Pandemic Learning Loss Is Affecting College Students’ Math Skills

Student and faculty alike are concerned

Math work
The pandemic has had an unexpected effect on math.
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College can be a challenging time for anyone, regardless of your course of study. But ever since COVID-19 arrived on the scene, some college students taking courses that involve math in some capacity are finding themselves at a disadvantage.

That’s one of the biggest takeaways from a recent Associated Press investigation into how colleges and universities are working to address their students’ pandemic-inspired learning loss. The AP’s reporting focuses on George Mason University, where 100 students are spending part of their summer break in what’s been dubbed Math Boot Camp as a way for them to brush up on their mathematical knowledge before the semester begins.

A lot has been written about the pandemic’s effects on learning — and the adverse effects it’s had on many students’ reading and math skills. That students’ learning would be affected by the pandemic was apparent as early as late 2020, but — as the George Mason boot camp example shows — steps are still being taken to compensate for it.

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“We’re talking about college-level pre-calculus and calculus classes, and students cannot even add one-half and one-third,” said Maria Emelianenko, head of the math department at George Mason University, to the AP. It’s an unnerving report from the field — and whether a student is thinking about a STEM career or working in the humanities (or something else entirely), this drop-off in math could have worrying consequences down the line as well.

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