Advanced Mathematics for All?

AchieveMathematics education in the U.S. has always been a complicated issue: on the one hand, there is a general consensus that mathematics is a fundamental skill that all students should possess, yet there is also the common – and false – perception that not all students are “good at math” and that it is unfair to expect all kids to take advanced mathematics in order to graduate.

Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that “people worry that if you make kids take more rigorous math, then you’ll lose them.” But he also asked: “What kind of technical training doesn’t require some kind of advanced mathematics?” Studies have found that students who complete Algebra II in high school nearly double their chances of earning four-year college degrees. “It’s not like people made up the idea, ‘Let’s all take Algebra II for the fun of it.’ It was looking at what people do after they leave high school, what kind of education and training programs you want to prepare them for.”

It was, in part, the disconnect between what is expected of some kids compared to what should be expected of all kids that led Achieve to first create the Math Works resources back in 2008. The Math Works resources – a series of Mathematics at Work brochures, fact sheets and a white paper – make the case that advanced mathematics is important for all students, no matter what their plans are after high school. Students who take advanced math have better access to college in all forms, are more likely to earn a degree, earn higher salaries and are better prepared for the workplace.

Since their release in 2008, the Mathematics at Work brochures have been requested and shared with educators and district personnel from over 200 schools and districts across 48 states and DC, reaching well over 10,000 K-12 students, as well as with nearly 50 institutions of higher education and over 20 state-level agencies. The materials have been used with learners at all ages, from middle school students to adult education students, reinforcing the importance of mathematics for ALL students, regardless of age, zip code or background.

This week, Achieve released updated and revised brochures that now make the connection between middle skills jobs and the mathematics in the Common Core State Standards. The Mathematics at Work brochures present case studies drawn from leading industries nationwide, such as information technology, advanced manufacturing and healthcare. They provide concrete examples of how advanced math is applied in these jobs and identify the prerequisite mathematical skills needed to successfully enter these jobs. In healthcare, for example, radiographers rely on geometry, spatial relations, measurement, inverse laws and problem solving to produce CT images that will allow radiologists to properly diagnosis injury and illness. Importantly, all of the jobs highlighted in the brochures are accessible to high school graduates without a four-year college degree.

Achieve also updated the seven Math Works fact sheets exploring issues such as equity, career readiness, international competitiveness and the fourth year of mathematics.

To view the updated Math Works resources, please visit:

For information on proposed changes to math standards in Texas: