January 2018 Edition: What’s News In Education?

Mathematical Feasts, Report Cards & the Twitter Thread of the Year
Reading Time: 7 minutes
February 8, 2018

Number and Dinosaur Discoveries, a Nanoscale Nativity Scene, and an Education Pop Quiz For You.

SOURCE: Song of Two Worlds

Maths Education

January is a wonderful time for reflection and existential questioning. These articles give precisely that:

  • “Is algebra/calculus/trigonometry necessary?" Well, apart from maple syrup, very little in life is. But is mathematics bursting with potential to inspire and to enrich students’ mental lives? Of course. Ben Orlin ponders mathematics’ role as a gatekeeper in education.
  • These six questions dig to the heart of maths education and what purpose it should serve today.

What’s the number one unexpected wow moment you had when learning maths? Check out other people’s responses in this lively twitter thread.

There’s something special about symmetry in mathematics, from geometry to algebra to number properties and beyond. Read on.

Pedagogy and practice:

  • At face value mathematics can be starkly authoritative. But, as Junaid Mubeen argues, we do students a favour when we tear up the rule book and let them, just like mathematicians, pull apart ‘truths’ and follow intuitions.
  • The ‘Matthew Effect’ “ describe[s] the process of cumulative advantage, basically, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. Here’s what it looks like in the maths classroom, and how it can be minimised.
  • Maths trails give students opportunities for exploration, discovery and celebration. Here’s what they are. Here are some maths trails you can use in Melbourne and beyond.
  • Word problems are notoriously challenging for students. Numberless word problems aim to help students make sense of relationships that exist in the problem, before they proceed with any computation.
  • “Familiarity and proficiency with the basic times tables are an essential building block in math.” This article explains why, and outlines strategies for developing understanding with times tables.
  • What do you notice? What do you wonder? What’s going on in this graph? Three simple, but illuminating questions posed by the NY Times each month to students. Here’s January’s feature:

Early Childhood Through To Tertiary Education

Let’s talk teacher education:

  • “How much education does a preschool teacher need?” An important discussion on how these educators contribute to young children’s development.
  • What should initial teacher education look like? Ok, so that’s a big question. But here’s a blog that’s laying out a plan for just that, and it comes with an open invite for feedback.

On the topic of play

  • Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg has observed that play is being squeezed out of Australian classrooms. According to professor of psychology, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, the United States is facing the same situation.
  • Perth’s Kings Park has just launched Naturescape, where “ kids can problem solve, build resilience and practise enquiry-based learning through nature play”. It looks very cool.
  • “Can a “sandbox approach” of combining self-directed learners in playful, authentic and often digital environments yield the academic and personal growth educators require and families deserve?” Some loaded words here, but the sentiment of technology’s role in enabling self-direction is worth exploring.

What’s the difference between checking for knowledge and understanding? Why does this distinction matter? And how do you assess for understanding? Read on.

What’s stopping more women from getting into STEM careers? According to the CIO of Tabcorp, maths should be made more fun, general maths courses at a senior level should be compulsory, and greater parental education on career possibilities is required. The missing piece here though, is making changes to the STEM-industry itself so that it’s more attractive to women. What are your thoughts?

A Window Into Some Schools & The People In Them

Chances are, the name Eddie Woo is not new to you. The YouTube-ing maths teacher has just been named Australia’s Local Hero. Listen to or read the speech he gave in his Australia Day Address.

Teacher, Karen Nottingham, on the challenges schools face and the policy implications: “ I started my working life in the Australian Regular Army in the mid ’90s and I did a stint as a police officer in far north Queensland. … But, I’ve got to admit, teaching high school in the suburbs of Sydney is a tough gig.”

What do St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School and Dapto High School in N.S.W. have in common? They are the first two Australian schools to be powered solely by renewable energy.

The CSIRO is partnering with Victoria’s Tech Schools to “help develop new Tech School programs, offer specialist expertise and, where possible, provide access to CSIRO equipment, researchers and educators”.

Schools of Opportunity is a project that recognises “public high schools [in America] that work to close opportunity gaps by creating learning environments that reach every student.” Here are the 2017 awardees.

Education Policy & Politics

What better way to celebrate the end of 2017, than with an Education Pop Quiz? Go on, I’m not stopping you.

And now, looking ahead in 2018, what can we expect in education policy? Read on.

Some N.S.W. news:

  • The Government has axed funding for the Reading Recovery program. In its place, $50 million annually is being redirected towards other literacy and numeracy programs.
  • For the first time last year, students who did not achieve minimum literacy and numeracy standards in NAPLAN, will be required to resit tests before they are eligible for their HSC. At least 87% of Indigenous students fall into this group, compared with 59% of non-Indigenous students, prompting concerns that the new requirement will widen the Year 12 completion gap.

