The high-tech return of high school shop class
Analy High School students watch while a 3-D printer makes a tetrahedron die in their Project Make class.
February 28th, 2013
09:31 AM ET

The high-tech return of high school shop class

Editor's note: Check out CNN Living's story about a college program creating jobs by training students to revive a 'dying trade.'

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - You can almost hear the old shop teacher asking - so, how is this going to work?

In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama talked about redesigning schools for a high-tech future. He gave a shout-out to a technical high school in Brooklyn, and to 3-D printing. In a moment of seeming agreement, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio mentioned incentives for schools to add vocational and career training.

But long gone are the days of shop class, or even "vocational training," said Stephen DeWitt, the senior director of public policy for the Association for Career and Technical Education. For many years, he saw career and technical education cut by shrunken budgets or "literally and figuratively left in the back of the school, separate from academics."

What's emerging in schools now is something tougher to pin down. In one district, it might be a fancy new school dedicated to teaching tech. In another, an apprenticeship program. Some schools design career and technical classes to line up with college-prep courses that guide students to become engineers, chefs, CEOs or doctors. Almost 80% of high school students who concentrated on career and technical studies pursued some type of postsecondary education within two years of finishing high school, the U.S. Department of Education reported in 2011.

"We’re hearing policy makers talk about it more often. Certain districts are looking at career and technical education as a way to reform schools," DeWitt said. "The focus on project-based learning, how to get students engaged more, is something that’s caught on."

That might mean more maker spaces sprouting up at schools, too.

Students helped build out the maker space at Analy High School.

They are exactly what they sound like - a space to make things. The workshops and warehouses have taken off in communities around the country during the last few years, but the push to add them to schools is still fresh.

"Maker spaces aren't in schools and they need to be," MAKE magazine founder Dale Dougherty told a crowd at Maker Faire in Michigan last summer. "Not just a summer camp, not just an after-school program."

MAKE secured a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build the "hacker spaces" in schools - a move some criticized because of its military ties. The money helped to launch maker spaces at a handful of Northern California schools this school year.

The goal: more than 1,000 by 2015.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNschools

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Filed under: Hands-on learning • High school • Math • STEM
For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says
November 1st, 2012
04:57 PM ET

For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says

You're at a big group dinner and it's time to pay up, to divide the total and multiply a certain percentage for the tip. How many people tense up and say something like, "Oh, I'm so bad at math"?

Fear of math is everywhere – in the adult world where there aren't official pop quizzes, and in schools where the next generation of scientific problem-solvers are struggling with homework.

Researchers report in a new study in the journal PLoS One that this anxiety about mathematics triggers the same brain activity that's linked with the physical sensation of pain.

"I’m really interested in understanding the source of the anxiety so that we can help all students perform up to their best in this important area," says Sian Beilock, a University of Chicago researcher and one of the study's authors, who is also the author of the book “Choke.”

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My view: America's students can benefit from Singapore math
October 10th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

My view: America's students can benefit from Singapore math

Courtesy Bill JacksonBy Bill Jackson, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Bill Jackson was a Paterson, New Jersey math teacher and a district-wide math teacher trainer in Scarsdale, New York. He also provides consulting and teacher training on Singapore or Japanese approaches to mathematics teaching and professional development, and regularly speaks at national and international mathematics conferences.

Singapore math is getting a lot of attention as more and more schools in the United States are using Singapore-based methods and materials to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics. Many parents and teachers are wondering if a change is really necessary. The answer is yes.

I’ve seen firsthand the difference the Singapore math approach can make. I began using Primary Mathematics textbooks from Singapore’s Marshall Cavendish Education in 2000 when I was a classroom teacher. I have used Singapore math with both low-income inner-city students and affluent suburban students, and found that, when taught in the right way, it makes learning mathematics fun and engaging, allows students to understand mathematics deeply, and helps them become proficient at solving very complex math problems.

So what exactly is different about Singapore math? Singapore mathematics lessons begin by engaging students in hands-on learning experiences followed by pictorial representations, which help them form a mental image of mathematical concepts. This is followed by an abstract stage, where they solve problems using numbers and symbols. This approach makes the learning of mathematics fun and meaningful, and helps students develop positive attitudes about math.

