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It’s not you, it’s the math: Colleges rethink what students need

Dena DeYoung traces her trouble with math back to sixth grade, when a well-intended placement test showed she was smart enough to do advanced work. And for several years, DeYoung did well. But when she reached high school, math became her worst subject. Lost by the logic, unable to imagine how what she was learning would ever come into play in the real world, her math grades plummeted. “I just…

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Breaking the glass ceiling in math

Photo credit: EPA In 2005, Larry Summers unwittingly brought criticism upon himself by suggesting that the lack of women at the top in STEM fields could be explained by innate (biological) differences in mathematical ability. Although women are gaining ground at the undergraduate and even graduate level in certain STEM fields (e.g., biological sciences–but not in math or engineering), they remain under-represented at the highest levels (e.g., tenured professors). The…

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Developing a 21st Century Global Library for Mathematics Research

Like most areas of scholarship, mathematics is a cumulative discipline: new research is reliant on well-organized and well-curated literature. Because of the precise definitions and structures within mathematics, today’s information technologies and machine learning tools provide an opportunity to further organize and enhance discoverability of the mathematics literature in new ways, with the potential to significantly facilitate mathematics research and learning. Opportunities exist to enhance discoverability directly via new technologies…

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Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career. Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher,…

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Math Under Common Core Has Even Parents Stumbling

Rebekah and Kevin Nelams moved to their modest brick home in this suburb of Baton Rouge seven years ago because it has one of the top-performing public school districts in the state. But starting this fall, Ms. Nelams plans to home-school the couple’s four elementary-age children. The main reason: the methods that are being used for teaching math under the Common Core, a set of academic standards adopted by more…

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President honors exemplary math and science teachers

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza Teachers know something about snow days. A snow and ice storm hit Washington, D.C., as about 100 science and mathematics teachers arrived here on March 2. The next day, they traveled by Metro and by foot through heavy snow to the White House, where they met with the President, the pinnacle of a three-day visit to the nation’s capital. They are winners of…

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School Standards’ Debut Is Rocky, and Critics Pounce

Photo by Richard Perrry, New York Times The Common Core, a set of standards for kindergarten through high school that has been ardently supported by the Obama administration and many business leaders and state legislatures, is facing growing opposition from both the right and the left even before it has been properly introduced into classrooms. Tea Party conservatives, who reject the standards as an unwelcome edict from above, have called…

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The Faulty Logic of the ‘Math Wars’

There is a great progressive tradition in American thought that urges us not to look for the aims of education beyond education itself. Teaching and learning should not be conceived as merely instrumental affairs; the goal of education is rather to awaken individuals’ capacities for independent thought. Or, in the words of the great progressivist John Dewey, the goal of education “is to enable individuals to continue their education.” This…

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