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Think Out Loud

Math Appeal

Pete Springer/OPB

!—StartFragment—>A new study shows US students’ advanced math skills trail those of students in most other industrialized nations (the US came in 31st among 56 nations in the study). The same study also measures how each of the 50 states compare to each other. Oregon students actually did fairly well, scoring 8th in the nation.

Oregon’s Department of Education says those results validate its efforts to raise education standards. But when compared to the other 55 countries in the study, the Oregon students were outperformed by 25 countries.

Susanne Smith of Oregon’s Department of Education says some parents, as well as educators, fear students won’t be able to meet raised standards. Those sentiments partly reveal an aversion to math that is common among adults. Many of us don’t want anything to do with math once we’re out of school and in the working world.

How can we better teach math to kids? Is there still a gender gap in math? Why do so many of us dislike math? Why is it so important? 

Can you solve this math “puzzle?” Tune in to hear the solution from our “mathemagician.”

If a driver has a 30 mile commute, and it takes 30 minutes to get from home to work, and it takes an hour to get from work to home, then what was the average speed for the trip?

ANSWER: The car drove a total of 60 miles in 90 minutes, which is 60 miles in 1.5 hours, so the average speed is 60/1.5 = 40 miles an hour.


  • Sarah Schuhl, math instructional coach at Centennial High School in Portland.
  • Dawson Green is a 2004 graduate of Cleveland High School and a part time math tutor to high school students.
  • Janet S. Hyde is professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
  • Rebecca Goldin is associate professor of mathematics at George Mason University and director of research at STATS (Statistical Assessment Service).
  • Arthur Benjamin is professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
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