A discouraging fact is that many low-income U.S. students today lack the opportunity to study higher level mathematics in high school. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Data, there are close to 3,000 high schools serving nearly 500,000 students that fail to offer Algebra II or higher level math. For these students, performance on college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT that include higher level algebra questions is negatively affected.
Success in Algebra II and beyond has been shown to be a strong indicator for college completion. For each level of completion from Algebra II, to trigonometry, to pre-calculus, to calculus, the chances of a student completing a bachelor’s degree increased by a factor of 2.59 to 1, and the students who simply complete a math course beyond Algebra II are twice as likely to complete a bachelor’s degree when enrolling in post-secondary education than a student who has not completed similar coursework. In an economy where access to and completion of higher education is critical, students who lack access to higher level math instruction are at disadvantage. As a nation, we must ensure that students today are able to take and successfully complete higher level courses to increase the number of educated, work-ready college graduates.
Strong math skills don’t just help students get into and out of college, but they help them make better financial decisions, beginning with those that involve investments in higher education.
When students consider where to invest their dollars and time, they need the math skills to understand tuition costs and the time-value of money. They need to know how to read financial aid packages and calculate interest costs that are often confusing and packaged in misleading ways. And they need to be able to weigh these tuition and borrowing costs against the prospects for gainful employment to make sound decisions for their future. We as a nation need these students to make sound decisions for a more stable economy.
My book Dollars & Sense: How to Be Smart about Money helps teens distinguish between wants and needs, find higher education that fits their budget, and starts them on pathway to smart spending, investing, and saving. Find out more about getting your teen financially savvy before they make any big money mistakes.