Friday, August 31, 2007

Math...?

Spent the day at THIS again. In Norway, kids don't start formal schooling until 3rd grade. Second grade is mostly play and only lasts a half day, unless you pay for S.F.O. which is the after-school program. What this means is that at the lower grades, the kids are years behind the counterparts in the U.S. in reading, writing, and math. Pam is teaching 5th grade, and some of her students are way behind what she was expecting.

At the university level, incoming freshman do so poorly in math that they start two weeks early and have math intensive classes to help them catch up.

AND YET -- it doesn't keep Norway from being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, one of the most educated and literate populations in the world, and the very best country in the world in which to live.

The math wars in the US continue to rage, one camp calling for stronger basics and skill mastery, the other calling for more conceptual learning and problem-solving ability, and both sides agreeing that US kids need more math more math more math!

And yet the country that produces highest test scores, Singapore, laments that its students are not taught to be creative risk-takers and innovators, and thus Singapore with its high test scores has little to show for it in terms of science, industry, or entrepreneurship. (see comments from Singapore's minister of education at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10663340/site/newsweek/)

And then a country like Norway which scores near the bottom on international comparisons at 4th grade and 8th grade does just fine -- in fact has been rated as the best country in which to live by the United Nations for the past 6 years! (This is based on their Human Development Index which ranks countries according to, among other things, educational levels, material wealth, longevity, cultural freedom, and literacy rates (there's no measurable illiteracy in Norway)).

As a math educator, it gives me something to think about...

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