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The loss of mathematical potential is costing Britain alone billions in productivity, and all signs point to similar slippage in U.S. and elsewhere

A rigorous new study looking at the aptitudes indicated by responses to, formats of, and content presented in math exams from 1951 to 2006 shows a disturbing decline both in standards and an apparently correlated decline in student competence.  The study looked at British 16-year old students’ exams and confirmed what many in the educational systems in Britain already recognized -- math competency is in an unprecedented weak state.  And similar problems appear to be true in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The study says that the immediate effect of this inadequacy is not always readily apparent, but that the grave result is the loss of a generation of mathematicians that could have contributed diversely to the economy.  Mathematicians are essential to tackle the more cerebral side of problems in topics as diverse as economics, biology, computer science, and mechanical design.  Without these mathematicians, many problems go unsolved or have suboptimal solutions, and this translates to loss in domestic product and standard of living.

Of course such slippage is hard to monitor.  However, the decline in abilities is far more visible.  Despite government claims that it is carefully protecting standards by government testing of students, much like here in the U.S., the testing standards have been in steady decline, according to the study, since around 1970.  Between 1951 and 1970 the study found the standards to be quite high and to demand competency in algebra, arithmetic and geometry, all essential topics.  By the 1980s the testers began to try to simplify the test.

The study accuses the math education of being shallower and broader.  The questions were easier and less demanding.  Worse, it says, students were not allowed to independently formulate paths to solutions, but had to follow a dictated path or risk losing credit.  Calculators snuck their way into the allowed list of supplies and formula sheets began to appear.  This had a net effect of decreasing students’ basic math knowledge and arithmetic abilities.

Additionally, the actual grades themselves fell.  The standard for a C fell to a mere 20% mark on the harder British standardized test.  The apparent rise in scores from 1990 to present is "highly misleading" it said.  It said this increase is due to easier tests, lower standards, and a cram-and-forget mentality on the part of students just looking to use the test to gain college admittance.  Says the study, "Exams have changed from being a staging-post to further study to being a series of 'tick-boxes'."

British Deputy director of Reform and a co-author of the report Elizabeth Truss state that the loss of competent mathematicians at the university level is a trend that must be stopped.  She states, "In today's Britain it is acceptable to say that you can't do maths, whereas people would be ashamed to admit they couldn't read.  We need a cultural revolution to transform maths from geek to chic."

Schools Minister Jim Knight disputes her remarks saying British standards are world class.  Perhaps he's right, as many say standards are slipping worldwide.  Knight was able to point to minor recent improvements.  He stated, "Ucas figures show the number of people who took up places on full time maths degrees has gone up by 9.3% on last year.  That is good news, but we agree maths is of vital importance to the economy and it is a top government priority to encourage more mathematicians in the future.  In addition, we have launched a campaign to encourage more young people to consider careers in maths and science."

In Britain, where every position has a "shadow" political second in command, Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove was quick to comment, "India and China are producing four million graduates every year. The single largest area of graduate growth is mathematics, science and engineering.  A third of graduates in China are engineers - here it's just 8%. Between 1994 and 2004, more than 30% of the physics departments in Britain disappeared."

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws added, "This is a damning critique of maths education in this country.  Our education system is too often failing to get the basics right, which risks damaging the national economy."

While many in the U.S. remain unconcerned about such developments in Britain, similar signs of slippage are showing up in the U.S.  In fact many physics programs in the U.S. are gradually losing funding or disappearing.  The last U.S. particle physics lab is on the verge of collapse and is only being kept afloat thanks to private donations.  As mentioned, such trends may seem harmless, but promise to greatly harm the world economy.



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Quantitative
By Machinegear on 6/5/2008 5:10:50 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
…from 1951 to 2006 shows a disturbing decline both in standards and an apparently correlated decline in student competence. The study looked at British 16-year old students’ exams and confirmed what many in the educational systems in Britain already recognized -- math competency is in an unprecedented weak state.


The study found a strong correlation between lower math standards and the [lower] math proficiency amongst students.

quote:
Schools Minister Jim Knight… say[s] British standards are world class… He stated, "Ucas figures show the number of people who took up places on full time maths degrees has gone up by 9.3% on last year.”


School Minister disputes the analysis noting an increased enrollment in math degrees last year.

Interesting...

Therefore, AMD just needs to build more CPUs to beat Intel's Nehalem this year.




