Math Skills Survey Shows U.S. Lags Behind



#27

Speaks for itself..
So the question is, why and how can we improve?

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/12/07/1914226&tid=146&tid=14
http://www.oecd.org/document/18/0,2340,en_2649_201185_34010524_1_1_1_1,00.html
http://a455.g.akamai.net/7/455/1879/v1/193.51.65.71/dataoecd/1/60/34002216.pdf


#28

Those are the four worst articles I have ever read.

Gene


#29

Yeah!

Both of them!

[VPN]


#30

LOL:-))))))))

This was a very nice one for a closing day.

raymond

#31

In my opinion, in the core of our hearts in this country, we really don't value schooling and education. Math, science, are considered "yucky", "nerdy", "geeky", and/or "boring" and other epithets.

Teaching is not respected so it does not attract the best practitioners (not by a longshot). Research does not really get our respect, either, and these attitudes are either symptomatic or causative or both of the disdain most people have for math (and science, and English, and history, and geography, and foreign languages, and etc.


#32

Hi, Ed;

it seems we have the same problems in Brazil (I'm a teacher) with potencially enhanced "negative" situations.

Luiz (Brazil)


#33

Luiz, hee hee hee:

I forgot to close the parentheses! And here I am talking about kids and college students!


#34

Hi, Ed!

You see, I'm not quite sure what "tribe" is actually the hardest to deal with (here in Brazil): basic scholl, high school, university... I have a 12 Y.O. daugther and based on what she tells me, our kids are also as rebel as.

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)

123456 to remove

Edited: 8 Dec 2004, 2:00 p.m.


#35

I have seen the 'math problems' posed in this survey. Several of them are not basic math probs, but rather like common IQ-probs. They can be solved 'in the head' without paper-and-pencil. Based on pure reasoning. The few real math probs are possibly beyond what can be expected from normal 15 year old capabilities.


#36

John, are you then saying they somehow are not imbibing the basic reasoning skills one normally needs?

#37

Bill asks "...and what can we do to improve?"

I believe the greatest indicator of scholastic success in
the US is that the student has a stable two parent home life
that takes education seriously. This has been shown that the
States that have highest scores also have the highest percentage of two parent households.

We're not talking (typing) about a Math problem, or
a calculator problem, but a societal problem.

So, this topic is "Officially Off Topic (TM)", but that doesn't
mean the topic is taboo. Questions like this need to be
answered rationally, (i.e. with the smallest consideration for emotional input or 'sacred cows').

As the past 30 years have shown, neither Central Planning for education nor throwing massive amounts of money at "education" have improved test scores, instead the trend is
worse test scores.

To fix "the problem" we have to evaluate which teaching methods,
which schools, which communities, which textbooks, which social pressures are contributing to "the problem" and seek out those methods, schools, teachers, texts, communities,
and societal inputs that currently have positive results,
and follow their lead. It may mean a total overhaul of
of America to succeed, but what other choice is there?


#38

Interesting. More and more of us who are concerned (parents) are realizing just these things, but more and more of the "elite" (the professional educators and education policymakers) seem to be drifting deeper into liberal practice.

To me the former cares about the(ir) kids while the latter cares about their careers, "success", and sociopolitical agenda.

I am now hearing that in New York, one way to raise scores on a chemistry test is to take topics out of the curriculum, so that it won't be on the test to bedevil the (underachieving) students! What will happen when they get to college, if they get that far??

Literally: a pox on these stupid, so-called educators. May even the near future show the stupidity of their measures and may the schools smarten up and simply adopt the known ways that work, regardless of whether it's "progressive" or conform to any given political agenda.

After having said this, I think I can go to bed.

#39

The solution is already strikingly clear: family support and a consistent home life in which learning is an engaging family trait is, without a doubt, the most important aspect.

Home schooling is on the rise, and numerous studies have been conducted by various agencies and private researchers, to see whether the chidren are "learning."

What is clear is that a number of top colleges have found that the home schoolers are, on average, better prepared for college--both the academic, as well as the social aspects.

What I see in the public schools is an appalling lack of perspective. There is an over-focus on tests, and a tyrannical pedagogical epistemology driving the whole process towards longer days, shorter lunches (20 minutes *total*!), shorter free "unstructured" time, "multitasking (or as my 2nd grade son says, "we have to do math games while we eat our morning snack)....it is as if someone is saying, "see, we are adding all these programs--you said we are not good enough, so HERE--here is more action!"

