Category Archives: Curriculum – Math

Lawmaker wants to bill K-12 for college remediation

Alisha Kirby:

(Tenn.) As the cost and challenge of preparing college-ready students escalates and puts new burdens on higher education – one lawmaker is proposing that districts should pay for remedial courses high school graduates must take in college.

Community colleges in Tennessee spent an estimated $18.5 million last year on remedial courses such as reading, writing and math so students could catch up before taking college-level courses.

SB 526, authored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, would require districts to reimburse colleges for the catch-up courses for students who graduated within 16 months of taking a remedial course. It excludes those who returned to college after taking time off.

Some experts say it sounds reasonable but in the end it’s more a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“At face value it’s a logical argument: The high schools are not doing their jobs, so let’s hold them accountable to make sure they do a better job,” said Bruce Vandal, vice president of advocacy group Complete College America. “But it creates a dysfunctional dynamic between K-12 and higher education that I think we’re beginning to realize is really not helpful.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose,” he continued. “Colleges aren’t really that excited about taking money if it means that they are disinvesting in K-12.”

Higher Academic Achievement May Require Higher Standards

Joe Yeado:

While at the gym last week, I overheard two fathers discussing the homework their elementary and middle school children were bringing home. The general feeling was that the homework was too hard and that students were being asked to do complex tasks in earlier grades than when the dads were kids. They lamented about how things are so different today – even teaching math differently!

But with parents, educators and employers saying that students are not academically prepared, there seems to be a disconnect between what people say they want in terms of educational attainment for our schoolchildren in general and what parents want in terms of educational demands on their kids.

Of the 65 developed countries that participate in the PISA international assessment of 15 year-olds, the United States ranked 36th in math, 28th in science and 24th in reading. Making things worse, the scores for U.S. students have actually fallen in each category since the last assessment in 2009. Without changes to our current education system, our students – and our country – will likely find it more challenging to compete.

The hidden story behind the code that runs our lives

Paul Voosen:

Magic has entered our world. In the pockets of many Americans today are thin black slabs that, somehow, understand and anticipate our desires. Linked to the digital cloud and satellites beyond, churning through personal data, these machines listen and assist, decoding our language, viewing and labeling reality with their cameras. This summer, as I walked to an appointment at the University of Toronto, stepping out of my downtown hotel into brisk hints of fall, my phone already had directions at hand. I asked where to find coffee on the way. It told me. What did the machine know? How did it learn? A gap broader than any we’ve known has opened between our use of technology and our understanding of it. How did the machine work? As I would discover, no one could say for certain. But as I walked with my coffee, I was on the way to meet the man most qualified to bridge the gap between what the machine knows and what you know.

Remarks on Expository Writing in Mathematics

Robert Ash:

Successful graduate students in mathematics are able to reach an advanced level in one or more areas. Textbooks are an important part of this process. A skilled lecturer is able to illuminate and clarify many ideas, but if the pace of a course is fast enough to allow decent coverage, gaps will inevitably result. Students will depend on the text to fill these gaps, but the experience of most students is that the usual text is difficult for the novice to read. At one extreme, the text is a thousand page, twenty pound encyclopedia which cannot be read linearly in a finite amount of time. At the other extreme, the presentation in the book is essentially a seminar lecture with huge gaps.

So it seems that improvements in readability of textbooks would be highly desirable, and the natural question is “What makes a text readable?” Is it possible to answer such a question concretely? I am going to try.
First, we need to be clear on exactly who is trying to read these books. Textbooks that are opaque for students may turn out to be quite useful to the research specialist. I will assume that the reader of the text is not already an expert in the area.

The path to readability is certainly not unique, but here is some advice that may be useful.

Degrees don’t matter anymore, skills do

Miles Kimball:

Too much of our educational system, both at the K-12 level and in higher education, is built around the idea that some students are smart and others are dumb. One shining exception are the “Knowledge is Power Program” or KIPP schools. In my blog post “Magic Ingredient 1: More K-12 School” I gave this simple description of the main strategy behind KIPP schools, which do a brilliant job, even for kids from very poor backgrounds:

They motivate students by convincing them they can succeed and have a better life through working hard in school.

They keep order, so the students are not distracted from learning.

They have the students study hard for many long hours, with a long school day, a long school week (some school on Saturdays), and a long school year (school during the summer).

Meanwhile, one size fits all largely reigns in Madison.

Statistics Style Guide


This style guide covers the elements of writing about statistics. It aims to make statistical content more open and understandable, based on editorial research and best practice. The standards also replace any previous standards on the intranet or in print. Originally created for the Office for National Statistics, we have worked with Government Digital Service (GDS) to produce these for all members of the Government Statistical Service (GSS). These will be reviewed regularly, and updated when new research and user feedback indicates changes need to be made.

Style.ONS contains:

Was Larry Summers Right about Women in Science and Math?

Richard Bradley:

As NPR reports, a childhood friend of his, Eileen Pollack, a former scientist and now a teacher of creative writing at the University of Michigan, has written a book exploring why there are so few women in STEM fields relative to men.

After Summers’ infamous 2005 speech on the subject—a watershed in his disastrous Harvard presidency—Pollack, who knew Summers in high school, sat down to write him a long email explaining why he was wrong to suggest that women had less genetic aptitude for math and science than men do. Pollack, who says that she always considered Summers an admirer of smart women, thought he had gone very wrong on this one. The email grew into the book, The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys Club. (The book is blurbed, by the way, by MIT prof Nancy Hopkins, who stood up and walked out of that Summers speech, one of the main reasons why it got as much attention as did.)

Pollack argues that the primary reason for the lack of women in STEM is still a lack of support from more senior figures in those fields, and from their own peers—an explanation that certainly sounds much more credible than the idea that male and female brains are hardwired differently. (As I recall, Summers also suggested that those fields are so competitive, many women would have trouble succeeding at their highest levels because of greater family obligations, whether due to choice or social mores.)

There are two models of online education

Sam Gerstanzang:

1. Preparatory knowledge, in the form of course-based video-delivered teachings: Coursera, Udacity, Thinkful, etc.

2. On demand knowledge: Wikipedia, StackOverflow, Genius, etc.

Of the two, the latter has been much more widely spread and far more influential.

What works about on demand knowledge is that it is pull based (the knowledge you need, when you need it) and comes in digestible chunks. Unlike MOOCs, which are consumed far in advance of the knowledge being applied, Wikipedia and StackOverflow are the knowledge you need, now. Humans are lazy and working ahead requires discipline and foresight, which makes on demand knowledge far more appealing to most.

Thoughts on the Technical Track

Dan McKinley:

My views on the merits of having a technical track align with those of many people in our industry. Management is a different job, with different skills. They’re not necessarily more difficult skills, they’re just different. By and large they’re unrelated to the day-to-day labor of the people who build technology products.

It doesn’t make any sense to divert your technical talent into a discipline where they will need to stop doing technical work. (That’s in the event that they intend to be effective managers, which I concede might be an unrealistic expectation.)

Other people have made this case, so I’ll just proceed as if we agree that there must be a way forward for people that are great programmers other than to simply graduate into not programming at all.

Do our obsessions with maths add up?

The Times of London:

Opinions differ over Alice Thomson’s belief that a good grounding in the basics is sufficient

Sir, Mathematics is not just about learning multiplication tables and algebra (“This obsession with maths doesn’t add up”, Opinion, Feb 4). Taught well, mathematics ignites curiosity and encourages confidence and creativity — the very qualities that Alice Thomson rightly points out we should nurture in Britain.

The scientific and mathematical thinking learnt in the classroom — logical and critical thinking, problem-solving — is vital in the real world and is much desired by employers. If we want an effective democratic society, people must be capable of balancing the benefits and risks of new science and be able to reason mathematically. The Royal Society

Calling a spade a spade: Mathematics in the new pattern of division of labour

Alexandre Borovik:

The growing disconnection of the majority of the population from mathematics is increasingly difficult to ignore.

This paper focuses on the socio-economic roots of this cultural and social phe- nomenon which are not usually mentioned in public debates. I concentrate on math- ematics education, as an important and well documented area of interaction of math- ematics with the rest of human culture.

New patterns of division of labour have dramatically changed the nature and role of mathematical skills needed for the labour force and correspondingly changed the place of mathematics in popular culture and in mainstream education. The forces that drive these changes come from the tension between the ever deepening special- isation of labour and ever increasing length of specialised learning required for jobs at the increasingly sharp cutting edge of technology.

How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science

Claire Cain Miller:

We know that women are underrepresented in math and science jobs. What we don’t know is why it happens.

There are various theories, and many of them focus on childhood. Parents and toy-makers discourage girls from studying math and science. So do their teachers. Girls lack role models in those fields, and grow up believing they wouldn’t do well in them.

All these factors surely play some role. A new study points to the influence of teachers’ unconscious biases, but it also highlights how powerful a little encouragement can be. Early educational experiences have a quantifiable effect on the math and science courses the students choose later, and eventually the jobs they get and the wages they earn.

