Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett and former President Shimon Peres have created a campaign to improve the nation’s math education, with three YouTube videos have been released so far promoting the program.
The goal is to enable every student to take five units of mathematics at their school, which constitutes a full load of math courses, with the slogan “Give to yourself, give to the country — Give Five!”
The number of Israeli students taking five units of math has been dropping. In 2006, 12,900 students took the full sequence; in 2013, just 9,100 did. This adds up to about 9.1% of Israel’s students, writes Sharon Udasin of the Jerusalem Post.
Bennett said that focusing on math education is a matter of national security for a nation perpetually on the defensive:
The threat to mathematical studies is a strategic threat, and for a strategic threat a national program is necessary.
I know that there are many who disagree with me regarding the need to massively strengthen mathematics, but the role of a leader is to determine national objectives and pursue them with all our might– and we’ll double the number of students within four years. Gone are the days that a child wanted to take a five-unit matriculation exam, but could not do so because of his place of residence. In the national mathematics program, the child will strengthen his own future and will also help the future of the State of Israel.
According to Yarden Skop of Haaretz, they aim to double the number enrolled in five math unit to 18,000 within four years, double the number of teachers providing five-unit courses from 1,000 to 2,000, and add 15,000 hours to math instruction. Math education will also focus more on small group learning and the individual monitoring of progress.
According to Dabid Shamah with the Times of Israel, NIS 75 million, which is about $20 million USD, will be allocated to the program.
To strengthen the program, the ministry plans on adding incentives for both students and teachers. Every student who takes the five-unit matriculation exam will get at least 30 bonus points on their application when applying to university.
A National Public Forum for the Study of Mathematics will be created that will bring together educators, high-tech professionals, the IDF, and other organizations. 500 high-tech professionals will also be tasked with assisting teachers by holding school meetings and arranging field trips. Companies already involved include Intel, SanDisk, Microsoft, and Marvell Israel. “Five Club” learning communities will be created to foster professional development for math teachers.
In one video, reports Arutz Shiva, Peres plays an unruly student who submits the correct answer to a trigonometry question via paper airplane. Peres said:
Israel has been blessed with talents capable of reaching unforeseen heights, but they must be cultivated. We cannot accept a situation in which in the State of Israel children who are capable of studying five units at school cannot do so due to lack of means. A financial deficit is possible to repair later– an educational deficit is not possible to repair.
In order to stand up to global competition in the international market, the state must invest the maximum, to make first-class science possible for students. Science and technology professionals rely on mathematics, and therefore, the advancement of studies and vigorous striving for scientific excellence are an existential necessity and a primary interest for the future of Israel.
This year, 100 new five-unit tracks will be opening, and five-unit math courses will be allowed to continue with just 6 students instead of the previous minimum of 15.