No comparison

How do advanced math and physics students in the U.S. compare to 12th graders in other countries? In the past, TIMSS (Trends in International Math and Science Study) have shown our best students lag behind the best in Asia and Europe. But we won’t know about current students. The U.S. Education Department has decided not to fund participation in TIMSS Advanced 2008.

Is it fear of poor results? Newsweek notes:

In the last survey, taken in 1995, students from only two countries — Cyprus and South Africa — scored lower than U.S. school kids.

Mark S. Schneider, commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, says TIMSS Advanced isn’t worth the money because not enough countries are participating in the advanced test: Only Armenia, Iran, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Slovenia and Sweden have signed up so far.

The U.S. will continue to participate in the fourth- and eighth-grade TIMSS exams, which have pushed the U.S. to raise expectations and reform our “mile-wide inch-deep” curricula. Why is Singapore Math hot? Because Singapore aces the TIMSS math tests.

It seems to crazy to defund TIMSS Advanced — participation should cost less than $10 million — while spending billions to boost global competitiveness in math, science and technology. Today, President Bush signed the $33.6 billion on America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science) Act.

Newsweek suggests the Gates Foundation or other private donors might step in to keep the U.S. in TIMSS Advanced. That would encourage other countries to participate too.

Go to Mindless Math Mutterings for the EdWeek article, which otherwise requires registration.

The Proof Is Out There suggests making national leaders answer math questions, such as what is 37 times 23?

Response from George W Bush (US): You know, I’m getting’ kinda tired of being asked this question all the time. People keep askin’ me, what’s 37 times 23? When will you finally give an answer? And all I can say is, I refuse to set terms and conditions on what 37 times 23 is, or to give a deadline for that solution. I mean, if I give what’s meant to be some kinda definitive answer, that’s just gonna embolden the enemy. But we’re workin’ on this. You gotta trust me on this one.

Eerily credible.

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  1. Bob Diethrich says:

    Comparisons between the performances of US students and their counterparts around the world are usually worthless for one reason. Most European schools still “ability group” or “track” their students. For instance in Germany, students take a battery of tests around the fifth grade, and based on the results, you are either headed for university or the factory. (God help the late bloomer in those countries). So basically a good majoriy of our high school students, taking such classes as Algebra II, Chemistry and Physics, just to graduate are being compared to the college bound elite in those other countries. Considering that handicap, I think we are doing remarkably well.

  2. Miller Smith says:

    Hi Bob,
    The comparison is of OUR advanced math and physics students in the U.S. to 12th graders in other countries. This is a very importqant point to make. Our BEST and TOP math and science students get beat out by the AVERAGE students of other countries. When we compare our TOP to their TOP we look like a bunch of idiots.

    It is very common for the top students from my school system to have to take remedial math classes when they enter college.

  3. There aren’t 12th graders in many other countries. In Singapore you graduate at 16 and then go to junior college. Don’t know how this works out with other TIMMS participants.

  4. As much as I dislike President Bush, I disagree that we should as questions like, what’s 37 times 23. As usual, though, Bush sidesteps the question, in the same bumbling manner, in which he dodges most important issues.

  5. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    Oh, you mean he sidesteps, as does virtually ANY politician? What a complete shock!!!

  6. What’s so hard about doing 37×23 in your head? Maybe Bush can’t do it, but surely the highly-trained teachers can, don’t you think, Bell Work Online?

  7. Its is fact that we are lacking in some kind of resource or knowledge in mathematics. That is why we are outsourcing teachers from Asian countries, to teach our children’s via net…
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