Kids Prefer Math and Science Subjects While Parents Value Reading and Writing

A majority of parents will say their children favor math and science subjects the most in school, while they themselves tend to think reading and writing skills are more important for future success.

That analysis comes from Science Everywhere, an initiative supported by the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Simons Foundation to encourage outside-school math and science learning. With help from digital media and survey research company Morning Consult, the organizations commissioned a survey earlier this year of more than 2,500 Americans with school-age children to determine how they view math and science compared to other academic subjects.

When it comes to reading, writing and math, more than 80 percent said these subjects are “very important” in order to get a good job, while just 59 percent said the same for science (see graph). Yet, the survey revealed that parents understand how they themselves use reading and writing throughout daily life — with 90 percent answering they use these skills every day. A little over half believe they use science skills every day.

Opinions are even more divisive when the parent’s gender is considered: Fathers are less likely to value math and science education compared to mothers, the survey data suggested. When asked whether they agree or disagree that skills in science are mostly useful for those in science fields, "so average Americans do not have much need for science skills," 29 percent of male respondents answered "strongly agree," compared to 14 percent for female respondents. Still, more than half from both groups said they value science skills.

Other key survey findings:

  • Parents tend to overestimate their children’s math and science skills. About 75 percent of parents surveyed gave their children an “A” or “B” for math and science subjects, which contradicts the National Assessment of Educational Progress test results show that only one-third of students on average in the United States are performing at or above proficient in math and science.
  • Parents underestimate their own skills for math and science: Nearly 90 percent gave themselves an “A” or “B” in reading, while 68 percent said the same for math and 64 percent for science.

The full report is available as a PDF here.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].