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Education Lab Blog

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

Topic: math

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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

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

January 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Guest: Tech professionals are an untapped resource in math education

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Jim Fernandez

Bridging the gap between students of different races and economic classes has been a goal of many public school systems for several years. As educational funding remains tight in our region, schools must get creative and look for other resources to accomplish this goal and raise student performance.

One place to turn: the retired and working professionals in various fields in our communities who are willing to volunteer on a regular, long-term basis to help our next generation succeed. What we’re lacking is an organized system that school districts could use to recruit community volunteers and match them with receptive teachers.

In 2012, I decided to retire early and become involved in public education as an unpaid volunteer. With advanced degrees in mathematics and computer science, and experience both as a college math professor and an IT professional, I am well aware of the mathematical knowledge needed for a successful technical career.

I specifically wanted to work with teachers and students in an environment where resources were limited and needs were high. My search led me to Cleveland High School in Seattle, where the academic program was transformed several years ago to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) for all students. At Cleveland, nearly every student takes a math class and a science class each year. For the past two years, I’ve spent most school days assisting math teachers and working with students on their math assignments both in class and during tutoring sessions.

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0 Comments | More in Guest opinion, Math and science, Opinion | Topics: Cleveland High School, math, STEM

December 16, 2013 at 5:00 AM

What a geologist can teach us about better science education

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WWU geology professor Scott Linneman, left, with former students Joe Butorac and Adam Shier. Photo courtesy Matty Photography

Here’s a novel idea that could flip high-school science education on its head:

Instead of teaching biology as the first course for high-school freshmen, start instead with physics.

That’s one of the many ideas burbling from the mind of Scott Linneman, a geology professor at Western Washington University.

Earlier this year, Linneman was chosen as the state Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

In addition to his geology work, Linneman plays an important role in helping to teach K-12 student-teachers how to teach science in an engaging way. We chatted with Linneman recently about teaching geology, preparing new teachers for the field and the best ways to improve science education:

Q: Why did you become a geology professor?

A: I became a geologist probably because it was something I knew almost nothing about, growing up in central Illinois — I’d never had an earth science class, ever, so when I was first exposed to it at Carleton College it was an entirely new world to me, and I loved the problem solving, the historical aspect of it…Halfway through grad school, I realized I loved TA’ing (working as a teaching assistant), and I could see ways to improve student learning…

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

October 25, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Washington outranks Finland in new test score analysis

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Click on the graphic to see the full report.

In a new study of test scores, Washington outscored Finland in math.  Yes, you read that right.

We may wring our hands over how many students fail our state’s mathematics exams, but a new analysis suggests that eighth-graders here score higher than their counterparts in Finland, which is considered one of the world’s academic powerhouses.

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0 Comments | More in Math and science, News | Topics: Finland, international comparisons, math