Testing Costs a Drop in the Bucket

Matthew M. Chingos:

The cost of standardized tests, long assailed by testing critics as too high, has resurfaced in the debate over reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act currently underway in Congress. The National Education Association (NEA) has argued that funds spent on testing could be “better spent on high-quality early childhood education, health care, after-school programs, and support services.” Recently, the New Jersey Education Association released poll results indicating that a majority of voters and parents think that “too much money is spent on testing.”

Testing critics usually point to estimates of total spending on assessments; a commonly cited figure—$1.7 billion spent by states each year—comes from a report I wrote in 2012. [1] But what these claims always miss is that, however calculated, spending on testing is barely a drop in the bucket of a public education system that spends over $600 billion per year.

If testing were eliminated entirely, what could schools do with the $1.7 billion saved? Very little, it turns out. Teacher salaries could be increased by one percent or pupil-teacher ratios could be reduced by 0.1 students. The $34 per student spent by states on federally and state-mandated tests simply isn’t very much in a system that spends about $10,000 per student. Put in the context of the NEA position, $34 per student would not buy very much early childhood education—only eight hours of preschool per student in Florida to be exact. [2]

Sign up now for the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies online course

Arvind Narayanan:

At Princeton I taught a course on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies during the semester that just ended. Joe Bonneau unofficially co-taught it with me. Based on student feedback and what we accomplished in the course, it was extremely successful. Next week I’ll post videos of all the final project presentations.

The course was based on a series of video lectures. We’re now offering these lectures free to the public, online, together with homeworks, programming assignments, and a textbook. We’ve heard from computer science students at various institutions as well as the Bitcoin community about the need for structured educational materials, and we’re excited to fill this need.

We’re using Piazza as our platform. Here’s the course page. To sign up, please fill out this (very short) form.

The first several book chapters are already available. The course starts February 16, and we’ll start making the videos available closer to that date (you’ll need to sign up to watch the videos). Each week there will be a Google hangout with that week’s lecturer. We’ll also answer questions on Piazza.

Celebrate statistics as a vital part of democracy

The Guardian:

From reading your editorial on the use of statistics in political debate (30 January) your readers might have come away with the impression that no numbers in the public arena can be trusted. They would be wrong. Of course statistics will be abused in the runup to an election. But the underlying quality of UK statistics (such as our census, our health statistics or even the new figures on wellbeing) is very high. And they quietly play an important role to help inform lots of day-to-day decisions: Where do we need new transport links? Who is at risk of flooding? Which medicines might work?

U.S. students improving – slowly – in math and science, but still lagging internationally

Drew Desilver:

Scientists and the general public have markedly different views on any number of topics, from evolution to climate change to genetically modified foods. But one thing both groups agree on is that science and math education in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.

In a new Pew Research Center report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Standardized test results appear to largely bear out those perceptions. While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago (data from science tests are sketchier), they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.

Closing the math gap for boys

David Kirp:

ON a recent afternoon, the banter of boisterous adolescents at Edwin G. Foreman High School, in a poor, racially and ethnically mixed Chicago neighborhood, echoed off the corridor walls. But Room 214 was as silent as a meditation retreat. Inside, 16 ninth- and 10th-grade African-American and Latino boys were working, two-on-one, with a tutor. They’re among 1,326 boys in 12 public schools in this city who are sweating over math for an hour every day.

Kids like these fare worst on every measure of academic achievement, from test scores to graduation rates. On the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the average reading and math scores of eighth-grade black boys are barely higher than those of fourth-grade white girls, and Latino boys score only marginally better. Dropping out is a near-certain ticket to poverty, and these youngsters quit or are pushed out at a dismaying rate. Only 57 percent of young black men and 62 percent of young Latino men graduate from high school in four years, compared with 79 percent of young white men.

The teenagers in Chicago’s math-tutoring-on-steroids experiment fit this dismal profile. They were as many as seven years behind in reading and 10 in math — 16-year-olds with the skills of third graders. The previous year they missed more than a month of school, on average, and when they did make an appearance they were often banished to the school disciplinarian. Nearly a fifth of them had arrest records. Not only were they disproportionately likely to drop out, they were also prime candidates for the school-to-gang-to-prison pipeline

Visualisation of which parts of the multiplication table 5-8 year old students found the most difficult


I found it interesting that the chart is asymmetrical… They should be the same though I guess at the age where you are learning times tables you wouldn’t really grasp the symmetry of mathematical operators

That’s the first thing I noticed too. But then again when I was taught multiplication, we learned the numbers in order: our “4s” then our “5s” etc. I imagine that’s the issue. seeing 4×8 you think of your 4s, seeing 8×4 you think of your 8s and don’t know those as well. And like you said. We know they’re the same now, but we didn’t when we were 8, I think.

Opening the archives: a significant development

Brian Tarran:

Significance was launched in March 2004 with a clear remit: to demonstrate the importance of statistics and the contributions it makes in all areas of life. As founding editor Helen Joyce put it:

‘Significance is not intended to be a self-congratulatory advertisement for the statistician, but rather a medium for accessing a profession which much of the general public still consider dull and grey and unfathomable.’
Articles were to be written for a broad audience: not just statisticians, but anyone with an interest in the analysis and interpretation of data. Accessibility was – and still is – our watchword.

Princeton Is Teaching a Free Online Course About Bitcoin

Jason Koebler:

​It’s probably safe to bet that there are lots of people out there who use Bitcoin, but who don’t really know how it works. And really, why would you? There are primers and forums and news stories out there, sure, but the underlying technology and mechanisms behind cryptocurrencies aren’t exactly common knowledge yet. And that’s why ​Princeton University is offering its Bitcoin and cryptocurrency course online, for free, to anyone.

​The class, taught by Princeton’s Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, and the University of Maryland’s Andrew Miller, will be a version of a very popular course taught last year by Narayanan and will consist of 11 video lectures, various homework questions and readings, and a full-fledged textbook.

Yep, a textbook. As part of this, Narayanan says he’s working on the world’s first Bitcoin textbook, and is in talks with a publisher to release it so that other colleges can use it.

How mathematicians are storytellers and numbers are the characters

Marcus du Sautoy:

Mathematicians are storytellers. Our characters are numbers and geometries. Our narratives are the proofs we create about these characters.

Many people believe that doing maths is a question of documenting all the true statements about numbers and geometry – the irrationality of the square root of two, the formula for the volume of the sphere, a list of the finite simple groups. According to one of my mathematical heroes, Henri Poincaré, doing maths is something very different:

“To create consists precisely in not making useless combinations. Creation is discernment, choice. …The sterile combinations do not even present themselves to the mind of the creator.”

Mathematics, just like literature, is about making choices. What then are the criteria for a piece of mathematics making it into the journals that occupy our mathematical library? Why is Fermat’s Last Theorem regarded as one of the great mathematical opuses of the last century while an equally complicated numerical calculation is regarded as mundane and uninteresting. After all, what is so interesting about knowing that an equation like xn+yn=zn has no whole number solutions when n>2.

What I want to propose is that it is the nature of the proof of this Theorem that elevates this true statement about numbers to the status of something deserving its place in the pantheon of mathematics. And that the quality of a good proof is one that has many things in common with act of great storytelling.

“number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years”

American Institutes for Research and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting:

The number of non-academic administrative and professional employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the last 25 years, vastly outpacing the growth in the number of students or faculty, according to an analysis of federal figures. The table is sortable and searchable. Institutions that do not appear did not exist in 1987-88, or did not report this information that year.

Jacob Bernoulli’s Legacy in Mathematica

Oleksandr Pavlyk:

Jacob Bernoulli was the first mathematician in the Bernoulli family, which produced many notable mathematicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Jacob Bernoulli’s mathematical legacy is rich.

He introduced Bernoulli numbers, solved the Bernoulli differential equation, studied the Bernoulli trials process, proved the Bernoulli inequality, discovered the number e, and demonstrated the weak law of large numbers (Bernoulli’s theorem).

Bernoulli’s treatise Ars Conjectandi (i.e. The Art of Conjecturing) was posthumously published in 1713, eight years after his demise, and was written in Latin, science’s lingua franca of the time. It is considered a seminal work of mathematical probability. Its importance is witnessed, in part, by its translations to French by G. Le Roy in 1801, and, recently, to English by E. D. Sylla in 2005.

Gallery of Math Ideas


Below is a mostly comprehensive gallery of all images — illustrations, diagrams and animations — that I have created for Wikipedia over the years, some of which have been selected as featured pictures, or even picture of the day. As you’ll probably notice, they’re mostly related to physics and mathematics, which are my main areas of interest.

If you have any comments, requests, suggestions or corrections, feel free to drop me a message on my talk page. But please, before making a suggestion, first take a look and see what sort of stuff I can do. Due to time, knowledge and complexity constraints, I cannot guarantee I’ll be able to make a good illustration of any topic.

