Youth and mathematics: a complex equation
A very valid note for young French in mathematics
The first observation shown by numerous international rankings: the level of French youth in mathematics is very average. And above all it falls: The level of a student in the 4ème in 2019 is the same as the level of a student in the 5ème in 1995. In 25 years we have lost a class equivalent to a level! A more damaging situation is the neuropsychologist Stanislas Dehaene’s emphasis that “mathematics is the development of the mind, which is important for everyone. Moreover, there is a demand in other areas. It is not the small elite who need mathematics. Therefore, there is much work to be done to make mathematics less abstract and to engage students. A problem solved by Estelle Kollar, a college teacher who was very successful with her TikTok account Wonderwomath. The goal: to “target students who have great difficulty or lack the maths knowledge” and to “give meaning” to the subject.
Mathematics teachers are wanted
A lack of interest in mathematics results in a lack of attractiveness for the teaching profession today, especially for mathematics. Pierre Arnoux, vice president The French Commission for the Teaching of Mathematics notes that “we have fewer applicants than positions” for several years now. Solène Abadie, a Master 2 MEEF student who prepares CAPES in Mathematics, also emphasizes that this year in her class “In first grade, when I asked who in the room wanted to be the teacher, half said, ‘That’s my plan B.’ Today, the best jobs in the world are unrecognized, working conditions are harsh, and salaries remain low, which explains why students with a good background in mathematics no longer turn to teaching.
The return of mathematics in the common core, a good reform?
Faced with this observation, the 2019 secondary school reform hardly improved the situation, on the contrary. By removing mathematics from the common core and creating a 9-hour first-year major at a very demanding level, the reform caused many students to drop out of mathematics two years before the Baccalaureate. Faced with outcry, the government announced a partial return to maths on a general basis at 1 hour per week and 30 percent. But for Pierre Arnoux, this backpedaling was done with haste and general disorganization.
Mathematics: the glaring gender gap
This reform mainly had the effect of highlighting gender inequality in the study of mathematics. Many high school girls stop math at first and therefore close many doors. However, little girls in kindergarten are not far behind little boys in math. But how can these differences be explained? Stanislas Dehaene from the first class explains, after a few months the differences are visible: ” There is no difference between boys and girls while entering CP. In 4 months, boys improve, and after 1 year, the difference is noticeable. Little girls realize that math is not for them. »
Faced with this long-standing observation, the Women and Mathematics association, chaired by Anne Boye, organizes exhibitions highlighting the main female figures in science and awareness days in colleges and high schools for young girls to plan scientific careers. Ecole Polytechnique, which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the entrance exam for women this year, has launched measures to attract more women to engineering careers. The choice made by Bérénice Dieu, a student at Centrale Supelec, is very rare in its class. For researcher Thomas Breda, a lecturer at the Paris School of Economics, the problem should also be seen upside down: “ Part of the problem is getting boys into letters, care work, and feminine jobs. »