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Exposure not mastery in higher level subjects at the high school level


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Is there a balance to doing this? 

 

I'm trying to think how to word this properly....It could be any subject, in our case I'm thinking of engineering. At this point, ds will be doing pre-calc his senior year (he'll be a junior next year). He wants to try and get through some calculus by the end of his senior year though.I'm considering adding a Principles of Engineering class next year. In our case we have no budget for outside classes and limited resources around us, no clubs within driving distance. 

 

He has a curiosity about aerospace engineering and I found a course on that, as well as a text on Spacecraft Systems - that might be good exposure for his senior year. My college doesn't have any courses on aerospace engineering. He's a quirky kid and learns almost backward, like jumping in the deep end of the pool to learn to swim. He also doesn't like to read, so a text he may not read without it being assigned. In his case, I can perceive that being able to study something of interest could ignite that interest enough to want to study at college. I know, however, a study done at home would not be adequate to say he's mastered the subject, it would be about exposure and creating excitement. 

 

He's an average student, he won't have AP credit, he may do a few CLEPs, he's shooting for a state school, and he wants to add another language next year, so between core class (he'll have regular science classes the next two years as well) and two foreign languages, we can safely add one elective. 

 

Would you label the course "Introduction to..."? Would a transcript like that look weak? Or would it show interests?

 

 

[this is the paragraph where I lament about not being able to afford or find opportunities for him around here. The second sentence would be about the angst of feeling like I'm failing him. The third sentence is about more angst and emotion. The last sentence is where I stop and go get more coffee]

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Landry Academy offers an Intro to Engineering class. This is the textbook they use:

 

Gateway to Engineering Author: Rogers ISBN13: 978-1-133-93564-3 ISBN10: 1-133-93564-8

 

If you go to their website you can download their syllabus.

 

I don't know if this class is good or not, but at least it will give you an idea of what someone else has done with the subject.

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I think this is an excellent idea. It will be understood by any college that an engineering course in high school can not be anything but an introduction and exposure, because the student won't have the science and math prerequisites for mastery. So "Principles of.." or "Introduction..." are both good titles.

The course will demonstrate the student's interest in engineering, will be out-of-the-box, and thus will be an asset demonstrating the unique education your son is receiving.

This would be an elective taken in addition to the required classes (i.e. I would not attempt to use it instead of a required science credit).

Go for it.

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Landry Academy offers an Intro to Engineering class. This is the textbook they use:

 

Gateway to Engineering Author: Rogers ISBN13: 978-1-133-93564-3 ISBN10: 1-133-93564-8

 

If you go to their website you can download their syllabus.

 

I don't know if this class is good or not, but at least it will give you an idea of what someone else has done with the subject.

 

Thank you, the book I'm considering is published by the same company. 

 

I think this is an excellent idea. It will be understood by any college that an engineering course in high school can not be anything but an introduction and exposure, because the student won't have the science and math prerequisites for mastery. So "Principles of.." or "Introduction..." are both good titles.

The course will demonstrate the student's interest in engineering, will be out-of-the-box, and thus will be an asset demonstrating the unique education your son is receiving.

This would be an elective taken in addition to the required classes (i.e. I would not attempt to use it instead of a required science credit).

Go for it.

 

You have no idea how much your encouragement eases my mind. 

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An introductory engineering or medicine course is a common senior year class at the good private schools in our area. I think it will show interest, and if he decides to apply to engineering programs, admissions officers will know he is sincere.

 

My middle dd wants to be an aerospace engineer. :)

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My kids are enrolled in a virtual charter and while we probably won't stay in it for high school, one of their electives is an Introducation to Electronics course using this book: http://www.amazon.com/Electricity-Electronics-Technology-Student-Text/dp/0026834278/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399850557&sr=8-1&keywords=0026834278

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Good Morning,

 

Yes, I would recommend that you offer him something out of the box. What does your summer look like? Can you afford/find an electronic kit/book for him to work through? Does he have a computer? (I'm thinking an Intro to Arduino experience.) Summer is a great time to explore for a bit. Maybe pick up one of the books you mentioned. Give it to him. Don't mention it for a while, but see if he picks it up and reads it. IOW, check his thermostat. Is he interested in engineering, or do you want him to be interested in engineering? (I can commiserate if it's the latter! Sometimes we mommas just NEED to see interest even when it's not actually there.)  

