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How science is taught in high-performing countries


Penelope
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There has been talk here and in the media about how other countries teach math, particularly countries that do well on the TIMSS.

 

I've read Liping Ma's book as well as The Teaching Gap. If there are any others addressing math, I'd love to know about them.

 

But what about science? Other than the Singapore MPH science, does anyone know how science tends to be taught in countries that have a reputation for excellence in science? I know that strength in math has a lot to do with it in high school years, but what do they do in the lower grades?

 

My impression, which may well be faulty, is that the U.S. tends to have really boring textbooks, or the opposite constructivist extreme where the students are supposed to reason their own way into scientific principles.

 

What do you think?

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I see two issues: compartmentalization and teacher training.

 

One problem with science education in the US is that it is completely compartmentalized and high school students spend one year on biology, then one year on chemistry, without ever looking back at bio, etc. I found the science before high school very unsystematic and a hodegpodge of topics without relations to each other.

In Germany for instance, (and I believe in other European countries), science education is more continuous and less compartmentalized.

German students begin to study biology in 5th grade, add physics in 6th grade and add chemistry in 7th. They have approximately three 45 minute class periods in each science per week. They continue to study ALL three sciences concurrently through high school. I believe in 11th grade they get to drop one of the three and choose one to do more in-depth studies.

There can not be any schools who "don't offer" all three sciences (as can happen in the US)- they MUST, because it is required.

 

Second, each science is taught by a teacher who has studied his specific subject at the university. One of my US students told me that his high school physics was taught by the biology teacher who had to skip topics because she did not understand them. A situation like this is unthinkable in Germany: the biology teacher will teach biology, and physics will be taught by a trained physics teacher - as soon as the subjects are introduced in the middle grades.

 

ETA: on the topics of textbooks: the ps school science textbooks in the US IMO are quite terrible. Not because they are boring, but because, even at the high school level, they only use sound bites and snippets. There is hardly any continuous text, which would be necessary to develop a complex thought or concept - instead, there are many sidebars, pictures (with little content), colored boxes, inserts, activities that render the book extremely distracting. Whenever I show a high school public school text to somebody from home, they comment that it looks like something intended for elementary school.

There ARE, of course, exceptions, and there are some really good science texts; the majority of books by the mainstream school book publishers, and certainly every single text my children used while still attending public school, was a nightmare. Not to mention that there were factual mistakes in every science text my kids brought home from school.

Edited by regentrude
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I found the science before high school very unsystematic and a hodegpodge of topics without relations to each other.
:iagree:

My DH and I say all the time that we are shocked to realize as adults how interrelated everything is! Everything, including science, was taught in a vacuum and we neither one "got" how one thing related to another. We are both college grads, but didn't see the interconnections until we started homeschooling and realized how a study of one topic led to another, which led to another and so on.

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:iagree:

:iagree:

My DH and I say all the time that we are shocked to realize as adults how interrelated everything is! Everything, including science, was taught in a vacuum and we neither one "got" how one thing related to another. We are both college grads, but didn't see the interconnections until we started homeschooling and realized how a study of one topic led to another, which led to another and so on.

 

:iagree::iagree:

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Ok so what is the answer to this. How can I as a homeschooling parent do better?

 

Science has been a real thorn on my side as a homeschooler because what is out there isn't very good.

 

I'm all ears here :bigear:. My kids are very young and science is more like spending time outside, planting gardens, life cycles, seasons etc But past that, I'm a little :confused::confused:. And from the little "future" research I've done, I'm not all that confident!

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That is very helpful, regentrude.

 

I'm also wondering about how to do better at home. I find that the approaches of hs curriculum are all over the place.

 

I'm also interested if anyone knows about science education in top-performing Asian countries. Test results are not the most important indicator to me, but I do find interesting the statistics concerning which countries have the highest percentage of students measuring "advanced". Usually those are the same countries (or regions) that score well on TIMSS and PISA: Japan, Shanghai, Singapore, Korea. Of the countries participating, which is not all of them, only a couple of European countries actually did better than the US (England is one I remember). The PISA had a few more European countries that did better than the US (Finland, New Zealand). Most did not, though. Do European countries have more students entering math and science related fields upon graduation, compared with the U.S.? I don't know the answer to this.

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Surprisingly, the U.S. doesn't do badly in science wrt adults, and it isn't related to textbook learning.

 

School is not where most Americans learn most of their science

 

 

We contend that a major educational advantage enjoyed by the U.S.

relative to the rest of the world is its vibrant free-choice science learning landscape—a landscape filled with a vast array of digital resources, educational television and radio, science museums, zoos, aquariums, national parks, community activities such as 4-H and scouting and many other scientifically enriching enterprises. The sheer quantity and importance of this science learning landscape lies in plain sight but mostly out of mind. We believe that nonschool resources—used by learners across their lifetimes from childhood onward—actually account for the vast majority of Americans’ science learning.

 

For example, for more than a decade, performance by U.S. schoolaged

children on international tests such as the quadrennial Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has followed a consistent pattern. Elementary-school-aged U.S. children perform as well as or better than most children in the world, but the performance of older U.S. children has been mediocre at best. Interestingly, however, for more than 20 years, U.S. adults have consistently outperformed their international counterparts on science literacy measures, including adults from South Korea and Japan, as well as Western European countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. If schooling is the primary causative factor affecting how well the public understands science, how do we explain these findings?

 

Interestingly, it is just at the point when school-based science instruction begins in earnest that American children start falling behind their international peers. Meanwhile, what accounts for the high performance of American adults?

 

A growing body of evidence supports the contention that the public learns science in settings and situations outside of school.
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Ok so what is the answer to this. How can I as a homeschooling parent do better?

