Posts tagged ‘Mathematics’

October 7, 2013

Earnings potential may be predicted by ‘knowledge of fractions in fifth grade’

by Grace

Math expertise correlates with lower unemployment rates among recent college graduates.

Recent college graduates who majored in math or general engineering had an unemployment rate of 5.9% and 7%, respectively, according to 2010-2011 data of college graduates analyzed by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce that was released earlier this year. That was below the overall unemployment rate for recent graduates, which averaged 7.9% in spring 2011 and double-digit unemployment rates for some social science and arts majors.

Math skills also correlate with higher earnings.

The economists examine the large differences in labor-market outcomes across college majors in several ways. In one section of their paper, they look at data on wages by college major obtained through the Census Bureau‘s 2009 American Community Survey. They find that among other things, math skills are correlated to higher earnings. “Wages tend to be high for engineers and low for elementary education majors, suggesting that perhaps much of the wage differences between majors are due to differences in mathematical ability and high school course work,” the authors write.

Higher-level math skills depend on a “child’s knowledge of fractions in fifth grade”.  Proficiency with fractions is “foundational for algebra”.  Unfortunately, American students are not doing very well in this area.

National tests show nearly half of eighth-graders aren’t able to put three fractions in order by size.

The introduction of Common Core Standards and more research on effective instructional methods may improve math achievement levels, but we’ll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, parents may be able to enhance their children’s future earning potential by making sure they understand and know how to manipulate fractions before they leave middle school.

October 4, 2013

Knowledge of fractions is critical to success in higher-level math

by Grace

A child’s knowledge of fractions in fifth grade predicts performance in high-school math classes, even after controlling for IQ, reading achievement, working memory, family income and education, and knowledge of whole numbers, according to a 2012 study led by Bob Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.

The critical role of fractions in higher-level math makes this news particularly unsettling:

National tests show nearly half of eighth-graders aren’t able to put three fractions in order by size.

This is not a new problem, and was highlighted by the 2008 National Mathematics Advisory Panel report.

A major goal for K–8 mathematics education should be proficiency with fractions (including decimals, percent, and negative fractions), for such proficiency is foundational for algebra and, at the present time, seems to be severely underdeveloped.

It is hoped that more government-funded research will help.

The government is funding new research on more effective ways to teach the often-dreaded subject. The new methods preface early rote learning of complicated fraction rules with more work on building a conceptual understanding of fractions. And instead of traditional pie charts, they rely more on tools like number lines, paper models and games putting fractions in context.

I am suspicious of recommendations that conceptual understanding should always preface procedural knowledge.  This line of thinking has proven to be a trap for students who spend hours on pie charts and brightly colored manipulatives, but then reach high school without knowing how to manipulate fractions.  They seem to get stuck by the tendency among educators to overemphasize the conceptual at the expense of the procedural.  However, it is promising to see the renewed focus on using number lines, a core feature of Singapore Math and other similarly successful programs.

The 2008 National Mathematics Advisory Panel reached a conclusion that seems like a reasonable approach.

As with learning whole numbers, conceptual and procedural knowledge of fractions reinforce one another and influence such varied tasks as estimation, computation, and the solution of word problems. One key mechanism linking conceptual and procedural knowledge is the ability to represent fractions on a number line.

January 9, 2013

Quick Links – Top-paying jobs for community college graduates; no mandate relief in New York; high salary for high school principal; plus more

by Grace

◊◊◊ Top ten jobs for two-year graduates (Community College Spotlight)

The top job is an air traffic controller,with a median 2010 salary of $108,040.

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Council voted down 51 of 65 requests for help from local governments and school districts Tuesday, approving 14 suggestions for review of state mandates for special education and two other school issues….

The Council also recommended further study of a request to drop the state mandate for school districts with fewer than 1,000 pupils to have internal auditors on staff; and a state Education Department rule that mandates students get a “minimum number of minutes per week (seat time), by grade level and subject area.”

Requests to reduce the crippling pension costs were among those that were rejected.

They rejected requests to reduce the mandate to transport private school students; to reform teacher tenure and “last in, first out” work rules; to change the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law that keeps automatic teacher pay raises in place after a contract has expired; and to reduce the cost of public employee and teacher pensions. The requests included letting school districts create pension reserve funds, but that was rejected because it was an expansion of district authority, not a state mandate.

Also rejected were local government requests regarding the Wicks public works contracting law, health insurance contributions, restrictions on new unfunded mandates, tax cap exemptions, legal services for the poor and the MTA commuter tax.

Staff of the panel said that the rejected requests were beyond the scope and the authority of the council to decide because they were matters of state law, covered by local union contracts, or otherwise not a qualified candidate for elimination or reform.

I believe a constitutional amendment is needed to reduce pension costs, one of the most costly state mandates.  If that’s the case, the Council could have made that recommendation.  You can see a copy of the full report at the Mandate Relief Council site.

New York’s highest-salaried school principal, James Ruck, who has led Harrison High since 2006, will earn $245,728 this year, setting a new standard for a building administrator in the nation’s hottest market for education leaders.

Ruck, 68, the former schools superintendent at Suffolk County’s Sachem Central schools, augments his Harrison pay with an estimated $131,352 a year in pension payments, pushing his annual income to more than $377,000. Ruck, of Northport, intends to step down from Harrison in June

About 1,000 students attend Harrison High School.


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  ‘Motivation, Not IQ, Matters Most for Learning New Math Skills’ (Time)

But IQ does matter in overall math achievement levels.

… While some element of math achievement may be linked to natural inborn intelligence, when it comes to developing skills during high school, motivation and math study habits are much more important than IQ, according to a new study…

To their surprise, the researches found that IQ does not predict new learning — in other words, intelligence as measured by the IQ test does not indicate how likely students are to pick up new concepts or accumulate new skills. While children with higher IQs did have higher test scores from the beginning of the study, how much newmaterial the kids learned over the years was not related to how smart they were, at least not once demographic factors were taken into account.

“Students with high IQ have high math achievement and students with low IQ have low math achievement,” Murayama says. “But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. It determines the starting point.”

April 30, 2012

‘math skills are correlated to higher earnings’

by Grace

A study that looked at the correlation between college majors and earnings highlights the role of math skills in this relationship.

The economists examine the large differences in labor-market outcomes across college majors in several ways. In one section of their paper, they look at data on wages by college major obtained through the Census Bureau‘s 2009 American Community Survey. They find that among other things, math skills are correlated to higher earnings. “Wages tend to be high for engineers and low for elementary education majors, suggesting that perhaps much of the wage differences between majors are due to differences in mathematical ability and high school course work,” the authors write.

Apparently, innumeracy has a cost.
… 

Average wages for some of the most lucrative college majors

I’m surprised at how well a political science major pays, even without an advanced degree.
… 

Average wages for some of the lowest-paying college majors

Considering that the average salary for educators in Westchester County approaches six figures, it’s surprising to see such low wages for education majors.  I suspect that part-time workers included in this and other categories deflate the average wage.

American Community Survey – Questions on the form and why we ask

Related:  Two recent reports on college majors, salaries, and unemployment rates

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