Math is a building block for the sciences. It is through numbers and operations that we explain natural phenomena and engineering and medical accomplishments.
Meteorology concepts are introduced to students in biology and environmental science classes. But why should they have all the fun?
Combining math with climate and weather science is a great way to achieve cross-curricular enrichment. Here are some excellent online resources to challenge and enlighten!
- The Severe Storms Laboratory, a component of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers free lesson plans for teaching math and weather-related topics. GoGeometry aggregates these lesson plans into an Interactive Mind Map.
- The PBS Mathline program has math problems and teaching ideas for combining math and meteorology. Topics include finding wind chill and rainfall measures.
- Scholastic has an Extreme Weather Math Hunt, where students are given factual graphs from around the web to help them answer math questions about weather.
What do you think of these resources? Do you have suggestions for combining math and weather studies?
Last Tuesday, President Obama hosted a science fair at the White House to underline the importance of S
ngineering, and M
athematics learning, or STEM education
. At the fair, the president proposed an $80 million increase in federal funding directed toward math and science education
. A large chunk of that money would be used to train specialized math and science teachers. Some would function to incentivize math education at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. While this proposal, along with the rest of the president’s 2013 budget plan, requires approval by Congress, it acknowledges STEM’s critical importance and potential for growth. In addition, President Obama stressed the positive impact of many educational grants from private sector businesses and organizations.
By taking part in science fairs and other STEM activities aimed at exploring practical problems, students become engaged with the subjects and are more likely to pursue them at a higher level. And since many students find math to be a particularly difficult subject to grasp, focusing funding on teacher training could boost student success markedly. As the Common Core makes its debut in classrooms, U.S. math education is already in a state of evolution. Greater emphasis on STEM and better teaching practices will hopefully increase math’s popularity with students.
The President’s overarching goal of promoting and strengthening STEM education is to encourage students to pursue these subjects at the collegiate level and in their careers. Currently, only 40 percent of math and science majors complete their degree, and projections show that the country will need one million college graduates in the next decade to fill anticipated job openings requiring math and science skills. We need to attract students into these fields, and the government’s commitment to STEM is encouraging. With our country’s rapid technological growth, it’s important to keep math education up-to-date both in its content and how it is taught.
Most students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors make the decision to pursue those degrees in high school or earlier, according to a recent report
released by Microsoft Corporation and Harris Interactive.
Our country will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. To understand why there is a shortage of students entering math and science fields to fill this need, two surveys were administered: one for parents of K-12 students and one for college students in STEM programs.
Some interesting insights:
→ Students don't feel prepared for college courses in STEM: Only one in five STEM college students felt that their K-12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM.
→ The reasons young women and men pursue math or science differ. Forty-nine percent of young women said they decided to major in STEM to make a difference, and 61% of young men said that toys and games in their childhoods sparked their interest. For 68% of the female respondents, a teacher or class was reported as the top factor that got them interested in STEM; for male respondents, this figure was 51%.
There are many public campaigns to inspire a future generation of math and science students, including Change the Equation. Research has found again and again that interest is more predictive of young people pursuing STEM careers than grades or test scores.
How do you think we could promote K-12 curiosity about the wonders of math and science?
A Nobel Laureate in physics, Carl Wieman, is heading up a $12 million initiative to improve instruction with research-backed methods. A finding from his team released in the journal Science this month suggests that a "deliberate practice" lecture style could boost student learning. Such a class actively engages students and allows them time to synthesize and respond to new information.
In the study, one undergraduate physics class was lectured in its normal routine while another integrated the following elements:
- Pre-class reading assignments (three or four pages)
- Pre-class reading quizzes (true/false quizzes based on readings)
- In-class clicker questions with student-student discussion
- Small-group active learning tasks
- Targeted in-class instructor feedback
Though these techniques have been studied independently or in smaller clusters, Wieman and his colleagues combined them all in every 50-minute class. Both courses were taught as usual for the first 11 weeks, and the new style was introduced during the three lectures in week 12. Students taught in the "deliberate practice" style scored an average of 74 percent on a post-test, which was more than twice as high as the average for the comparison course.
Though promising, this study has limitations that others have pointed out. James Stigler, a UCLA psychology professor, said that it was not a good idea for the authors of the study to also be delivering the intervention. As reported by the New York Times, he explained that, "This is not a good idea, since they know exactly what the hypotheses are that guide the study, and, more importantly, exactly what the measures are that will be used to evaluate the effects. They might, therefore, be tailoring their instruction to the assessment — i.e., teaching to the test."
Have you tried those "deliberate practice" techniques before? Did you experience classroom change?
Jotting down worries before an exam can help students perform better academically. New research, published in the journal Science this month, suggests that this short exercise can especially be helpful to those who routinely crack under pressure.
According to the journal's online news, here's what happened in the experiment:
"In the study, the researchers asked college students to take a math exam covering material they had never seen before. Then things got even more stressful. The students were given a second exam, but this time they were told that they would receive money if they passed. They were also told that they had a partner who had already done well and who would be let down if they failed, and that they would be videotaped while taking the test so that their teachers and friends could watch."
The results? Students who wrote about their worries scored, on average, 5 percent higher on the second test than on the first. And here's the shocker: the other students did worse on the second test than the first by 12 percent! In explaining why this happened, one of the researchers, Sian Beilock, explained: "Writing about their worries allows the students to reexamine the testing situation and reappraise it. This frees memory resources and increases the ability to focus."
The study provides one more piece of the puzzle in the development of interventions for students with test anxiety so that the exam is more indicative of their ability.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/21560098@N06/ / CC BY 2.0
I received a press release from the journal Science that new research shows, "Quizzes don't just tell us how well we've memorized something—they actually help us remember it." It reminded me of a conversation while I was at Scholastic about how students often are so sure that they know how to do the math because they look at a problem, then the answer, and think, "yep, that makes sense." They never actually try to solve the problem without looking at the answer and then draw a blank on the exam. There's just something about having to retrieve things from memory that seems to help us learn, but what is that something?
In the study, English speaking participants were given Swahili words to learn. Some of the participants were given a quiz on the information before a final test a week later. Others were given extra study time in lieu of the quiz. It turns out that the group that was given the quiz performed three(!) times better than the study-only group. How this happened, the release states, "seems to be that we give ourselves more effective mental hints when we're being tested than when we're just studying."
Researchers Mary Pyc and Katherine Rawson "call
these mental hints 'mediators' and define them as words, phrases or concepts that link a cue to the 'target' that we're trying to remember. They hypothesized that mediators used during testing are more likely to be remembered and used effectively than mediators used when simply studying. During the initial study period, the students were asked to come up with mediators that looked or sounded similar to the foreign language cue and were semantically related to the English target. In the 'wingu-cloud' example, 'wing' might be the mediator." Students who were quizzed were better able to remember their mediators during test day.
I can remember several mnemonic strategies from math class, such as "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" for order of operations. Perhaps all those exams have drilled that into my brain to this day. It's important to note, though, that using mediators is just one explanation for why tests may help us remember things. Though there's strong research support that practice tests help people remember things, the explanations for why that is are being actively studied. For example, Science also reports in their online news that other research has suggested that testing enhances learning by helping students allocate study time to the most difficult-to-master concepts.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/druidicparadise/ / CC BY 2.0