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CDarwin

Are our children learning math and science?

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I'll ask these questions to two camps:

 

A. People who are teaching freshmen in an American college setting, do you think that the high school science/math that they've had was really up to what they should have had, or do you find yourself having to backtrack over topics that should already be familiar to them?

 

B. People in college in the sciences/math, do you think that your high school science/math experience adequately prepared you for science in a collegiate setting? Did you have to go to fairly extraordinary measures, like taking classes at a college or AP classes (which my high school at least doesn't even offer) to get the education you needed?

 

Obviously more education is better, but do you find the current situation to be 'dire' in any sort of way?

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To clarify, I live in the US, and I'd say (with the utmost confidence and support)... No. We were taught to pass the state tests, not to know math and science for ourselves. It was rote memorization instead of conceptual learning.

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speak for yourself, iNow. I stink at route memorization, and tend to do poorly in classes that require it. I did well in high school, however.

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speak for yourself, iNow. I stink at route memorization, and tend to do poorly in classes that require it. I did well in high school, however.

 

 

Define "well". Doing well in high school nowadays doesn't necessarily require you to actually learn anything :rolleyes: ......:cool:

 

Most everything I had learned did not come from high school.

 

I agree with iNow. pretty much our school system is a little more than a giant cookie cutter factory, so to speak. All that was demanded of me was to remember lots of things, and then quickly forget them afterwards.

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ecoli:

That's probably because classes in high school might not directly emphasize memorization, but that's how people actually handle them. They study for tests by memorizing every important concept instead of understanding how the concept works and what it means.

 

You can make it by understanding and you'll be considered an exceptional student.

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answering as a person from subpopulation B:

 

No, high school did not prepare me well enough. I got barely enough exposure to biology to keep me semi-interested in it, and it wasn't until my junior year in college, after taking several advanced/grad level courses and participating in research with a professor that I realized I wanted to spend my life doing biology research. It took that long to get me to a point where I found concepts that were truly interesting and invigorating to me. They way it was presented to me in high school, and even in the lower level bio classes at college, didn't give me any significant insight into the possibilities waiting out in the field. I needed those grad level classes way back in high school. There is nothing in the content of these classes that I could not have handled back then, and I could have gotten a much better head start. That's how I feel about it.

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Rote memorization is what you get when you have a lot to learn and little time to learn it all. Personally, I forget most of everything, and that is probably true of most people. But by learning the definitions of things and a few of the more important concepts, I can derive much of the rest (in some subjects, anyways).

 

I think the tendency to learn facts of ideas is an aspect of personality. Some people do well at memorizing facts, and some do well at learning theories. Both are useful for different subjects.

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I learn best by level of interest personally. In grade school my grades would be poor unless I favored the subject interest wise. I don’t know if this is a fault of a plus overall. I look at college in the same light, for instance say a prereq, I would be lucky to get through the class with a C or C+ if my interest lacks, and that grade shows pure effort:D As for being bored I think its easy to see interest by what people will "naturally" gravitate towards. When reading something scientific for pure interest I tend to only read articles in the natural sciences. I also have an aversion to math from the simple point of its descriptive powers of nature I fear. Such as the possibility to make something work mathematically but the math does not truly describe it. That one problem has steered me away from math for the most part and now I have to suffer through it anyways having to take calculus in order to graduate if I so choose. I think if you could gain interest, you can make anything possible really in time with people, be it students or not. Else I don’t know how you can look at all the various things people do in life and make sense of it really.

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Currently Im enrolled in college here in AZ.

I also went to a private high school.

however, I will say that my math skills would not have been adequate had I chosen a math-intensive field.

7-8th grade is what really ruined math (the way it was taught, and how the class was conducted) - then in HS I continued to move up the chain, even though I should not have.

 

Science however, yes :)

 

luckily though, my major is/are Psychology and Sociology. So I really only needed statistics (which Im good at).

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It's very interesting to note that where I live (Kosova) intelligence coefficient is usually high. Students who have the chance to go abroad to study they always achieve a very high scale of education. but the strangest thing is that MATH and PHYSICS are the two subject that completely lack interest. Sometimes I really need someone to discuss about them but frankly speaking there are just doctors, pharmacists economists and no physicist nor "mather's", so my "hunger " of math and physics just keeps peaking.

 

So math and physics where I live are just NOT having a good period!