Typical U.S. math textbooks are thick and heavy and they cover many topics superficially and usually in an incoherent way. In contrast, Singapore textbooks focus on fewer topics, taught in-depth for mastery, carefully building mathematical understanding in a systematic way.
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Filed under: Common Core State Standards • Curriculum • Math • Practice • Voices
My View: Why we need the Common Core Standards
August 20th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

My View: Why we need the Common Core Standards

Courtesy NAMEBy Jon Wray, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Wray is the instructional facilitator for secondary mathematics curricular programs in the Howard County (Maryland) Public School System and is an elected member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics board of directors. He is co-founder of the Core Challenge, a program to support teacher collaboration and execution of the Common Core Standards in math.

(CNN) – The United States’ worldwide ranking in mathematics education is a common lament among teachers, parents, students, politicians and just about anybody else who has a stake in our nation’s future. The United States recently ranked 25th out of 34 developing countries in mathematics falling behind countries such as Japan, Germany and France. Ask a hundred people the cause of this situation and you’ll get a hundred different answers. One reason in particular, however, is that we have hundreds – if not thousands - of different ways of teaching our students, and different ideas of what they ought to be taught.

As an educator, I would love to tell you that I have the magic formula to teach every single student to succeed. While I don’t, I do believe a key step is for all educational stakeholders to approach our mathematics challenges in a more collaborative manner.

One problem is that each state in our country has developed its own criteria for measuring student success. Imagine being a student or teacher who has to move across the country or find a new teaching job, only to be told that, by their new school’s standards, their approach to math or reading is suddenly wrong – or even more likely, that a student’s “A” performance at his last school now only merits a “C.”

I may have a brilliant system for teaching mathematics to primary school students in my home state of Maryland, but if I try to apply it to kids in Pennsylvania, suddenly I’m trying to prepare and grade students under different standards.

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August 14th, 2012
05:07 PM ET

Wonder Years' Winnie encourages girls to take math

Danica McKellar on how she went from The Wonder Years' Winnie Cooper to author of books encouraging girls to like math.

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July 30th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Should we be teaching algebra?

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) In an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times, Professor Andrew Hacker asks “Is Algebra necessary?”

He answers that question “no.”  Hacker says that algebra “is a stumbling block for all kinds of students” and that it takes a toll on both high school and college graduation rates.

He says that while the study of math is important, “…in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above.”

The question of whether or not to teach algebra sparked a lively discussion on Monday’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.

CNN education contributor Steve Perry says for students of historically disadvantaged populations, algebra “does present a real barrier” to graduating college because “too few take requisite number of math courses.”

Perry acknowledges that “Algebra is a gatekeeper,” but adds “I don’t know that it’s necessary for every child."  He says that we need to get away from “one-size-fits-all academic experiences.”

“We need to create more compelling academic experiences that children are more connected to,” says Perry.

He says that colleges and the SAT measure algebra.  “But is what we’re teaching the best way to ensure we’re getting the best from every child?”

What do you think?  Should schools be teaching algebra?  Post your thoughts in the Comments section below.

 

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Filed under: Issues • Math • Perry's Principles • Starting Point • video • Voices
May 14th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

Math whiz Chad Qian on winning

Eighth grader Chad Qian of Indiana took the top prize in the Raytheon MATHCOUNTS national competition which included an $8000 scholarship.

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Love of numbers: How equations changed the world
February 14th, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Love of numbers: How equations changed the world

Ian Stewart is a mathematician at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. His new book "In Pursuit of the Unknown" is published by Basic Books in the United States in March. In the United Kingdom it is available from Profile Books with the title "Seventeen Equations That Changed the World."

I was one of those annoying kids who actually liked equations. I collected them in a notebook. I loved the way you could plug a few numbers into an equation and find out how bright the Sun would be if you were standing on Pluto. Or work out how big a rainbow looks from the refractive index of water and the time of day.

I realize I am a rarity in that respect. Stephen Hawking’s publishers allegedly told him that every equation he put into his runaway bestseller "A Brief History of Time" would halve its sales. So, if he’d left out Einstein’s E=mc2, he would have sold another 10 million copies. But his publishers had a point. Although the great equations have had more impact on humanity than all the kings and queens in the history books put together, they can look very off-putting.

That’s why I wrote "In Pursuit of the Unknown: Seventeen Equations That Changed the World." We need to stop being put off, and learn to value our equations. It’s hard to write a book about equations without including any, so I decided to follow the age-old theatrical advice: ‘if you’ve got a wooden leg, wave it.’ Make equations the main characters in a story of the rise — and occasional fall — of humanity.

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