Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Math and science education -- a wine that doesn't age 

Craig Depken draws another graph, gets a fascinating result. This time it's math and science scores for the U.S. compared to the rest of the world.

In the fourth grade U.S. students are in the 90th percentile and 55th percentile worldwide in science and math worldwide. This indicates to me that our elementary education is pretty strong - a,b,c and 1,2,3 are mastered early.

By the twelfth grade we rank less than the 30th and around 10th percentile worldwide in science and math worldwide. Clearly we fall off dramatically. But what is the reason? Is it a supply side issue - are our highschool educators compared to, say, Germany's, not as strong as the same comparison at the elementary level? Is it a demand side issue - American students don't give a rip about science and math by the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades because they are busy playing Halo, text messaging their buddies, and otherwise goofing off?

I know some high school math teachers who have undergraduate and masters degrees IN MATH. I also know other high school math teachers who have never taken a college math course. Ceteris paribus, my money is on the one with the math education. Yet, if the latter outnumber the former then regardless of a kid's desire to learn math and science their teachers are uninspiring or lack the knowledge needed to convey the topics appropriately.

His graph is drawn from the new Annual Report of the Dallas Federal Reserve. RTWT.