Science has been a real thorn on my side as a homeschooler because what is out there isn't very good.

 

I can only tell you how we decided to solve the science problem for our family. Both DH and I are scientists (physicists), and we are not very happy with the materials we have seen for Middle and High school.

So we have decided not to use any pre-made curricula for the Middle grades. Instead, we mostly let DS get books from the library, watch documentaries, read living books. We discuss science, talk about what he reads. He slowly begins working with textbooks a bit (we like Campbell's Exploring life, Hewitt's Conceptual physics and Tarbuck's Earth science and are using bits and pieces - he is not ready to stick with one textbook yet).

At this age, we aim at developing some basic scientific understanding and a broad knowledge base about a variety of topics.

In high school (or earlier for our mature DD), we begin a rigorous textbook based education using introductory college texts.

The main advantage of using college texts is their quality. One reason they are so much better than high school texts is probably the adoption procedure. School books are selected by school board members who lack the expertise to discern which books are good and which are not. College texts are adopted by experts in the field who are able to judge which texts are good; a bad college text will not be used by fellow professionals and "die out".

 

Had I started homeschooling ealier, I would probably have tried to develop an integrated approach for sciences, similar to Germany. Since I came to homeschooling accidentally when DS was in 7th grade, we are using the US approach of one science per year. Even so, discussions and the use of high quality materials written by experts, not educators, emphasizes the connections between disciplines: the biology text uses chemistry, the chemistry text is based on physics, the physics text we used had lots of applications of physics in biological systems. So even with the segregated approach, an interdisciplinary discussion is possible.

I know of other homeschoolers who teach biology, physics and chemistry concurrently over three years, using the standard texts and covering a third of each book in a year.

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Ok so what is the answer to this. How can I as a homeschooling parent do better?

 

Science has been a real thorn on my side as a homeschooler because what is out there isn't very good.

 

As the product af an excellent public high school education, and later a working bench scientist, I can suggest this:

 

There is nothing wrong with a yearlong focus on chem, then bio or physics, then the other one (and you can insert one or more additionals as fits your needs). However, think globally. When teaching bio, recall your chem lessons-- why do cell membranes organize themselves the way they do? How do proton pumps work? Why are methylation sites important on DNA? What about ATP and the KREBS cycle? How about physics? How do different joints work? Are there levers in the human body? How is blood moved around? How do we propel ourselves when we walk? When we run?

 

What about stars? Why do some appear different colors? What from physics or chemistry or both might this tell us? When we hear, why does the pitch of a siren change as an ambulance moves away? How does a cochlear implant work? Does someone with an implant "hear" exactly what a typically hearing person does? Why?

 

Why is lava molten when under so much pressure? Why does it harden when it reaches the surface?

 

You get the idea-- keep reaching back into prior studies when examining your subject, and show them that everything is physics; everything is chemistry; everything is mathematics; everything affects life. It is nearly impossible to find an example of anything that is one subject in isolation; simply make your student aware of this fact, but use your main subject area for the year as an organizing principal, or "spine" much like many of us teach literature, history, and geography as one subject, using one period in history as an organizing "spine" to avoid confusing your student.

 

In my job, I worked at a bench in a genetics lab in a children's hospital, researching a certain type of autism. But on any given day, I was a geneticist, a mathematician, a chemist, a writer, an editor, a lecturer, a teacher, a parent mentor in the clinic, etc. It all ties together.

 

I like what a PP said about choosing a high school text carefully. In my high school we actually adopted a well-written college text that was still very readable (several of us served as test readers the year before).

 

Hope that helps.

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Do European countries have more students entering math and science related fields upon graduation, compared with the U.S.? I don't know the answer to this.

 

I don't know either, but I know that Germany deals with a shortage of scientists and engineers, just as the US do. Most students do not choose to go into STEM fields there either.

What is true, however, is that German students entering the university are better prepared for math and science related fields because their math education is far better. Calculus in 11th and 12th grade is mandatory for every student who wishes to go to university.

The homework problems my niece had in her 12th grade calculus based physics class were harder than what I can put on my tests in the university class I teach for physics majors and scientists. Sad.

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Surprisingly, the U.S. doesn't do badly in science wrt adults, and it isn't related to textbook learning.

 

 

Do you have a link to the study done with adults?

I could not find any in the article linked, and the TIMMS website seems to indicate that they assess performance of 4th and 8th graders.

 

I would be very interested to see how they measure adult scientific literacy and what criteria and questions they use, since many experiences in daily life make me shudder about the scientific ignorance of people.

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He slowly begins working with textbooks a bit (we like Campbell's Exploring life, Hewitt's Conceptual physics and Tarbuck's Earth science and are using bits and pieces - he is not ready to stick with one textbook yet).

 

 

I'm looking into these texts you mentioned. Is the Campbell book published by Prentice Hall or do I have the wrong one?

 

I appreciate your posts. I'm not a science person, and I have a very science-oriented boy. :D

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I'm looking into these texts you mentioned. Is the Campbell book published by Prentice Hall or do I have the wrong one?

 

That is the one. It is a well structured high school level text, not as overwhelming as Concepts and Connections. We also bought the CD with the activities; there is one activity for each section which the student can do independently and which is working well for my 12 y/o.

 

Btw, we bought the "Part 1 Biology Exploring Life Lincoln Interactive Second Custom Edition" which as far as I know is the identical text, but a different cover - and available for $1 plus shipping from abebooks

 

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=3458919806&searchurl=an%3Dcampbell%26sts%3Dt%26tn%3Dexploring%2Blife%26x%3D53%26y%3D11

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Am I correct in my perception that BFSU tries to integrate the sciences? (I haven't used it, but have looked at it as an option.) I've heard positive comments from lots of BFSU I users; has anyone used II? Thoughts?

