Math Achievement Crisis Presents Opportunity to Transform Learning

It’s no surprise that the disruption of COVID-19 school closings had an impact on student learning, but assessments are now showing that the learning loss may be graver than anyone anticipated. And recent results of the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—dubbed the “Nation’s Report Card”—revealed that there has been no greater impact than on math achievement.

Eighth-grade math scores fell by eight points since the test was last administered in 2019, while fourth-grade scores dropped by five points—the largest declines in math since the test was first administered in 1990.1 And the drop in learning was linked directly to school closures. According to an analysis by The 74, districts that spent the majority of 2020 using remote learning saw a greater decrease in fourth-grade math scores than districts who reopened sooner.2

While this may sound like a lot of doom and gloom, the challenge presents a significant opportunity for educators, government, and the philanthropic and corporate communities to come together and make transformational change in math learning for our nation’s students. And that effort has already begun. Anticipating the unfinished learning that was likely to result from the past few years’ of instability, the federal government allocated $190 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER)—the largest single federal investment in K-12 education ever. By the end of the 2021–2022 school year—halfway through the available funding window—districts had spent an estimated $45 billion of total available funds—leaving $145 billion to be spent in the next two years.3

Close on the heels of the release of the NAEP scores, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced an additional $1.1 billion in funding for its math learning initiatives—making math its #1 K-12 education priority for the next decade.4 This deep investment will provide grants to prepare teachers better for teaching math and to curriculum companies and nonprofits to develop higher-quality teaching materials. The foundation will also support research into math education and make grants to help high-school math courses prepare students for college and the workplace.

What does all this mean for companies, like yours, that are committed to providing the education community with the tools and resources that they need to improve student learning? While the current situation is certainly challenging, it also presents significant opportunities for companies to accelerate their collaboration with schools and districts to ensure that they understand your offerings and the ways that they can help them get all students back on track, particularly in math. In addition, funding opportunities, like the Gates grants, offer the chance to innovate, develop or enhance programs that will help schools achieve their math learning goals and mitigate the impacts of the past few years of instability.

At MDR, we are poised to support you as you help educators meet the significant challenges that they face in this environment. We can collaborate to use our data and resources, to develop integrated marketing plans that will help you reach the right educators with information about the ways that you can support them as they transform math learning and support all students now and in the future. Reach out to us today!


1Largest score declines in NAEP mathematics at grades 4 and 8 since initial assessments in 1990

2Strong Link in Big City Districts’ 4th-Grade Math Scores to School Closures

3Halftime for the K–12 stimulus: How are districts faring?

4K-12 Education: Why Math, Why Now?