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Why Johnny can’t hypothesize: A discussion about math and science education

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science math education USWhy are U.S. children so far behind in science and math compared with those in other developed countries?

The question has plagued researchers, educators and politicians for decades. And finding an answer—and solutions to remedy it—may be a crucial step in keeping U.S. science, medical and technology fields at the top of their game.

A panel of experts, moderated by The Wall Street Journal‘s managing editor, Alan Murray, gathered recently to discuss some of the challenges behind improving K-12 math and science education across the country.

Research and experience have shown that even more than good schools, good teachers are key to improving individual students’ learning. "We know today that good teachers make all the difference," Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, said at the panel.

"The most important thing is to bring to K-12 education college graduates who excel in math and sciences," added Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. Whereas other countries recruit teachers from the top tier of graduates, he said, "America is recruiting our teachers generally from the bottom third."

Convincing star college scientists to enter the field of K-12 education can be a hard sell, especially when comparing salaries of public school teachers with those elsewhere in the science industry. Universities entice great minds with pay that is more competitive within the field—physicists generally earning more than humanities instructors to reflect jobs outside of the ivory tower. Public schools, however, pay teachers based on seniority and education rather than field. 

Aside from upping the competitiveness of science and math teacher salaries, most of the panelists agreed that competition among schools needed to be increased. "Competition is extremely weak with respect to most education contexts," said Christopher Edley, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and former member of the Obama education transition team. He and others noted that schools should be brought into more direct competition with each other (in part by expanding student choices through the creation of charter schools). Advances in science or math education are often not embraced as quickly as those in private industry because schools and instructors have little external incentive to improve their product (other than meeting basic proficiency requirements).

Competition, however, shouldn’t entirely overtake the role of regulation, concluded Edley. "This is a huge, huge industry," he said. "Ultimately, you’re going to have to use competition to identify the innovations that work, but then… require of low-performing schools that they adopt best practices." The education policy debate, noted Murray, is not unlike that currently taking place over health care: Do you create an environment with forced competition or place more emphasis on regulation?

Despite the myriad of other pressing policy issues facing the Obama administration, education has continued to rank among the top priorities. As it should, said Klein: "If we keep neglecting this issue, we are making a huge, huge mistake." 

Image of a Union City, NJ science classroom courtesy of Nightscream via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. 1. fyngyrz 5:27 pm 10/26/2009

    Why? You don’t think the fact that ~85% of the US population is superstitious, and teaches their offspring that the world is the pet project of a master magician might have anything to do with it?

    I’m amazed we can produce any scientists at all, personally.

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  2. 2. stevegater 5:40 pm 10/26/2009

    It’s a pity that your commentators haven’t considered raising the profile of pedagogy and public education as a third, and ultimately best fit, option of raising standards. The experience of market-forces and external inspection driven policy of school improvement in England is mixed, with superficial impact of ‘better results’ masking demoralisation of the schools workforce and widespread skepticism of employers. Good teachers bring about good learning – a wider understanding of how to improve teaching qualities is needed and global indicators matched with local context are more likely to reveal systemic improvement – playing to market forces and to compliance models are short-term fixes only

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  3. 3. Michael F 5:45 pm 10/26/2009

    So true; so funny; so sad.

    Pay is a big issue, too. We, as a nation, like to talk the talk as if we value our teachers, but it’s all just talk. Just like with Firefighters and numerous other vital professions that are paid insulting low ages considering the importance of their function.

    Add it to the list of back-asswardsness.

