All Posts Tagged With: "math"
What students are talking about today (January 11th)
1. The Waldorf, a two-year old arts venue in Vancouver’s east end, has been sold to developers. Artists are, unsurprisingly, enraged. Grimes was among those who played the tiki-themed multi-room venue. Her Tweet on Thursday captures the reaction to the closure: “wow vancouver is so f*d if they shut down the waldorf. f*k this city. you’ve destroyed nearly every piece of culture that you had.” Rhys Edwards, wrote this in a piece for The Ubyssey’s blog: “The Waldorf is one more victim in the amorphous onslaught of gentrification in a city that simply does not prioritize cultural activities that do not promote economic development.” Without the Waldorf, she says, Vancouver will be less weird.
2. Emma Teitel says she can’t do simple math and she’s blaming the pressure to perform, which in her case took the form of the “Mad Minute,” an exercise where students race against a clock to do as much arithmetic as possible. This created a fear of math and caused her to give up. She points out that Finnish students, who don’t face much pressure from teachers, perform best in the world.
Two Canadian schools dominate competitionEach year, thousands of math geniuses from hundreds of North American universities compete in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition, a six-hour test.
It’s one of the most prestigious—and lucrative—in the world. The winning team gets $25,000. The winning individual gets a scholarship to Harvard.
Naturally, teams from Harvard, MIT, and Caltech have won the most titles (55, 40 and 30).
But there are two Canadian schools whose students consistently do well too. The University of Toronto and The University of Waterloo each have 18 team titles and top five placements (Queen’s is next in Canada, with three). Waterloo’s wins are particularly impressive, considering the Putnam competition predates its birth in 1957 by a few decades. But those aren’t the only two Canadian schools to do well recently.
Here’s how our schools stacked up over the past five years.
Teams in the top 10
University of Toronto —4
University of Waterloo—4
University of British Columbia—2
Top scoring individuals (winners and honorable mentions)
University of Waterloo—13
University of Toronto —8
University of British Columbia—6
University of Alberta—1
And why they may want to reconsider
Today, the New York Times suggested that President Obama’s goal of training 10,000 more engineers per year, plus 100,000 more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teachers annually is unlikely to be reached.
For decades, the U.S. has been trying to up its output of STEM students. But the percentage of all students earning Bachelor of Engineering degrees has actually fallen from nearly 10 per cent of the total in the mid-1980s to 5.4 per cent in 2009-10. Computer engineering hit peaks of 4.3 per cent of the totals in 1984 and 2004, but has fallen again to 2.4 per cent in 2009-10. It’s a similar story in other STEM fields too, like biology. As more people are educated, it seems fewer are choosing STEM.
Petition asks gov. for higher standards
“We’ve kind of been watching a train wreck,” University of Winnipeg math Prof. Anna Stokke told the Winnipeg Free Press last week. She’s talking about the fact that many education students aren’t getting the math they need in university and are therefore less likely to be able to teach elementary school students the subject, perpetuating bad math skills at a time when more jobs require them.
Most people aren’t aware that a student can get into a faculty of education with only Grade 12 consumer math, Stokke said. “I wouldn’t even call it a math course — it’s a life-skills course.”
That’s why she is circulating a petition demanding higher standards for education students. So far, 224 people, including professors, parents, students and teachers have signed the petition.
“Currently, many students enter education faculties in the universities in Manitoba with the least demanding of the Grade 12 mathematics courses,” reads the petition. “University math professors have found that students with this minimum requirement often have alarmingly weak mathematics skills and high levels of math anxiety…. It has also been documented that math anxiety in a classroom teacher may transfer to his or her students.”
Canadians concerned about the value of an education, finds poll
As young people prepare to don caps and gowns this month and take the stage to grab their diplomas, Canadians confess a certain skepticism about the value of an education in this country.
Nearly half of the Canadians polled in a recent Harris-Decima survey said they feel Canada’s educational system does not adequately prepare young people for work in the modern economy.
Albertans are most pessimistic about the system – 52 per cent say they find it inadequate.
Younger Canadians, between the ages of 18-34, are more likely to say it is up to snuff than older respondents.
Nathan Seebaran, a student at Edmonton’s Ross Sheppard High School, says he feels optimistic about the training he’s getting through a registered apprentice program.
