Marketers Should Worry About Math Education In The US

john-sissonData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by John Sisson, president at Wilde Agency.

Today’s marketers rely more heavily on data about their audiences so they can craft personalized messages. In marketing, analytics may have always been fundamental to the ability to refine a campaign over time, but it’s become more important as we increasingly need to refine our messaging and understand efficacy across channels.

As the explosion of technology requires an ever more complex analysis and increases the need for speed, we rely more on technology and programmers to help us automate the process and leverage data and analytics for our benefit.

All of this happens with the underlying knowledge of math. Consequently, marketers should be very concerned about the state of math education in the US and its long-term impact on our ability to hire qualified candidates for the data and analytics positions we will need.

US students finished 27th in math and 20th in science in a ranking of 34 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. By 2018, the US could be short as many as 3 million high-skilled workers, with two-thirds of those jobs requiring postsecondary education or higher, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. This compares to 25 years ago, when the US led the world in high school and college graduation rates, while today, the country has dropped to 20th and 16th, respectively.

The state of math education in the US and the cause for the diminishing returns from our schools is a complex problem. No one should think there’s a simple solution to a problem that I’m sure involves economic, political and social influences. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care or take some action. My opinion is that marketers should be doing at least two things to try to ameliorate the situation.

First, this is about fundamentals. Yes, knowledge and competence in math actually starts with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Like the best practices in marketing that we use as the basis for the campaigns, these math fundamentals are the foundation for good math skills that any one could acquire. As we progress with all sorts of technology that makes our lives easier, we shouldn’t forget that knowing the fundamentals really is important to our ability to function and improve in math.

Second in importance to fundamentals is encouragement. I believe many kids entering school are predisposed to believe that math’s hard, they’re probably not going to be good at it and that with modern conveniences, it’s just not that important. If you expect things to be a certain way, that’s often how you’ll experience them. If you don’t feel like you’re going to be good at math, it’s less likely that you will be. Social scientists refer to this as the “effect of expectations.”

If fundamentals and encouragement are important, what should we do as marketers? Well, maybe we should market – we have the technology and data to analyze where there might be issues. We can leverage all the power of data and analytics to target appropriately. We have the expertise to message in a way that encourages math fundamentals and change expectations. Can we shift the conversation to drive behavioral change in students and education to improve math ability in the US?

If not, we might we end up with a dearth of talent in data and analytics over time because of the lack of math education. Given that this is one of the engines of growth for marketing, we should try to improve math education as a step toward ensuring the engine continues to run.

Follow Wilde Agency (@Wilde_Agency) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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