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  4. 4. nburd 5:48 pm 10/26/2009

    There are a myriad of factors that contribute to our seemingly institutionalized failure to adequately educate our students in mathematics and the sciences. Some countries have adopted a national standards-based curriculum. Other countries have longer school days and years. Teasing out one over-arching factor would be a challenge.
    I am a science teacher. I wasn’t the top of my physic’s program, but I certainly wasn’t in the bottom third. When I was trying to decide if teaching was for me, there was resistance coming from physics faculty and my peers. Teaching is just not as glamorous as industry or graduate school, I guess.
    There is an implicit permission to look down on teaching. In fact, it isn’t even a profession (as compared to being a lawyer or doctor). I don’t agree with this perspective. After having obtained a teaching credential and Master’s degree in Education, I feel like a professional.
    I don’t make a lot of money. I teach students who are traditionally underrepresented in math and science. So, I hold on to the idea that my energy is contributing to the good of society. Many teachers continue to teach because of this altruism. But, as the article points out, many potential teachers won’t enter the field because it is easier to get a more substantial paycheck elsewhere. Not that it would be desirable to get top rate scientists in the classroom if the pay was more balanced. Teaching is, as they say, a calling.
    One final point: from my perspective many of the top third science students lack interpersonal communication skills when it comes to content instruction. They understand the concepts easily, and don’t quite know why others don’t. It is important not to simply attract scientists because they have profound understanding, but to attract scientists who can also relate this information to our youth.

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  5. 5. Cosmic 6:07 pm 10/26/2009

    Isn’t competition within schools like competition within your won family? How are you going to use competition to develop innovations that work –wouldn’t that require cooperation?

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  6. 6. jyb 6:23 pm 10/26/2009

    This is assuming we are actually failing at math and science education. Despite its test scores, Singapore hasn’t produced any meaningful science or math advancements.

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  7. 7. fyngyrz 6:28 pm 10/26/2009

    @nburd: Surely you’re familiar with the IQ Gaussian. Unless your curriculum is substantially watered down, there is every reason to expect 50% (or more) of your students to underperform; likewise, there’s every reason to expect students to be treating interpersonal communications as a social issue that sets them apart as a class — because it *does*.

    I an convinced that political correctness is the elephant in the room here. Most of the "problems" are so obvious, and so easily solved, if, and only if, we are able to face them.

    Key factors are religion’s "free pass", the blatant falsehood and consequent expectations set up by the unfortunate inculcation at a very basic level of "we are all created equal", an inability to exact discipline, a vulnerability to almost any trumped-up charge of abuse or acknowledgment of human factors, lack of social respect for teachers, lack of pay for teachers, lack of meaningful performance evaluations for teachers *and* students, massive over-emphasis on opponent-oriented sports and competition instead of guidance toward co-operation and the engendering of respect for intellectual prowess, all of this contributes to the watering down of the very meaning of having a high school diploma.

    It isn’t difficult to teach those under the right 40% or so of the Gaussian how science works. What’s more, it it far more important to teach how it works than it is to try and stuff a bunch of data into a young person’s head. It is also fairly pointless to do such stuffing if the methodology of science isn’t already well understood. The fact that it isn’t getting done is a national tragedy.

    It’s really no wonder so many high school students exit the institution still believing the earth is 6000 years old, unable to read at any significant level, almost completely unable to compose, with virtually no math skills. As a society, we’ve completely failed them *by our choice to not address the obvious problems*. It’s not going to get any better unless we do. And sadly, I don’t think we will.

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  8. 8. prsrsr 7:01 pm 10/26/2009

    Lil’ Amed, johnny, sue or abdu can’t read is because their mothers and fathers can,t read, bottom line…………..

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  9. 9. warpsix 7:02 pm 10/26/2009

    Around these parts the kids spend the whole year preparing for the f-cat test . No real learning just prepare for that test.

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  10. 10. Nocturnius 9:04 pm 10/26/2009

    It all starts at home…

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  11. 11. hotblack 9:10 pm 10/26/2009

    Add to the fact that the stupid and purposeless are outbreeding everyone else, and within a generation or two…

    Which way will humanity will extinguish itself first? With failure coming from so many directions, and everyone racing to meet it… what we need is a nice graph. Perhaps a roadmap to self-destruction.

    It’ll have:
    Climate Change
    Economic disparity
    Religious conflict
    Nuclear conflict
    Just plain pissin me off in general
    Genetically Modified Junkfood
    Methamphetamine Addicts
    etc etc etc…

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  12. 12. ME-TECH-2 9:16 pm 10/26/2009

    Johnny can hypthesize. It is a x-cultural thing.
    Algerbra (arabic word) is sometimes bypassed
    by high scientists.