The result is that the student is bombarded with information, much of it not synchronised with her own learning level, with essentially no time for self-directed learning.

From my own experience, it is clear that the most important thing to learn is how to teach yourself----and to that end, the public school curricula are at cross purposes with that ultimate goal.

Regards,

Bill

Edited: 9 Dec 2004, 11:40 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


#40

This Message was deleted. This empty message preserves the threading when a post with followup(s) is deleted.

#41

I believe the greatest indicator of scholastic success in the US is that the student has a stable two parent home life that takes education seriously. This has been shown that the States that have highest scores also have the highest percentage of two parent households.

Next thing you know, someone is going to start harping about family values again. Heck, maybe divorce should be illegal.


I'm from a broken home myself -- I sighed a big sigh of relief when my parents finally split up, and my only wish is that they'd done so sooner... And none of that stopped me from being the over-all head of my class, all the way from kindergarten through high school graduation (that's 6 years before the divorce and 6 years after), and always scoring especially high in math.


Of course I was also a geek. Test scores may be better in Holland (that's where I'm from) than in the USA, but I don't see a lot of respect for learning here, either. I think the schools are better, underpaid teaching staff or not.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." -- Mark Twain

- Thomas


#42

My wife teaches 2nd grade. She can always tell how well things are going at home by how well a student is able to pay attention, get the work done, and do well on tests.

One of our friends who's a high school teacher said it's quite typical that when a child he thought was a good student begins doing consistently poorly, one of the parents will meet with him and say something like, "Mr. Long, I know John isn't doing well. Please understand. My husband and I are going through a divorce."

There are many more factors too though. I have a couple of articles about high-schoolers typically getting consistently too little sleep. Our throw-away society mentality doesn't help either. It's all "quick-- use this gadget," and when it quits working, you throw it out. There's no motivation to dig in and learn anything even to use your own stuff because it'll get replaced with something newer too soon. I also kept an article about an experiment in a school district in the midwestern U.S. where they were allowed to spend as much money as they wanted to improve learning. They spent $20,000 per year per child, yet every single one of the major performance indicators failed to improve even a little bit. A documentary video we have on child obesity says many schools are cutting out physical education to spend more time on improving the academic areas; and yet the statistics show that children do better in academics when they get plenty of exercise.

#43

I do wish that all married couples would fully honour all of their
marriage vows, stick together, and live happily ever after (or
until death parts them, whichever comes first), but sometimes one
or the other or both parties fail to honour the solemn contract.
When they can't (or won't) work things out, it sometimes seems
better for all concerned if they go their separate ways.

I can't blame someone who lives up to the marriage promises, but
has a spouse who doesn't. Nor can I attach too much blame to
someone who made the wrong choice as a young adult and married
someone who wasn't deserving of it. But I do think that it would
be best to consider long, carefully, and realistically before
saying "I do." Every person is always changing, whether we like it
or not, and not always in the ways that we'd prefer. Getting
divorced is usually a lot more expensive than getting married in
all ways except paying for the celebration.

Being single and childless, it's easy enough for me to criticise
someone else's marriage or children. "If that were my kid...."
Yeah, sure, we'd all raise perfect children, wouldn't we? And of
course, if I were married, my wife would be perfect, which perhaps
explains why I'm single. Or maybe it's more that any wife of mine
would prefer a perfect (or at least tolerably good) husband.

But regarding the school systems, I'm sometimes amazed. For
example, at least locally, they insist that youngsters must learn
to read without "sounding out" new words; supposedly, the only
right way to read is "sight reading", where you recognise a
particular pattern of printed letters as being a particular word.
Okay, in fact, that's exactly how I read, for words that I already
know. But for new words (and there are still some new words for
me, even at my age), I still "sound them out", although silently.
How else am I supposed to learn them in the first place? Aren't we
supposed to reason out how a word sounds, not just that a word
that has a particular appearance has a particular meaning? I at
least assign a provisional sound until I have a chance to look it
up in a dictionary to find out how it really sounds in actual
usage (or maybe how the editors guess that it would sound). I
thought that the idea was that a particular sequence of letters
should sound (well, more or less) a particular way.

