Math Skills: The Biggest Loss for K-12 Students

4 minutes

As in-person classroom learning continues to resume across Canada, school districts are gathering more concrete data on the impact that COVID-19 has had on students’ learning.

Until now, very limited large-scale research has been available to accurately measure student progress. Local governments, educators and school boards are only just uncovering the real severity of learning loss for students, due to pandemic-related remote learning and school disruptions. Educators are simultaneously grappling with how to close this potentially catastrophic achievement gap.

If their efforts aren’t enough, school boards and education advocates fear that an entire generation of children could grow steadily more disengaged from learning, falling permanently behind.

“I’m concerned [in particular] with younger students in literacy and numeracy. We just don’t know how long this will take to remediate. A lot of our work next year will be focused on that.” —Stuart Miller, Former Halton District School Board Director

Closing Learning Gaps is Most Critical for Math Education

Students are returning to the classroom with major learning gaps, particularly in math.

Research shows that Math is the #1 predictor of academic and life success, more so than English studies or any other subject. In a 2021 Oxford University study, a deficiency in math education was shown to directly impact a child’s cognitive development in terms of memory, problem-solving, reasoning and coordination, as well as physical health, career opportunities and socio-economic growth.

Math skills have consistently been the greatest loss in K–12 student learning throughout the pandemic.

An analysis by Mckinsey & Co. (COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning, July 2021), shows that math skills have consistently been the greatest loss in K–12 student learning throughout the pandemic. In Fall 2020, students lost as much as five to ten months of learning in mathematics, and about half of that in reading. According to this research, almost “no new math content” was learned throughout late 2019 and 2020.

Matters are significantly worse for students in racialized and low-income communities. The Mckinsey & Co. report also found that “students in majority-white schools ended up just four months behind in math and three months behind in reading, while those in majority-Black schools ended the school year six months behind in both math and reading.”

Parents Seeking Additional Support

As parents struggle to help their children with learning loss, they are beginning to seek additional support outside of school. According to The Globe and Mail, the wait-time for child assessments has tripled.

Azra Saeed, a mother of 5 from Toronto, told JUMP Math of the devastating learning loss her children have endured due to remote learning:

“I have five kids […], I can’t afford what they need to succeed in this environment. My daughter and my sons are behind on all of their assignments. As for my 19-year-old, well, he’s very low-functioning. We’ve easily lost 5 years of progress in the past year. It’s heartbreaking.”

Many students have missed critical steps in math education throughout remote learning. Math is most successfully learned when concepts are gradually built, in progressive stages—a deficiency of just one of these stages can lead to wide gaps in conceptual understanding. This can lead to learning loss that is not only cumulative, but potentially permanent, if not immediately addressed.

Supporting Teachers and Students at a Critical Time in Education

It is clear that teachers and parents are in need of more resources to help students bridge these gaps and JUMP Math is eager to support both teachers and students, as they strive to remediate the learning loss that has occurred.

“Our core math resources have shown, through extensive research, to accelerate math learning in students of all levels. This enables teachers to rapidly close gaps in every student’s learning over a short period of time,” says John Mighton, Founder of JUMP Math.

To learn more about how JUMP Math can support teachers, build student confidence and bridge the math learning gaps caused by COVID-19, sign up for one of our free Professional Learning webinars throughout November. Our presenters, who have established backgrounds in teaching and education, are available to answer any questions.