    This is called data driven. We do not know the
    theory yet, all though repeated experiments
    show that it is high probablistic correlation.

    So PHD Johnny cuts the rules with approximations
    and data driven results to bypass theory — that
    federal grant from NSA or eleswise may provide
    model for.

    Maybe K-12 math teachers are to status quo to teach
    intutive qualities of math and hypothesis.


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  13. 13. ME-TECH-2 9:16 pm 10/26/2009

    Johnny can hypthesize. It is a x-cultural thing.
    Algerbra (arabic word) is sometimes bypassed
    by high scientists.

    This is called data driven. We do not know the
    theory yet, all though repeated experiments
    show that it is high probablistic correlation.

    So PHD Johnny cuts the rules with approximations
    and data driven results to bypass theory — that
    federal grant from NSA or eleswise may provide
    model for.

    Maybe K-12 math teachers are to status quo to teach
    intutive qualities of math and hypothesis.


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  14. 14. hkscienceteacher 10:13 pm 10/26/2009

    As a Canadian science teacher working in an American Curriculum (following the Calfornia Standards in particular) I’d suggest there a few other issues to look at. First, you don’t need this idea of competition; it doesn’t necessarily make things better ALL the time. Just look at Canadian vs American banks adn recent events- Canadian banks are more regulated and thus less "competitive" in some ways, yet came out of the banking problems relatively unscathed, whereas US banks… let’s just say not as fortunate. Instead of competition, I’d suggest using the latest research supported trends to do a regularly scheduled curriculum review led by a panel of experts in education AND science. Many regions of the world do this on a regular 4-5 year schedule, allowing a constantly updated curriculum. Meanwhile, California’s science standards are over a decade old and counting (I can’t speak for other state’s standards).
    I’d also suggest that too much of science education has been politicized by religious groups still fighting the idea of evolution. Enough’s enough.

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  15. 15. RDH 10:50 pm 10/26/2009

    Math and science are not important. Nor is literacy. Kids need to know the important things like how to have sex. And they need to know why Johnny has two mommies. They need to know about our great leader and his great achievments.

    mmm mmm mmm

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  16. 16. RedEyesRich 12:55 am 10/27/2009

    The teachers don’t teach science and math well because they’re too busy teaching them that homosexuallity is normal and islam is good, and to be sure and report your parents to dcfs if they disipline you

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  17. 17. Marcelvh1 2:01 am 10/27/2009

    I just couldn’t read further after having read this sentence : "
    Research and experience has shown that even more than good schools, good teachers are key to improving individual students’ learning."…..REALLY ? We need a panel of experts to come to this conclusion ? ……..

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  18. 18. spiralsun1 2:27 am 10/27/2009

    I find it ABSOLUTELY AMAZING that n article in a science magazine can COMPLETELY skirt the data as to what the problem actually is! The ENTIRE problem we are so scared to speak about in the land of free speech is the dismal performance of Mexican and other 3rd-world immigrants. If you take these people out of consideration (Mexicans, blacks, etc.), our rank world-wide snaps right back up where it should be! This is not racism or anything else but FACT. If it was racism, then these groups would not do massively better here than they do at home in Mexico or Africa, and recent Chinese immigrants would not do as good or better than the Europeans here! We have to stop blaming people who do not deserve it (teachers) and we need to stop ignoring race and wasting money on programs which do not work like Head Start. This is exactly like heliocentrism in the dark ages — only now the religion we are all supposed to believe in in the face of the empirical evidence to the contrary is the politically-correct notion that we are somehow equal. WE ARE NOT! This is not a "feeling", this is not "racism", it is FACT.

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  19. 19. myarhar 3:11 am 10/27/2009


    I’ve known just as many stupid under performing white people as I have black and brown people. Probably more actually, considering Caucasians are the majority round these parts.

    If low performing people were put in a better environment they’d perform better. But the real fact of the matter is that a lot of people are scared to teach in bad schools and this makes them hire the lowest bidder, which in most things generally yields shoddy results.