In-depth introduction to machine learning in 15 hours of expert videos

data school:

In January 2014, Stanford University professors Trevor Hastie and Rob Tibshirani (authors of the legendary Elements of Statistical Learning textbook) taught an online course based on their newest textbook, An Introduction to Statistical Learning with Applications in R (ISLR). I found it to be an excellent course in statistical learning (also known as “machine learning”), largely due to the high quality of both the textbook and the video lectures. And as an R user, it was extremely helpful that they included R code to demonstrate most of the techniques described in the book. (Update: The course will be offered again in January 2015!)

If you are new to machine learning (and even if you are not an R user), I highly recommend reading ISLR from cover-to-cover to gain both a theoretical and practical understanding of many important methods for regression and classification. It is available as a free PDF download from the authors’ website.

If you decide to attempt the exercises at the end of each chapter, there is a GitHub repository of solutions provided by students you can use to check your work.

The Man Behind Common Core Math Standards

Sarah Garland:

Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.

If she gets the answer “lickety-split,” as her dad says, she can check it off. If she doesn’t, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.

“I would be sleeping in if I weren’t frustrated,” Zimba says of his Saturday-morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail’s public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar — even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.

But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He’s one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.

And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughter’s school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.

High Teacher Scores Bring New Scrutiny

Leslie Brody:

The vast majority of teachers and principals across New York got high grades for their work last year, state data showed Tuesday, prompting top education officials to call for tougher evaluations.

The release marked the first time New York City teachers received ratings under a new state-imposed system that aims to be more rigorous and objective than in the past.

State data showed 9.2% of city teachers were deemed highly effective, 82.5% were effective, 7% developing and 1.2% ineffective.

Outside the city, teachers got even better reviews, partly because each district had some leeway in setting goals for performance. Beyond city borders, about 58% were deemed highly effective. Last year was those districts’ second under new evaluation systems.

Related: When A Stands for Average.

Via Laura Waters.

A Rural High School with a 21st Century Outlook

Deborah Fallows:

As a supplement its standard academic instruction, the school has started a modified version of the “career academies, ” the career technical education programs, which Jim wrote about here in Camden County, Georgia. In the 2400-student Georgia school, core academic content is infused into the career and technical courses. In smaller Winters, with fewer resources and teachers to go around, the core courses and specialty track courses co-exist, with teachers doing as much as they can to meld them together.

Agriculture is ubiquitous in the lives of everyone in Winters, so it was an easy call to focus on a track for agriculture, along with two others, culinary science (relevant in this farm-to-table locale; students already cater events in town) and engineering, which has proven extremely popular.

What’s So Troubling About Competency-Based Education?

Marni Baker Stein:

In the last week since it was announced that the University of Texas System is diving in to competency-based education (CBE), it has become clear to me that a lot of the controversy around this programming model is grounded in fairly extreme misconceptions around what CBE is …and perhaps more troubling, around just how powerful today’s technology enhanced education has the potential to be.

What are the most concerning of these myths?

1. All CBE is “Direct Assessment” CBE
I haven’t been able to find too many great explanations about what “Direct Assessment” actually means in practice — but here is a set of definitions from a recent white paper, “All Hands on Deck”, written by Patricia Book, that describes in brief the two major types of competency based education:

Can a simple algebra test predict programming aptitude?

Jenni White:

Every year since the establishment of Computer Science in the 1960s, 30-60% of CS college majors have failed their Introduction to Computer Science course because they simply could not learn to program. Despite hours of studying and tutoring, most of these underperforming students struggle with, and many ultimately give up on, programming as a career

What Students Do (And Don’t Do) In Khan Academy

Dan Meyer:

tl;dr — Khan Academy claims alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but an analysis of their eighth-grade year indicates that alignment is loose. 40% of Khan Academy exercises assessed the acts of calculating and solving whereas the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s assessment of the CCSS emphasized those acts in only 25% of their released items. 74% of Khan Academy’s exercises resulted in the production of either a number or a multiple-choice response, whereas those outputs accounted for only 25% of the SBAC assessment.


My dissertation will examine the opportunities students have to learn math online. In order to say something about the current state of the art, I decided to complete Khan Academy’s eighth grade year and ask myself two specific questions about every exercise:

Why Math Might Be The Secret To School Success

Anya Kamenetz:

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there’s still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

In New York City, an ambitious, $25 million study is collecting evidence on the best way to raise outcomes for kids in poverty. Their hunch is that it may begin with math.

Thoughts on diversity

Mike Zamansky:

It gives a reasonable overview of the gender issues in computer science education. The article talks about the drop in popularity of the old Advanced Placement AB course and its eventually being dropped as well as thoughts on how the current A course is pretty dry.

It made me think about the old vs new exams. The current APCS A exam is roughly analogous to a typical college 101 course: programming in one language and one paradigm. The old AB class represented a 101 and a 102 with the 102 being data structures and algorithms. Much more interesting for both guys and girls. Over the years, the AP A exam has become more and more vocational, at least in my opinion, and that makes matters worse. Its more and more about using the language and built in collections and less about thinking and problem solving. What’s fun about that?

Of course, we teach our version, a super-set, of the AB curriculum over the course of a school year.

Interesting that even though we teach that old school hardcore CS, we far exceed the national numbers in terms of gender balance, but more on that later.

Seeking coders, tech titans turn to schools

Stephanie Simon:

President Barack Obama sat down Monday to write a few lines of computer code with middle school students from Newark, N.J., for a PR campaign that has earned bipartisan endorsements from around the Capitol.

The $30 million campaign to promote computer science education has been financed by the tech industry, led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other giants. It’s been a smash success: So many students opened up a free coding tutorial on Monday that the host website crashed.

How or where to begin learning mathematics from first principles?

Hacker News

As I’ve become more skilled with programming and electronics I have felt myself begin to near a wall. My knowledge of and skills in math is relatively poor and all the interesting things that make up the more advanced programming and electronics pursuits seem to be heavily based on math.

When I butt heads with these more advanced topics I find I resort to scouring the internet to cobble together pieces of various tutorials and guides. While it does feel good in a way to hack together limited understandings to make satisfactory solutions I’m beginning to feel less like a hacker and more like a hack. The knowledge I gain is shallow and I don’t think my tactics will get me much further.

Instead of working backwards from implementation I would like to start from the beginning and learn math the proper way. Unfortunately most of the resources I find online seem to more focused on teaching me how to solve math problems. I have no interest in solving specific math problems on a test, I’m not going to school and I doubt I will ever take a math test again in my life. I want to work up from first principles and gain the tools to reason about the world mathematically and understand the cool things that are currently out of my reach like antenna design, machine learning, electromagnetism, cryptography etc.

Measuring Hard-to-Measure Student Competencies

Brian M. Stecher, Laura S. Hamilton :

Efforts to prepare students for college, careers, and civic engagement have traditionally emphasized academic skills, but a growing body of research suggests that interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies, such as communication and resilience, are important predictors of postsecondary success and citizenship. One of the major challenges in designing educational interventions to support these outcomes is a lack of high-quality measures that could help educators, students, parents, and others understand how students perform and monitor their development over time. This report provides guidelines to promote thoughtful development of practical, high-quality measures of interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies that practitioners and policymakers can use to improve valued outcomes for students.

What research and development is needed to create high-quality measures of students’ interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies?

Which competencies should be addressed first?

Which research and development goals should receive priority for the identified competencies?

How long will the research and development process take, and how much money needs to be committed to support the efforts?

How should the measurement-development process be managed?

Should the U.S. Make Standardized Tests Harder?

Mikhail Zinshteyn:

With opposition to the new Common Core State Standards and the assessments linked to them reaching a fever pitch, advocating for better tests seems like an unpopular proposition. But what if U.S. students took fewer tests that measured their ability to understand academic concepts far more deeply than current tests permit?

A growing chorus of scholars is calling for just that: fewer but harder tests that go beyond the standard multiple choice model, ones that ask students to answer open-ended questions, solve tougher problems, and interpret harder texts.

“We could get the benefits of higher-quality assessments and spend less than we’re spending today,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a leading professor of education at Stanford University, during a recent presentation. “We’re just not spending it in ways that are very optimal for promoting deeper learning.”

If the quality of tests are a reflection of how much students are expected to know, the standardized assessments of the No Child Left Behind era have missed the mark on measuring students’ ability to process complex knowledge, some research suggests. A recent RAND Corporation study of 17 state standardized tests found that 2 percent of the math questions and 21 percent of the English Language Arts questions assessed students on higher-order skills. Several other studies have come to similar conclusions.

More districts are searching internationally to find candidates for difficult-to-fill math and science positions

Alison Denisco:

When a national search attracted only a few new candidates, Casa Grande administrators hired a consulting agency to search for teachers overseas.

Avenida International Consultants gave administrators videos of candidates from the Philippines teaching in classrooms. Administrators then conducted interviews with the candidates via Skype to assess their skills and English-language abilities. Goodsell hired 11 math and science teachers, who relocated and started work this fall.

“We’re very pleased in regard to who we’ve been able to attract to our small district,” Goodsell says. “The teachers have done a great service for our kids and community.” All of the Filipino teachers have bachelor’s degrees, and many have master’s degrees and are working on doctorates in the subject they are teaching, he adds.

