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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Category: Math and science
April 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Like to code or want to learn? Events offer help for students

Attention high-school and middle-school students who like to code or want to learn how: Two upcoming events are designed for you.

For coding-newbies as well as those with some experience: On Friday, May 23, Rainier Beach High will host an all-day app session where students can learn how to create applications and games on cell phones, iPads, laptops — whatever devices they bring. Workshops and assistance will be provided by Rainier Beach teachers, University of Washington computer science students and engineers from the UW and Microsoft.

Even students who have never programmed before can end up with an app at the end of the day, and many did so last year. Geekwire called last year’s event a “geeky field trip that helped expose kids to the world of computer programming.”

The event also will feature a DJ, dance competition and raffle giveaways. At the end of the day, participants will be invited to show off their new apps.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: coding, computer programming, Puget Sound App Day

March 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Guest: High-school internships offer strong path to STEM careers

julieburr

Julie Burr

If you’re raised in a family with a mom who’s a computer programmer and dad who’s an aerospace engineer, chances are you’ll take the right high school classes and consider pursuing a bright future in a STEM career.

If you come from a different background, the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — collectively known as STEM — might seem uninviting. Upon graduation from high school, you won’t suddenly develop an interest in a STEM career. If you do, you likely won’t be admitted or succeed as a STEM major in college if you have a lack of high school preparation. With the huge shortage of skilled workers in STEM fields, this seems a travesty.

Highline Public Schools’ new Raisbeck Aviation High School serves as a model for how schools can help fill the local skills gap and give hope to students with limited opportunities. The school’s internship program, in particular, enables students to start exploring STEM careers early on in their high-school careers while gaining important real-world experience.

Raisbeck students are surrounded by caring professionals from aerospace careers on a daily basis. A scaffold approach to STEM career exploration begins with the freshman-level Career Choices class, where a constant stream of STEM professionals come to inform and inspire. Students become comfortable networking with professionals, and many doors are opened, such as tours to commercial space flight company Blue Origin or Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company.

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0 Comments | More in Guest opinion, Math and science, Opinion | Topics: Highline School District, Raisbeck Aviation High School, STEM

March 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

STEM programs to open at all Lake Washington high schools

Juanita High School student Jacob Curtis displays his sustainable housing design. Photo courtesy Lake Washington School District.

STEM High School student Jacob Curtis talks about his sustainable housing design. Photo courtesy Lake Washington School District.

For the past two school years, students at STEM High School in the Lake Washington School District have been spending big chunks of time working on real-world projects such as designing sustainable homes, solar light towers and portable heart monitors.

They get help from experts in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, some of whom come to STEM High for what amount to in-school internships.

But the district isn’t limiting its STEM opportunities to just one school. This fall, it opened what it’s calling STEM Signature Programs at three other high schools. Next fall, all high schools will have at least one such program.

Students who sign up for the programs take a three-class block designed around a STEM theme and complete projects related to the theme.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: Lake Washington School District, problem-based learning, project-based learning

March 3, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Not ready for college: Will Common Core help?

One of the most well-known obstacles to college completion in Washington is a lack of preparation, particularly in math. A new state council says a fix to the problem is coming soon. But one group of researchers warns that the state’s solution is a risky one that is generating controversy elsewhere.

First, some background: A high percentage of Washington’s high-school graduates fail to meet college standards for math and writing skills, deficiencies that are revealed when they take college placement tests. This is an especially common problem in community colleges, where more than 50 percent of incoming students require pre-college math classes — or developmental math — before they can advance to college-level math. And educators know that being assigned to developmental classes raise the risk that a student will drop out without ever finishing a degree.

Most educators agree that the problem ought to be fixed in high school, by making sure students are college-ready before they graduate. And one of the ways to do this is to test student skill levels in 11th grade, then use 12th grade for catch-up classes if needed.

The Washington Student Achievement Council, a new state agency that makes policy recommendations on higher education, embraces the idea of testing 11th graders, and using the senior year of high school to correct any deficiencies. The council believes the fix is already on its way; 11th grade tests are a part of the new Common Core academic standards, which are designed to prepare students for college or a job by the time they graduate from high school.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: common core, higher ed, Washington Student Achievement Council

February 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

To raise math scores, hire a good English teacher

Schools that want to boost long-term student achievement in math might want to pay more attention to the quality of their English teachers.

A new study out of Stanford University, which looked at the performance of 700,000 students in New York City, found that students who had studied under strong language arts teachers scored higher in math at the end of seven years than could have been expected.

