The Looming Shadow of Decline: Navigating the Drop in U.S. Math Scores

Written by: ArgoPrep Team



Time to read 3 min

The latest PISA results cast a sobering shadow over American education. U.S. teenagers' math scores plummeted 13 points since 2018, while holding steady in reading and science. This stark decline, placing us 26th among industrialized nations, demands introspection and a clear-eyed evaluation of the underlying factors.

The pandemic, undoubtedly, played a significant role. School closures and unequal access to remote resources exacerbated pre-existing disparities, disproportionately impacting students from low-income families and minority communities (Education Week, 2023). Research by the Brookings Institution (2020) found that low-income students lost an average of 3-5 months of learning in math compared to their higher-income peers.

However, to blame solely the pandemic would be simplistic. Decades of underinvestment in education have manifested in teacher shortages, outdated curricula, and an overreliance on remote learning. This disconnect between math and its real-world applications fosters a culture of disengagement, particularly among girls and students from underrepresented groups (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2020).

The consequences are far-reaching. A weak foundation in math can limit career prospects, hindering access to STEM fields and high-paying jobs. It also impairs critical thinking skills, a crucial competency for navigating an increasingly data-driven society.

So, what do we do?

The path forward requires a multi-pronged approach, addressing systemic challenges while embracing innovative solutions:

  • Prioritize early childhood education: Strong numeracy and pre-math skills laid in early years create a solid foundation for future success. Research by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2015) emphasizes the importance of investing in quality early childhood programs that foster math mastery through play and exploration.
  • Empower and support teachers: Attracting and retaining talented educators is critical. Studies by the RAND Corporation (2012) show that competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and greater autonomy in curriculum design can significantly improve teacher retention and student outcomes.
  • Shift the focus to problem-solving: Let's make math an active, engaging pursuit. Project-based learning, technology integration, and diverse learning styles can foster critical thinking, collaboration, and real-world application. Research by the American Institutes for Research (2022) found that project-based learning significantly improves student engagement and math achievement, particularly among at-risk students.
  • Address educational inequities: Targeted interventions and resources are essential to ensure equitable access to quality math education for all students. 
  • Embrace data-driven decision-making: While not the sole measure of success, data can provide valuable insights into what's working and what's not. However, remember that data should be used alongside other assessments and educator feedback to inform instruction effectively.


These are just some initial steps. But amidst these systemic challenges, it's crucial to remember the individual student, each with their unique strengths and challenges. As teachers and parents, we need to cultivate a love for learning, not just test scores.

Here's where resources like ArgoPrep can become valuable allies. Our award-winning K-8th grade workbooks in math, reading, science, and social studies are designed to engage young minds, foster critical thinking, and ignite a sense of curiosity. With vibrant layouts, age-appropriate activities, and real-world applications, our materials complement classroom learning and can be used for independent practice or supplemental reinforcement.

Remember, ArgoPrep is not a silver bullet. But as part of a holistic approach that prioritizes early education, empowered teachers, engaging learning strategies, and equitable access, it can become a valuable tool in our collective effort to navigate the decline in math scores and reignite a love for learning in our students. Let's work together to ensure that numbers aren't just cold equations on a page, but keys to unlocking a world of possibilities.

Attracting & Retaining Educators

 First, we must address the elephant in the room: compensation. Competitive salaries that value their expertise and dedication are essential. Imagine the power of attracting passionate teachers who see their careers not just as jobs, but as fulfilling missions. But money alone isn't enough.

Teachers thrive on professional growth and autonomy. Investing in robust professional development programs that address real-world challenges and empower teachers to create engaging learning experiences reignites their passion and unlocks their potential. Trusting them with curriculum design allows them to tailor lessons to their students' needs and spark curiosity, not just rote memorization. Imagine classrooms buzzing with collaborative problem-solving and hands-on activities, transforming math into a thrilling adventure, not a dreaded chore. By focusing on both financial security and empowering environments, we can attract and retain the educators who will inspire our children to conquer the world of numbers, one equation at a time.