Math and science
U.S. schools have hired teachers from abroad for decades. But as baby boomers retire and school enrollment steadily increases, more districts are searching internationally to find candidates for difficult-to-fill math and science positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that districts will need to hire nearly half a million teachers by the end of the decade.

Teacher education: easy 80s.

2009 AFT Report.

Why I hate (and love) visualizations of mathematics

Jeremy Kun:

Let’s say I’m trying to learn about a difficult mathematical concept. For this example I’ll use Markov chains because I recently saw a highly-appreciated visualization of Markov chains due to Victor Powell and Lewis Lehe. For now I’ll pretend I’m the typical person who claims to be a visual thinker and the only reason I don’t get math is because nobody is patient enough to explain things in a way I can understand. (Such people are everywhere.)

So I’ve heard the mysterious term Markov chain, and tried to learn about it previously by reading a book. Maybe I want to even write a computer program to “do” a Markov Chain, whatever that means. I go check out the Powell-Lehe visualization and at the end I think “Wow! That was so easy to understand! A Markov chain is just a little diagram with a ball bouncing around, where the ball is represents the state a system, and the thickness of the lines is how likely the ball is to use that line to travel.”

Jeb Bush speaks up for Common Core

Chloe Sorvino:

“In my view, the rigour of the Common Core state standards must be the new minimum in classrooms,” Mr Bush said. “For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher. Be bolder. Raise standards and ask more of our students and the system, because I know they have the potential to deliver it.”

Mr Bush said the US government must make education reform a priority and, if that happens, it could make Common Core a 2016 election cycle issue. Last month, Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican senator, said that a supporter “doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”

Mr Bush pointed to Black and Hispanic American fourth graders reading two and a half grade levels below their white peers on average. He also cited the global rankings that place American students 21st in reading and 31st in mathematics.

“But if we buy the excuses, if we let kids struggle, if we herd them into failing schools, how can we expect young people to grasp those first rungs of opportunity?” Mr Bush asked. “That is why the challenge of fixing our schools must be among the most urgent of national priorities.”

Algorithms on Khan Academy, a collaboration with Dartmouth College professors

Pamela Fox:

What is an algorithm? It’s a sequence of steps that you follow to solve a problem. In everyday life, you might have an algorithm for hanging up your laundry, efficiently going through a shopping list, or finding an empty parking space in a lot. In computer science, an algorithm is a sequence of instructions that a computer program follows. Algorithms form the basis of the most interesting and important programs we use, such as the algorithm that Google uses to calculate driving directions, or the algorithm that Facebook uses to automatically tag you in a photo.

Because algorithms are so important to computer science, they are a core part of a computer science curriculum. The AP CS A class teaches object-oriented programming with algorithms, every college CS student will have at least one algorithms class and encounter algorithms everywhere, and every software engineer interviewing for a job will review algorithms while they’re prepping for an interview.

OntoMathPro Ontology Page


The OntoMathPro ontology has been developed by a research group from Kazan Federal University. The ontology is geared to be the hub for math knowledge in the Web of Data. We shared the sources with the Semantic Web community to engage our colleagues from elsewhere in its further development. We are going to create an ecosystem of datasets and mashups around the ontology.

On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up; “Improve K-12 Math”

Lindsay Gellman:

New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s.

Why? The foreign students are much better at the test.

Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean test scores upward, and vexed U.S. students, whose results are looking increasingly poor in comparison. In response, admissions officers at U.S. schools are seeking new ways of measurement, to make U.S. students look better.

Domestic candidates are “banging their heads against the wall,” said Jeremy Shinewald, founder and president of mbaMission, a New York-based M.B.A. admissions-consulting company. While U.S. scores have remained consistent over the past several years, the falling percentiles are “causing a ton of student anxiety,” he said.

we continue to play in the “C” (D?) leagues.

Madison’s disastrous reading scores.

Math forum audio and video. Math task force.

Madison School Board Accountabilty Commentary.

Too Many Kids Quit Science Because They Don’t Think They’re Smart

Alexandra Osola:

For most students, science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) subjects are not intuitive or easy. Learning in general—and STEM in particular—requires repeated trial and error, and a student’s lack of confidence can sometimes stand in her own way. And although teachers and parents may think they are doing otherwise, these adults inadvertently help kids make up their minds early on that they’re not natural scientists or “math people,” which leads them to pursue other subjects instead.

So what’s the best way to help kids feel confident enough to stay the STEM course? To answer this question, I spoke with Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University in California. Over the past 20 years, Dweck has conducted dozens of studies about praise’s impact on students’ self-esteem and academic achievement. Here is a transcript of our conversation, which has been condensed and lightly edited.

Alexandra Ossola: What sparked your interest in this field?

‘We have to do better’ – Trenton school officials seek reversal of low test scores

Jenna Pizzi:

For students from third to eighth grades, achievement has remained stagnant over the last five years. Last school year, the district had 26.9 percent of third graders ranked as proficient or above in language arts. That proficiency stayed in the low 20 percent range for grades four through seven. In eighth grade, 42.2 percent were ranked as proficient or higher in language arts and literacy.

Math scores hovered between 44 and 32 percent proficient in the 2013-2014 school year for grades three through six. For grades seven and eight, scores sank to 20 and 25 percent, respectively.

In the HSPA test given to 11th graders, there was a 71 percent proficiency in language arts and a 39 percent proficiency in math. There has been an improvement in language arts in the last four years, said Edward Ward, supervisor of instructional technology and accountability.

Johnson said her team is crafting a response by gathering information from teachers in high achieving schools in the district about their best practices and proven methods while also examining what works throughout the state and country.

Via Laura Waters.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Despite angst over standardized testing, Wisconsin may be on right path

Alan Borsuk:

This may be the most politically incorrect thing I’ve ever said in this space: There are positive things to say about what’s going on in standardized testing in Wisconsin.

Everybody hates testing. Kids, teachers, politicians of all stripes. Even the biggest testing advocates in the country say there is too much testing. Testing is useless. It interferes with real education. There is a lot of reason to take the criticism seriously.

But I say: Maybe there’s hope, and maybe Wisconsin is on a new and good path.

First, an anecdote: About 15 years ago, I attended the annual gathering of testing chiefs from states across the country. I remember a panel discussion in which four experts described what was wrong with the way testing was being done.

The fifth person on the panel was the education adviser to the then-governor of Indiana. His message: That’s nice, but my boss and legislature want test scores.

Guess whose viewpoint prevailed. And things got only bigger, more pervasive and more controversial. In 2002, the No Child Left Behind federal education law went on the books, with its requirement that pretty much every public schoolchild in America be tested in reading and math every year from third through eighth grade and at one grade in high school.

Wisconsin’s WKCE has long been criticized for its lack of rigor and poor timing. Yet, it continued for years…

“Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”.

Parents feel ‘unequipped’ to help children with maths

Josie Gurney-Read:

“It’s not a subject, maths, it’s a language. A language, without which, we cannot communicate. The teaching of arithmetic and algebra, for example, is like teaching the grammar of this language.”

It will perhaps be unsurprising to most that Carol Vorderman, who spent 26 years as co-host on the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown, should be working towards giving schoolchildren the resources and opportunity to achieve highly in maths at primary school.

Having created The Maths Factor – an online maths school for primary age children – four years ago, Vorderman will attend the first ‘graduation day’ today, for children who have made exceptional progress through the program.

Related: Math Forum.

A Math Teacher on Common Core

Brooke Powers:

Before Common Core I was a typical math teacher. I had my curriculum maps and and state standards which read like a skill and drill check list that I marked off one by one whether the kids understood them or not. I used really “great” methods and math terminology like “butterfly method”, “keep switch flip”, “leave opposite opposite”, and so many more that I would love to forget. I moved to Kentucky the year that KCAS (Kentucky’s Common Core) was adopted and thought “how different could it be?” The answer to that question can be answered easily with a quick peak inside my classroom today.

Today, my classroom is cognitively busy and alive with excitement about numbers. We no longer focus on skills, timed tests, facts, or catchy phrases to make students remember things that have no meaning to them. Today, we do math talks, counting circles, estimating, and reasoning instead of direct instruction. We take the time to understand numbers and their meanings rather than memorizing facts. I don’t drill random formulas and information into students heads so that they can remember it long enough to pass a test rather than understanding it to a depth that can be applied to real life.

I really do understand the reason so many parents seem to get upset about the “new math” associated with Common Core. After all, it is change and change is difficult but here is what I know. I have talked to tons of adults and not one has told me that they have to take skill and drill tests daily at work or risk being fired. When I ask what they have to do at work I get a lot of answers but there is always a common theme, in real life we are no longer asked to use math as a check list of skills that we either know or don’t know. Instead real life is about using the math to solve real problems, to be a critical thinker, to reason, and actually understand what is happening around them. Those are all the things along with many more that Common Core has brought to my classroom.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Related: Math Forum Audio & Video.

Big data is coming to education; the next step is figuring out how to use it


Big data is coming to education; the next step is figuring out how to use it.