 

As far as majoring in engineering, may I offer some advice? There are so many toys that kids play with when they are young: Legos, K'NEX, trains, building kits, models, robotics kits. These toys leads us to equate their interest in the toys with an aptitude/interest in engineering. Unfortunately, it's common to misunderstand what engineering undergrads DO in college for their first two years. In general, they sit at a desk and work problems. For hours and hours and hours on end. At least that's what the successful ones do. In general, the ones who don't/won't sit for HOURS on end with a text, pencil, and paper switch to another major. Yes, it's true, schools offer kids labs, clubs, and activities. I'm not saying that there is NO application for the first two years; however, that sit-and-crank-out-problems is a MAJOR component for engineering students. In general, if you skip it, you aren't around for long.

 

Sorry. Don't mean to be a wet blanket. However, this is something I think folks overlook when steering their kids toward STEM majors. And IMO it's the #1 necessary component for success - especially if you plan to send them to a large, state university. Kids need to be in the habit of working problems at a desk in silence for extended periods of time without being cajoled/begged/monitored by mom or a teacher. They don't have to love it; they just have to submit to it. In general, most 100 level math and science classes are huge, lecture hall experiences. I understand that this is not universal; however, this is a common public and private college model. In these environments, students need to work when no one is looking; they need to learn to be self-monitoring. It is boring, and it can be very isolating. The motivated survive. The not-so-bookish kids drain out the bottom of the sieve.

 

An example: in general, kids who are taking 4 credits of Calculus I, 4 credits of Physics I, and 4 credits of Chemistry I should plan to spend at least eight hours outside of class for each course each week. That means 12+ hours a week spent in lecture/lab and 24 hours a week outside of class reading, working problems, and generating lab reports. SOME of the 24 can be spent in study groups, but most of it is spent in isolation. IOW, can and will your student be willing to work alone for six days a week for four hours a day if no one is checking up on him? I'm not talking about four hours getting ready to work: checking your email, playing a bit of a video game to "warm up", checking your Facebook page. I'm talking about two hours in the morning and two more in the afternoon where all you do is get lost in the world of pencil and paper. SIX days a week! Week after week after week. With a ramp up to more time as test times approach.  Kids need to grow into that in order to know what it's like. IMO, this is where high school fails to prep them. They need to experience this in order to choose it. The pace is relentless; day after day after day.  

 

Oh - and kids seldom take just 12 credits. There's a least one more class mixed in there. It's usually some kind of gen ed humanities course which will require some huge research paper that probably isn't due until the last day of the semester. STEM kids need to learn to start their research papers VERY early in the semester. Best case? Finish your paper at LEAST a month before finals so you can focus on you major courses. (Mid terms are in October; finals in December. After the student has his study routine firmly established and has aced his midterms, he is ready to add that research paper layer to his very fully schedule. This is what I would suggest - yes, this plan requires a lot of self-control. Tough! On the day the research paper is assigned, the student should go to the library, approach the reference desk, and ask the librarian for help. Gather materials. That weekend, the student should block out 2-3 hours to browse materials to begin generating a topic. The following week, he should visit his prof during office hours to start zeroing in on a thesis. Then he should set aside a two hour block on either a Saturday or a Sunday to work on the paper. A bit at a time. Research papers need time to simmer. After October midterms, work more diligently on the paper every week. The research paper for that Gen Ed humanities classes should be completely by Thanksgiving IMO. That's just my opinion though; take it or leave it.) 

 

Back to the STEM homework pace...

I have had the following conversation with kids about college majors. They are bright. Good grades. They say they like math and science. 

I ask, "How much time every night do you spend doing math and science homework?"

"We do most of our homework in class." 

"So you haven't had the opportunity to sit alone in your room and work problems for an hour a day for five days a week?"

They laugh. "No."

My prediction? Put them into an engineering major, and they will be lost by the time they take their first round of mid-terms. A negative prediction to be sure; however, it's probably pretty accurate. 

 

Think of it this way. When is the last time you listened to someone sit and play a Beethoven sonata on the piano. Imagine you had the opportunity to sit in a class with Evgeny Kissin for three hours a week; he spends the time explaining how to play Beethoven correctly. He demonstrates the techniques with the different passages. It's fascinating, and it all looks so easy. After all, he asks a question like, "So, given the context, how shall we attack this chromatic run?" Yes, it's a question; however, he's lecturing, so he doesn't actually wait for an answer. He immediately answers the question, and shows you how to do it. He immediately supplies the answer, and it's a good one, not a bad one. He does that eighty-seven times in ninety minutes. Sit and experience that for long enough, and the students start to think that THEY have generated those answers. They start to think they understand. In reality, they can't play, and they don't understand. The proof? Put them in front of the 88 keys, and ask them to play ANY of the sonata.  Any passage. Any four bars. They will discover that they actually don't know how to play the piano at all!  