 

And thanks, regentrude, for the textbook recommendations. I'm many years away from middle school and high school yet, but I still like thinking about how we might handle different subjects then.

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Your first consideration, that we have boring textbooks, was an assumption. For the first four years, our district does not us a textbook. This is more a topic that is focus led in the early years. :) Just thought that we should disband the notion that elementary students are all handed a text.

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Surprisingly, the U.S. doesn't do badly in science wrt adults, and it isn't related to textbook learning.

 

School is not where most Americans learn most of their science

 

Interesting article, thanks. The contention is that American adults have more opportunities for learning, such as zoos, museums, aquariums, and science centers. They may also be reading and seeing a lot on news stations and the internet, particularly about medical topics.

 

I, too, would like to know what specific studies compare adults across cultures, and what types of knowledge they test, because I didn't notice that the article listed any.

 

The article also makes the interesting point that the reason American fourth graders do better than eighth graders in the tests is that most of the science learning in America at all ages happens outside of school, in "free learning" activities like the above mentioned. By age 12 children tend not to participate in the museums and nature centers and so the scores go down; therefore most science knowledge depends not on school but on what happens outside of school. I'm don't think I agree, or at least don't agree that it should be this way, but it's interesting to consider.

Edited by Penelope
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I don't know either, but I know that Germany deals with a shortage of scientists and engineers, just as the US do. Most students do not choose to go into STEM fields there either.

What is true, however, is that German students entering the university are better prepared for math and science related fields because their math education is far better. Calculus in 11th and 12th grade is mandatory for every student who wishes to go to university.

The homework problems my niece had in her 12th grade calculus based physics class were harder than what I can put on my tests in the university class I teach for physics majors and scientists. Sad.

 

Ah. The math again. It really is impossible to separate the two, isn't it?

 

It is sad that questions at a university would have to be dumbed down.

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Your first consideration, that we have boring textbooks, was an assumption. For the first four years, our district does not us a textbook. This is more a topic that is focus led in the early years. :) Just thought that we should disband the notion that elementary students are all handed a text.

 

I was referring to upper elementary/middle school, since that is the age I am looking to next for my own family. But I should have specified that. :)

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That is the one. It is a well structured high school level text, not as overwhelming as Concepts and Connections. We also bought the CD with the activities; there is one activity for each section which the student can do independently and which is working well for my 12 y/o.

 

Btw, we bought the "Part 1 Biology Exploring Life Lincoln Interactive Second Custom Edition" which as far as I know is the identical text, but a different cover - and available for $1 plus shipping from abebooks

 

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=3458919806&searchurl=an%3Dcampbell%26sts%3Dt%26tn%3Dexploring%2Blife%26x%3D53%26y%3D11

 

Thank you!!!

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Actually, if you consider some of the points that have been made, our segregation according to WTM should eliminate a few of the relationhips that you all have mentioned that inhibit academic growth in the sciences. As well, consider what we all already know, and that is that reading is a primary component of any academic endeavor! We are always looking for literature to support our science focus. We are always looking for hands-on approaches to reinforce topics too.

 

I seem to think that this thread is more of a support for something that is well designed within our classical learning structure. Do you not find that this is supportive of how we have choosen to follow the WTM structure?

 

Consider as well, that many of us interwine a CM approach by letting the so-called "rabbit trails" be explored without constaints too. We spark interest and encourage investigation by allowing independent choices of study.

 

I find that less is interactive the higher you go in a puclic institution. Remember that you had career day, show and tell, field trips, and the like while you were in elementary school. Those events are not part of the junior and senior high school year. I believe the consensus is that the standard delivery of information without enough interaction is the inhibitor and deterent for science. Yes? I would agree with this point.

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I see two issues: compartmentalization and teacher training.

 

One problem with science education in the US is that it is completely compartmentalized and high school students spend one year on biology, then one year on chemistry, without ever looking back at bio, etc. I found the science before high school very unsystematic and a hodegpodge of topics without relations to each other.

In Germany for instance, (and I believe in other European countries), science education is more continuous and less compartmentalized.

German students begin to study biology in 5th grade, add physics in 6th grade and add chemistry in 7th. They have approximately three 45 minute class periods in each science per week. They continue to study ALL three sciences concurrently through high school. I believe in 11th grade they get to drop one of the three and choose one to do more in-depth studies.

There can not be any schools who "don't offer" all three sciences (as can happen in the US)- they MUST, because it is required.

 

Second, each science is taught by a teacher who has studied his specific subject at the university. One of my US students told me that his high school physics was taught by the biology teacher who had to skip topics because she did not understand them. A situation like this is unthinkable in Germany: the biology teacher will teach biology, and physics will be taught by a trained physics teacher - as soon as the subjects are introduced in the middle grades.

 

ETA: on the topics of textbooks: the ps school science textbooks in the US IMO are quite terrible. Not because they are boring, but because, even at the high school level, they only use sound bites and snippets. There is hardly any continuous text, which would be necessary to develop a complex thought or concept - instead, there are many sidebars, pictures (with little content), colored boxes, inserts, activities that render the book extremely distracting. Whenever I show a high school public school text to somebody from home, they comment that it looks like something intended for elementary school.

There ARE, of course, exceptions, and there are some really good science texts; the majority of books by the mainstream school book publishers, and certainly every single text my children used while still attending public school, was a nightmare. Not to mention that there were factual mistakes in every science text my kids brought home from school.

 

Here's a thread I started a while back that addresses this issue. HTH.

