Category Archives: Education

Girls Want a Rematch

Researchers at BYU found that while boys tend to do better in the first round of math competitions, girls do just as well or better than the boys in subsequent rounds. Maybe girls just need a little more time to get warmed up and comfortable. Most school math competitions consist of one round, but this study was based on the results at 24 elementary schools that changed the format of their math competitions to 5 rounds.

Read more at ScienceDaily: Gender Gap Disappears in School Math Competitions

Pre-School Number Sense Important for Later Math Success

IMG_0217A couple of studies from University of Missouri shed new light on the importance of counting and number sense in early childhood to later math success.

In one study, data from more than 3,000 children from low-income households were analyzed. The researchers found that students who could count to 20 in preschool had the highest math scores in first grade. Read more at ScienceDaily: Preschooler’s Counting Abilities Relate to Future Math Performance, Researcher Says

In another study, researchers tested 180 kids and found that the ones struggling with number sense in first grade were the same ones who were having trouble in math seventh grade. Number sense is defined as “an intuitive understanding of numbers, their magnitude, relationships, and how they are affected by operations.” So in addition to reciting numbers in order, children need to understand what those numbers mean and how they relate to one another. Read more at SFGate.com: Early number sense plays role in later math skills

Math ≠ Calculating

We hear it over an over again. Science and math education needs to be reformed. Students are being left behind in this new high-tech economy. Companies can’t find enough skilled workers to fill technical jobs.

Conrad Wolfram thinks he has the solution, make math curriculum reflect how math is used in the real world. To this end, Wolfram founded computerbasedmath.org, a campaign to “refocus math education away from historical hand-calculating techniques and toward relevant and conceptually interesting topics.”

In his 2010 TED talk, Wolfram argued that real world math has 4 steps (shown below). In this age, when computers can do Step 3 much better than any person, why do we spend 80% of math instruction time on doing calculations by hand? Shouldn’t we be spending more time on the other 3 steps, which teach students how to relate math to real world problems, and at the same time, give them a deeper understanding of the math.

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Wolframs goes on to say:

If I wanted to pick the number one advantage of Computer-Based Math, I would say—massively accelerated experience and intuition. In the time you can do one hand calculation, you can do 20–30 calculations on the computer. They can be harder. They can have hair all over them. That’s a really important part of it. You’re not just always dealing with a simplified problem, the thing that was made especially for education. People can experience much more quickly. They can feel math in a way that they didn’t before. It can be integral to their intuition, a natural way to experience the world. That’s what we’d like to achieve.

Of course, the impediment to changing the way math is taught is overhauling the curriculum and testing. The types of test questions would need to be changed and testing would have to happen on computers. But, Wolfram argues that it would be worth the effort, because “I think it can take us from a knowledge economy to what I call a computational knowledge economy where high-level mathematical thinking is widespread—for many, not just the few… The country to do this first will leapfrog others.”

If you would like to try out some of the computer demonstrations he discusses in the TED talk, you can find them at the Wolfram Demonstrations Project. You simply need to download and install the free Wolfram CDF player.

February 21st is Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is devoted to teaching girls about the field of engineering, a field traditionally dominated by men. This event aims to address one of the causes of this gender disparity, a lack of familiarity with the field.

For more information, resources, and hands-on activities for K-12 kids, go the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day webpage.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, 2013, is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Sally Ride.  Dr. Ride was America‘s first woman in space and founder of Sally Ride Science, a company devoted to promoting K-12 science education.

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