 

No one learns math, physics, biology, chemistry, computer programming, etc without sitting down with a text. Alone. In isolation. You read. You work problems. You check your work with the solution guide, and then you work the next problem. You practice for hours on end WHILE YOU ARE SELF-MONITORING! IOW, you assess your ability to work problems against your teacher's ability. Did I get the right answer the wrong way? Can I find a different way to attack the problem? Did I make a careless error?  If so, try another similar problem even if it's not assigned. Then make a mental note - that's an area of personal weakness. Did this problem completely stump me? If so, check the solution guide, flag the problem, and work it again next week to make sure the concept is solid. Consider visiting the prof during office hours to make sure the concept is solid; ask him to provide another similar problem to confirm that you actually understand.  

 

Of course you will probably never become as fast or as insightful as your teacher; however, you pick up steam as the semester progresses, and before you know it, when he asks a question in class, the answer pops into your head before he offers the solution and you can whip through the steps before he offers them. The next level? You start predicting what questions he's going to ask and WHY!

 

Why offer all this when you didn't ask for it? I believe that kids who are contemplating engineering need two-pronged preparation. They need to find out if they enjoy making things or improving the designs of others. And they need to find out if they are willing to sit and study to learn new ways to make things and/or improve the designs of others. As their guidance counselors, we need to honestly assess how much of each component exists, and we need to honestly assess whether the inclination toward the first is strong enough to supply the energy necessary to overcome any deficiencies/unwillingness that might exist in the second. The best way to find out? Give them a taste of the two, and see if they thrive. I understand that working with others is FAR more motivating than working in isolation; however, kids who can muster enthusiasm for a subject when working on their own can easily translate that enthusiasm when surrounded by peers.  A child who enjoys learning about aero-space engineering on his own will be over-the-moon to learn about it with others. 

 

Finally, this is tough to do. However, college is expensive. Half of STEM majors switch. Last fall, I tutored for a company in my local area - private, not a chain. I can't tell you how many kids I bumped into who told me they were going to be pre-med majors in college this fall. These were kids who were scoring in the 500s on the SAT math section. I kept waiting for them to stop saying they were on a pre-med track. IOW, I kept waiting for them to meet with their guidance counselor to be enlightened. Nope. They applied to schools that accepted them, and they are off to college in the fall. And their parents are telling everyone that their son is a pre-med student. In reality, I suspect/hope they were accepted as undeclared students; I hope their parents are engaged in wishful thinking. I just don't want to consider the notion that colleges would allow these students to think they are ever going to become doctors. They are never going to medical school; to be frank, I can't see how they would ever study real calculus, and they will never pass Orgo. They don't like to work on their own. (My niece is studying for her boards. Morning till night. Taking time out to shower and eat. And she is already a top student in her med school class. She will be a doctor.) These kids can't work for ten minutes unmonitored. I know. I would work with them at the tutoring center. I would send them to another room to work an SAT math section. " Work for twenty-five minutes, and then come back into my room." They would wander back in to see me after an hour had gone by. They did five problems, and then they took a break to get a drink. Then they had to check their phone...

 

Sigh.

 

I hope you find something encouraging in this mess.  I mean it as a positive post!!   :001_smile:   

 

Peace,

Janice

 

Enjoy your little people

Enjoy your journey

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 I know, however, a study done at home would not be adequate to say he's mastered the subject, it would be about exposure and creating excitement. 

 

 

Don't worry about mastery - true mastery doesn't come until the master's degree level. High School is all about exposure! 

 

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Janice, your post is encouraging. I'm going to print it out and mull over it more. However, many of the things you mention, he already has done (which makes me feel better). He's into computer programming and spend hours alone working on it. He has a "command center" in his room with computer and monitors and gadgets. He's done the Arduino boards - all of this of his own choice without a push from me. In fact, I stay out of much of this, except listening and nodding encouragingly. My dad has helped some as he is an old school electronics nut - he was a broadcast engineer and a amateur radio operator with transistors, tubes, all kinds of parts that he's given to ds. 

 

If he's into something, he will work for hours on it. I can tell when he's in the midst of a programming dilemma because he can't concentrate on his other school  work. When he's in the zone, it's hard to distract him. He doesn't want social media (he's anti-facebook), he has games but will lay them aside by choice. He has Google skills and will often comment on some weird thing he looked up in regards to what problem he's trying to solve. 

 

Part of my desire to see how committed he is, is the college choice. One school would be better for engineering, another for the languages he also wants to study. He hasn't delved enough to make a choice, by giving him the exposure, I think he'll be in a better position to decide which path is right for him. 

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Janice, your post is encouraging. I'm going to print it out and mull over it more. However, many of the things you mention, he already has done (which makes me feel better). He's into computer programming and spend hours alone working on it. He has a "command center" in his room with computer and monitors and gadgets. He's done the Arduino boards - all of this of his own choice without a push from me. In fact, I stay out of much of this, except listening and nodding encouragingly. My dad has helped some as he is an old school electronics nut - he was a broadcast engineer and a amateur radio operator with transistors, tubes, all kinds of parts that he's given to ds. 