 

http://www.welltrainedmind.com/forums/showthread.php?t=189443&highlight=science

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I find that less is interactive the higher you go in a puclic institution. Remember that you had career day, show and tell, field trips, and the like while you were in elementary school. Those events are not part of the junior and senior high school year. I believe the consensus is that the standard delivery of information without enough interaction is the inhibitor and deterent for science. Yes? I would agree with this point.

 

I do not think that high school is less interactive. Granted, there are fewer "fun" outings where actual content learning is but a small part of the experience. In a well designed high school course, the interactive component is the lab which should play a significant role.

A high schooler does not have to do all book work or listen to a teacher lecture. He will dissect, use a microscope to look at cells, perform physics experiments, analyze data, titrate, do calorimetry. He may even work on an extended research project.

I do not agree that it is lack of interaction that is a deterrent for science. It is possible to have a good understanding of, and love for, science, and at the same time to abhor any hands-on laboratory experience, detest interactive simulations and much prefer to approach the material on a very abstract cognitive level. (Ask me why I became a theoretical physicist). This would particularly be true for older students; almost all younger kids work from a hands-on to a more abstract understanding. But for older students, it is entirely possible to bypass the concrete level and move on to the abstract one. For these students, lab is still valuable because certain skills are taught in the lab; it may not be necessary, however, for an understanding of the concepts.

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Being that I was very science-centered, you assume that all of these hands-on or laboratory experiences take place. I'm sorry, but we did only 5 physics labs for the whole entire year. Another note, we did not even disect in biology class. As a matter fact, this was limited to a few viewings of microscopics through an overhead. Time has not changed that much. Most schools cannot and do not complete labs, which would defeat your arguement that experience can be had and understanding formed. The children often watching and observing the experiment, but the are not performing the experiment. Yes, you can obtain the benefits, but what a waste of resource, and why woudn't you change the structure of the class to thus meet this type of environment?

 

Considering that you feel an abstract approach is acceptable, as well as considering that labs are not as commonplace across the nation's high schools as one would hope, I would say that a change in resources is needed to meet your theoretical learning structure. However, hands-on does not have to be interpreted as a direct lab experience either.

 

To avoid the babble above and get to the point ....

 

Thanks to technology there are a vast number of ways to experience science, even cognitively, that will do the same justice toward understanding topics and finding experience without physically performing any lab. A change in resource and leanring structure would meet this. Let's never forget the value of reading too.

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Actually there was a lot more hands on, field trips, show and tell, and career day stuff in high school (for me) than in elementary. There was no science in elementary school when I went to school.

 

We did tons of labs, hands on, etc. in high school. I hated most of it. I rarely understood the point. I hated dissections. I couldn't see through a microscope (vision problems). Labs were 100,000 steps and more than half the time it didn't work as stated (which still happens to me now and I hate it).

 

Just sayin....

 

 

I think you speak to the fact that resources need to be more modeled for independence with differentiating resources that are able to teach and promote understanding without the need for lab. These types of resources need to be available for alternate learning styles.

 

We are not all the same. I hate it when an academic such as science tries to wrap us in all the same paper.:lol:

 

Schools are not all the same either.:glare: Think on that.

 

Which makes me ask ... how do you all feel about the push for national standards? They are trying hard to take the standards development away from the states and districts. Read on that. Quite a basket of varying opinions there.

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I see two issues: compartmentalization and teacher training.

 

One problem with science education in the US is that it is completely compartmentalized and high school students spend one year on biology, then one year on chemistry, without ever looking back at bio, etc. I found the science before high school very unsystematic and a hodegpodge of topics without relations to each other.

In Germany for instance, (and I believe in other European countries), science education is more continuous and less compartmentalized.

German students begin to study biology in 5th grade, add physics in 6th grade and add chemistry in 7th. They have approximately three 45 minute class periods in each science per week. They continue to study ALL three sciences concurrently through high school. I believe in 11th grade they get to drop one of the three and choose one to do more in-depth studies.

There can not be any schools who "don't offer" all three sciences (as can happen in the US)- they MUST, because it is required.

 

Second, each science is taught by a teacher who has studied his specific subject at the university. One of my US students told me that his high school physics was taught by the biology teacher who had to skip topics because she did not understand them. A situation like this is unthinkable in Germany: the biology teacher will teach biology, and physics will be taught by a trained physics teacher - as soon as the subjects are introduced in the middle grades.

 

ETA: on the topics of textbooks: the ps school science textbooks in the US IMO are quite terrible. Not because they are boring, but because, even at the high school level, they only use sound bites and snippets. There is hardly any continuous text, which would be necessary to develop a complex thought or concept - instead, there are many sidebars, pictures (with little content), colored boxes, inserts, activities that render the book extremely distracting. Whenever I show a high school public school text to somebody from home, they comment that it looks like something intended for elementary school.

There ARE, of course, exceptions, and there are some really good science texts; the majority of books by the mainstream school book publishers, and certainly every single text my children used while still attending public school, was a nightmare. Not to mention that there were factual mistakes in every science text my kids brought home from school.

 

Thanks how USSR did and and you didn't get to drop anything at all. It worked!!!

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I do not see why state standards should be any better than national standards, nor why having any standards would be a bad thing.

Having standards does not have to mean that every single thing about the education is standardized. I would like to see some standards for the covered subjects and some common learning objectives that each school has to meet. To me, it would be desirable if schools were required to provide an education that gets smart students prepared for college without having to take remedial classes. To me, it is wrong that schools can simply "not teach" certain subjects and put their graduates at a severe disadvantage. If I encounter engineering students whose highschool did not offer any physics or trigonometry or calculus, I am outraged that this is possible.

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There has been talk here and in the media about how other countries teach math, particularly countries that do well on the TIMSS.

