23
Jul
14

words over numbers not an even exchange

0714MEM_JulyCoverFBImagine you’re enjoying hors d’oeuvres and a drink at a cocktail party when the conversation turns to favorite magazines and newspapers, and the person you just met to your left says, “You know, I’ve never been very good at reading.”

That would shock your senses. But what if, instead, the conversation turned to household spending and balancing the checkbook, and the person said: “You know, I’ve never been very good at math”? Somehow, that would seem a lot more acceptable to most of us.

The socially tolerated cognitive double standard is deep. That it’s even acceptable is only because, at least in this country, we’ve come to believe that not having an aptitude for numbers is OK, but being illiterate is a far greater handicap. We’ve drawn a dubious line in the sand, and with a wink and a nod understand that it’s fine to admit the failings of our capacity to learn the fundamentals of mathematics but not the basics of A, B, and C. Holding simultaneous contradictory values is what psychologists call cognitive dissonance.

Sure most of us can add, subtract, and multiply our way through most of life’s arithmetic challenges, but ask us to balance the checkbook without our cell phone’s calculator and many of us are lost. Or ask someone in the sixth grade to tell you how tall he is in inches and see how long it takes him to calculate the answer.

The anecdote about the cocktail party, although I paraphrased, was one of the intriguing notions discussed at the recent live taping of the ASME Decision Point Dialogues event on STEM education—Critical Thinking, Critical Choices: What Really Matters in STEM. The comment came from Pat Wingert, one of 12 Dialogues participants, who is a former Newsweek journalist and Spencer Fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. The focus of her year-long research project at Columbia was STEM education. Wingert now contributes to the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media and has learned a lot about how kids in this country learn—or how poorly they learn STEM subjects in comparison to other countries.

Since the days of Manifest Destiny when as a country we held the strong belief that our mission was to spread our virtues and institutions across the continent, we’ve been proud of our educational system (and to a large measure we should be), so the fact that the STEM-related test scores of our kids pale in comparison with those of youngsters from such global powerhouses as Finland and Singapore really stings.

Momentum has gained in the Obama administration to get kids in the U.S. to be more inspired by science and math and to score higher on tests. But it hasn’t been easy. The conflict points are huge and they have less to do with our kids’ aptitude than with pure economics.

In this issue we include a roundup of the Decision Point Dialogues discussion among STEM thought leaders and moderator John Hockenberry, of public radio’s program The Takeaway. To view the provocative broadcast visit go.asme.org/dialogues.

It may be a cultural uniqueness that we place more emphasis on words than numbers in this country, but the consequences run much deeper than our children’s test scores—and this is no cocktail party joke.


10 Responses to “words over numbers not an even exchange”


  1. 1 Jack Sol-Church
    July 23, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    There are three issues: teaching, testing and being oblivious to the real world.
    Good teachers are a combination of genetics and environment (they can be taught but they have to have the basic desire to help others learn). Good teachers inspire others to learn.
    Testing doesn’t inspire anyone. Testing is necessary to ascertain the level of knowledge that is being imparted and absorbed, but the method currently being used sucks the life out of learning.
    We talk about the teaching and valuing education but continue to focus on the testing.
    The comparison is that of looking at a left handed threaded bolt compared to a right hand threaded bolt.
    We continue to turn the bolt counterclockwise and wonder why it won’t loosen but don’t have the where with all to even question if its a left handed thread. We continue to shorten recess, reduce or cut art and music, lengthen the school day and watch test scores go down. REALLY!!
    And the answer is to figure out how to get more teaching (more hours and more days?) into these kids so they can pass the test better.
    Go back to basic, interesting teaching, fund it well, and figure out how to make the tests real and informative (third grade math tests take longer than college finals).
    Keep it in balance because its currently way out of whack.

  2. September 2, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truloy enjoyed surfinjg around your blog
    posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope yyou write again very soon!

  3. January 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    I was very happy to uncover this web site. I want to to thank you
    for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of
    it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new things on your
    blog.

  4. January 16, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always helpful to read through content from other writers and practice something from other web sites.

  5. March 25, 2016 at 2:07 am

    good However there’s no official release from programmers because of its pc variant. In this short article nice.

  6. March 27, 2016 at 5:52 am

    good All the most recent items is updated daily. Unfortunately, iTube APK is unavailable on Google Play Shop. nice.

  7. June 28, 2016 at 7:47 am

    good Snapchat users can as well turn into a wolf/pet dog by tapping on the bleak icon with the puppy deal with. Quickly, the end user sports the deal with of the canine, although there happen to be no different nice results with this one.nice.

  8. July 29, 2016 at 12:05 am

    good Today’s short training is certainly How to Download Showbox for Computer / Notebook computer, you can work with Showbox for Macintosh personal computer/Windows XP,7 8.1 Functioning devices. nice.

  9. September 28, 2016 at 5:41 am

    good The Google Duo can be the company innovative video calling software that can be produced by the Google. This software comes with a basic and graceful software and you won’t locate it tough to gain access to. nice.

  10. December 1, 2016 at 12:00 am

    good Nox App Player for PC/Laptop is an Android emulator and it is very easy to use. There are many other emulators for android and other devices like pc or laptop. nice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

July 2014
M T W T F S S
« Jun   Aug »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Twitter from John Falcioni

Twitter from Engineering for Change

Friend us on Facebook

Friend ASME

Friend Engineering for Change

Friend ASME Nanotechnology Institute


%d bloggers like this: