The Alabama Numeracy Act is a widely-debated bill attempting to improve Alabama public school math rankings. On Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on this act, which would spend millions on math coaches in an attempt to educate teachers on how to teach math to their students.

Senate Bill 171 (SB171) is sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur). SB171 has already passed the Senate, and a substitute bill is being introduced in the House on Tuesday.

This bill is controversial. Education advocates argue that the coaches are needed to improve Alabama’s worst-in-the-nation rankings on math scores for Alabama’s public schools. Conservative critics of the education establishment in Montgomery argue that the state performed better prior to the adoption of the controversial Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, which they claim align with the unpopular Obama-era Common Core Standards. Alabama’s dramatic drop in educational performance, they argue, is closely aligned with the current standards.

The Alabama Legislative Watchdogs opposed the adoption of the Common Core Standards and have argued for the wholesale jettisoning of the troubled Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.

“This bill allows for the doubling down on teaching the same [failed] Common Core math. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” the Alabama Legislative Watchdogs said in a statement.

Alabama Eagle Forum also released a statement opposing the passage of SB171.

“The approximately 700 math coaches will NOT be working with students in the classroom but rather directly with teachers and administrators,” the Eagle Forum wrote. “We already have a serious classroom teacher shortage so is finding 700 math coaches with the required Masters’ degrees even feasible?”

The corporate-backed A+ Education Partnership has been lobbying legislators to vote in favor of SB171.

“Only 22% of Alabama students are proficient in math on the 2021 Academic and Career Achievement Program (ACAP) state assessment, including only 11% of low-income students,” the A+Partnership published on its website. “We need a comprehensive plan to support teachers and students in improving math achievement. Tell your state representative to VOTE YES on SB 171!”

Luisa Reyes has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Judson College and is a former high school math teacher.

“Reading, writing, and arithmetic have been the traditional fields of study in early education for a reason,” Reyes told 1819 News.  “Deficits in math education will only hamper a student's ability to grasp the advanced concepts encountered in high school algebra and calculus. For as every math teacher knows, nothing frustrates and discourages a young student more than to work through a time-consuming and page-long Algebra II problem only to end up with the incorrect answer, which is more often than not due to a simple error in arithmetic. Therefore, it is crucial to begin solid mathematical instruction early on.”

Reyes said that she favors a heavy emphasis on the memorization of math facts in the early grades.

“Beginning in kindergarten, drills in addition, subtraction and even multiplication and division need to be begun and continued all throughout elementary school,” Reyes said. “Little kids actually do enjoy learning that two quarters plus two quarters will give them enough to buy a candy bar. So basic arithmetic has the advantage of being both beneficial and fun for the very young to learn.  And simply put, there is no reason why Alabama schools should not be excelling in this field of study.”

There is more at stake here than the embarrassment that, as a group, Alabama’s public-school students are ranked at the very bottom in mathematical comprehension. The jobs of tomorrow increasingly depend on being able to understand mathematical concepts. Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs are increasing, and the state is struggling to find competent workers to fill these jobs.

“In an era where a lot of technological innovations are only elevating the fields of mathematics and physics to more prominence, Alabama students have the opportunity through the science jobs available in Huntsville to be at the forefront of these in-demand fields, but they need quality mathematical education beginning from kindergarten on up to do so,” Reyes said. “For Alabama students to reach the level to where they can contribute so successfully to the fields of mathematics and the sciences, they need to be trained in the basics of arithmetic from the earliest grades on up.  It is a field that is open to Alabama students, and one in which they can excel… if only the state will seriously devote itself to providing Alabamians with high-quality education in mathematics.”

Reyes left education due to the lack of order and discipline in the classroom and is now an attorney.

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