RE: Quantitative
By guy642002 on 6/5/08, Rating: 0
RE: Quantitative
By Smartless on 6/5/2008 6:01:49 PM , Rating: 4
Didn't you hear? No child left behind. The bane of many a teacher I know.


RE: Quantitative
By Regs on 6/6/2008 10:33:20 AM , Rating: 2
Not dumber, just that no one cares. Actually, 10 years ago, a skill like math actually gets some one paid!!!! Now it hardly gets some one anywhere without a degree from MIT.


RE: Quantitative
By JediJeb on 6/5/2008 5:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
My sister is a teacher and I can tell you that what most school administration is worried about is numbers enroled not quality of education. I believe if most highschool seniors had to take the math test I had in grade school back in the late 70s early 80s they would not do well at all. I remember in the sixth grade having math problems like " If a water tank is 12 feet high and 8 feet in diameter, how many gallons of water would it hold?" and the only help you got was the cubic feet to gallon conversion factor. No calculator, formula table or group work was allowed.

I wonder if we gave the college students today paper, pencil and sliderules could they get us to the moon like the physicist and engineers did back in the 60s.


RE: Quantitative
By lotharamious on 6/5/2008 6:21:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If a water tank is 12 feet high and 8 feet in diameter, how many gallons of water would it hold?


Math is slipping because I write programs with fancy GUIs where all you have to do is put in "12" and "8" and the answer comes out. Seriously though, it's really sad because as a computer engineer, I use math every single day. Just try doing polynomial interpolation not knowing how to do this problem. T_T


RE: Quantitative
By PrinceGaz on 6/5/2008 6:50:27 PM , Rating: 2
That's not a difficult question. Without a calculator, pencil or paper or anything else, I could calculate the area of the base as (4^2 * pi) sq ft. So the volume of the cylinder is (192 * pi) cu ft, or roughly 603 cu ft (I could do it more accurately with pen and paper). I don't know what the conversion factor is but that would be a trivial long-multiplication or division.

I'm 38 now but I could have solved that easily when 16, and would expect that most students today could also.


RE: Quantitative
By joex444 on 6/5/2008 7:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
No offense or anything, but we all know what the answer is.

The point of this story was that is was a SIXTH grade problem. So that's more like, what, 12 years old? If a 16 year old can't do that, they shouldn't be allowed to graduate, end of story.

I think you just proved the point of the article.


RE: Quantitative
By FS on 6/5/2008 10:33:14 PM , Rating: 1
Your standard is quite low if you think that's a 6th grade problem, in China and India a second grade student can solve this problem.


RE: Quantitative
By Calin on 6/6/2008 4:11:41 AM , Rating: 3
No they don't - geometry isn't taught until the 5th-sixth grade (at 12 or so years).
Could they do long calculations (multiplication or demultiplication with strange numbers, like gallons in cubic feet)? Doubtfully so in second grade (at 9 years).


RE: Quantitative
By Alexstarfire on 6/6/2008 6:48:46 AM , Rating: 2
I was probably one of the few students that could actually have done a problem like that in sixth grade. I, as well as several others in my grade, were far ahead of the rest of the class, a couple years ahead in fact, in math. I'll put it this way, we actually ran out of math classes to take in high school, as we had already done all of them.


RE: Quantitative
By sporr on 6/6/2008 3:55:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, you deserve a gold star!

* (sorry but I can only give you a black one due to text restrictions)


RE: Quantitative
By bldckstark on 6/6/2008 1:13:15 PM , Rating: 2
My daughter has questions harder than this on her 4th grade math tests. It depends on where you live as to whether your education sucks or not.

The biggest problem our education system has in the U.S. right now is that we cannot gather good data to determine where to improve. Every state uses a different test, and the tests vary widely in their difficulty and what they are testing. We need a federal test that each state must use. Then we can find the problems and work on a solution.

The people who wrote the No Child Left Behind Act don't understand statistics themselves. It states that every school must improve it's scores year over year, no matter what. If your school happened to turn out a score of 100% on the test, the next year you would have to get 101% or you don't make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and get put on a list of schools to be taken over and teachers fired.

Those scores include the special needs kids taking the same test. If you have a high per capita rate of kids with mental issues, your school will get screwed. There is no allowance for such things.

Also, most states test the same grade each year, so when you compare the data year over year, you are comparing an entirely different group of kids each year. You have absolutely no way to determine if the kids you tested have improved or not, since there is no comparison available.