Horace Dediu is an expert at using big data to understand technology’s accelerating development. He has been interviewed by Forbes, Fortune, and various other news sources as an Apple expert, and his independent blog, Asymco, is filled with facts and data regarding mobile communication products and the companies that create and sell them. Dediu’s model is the opposite of that of most analysts: he charges for his opinions but offers all of his data for free. On November 7 at Impact Hub, Dediu will share both data and opinions with educational leaders at SPARK Seattle 2014.

With the upcoming educational leadership event in mind, we conducted a brief personal interview with Dediu. Read the full interview below!

Getting the IT education you need without the debt: Could studying abroad be the answer?

Andrada Fiscutean:

Students who want to dodge the tens of thousands of euros in fees and living expenses that come with getting a degree in IT might want to consider Romania.

Landing a good job in technology often means spending several years at university, and racking up a huge bill. However, there are ways to cut the cost of education, including studying abroad. Romania, Europe’s software development powerhouse, could prove a cheaper option worth considering: fees are only a fraction of those found in the UK or US, and a student with a part-time job can break even at the end of the year. Student essentials, too, are wallet-friendly: students at Bucharest’s campus Regie can land themselves a large pizza for a mere €3, for example.

Compare and contrast to monolithic K-12 models.

This Free App Uses Your Smartphone’s Camera to Do Your Math Homework for You

DL Cade:

Your smartphone’s camera might fall short of the typical DSLR in just about every respect, but there is one thing it now do that not even your ultra-portable mirrorless camera can handle: your math homework.

No, we’re not talking about shutting down the camera and opening your calculator app, what we’re talking about is PhotoMath, a new app from MicroBLINK that uses your smartphone camera to solve equations for you.

Either a great study aid, or a terrifying new cheating tool that teachers the world over will now have to contend with, PhotoMath is no slouch. Check out the demo below if you don’t believe us:

American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist

Davud Edwards:

Are Americans getting dumber?

Our math skills are falling. Our reading skills are weakening. Our children have become less literate than children in many developed countries. But the crisis in American education may be more than a matter of sliding rankings on world educational performance scales.

Our kids learn within a system of education devised for a world that increasingly does not exist.

To become a chef, a lawyer, a philosopher or an engineer, has always been a matter of learning what these professionals do, how and why they do it, and some set of general facts that more or less describe our societies and our selves. We pass from kindergarten through twelfth grade, from high school to college, from college to graduate and professional schools, ending our education at some predetermined stage to become the chef, or the engineer, equipped with a fair understanding of what being a chef, or an engineer, actually is and will be for a long time.

We “learn,” and after this we “do.” We go to school and then we go to work.

On Remedial Math

Ron Schacter

Many of the graduates entering college from New York’s Hampton Bays High School in 2011 weren’t ready for higher education math.

At neighboring Suffolk County Community College, 68 percent of the first-year students from Hampton Bays had to take remedial math.

“These numbers were horrifying to us and created a real sense of urgency,” says Denise Sullivan, the assistant superintendent for curriculum at the Hampton Bays Schools.

Sullivan approached the college president to discuss the problem and forged an innovative partnership.

In an uncommon move, Sullivan and the chair of the mathematics department at the college created a high school course that mirrors the remedial class that students deficient in math have to take when they start college.

The college was “thrilled.” “Nobody else was taking this approach,” Sullivan says. The college had found that only 20 percent of the students who entered in need of developmental courses went on to graduate.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers

Tamar Jacoby:

At last, unemployment is easing. But the latest low rate—hovering below 6 percent–obscures a deeper, longer-term problem: “skills mismatches” in the labor force, which will only worsen in years to come. According to the most recent figures, 9.3 million Americans are unemployed, but 4.8 million jobs stand empty because employers can’t find people to fill them. With new technology transforming work across a range of sectors, more and more businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills to man new machines and manage new processes.

One solution has enchanted employers, educators, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle: European-style apprenticeship. The Obama administration is about to announce $100 million worth of apprenticeship grants—and wants to spend another $6 billion over the next four years. Meanwhile, lawmakers as different as Democratic Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have expressed interest in the idea.

Americans should proceed with caution.

A New Kind of College Rating System

Paul LeBlanc:

Many of my fellow college presidents remain worried about the Obama Administration’s proposed (and still being developed) rating system for higher education. While Education Department officials have been responsive and thoughtful about our concerns, many among us fundamentally do not trust government to get this right.

Or anyone, for that matter. After all, we already have lots of rating systems and they mostly seem flawed — some, like U.S. News and World Report, extremely so. Institutions game the system in various ways. Rarely do rating systems capture the complexity of the industry with its rich mix of institutions, missions, and student markets served. Almost always, they are deeply reductionist.

As Apprentices in Classroom, Teachers Learn What Works

Motoko Rich:

Monica DeSantiago wondered how in the world she would get the students to respect her.

It was the beginning of her yearlong apprenticeship as a math teacher at Berkley Maynard Academy, a charter school in this diverse city east of San Francisco. The petite, soft-spoken Ms. DeSantiago, 23, had heard the incoming sixth graders were a rowdy bunch.

She watched closely as Pamela Saberton, a teacher with seven years’ experience in city public schools and Ms. DeSantiago’s mentor for the year, strolled the room. Ms. Saberton rarely raised her voice, but kept up a constant patter as she recited what the students were doing, as in, “Keion is sitting quietly,” or “Reevan is working on her math problems.”

To Ms. DeSantiago, the practice seemed unnatural, if not bizarre. But the students quieted and focused on a getting-to-know-you activity, writing down their hobbies and favorite foods.

It’s 2014. All Children Are Supposed To Be Proficient. What Happened?

Anya Kamenetz:

Take yourself back to those highly emotional, patriotic months after the 9/11 attacks.

In the midst of war, terrorism, fear and mourning, one bill passed 87-10 in the Senate and by a similar margin in the House — with equal support from both sides of the aisle. It was signed into law in January 2002 by George W. Bush, with the liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, by his side.

The law set a simple if daunting goal: All of the nation’s students would perform at grade level on state tests. Every single one. 100 percent. Or as the name of the law put it, there would be No Child Left Behind. Here’s the formal language:

Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

On Teaching Mathematics

V I Arnold:

Mathematics is a part of physics. Physics is an experimental science, a part of natural science. Mathematics is the part of physics where experiments are cheap.

The Jacobi identity (which forces the heights of a triangle to cross at one point) is an experimental fact in the same way as that the Earth is round (that is, homeomorphic to a ball). But it can be discovered with less expense.

In the middle of the twentieth century it was attempted to divide physics and mathematics. The consequences turned out to be catastrophic. Whole generations of mathematicians grew up without knowing half of their science and, of course, in total ignorance of any other sciences. They first began teaching their ugly scholastic pseudo-mathematics to their students, then to schoolchildren (forgetting Hardy’s warning that ugly mathematics has no permanent place under the Sun).

Since scholastic mathematics that is cut off from physics is fit neither for teaching nor for application in any other science, the result was the universal hate towards mathematicians – both on the part of the poor schoolchildren (some of whom in the meantime became ministers) and of the users.

The ugly building, built by undereducated mathematicians who were exhausted by their inferiority complex and who were unable to make themselves familiar with physics, reminds one of the rigorous axiomatic theory of odd numbers. Obviously, it is possible to create such a theory and make pupils admire the perfection and internal consistency of the resulting structure (in which, for example, the sum of an odd number of terms and the product of any number of factors are defined). From this sectarian point of view, even numbers could either be declared a heresy or, with passage of time, be introduced into the theory supplemented with a few “ideal” objects (in order to comply with the needs of physics and the real world).

Unfortunately, it was an ugly twisted construction of mathematics like the one above which predominated in the teaching of mathematics for decades. Having originated in France, this pervertedness quickly spread to teaching of foundations of mathematics, first to university students, then to school pupils of all lines (first in France, then in other countries, including Russia).

Ford celebrates 30th anniversary of high school science & technology program

Ford Motor Company:

The new Ford Blue Oval STEM Scholarship Program will provide $500,000 in scholarships over four years to 50 students to pursue qualifying STEM degrees

To be considered for the scholarship program, students must have been associated with one of three Ford-supported STEM programs – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, Ford Next Generation Learning or Ford High School Science and Technology Program

More than 10,000 participants have completed the Ford High School Science and Technology Program to date, some of whom continued on in Ford’s internship program and are now Ford employees

Ford today announced a new Ford Blue Oval STEM Scholarship Program during the kickoff of its 30th annual High School Science and Technology Program (HSSTP). The new scholarship program will provide $500,000 in scholarships over four years to 50 students interested in pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM) fields.

Felicia Fields, group vice president, Human Resources and Corporate Services, made the announcement as she spoke to HSSTP participants and employee volunteers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center during the first session of the 2014-15 program.

Project Cybersyn and the origins of the Big Data nation.

