Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Current State of Mathematics Education In This Country

You probably already know that the current state of mathematics education in this country is very bad. What you may not know is exactly how bad. Harvard recently released to the news media the results of a study about mathematics. Their findings: (1) the US currently ranks 31st out of 56 countries, and (2) only 6% of our high school students take higher level math courses. Another statistic you may not have heard (except from me) is that the failure rate for first year Algebra students is a deplorable 50%. That statistic has direct bearing on the Harvard results; and, as if these statistics aren't bad enough, you need to understand that the 50% failure rate was true in 1972 when I started teaching and it is still true today. Doesn't this just make you want to shout "Why isn't anyone doing anything about this?"
In reality, mathematics educators, education specialists (seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it?), and universities have been trying for over 40 years to make positive changes. During my lifetime I have experienced, to varying degrees, at least six different methodological changes. (1) I grew up using the "skill and drill" of the old days. This method produced temporarily strong basic skills but very weak application or understanding; and without the latter, the former fades quickly. (2) In 1972, I started teaching just after the pendulum swing to "New Math." All math books started with a chapter on set theory, out went rote memory, and in came understanding. In theory, if students understood the why of mathematics, then they would create the skills on their own. Of course, none of that happened, and mathematical understanding actually decreased. It is now universally agreed upon that "New Math" was a miserable failure. Fortunately for me, I was raising a family during most of those years and didn't have to teach it very long; but I often wish that we could apologize to the students of the 70's and early 80's. "New Math" caused you more harm than good. That shouldn't have happened.
Since the final death of "New Math" in the early 80's, there has been no overriding mathematical philosophy for the country. Instead, different states--even individual school districts--have been searching for that perfect solution. (3) Some school districts returned to "skill and drill" by adopting the Saxon method. Of course, the problems that existed with "skill and drill" the first time still existed. Returning to a method that was unsuccessful before is not logical. Math people should know better. (4) In 1983, the University of Chicago conducted a great deal of research into why Algebra students were failing in large numbers. Then they created an entirely different approach to teaching mathematics. In 1988, I was very fortunate to have been working in Colorado Springs when my district (Air Academy School District #20) adopted the UCSMP (University of Chicago School Mathematics Project) textbook series. UCSMP was truly revolutionary and inspired. To learn more about how it came to be and how it was different, read my article "Frustrated With Everyday Mathematics/UCSMP? Why Is It So Different?" For the first time ever I saw large numbers of students improve both their basic skills and their understanding of mathematics. UCSMP continues to this day in various parts of the country, although the extreme difference in approach coupled with the fact that our society is now highly mobile have caused major difficulties, especially for parents. For UCSMP to have a positive impact on the country, it would have to be adopted by all schools. And we all know that will never happen.
Two other approaches bouncing around the country are (5) Project-based and (6) Activity-based programs. Project-based programs give classes a "situation" and that situation is worked on for weeks or months. The Pit and the Pendulum is the project I have heard the most about. This approach works well with certain students, but you haven't read anything about startling success because that hasn't happened. Activity-based programs are similar to project-based programs except for length of time spent on the activity. The activities might last a day or a week, and then change to another activity. In both of these methods, the math skills are taught as they are encountered in the situation. Classroom management issues arise with both of these methods. And, again, you aren't hearing shouts of joy over the positive benefits to mathematical understanding.
In addition to the philosophical changes, there have been many smaller changes in teaching techniques and classroom changes. Some still exist in some places, but most have been replaced with the newest and improved techniques. Cooperative learning was all the rage for a time and it is still a useful technique. I have lost count of how many of these teaching fads have come and gone over the past 40 years. You will notice, however, that the failure rate remains unchanged. So where are things now? Floundering. While school districts and states are bouncing around trying to find that magical solution, No Child Left Behind is slowly but surely destroying what little enthusiasm for learning still exists. No Child Left Behind may very well be the final death knell for mathematics education in this country.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Good News If You're Considering a Career As a Court Reporter

With the tough times of today's economy, many people are considering a career change or a field with plenty of job opportunities and chances for advancements. If this is the case, a career as a court reporting professional may be just the answer you are looking for. Court reporters, or stenographers are in high demand, earn a competitive salary, and have plenty of opportunities to advance with extra training and certification. This makes this career an excellent choice.
If you are interested in obtaining a career as a stenographer, there are several different options you have. But you must first pass the Court Reporting exams. To prepare you for these exams, you will need to take courses at a school or enroll in a program at a community college or major university.
There are different licenses that a court reporter can hold and most states require you to obtain at least one. To obtain your license, you'll have to demonstrate that you can accurately complete the skills you learned in your education and training. The type of license you'll need varies depending on what kind of court reporter you have trained to become. Obtaining your degree as a court reporter will take approximately two to four years. In a court reporting program you will learn many of the skills that you will need to be successful in your career such as typing skills, courtroom language and terms, how to use a stenotype machine to transcribe what is said in the courtroom, and computer skills.
Once you've finished your formal training, there's still quite a bit of on-the-job education you'll need in order to be successful in your career. As much as you might have practiced during your schooling, there's nothing quite like going into a courtroom and trying to keep up with the fast pace of everything that's going on. Because this is such a demanding job, you're bound to make a few mistakes here and there. Learning how to handle these mistakes and improve your accuracy is something that your education can't always prepare you for, but is definitely one of the requirements most desired by prospective employers. When you're learning to be a court reporter, you need to be very observant and see firsthand how things are done in the courtroom. A good way to gain experience is to contact someone at the courthouse and get them to take you inside so that you can watch the proceedings. You could even talk to the reporter on the case and ask for tips on how to do the job more efficiently. This will also be beneficial when you are finished with your program because you will have established contacts that may help you in obtaining a job.
Becoming a stenographer requires a lot of skill, dedication, and education, in order to be successful. Good candidates must have strong typing skills, good grammar, and an interest in the legal system. If you're interested in becoming a court reporter, you might find it helpful to shadow someone in the field before beginning your training program.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Middle Aged Mother and Her Search For Education

Did you know that scholarships are available for mothers in any situation?
These scholarships exist to help women earn a degree and get a good job. Getting a degree, heck even a single semester of college, is extremely expensive.
Are you ready to take the plunge?
If you are considering education, are you ready to take action? Do you dream of a higher paying job? An education makes a higher paying job possible.
Whatever your situation, the costs of living make paying for education difficult. I believe many women would like an education but are unable to afford one because of other responsibilities.
Don't depend on others to support yourself. As you grow up you learn how depending on anyone else for our own well being is usually a mistake. Depending on yourself makes you strong and stable, the kind of person everyone should be. These scholarships help you to graduate and get a high paying job for yourself.
Making the right decision right now could improve your life.
Raising kids is very expensive. Not to mention all of the other costs we must take on. At some point you make the decision to move your life in the right direction, often that is a college diploma.
So we have the situation where the good jobs require a degree, but without a higher paying job now you can't afford to get that degree. What should you do?
Here is the good news...
Plenty of scholarships exist for mothers looking to cover the costs of education for themselves or their children!
To apply for this grant...
Take just a couple minutes and apply for this $10,000 scholarship right now! If you are a mother than this is definitely a worthwhile couple of minutes for you!