    Now in general. Our schools suck for the most part. Poor pay, decent benefits and nigh infinite job security aren’t enough to compete with good pay, good benefits, and infinite job security with upward mobility.

    The other part of the problem is that we don’t have charter schools, in general. There are only a few math and science high schools that draw from the top of the class of middle schools.

    And the biggest part of the problem is that there’s very little incentive in America to be educated. A lot of people say they want to go to college to increase their job prospects, but many people work in industries not related to their degree. This combined with the fact that much of work in modern America is desk job related and relatively menial, education in math and science is not essential. Neither is reading really.

    Most college graduates can barely read a complex book and a couple relative handfuls can actually extrapolate from it. Does this prevent them from leading lives (unmodified)? No. Why? Because the US is built by doers and not thinkers, which is what makes us strong and what makes us incredibly stupid and liable to folly when it comes to things like pseudo-science and sophistry.

    Scientific progress and Science itself, though empirical in nature, are abstract to human minds. Because it is hard and fast and known, people who are concerned with getting their next pay check don’t give two shits. If it were a conspiracy, then there’s a mystery behind it and people are more willing to believe. Because it’s more fun.

    This is the sad and terrible secret of the US. But on the plus side we’re the best country on earth, probably. We take in your poor, and weak, and hungry. But, more importantly, we take in your brilliant and strong and creative as well. If you haven’t noticed many of our Nobel laureates are foreign born naturalized citizens. And besides, for our population, our GDP is goddam enormous.

    And we have this enormous GDP largely because our literate, but actually kinda illiterate, math and science capable, not really, masses work hard and pull long hours.

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  20. 20. hotblack 3:16 am 10/27/2009

    OK got it, homosexuals bad, islam bad, child abuse good, obama bad, mexicans and blacks bad.

    Let me guess, the two of you geniuses think the world would be a better place if everyone else were just, well, more like yourselves.

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  21. 21. j.quasimodo 3:53 am 10/27/2009

    The idea that all religions interfere with learning math and science is bogus. While I’m not Catholic, I’ve had the opportunity to observe parochial education through a grandchild. I don’t accept all that’s taught in their religion classes, but their math and science performance is better than our (pretty good) local public schools. The difference is in qualified teachers, parental support and a lack of political interference in the curriculum. No, they are not taught that the universe is 6,000 years old; the pressure for that malarkey comes from grandstanding politicians, not from mainline religion.

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  22. 22. galaxy_man 8:37 am 10/27/2009

    The authors missed a very important point when going through this subject, which can answer their question fully and decisively.

    Let us remember that in America, the absolute highest ideal one can live up to is to be a rich and beautiful moron. Extra points for being famous.

    So in short, Johnny can’t hypothesize because he is too busy jockeying for the QB position on his high school team.

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  23. 23. dondad 9:22 am 10/27/2009

    I am an electrical engineer with a minor in mathematics. I have been assistant teaching in our local adult education math program for the last 9 years or so, working with a variety of teachers. I am good at it and was considering a further career in teaching after I retired from engineering. That was until I started looking into the hoops that I would have to jump through, and some of the politics involved. Those immediately turned me off. I also have a daughter that is very good at math and was considering being a teacher. She did a bit of investigating and also decided that she would probably not survive politically in the teaching profession.

    I believe that much of the problem is that the teaching profession has removed itself from the classroom and is too focused on feel good and politics rather than education in the basics.

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  24. 24. DesiredUserName 9:38 am 10/27/2009

    In North America, teachers have degrees in teaching. Where I went to school, math teachers had degrees in math, English teachers had degrees in English, and so on for chemistry, physics, history, French, geography. Good teachers are only taught to be good teachers by being TAUGHT their subject matter! But, who could ever figure out such a simple system in North America? No one, it would seem. Note that America dominates the world. Anyone know how?

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  25. 25. Bonniwell 11:29 am 10/27/2009

    1. Do they test all students in Singapore? I don’t think so. Does anyone know whether all students are tested there, or if only scores fo the elite are reported?

