Thursday, April 23, 2009

Math Circles Allow Youth to Explore Mathematics Beyond the Classroom

Math Circles, which originally were born in the Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations, have been spreading across the US for at least 30 years. While many of these circles connect mathematicians with high-level learners, the structure of Math Circles is actually accessible to youth of all abilities and ages. There are math circles for kindergartners and for adults. Some have worked to connect students at the highest level of achievement with others who are just interested in math for fun.

Now there is a resource available that can help you find a circle near you or start a math circle of your own. Circle in a Box is freely available from the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at UC Berkeley.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Challenging Assumptions in Education Policy

In a commentary in Education Week, Ronald Wolk offers a commentary on why the nation is still "at risk," 25 years after the landmark report. One of the five assumptions that he challenges is: "The United States should require all students to take algebra in the 8th grade and higher-order math in high school in order to increase the number of scientists and engineers in this country and thus make us more competitive in the global economy." His reasoning for challenge this assumption:

"Most young people who go into science and engineering are well on their way by the time they start high school, because they become hooked on science or math in the early grades and do well in mathematics in elementary and middle school. ... If the nation wants more scientists and engineers, then educators need to find ways to awaken and nourish a passion for those subjects well before high school, and then offer students every opportunity to pursue their interest as far as they wish."