But no, it seems as if the school system thinks that letters,
letter groups, and letter patterns aren't supposed to have any
sounds or sound rules associated with them until they make up a
complete word, that a particular random and arbitrary sequence of
letters should be associated with a particular sequence of sounds
known as a word, to be somehow memorized. To be sure, often the
spelling of a word seems somewhat arbitrary in relation to its
current pronunciation, but it's certainly not random. Have these
people all lost their minds?

These days, it seems that "phonics" has nothing to do with letters
and sounds, but rather "how are these little pictures different"
and "how are these little pictures alike". Okay, I realize that
recognizing that p, q, b, and d are different although in some
ways they look alike, and that the same letter may look a little
different depending on the typeface, are indeed important for
learning to read, but I think that they've gotten a bit off-track
with pictures of dogs, cows, bushes, and trees, to the exclusion
of letters and sounds.

So we teach the kids at home, saying "try to sound it out, now",
and "what sound does the letter 'ennn...' make", for example, and
when they say "but we're not supposed to do it that way", we
assure them that that's exactly how they're supposed to do it,
until they've learned the word, except silently instead of out
loud at school.

I can't help feeling that the reading program at school does a lot
more harm than good. I expect that some children are being taught
by the school system to hate reading. What is more helpful to
learning other things than being able to read well? The thought
that very likely some children don't get much (if any) help at
home with learning to read is frightening.

Parents complain, relatives complain, professional tutors
complain, private remedial school staff complain, but the school
system won't change that policy; after all, they're professional
educators, so they always know better than anyone else how to
educate. We should all just mind our own business, and not stick
our noses into the wonderful modern methods that they're using to
teach the children.

Well, at least it provides employment opportunities for tutors and
business for private remedial schools. I often feel as if I may as
well be flushing the school district tax money down the commode.

The situation with mathematics and science education may leave an
awful lot to be desired, but to me, basic literacy seems a much
bigger concern. How much are they going to learn if they can't
read their textbooks well?

How much of our knowledge is gained from personal experience and
experimentation, compared to what we've read? To be sure,
experience may well be the best teacher, but it's sometimes a
painful way to learn something, and it's relatively slow. I trust
an experiment that I've done myself a lot farther than I trust
anything that I've ever read, but I don't have the time or
equipment to test everything experimentally, so more often I just
take what I read from a (more or less) trusted source as probably
true, unless I have reason to believe otherwise. Many experiments
would never occur to me if I hadn't read something to suggest
them.

I'm certainly thankful that when I was learning to read, phonics
(with actual letters and sounds) came first. What letters and
groups of letters sounded like, how some letters determined which
particular sound some other letters represented, all sorts of
useful rules, and that rules always had exceptions. That went
together with learning to read about all the namby-pamby things
that those city slicker kids, Dick and Jane, baby sister Sally,
and their oh-so-cute little pets Spot and Puff, were up to.

I'm sure glad that there were more interesting things available to
read, but we certainly did have a lot of fun with Dick and Jane.
We usually all got a good laugh out of Dick and Jane, and
especially with the ad-libbing and sometimes acting that we loved
to do when Sister was busy with another group. Sometimes we had
that happy little family doing and saying some outrageous (but
perhaps more realistic) things, occasionally using words that
definitely weren't supposed to be in our vocabularies.

"Puff saw some funny things."

Dick fell off of the tin roof on the shed into the honey wagon.
Dick did not seem happy. Dick's mouth was full of manure. Dick
cried, "Manure, manure, manure!" Puff saw this from the haymow,
and laughed because it seemed so funny. Puff laughed, "Meow,
meow, meow!" Jane came to help Dick, but Jane fell in too.
Jane cried, "Help, help, help!" Sally came to help, but Sally's
barn boots stuck in the manure pile. Sally walked out of her
barn boots, so Spot came to help. Spot licked Sally's feet
clean. Spot barked, "Good, good, good!" Sally cried, "Help,
help, help!" Sally fell down. Spot licked Sally's hands clean
too. Spot barked more, "Good, good, good!" Sally cried more,
"Help, help, help!" It all seemed so funny to Puff. Puff
laughed and laughed, "Meow, meow, meow, meow!" Jane cried more,
"Help, help, help!" Father came to help. It all seemed funny
to Father, but Father did not laugh. Father cried, "I will fix
it all!". Father fixed it all, but Mother did not seem too
happy. It did not seem funny to Mother at all. Jane said "Thank
you, thank you, thank you!" Spot barked "Ow, ow, ow, ow!" Sally
said "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Dick said, "Manure,
manure, manure!" Mother did not laugh. Mother cried, "Shame,
shame, shame!" Mother washed Dick's mouth clean. Dick cried,
"Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!" Father was happy that he did not
laugh. Puff fell asleep in the haymow. Puff had happy dreams
about funny things. Puff had a good day.