Well-being grants are being provided to Principals in the N.T., as part of the N.T. Principal Well-being Framework which was launched in 2017.

What does the year ahead look like for Principals in S.A.? Read on.

The minimum ATAR needed to study undergraduate teaching in Victoria has been raised to 65. Previously, the ATAR needed for some education courses had been as low as 30. This year has seen a 22% decline in the number of first-round university offers made.

In late 2017, the W.A. Government announced budget cuts to education including closing down the School of The Air. Following a backlash, this decision has now been reversed.

An online guide with key links to school education sites relating to policy, funding, data and government departments is now available thanks to the Parliament of Australia.

SOURCE: EdStart , July 2017.

An incredible amount is spent each year by Australian families with children at private schoolsOf 500 families surveyed in a recent study, only half are paying for fees using disposable income. See the chart on left for a breakdown of how parents pay for fees.

Education Around the World

U.K. & elsewhere: Results from a survey of 20,000 primary school children internationally examines children’s career aspirations and the influential role played by gender stereotypes, socio-economic backgrounds and by TV, film and radio.

U.S.A.: The United States is ranked 35th out of 40 O.E.C.D. nations in addressing child poverty. However, two recent actions by Congress are not helping to turn this around.

The World: The World Bank has released its first ever report focusing on education. A critique by Pasi Sahlberg suggests that its analysis falls short in “ its use of the human capital view to analyze teachers’ work; its narrow view on teacher policies; and the mixing of facts and myths about Finland.”

Evaluation & Research Practices

What’s the attrition rate for early career teachers in Australia? Well, funny you should ask…

“Quoting a single, overall proportion of attrition suggests that it is possible to have an overview of the entire teaching population. …It would be disingenuous to claim that any single figure could refer to teachers leaving the profession because data are available which show that teachers move between states and sectors, and also leave and return”.

Paul Weldon’s article on defining and measuring teacher attrition in Australia is a must read. And you don’t need to look far for an example of the statistical use that Weldon describes.

Maths, Science & Tech

2018 isn’t just the year, it’s a number with so much mathematical meaning…

  • “What secret mathematical properties and pleasures [does] our new year contain?” This range of special days.
  • A new year means a new round of the Math Forum Year Game. Are you up for the challenge?

“ [T]he simple problems I like don’t require much background to get into them. I like things where I can just start working. I’m impatient….I like to just get my hands dirty and start right away.” — mathematician Richard Schwartz.

On the mathematics of decision making:

  • A sucker bet is “ a wager on something that seems like a good idea, but for which the odds are actually against you, often very much against you”. Here’s how maths can help you to avoid one.
  • And here’s an entire episode of Catalyst dedicated to the mathematical logic underlying how the choices we make.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. SOURCE: NanoJesus

Science that’s not to be missed: #1 Ice-diving drones are setting out on a risky Antarctic mission. #2 Carbon dioxide emissions from lighting were reduced by about 570 millions tons in 2017 thanks to LEDs. #3 Lithuania gave Pope Francis a nanoscale 3D printed nativity scene for Christmas. Just wow. #4 There’s a new dinosaur in town, and it’s 60 million years old. The Mansourasaurus was recently discovered by palaeontologists from Mansoura University in Egypt. #5 If you love maps or the Apple vs. Google debate, this is for you. #6 Is there a difference between female and male brains? Here’s what neuroscience research says.

Field collisions:

  • Poetry and science and art: the poem ‘Song of Two Worlds’ by science and humanities professor, Alan Lightman, has been beautifully illustrated by an 18 year-old boy.
  • Maths and sewing and engineering: So much commitment behind this sewing project.
  • STEM and the arts: an argument for expanding tertiary studies in STEM into STEAM, explains that “scientists should include the world of policy and social impact” in their work.
  • Machine learning and biology #1: Google is applying machine learning to the biology of the eye and making health predictions from it.
  • Machine learning and biology #2: Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay won the Engineering and Computer Science Infosys Prize in 2017. Through her work, she has “identified a genetic marker for breast cancer, determined the co-occurrence of HIV and cancers, and helped understand the significance of the brain’s white matter in Alzheimer’s disease”.

Ok, so I’ve saved one of the best pieces of news til last: a NEW PRIME NUMBER has been discovered. It has more than 23m digits. That’s not 23 digits — but 23 million digits. Oh, and it was found by Jonathan Pace, a 51-year old electrical engineer from Tennessee as part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. My pleasure.

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