Good math teachers, the researchers said, had only small effects on students’ English scores.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: math, Stanford

February 24, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Stuck on a math problem? WSU’s math center offers instant help

A white-coated math lab tutor helps students at WSU. Photo by Shelly Hanks.

A white-coated math lab tutor helps students at WSU. Photo by Shelly Hanks.

Even college students stumble over math. More than a year ago, Washington State University decided to make it easier for students to get immediate help whenever they got hung up on a problem. The program, WSU says, is helping students advance quickly through the required college math track.

The Mathematics Learning Center offers free tutoring for students enrolled in undergraduate math courses and is open 56 hours a week. Tutors dressed in white lab coats roam the room, looking for raised hands. The tutors are either math majors in their last years of college or graduate students working as teaching assistants.

Tutors at the math center are adept at helping in all levels of math. About 10 to 15 percent of WSU students require a developmental math class because their skills aren’t yet up to college level-math.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: higher ed, math, Washington State University

February 12, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Students soar in A.P. Chinese, struggle in chemistry, biology

Twelfth-grade students Sohrab Pasikhani, left, and Bridgette LaFaye work in their Advanced Placement Physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press.

Twelfth-grade students Sohrab Pasikhani, left, and Bridgette LaFaye work in their Advanced Placement physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press.

The number of high-school students taking college-level Advanced Placement courses continues to climb in Washington state and across the nation.

Nationally, the number of A.P. test takers broke the one million mark for the first time in 2013, according to a report released on Tuesday by the College Board. That’s up from about 954,000 in 2012, and 514,000 in 2003.

In Washington state, about 22,000 students — equal to a third of the class of 2013 — took at least one A.P exam last year, about 1,000 students more than the year before.

The state’s A.P. success rate rose, too, with 20.9 percent of the class of 2013 earning a score of 3 or better, which is good enough to earn credit at many colleges. In 2012, about 20 percent did.

But there were big differences in the performance from test to test, and among different ethnic groups.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: Advanced Placement, College Board, college-level classes in high school

January 29, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Quiz: Are you smarter than a middle-school science whiz?

Yesterday on the blog, Claudia Rowe wrote about a group of Eastside middle-school students who are traveling to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Science Bowl this spring. The students will go head-to-head with other whiz kids from around the country, racing to answer 17 rounds of grueling, quiz-show style questions.

Wondering how you would stack up against the competition? Try out some sample questions in this five-question quiz:

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January 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Imagine ‘Jeopardy!’ in science: Bellevue club could best Alex Trebek

Science Infinity Club regional winners (left to right) Rahul Chaliparambil, Neha Nagvekar, Dhruvik Parikh and Veenadhari Kollipara. In back is alternate Sagarika Samavedi. (Contributed photo)

Science Infinity Club regional winners (left to right) Rahul Chaliparambil, Neha Nagvekar, Dhruvik Parikh and Veenadhari Kollipara. In back is alternate Sagarika Samavedi. (Contributed photo)

While most of us are sleeping late on Saturday mornings, dozens of Eastside students are sitting in front of their computers for 8 a.m. Skype sessions on atomic energy, physics and life science.

Last weekend, five of these kids — all of them middle schoolers involved with the Bellevue-based Science Infinity Club — traveled to Portland and won the regional competition of the National Science Bowl.

Next stop: Washington, D.C., for nationals in April.

The club, which meets on weekends and after school, includes about 60 students from across the Eastside and as far north as Everett.

Akshath Sivaprasad, a senior at Interlake High School, started it three years ago as nothing more ambitious than a study group for other science-minded teens like himself.

But during the club’s short existence, its members have three times won the regional Science Bowl competition for middle school kids, and next weekend Sivaprasad plans to compete at the high school level.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News

January 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Math struggles start even before kindergarten, state says

Don’t just worry about the old math — or the new math. Or whether students use calculators, or don’t have them.

New data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) suggests that the state’s math problem starts before children line up for their first day of kindergarten.

Courtesy Washington OSPI

Courtesy Washington OSPI

For the second year in a row, kindergarten teachers in hundreds of schools observed their students and rated their school-readiness skills — everything from how well they hold a pencil to whether they recognize letters and can count to 10.

Three-quarters of those kindergarteners were deemed school-ready in five areas: social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive and literacy.

But in math? Only a little over half had the desired skills.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: early learning, kindergarten, math

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