HOW DO YOU FIX A PROBLEM, IF YOU CAN'T DEFINE IT?


RE: Quantitative
By JediJeb on 6/6/2008 1:59:32 PM , Rating: 2
The question I posted wasn't as important as the fact that very few students are even taught to think of problems like this anymore. That was the type of test questions we had at the sixth grade level. My school only had 100 students total for K-8th grade, very rural area, but we were taught very rigorusly. When I went to highschool, I was shocked that many of the kids from the city schools could not even read a ruler( if ask how long something was the answer would be 8 inches and 3 small marks past the big mark in the middle instead of 8 11/16 inches). My 8th grade class had 12 students and in my graduating highschool class of 200 4 of us were in the top 3%.

What it really boils down to is not the money or programs, it's teaching students the basics and building on those each year, and not being afraid to hold them back if they don't learn. With the rules my sister has to teach under today, I would be dumb as a box of rocks, because if I hadn't been forced to learn when I was young I would never have learned anything. Now the teachers I respect the most are the ones that knew I had the ability to learn and would not let me just get by, but pushed me to discover my potential.


RE: Quantitative
By elgueroloco on 6/6/2008 5:28:51 PM , Rating: 2
Um, last I checked, 4x4=16, not 192.

I did most of the problem in my head, and wrote down a couple #'s on paper to remember them between steps. No Calc. The answer I got was 6007.512 gallons. Is that correct? I'm trying to see if my math skills are worth anything here.

I still can't really do multiplication or division on paper. I have to do it in my head, and that doesn't always work with big decimals.

I graduated HS after flunking Alg II twice because I couldn't stay awake through it.

I didn't even pay much attention in Geo. I mostly just played with my TI-82, manipulating variables in the graphing equations to make cool designs in the graph screen. I still got a B.

So, I wouldn't say math standards here in the US are very high.


RE: Quantitative
By elgueroloco on 6/6/2008 5:31:59 PM , Rating: 2
Um, last I checked, 4x4=16, not 192.

I did most of the problem in my head, and wrote down a couple #'s on paper to remember them between steps. No Calc. The answer I got was 6007.512 gallons. Is that correct? I'm trying to see if my math skills are worth anything here.

I still can't really do multiplication or division on paper. I have to do it in my head, and that doesn't always work with big decimals.

I graduated HS after flunking Alg II twice because I couldn't stay awake through it.

I didn't even pay much attention in Geo. I mostly just played with my TI-82, manipulating variables in the graphing equations to make cool designs in the graph screen. I still got a B.

So, I wouldn't say math standards here in the US are very high.


RE: Quantitative
By elgueroloco on 6/6/2008 5:36:32 PM , Rating: 2
Damnit. Stupid work computers! How do I get rid of my duplicate comment?


RE: Quantitative
By Major HooHaa on 6/8/2008 7:51:01 PM , Rating: 2
I was never very good at math. First I am dyslexic, which didn't help, with getting numbers jumbled up. I was also a bit slow with math work.

I did my GCSE's in Kent and so at secondary school, the way I learned math was via the "Kent Mathematics Project". In this there were boxes of numbered laminated cards, each with a series of math puzzles on them, with hints and tips to help you. You got given a set of these cards to complete by the teacher, when you finished that card set, you then do a test that is based on the set of cards you just completed.

I would often get around 90% in the tests, but I tended to work quite slowly through them. There were at least 4 boxes of these cards, each box was a different colour and level.

Level 1 was the green cards, 2 were blue, 3 were yellow and 4 were Red.

The trouble was that by the time I got to my GCSE's, I think I was still on level 2. So I missed out on the more advanced maths.

In the run up to the exams, we did some revision work with the teacher and had special exercise books to keep this work in. Certain things started to click into place during this period, but I ended up getting an GCSE 'F' for math, this is not a fail... You could get a 'G' if you got a low enough score.

In the run up to the exams though, our Form Tutor told us that the national average mark for GCSE's at the time was an 'E'. He was also fairly disgusted by the fact that because we went to a certain (mainstream) school, the students at the school were not expected to get a 'C' or above in GCSE's.

I took my GCSE's in 1994.


I wonder why?
By mikefarinha on 6/5/2008 10:48:37 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws added, "This is a damning critique of maths education in this country. Our education system is too often failing to get the basics right, which risks damaging the national economy."


