Earlier this month, Discovery Education held a live event Future@Now-A New Math Experience which featured panelists of experts from education, business, and government to discuss the future of math instruction, the challenges, and the needs to improve math achievement in the United States. If you are a parent, teacher, or are concerned about the future productivity outlook of the U.S., this event was an eye-opener to the direction that not only math education should take, but also the direction current K-12 students need to consider about their future career aspirations. The event also included the formal launch of Discovery Education’s newest product, the Math Techbook, which is set to revolutionize the digital textbook experience in math instruction.
Hall Davidson, Senior Director of Global Learning Initiatives for Discovery Education, facilitated the event and opened by introducing the first speaker of the event, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Mr. Perez who stated a major concern that 70% of the current entry-level professionals do not have the skills to have the jobs today or tomorrow. To ensure we meet these needs, he highlighted the 4 “P’s” that are critical for figuring out the best ways to serve students and teachers in the area of math:
- Partnership-Bringing everyone together. Starting from birth, we need to build pathways to opportunities with others.
- Practical experience-Learning by doing; Internships and apprenticeships are opportunities to give on the job experience. It’s a way to prepare the pipeline to career success and repair those leaks.
- Pipeline-Foster and provide multiple pathways to success to serve the diverse needs of students
- Possibilities-Allow teachers the opportunity to have flexibility and creativity to explore and teach the rigor of the math curriculum. Be open of nurturing females and minorities in STEM subjects and careers.
He emphasized that we need to solidify in our mindset that every child in this country is gifted and talented. The challenge is to show these students what is out there. Not only should students learn STEM principles and concepts, but they also need to be exposed to the endless possibilities that come with it. A striking note that he made that resonated deeply with me is his statement:
There is no more important job in America than the job of a school teacher.
In 2014, the U.S. experienced the highest job growth after a decade of recession and productivity decline. We have an opportunity born out of this success, but now we need to fill it. Insourcing is a reality vs. the customary outsourcing we have come to know for years. We need to equip students with the skills to succeed today and tomorrow. The most important consequence of it all? Preparing students successfully for the future will build, grow, and sustain the middle class of America.
Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County further discussed why are we at a tipping point with math in the country.
We assume that students can’t get it if they don’t get it immediately. We tend to think the top group will be good at math. We don’t assume all students can understand math applies to everything we do in life.
If we don’t change this mindset immediately as a nation, we won’t be able to capitalize on the job momentum and opportunity that exists.
The conversation then turned to a distinguished panel that explored the question, “Math, What does it mean to win?” Rather than focusing on why our students are failing, the panel sought to target the opportunities for improvement and identify what success actually looks like with math learning and instruction. The panel included:
- Michele Weslander-Quaid-Chief Innovation evangelist at Google
- Skip Fennell-Prof of Education at McDaniel College in Maryland, key leadership roles in NCTM
- Portia Wu, Asst Sec in Employment and Training at Dept of Labor
- Mark Edwards, Superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, NC, pioneer in 1:1 computing
- Danica McKellar-actress, mathematician, award-winning author
Highlights of the panel discussion to consider:
- Only 25% seniors are performing sufficiently in math.
- Key factors for successful math learning include changing how we deliver math content and changing the culture of how we view math. We need to end stereotypes of what math means.
- Consider that kids need different paths than what we needed in the past. The times are different. Kids are growing up on digital devices.
- We need to position ourselves to take kids that are so different from previous generations so that we can provide the different routes to value the subject of math.
- Critical thinking/decision making skills are needed in life no matter what you choose to do. These skills are inherent in learning math!
- Listen to the inner dialogue students have when he/she can’t figure out a problem. We need to value the challenge of something. The harder you work at something, the more you will gain. Studying math is the best way to sharpen your brain.
- Don’t unteach what is natural for them. Kids naturally use and understand math in basic ways (kids know fair division of candy, cookies, etc), but somehow we are making math irrelevant to kids. It’s a language and tool we are using every day, but this point hasn’t been articulated to them for decades.
- We are educating today’s students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Build tenacity in the students. Sometimes you go further than you could because someone believed in you.
- The US is currently projecting an additional 1 million STEM jobs in the next 10 years. However, this number will most likely change as technology is advancing so rapidly and exponentially. Right now STEM jobs pay twice as much as others. We are not ready to fill those needs and US needs to get ahead again in innovation.
Finally, Discovery Education’s new Math Techbook was showcased. Designed for middle and high school use, the Math Techbook joins its predecessors in science and social studies. The Math Techbook seeks to level digital technology to create a learning environment that is interesting and interactive. It makes math relevant, based on real-world examples woven throughout the entire content of the Techbook
The Math Techbook was developed based on 3 Pillars of Rigor (which align with the Common Core Standards)
- Conceptual understanding-Discover through a series of investigations on each concepts
- Procedural skill and fluency-Practice includes Coach and Play areas including formal assessments and independent practice with gamification
- Application-Apply problem solving skills through digital whiteboards, graphing calculators and tools, and other manipulatives to explore critical thinking