Public education has largely been a local matter for school boards and states as the quality of a community’s schools is central to any family’s aspirations. North Carolina is ranked number 15 for PreK to Grade 12 education, and number 7 for postsecondary education. Within the North Carolina Standard Course of Study (NCSCOS), there are mathematical content standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMPs). The content standards provide a clear focus of math education that must be mastered at the K8 level.
K8 Math Topics
Kindergarten Mathematics
 
Grade 1 Mathematics
 Grade 2 Mathematics

Grade 3 Mathematics
 Grade 4 Mathematics

Grade 5 Mathematics
 Grade 6 Mathematics

Grade 7 Mathematics
 Grade 8 Mathematics

The high school standards specify the math topics students should study to be college and career ready. They are organized by conceptual categories or themes: Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Modeling, Geometry, and Statistics and Data.
Equally important are the Standards for Mathematical Practice, describing the behaviors or ‘habits of mind’ of mathematically proficient students. However, the state’s math performance in NAEP and PISA exams did not reflect the desired outcome the Standards wished to achieve.
North Carolina NAEP Test Results
In the most recent 2019 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) test, North Carolina ranked 19th in Grade 4 math and 22nd in Grade 8 math. Although North Carolina students have improved their NAEP math scores since 1996, their overall score is at a medium level, around 245/500 for Grade 4 math and 286/500 for Grade 8 math in 2019.
North Carolina PISA Performance
Looking at the 2013 NAEP tests of Grade 8 students, who were most likely to be eligible to take the PISA test in 2015, North Carolina ranked 23rd in math while Massachusetts ranked first place. In the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, students from North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico represented the United States. This was the first time that North Carolina students participated in the PISA exam. While they were competitive in reading and science with many European Union nations, they were less proficient in math (478), and even fell below the average score (489) of all nations.
How did the two US states have such a huge difference in math performance? Part of the answers has to do with the academic standards. Unlike many other states, Massachusetts adopted rigorous standards as part of its 1993 Education Reform Act for almost 20 years until the existence of Common Core State Standards. Massachusetts has made huge investments in its teacher pipeline, and the students are experiencing more successful teaching methodologies than North Carolina. Another key factor that contributed to North Carolina’s math failure is the lack of parental involvement in math education.
Suggested by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, a healthy parentstudentschool relationship is a vital component to the math success of students. Parents and guardians can support their children by asking them what they are learning in school, encouraging perseverance, and seizing opportunities to practice math in the real world. Parents may encourage their children to look at class notes, assignments, and activities while they study or do homework. Understanding the strategies and methods their children are expected to use when solving problems helps build strong parentchild connections. Having children share their graded work will also assist parents in monitoring progress. Allowing rooms for mistakes and growth supports individual thinking and encourages study responsibility. Since numbers and patterns are visible everywhere, parents should look for opportunities during family time to see mathematics in the world. Regular practice will increase students’ speed and efficiency with procedural fluencies.
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Citations:
Overview of North Carolina – https://www.usnews.com/
K12 Math Standards – https://sites.google.com/dpi.nc.gov/
PISA Results: NC Schools Perform Well, But Show Plenty of Room to Grow – https://www.wakeed.org/
North Carolina Overview – https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/
United States Student performance (PISA 2018) – https://gpseducation.oecd.org/