Businesses, philanthropies, and other organizations have been staging math and science competitions and contests for years as a way to motivate students to take on independent projects and have their work judged by experts in the field. If you're interested in a competition with a theme pulled from the day's headlines, have a look at the Moody's Mega Math Challenge 2009, known as "M-3." This year, participating teams from schools around the country were given the following mission: —Determine which elements of the $787 billion economic-stimulus plan will produce the greatest increases in employment; —Figure out how quickly the money...


Mike Smith, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, said in a speech today at the Library of Congress that he's "somewhat skeptical" about the value of "common standards," which he said he uses interchangeably with "national standards." His biggest concern, he said, is that if common national standards are funded by the federal government, "you can't keep ideology or politics out of the ball game." Smith prefaced his speech with a statement that he was presenting only his views and not those of President Barack Obama or of Duncan. He then proceeded to lay out ...


This just in: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is expected to address the National Science Teachers Association at its annual meeting on March 20. The event is being held in New Orleans. To the science educators out there: let's suppose the secretary opens the floor for questions after his remarks. What questions would you ask him about science education policy in this country? NSTA and some other organizations have suggested that No Child Left Behind should be changed so that it mandates that science scores count towards AYP, as reading and math do now. Do you agree? What else might ...


Many organizations have taken a strong interest in increasing young girls' engagement in math and science, as a hook to leading them into "STEM"-oriented fields and careers. The congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences is trying to do its part through a web site, "I Was Wondering," which seeks to introduce female students to the possibility of science careers, and to the curiosities of the scientific world. To date, the site has offered a number of resources for girls, including the biographies of female scientists in different fields, who talk about what they do in their work, day after ...


When a college freshman doesn't do well in a first-year science course, whose fault is it? There's a lot of interest in how to better prepare students for the rigors of undergraduate study, and how to measure those skills. But this week I was reminded that it's probably important to examine the general disconnect between how various subjects are taught at the high school and college level, with science in particular. The issue came to mind when I wrote about the debate over whether it's better to focus on teaching science in more depth, or breadth. A new study, to ...


I've had a lot of people tell me there's been a reduction, however slight or gradual, in the level of bluster and acrimony emanating from various combatants in the so-called "math wars" in recent years. To the extent that there's an easing of the harshest rhetoric, I would trace it partly to the release of "Curriculum Focal Points" by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 2006. Much of the anger from parents, mathematicians, and others who believe schools have gone too far in promoting "fuzzy math" at the expense of traditional problem-solving methods was directed at NCTM. "Focal ...


Apparently bowing to intense pressure from the all-powerful mathematicians' lobby, Capitol Hill lawmakers have approved House Resolution No. 224, calling for March 14 to be recognized as "National Pi Day." Kidding aside, the chief sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology, and other lawmakers have a serious intent. Teachers around the country can plan math lessons and events around March 14 to celebrate Pi, or "π," which is the relationship between the diameter of a circle (its width) and its circumference (the distance around the circle). But I'm completely...


I got my chuckle for the day over a blog post by Timothy McSweeney that's being passed around. It reduces William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" to a Facebook news feed. Even Robert Pondiscio over at the Core Knowledge Blog acknowledges that the Facebook rendition of "Hamlet" is a good example of world-class skills and world-class content working together hand in hand. My favorite stanza (if it can be called that) is the one that refers to how Hamlet's mother took a husband immediately after her first husband, Hamlet's father, went to his grave. The king poked the queen. The queen poked the ...


A recent study, which I wrote about last week, makes the case for building students' depth of knowledge in science—as opposed to focusing on "breadth," a long list of topics across the subject. But in the era of high-stakes tests, how do you test for depth? It's not easy. Many states and schools, at the urging of science advocates and others, believe exams should be broad enough to cover a lot of topics in science, as my story explains. It's fine if you want to pare down the list, those advocates seem to be saying—just don't jettison...


The federal What Works Clearinghouse, which offers reviews of education programs according to rigorous standards, has released three new reports. But only one of the programs reviewed, the I Can Learn focused on helping students with prealgebra and algebra, was found to have been studied enough to qualify for a rating—it was found to have positive effects on student achievement. A new study that I wrote about this week also found that I Can Learn, which uses computer software and hardware, is effective, particularly in working with classes where students miss a lot of school. Two other programs had ...


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