Last year I wrote a blog post for the National Associsation of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) titled “Math Education Needs More Emphasis”. In the post I made a number of contrasts between the areas of reading and math. As those contrasts make clear, there is clearly more attention, in terms of money, print, and resources, that is allocated to reading than to math. As further evidence of the disparity between the attention devoted to these two skills, I just used Google’s new Ngram viewer , which allows users to compare the occurrences of certain words in written English text, to compare the terms ‘reading achievement’ and ‘mathematics achievement’ from 1800 to 2000. As the graph below indicates, there is both good news and bad news.
While the graph clearly demonstrates a disparity, the good news is that there is cause for hope. The graph documents an increasing level of attention on mathematics achievement. Slightly discouraging, however, is the fact that the graph also indicates a declining level of attention on reading achievement. There is clearly a rising trend in the occurrences of the term ‘mathematics achievement’ in print from 1980 through 2000. That’s a good sign. More promising still, the last decade has seen the rise of NCLB, more detailed international comparisons of student achievement, and now the Common Core. It will be interesting to see the total and relative impact of these two constructs when books from this decade are included in this new Google search feature.