We’re taking our math and going home in a huff

Well, this is just silly:

U.S. Says No to Next Global Test of Advanced Math, Science Students
“In 1995, the United States lagged behind most of the world on a test of advanced mathematics and physics taken by graduating high school students from 16 countries. That won’t happen again, if the Bush Administration has its way: It has decided not to participate in the next version of the test. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), says it is bowing out of 2008 TIMSSA, an advanced version of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study given quadrennially to younger students, because it can’t fit the $5 million to $10 million price tag into its flat budget…..

But many leaders in the mathematics community believe that the Administration opted out because it feared another poor U.S. performance would reflect badly on its signature education program, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.”

No word on whether anyone stomped their feet, or pouted. But I strongly suspect it.  Americans generally suck at math, but hiding the evidence isn’t going to make things better.

In this same issue of Science, there is also a great article about making science and math relevant to high schoolers by linking it to pharmacology, BTW.

11 thoughts on “We’re taking our math and going home in a huff

  1. … and those of us without a subscription to Science cannot read the articles!

    In one of my jobs, I’m a paraprofessional in a high school science classroom. This week in Biology we’re in the unit on carbohydrates, lipids and proteins as polymers. Of course, the students have been struggling because we’re touching on biochemistry concepts, and they’ve not had chemistry.

    So I asked the teacher, “If biology depends upon chemistry, and chemistry depends upon physics, then WHY don’t we start with physics, and then go to chemistry and then biology?”

    (I mean like, duh!)

    And he replied, “Because most of these students don’t have the math background for physics; they’re only in geometry.”

    That’s Geometry as the class that for some reason is inserted between Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, before they get to Trigonometry.

    ::sigh::

  2. Math and science education seems more and more screwed-up the more I think about it. I like the “physics-first” idea (maybe that’s just professional vanity speaking), but I’m also pretty sure that more changes will be required, beyond simply reordering the existing classes. The complaint that ninth-graders don’t have the math knowledge to do physics is true, but it’s not as if we teach math very well either.

    I wonder if one could combine physics, algebra, geometry and trigonometry into one class. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to do as much of each subject, but you’d be able to apply every math concept taught (and I recall a good bit of wasted time in all those classes). Teach the math alongside the science, and you might cut down the number of students asking, “But what is it good for?” Then, in following years, they take Algebra II, Chemistry, Biology and so forth.

  3. Just wait until you see what happens when the “no child left behind” science stuff comes online this year.

    Teaching science by rote and drill–yeah, that will improve things.

    ::sigh:: indeed!

  4. Some people have actually suggested starting with physics. Physics at the high school level is actually the simplist of sciences–one can actually learn a lot of basic principles without having to know calculus. Algebra does help, though.

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