    2. You get what you pay for. If you want the best to teach in public schools, pay them well and show them respect. That’s what they do in Singapore, as well as other countries that are always being held up as examples. In fact, in those countries, teachers do not spend as much time in direct instruction as US teachers do. They have many more hours per day for planning, evaluating work, and conferencing. It’s a whole different ball game from working conditions in American schools.

    3. It isn’t just a matter of getting scientists to teach: we need good elementary generalist teachers. That’s where the ability to reason and use sound logic begins. The most underrated jobs in teaching are in kindergarten and first grade. The lower the grade level, the more critical the teaching practices.

    3. People like Joel Klein who get put in charge of schools, but who don’t understand anything about education are a big part of the problem. He refuses to listen to the voices of experience. Why? Sometimes I wonder if it’s because it’s mostly a bunch of older women, and who wants to listen to them? (sarcasm)

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  26. 26. fb36 4:01 pm 10/27/2009

    In the US schools sports are always have priority.
    That is NOT the case in most other countries.
    Most schools do not have any sports teams.
    As long as it stays that way in US schools the students would not pay much attention to science or math.
    No matter how you try to teach!

    Just ban any team sports from the K-12 schools and you would see clear improvements!

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  27. 27. psngray 4:01 pm 10/27/2009

    Basically, the article is right. It all starts with the teachers. We are not very good at incenting our teachers, nor are we very good in determining what a school’s goals should be. Rather we are good at overloading teachers and fighting about what we think a school should do.

    Why would you expect a system to turn out great students when it doesn’t reward teachers for great performance?

    A good beginning would be to find out what teachers need to do and then providing incentives that build to those goals. "Teaching to the test" is just a symptom of a system that is out of control.

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  28. 28. etienne 4:52 pm 10/27/2009

    What is the evidence that U.S. children are behind? (There is none at your first link.) Are they more behind than they used to be? Are they more behind at aspects of science or math than others? Are we behind at all levels, or do we have a paucity of high achievers, or do we have lots of high achievers but lag in overall averages?

    Before you can think constructively about the problem, you need to know what it is.

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  29. 29. Steve D 7:01 pm 10/27/2009

    My first suggestion: get rid of local school boards – the biggest single cause of mediocre education.

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  30. 30. rbaldys 1:10 pm 10/28/2009

    If government ensures that every public school district (in poor, middle and upper income areas) has adequate (perhaps equal) per pupil funding, competition will rise among districts for the best teachers. Salaries should rise as well. A sufficient increase will attract more and better students to the field of education as a career.

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  31. 31. rbaldys 1:13 pm 10/28/2009

    If government at the federal level can insure equal per pupil expenditures in all public schools (regardless of the wealth of the district), the competition for teachers will rise, and salaries as well. A sufficient rise will bring our best students to the field of education as a career.

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  32. 32. mo98 1:48 pm 10/28/2009

    Considering that public information contains the bulk of intelligence yet is still deemed unsuitable for university and graduate studies, is it any wonder that many children and adults alike have restricted access to samples of graduate study materials? When a math professor can joke that at the bottom will be teachers of teachers, what does it imply about the moral perception of those at the top?

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  33. 33. dariana 2:55 pm 10/28/2009

    are you really comparing aSingapore 4 million people country with America the almost 300 mil people? really? Let’s compare large countries like India, China, Rusia or Germany or any other larger country( with a higher pool of people to chose from) with USA. The result is that whichever R&D department or science university department that you walk in today only 10-15 percent of people working there will be Americans.

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  34. 34. The Dude 7:29 pm 10/28/2009

    The problem is not blacks, or mexicans, or teachers, or school boards, or pay, or competition, or religion. The real problem is poverty. Stupid poor people have stupid poor children. End of story. My wife teaches gifted children, her Dad teaches remedial readers. I have seen it all. When parents make the commitment to educate themselves and make a decent living, their children will fall into line and do the same.

