The Math Gap That Won't Go Away

After a decade of concern, American youngsters still lag behind Asians

IT WAS A LANDMARK STUDY IN 1980 THAT FIRST raised U.S. consciousness about the math gap: elementary school students in both Japan and Taiwan rated far ahead of their American counterparts in mathematical skills. The shock -- and an aftershock when a repeat survey in 1984 found the gap still there -- galvanized parents, politicians and educators into placing a new emphasis on math and science in the schools.

In 1990 the original researchers went back to the original schools, tested the current crop of children and followed up on the students they had tested a decade ago. The result, published...

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