We all know the reason for this across the board failure. It is exactly Liberal Democrats that want the school system to be uber equitable and fair, and thus lowering the standards so no one feels dumb.

Heaven forbid we hold little Johnny back a year or two! Just imagine what that would do to his self-esteem!




RE: I wonder why?
By Scorpion on 6/6/2008 3:17:55 AM , Rating: 2
Right... because it was the Liberal Democrats that came up with "No Child Left Behind" which basically ensures that you pass each grade unless you were comatose during class, or skipped all together? Believe me I know all about this, as I've been there first hand. It then punishes schools who lack the resources to educate their students to pass the standardized test, which is truely sad, but how does it make sense to punish the school that's already underfunded and struggling? I love peoples blind partisanship. Go back to getting all of your facts from Limbaugh and O'Reilly and Hannity. Those are the people who are contributing to the lower intelligence of our country. They encourage people not to think, but to be thought for.


RE: I wonder why?
By wordsworm on 6/6/2008 3:43:14 AM , Rating: 2
I wish I hadn't posted a comment. Brilliant retort.

A part of the problem with the education system is what goes on at home; it's the lack of discipline in both the school system and at home. It's not just the school's 'fault', it's also parenting. I teach in Korea, and here the kids are pushed like you couldn't imagine. They have a 6 day school week. My students are private. I give them on average 15-45 minutes per day for their homework, then there's my partner teacher who also piles on some work. That's 2 hours of classes, 1 hour of homework. Many of these students also attend music classes (mostly females), fighting classes (mostly males), math, and there's more. If they don't do well, their Korean teachers hit them with sticks followed by the parents letting them have it at home. Now, they don't hit beyond a sting. Think of it as the spurs to spur on a quarter horse. These days, in Canada/US, it's illegal for parents to do that sort of thing. In any case, math is a hard language to learn. I think it was the first interesting subject for me at school, but the schools were so slow that I had to find something else of interest.

In any case, my 2 cents.


RE: I wonder why?
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 6/6/2008 8:05:20 AM , Rating: 2
I find math far easier than say the liberal arts classes which are constantly moving and very much open to opinion and interpretation. In Math/Science it either produces the right answer or it doesn't there is no in between.


RE: I wonder why?
By wordsworm on 6/6/2008 10:05:53 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
In Math/Science it either produces the right answer or it doesn't there is no in between.
hmmm... I think there's a lot more interpretation in science than most people think. Math as well, from what I've heard, can be theoretical.

Look at Einstein's theory of relativity. A lot of folks look at satellites as proof of his time distortion theory, whereas I look at the geosynchronous orbits (which aren't moving relative to the position of the earth) and suggest that there should be no time distortion at all - but there is, which suggests to me it must be a different reason. Anyways, ToR, amongst many sciences, also have constantly moving theories. Look at Pluto, for example: one day it's a planet, the next it's a planetesimal. A lot of hard science doesn't seem so 'right' or 'wrong.'

Physics was something that interested me when I was much younger, but I didn't have the resources to exploit that interest at the time. Physics, in my opinion, has as much speculation and guesswork mixed in with proofs as literature.


RE: I wonder why?
By vzero123456789 on 6/8/2008 9:26:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Look at Einstein's theory of relativity. A lot of folks look at satellites as proof of his time distortion theory, whereas I look at the geosynchronous orbits (which aren't moving relative to the position of the earth) and suggest that there should be no time distortion at all - but there is, which suggests to me it must be a different reason


You obviously don't know enough to understand the question you have posed, but Einstein's theory is based upon absolute relative velocity in space, and whilst a geostationary satellite is "geostationary", it is moving at a greater absolute relative velocity than an object on the surface of the Earth - this is because whilst its angular velocity is the same as that of the object on the Earth, the distance it travels in the same time is greater (it is further from the centre of rotation - the Earth's axis). This is the same reason that a CD/DVD reads/writes faster towards the outer edge on the disk than the inner edge, and why it is easy to stand in the middle of a rotating roundabout but much harder to stand as you get closer to the edge.


RE: I wonder why?
By wordsworm on 6/9/2008 5:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the distance it travels in the same time is greater
That makes no difference at all. We're talking relativity. Don't forget that Einstein was essentially replacing Newton's absolute velocity with relative velocity. There's no velocity between the earth and a geostationary object. Anyways, I call it shenanigans. Time dilation is pretty cool for sci fi, wishful thinkers, and physicists, but not for reality.