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  35. 35. KMM 1:20 pm 10/29/2009

    I think that we don’t teach children HOW to think. Because testing has become such an important part of education, educatiors tend to teach to the test so their scores will increase and therefor the children look smarter. But, science teaches one to think, really think why something happens and what would happen if we change one aspect. If other countries are better at science than we are, it is because they have taught their kids to think.

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  36. 36. choppam 4:19 pm 10/29/2009

    The US is a slime of worms when it comes to education. A miniscule elite (artificially fed from other countries) and an overwhelmingly undereducated, falsely educated and just plain uneducated general public. The solutions suggested here will be less than useless.
    As long as the goal is a few top brains, the rest of us get nothing.
    Instead, the States should aim to develop the best possible knowledge and skills at the middle of the Gaussian curve mentioned by Fyngyrs. This would not only give a much broader foundation for the best performers to rise from, but also give underachievers a much more attainable target.
    It’s also a damn sight more democratic. And it requires a completely different focus from the US. One that makes sure that ALL schools regardless of location or intake turn out an equally high standard of "product" – our kids, the next generation. It’s been done (in Sweden, for instance) and it can and should be done everywhere.
    But there’s no chance at all of this happening in the US under the tyranny of profit-driven capitalism. It’ s not dog-eat-dog competition that’s the answer, but supportive emulation.

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  37. 37. bludimon 6:47 am 10/30/2009

    The article is missing the point. It is the way math and science are taught that fails our children. Both, top or bottom of the class college grads, are the problem when they instruct based on techniques and practices that make students scream for ideas that can relate to life after school. Also, the classroom in many schools is structured for failure.

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  38. 38. straightforwardgraphics 11:32 am 10/30/2009

    "They understand the concepts easily, and don’t quite know why others don’t. It is important not to simply attract scientists because they have profound understanding, but to attract scientists who can also relate this information to our youth." nburd, how well said! I struggled in with math in high school, and the struggle was made even harder because I actually wanted to learn. This was perceived as bizarre by my peers, and brushed off by the teachers who basically did not want to bother with anyone who didn’t ‘get it’ right away. As an adult, I have taught myself programming languages and am reading Physics for Dummies. I am angry that for whatever reasons, what is easier for me to understand now was impossible back then when it ‘counted.’ I agree with fyngyrz in that there must be more emphasis on how stuff works, not just ‘it works, that’s the way it is, now here’s the test on it.’ Perhaps if more emphasis is on the ‘how’, there will be more students thinking ‘how cool’ math and science is, instead of blowing it off for other interests. I believe there is some hope. I volunteer in my son’s school district and see what goes on in his classrooms. The math and science teachers use mnemonic devices and visuals, emphasize real world situations (lots of word problems!), and are teaching algebraic concepts to 3rd and 4th graders without dumbing anything down. The great thing is that the kids are not only learning, they are enjoying it.

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  39. 39. motie 5:40 pm 10/30/2009

    I am always amazed by the lack of context in these discussions. I graduated high school in 1963, just after Sputnik. Everyone in that school was white. Out of a class of roughly 180, three were strongly interested in science. I was one of them. Our high school physics teacher was a music major. He was an OK teacher, but not inspired. He couldn’t answer questions that were not in the text. The three geeks found their own way, found good books to read, built cool gadgets that worked, overcame serious personal issues, and went on to very successful tech careers.

    Roughly one quarter of the class was in college prep. IMO, this was OK, as the other three quarters were CLEARLY not college material. Even at my tender young age, I noted two things about the majority of students: they had no critical thinking skills, and they had no abstract thinking skills. I don’t think you can do much about this. Why don’t you just accept people as they are, instead of trying to transform them into something they can’t ever be? Some people are destined to work with their hands, or to do repetitive non-creative tasks. If our economy doesn’t have a place for these people, we are in deep trouble.

    There is a troubling political issue here: how can you have a healthy democracy if most people have no critical thinking skills? Wouldn’t politics be dominated by demagogues and charismatic cult leaders? Hmmm, sounds familiar. Does it make sense to enfranchise people who can’t think (or can’t READ)?