Evgeny Morozov

In June, 1972, Ángel Parra, Chile’s leading folksinger, wrote a song titled “Litany for a Computer and a Baby About to Be Born.” Computers are like children, he sang, and Chilean bureaucrats must not abandon them. The song was prompted by a visit to Santiago from a British consultant who, with his ample beard and burly physique, reminded Parra of Santa Claus—a Santa bearing a “hidden gift, cybernetics.”

The consultant, Stafford Beer, had been brought in by Chile’s top planners to help guide the country down what Salvador Allende, its democratically elected Marxist leader, was calling “the Chilean road to socialism.” Beer was a leading theorist of cybernetics—a discipline born of midcentury efforts to understand the role of communication in controlling social, biological, and technical systems. Chile’s government had a lot to control: Allende, who took office in November of 1970, had swiftly nationalized the country’s key industries, and he promised “worker participation” in the planning process. Beer’s mission was to deliver a hypermodern information system that would make this possible, and so bring socialism into the computer age. The system he devised had a gleaming, sci-fi name: Project Cybersyn.

Lessons From “The Smartest Kids in the World”

Laura Isensee

The data is clear: Finland, South Korea and Poland are outpacing the United States in grade-school education.

Many kids there can make complex arguments and solve challenging problems.

Journalist Amanda Ripley tells what it’s like to be a student in one of these education superpowers in her book: “The Smartest Kids in the World —and How They Got That Way”.

Use grades to improve remedial placement

Judith Scott-Clayton, Peter M. Crosta & Clive Belfield:

At an annual cost of roughly $7 billion nationally, remedial coursework is one of the single largest interventions intended to improve outcomes for underprepared college students. But like a costly medical treatment with non-trivial side effects, the value of remediation overall depends upon whether those most likely to benefit can be identified in advance. This NBER working paper uses administrative data and a rich predictive model to examine the accuracy of remedial screening tests, either instead of or in addition to using high school transcript data to determine remedial assignment.

The authors find that roughly one in four test-takers in math and one in three test-takers in English are severely mis-assigned under current test-based policies, with mis-assignments to remediation much more common than mis-assignments to college-level coursework. Using high school transcript information—either instead of or in addition to test scores—could significantly reduce the prevalence of assignment errors. Further, the choice of screening device has significant implications for the racial and gender composition of both remedial and college-level courses. Finally, if institutions took account of students’ high school performance, they could remediate substantially fewer students without lowering success rates in college-level courses.

Via Noel Radomski.

Inspire students in manufacturing

Vince Bertram, Via Erich Zellmer:

American manufacturing has faced many challenges over the past few decades. Today, it is facing a new one: Employers cannot find enough qualified workers with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the industry’s job demands.

The National Association of Manufacturers reports more than 600,000 unfilled jobs this year. There simply aren’t enough workers with the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge and skills needed for these and other high-tech, high-skill jobs. Schools must prepare our students now, and that preparation must start at an early age.

As the country continues to rebound from the Great Recession, manufacturing is among the fastest-growing economic sectors. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index climbed to 59% in August, representing the 15th consecutive month of growth and the highest reading since March 2011.

‘Teachers should be given basic training in data handling and statistics to ensure they avoid making poor decisions’

The Royal Society:

The Society is also working hard to improve statistical literacy across the board; it supports the teaching of basic data handling and quantitative skills in all A levels that use data, raising its profile in maths A levels, and ensuring that the new Core Maths qualification teaches appropriate statistical skills. It also calls for politicians, policymakers and other professionals in the public sector be given basic training in data handling and statistics.

Deja Vu on Madison Math: Algebra: The most-failed class for Madison freshmen

Molly Beck:

“When you look at the data, there’s something not working, clearly,” she said. “And if you know being on track in ninth grade is key to a student’s success then it’s our obligation to change that.”

She said the district will be strengthening the quality and consistency of algebra instruction across schools so that courses in each school approach the class the same. After the district’s review of high school curriculum is complete, the ninth-grade algebra requirement and graduation requirements could change.

Like Madison, districts across the state are looking at ways to improve rates at which students pass algebra and are also developing new curriculum that includes algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.

Signe Carney, who has taught math at Memorial High School for 18 years, said part of the reason for the algebra failure rate is that “people are OK with saying, ‘I’m bad at math,’ and they will never say they can’t read. People think they can or can’t, and if they think they can’t, they won’t succeed.”

Another factor is that algebraic concepts build on each other, so it’s hard to catch up if students miss days, she said.


What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack & Michael Fish @ UW Center for Placement Testing.

Math Forum Audio & Video (2008!).

Connected Math.

Everyday Math

Deja vu: School report card shows vulnerable students left behind in Madison

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick:

Black, Hispanic and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners, show proficiencies well below those of the district as a whole, Jeff Spitzer-Resnick points out on his blog.

“While overall the Department of Public Instruction considered that MMSD ‘meets expectations,’ a closer examination of vulnerable student populations suggests many MMSD students are not receiving an education which will prepare them adequately for adulthood,” writes Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney who has blogged before about school district accountability.

Citing information from the Report Card detail available here on the DPI website, Spitzer-Resnick compares district-wide levels of proficiency in reading and math with consistently lower levels among students of color, low-income students and those with disabilities or limited English language skills.

Hardly a recent issue, unfortunately. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

More, here.

Meanwhile, Madison continues to support wide low income variation across its schools.

Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

Danette Clark:

According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.”

As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill Ayers and other blatant anti-American indoctrinators.

The site, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Teach for America, says that because math is seen as a domain for old, white men, many students cannot identify with it. Therefore, educators should find ways to relate math to the lives of their students.

Related: Math Forum, Connected Math, Everyday Math and English 10.

Math Task Force and When A Stands for Average.

Online education company edX offering free high school courses

Matt Rocheleau:

The online-learning collaborative edX, a partnership between Harvard University and MIT, is expanding its reach beyond higher education and will begin offering courses geared toward high school students.

Edx plans to unveil its first free classes for younger students Wednesday, when most of the new courses will open for enrollment. The 26 high school courses were created by 14 institutions — including MIT, Georgetown and Rice universities, the University of California Berkeley, Boston University, Wellesley College, and Weston Public High School.

The online classes, available to anyone in the world, will cover such subjects as computer science, calculus, geometry, algebra, English, physics, biology, chemistry, Spanish, French, history, statistics, and psychology.

To date, edX has offered only college-level courses. And, while a smattering of high school-level massive open online courses exist, company officials said edX is the first provider of so-called MOOCs to offer an organized set of free high school curriculums.


Credit for non-Madison School District Courses.

English 10.

Intro to Computer Science overtakes Econ as Harvard’s most popular class

Tom Huddleston:

The tech course enrolled almost 820 students for the current fall semester to become the school’s largest class in at least a decade.

The college campus that once (briefly) hosted future tech luminaries Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as students is now overrun with tech-curious scholars.

The most popular fall-semester course at Harvard is “Introduction to Computer Science I,” according to data put out by the school’s registrar’s office, with almost 820 undergraduates enrolled in the class this semester. That total is the highest in the three decades the course has been offered and it’s the biggest class offered at Harvard in at least a decade, according to The Harvard Crimson.

The Cost of Waterloo Software Engineering

Peter Sobot:

This past June, I graduated from the University of Waterloo’s Software Engineering program. After 5 long and difficult years, I’m extremely proud to say that I’m a Waterloo grad, and very proud of my accomplishments and experiences at the school. Somewhat surprisingly, myself and most of my classmates were able to graduate from a top-tier engineering school with zero debt. (I know this might sound like a sales pitch – stick with me here.)

Waterloo is home to the world’s largest cooperative education programs — meaning that every engineering student is required to take at least 5 internships over the course of their degree. Most take six. This lengthens the duration of the course to five years, and forces us into odd schedules where we alternate between four months of work and four months of school. We get no summer breaks.

One of the most important parts of Waterloo’s co-op program is that the school requires each placement be paid. Without meeting certain minimum requirements for compensation, a student can’t claim academic credit for their internship, and without five internships, they can’t graduate. This results in Waterloo co-op students being able to pay their tuition in full (hopefully) each semester. In disciplines like Software Engineering, where demand is at an all-time high and many students are skilled enough to hold their own at Silicon Valley tech giants, many students end up negotiating for higher salaries at their internships.

Malawi app ‘teaches UK pupils 18 months of maths in six weeks’

Spencer Kelly:

An app designed to help provide a better education for children in Malawi has proved an equally effective learning tool for pupils in the UK. In six weeks, children made the same progress in maths as expected after 12 to 18 months of teaching.

It will be an emotional time at my house, when my four-year-old son goes to “big school” for the first time.

As well as wondering where the last four years have gone, and being petrified that he will miss us more than we miss him, there is that niggle about how he will take to schoolwork.

How well will the teachers engage him and ensure he is not left behind?

Although I always assumed technology would play a major role in his education, I certainly didn’t expect him to get a boost from a tool originally designed to provide Malawian children with a better future.

But this is now a possibility, after pupils in Nottingham using a maths teaching app from the charity Onebillion advanced their learning at the same rapid rate as those in Africa, for whom it was originally designed.

