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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
August 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle ‘maker party’ promotes Internet literacy, carrots included

Anyone who’s ever wanted to get their feet wet making something for the web instead of just surfing it should join the “maker party” Friday evening at the Seattle Central Library.

The two-day party, which started Thursday, is free and open to anyone 12 and older who would like to tinker with programming languages such as Python, JavaScript and Ruby on Rails, work with volunteer mentors on a web project, or even build a robot.

Scene from a previous Mozilla Makers party. Photo courtesy Mozilla.

Scene from a previous Mozilla Makers party. Photo courtesy Mozilla.

It’s one of several hands-on opportunities in the Seattle area to become a producer of digital culture rather than just a consumer.

“Maker Party Pop-Up Seattle” is part of an annual 60-day cycle of volunteer-run events in hundreds of cities around the world.  They are all organized by Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, to promote web literacy.

One of the local party hosts is the Seattle branch of Geek Girls Carrots, an international organization that brings together communities of girls and women interested in computer technology and professionals already in the field.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: coding, Computer technology, STEM

August 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Study: Dropout risk goes up with higher math/science hurdle

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

The decades-long push to boost the number of math and science classes high-school students must take to graduate has raised a question: Will students who already are struggling to meet the current requirements drop out if the bar is even higher?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently suggested that the answer is yes.

Their study, published in the June/July issue of the journal Educational Researcher found that students were more likely to drop out of high school if they had to pass six math/science classes to graduate (11.4 percent dropout rate) than if they had to pass two (8.9 percent dropout rate).

“I think our findings highlight the need to anticipate there may be unintended consequences, especially when there are broad mandates that, in effect, make high school coursework harder,” said one of the study’s authors, Andrew D. Plunk in an article about the study published by the university.

African-Americans and Hispanics were especially affected, he wrote.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: dropouts, graduation requirements, math

July 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM

5-minute recap: Video chat on what’s working in math education

Last Thursday, the Education Lab team hosted a Google+ Hangout about elementary math education and the successful strategies used at Lakeridge Elementary in the Renton School District. The discussion stemmed from our July 15 story about how the school’s use of cognitively guided instruction and ongoing teacher training has led to a turnaround in student math scores.

Miss the live video chat? The five-minute recap below shows some of the highlights. What you’ll see:

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Comments | More in Math and science, Video, Your voices | Topics: Google Hangout, instruction, Lakeridge

July 14, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Videos: Watch Lakeridge teachers in action

The Teaching Channel, a nonprofit organization that highlights different approaches to education, has featured several Lakeridge Elementary teachers on its website. Below is a sampling of a few of the teachers in action. (Go here for the full story on Lakeridge’s approach to math instruction.)

From top to bottom, Lynn Simpson teaches a lesson about division; Teresa Tse shares strategies for counting; and Drew Crandall helps students reason through the relationship between multiplication and division.

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Comments | More in Math and science, Video

July 14, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Rewind: Google+ Hangout about what’s working in math instruction

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The Education Lab team hosted a Google+ Hangout on July 17 about the innovative approach to math instruction happening at Lakeridge Elementary in the Renton School District and what other schools are doing to improve math education.

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Comments | More in Math and science, Your voices | Topics: Google Hangout, Lakeridge, STEM

July 14, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Guest: Getting students to talk out ideas works in science, too

Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson

As educational researchers at the University of Washington, myself and many other colleagues in the College of Education are excited to re-define the role of research in improving systems of K-12 instruction. We have built partnerships with schools and believe that improvement comes from working in classrooms, elbow-to-elbow with students, teachers, coaches, principals and district leadership.

Along with successful efforts in improving math instruction at Lakeridge Elementary, UW researchers have also seen impressive results from a similar approach in science education.

These collaborations mean that we think differently about our role as professors at a university and about the purposes of data in educational reform. We see our new role as sharing research about how students and teachers learn best, building teacher development models that support learning, and generating evidence that can be used for continuous improvement. At Lakeridge, for example, researcher Elham Kazemi and the school’s teachers, coaches and leaders work in teams to collect and analyze data about how students are learning.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Math and science, Opinion | Topics: Jessica Thompson, Lakeridge, science instruction

July 14, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Video: Making math make sense at Lakeridge Elementary

Our most recent Education Lab story examines how a focus on ensuring students understand math concepts has helped raise students’ math skills at Lakeridge Elementary in the Renton School District.

With assistance from UW researcher Elham Kazemi and some of her colleagues, Lakeridge educators have design many math lessons as carefully guided conversations in which students talk through their reasoning and critique each other’s ideas. The results? In two years, the school’s performance on state math tests jumped from the bottom 5 percent to somewhere near average.

Check out the video below, and go here to read the full story.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News, Video | Topics: Lakeridge, math

July 14, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Computer scientist hopes to customize teaching and learning

Educators have been struggling for decades to resolve a fundamental problem: Students who are in the same grade because of age often vary greatly in skills, abilities and experiences, even on the first day of kindergarten.

Teachers are told to differentiate their instruction so that each student gets what she needs ­ a good idea in theory, but hard to pull off in a real classroom because teachers also vary in skills and abilities.

That’s the big puzzle that University of Washington computer science professor Zoran Popović hopes to solve with insights gained over the last five years of developing computer learning games that adapt to the skills of individual players so they progress more efficiently toward mastery.

Popović directs the university’s Center for Game Science.

He also is the founder and chief scientist at Enlearn, a not-for-profit organization started with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which partnered with the center in May. Enlearn is developing a commercial application for the interactive technology aimed at the global K-12 market.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: math instruction, Seattle Public Schools, technology

July 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

It ain’t rocket science: Early experiments key to school success

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

Nancy Ohanian / Op Art

We’ve heard plenty about the lousy performance of U.S. students in math and science, with accompanying alarm bells about future economic implications. A recent Education Lab story provides a case in point.

Now comes a raft of research suggesting that better science education could reap rewards even greater than creating an army of chemists.

The Education Commission of the States, a nonpartisan policy center, has years of data showing that early education in science and math may be even more important to — and predictive of — future academic success than reading skills.

Here’s why: Science, even at the most basic level, requires reflection and explanation (providing a boost to vocabulary). It also involves identifying patterns, combining measurements and problem-solving — all key for math.

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

June 5, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Need help in an emergency? Students have an app for that

youthapps

Screen shot of student-designed app called My Homework

Need help in an emergency? Want an easy way to keep track of homework assignments or turn a cell phone into a hearing aid?

Thanks to a students from Timbercrest Junior High in Woodinville, Tesla STEM High in Redmond, and Lakeside Middle in Seattle, there are — or soon may be — mobile or computer applications to help.

Those teams are among 11 from Western Washington that won prizes Wednesday in the state’s first Youth Apps Challenge.

The hearing enhancement app is already available for sale at the Apple App store, said Karen Manuel of the Technology Alliance, the contest’s organizer. Seattle Public Schools intends to use another of the award-winners, she said, an app for student government elections, designed by students at Garfield High.

The emergency app, developed by ninth-graders at Timbercrest Junior High, isn’t available yet, but students are working toward that, said their teacher, Josh Caldwell. How it works: When you open their app on your cell phone, a big red button appears. If you push it, it sends a text “help” message with your coordinates to a predetermined set of phone numbers.

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Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: STEM, Technology Alliance, Youth Apps Challenge

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