 

If he's into something, he will work for hours on it. I can tell when he's in the midst of a programming dilemma because he can't concentrate on his other school  work. When he's in the zone, it's hard to distract him. He doesn't want social media (he's anti-facebook), he has games but will lay them aside by choice. He has Google skills and will often comment on some weird thing he looked up in regards to what problem he's trying to solve. 

 

Part of my desire to see how committed he is, is the college choice. One school would be better for engineering, another for the languages he also wants to study. He hasn't delved enough to make a choice, by giving him the exposure, I think he'll be in a better position to decide which path is right for him. 

I'm glad you were encouraged.  :001_smile:

 

It sounds like you are doing your homework; it sounds like he is on a GREAT path.

 

You did say, "If he is into something..." That's the only red flag I see.  :001_smile: Helping kids understand their choices is very important. As they mature, they need to understand that successfully handling the things we don't like to do can often be more important than how we handle the things we do like to do. Developing good habits and routines for "taking our medicine" is often the key to success.  

 

I realize that this is not always the case; however, I suspect it's a common thread with kids who don't achieve their goals.

 

In any case, it sounds like you've got this! 

 

Have a great morning,

Janice

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You did say, "If he is into something..." That's the only red flag I see.  :001_smile: Helping kids understand their choices is very important. As they mature, they need to understand that successfully handling the things we don't like to do can often be more important than how we handle the things we do like to do. Developing good habits and routines for "taking our medicine" is often the key to success.  

 

I realize that this is not always the case; however, I suspect it's a common thread with kids who don't achieve their goals.

 

 

 

Oh, yes, this is a common topic of conversation in our house. He's working on it, doesn't quite understand it yet though. 

 

 

Thank you all for your encouragement. I found the teacher materials for the book I want at one place. I snatched them up today because the price was good and I don't want to try and hunt them down later. 

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If you want a low-key exploration of engineering you could look into the free 2 week program offered by Brown University in the summer.  I tried to link it but ran into a glitch and lost my post so try googling for "Exploring Engineering at Brown University."  Ds completed it last summer and enjoyed it.  He had to watch videos daily by folks in different fields of Engr.  He also had to complete a Lego project using Lego Digital Designer.  There is no grade involved - it's mostly for exploring.

 

Exploring Engineering 

Course Code: CEEN0914

May 19, 2014 - June 2, 2014.

No purchase of text required.

 

If you can't locate it, let me know.

 

HTH.

 

 

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Judging by my own two engineering-minded sons, the hands-on projects done before engineering school are the inspiration that got or is getting them through those first two years of math problems. That and seeing what projects of their engineering relatives.  Did you see the most recent funny text I posted from youngest in  the funny texts thread on the college board?

 

Oldest had a class called engineering technology in his public high school.  It was counted as a science.

 

I think this is one of those areas where "exposure" is a useful thing.  STUDYING engineering and WORKING as an engineer are not the same thing, so I think it is important for students going into engineering to have a clear idea in their heads of what engineering jobs can be like.  I think I remember reading some place that engineering schools who are trying to keep students from switching to a liberal arts major have found that adding an "intro to engineering" class freshman year helps.  I guess it helps students see where they are going.

 

Nan

 

PS - I agonized over the same problems you wrote out in the last paragraph of your first post.  It is scary how many fabulous technical and language opportunities are out there for high school students.  There is something to be said, though, for leaving your son on his own.  You've provided him with enthusiastic help (your dad), electronics to mess about with, a computer to program, and the internet.  He is making his own opportunities.  Does he sit down by himself and do his math excersize each night all in one whack, checking to see if his answer matches the one in the back of the book and reworking the problem if it doesn't?  I'm not talking about the learning/teaching part, but the practicing part.  If he can do that, then I think when he is older, old enough to go to university, he'll be able to do his engineering homework, especially if he can find a study partner or group.  Just because he can't do this for six hours now doesn't mean he can't do it later, when he is older.  They grow so fast at this age that a year can make a huge difference.  Self-discipline seems to grow especially fast towards the end of the teens.  (Thank goodness!)  He has to want to do it, though, and your idea for an elective might help him figure out whether he does or does not.  I suggest that he work to make his algebra and trig really solid and work on practicing problem solving (word problems) rather than try to get a head start on the calculus.  From what I've seen (not a large sample size), the real problem with calculus classes isn't the calculus itself but weak algebra and trig, and the problem with the rest of the basic engineering classes (physics, statics, etc.) is often weak problem-solving skills.  Good luck!

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