Innumeracy

I recently read Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos. The book discusses the consequences of mathematical illiteracy by relating real life situations from the news, politics and others where math has been used or applied incorrectly. Here are some examples of attitudes towards math on the web:

MATH IS NOT IMPORTANT

“While parents sense the increasingly important role of MCT in the future economy, they do not see the need for schools to improve math, science or technology education for their own children.”

A recent story from eschool news reported on a study on student and parent attitudes towards teaching math, science and technology (MCT). The research was carried out in Kansas and Missouri in the U.S by Public Agenda. The report on the study can be read here. One of the primary findings of the study was a complacent attitude towards MCT education among parents.

POWERFUL IDEA

In 2002, the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated the Math and Science Partnership program (MSP) to try to improve math scores in the U.S. A recent study carried out by the NSF reported that math scores were higher in districts that had the program in place. The article explains the partnership component of MSP as follows.

“Typically teachers work intensively with higher education faculty in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines during the summer months to gain deep content knowledge, earn necessary certifications or degrees and receive mentoring from their higher education colleagues. The goal is for participating teachers to become school- and district-based intellectual leaders in mathematics or the sciences.”

I think this is a novel approach to involve professionals in the K-12 educational process. While many schools have guest speakers or field trips, it is not as common to see formal relationships between experts, professionals or universities and K-12 institutions. How could a high school English department benefit from a relationship with a college level faculty of English? How could a relationship between a children’s book publisher and an elementary school impact student attitudes toward reading?

FACTCHECK.ORG

“We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.”

This organization is a non-partisan and non-profit group that investigates the facts and statistics used in American politics. Each posting on their site offers insights into how statistics can be misconstrued. They have also launched another website (www.factchecked.org) that offers educational resources pertaining to reasoning and critical thinking skills.

FOOLED BY STATISTICS

Peter Donnelly is a professor of statistics at Oxford University and he discusses some of the common mistakes made when interpreting statistics in this TED video.

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