He’s studying to become a cabinetmaker and will be doing projects at the University of Alberta as part of his training.
“I was thinking of dropping out of high school because I didn’t really think I needed it, but I’m glad I stayed to do this,” Seebaran said.
Confidence is the hallmark of the so-called “Generation Y,” which is now hitting graduation age, says Harris-Decima vice-president Jeff Walker.
“Part of that self-awareness and self belief of that generation of people is the feeling that they work extremely hard and that the system has been beneficial to them,” said Walker.
When asked to grade different levels of education, Canadians gave high school the lowest marks.
Only 37 per cent felt high school did “very well” or well at preparing young people for the workforce.
International studies say Canada’s high-school students are tops—so why do so many struggle in university?
Are you smarter than a 10th grader? Try this math problem: Nick wants to pave the rectangular patio of his new house. The patio is 5.25 metres long and three metres wide. He needs 81 bricks per square metre. How many bricks does Nick need for the whole patio?
The preceding is a sample question from the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, a two-hour test that measured the math, science and literacy levels of 15-year-olds. More than 400,000 students from 57 countries took part, and Canadian kids were once again among the best in the world, finishing third in science (behind Finland and Hong Kong), fourth in reading (behind Korea, Finland and Hong Kong), and seventh in mathematics.
Want to know how Canadian students measure up? Check out the charts in our 18th Annual Rankings issue, on newsstands now!
Canada’s impressive PISA results are not an aberration: when international studies of teenage and elementary student achievement are conducted, Canadian students and the Canadian education system shine. Over the past decade, Canadian elementary- and secondary-school students have repeatedly ranked among the world’s best in mathematics, science, reading and writing.
But while international tests say that our kids and our high schools are tops, there’s compelling evidence from universities and colleges that paints a very different picture. “[High-school] students have done math programs that are supposed to have prepared them for post-secondary,” says Memorial University mathematics and statistics professor Sherry Mantyka, “and they’re desperately not prepared.” Before students at Memorial can take a math credit course, they must take a math placement test; each year, 25 per cent to 50 per cent score at a Grade 6 level or lower. A study of more than 10,000 students who entered college in 2006 in the Toronto area showed that 35 per cent earned a D or an F in first-term college math.
And it’s not just math: at the University of Ottawa, to catch the large number of students falling behind and falling through the cracks, the administration in the last few years has felt it necessary to expand its student help centres and hire hundreds of student tutors. The University of Waterloo has first-year students write a five-paragraph essay, which is graded on grammar, punctuation and structure. Each year, roughly one-quarter fail. Waterloo is a university where admission is highly competitive, and generally awarded to only well-above-average high-school grads.
What’s going on? Are Canadian high-school students among the best prepared on earth—or are many shockingly unprepared for higher education? The answer is yes. And yes.
Why I don’t hate my humanities class after all
My nerd membership card is at risk of being ripped in half. I might have my honorary eye glasses confiscated. I may no longer be allowed to worship His Bobbafettness. After almost two months of second semester, I’m finally ready to admit it: I’m enjoying my humanities class.
Science nerds and humanities classes aren’t supposed to mingle. If a Nerdian ventures into the City of Artsy Classes, we’re exiled from our homeland on pain of death. Or at the very least, our Star Wars action figure sets (all sealed in original mint-condition packages) will be smacked around a little and have a corner viciously folded down. But in direct defiance of the Nerd Code of Honour, I’m finding the class… well… interesting.
The class, “Individuals and Families in a Diverse society,” claims to cultivate “an awareness of and insight into students’ own personal and family development.” It also promised to teach Learning Skills.
Surely I was doomed.
But then something miraculous happened. I didn’t have the gall-bladder bored out of me. When we learned about the traditional transitions that adolescent Canadians face, I didn’t find my mind shutting down into a sanctuary of exponential equations and horizontal asymptotes.
I’ve even gained some invaluable Learning Skills.
No, it doesn’t quite match the thrill of finding a derivative, setting it equal to the slope of a tangent, and then solving a problem in which a point off the curve of a function must be found. But if losing the right to say words like “vertices” and “polynomial” means finally learning what the hell words like, “conceptual framework,” and “occupational attainment” actually mean, then it’s totally worth it.
Unless, of course, it means my Bobba Fett is in any sort of danger.