RE: I wonder why?
By Cogman on 6/6/2008 9:18:54 AM , Rating: 2
Lol, Ummm, here is a hint, look at the country that was measured in the statistics, you see the UK, that means not the US. Guess what, "No Child Left Behind" never touched them.

But of course he attacked liberal dems which is a no-no. Right now in England your choices are pretty much Democrat, or less Democrat. There is no conservative party with any power there, and hasn't been for a couple of years. So its hard to say that it is entirely the republicans fault. (BTW, we have this thing called Congress that everyone seems to forget about. They where the ones that passed the bill, and it wasn't because there where more republicans then dems, a health mix of the two voted for it)

I believe it is a societal thing, not a party, that is to blame for the current education situation. For whatever reason people find it cool to be morons.


RE: I wonder why?
By sporr on 6/6/2008 4:08:05 PM , Rating: 2
Oh we do have a conservative party, they are called the "Conservative Party".

We also have the Liberal Democrats, although they never have and probably never will obtain power.

The labour party are the working class party and the conservative party being somewhat more, for the middle/upper class, should I say, people who earn enough for increase in taxes to not bother them as much as it would the lower wage bracket.

Im not sure so I wont make a comparison but, the Labour party and the Conservative party are very different in their opinions/policies.

The reason why children are not as good at Maths as they once were, is thanks to a different generation, times change.

Parenting, education system, you could list endless reasons, video games, TV, pizza?

Seriously though, times change and so does the way people live. I just dont think the system has changed enough to match it. And the problem begins.


RE: I wonder why?
By BansheeX on 6/6/2008 10:10:42 AM , Rating: 2
You're so mired in political antagonism that you aren't thinking. You're just blaming one party for everything. Excuse me, but I see two parties contributing to federal involvement and appropriation of money for "educational" purposes, the result of which has been nothing but detrimental. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Federal Department of Education was a Democratic creation. What a brilliant freaking idea - let's have government appropriate money that otherwise would have been carefully spent by its earner on their own children, and have a bunch of politicians decide where it should go. Then let's subsidize the teachers with it instead of the students, the equivalent of taking food stamps away and giving it to the grocery stores instead. And yet this is my typical conversation with someone when I bring it up:

Me: "I'm against the Department of Education"
Them: "You're against Education? You're crazy."

Me: "I'm against No Child Left Behind"
Them: "You want children to be left behind?"

Me: "I'm against the Patriot Act."
Them: "You don't think we should be patriotic?"

When all you have to do to fool people is name your bill something benevolent, you wonder how the hell we ever made it this far.


RE: I wonder why?
By mikefarinha on 6/6/2008 1:55:03 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that NCLB hurts more than helps but the problem has been going on long before GWB got into office. The problem is also more fundamental than any particular standard we decide to measure against.


RE: I wonder why?
By Dribble on 6/6/2008 4:55:13 AM , Rating: 2
In the past exam ratings were split so a certain percentage got an A, a certain percentage got a B, etc. Now everyone can get A's if they pass a certain standard. The problem with this way of working is every year that standard gets easier. Now we have universities (Imperial College London) who said this is pointless, everyone has straight A's so we'll have to do our own exams to actually work out who the best students are.

Incidentally more people go to university in the UK then ever, so if physics depts are shutting I take it they are just doing McDonalds degree's (i.e. that's the only job you'll get when you leave).


RE: I wonder why?
By wordsworm on 6/6/2008 6:59:18 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
that's the only job you'll get when you leave


Was it an accident that caused the head injury, or were you born this way? I don't like the inference that anything other than a degree in physical sciences is only worth a McDonald's job. Mostly the problem with the graduates who finish with arts degrees is the fact that they're not terribly motivated, they're not taught how to sell themselves, which is something that's required unless you're a doctor, lawyer, or some other in high demand occupation.


RE: I wonder why?
By jajig on 6/6/2008 4:08:46 PM , Rating: 2
He's saying there is no work for physicists due to the closure of labs, so their degree's are useless for most other jobs.


RE: I wonder why?
By jimbojimbo on 6/6/2008 11:16:59 AM , Rating: 2
The bell curve is one of the worst applications in education.