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I will say that generally, I feel that I was not taught sufficiently in high school. Not 1 physics course, not 1 calculus course, not 1 trigonometry course. I was given a very basic geometry course (geometry is fairly basic anyway), and Algebra 2 was my toughest math course. In-fact, I'd say that Chemistry was my toughest math course really, and even that was a call-in. After high school, I picked up the hobby of advanced amateur rocketry, and I've taught myself more than I learned in 12 years of public education. From physics to trigonometry, fluid dynamics, general mechanical engineering, chemistry, absolutely every one of those topics is REQUIRED to build and fly a rocket and actually KNOW what it's doing. (predicting speed/altitude given the impulse of the motor, the wind, the coefficient of drag) I should be paying 40k a year for the education I've gotten from the almighty Internet. hah.

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I would say no. I would say that the teaching of math is fundamentally flawed. I didn't really understand number systems until I learned binary and hex math functions for CS. Once I sat down and studied number systems, I was able to understand why a lot of the common operations work and why they are formated the way they are, rather than just trusting my teacher on how it should be done. I think that in general students are taught the motions of math and science, but not the real underpinnings.

 

As I have gotten older I also seem to notice that the younger generation coming into college seem less and less prepared, but that could just me entering the fogie stage.

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My personal experience.

 

I went to Catholic school in the 60’s / 70’s . Big class rooms with 35 to 40 students. All route memorization. In hind sight, I don’t think the nuns new the subjects very well. They drilled us the way manuals told them to drill us.

 

I had difficulty with several of the subjects. When my performance was truly sub par they held me over for extra tutoring. This tutoring was conducted exactly the same way the 40 student class room instruction was, but with fewer students and more stern looks. I think the primary motivation for holding the “special tutoring” sessions was to shame poor performing students in to working harder. This may sound harsh, but I give them credit. They did not give up. They just weren’t too imaginative.

 

The big disadvantage of this education method is that it was very boring. I dreaded going to school and day dreamed through much of it.

 

There were advantages however. The primary advantage was that the education I received was exactly the same as my grand parents, my parents, my uncles and aunts, and my siblings. If I asked any of them a question about my studies, I got the same answer. On every subject we spoke the same language. Now that I am later in life I can help those a generation above mine with little difficulty.

 

I am now an engineer with a master’s degree in my late 40’s. My three children range in age from 19 to 24. Each of my children was taught in a different way. Their education in mathematics emphasized “concepts” and “understanding.” I recall trying to help my children with their homework and often thinking I was not exposed to such mathematics until college and some of it not until graduate school. Their grades by the way were often not based on getting the right answer, but by them writing a paragraph explaining how they performed the problem to get the wrong answer. They also were given poor grades if they got the right answer but did it in the wrong way or did not write a good paragraph to explain how they got the correct answer doing it the correct way. They were taught many ways to do the same problem which just confused them. Had I been taught and graded in this way I would have accomplished much less in my life. English, as I am sure you know by now was never one of my strong subjects. My children still struggle with mathematics and none of them are interested in the sciences.

 

So I ask, what is the purpose of elementary, junior high, and a high school education? Most people don’t become scientists or engineers. But they do need basic skills to get by in life. My personal opinion is that most people are better off with a common set of fundamentals. They don’t need to know why they work. Some of them will be curious and work to achieve true understanding.

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I believe anything past basic arithmetic skills should not be mandated in public schools. As an elective, why not?

 

To the vast majority of professions, anything on the level of pre-algebra or beyond does absolutely nothing to further their careers or increase their understanding of the world in which they live; and it does plenty to damage their grades and potential. Both my parents are teachers, and I've heard numerous stories of children not being able to graduate due to failing their math courses.

 

Science, on the other hand, is vitally essential. It provides the fundamental skills to interacting with and thinking about the world in which we live. It provides the problem-solving abilities to deal with such theories as creationism and other pseudoscience that is only too easy to believe in without question. And of course, in such a technologically dominated age, science is that much more important to the average individual.

 

Math should be mandated for degrees in which is it required to function, such as engineers, statisticians, architects, and so forth. Math is a tool for symbolizing and abstracting scientific concepts into something humans can work with, and nothing more. Is it useful for the average person in which taxes will be the complicated application they'll ever need? Not exactly.

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I think that everyone should learn some advanced math. Even if just a little bit of it.

 

For example, arithmatic, (high school) algebra, basic trigonometry, some statistics, and basic calculus.