    Second contextual point: everyone keeps going on about science and math. Look at the world around you. How many people know or need science and math? Science, almost noone. Simple numerical computation, lots of people; abstract math, almost noone. Why are we torturing kids with algebra, which is utterly useless to most of them, but we are not teaching them about personal finance, which is absolutely essential for everyone? Is this elitism run amok?

    The situation is going to get much worse in the future. The Census Bureau projects highest population growth in precisely those groups which have been least amenable to education. We are breeding a nation of manual laborers in America. Are we going to spend trillions of dollars trying to teach them physics and calculus? Go ahead, if it makes you feel good. There will be no return on investment. IMO, of course.

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  40. 40. Lawrelwill 12:34 am 10/31/2009

    fyngyrz said it all perfectly. That is especially the case here in Floriduh.

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  41. 41. TTLG 9:27 pm 11/2/2009

    Apparently the politics, or maybe just the stupidity of those in charge is the problem. Here this group of people clearly saw that the teachers were inadequate and the reason that they were inadequate was because of pay, yet they immediately discard the idea of raising pay and replace it with "competition". This in spite of the fact that they collected no evidence to support the idea that competition would cure anything.

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  42. 42. craighyatt 10:12 pm 11/2/2009

    @nburd "One final point: from my perspective many of the top third science students lack interpersonal communication skills when it comes to content instruction. They understand the concepts easily, and don’t quite know why others don’t. It is important not to simply attract scientists because they have profound understanding, but to attract scientists who can also relate this information to our youth."

    Ding. Ding. Ding. I hope somebody is paying attention, because truer words were never spoken. The ability to teach well is a rare gift and it should be rewarded. Being a subject matter expert doesn’t make you a great teacher. Personally, I wish there were more science teachers with the confidence to say "I don’t know" or "Let’s find out" instead of making stuff up that gets the kids confused… or worse… makes kids feel bad for asking questions.

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  43. 43. craighyatt 10:19 pm 11/2/2009

    What make me sad is that the vast majority of Americans are pretty much represented by the guests on Jerry Springer.

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  44. 44. TawnM 7:30 pm 11/3/2009

    If our children score lower than other nations, it isn’t because of teachers.

    It’s because our nation is too obsessed with celebrity and athletes. Education is not seen as important or necessary.

    You can’t educate a group of people who aren’t interested in learning in the first place.

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  45. 45. Susan M 11:46 pm 11/3/2009

    I am an AP Chemistry teacher, and I fight the good fight everyday in my classroom. I have a master’s degree, have all my teeth, and can spell properly…
    Yet, I make more money selling Tupperware on the side than I do teaching full time. This profession cannot attract and retain well educated, professional individuals without serious adjustments to the salary scale.

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  46. 46. blockmkr 2:03 pm 11/24/2009

    As a graduate Structural Engineer, I at one time considered teaching middle school math. Forty years of experience was irrelevent as I had no teaching tenure (did spend 40 hours in the classroom and was on my way to a teaching certificate). My starting salary placed me in the same catagory as a four year student just beginning their career with not even half the math background (couldn’t take the financial hit).

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  47. 47. sci2007 9:52 am 02/4/2010

    There has to be a more profound understanding of the importance of early learning. It becomes even more critical that the focus is shifted from education as a responsibility of school systems to a partnership between parents and teachers. Given the technology and tools that are available today parents should take the initiative to encourage reading , math and the joy of science even to toddlers. Given children a head start before they enter the K-12 system is crucial to continued academic excellence. Technology has made it possible for anyone to gain access to excellent content which was once reserved for the privileged. There are plenty of sites such as,,, ,, , ,,,, The issue will be for parents to make the time to motivate and foster the right habbits in their children.

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  48. 48. hveshdon 11:48 am 01/13/2011

    I think this falls on the parents. When I was a kid, my parents got on my butt about homework, nowadays it seems like the children are taking the authority and using it against the parents. Who is the parent in these relationships and who is the child? I know not all cases are this simple but I do believe that many are. We need some new classes on <a href="">parenting 101</a>

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