You people are crazy!
By amanojaku on 6/5/2008 3:39:47 PM , Rating: 2
CEO: Why should I bother learning anything when my studious, foreign slaves make me rich?
</sarcasm>




RE: You people are crazy!
By JasonMick (blog) on 6/5/2008 4:06:44 PM , Rating: 3
ha, sadly that seems to be a prevalent attitude. To which I say, yea except when your "employee" become your new boss in 10 years ;)

An aside to Kris: I think your infamous "so my state-funded math degree has failed me let the floggings commence" quote is a neccessity to appear at the bottom of this article!


RE: You people are crazy!
By Ringold on 6/5/2008 5:31:02 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree that CEO's don't care. Many American CEOs and business men of various stripes have called for increased rigor in American schools in math and science, and yet in such articles here at DT the usual anti-corporate suspects come out of the woodwork and attack on the basis that they're merely trying to excuse their off shoring.

They haven't been providing an excuse for probably a solid decade now why they are forced to move some investments overseas, they wont apologize for doing what they must, they've simply been warning us. Gates comes to mind as one of the loudest voices.

Business communicates what is needed for the future with clarity; look at the top 10 degrees that they plan to try to hire this year. Most of the top 5 or so are all engineers of various stripes, with technical business degrees coming in middle of the pack. Not only do they reflect what they need with sheer numbers of hirings, they also reflect it in starting wages. Again, engineering degrees dominate.

Remember, going over seas means American companies have to take a hit with cultural, language and political barriers. If the people they need in America cost more money then that is fine since no one in the world is as productive as an American worker. If they don't have enough qualified candidates to fill a whole new facility, though, it doesn't matter.

We should listen, not be perma-critics.


RE: You people are crazy!
By Ringold on 6/5/2008 9:43:03 PM , Rating: 3
I do agree with the article, though. It's a cultural problem in the end; the government can force higher level math down to lower grades and fail kids that don't pass it, but if they then get to college and avoid engineering or other non-lib arts degrees then it's all for nothing.


RE: You people are crazy!
By abzillah on 6/6/2008 1:38:50 AM , Rating: 2
"It said this increase is due to easier tests, lower standards, and a cram-and-forget mentality on the part of students just looking to use the test to gain college admittance."

I have to agree with you, colleges are just cram and forget mentality. I have two finals left next week and I'm done with a biology BS. All college has been is cram and forget. If anyone is asked about explaining what they have learned and how they could apply it in life, most people would not be able to speak a word. College has been a horrible experience for me because I'm not great in memorizing things, but I'm great in understanding and applying.


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 6/5/2008 5:49:44 PM , Rating: 2
Hah - not just me, it's failing everyone!


RE: You people are crazy!
By MrBlastman on 6/5/2008 5:11:34 PM , Rating: 3
I can't count how many times I have heard that math skills are declining!

Oops, wait a minute, what did I just say? ;)


interesting quote...
By JoshuaBuss on 6/5/2008 4:54:17 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
"In today's Britain it is acceptable to say that you can't do maths, whereas people would be ashamed to admit they couldn't read. We need a cultural revolution to transform maths from geek to chic."


funny, what we need in the CS department is a revolution to transform geeks into chics too!




RE: interesting quote...
By joex444 on 6/5/2008 7:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
I felt better about humanity before I knew people bothered to post such puns.


RE: interesting quote...
By JoshuaBuss on 6/5/2008 9:55:27 PM , Rating: 2
and you bothering to post a critique of said pun is better how exactly?


RE: interesting quote...
By Some1ne on 6/6/2008 6:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
Except that he's right. Female computer scientists are almost nonexistent.


Whoooaaaa, Nelly.
By 16nm on 6/5/2008 5:48:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Calculators snuck their way into the allowed list of supplies and formula sheets began to appear. This had a net effect of decreasing students’ basic math knowledge and arithmetic abilities.
quote:


I agree with the article as a whole but I sure don't agree with this part of it. We all know how to calculate square root and do long division but isn't it a lot more practical to use a basic calculator once this is learned? I don't think our kids will get better in math if they were not allowed to use a calculator.




RE: Whoooaaaa, Nelly.
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 6/5/2008 5:54:51 PM , Rating: 2
Slide rules, tables, estimation, clever shortcuts -- you might not need them if you answer phones in Scranton, Pennsylvania all day, but you'd be surprised how easy those skills make shopping, traveling, measuring, etc. ;)


RE: Whoooaaaa, Nelly.
By wordsworm on 6/6/2008 3:20:05 AM , Rating: 2
Doing squares in my head when I can't sleep is quite the ticket to get on the sandman's express. I know it's just multiplication, but I've never gotten past the square of 60.


