including those drawing benefits b/c their opposition to reform and the resulting delay made the problem that much bigger.

2 communists + 2 GOPe hacks = 4 de facto communists.

The purpose of math in public school (at every level) is to depress and demoralize the majority of the students. It leads to the elevation of STEM students over everyone else, which in a technocracy yields a privileged elite. Please don’t think for yourself: you’re not smart enough to handle the truth.

3/6 + 2/6 = 5/6.

I always laugh when I see things like this. How does the left think Mars is even in the offing when the generation they failed can’t even communicate.

Lucifer Morningstar | September 2, 2023 at 4:29 pm

College students are struggling with basic math, many stuck at 9th grade level; professors blame the pandemic

Oh please, this has been an ongoing problem since the days I attended university. The Maths Department had to regularly had to schedule remedial math classes for incoming freshmen students because they simply didn’t have the skill set to succeed with university level mathematics. Students are simply passed onto the following grade in public school despite not having mastered the grade level skills necessary to succeed in college/university. Lather, rinse, repeat and the public schools graduate students that cannot use English properly. Cannot do even the most basic of math. Cannot logically frame a coherent argument. Can’t even explain how our federal government is supposed to work. And it has nothing to do with the “pandemic”. That’s just an excuse. Yes, the “pandemic” might well have exacerbated the problem but it’s always been there. Blaming the “pandemic” is just another pointless excuse for the failure of the public school system in the United States. Nothing more.

Quite a few years ago, when the kids were still in grade school, I once went to a parent teacher conference where the teacher handed us a folder of work and said that (insert fake name here to protect everyone, guilty and innocent alike) was an excellent student.

I glanced through the papers and then did more than a glance while my wife and the teacher chatted. Then I held out one of the math papers to the teacher and said, “This has a 100% grade but all the answers are wrong.”

The teacher shrugged it off. “Sometimes I let the students grade each other’s papers.”

Me: “But the answers are wrong on ALL of them, and they all have 100% grades. Don’t you even check them?”

Teacher: “I’m not very good at math myself.”

It sounds like things haven’t gotten better. (Yes, we did homeschool him after that). The excuses have changed slightly but the results are still terrible.

    henrybowman in reply to irv. | September 2, 2023 at 6:34 pm

    Big fat upvote!

    That, written by a teacher on a middle-school blackboard before a class discussion, as reported in the Washington Post, caused a minor scandal concerning the floundering state of DC education back in 1975.
    Now I wonder if anyone other than a trained proofreader would even notice it.

    MajorWood in reply to irv. | September 3, 2023 at 12:39 am

    I would like to see a teacher introduce flash card competition today. Parents (some) would go berserk. Meritocracy means that there will be winners and losers as there should be.

    Portland Public Schools has decided to go full retard in this area with “equitable grading practices.” Everyone gets a gold star. I wonder if they manage to come up with a system where everyone ends up below average. With their math skills, they might be ab;e to achieve that. 😉

Unless you are building a rocket ship to Alfa Centauri, all you need is adding and subtracting. Yes, even in engineering. Just go with your gut on the numbers. You will usually be pretty close.

This goes back much farther than the pandemic. I graduated from high school in 1968. I took advanced classes in Algebra I, Ii, Geometry and Trigonometry.

I returned to college in the late 80s-early 90s to major in hard science. At that time I was the only science tutor on campus. A full 25% of education majors ( this was one of the oldest & most respected schools of education in the country). Had to take both remedial math I and remedial reading I. Which meant they were not competent at the third grade level. These were the people going out to teach math to our children. Once they passed their remedial courses they were required to take exactly one math class. How to teach math, not math itself. Meanwhile, having not seen one in 25 years I was the only gen chem student in the school who could do a quadratic equation

One of my daughters was a National Merit Scolar. When she began algebra in 7th or 8th grade I had to teach her myself. The teacher did not actually know algebra and had to copy the problems out of the back of the book.

A decade later a younger child attended a well known university in the Southwest They had thst same 25% problem.

My eldest grandchild started school in about 2003. Her school was the only one in the state that met thd No Child Left Behind goals the first year. They taught 1 + 1 in first grade using calculators. We supplemented her math. The day that she came home telling me she wished she couldn’t read because the kids who couldn’t read got candy and books and were having a party we withdrew her from school and homeschooled her. Today she lives in London and is a Masters candidate at one of the most respected universities in the world.

Pandemic my tee-tiny as my Mama used to say. Johnny can’t do math because we have had people who can’t do math themselves attempting to teach it for decades.

    “education majors ( this was one of the oldest & most respected schools of education in the country)”

    NO ONE should give any respect to anyone who “majors” in “education.”

    You know who has a “doctorate” in education? Jill Biden.
    Who insists that she be addressed as “Doctor.”

    Should make you want to puke.

    1073 in reply to Granny. | September 2, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    I was working on my MBA and was correcting the professors math in a graduate level accounting class.

    OwenKellogg-Engineer in reply to Granny. | September 3, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    The Education majors came before the Engineering majors during my commencement. I lost count of all the high honors and 4.0 GPA’s they had, while the Engineering majors high honors and 4.0 could be counted on one hand.

You must fire the imagination to interest these promising youths in the subject. A good start would be to make Anthony Trollope’s six Palliser novels required reading. Therein they would learn of Plantagenet Palliser’s struggle to introduce decimal coinage.

City University on New York had remedial reading and math courses for years but has now fazed them out claiming “This practice also disproportionately hurt underserved communities: A large majority of the students assigned to remedial courses were low-income students of color, who were prevented from taking credit-bearing courses and progressing toward their degrees”

Now they go right to regular classes. Everyone gets a gold star.

I scored 750 on the math portion of the SAT in 1973. Got though Calculus in HS. I finally got lost at Laplace Transforms and Fourier Series..

I was at a total loss on how to help my kids with their match homework- that used symbols I had never seen before and taught multiplication in an entirely difficult way.

The Amish/Mennonite schools near us do a great job of teaching basic math, including fractions. And all the archaic measurements like bushel and peck- that they still used on a daily basis. Basic science is a whole other area….

Basic math is easy. Educators make it hard.

Three big hurdles here.

1. Educators who don’t know the stuff they are supposed to. Have to attract good people to the profession.

2. We can’t fail kids that should be failed and standardized tests really muddy the waters on this point.

3. A lot of people at the top of the education hierarchy are making decisions that actively hurt the kids in the system.

In contrast, my son who graduated HS in 2021 in peak shutdown will finish his math major requirements this Fall halfway through his Jr Year, and is applying for an accelerated Masters in 4yr program so he can hang out for the duration. I am sure having two parents with STEM PhD’s (Dr Princess is a biostatitician) and going to private vs public school helped. And I was oldschool with math flashcards too. he never showed much interest in the divide and/or multiply by 2 and 5 to get the fast answers, but I am pretty sure at some point he’ll see the utility in that skill.

It isn’t an issue here of not using a calculator for common tasks, but like the body in general, if an organ like the brain isn’t exercised often it becomes fat and non-functional just like the skeletal muscles. And those who don’t exercise when young will just as likely develop a weak mind or body that lasts them a lifetime. He’ll thank me someday for having him lap swim when he was 8. Ironic how many kids want to be videogame designers, but don’t feel the need to learn math as part of that endeavor.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to MajorWood. | September 3, 2023 at 8:10 am

    “he never showed much interest in the divide and/or multiply by 2 and 5 to get the fast answers,”

    What is that? I’m being serious; I really don’t know. Thank you.

“…students cannot even add one-half and one-third”

Been that way for ages, and the ubiquitousness of calculators certainly didn’t help.

The greatest math joke of all time.