 

For trig, they should learn to use right triangles a^2 + b^2 = c^2, sin = opposite divided by hypotenuse, cos = adjacent divided by hypotenuse, and tan = opposite divided by adjacent. They should also learn the relation of sin and cos to a circle. From this little bit, most of the important concepts can be derived, and it shouldn't take even a week to teach.

 

For calculus, they should learn about limits, converging/diverging, that the derivative is the opposite of an integral, that an integral is the area under a curve and the derivative the slope of the curve. And a bit on how to use these maths, but not necessarily how to actually do integrals and derivatives (that would take much longer). For how to use the derivative, for example, they could teach about finding maxima and minima.

 

For statistics, they should learn enough to know why gambling always favors the casino in their games of chance (ie, how to calculate the probabilities of things).

 

The problem with not teaching math is that math is the language of most anything that isn't vague. If they don't learn math, then many many doors are closed to them, and they might not go through the trouble of learning math to do what they wanted but take the easy way out and major in [subject removed to avoid offending English Literature majors] instead.

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In my last post (#14) I did not mean to imply that only a limited set of subjects should be taught. In fact, I believe a comprehensive set of subjects should be taught. I just don’t have a big problem with route memorization. As Mr. Skeptic mentions in post #8, route memorization is a good method of teaching a lot in a little amount of time. Will you forget much of it? Sure, but you won’t forget that it can be done and that is most of the battle.

 

Through high school, for example I was taught algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. When I was tested on these subjects, I had to write each answer in a corresponding answer box on the provided test page. The teacher (generally a nun) would grade the test by covering the test sheet with a piece of masonite with a holes punched in it corresponding to each test page answer box. On the masonite next to the punched holes the correct answers were written. Wrong answers were red lined. After this grading, a fraction was written on the top of the page, correct / total number of questions. I believe the tests were ancient. Mimiographs. I can still smell the alcohol. I would not doubt that every Catholic school in the entire country used the same tests.

 

You see it was not important that the teacher knew the subject. It was important that students did. You were taught route. If you asked a question you were given a route answer. If you asked too many questions you were sent to detention. If you did not learn enough during class you were held over after school for extra time. Sitting through those boring, monotone, route memorized lectures was bad enough the first time. That alone provided the motivation to work enough to get at least a C.

 

Because of this education, I know history, geography, mathematics, biology (including evolution), religion (not just Catholicism), civics, language …. Lots of information in a little bit of time. Concepts, understanding, self esteem…. Not so much.

 

My children have lots of self esteem.

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Is us learning grammar?

Geez, are you people not versed in Bushisms?

 

I believe anything past basic arithmetic skills should not be mandated in public schools.

 

What about the thinking skills that good math instruction fosters? That's the answer my pre-calculus teacher gave to all the whines of "when are we ever going to need this?" Of course, I probably will need some of what we learned in there. Too bad I don't remember 90% of it... Which shows you I think how much about instruction it is.

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In my last post (#14) I did not mean to imply that only a limited set of subjects should be taught. In fact, I believe a comprehensive set of subjects should be taught. I just don’t have a big problem with route memorization. As Mr. Skeptic mentions in post #8, route memorization is a good method of teaching a lot in a little amount of time. Will you forget much of it? Sure, but you won’t forget that it can be done and that is most of the battle.

 

I didn't say it was a good method, just what tends to happen. Whether it is a good method may depend on the personality of the individual. Personally, I like learning concepts that underlie a bunch of more specific facts, rather than the specific facts. But that would be learning "less things" and may look bad to some people.

 

Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?

 

Well, it's been asked here a few times.

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I did well in math and science both in college and afterwards. Thus I think high school had me adequately prepared.

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I did well in math and science both in college and afterwards. Thus I think high school had me adequately prepared.

 

Out of curiosity, in which coutry did you attend high school?

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Rote memorization is what you get when you have a lot to learn and little time to learn it all. Personally, I forget most of everything, and that is probably true of most people. But by learning the definitions of things and a few of the more important concepts, I can derive much of the rest (in some subjects, anyways).

 

I think the tendency to learn facts of ideas is an aspect of personality. Some people do well at memorizing facts, and some do well at learning theories. Both are useful for different subjects.

 

That is how I do it. Pretty cool.

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Subject corrected for obvious and embarassing grammatical error.

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Myself thought the errors was quaint.

Them reminded me of my public high school, how our tax dollars are largely wasted inadequately preparing our most precious resources for the future, and why my son is not in public skool :)

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