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Low math confidence discourages female students from pursuing STEM disciplines

Science Magazine – Maggie Kuo

“Female college students are 1.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to leave science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) after taking the first course in the calculus series, new research finds. The study, published last week in PLOS ONE, supports what many educators have observed and earlier studies have documented: A lack of confidence in mathematical ability, not mathematical capability itself, is a major factor in dissuading female students from pursuing STEM. The researchers followed 2266 undergraduate students at 129 2- and 4-year colleges and universities who were enrolled in Calculus I, the first course in a calculus series that is often a prerequisite for studying STEM disciplines in the United States. Overall, students were more likely to continue with calculus if they were planning for careers in engineering, had good instructors, or had previously scored well on math SAT and ACT standardized tests, the researchers found. However, when comparing students with the same background, experience, and plans, female students were on average 1.5 times more likely than males to stop studying calculus, “effectively choosing to exit the STEM pipeline,” the authors write.”(more)

Press Release: 50-State Comparison: K-3 Quality and Companion Report

Education Commission of the States – Staff Writer

“As pre-K and K-3 programs play a significant role in building a foundation for which a student’s future educational successes can be built upon, it is important that both areas provide a cohesive, high-quality educational experience. While the pre-K years are a critical time for early childhood development and have recently received much policy attention, children are at risk of losing the gains made in high-quality pre-K programs if the academic rigor and developmental practice does not continue during the K-3 years. Improving quality not just in pre-K, but also in the K-3 years can help to ensure that children meet key benchmarks and increase the likelihood of long-term student success. The new 50-State Comparison: K-3 Quality from Education Commission of the States explores key state-level policies that impact the quality of K-3 programs. The Companion Report for this 50-State Comparison highlights significant research findings in key K-3 policy areas.”(more)

UK schools adding Chinese math

China Daily – Wang Mingjie

“More than 8,000 institutions to adopt the ‘mastery approach’ after tests showed Shanghai students lead the world in subject. The Chinese “mastery approach” to math teaching is set to roll out in more than 8,000 primary schools in the United Kingdom, with funding of up to 41 million pounds ($54.2 million; 48.9 million euros), to bring pupils up to par with their Asian peers. Children as young as 5 will be required to practice sums and exercises, and they must master each concept before moving on to more difficult material.”(more)

California needs not just more teachers but more master teachers

Ed Source – Derek Mitchell

“California is trying to increase both the quantity of teachers and the quality of teaching. However, we should be wary about just expanding the pipeline of teachers. What we also need is a different kind of teacher. Since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the nation has broadened the expectations of whom our schools are expected to effectively serve. In the 1960s, the expansion included black students; in the 1970s, it was students in poverty and students with special needs; and in the 1980s and 1990s, it was English language learners. With the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, we codified the expectation that every child should perform on grade level by requiring proficiency rates of 100 percent by 2013-14 and mandating that student achievement data be reported for each student subgroup.”(more)

We’d be better at math if the U.S. borrowed these four ideas for training teachers from Finland, Japan and China

The Hechinger Report – Emmanuel Felton

“Why don’t American students really get math? Because their elementary school teachers don’t either, says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a policy institute that studies what America can learn from the world’s best-performing education systems. Tucker describes a vicious cycle. “We are mainly recruiting teacher candidates from the bottom half of the kids who go to college,” said Tucker. “These kids come out of high school with a very shaky command of high school math and eventually become teachers who can show their students the steps for doing a long division problem, but can’t tell them why it works. So when their students get to high school, they can’t really do algebra either because they don’t understand how the arithmetic works.” In a new report released by NCEE, researcher Ben Jensen looks at what America can learn from how teacher-training institutions in top performing countries prepare elementary school teachers for the classroom. He examined how four systems – Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong – arm teachers with a rich understanding of the subject areas they will teach and how their future students will learn that content.”(more)

3 Challenges As Hands-On, DIY Culture Moves Into Schools

NPR – Eric Westervelt

“Take a look this summer inside some of America’s garages, museums and libraries and you’ll see that the “Maker Movement” is thriving. This hands-on, DIY culture of inventors, tinkerers and hackers is inspiring adults and children alike to design and build everything from sailboats and apps to solar cars. And this fall, more of these chaotic workspaces, stocked with glue guns, drills and hammers — will be popping up in schools, too. But the Maker Movement faces some big hurdles as it pushes into classrooms. Here’s the first big one: Schools “are not thinking about it as an instructional tool,” says Chris O’Brien, a former teacher who helps schools create maker and project-based learning spaces in New York City. He says schools make a big mistake if these programs are merely a popular elective with the hip teacher, or the place to go after school to play with wood, cloth or a 3-D printer.”(more)