This one's for the Parents

Since learning about the math performance of students in both Jamaica and New York, I've been speaking to many adults about their own experience with math. Everyone has a story, some good, some less positive.

One common thread in stories is from the parents, whether they are comfortable with math or not. Parents say that if their child wanted to pursue a math based career or is not doing well in math at school, they are willing to pay if they can afford it to help the child. Some parents are paying for their child to get ahead even though the child is already ahead.

So what are children whose parents cannot afford tutors or paid online resources doing? Some are getting help from nonprofits, friends, or education departments, while some are dropping out or leaving school without passing math.

So why should you care what is happening to these families? My own brief tenure as a high school math teacher dispelled many myths I had heard about prior to actually teaching. First, these kids are smart, they are eager to learn, and they will work hard if they think that doing so will lead to learning. Second, if given the foundation that they somehow have never gotten, these students can catch up quickly. Third, students who learn math well can join the labor force and do things that will benefit us all.

Last, as non-poor parents, we sometimes worry about what will happen if we fall on hard times and, in particular, what will happen to our children. Will we be able to provide for their health and education so they have a shot at a good future?

The wonderful thing about filming classes of great teachers and sharing them for free online (Reggae Math Foundation's goal) is that it can help both the families with resources for tutors and those without. It's what economists call a public good. It can actually help everyone. We should all be working towards great resources to help in educating every child. It will help everyone!

Dr. Linda Bailey-McWeeney is the Executive Director of Reggae Math Foundation, an economist, and an educator. She has been an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, City University of New York and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics at College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Yeshiva University, and Wagner College. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.