Numeracy Act aims to change Alabama being dead last in math scores

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file image(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 4:51 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Coming in last in the nation in math education is not sitting well with Alabama lawmakers.

That’s why Senator Arthur Orr is sponsoring a bill to bring student performance up. Only six of Alabama’s 143 school districts have over half of its students proficient in math, that’s according to Senator Arthur Orr.

“We are literally failing our children in this regard,” Senator Orr said. “A third of our school systems, only 10 percent of our children that’s fourth grade through eighth grade are proficient in math.”

Those numbers are the driving force behind the Numeracy Act. The bill has eighth grade Morris Middle School math teacher Michelle Cunningham very hopeful.

“When I get an eighth-grader who cannot multiply without doing a calculator, and they’re still counting on their fingers, so how are they able to square, cube,” Cunningham said. “How are they able to do 45 times 45. Don’t throw a decimal in there because oh my gosh.”

Cunningham, who has been teaching math for over a decade, says she is seeing a lot of students come to her class who are not at the level they should be.

“Without the foundation, we are really going to be lacking in a society that deals with numbers every day,” she said.

Building that strong foundation from the start is what the Numeracy Act is aimed at accomplishing.

“It calls for the hiring of hundreds and hundreds of math coaches to support our educators in the classroom, to help them, train them, show them the latest techniques,” Senator Orr said.

Senator Orr says the math coaches would first target the lowest-performing schools. The act also calls for a review of what math techniques future teachers are learning in Alabama public colleges.

“Elementary school teachers were not prepared sufficiently in how to teach math,” he said. “We found with the literacy act, that they were teaching the way their professors were educating people back in the 80s.”

These plans will come with a heavy price tag. Senator Orr says over time, it will end up costing about $90 million dollars, but he says the state has the money to spend.

He says the state would also hire a third-party company to review the progress of schools and report back to the state.

“We don’t need to continue throwing money at education without demanding accountability in return,” Orr said.

Orr says teachers around the state helped write the bill.

If the bill passes it will take years to fully take effect but, coaches could be in Kindergarten and first-grade classes in the fall of 2023.

When it is complete, math coaches will go to public schools in Alabama and help teachers in grades K-5.

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