RE: Whoooaaaa, Nelly.
By 16nm on 6/6/2008 6:31:03 PM , Rating: 2
Are you saying our kid's math skills suck because of calculators? I really don't see how.


Physics at College
By Triangle Man on 6/6/2008 1:23:36 AM , Rating: 2
No joke, but the physics department at my school is full of foreigners. Their respective educational systems must give them more rigorous backgrounds in mathematics. I finished single variable Calculus and a bit of tri-variate before I graduated high school. I'm not sure what the norm is right now.




RE: Physics at College
By Alexstarfire on 6/6/2008 6:53:34 AM , Rating: 2
Much lower than that.


Maybe it's evolution working "backwards"?
By Hive on 6/6/2008 7:41:55 AM , Rating: 2
Are we sure it's a problem of education, or could it be that maths geeks just happen to be reproducing at a lower rate? ;)




By jimbojimbo on 6/6/2008 11:12:46 AM , Rating: 2
Haha! Oh wait, it's true. :(


By spuddyt on 6/6/2008 10:10:08 AM , Rating: 2
this happens




Essential topics?
By Some1ne on 6/6/2008 6:53:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Between 1951 and 1970 the study found the standards to be quite high and to demand competency in algebra, arithmetic and geometry, all essential topics.


Okay, I'll give you arithmetic, and algebra, but geometry? That is the most useless thing ever. The only other thing that comes close to being equally useless is trigonometry.

Calculus is awesome though. I wish they would add that to standardized testing. They could replace geo/trig with it.




demographics
By wvh on 6/7/2008 8:56:38 PM , Rating: 2
I've read several studies for Western European countries that break down immigrant to native ratio in PISA results. It is telling that schools in big cities with a high number of immigrants have much lower scores than schools with a more homogeneous student population.

In some EU countries, up to half of immigrant children don't graduate high school.

In the same vein, literacy numbers have been dropping over the last decades in some Western European countries. Rather than proving that "native" students can't manage to learn how to read or write anymore, it merely points out the change in demographics.

This is not a racially motivated post in the sense that some students would be smarter than others because of the colour of their skin – that would be an absurd suggestion – but there are a lot of challenges in modern society where factors such as high influx from low-educated countries have to be accounted for.

Even when my parents were young, not every kid was allowed to finish high school; only the most promising kids were given a chance, the others had to stay home and help. These kids would not have shown up in most statistics.

All I'm trying to say is that you can't just compare apples with oranges... 50 years ago, both society and its challenges looked very different.

I don't believe the mantra that students are becoming dumber, certainly not in Western Europe, and quite unlikely elsewhere.




By vzero123456789 on 6/8/2008 9:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
As for the reasons behind poor mathematics in Britain, I would say that it is part of a slide that encapsulates the entire western world, however in the UK the problem can be traced to the current GCSE exam format - the GCSE is inappropriate as preparation for the AS and A2 syllabuses. Too many students find the jump from GCSE to AS extremely difficult and so give up - an A in GCSE mathematics says very little about your mathematical ability.
Because this is the case many private schools are now turning to the IGCSE to replace the GCSE in mathematics. This exam, designed to be used abroad, is much better preparation for AS mathematics and is the ideal replacement for the GCSE.
The AS and A2 exams aren't challenging enough either, it is too easy to learn a robotic method to questions and gain high marks - there is no room for that all important development of original mathematical ideas. Because this is the case the best universities are beginning to ask for extremely high entrance requirements. Both Cambridge and Oxford employ their own tests alongside Warwick - with Cambridge and Warwick using the STEP papers as well as the new AEA (which, even by 1950-70 standards are extremely difficult)) and Oxford designing their own in-house papers - it is certainly very difficult to get into one of these universities for maths. Even those universities not within this elite three still require high standards, with many now demanding A's in Mathematics and Further Mathematics A-level qualifications, the problem is that most state schools cannot facilitate a class of between one and twenty to do any subject, and so do not teach Further Maths, and hence deprive intelligent students of extremely helpful teaching.
I have just touched on the final problem that the system faces, a decline in the number of Mathematics teachers available has left the possibility for improvements minute, but without more mathematics graduates willing to go into teaching this situation will not improve, and considering that a mathematics graduate is one of the most sought after resources in economics and industry it is no surprise that they do not want to go into underpaid and uninspiring teaching positions. The government needs to finance a revolution in mathematics teaching, and soon.




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