 

I've read Liping Ma's book as well as The Teaching Gap. If there are any others addressing math, I'd love to know about them.

 

B?

I can recommend The Elephant in the Classroom, by Jo Boaler.It really made me think about how I approach maths in the secondary years.

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Surprisingly, the U.S. doesn't do badly in science wrt adults, and it isn't related to textbook learning.

 

School is not where most Americans learn most of their science

 

Wow, thank you for posting this link. I printed out the article (9 pages) and have enjoyed reading it.

 

The more I think about the article's premise, the more I agree with it. :D And this line of thought has encouraged me to follow a more hands-on, "out-of-school" approach to science -- a combination of BFSU, "spine texts," field guides, nature hikes, camping, the farm, the zoo, the aquarium, the beach, the park, gardening, pets, a telescope, binoculars, a microscope, science field trips, kits, projects, hobbies, books, videos, science songs, the Internet, and so on. Why relegate science to a classroom + textbook approach? There is a wealth of free-choice opportunities for learning science! I found the article encouraging, because it helped me to feel as though I (non-scientific mother) can support my daughters' science learning through these activities.

 

I was fascinated with the finding that young US students and US adults scored high in scientific understanding, even though the young students don't have formal, in-school science classes and the adults don't all take formal, college-level science. At the exact point where formal, classroom science comes into play in the US, that's where the scores go down. Hmmmm.... :glare:

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I came from Taiwan. I believe they ranked 2 o 3 last ranking in science. I believe 2 things

1. Teacher. I had a science teacher whose sole job was teaching science (3rd and 4th grade) and another science teacher who only teach 5th/6th grade teacher. Both of them have a science degree. You also have to know that teaching is a high society ranking job. Chinese has a lot respect for teacher. Unlike teachers here.

 

2. The way of teaching is very different. like math book. science book are also on the thin side. U can see fro singapore's MPH. They pay a lot emphasis on what students observe and what and why they think how things work and go try different thing and what u see.. Rather than a big thick book and tell kids everything. I have US's science book and Singapore's MPH as well as Taiwan's science book. It was very clear how the philosophy different.

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I don't have much to add, I just really enjoyed this thread. Especially that article link.

 

I feel like I had an excellent humanities education in the early grades and in high school. However, I don't feel like I had any science whatsoever in the early grades and by the time I got to high school where I could have had an excellent education, I was no longer interested and had already formed an opinion of myself as a non-science person. It's really one of my strongest goals to provide an excellent science education to my kids in elementary school. One that encourages them to really explore and get excited about science.

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Any thoughts on how to approach science in a WTM way? And I don't mean the way they are divided into a section per year, but from the grammar/logic/rhetoric idea?

 

This is a thread I on a topic I'm passionate about, and will have to come back after the littles are down :001_smile:

 

While I think the WTM doesn't really get what science is about (it is about knowing what happens in the observable world: knowing what the world is, what we are, what is scientifically knowable and what is beyond the reach of scientific methods), I think the divisions can apply nicely.

 

I'd say the Montessori materials are robust for grammar stage, though the method isn't classical at all and need to be overhauled for classical education. For botany/biology, you start with observing plants/animals, you learn what it means for something to be alive, what are some categories of living things, what living things require to go on living, what are the characteristics of different groups. You could add interesting books on living things, and labs if you wanted.

 

I think middle school is a great time to start doing science, and following with reading stories and biographies of scientists, and a text book if you want. Experimental science should begin with a student "playing around" with the materials: using the microscope, sprouting plants, trying to observe animals or hatch some, observing the night sky regularly, whatever's topical. They can move on to projects once they have some understanding to test. For physics, the Backyard Ballistics book and others by the same author would be a marvelous education. This experience should allow the student to follow the arguments put forth by scientists and principles that are foundational. The child should understand what a scientific proposition is (chiefly, falsifiable), what constitutes scientific evidence, what constitutes scientific proof.

 

In high school, along with a mastery of the principles and general knowledge of the different fields, the student can address the fundamental questions of knowing. Is anything truly knowable by scientific means? What makes a scientific statement true? What makes it false? What propositions fall outside the realm of science, and why? Hippocrates is not necessary reading (though I love Hippocrates' work, and esp. how little changed in medicine btw. ancient Greece and the England of Jane Austen) but Darwin should be: he was a terrific writer, the work is readable in the original language, and no matter which side of the fence you are on you almost certainly don't understand quite what he was saying until you read it yourself. He should be read when biology is studied. Similarly, you should have a child read Hawking, or Asimov, or Feinman, or Einstein -- he wrote a popular book on relativity that can be read a few times for a great step forward in understanding -- when those topics come up and not at the correct historical time or they will miss too much.

 

... and now Bot-Bot needs a walk!

 

:001_smile::001_smile::001_smile::001_smile:

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This is a thread I on a topic I'm passionate about, and will have to come back after the littles are down :001_smile:

 

While I think the WTM doesn't really get what science is about (it is about knowing what happens in the observable world: knowing what the world is, what we are, what is scientifically knowable and what is beyond the reach of scientific methods), I think the divisions can apply nicely.

 

I'd say the Montessori materials are robust for grammar stage, though the method isn't classical at all and need to be overhauled for classical education. For botany/biology, you start with observing plants/animals, you learn what it means for something to be alive, what are some categories of living things, what living things require to go on living, what are the characteristics of different groups. You could add interesting books on living things, and labs if you wanted.

