NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Improving Education Could Pay Off In Economic Growth

August 18, 2015

Developing students who think critically about math could have national economic implications. Mathematics not only teaches students how to perform basic math functions, but also it also cultivates problem-solving, refines cognitive ability and develops reasoning skills. A nation's future economic growth can be predicted by student performance at age 15 on an internationally standardized mathematics test, highlighting the need for quality mathematics instruction in U.S. schools. 

  • Statistical analysis of student mathematic abilities are indicative of national economic growth.
  • Performing 25 points higher than average on the international test correlated to an additional national output of more than $40 trillion in the next 20 years.
  • The quality of education is imperative, not the number of years of schooling a student completes.

Inspiring a generation to become competent mathematicians will require a high caliber of teacher that cares more about the student′s quality of learning than yearly test scores.  Instead of focusing on student performance or early childhood education, policymakers would do well to shift attention to recruiting and retaining excellent teachers.  

Increasing requirements for teacher certification, offering enticing wages and competitive benefits, and allocating substantial time for professional development and lesson planning would all serve to provide students with a higher caliber of teachers necessary to improve the national mathematics competency. 

The incentive to improve U.S. mathematics education is clear. If poorly performing student scores could be raised to even 100 points below the international average, the additional output over the next 20 years would equal $72 trillion, roughly four times the annual U.S. GDP. The urgency to develop quality mathematics programs taught by high caliber teachers is necessary.

Source:  Robert Litan, "How Improving Education Could Pay Off In Economic Growth," Wall Street Journal. August 8, 2015.

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