Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The math standards: not necessary, limited need for math beyond basics, no STEM crisis, no evidence that new standards will help

COMMENTS ON "THE MAN BEHIND COMMON CORE MATH" Dec 29, 2014, NPRed. Article and my comment posted at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/29/371918272/the-man-behind-common-core-math

There is no evidence that math education needs a drastic overhaul.  When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students score at the top of the world on international tests of math. Our mediocre scores are because we have such a high rate of child poverty, now 25%.
Payne, Kevin and Bruce Biddle. “Poor School Funding, Child Poverty, and Mathematics Achievement.” Educational Researcher 28.6 (1999): 4-13.
Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 
Step one should be to eliminate poverty, or at least reduce it, and at the very least protect students from the impact of poverty: eliminate food deprivation (S. Ohanian: "no child left unfed"), improve health care, and improve access to books. Instead we are investing in untested standards and nonstop testing

There is limited use for math beyond the basics. Only about 10% of the workforce uses math beyond algebra II. (Handel, M. 2010. What do people do at work? OECD, forthcoming. Available at www.northeastern.edu/socant/wp-content/.../STAMP_OECD2a_edit2.doc‎)'

It is not clear that there is a compelling need for more STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) workers. Some studies conclude that there are too many qualified candidates. There are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening, and recent studies have also shown that the U.S. is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb.
Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801
Weissman, Jordan. The Ph.D Bust: America's Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts. The Atlantic, Feb 20, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/the-phd-bust-americas-awful-market-for-young-scientists-in-7-charts/273339/

Even if our math education were shown to be lacking and even if more math were needed: Any set of new standards should come with evidence that it will improve things.  As far as I can tell, there has never been any attempt to find out if the new standards will help students learn more, or be more enthusiastic about the subject.

1 comment:

  1. The link to the Handel article doesn't work. Can you check it?