France wants to fix 'catastrophic' math scores, conquer fear

PARIS — France's government is worried about how many of its schoolchildren consider themselves "stupid at math."

The education minister released a report Monday commissioned by renowned mathematician and legislator Cedric Villani describing "catastrophic" scores and recommending 21 steps to turn things around.

France's math scores have been sinking on international rankings for most of this century. The report warns that the current system is leading to "a lasting loss of self-esteem" that continues into adulthood, and greater inequality between those strong in math and the rest.

The report urges better math training for primary school teachers, most of whom come from literary or social studies backgrounds. It recommends more hands-on activities, efforts to teach children early to calculate in their heads, and support for high-schoolers struggling with abstract math.

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