Well, Sister Michael Marie never seemed to get a laugh out of our
little dramas, but I'd never imagined that she'd ever laughed in
her entire life. I'm not at all sure that I quite realized that
she'd once been a little girl, or anything except an awesomely
tall nun. Maybe she grew up in Dick and Jane's neighbourhood, and
had no idea that there were children like us. Now, I suppose that
either she was laughing as soon as she got inside of the convent,
or else she cried herself to sleep every night; we must've been
quite a learning experience as her very first class. I do hope
that she's developed into a sweet old lady instead of a horrible
old crab. She did manage to teach all 48 of us quite a lot (or
maybe we learned even more from each other), even though she
wasn't able to teach us to urinate strictly as scheduled, whether
we felt even the faintest urge to do so or not. I suspect that
that may well have been what she tried the hardest to teach us (it
sure seemed to be). But she had a good point there too; being able
to urinate even when the urge isn't felt turns out to be a very
useful skill, especially when there won't be a convenient
opportunity to do it again for quite a long time.

Regards,
James

Edited: 11 Dec 2004, 4:52 p.m.


#44

- The situation with mathematics and science education may leave an awful lot to be desired, but to me, basic literacy seems a much bigger concern. How much are they going to learn if they can't read their textbooks well? -

In my childrens' school district they no longer have a math textbook, having abandoned the traditional effective methods of teaching for a new 'intuitive' method. My second grader's teacher, when challenged about the child's woeful lack of basic math skills, told my wife that homework was a waste of time and that the memorization of facts such as addition and multiplication tables was optional. I fear for the future of America's school. BTW, I live in a college town in the buckle of the Bible belt so its not a demographic problem...

VT


#45

I have had some inkling by friends and relatives who are teachers and have taken education courses that our educational academic elite is to blame. They set the "trends" as to what is "hip" or "in" in education. Some of these ideas of theirs are not even half-baked; they are plain dangerous. I call New York City's use of such stupid curricula as sequential math, rainbow curriculum, and whatever the new vogue is in math education. I forget its name; I wish they would forget it completely and go back to the original way that used to work. Unfortunately, they are also playing politics- which makes it very hard to correct- in catering to the worst performing students due in great part to politically correct pressure making the education establishment cave into politically correct postures, which screws our children('s minds).

And, to my DIRECT knowledge, there are in our major American urban centers, teachers of all subjects, but notably math and science and sometimes history, who truly do not know what they teach.

I am a chemist. I sometimes get (unsolicited) visits from active or retired high school faculty trying to get some scientific or safety information. In the course of our conversations, it is appalling how little they know and understand, and it is they who are teaching our children. I am not remembering through a rose-colored fog when I say this- my elementary and high school teachers were truly SUPERIOR BY FAR to these that I have seen in the last twenty or so years. Fear, anyone?

And, I apologize for this passionate rant. I have school aged children and know all too much about the education racket, though mainly from an (inner) urban perspective.


#46

Quote:
Unfortunately, they are also playing politics- which makes
it very hard to correct- in catering to the worst performing
students due in great part to politically correct pressure making
the education establishment cave into politically correct
postures, which screws our children('s minds).

Although I see plenty of reason for giving special attention to
"challenged" or "disadvantaged" students, it often seems to be the
attitude that "gifted" students will do okay anyway, so no special
attention should be paid to them. Yes, a "gifted" student will
probably do okay, but may be far from reaching his full potential
without special attention. Surely every student should be treated
as an individual. Even the "average" student is likely to be held
back to the pace of the slowest student in the class; I don't know
of a good way to entirely correct that, but what ever happened to
flunking (excuse me, I should say "holding back") a student who
hasn't learned what's required? It seems that these days, that's
only (rather reluctantly) done when the parents insist on it, so
more often the failing student goes on to classes that he's not
prepared for, and does even worse there, and eventually ends up
with a diploma that means only that his attendance and behaviour
have been good enough to get through the system. I've no desire to
destroy anyone's "self-esteem", but telling a student that he's
doing just fine when he's clearly not isn't helping him.