 

I think middle school is a great time to start doing science, and following with reading stories and biographies of scientists, and a text book if you want. Experimental science should begin with a student "playing around" with the materials: using the microscope, sprouting plants, trying to observe animals or hatch some, observing the night sky regularly, whatever's topical. They can move on to projects once they have some understanding to test. For physics, the Backyard Ballistics book and others by the same author would be a marvelous education. This experience should allow the student to follow the arguments put forth by scientists and principles that are foundational. The child should understand what a scientific proposition is (chiefly, falsifiable), what constitutes scientific evidence, what constitutes scientific proof.

 

In high school, along with a mastery of the principles and general knowledge of the different fields, the student can address the fundamental questions of knowing. Is anything truly knowable by scientific means? What makes a scientific statement true? What makes it false? What propositions fall outside the realm of science, and why? Hippocrates is not necessary reading (though I love Hippocrates' work, and esp. how little changed in medicine btw. ancient Greece and the England of Jane Austen) but Darwin should be: he was a terrific writer, the work is readable in the original language, and no matter which side of the fence you are on you almost certainly don't understand quite what he was saying until you read it yourself. He should be read when biology is studied. Similarly, you should have a child read Hawking, or Asimov, or Feinman, or Einstein -- he wrote a popular book on relativity that can be read a few times for a great step forward in understanding -- when those topics come up and not at the correct historical time or they will miss too much.

 

... and now Bot-Bot needs a walk!

 

:001_smile::001_smile::001_smile::001_smile:

 

Not to change the topic, but please do share a list of suggested reading!

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Do you have a link to the study done with adults?

I could not find any in the article linked, and the TIMMS website seems to indicate that they assess performance of 4th and 8th graders.

 

I would be very interested to see how they measure adult scientific literacy and what criteria and questions they use, since many experiences in daily life make me shudder about the scientific ignorance of people.

 

No, I'm sorry I don't have a link to the study done with adults. It's been awhile since I read the article, and I forget where I found it. This thread reminded me of it, so I posted the link.

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Wow, thank you for posting this link. I printed out the article (9 pages) and have enjoyed reading it.

 

The more I think about the article's premise, the more I agree with it. :D And this line of thought has encouraged me to follow a more hands-on, "out-of-school" approach to science -- a combination of BFSU, "spine texts," field guides, nature hikes, camping, the farm, the zoo, the aquarium, the beach, the park, gardening, pets, a telescope, binoculars, a microscope, science field trips, kits, projects, hobbies, books, videos, science songs, the Internet, and so on. Why relegate science to a classroom + textbook approach? There is a wealth of free-choice opportunities for learning science! I found the article encouraging, because it helped me to feel as though I (non-scientific mother) can support my daughters' science learning through these activities.

 

 

:iagree:

 

Fascinating article.

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It is possible to have a good understanding of, and love for, science, and at the same time to abhor any hands-on laboratory experience, detest interactive simulations and much prefer to approach the material on a very abstract cognitive level. (Ask me why I became a theoretical physicist).

 

:iagree: Ask me why I am a statistical ecologist. I got nothing at all out of labs in High School, and very little in College (especially chemistry and physics). The best lab by far I ever did in college took 4 weeks to complete.

 

I strongly believe that most "experiments" done in both elementary and high school are actually "demonstrations" where the answer is already known. When people say "it did not work," I cringe, because this is the antithesis of scientific thinking. What you get is real data -- it cannot be "wrong." I do not like demos, and I do not do them with my children.

 

My children do one very large (6-10 weeks) scientific project every year, which includes all the frustrations and difficulties of "real" science. I have written extensively about it on this thread: http://www.welltrainedmind.com/forums/showthread.php?t=263107&highlight=lewelma (I am really not trying to self promote, I just don't want to write it all again :tongue_smilie:)

 

Ruth in NZ (where science is NOT strong!)

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Not to change the topic, but please do share a list of suggested reading!

 

I'll answer that as best I can.

 

Books for the primary grades:

Bite-sized Science: Activities for Children in 15 Minutes or Less (ages 3-8) by Falk & Rosenburg.

Sandbox Scientist: Real Science Activities for Little Kids (ages 2-8) by Ross. Hands-down, the best science book for littles I've seen, it's all mucking about and trying things. Some of the projects require daunting supply lists, but some are things like oobleck; don't feel guilty about what you don't do, and it's a terrific multi-age science "curriculum".

Making Magnificent Machines: Fun with Math, Science, and Engineering (K-8) by Carol McBride. I think K is a bit young for this one, and wouldn't start it myself until the oldest child is 2nd or 3rd grade.

Montessori Manuals available from MontessoriRD. They are meant for Montessori teachers, and assume Montessori puzzles etc; but the lessons for preschool and primary years are thorough and if you don't want to buy a Montessori classroom's worth of equipment you can adapt and overcome :001_smile:. Samples are available online. Or find another resource you like; you could download cards free or cheaply on the topics you teach.

Valerie and Walter's Best Books for Children may have titles you haven't seen elsewhere, and includes a topical index.

Schlessinger Videos and other science videos: SWB poo-poos videos as primary learning material, but if you have the child watch a science video they love as many times as they want, they'll gain a lot of knowledge and a good deal of passion. My scientist buddies usually LOVED Nova, etc. as children.

 

For the middle years I am sorry, but I have almost nothing. 'Cause Button's still so little and I myself had a lot going on in my life in middle school and didn't do much science reading; the WTM recommendations here seem adequate for a knowledge base. As a PP or two have mentioned, complicated projects that require perfect execution for success are a waste of time and will turn the child off science. However it's the perfect age for

Backyard Ballistics (written for grown-ups) by Wiliam Gurstelle, if you have a backyard or other area for the projectile projects and a handy grown-up. Not every book by this author is as good as this one.

The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science (9-12) by Sean Connolly isn't one I own, but is in a similar ilk.