Math Reading Suggestions

Jennifer Ouellette:

1. Number: The Language of Science
Tobias Dantzig
Plume, 2007

“First published in 1930, this classic text traces the evolution of the concept of a number in clear, accessible prose. (None other than Albert Einstein sang its praises.) A Latvian mathematician who studied under Henri Poincare, Dantzig covers all the bases, from counting, negative numbers and fractions, to complex numbers, set theory, infinity and the link between math and time. Above all, he understood that the story of where mathematical ideas come from, how they relate to each other, and evolve over time, is key to a true appreciation of mathematics.”

Book Discussion on The Smartest Kids in the World

cspan 3 via Richard Askey:

Amanda Ripley talked about her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. In her book she followed three American high-school students who each spent a year in a high-scoring foreign school system, in Finland, South Korea, and Poland.

She spoke in the Science Pavilion of the 2014 National Book Festival, which was held August 30 by the Library of Congress at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. close

Ripley mentioned that in her observation principals spend up to half their time on sports matters.

Coding at school: a parent’s guide to England’s new computing curriculum

Stuart Dredge:

Getting more kids to code has been a cause célèbre for the technology industry for some time. Teaching programming skills to children is seen as a long-term solution to the “skills gap” between the number of technology jobs and the people qualified to fill them.

From this month, the UK is the guinea pig for the most ambitious attempt yet to get kids coding, with changes to the national curriculum. ICT – Information and Communications Technology – is out, replaced by a new “computing” curriculum including coding lessons for children as young as five.

Medicine’s Uncomfortable Relationship With Math Calculating Positive Predictive Value

Arjun K. Manrai, AB; Gaurav Bhatia, MS; Judith Strymish, MD; Isaac S. Kohane, MD, PhD, Sachin H. Jain, MD:

In 1978, Casscells et al1 published a small but important study showing that the majority of physicians, house officers, and students overestimated the positive predictive value (PPV) of a laboratory test result using prevalence and false positive rate. Today, interpretation of diagnostic tests is even more critical with the increasing use of medical technology in health care. Accordingly, we replicated the study by Casscells et al1 by asking a convenience sample of physicians, house officers, and students the same question: “If a test to detect a disease whose prevalence is 1/1000 has a false positive rate of 5%, what is the chance that a person found to have a positive result actually has the disease, assuming you know nothing about the person’s symptoms or signs?”

Statistics: Losing Ground to CS, Losing Image Among Students

Norman Matloff:

The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia. have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that:

The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS).

Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful.

I had been aware of these issues for quite a while, and thus was pleasantly surprised last year to see then-ASA president Marie Davidson write a plaintive editorial titled, “Aren’t We Data Science?”

Good, the ASA is taking action, I thought. But even then I was startled to learn during JSM 2014 (a conference tellingly titled “Statistics: Global Impact, Past, Present and Future”) that the ASA leadership is so concerned about these problems that it has now retained a PR firm.

This is probably a wise move–most large institutions engage in extensive PR in one way or another–but it is a sad statement about how complacent the profession has become. Indeed, it can be argued that the action is long overdue; as a friend of mine put it, “They [the statistical profession] lost the PR war because they never fought it.”

In this post, I’ll tell you the rest of the story, as I see it, viewing events as statistician, computer scientist and R activist.

Teaching Math-Conversations on the Rifle Range 7: Winds and Currents, Formative Assessments, and the Eternal Gratitude of Dudes

Barry Garelick, via a kind email:

All my classes were getting ready to take their first quiz later in the week. My second period class was the second-year Algebra 1 class. We were working on systems of linear equations covering the various ways of solving two equations with two unknowns.

I was preparing for my second period class by looking over the upcoming quiz and identifying the questions that most students would likely get wrong. As I reached the disturbing conclusion that this would be almost all the questions, Sally, the District person who talked to the math teachers about Common Core the day before school began, stuck her head in the door and asked if I had done any of the activities she had talked about that day. These were discovery-oriented projects that lead students to explore certain topics (specifically: probability, repeating decimals, and solving systems of equations) while allowing teachers to do formative assessments. Which means evaluating students by observing them “communicate and defend their thinking”.

Math wars: Rote memorization plays crucial role in teaching students how to solve complex calculations, study says

Joseph Brean:

In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.

Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.

The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.

Related: Math Forum.

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Karen Herzog:

Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.”

Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions process, Farrow noted. She said she’s concerned about what those test results will show.

“I think we’re doing all we can, but we need help because these are our kids,” Farrow said. “If they aren’t making it, this state and this country aren’t making it. … This is an emergency. This is a tragedy happening.”

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

However, “it’s in all of our best interest to work together on this,” Cross said.

Related: Math Forum.

Madison’s math review task force. Have the results of the task force made a difference?

MIT Offers STEM Institute for Middle School Students

Joshua Bolkan:

Students entering grades 6-9 in the Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence, MA area recently had an opportunity to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts thanks to a STEM Summer Institute offered by MIT’s Office of Engineering Outreach Programs.

The institute was taught by 15 instructors, mostly graduate and undergraduate students, who “worked closely with expert mentors to prepare their curricula, and academic advisors provided additional student and instructional support,” according to an MIT news release.

PDK/Gallup Poll on Public Education

Phi Delta Kappa International:

Are Americans convinced that the common core will improve education? And what about federal programs supporting school accountability and charter schools? Do these programs have American’s support or is it time to go back to the drawing board for school reform?

Related: wary of growing federalism.

“More Rigor is Needed” – Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; Possible?

Pat Schneider:

Middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District have become caring environments for students, but aren’t rigorous enough to prepare them for high school academic work, says Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.

“We know there are quite a few things that highly effective schools do that we have not been doing in both our middle and our high schools,” Cheatham told Madison School Board members Monday during a review of a district report on coursework in the high schools.

“We haven’t established a coherent approach to instruction, as you’ve heard me say again and again, but we are making progress. We’ve all spent quality time in our middle and high school classrooms, and in middle schools in particular, we’ve made tons of progress in creating very caring environments, but the level of rigor and academic challenge isn’t where it needs to be,” Cheatham said.


Madison’s High School Coursework Review

English 10

Connected Math and″>Everyday Math

High School Redesign & Small Learning Communities.

At the end of the day, given the District’s long term disastrous reading results, is it possible to see meaningful achievement improvement with an agrarian / Frederick Taylor era structure?

Do the maths on education choices

Letters to tge Guardian:

Jenkins uses the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) to argue that employment prospects for mathematicians are worse than those for, eg, historians. While it is true that 9% of mathematicians were unemployed six months after graduating compared with 7% of historians, the tables are turned in the longer term. The same annual Hesa reports used by Jenkins show that three years later in their careers:

(a) 2.3% of mathematicians were assumed unemployed compared to 3.8% of the historians;

(b) 75% of mathematicians thought their degree was good value for money, and 63% of historians thought theirs was;

(c) more than half the mathematicians in employment were earning more than £27,500, while this was true of only a quarter of the historians (92% of mathematicians were classified as being in “professional” employment compared with 77% of historians).

Find More Than 4,000 Math Lessons on Open Curriculum

Richard Byrne:

Open Curriculum is a new entry into the lesson depot market. Like similar sites, Open Curriculum offers a collection of thousands of resources for teaching mathematics. You browse the Open Curriculum resource lists according to grade level and topic. As you might guess, a lot of the featured resources are Khan Academy materials. In addition to the Khan Academy materials you will find lessons created and shared by other teachers.

Open Curriculum provides more than just a collection of mathematics lesson materials. In your Open Curriculum account you can create and share your own lessons and units of study. You can also upload existing materials to incorporate into the lessons and units that you create in Open Curriculum.

America’s Math Crisis

Dick Resch

Americans could use a crash course in math.
According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are vacant for more than twice as long as other positions — largely because employers can’t find people with the math and science skills to fill them.

In fact, high school graduates with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are in greater demand than college grads without them.

Related: Math Forum Audio & Video and

Explaining how pensions work might alarm rather than empower – strongly disagree….

Pauline Skypala:

What is the difference between per cent and percentage points? I was pulled up on this some years ago soon after joining the FT, and have since discovered many others, including prominent academics, who are not aware of the distinction.

Does it matter? For the sake of accuracy, yes it does. Given the general lack of numeracy and financial understanding though, it is a minor detail.

The financial industry has long maintained that financial education is the missing factor in making us all better customers for their wares. As financial decision-making is increasingly passed from institutions to individuals and becomes more and more complex, the apparent need for better education becomes more pressing.

Few would disagree that an appreciation of interest rates, compound interest, annual percentage rates and inflation should be taught as standard to all school children. It would not go amiss if they learned about the stock market either.

That alone, though, would not necessarily equip them to make decisions about how to invest for retirement, say. There is a distinct lack of agreement about how to do that among the professionals, for a start. There is also no agreement on the extent to which a better understanding of investment risk would lead to better decision-making.

A recent publication by Allianz, the insurer, reveals a belief on the part of some contributors that financial education would prevent the recurrence of a 2008-style crisis and contribute to lowering wealth inequality, while others maintain it is all too complex and we should leave decisions to the experts.