Answering my own question, probably the one thing more useful (in
the U.S.A.) than learning to read well is learning to be fluent in
Standard American English. Teaching other classes in his first
language until the student is fluent in English may be okay, but
teaching him English should have the highest priority. How many
different languages are we able to competently teach general
education classes in anyway? My impression is that most immigrant
parents put a very high priority on their children learning
English well, yet the school systems seem to be happy to have them
remain ignorant of English for as long as possible.

That's not to say that foreign-speaking students should forget
their "mother tongues". Being fluent is more than one language is
a valuable skill; one much neglected in the U.S.A.

Far too much time is spent memorizing answers to questions that
just might happen to show up on standardized state-wide
examinations. There are good arguments for state or federal
educational standards, but it seems to me that memorizing answers
to particular questions is a very poor substitute for learning a
subject.

Quote:
And, to my DIRECT knowledge, there are in our major
American urban centers, teachers of all subjects, but notably math
and science and sometimes history, who truly do not know what they
teach.

Unfortunately, all too true, and for little rural school districts
too. Yet there are many teachers who could be excellent, but have
to go along with the methods, textbooks, and curricula set by
their school boards, instead of doing their best.

Regarding history, I think that a biased record is the rule rather
than the exception. Around here, the history of the U.S. "Civil
War" seemed to boil down to that the dastardly Southerners wanted
to keep slaves to abuse, so committed mass treason to make sure
that the Federal government never prevented that. After the
traitors began making war on the nation, the virtuous Northerners
valorously defeated them, freed the slaves, and, partly because
hanging all of the traitors so richly deserving of it would be too
great a task, the nation generously granted partial amnesty to the
treacherous Southerners. I expect that it was taught a bit
differently in the Southern states, and surely the true history is
much more complicated than any of us learned in school.

This is all off of the general topic of HP calculators of course,
but I'm especially interested in the education of particular
children, and education is very important to the future of the
world in general.

Regards
James


#47

James Prange wrote:

"... Although I see plenty of reason for giving special attention to "challenged" or "disadvantaged" students, it often seems to be the attitude that "gifted" students will do okay anyway, so no special attention should be paid to them. Yes, a "gifted" student will probably do okay, but may be far from reaching his full potential without special attention. Surely every student should be treated as an individual. Even the "average" student is likely to be held back to the pace of the slowest student in the class; ..."

My experience with a school system was different. My children were judged to be "gifted" early in their schooling. The school system provided them with enrichment programs, advanced placement high school classes which qualified for college credit, magnet school programs, and such like. The "challenged" or "disadvantaged" students were also provided with special classes which addressed their needs. It was the so-called "average" students who suffered in my estimation. They were judged to be neither "gifted" enough nor "challenged" enough to merit any special attention. Curiously, the school system didn't seem to understand that small improvements in the performance of the large number of "average" students would translate into greater improvement in the overall test score for the school system than larger improvements in the performance of the smaller numbers of "gifted" or "challenged" students.


#48

Ah, but it is more rewarding to the teacher to deal with the so-called gifted kids than to fight the Vietnam War of the other kids.

This is made worse today by parents in many places that do not support their teachers. Rather, they will protect every move and mistake of their children, discouraging and intimidating teachers.

It is no wonder they'd prefer to deal with the gifted; they deal with the problem children because they absolutely have to due to pressure from administrators and parents. Who speaks vigorously enough for the "regular" kids??


#49

If it is more rewarding for the teacers to work with the "gifted" then the school systems should be able to pay smaller salaries to those who teach the "gifted". In our school systm the opposite is true.


#50

Palmer,

If you mean by "opposite is true", that your school district pays more for Special Education teachers, I can understand that. (For international readers, Special Education is a politically correct term for teaching the mentally or physically handicapped). Such teachers need additional teaching qualifications as well as "a thicker skin and a softer heart".

Or do you mean that the teachers of the TAG (Talented and Gifted) programs are paid less? Or do you mean they are paid less in respect to their additional program loads?


#51

Our school system offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at two schools. The teachers in that program are paid more than the teachers in other programs. The result is that the more capable teachers tend to gravitate to the IB programs. I was suggesting that if it is true that teaching the IB students was more rewarding then perhaps it would make sense to pay the IB teachers less not more.


#52

Thanks for clarifying to me that which you stated quite clearly in your previous post! (grin) I'm sorry I misread your statement.


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