*** if your child ends up at CalTech, they'll thank you for the two above ***:)

Girls are often esp. interested in green technologies (think green Snap Circuits kits) and in the social sciences. Don't fret if she doesn't love experiments, have her read; grades 5-8 are wonderful for reading accessible scientist biographies. When she's up to the reading level, she could try

Nobel Prize Women in Science by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, an excellent book for a strong reader.

Have the child build anything. Toys for a younger sibling; furniture; a safe zip-line; a treehouse; a dollhouse. Have her wire the dollhouse for lights if you can. This is what scientists think their own children should be doing, hands-on wise.

 

High School:

By the end of high school the child should be able to read, and able to enjoy reading, the best popular science on topics they enjoy.

A Short History of Nearly Everything could be read aloud to kick high school science off.

When they are able, they should read each year's

Best American Science and Nature Writing ed. by Tim Folger and a guest editor that changes yearly. Not the same as Best American Science writing; better. If you are young earth/creationist, read it first and prepare for discussions.

The Economist magazine has excellent science writing for the advanced reader/thinker, though it may not be worth a subscription. :001_smile: The New York Times newspaper has science writing that tends toward the sensationalist and oversimplified; in 11th and 12th grade, you could have the child find how some of the headlines are different to the actual conclusions reached by the scientists quoted. This can be done by simply reading the article carefully and applying logic; not all articles are misleading, naturally, so you might need to try a few.

The American Scientist magazine is a great investment for a child who is headed for the sciences or who loves science; it is what Scientific American used to be but isn't any longer. Advanced reading.

Oxford's Very Short Introduction series can be consulted on any topic for which there's a book; search Amazon, the quality is quite variable. Newly available is the Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction which would be a terrific accompaniment (or prelude) to Bryson's book at the beginning of a year.

 

for Biology: these come to mind.

On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. It's huge, and the prose is Victorian; but it is clear and brilliant, and a child reading the classics should read this. You might want to read it together, depending on the child's reading level; expect to use a dictionary occasionally ...

Read Watson and Crick's original paper on the structure of DNA, available in the public domain and in annotated versions. Be familiar with DNA first.

Genome by Matt Ridley. An excellent popular work on genetics.

Phantoms in the Brain by Ramachandran and Blakeslee, on the mind. One of the best books written by a practicing scientist; Oliver Sacks is also good.

Mother Nature by Hrdy will be of especial interest to young women, should be previewed carefully by a parent if the child is in 9th or 10th grade; and is the only book I suggest be avoided completely by creationists.

Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings, with perhaps a biography of da Vinci. You could just look them over in a library. Consider: the state of medicine before, and after, scientists began dissecting corpses.

 

For Astronomy and Earth Science:

Asimov on Astronomy and Isaac Asimov's Guide to Earth and Space to start.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan.

Hawking's A Briefer History of Time or A Brief History of Time, whichever the child prefers.

An junior or senior young woman might be interested in the story told by Hawking's wife (well, ex-wife) Music to Move the Stars by Jane Hawking. I think it gives an important insight into the more complicated side-effects of Hawking-level scientific achievement/prestige, and is a humane story.

The beginning chapters of Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything.

 

Chemistry:

A Short History of Chemistry and Asimov on Chemistry by Isaac Asimov.

a good biography of Marie Curie

Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow or another bio. might fit well here.

Sorry, chemistry's my weakness. I hated it until Asimov, and was doing past-grad biology by the time I read his version ...

 

Physics:

*** don't be put off by everybody who says you have to know the calculus, if you don't know it. They're just meanies ;). Seriously: I am aggressively pro-math, and think anybody who can to TWTM can do calculus and ought to really; but don't let a lack of math prevent you enjoying physics. ***

 

good biography of Newton.

For a student okay with a very adult book: Stephenson's Baroque Cycle.

a good biography of Michael Faraday, a brilliant and admirable man.

Understanding Physics, Three Volumes in One by Isaac Asimov. I've given the Amazon URL so you can find the individual titles easily.

Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, a Clear Explanation that Anyone Can Understand by Albert Einstein. General relativity is much harder than special, since it includes acceleration; and the whole book is good to read but don't let the student fret when she gets caught on problems, just read it (maybe with pencil and notebook handy), find another good book or film on the topic, then maybe hit it again.

Physics for Poets by Robert H. March which, unlike Einstein's book, anyone really can understand.

QED by Feynman. For somebody who loves physics.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Feynman. Might spark an interest, esp. in boys; it's a memoir.

Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter for somebody interested in artificial intelligence.

The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. Quite challenging.

It Must Be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science is an anthology so the quality is uneven; try "The Best Possible Time to Be Alive".

 

and I can't think anymore. Hope this is helpful.

 

 

Edited by serendipitous journey
addition of resource.
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Science has been the one subject I struggled the most with...mainly because the kids were just so darn bored with the textbook approach, and they didn't see the bigger picture.

 

I started mixing science history and understanding with the study of the concepts and stopped keeping them segmented. I also mix types of science. For example while coloring human anatomy pages (art/biology) we talk about why blood is shown as being red/blue, and move into chemistry as we discuss medicine and how it works on the human body.. and when discussing joints and movement we touch on geometry and physics.....

 

Acknowledging it is all interconnected has helped my kids "get" science.

 

To give you an idea.....I'm currently teaching biology to a 6th grader, supplementing with lapbook type activities for a 1st grader, (she sits with us and watches the experiments/videos and joins in when she wants) WE are also doing lots of hands on projects, reading Hakim's science book (a chapter on each science day that is tying in nicely to our history study) and we have annual passes to the aquarium, zoo, mariner's museum, children's museum, and local natural living musuem, plus we are only 3 hours from the national museums in D.C. (we go 3-4x a year) I also have the Elemental Science Biology Curriculum which I use to make sure I don't miss any key concepts.