Commentary on College Remediation Rates

Carol Burris:

College remediation rates are used to justify the need for the Common Core. For diehard reformers, the lack of “rigorous standards” is res ipsa loquitur –the culpability is such that one can disregard the other possible contributing factors that result in student remediation.

The argument is both political and simplistic. It is political because time and again the facts about college remediation are distorted or framed to cause maximum alarm. It is simplistic because it fails to acknowledge the complexity of the problem, seeing college remediation solely as a function of inadequate high school preparation.

Let’s begin with how reformers distort the facts. Here is one example. According to Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the following in Massachusetts earlier this year:

Kardashian Index

Judith Curry:

I am concerned that phenomena similar to that of Kim Kardashian may also exist in the scientific community. I think it is possible that there are individuals who are famous for being famous. – Neil Hall

If you are scratching your head wondering who Kim Kardashian is, she is a reality TV star with millions of fans and online followers. When I first spotted tweets about the Kardashian factor, I rolled my eyes and ignored them. I inadvertently landed on an article about the Kardashian factor by following a tweet from Kirk Englehardt. Its interesting, sort of entertaining and irritating at the same time, but the article and the responses to it are raising some important issues.

The Kardashian Index: a measure of discrepant social media profile for scientists

Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Pat Schneider:

“It seems reasonable to attribute a good share of the improvements to the specific and focused strategies we have pursued this year,” Hughes writes. The process of improvement will become self-reinforcing, he predicts. “This bodes well for better results on the horizon.”

Not so fast, writes Madison attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick in his Systems Change Consulting blog, the results are not all they’re cracked up to be upon closer examination.

At Madison East High School, for example, the results reveal significant academic problems and huge racial disparities, but no information about school discipline issues, Spitzer-Resnick writes.

The number of East High 9th graders failing two or more courses dropped to 33 percent last school year from 38 percent the year before, the report says.

“This is still a very high rate of failure,” Spitzer-Resnick says and points out the significantly more troubling breakdown for African-American (49 percent) and special education (45 percent) 9th graders who failed two or more courses.

Spitzer-Resnick plots out other disparities in student achievement and argues that the lack of data on school discipline means there are no goals or accountability for the implementation of a new behavior plan the school district will launch next year.

Tim Slekar, education policy activist and dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College who blogs at The Chalk Face, says that the gains in the MMSD report “are so small that attributing a cause and effect relationship between the scores and the improvement plan is way too premature.”

Background links: Ed Hughes and Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Much more on Madison and nearby Districts use of the MAP assessment, including results from 2011-2012.

It would be useful to compare results over the past few years, rather than just the current school year.

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Elizabeth Green:

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

What every computer science major should know

Matt Might:

Given the expansive growth in the field, it’s become challenging to discern what belongs in a modern computer science degree.
 My own faculty is engaging in this debate, so I’ve coalesced my thoughts as an answer to the question, “What should every computer science major know?”
 I’ve tried to answer this question as the conjunction of four concerns:
 What should every student know to get a good job?
 What should every student know to maintain lifelong employment?
 What should every student know to enter graduate school?
 What should every student know to benefit society?
 My thoughts below factor into both general principles and specific recommendations relevant to the modern computing landscape.
 Computer science majors: feel free to use this as a self-study guide.
 Please email or tweet with suggestions for addition and deletion.

Both Genders Think Women Are Bad at Basic Math

John Bohannon:

Think women can’t do math? You’re wrong—but new research shows you might not change your mind, even if you get evidence to the contrary. A study of how both men and women perceive each other’s mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women could be skewing hiring decisions, widening the gender gap in mathematical professions like engineering.

The inspiration for the experiment was a 2008 study published in Science that analyzed the results of a standardized test of math and verbal abilities taken by 15-year-olds around the world. The results challenged the pernicious stereotype that females are biologically inferior at mathematics. Although the female test-takers lagged behind males on the math portion of the test, the size of the gap closely tracked the degree of gender inequality in their countries, shrinking to nearly zero in emancipated countries like Sweden and Norway. That suggests that cultural biases rather than biology may be the better explanation for the math gender gap.

To tease out the mechanism of discrimination, two of the authors of the 2008 study, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, economic researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois, and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in Illinois, respectively, teamed up with Ernesto Reuben, an experimental psychologist at Columbia Business School in New York City, to design an experiment to test people’s gender bias when it comes to judging mathematical ability.

Best state in America: Massachusetts, for its educational success

Reid Wilson:

That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement.

In almost every category, the Bay State beats the national average: More than 60 percent of Massachusetts children have a parent with a post-secondary degree, 14 points higher than average, and nearly 60 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, more than 10 points above the national average.

No surprise, nearly half of Massachusetts fourth-graders are proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests, and more than 54 percent of eighth-graders get proficient scores on NAEP math tests — both the highest rates in the country.

The underlying reason is a bipartisan commitment to education reform. Massachusetts passed a major school reform package in 1993, increasing spending, particularly in poorer districts; raising assessment standards; and making licensure exams for new teachers more difficult. Several other states improved their standards around the same time. But when partisan priorities shifted in other places, Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats alike continued investing heavily in education.

Improving scores, particularly among low-income and minority students, is still a challenge, and Massachusetts has done no better in closing the achievement gap than most other states.

Wisconsin took a very small step toward Massachusetts’ content knowledge requirements by adopting MTEL-90 for elementary English teachers.

Wisconsin results are available here.

Year after Rocketship’s scrutinized Milwaukee launch, signs point to progress; Status Quo in Madison

Erin Richards:

What were the highlights of Rocketship’s first year here?

Strong growth. Rocketship set a goal of having 65% of its Milwaukee students meet the national average for reading and math growth over the course of the year. In fact, 72% of the school’s students, almost all of whom are low-income and Hispanic or black, learned as much as a typical American student in English and language arts. In math, 87% of Rocketship students met or exceeded that average growth target.

New style. Rocketship introduced children to spending part of the day doing reading and math exercises on the computer, using software that adapts to each child’s skill level. Sessions are overseen by an aide rather than a teacher, which is one way Rocketship keeps costs down. Most teachers also specialize by subject matter.

Parent involvement. A Rocketship hallmark is involving parents in schools, not only to help their children with homework and goal-setting, but also to advocate in the community. Kinser said almost all teachers had 90% of their parents meet the 30-hour goal of interacting with the school.

Enrollment. This year’s enrollment goal is 487 children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the school on its way to meeting it, Kinser said.

Rocketship’s challenges

The turbulent first year in Milwaukee also set Rocketship on its heels at times. Some challenges included:

Special education. About 17% of Milwaukee Rocketship children had special needs last year, which is close to the district average in Milwaukee Public Schools. Venskus said Rocketship went about $500,000 over budget to serve those students.

Teacher turnover. Rocketship, like other demanding urban charter schools with long hours and high expectations, was not a good fit for some teachers who left early in the school year. Rocketship did not renew some others. This fall there will be four new teachers at the school from Teach For America, the alternative teacher certification program from which Rocketship frequently recruits.

Political challenges. Rocketship leaders had to negotiate with lawmakers in Madison to try to clear a path for their staff with out-of-state teaching or administrator credentials to be recognized in Wisconsin.

Rocketship has a charter agreement with the Milwaukee Common Council to open up to eight schools serving 500 students each.



Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

A majority if the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Commentary on structural change.

Via Molly Beck.

Students paying extra for business skills they say they haven’t learned on campu

Laura Colarusso:

Ben Wei was already paying hefty tuition to earn a sociology degree from Bowdoin College, which charged nearly $57,000 at the time, but worried his classes weren’t teaching him skills he needed in the workplace.
 So he gave up his winter break just a semester before graduating and paid another $3,000 to take a three-week business boot camp designed to teach him how to work a full-time job.
 The course, offered by a company called Fullbridge, covered problem-solving, collaboration and communication—the kinds of skills employers say they want but aren’t getting from college grads.
 “You can sit in a room and learn economic theory from a professor or a textbook, but at the end of the day, it’s still just theory,”said Wei, who now works as a data analyst. “They don’t really teach you how to apply that theory.”

American Teens Achieve Mediocrity In Financial Literacy, Local math & reading background

Michelle Hackman:

When it comes to financial literacy around the world, American teens are middling.

The United States may fuel the world’s largest economy and operate its most robust financial system. But compared to the financial prowess of teenagers in 17 other countries, U.S. teens come off downright mediocre.

That’s according to a new study published Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as part of its Program for International Student Assessment, conducted once every three years.

The OECD, a 34-nation organization based in Paris, surveyed 15-year-old students in 13 member nations and five other nations throughout 2012 to ascertain their level of familiarity with the financial system as they neared adulthood.

“Finance is part of everyday life for many 15-year-olds, who are already consumers of financial services, such as bank accounts,” the report said. “As they near the end of compulsory education, students will face complex and challenging financial choices, including whether to join the labor market or continue with formal education and, if so, how to finance such study.”

Unfortunately, this is unsurprising. Read two useful articles on local math difficulties and long term disastrous reading results.

The OECD report.