Students struggling in math months into pandemic, study shows

SPOKANE, Wash. — Many students struggle with math, and a new study says this pandemic is making math harder. Students in third, fourth and fifth grade are being hit the hardest.

A study by the Northwest Evaluation Association found that students scored lower on math tests this fall than the last. Some parents have been getting their children help before the pandemic, but say virtual learning is difficult.

“It’s been hard just to stay on task in the virtual environment in everything, let alone math, and I can’t help supplement it,” said Esther Wilson, who has two children attending Mathnasium.

Her seventh grader, Grayson, and fifth grader, Camille, have been going for a few years.

“Both children were struggling with math,” Wilson said. “Camille especially and so because she felt so incompetent in math, she was hating school.”

The study reveals that a large portion of minority and poor students weren’t in school for fall tests, unlike the one in four who tested last year. Because of this, researchers couldn’t really pinpoint the true effects of the pandemic of these groups.

From what it does show, students could have a rough path ahead as online learning has become a bigger challenge for many students.

According to NWEA, third, fourth and fifth graders fell as much as 10 points in math tests taken this year compared to last year.

“Additionally I just think there’s a lot of online learning fatigue, and that’s elementary kids, middle school kids, high school kids,” said Jerry Post, owner of Mathnasium.

He said students in those grade levels struggle with fractions. These students also start to get into more complex math.

“For a lot of kids, they need more individual instruction to understand those strategies to build math,” Post explained.

Post believes this isn’t a 2020 problem, but one that could be a problem for years to come.

“The kids who are losing skills this year, that’s not a gap that’s going to be easily filled in years to come,” he said.

There is some good news. According to the study, most students appear to be doing well in reading.

As far as math goes, Post says the best way to help your child is with communication and asking for help from your child’s teacher or a tutor.

“Check in with your student every week and see how they’re doing, and really have a meaningful conversation with them about it,” he said.

Wilson said she’s glad she caught her daughter’s struggles when she did.

“If we hadn’t caught it before, I don’t know if we would have caught it online,” she said.

Not only will getting your child help with their mental state, but emotional.

“The more confident you are in math, the more confident you are with your money, making purchases, making decisions about your future,” Post explained.

READ: State considering loosening restrictions to bring students back to in-person learning

READ: ‘We’re doing the best we can’: Teachers shoulder weight of added responsibilities during pandemic