 

So we do science 2x a week. We start the day with a chapter from Hakim's Science book over breakfast (read orally by me). Later in the day we do an experiment & discuss vocabulary, pertinent concepts and so forth with lots of added video/interactive media whenever I can find it (Netflix, Discovery Streaming, Hippocampus and web searches are great for this).....We have regular science outings 1-2x a month and we do nature journaling on the weekends (art/biology/ecology mixed).

 

I'm happy so far in with this approach for the logic stage...I even found my 12 year old on the couch reading/interacting with the elements ipad app instead of playing a video game during free time the other day. 2 days ago after a trip to the maritime museum my 6 year old asked how the ancients navigated by the stars which started a whole new unit study in history/maritime activity and science.

 

But I'm dreading Highschool....I've heard about Thinkwell's AP prep courses....or maybe I'll just enroll my oldest in a local Community College course, or have him volunteer at the aquarium....Science, at least for my kids, seems best learned thru absorption and hand on experience not by reading a textbook.

 

*My little one also LOVES the magic school bus series and science kits....and we incorporate alot of fun additional science/history combined hands on type books like Amazing Da Vinci Inventions you can make yourself, Newton's life Ideas and Activities (these publishers have a series of different inventors) and other books like Ancient Science 40 activities you can do (to tie into ancient study)

 

Just like our Literature is based on our history study, combining our science study with history and the timeline on our wall gives them a visual/conceptual understanding of not only how the specialties in science are connected, but how science itself is connected to history, math, and even the humanities.

Edited by Xanadu
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Serendipitous Journey, I agree essentially with every part of your post on how to apply the principles set forth in the WTM to the scientific arena. I think that when it came to science it just wasn't as important to the author as setting out the language arts and history. But that's my own opinion.

Thanks for the list. I'd been wanting Backyard Ballistics! (But then I also want to take a fourth grade physics trip to watch the Pumpkin Chunkin too.:tongue_smilie:)

 

I strongly believe that most "experiments" done in both elementary and high school are actually "demonstrations" where the answer is already known. When people say "it did not work," I cringe, because this is the antithesis of scientific thinking. What you get is real data -- it cannot be "wrong." I do not like demos, and I do not do them with my children.

 

:iagree:

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Totally agree with the "experiments" vs. "demonstrations" comment - maybe that is what turns me off about so many science curricula. I'm not sure.

 

We're doing a science fair experiment with our 6-year-old right now and he seems to be learning a lot about what science is and loving it. It truly asks a question we don't know the answer to and we're learning a lot every time we work on it.

 

Emily

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I didn't read all the replies, so perhaps someone has already pointed this out, but do keep in mind that many (if not all) "high performance countries" do not even *teach* science to students they have designated for non-science/engineering pathways at younger ages.

 

Here in the US, we teach science to everyone.

 

So a lot of those countries that are performing higher are only assessing themselves based on a self-selected group of students that is designated as academically/scientifically inclined.

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I came from Taiwan. I believe they ranked 2 o 3 last ranking in science. I believe 2 things

1. Teacher. I had a science teacher whose sole job was teaching science (3rd and 4th grade) and another science teacher who only teach 5th/6th grade teacher. Both of them have a science degree. You also have to know that teaching is a high society ranking job. Chinese has a lot respect for teacher. Unlike teachers here.

 

2. The way of teaching is very different. like math book. science book are also on the thin side. U can see fro singapore's MPH. They pay a lot emphasis on what students observe and what and why they think how things work and go try different thing and what u see.. Rather than a big thick book and tell kids everything. I have US's science book and Singapore's MPH as well as Taiwan's science book. It was very clear how the philosophy different.

 

Thanks. I appreciate hearing your perspective.

 

I've been trying to figure out whether MPH would be similar to the actual science education in Singapore, or whether there would be much more to it than what the books show; that there is something more to how the concepts are actually taught by teachers. I need to get my hands on MPH again and look.

 

In this whole discussion, I keep thinking about whether testing better is really due to what happens in the classroom, or what is valued in the culture. I see all the time in popular culture here in the U.S. that the hard sciences are spoken of as though they are only for the truly geeky among us. I hear disparaging comments (not here, I mean on tv or online) made about awful memories of high school science. People rarely seem embarrassed at not understanding the simplest concepts. I hear parents out at zoos and museums explaining things to their children that are just plain wrong. (This is one reason I'm surprised at the article claiming US adults are more generally knowledgeable about science than in other countries). It reminds me of the way math is sometimes discussed, with so many people saying "they are not good at math", "math is hard", etc. I wonder how much of this messaging affects our children.

 

Interestingly, there are a couple of states that are more competitive with Asian countries on the TIMSS. Massachusetts is one of them. Does that have something to do with the population of Massachusetts, or the state standards, the curriculum used, or the actual classroom teaching method used in most classrooms there?

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I didn't read all the replies, so perhaps someone has already pointed this out, but do keep in mind that many (if not all) "high performance countries" do not even *teach* science to students they have designated for non-science/engineering pathways at younger ages.

 

Here in the US, we teach science to everyone.

 

So a lot of those countries that are performing higher are only assessing themselves based on a self-selected group of students that is designated as academically/scientifically inclined.

 

I'm not sure about that. The TIMSS tests in fourth and eighth grade. Would they be differentiated as early as that?

 

Finland consistently ranks high and they do not track anyone, according to what I have read.

 

I have also read explanations that the US does not do as well on these tests due to population diversity. However, the results show that even Caucasian and Asian students (the higher performing ethnic groups) in the US do not do nearly as well as the higher performing countries.

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