Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bob Compton of 2mm speaks on a Challange

Personally, I know that China and India are not "Third World" countries, but that is because I've traveled to those countries and seen their transformation. Also, I deeply admire their cultures, their people and their progress.

The inspiration for the name "Third World Challenge" came from a statement made to me by a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education when I showed my film Two Million Minutes for the HGSE faculty. "We have nothing to learn from education systems in Third World countries," he stated, "Much less a Third World country that lacks freedom of speech." To my surprise, no other faculty member rose to challenge that statement.

While I certainly expected a more open-minded and globally aware audience at Harvard, I have now screened my film around the country and a surprisingly large segment of the American population believes India and China's K-12 education systems are inferior to that of the United States. While no American makes the statement with confidence of a Harvard Education professor, the conclusion often is the same - America is number one in education and always will be.

This of course is not true. For over 20 years American students' academic achievement has been declining vis-à-vis other developed countries. What is now surprising and worrisome is US students are even lagging the developing world.

If our athletic performance at the Olympics were as poor as our global academic performance it would be a national crisis and every level of government would be attempting to respond. That we blithely ignore the declining intellectual standards of American students seems almost insane. The cognitive skills of our children will determine both America's economic future and the economic future of each child.

But perhaps I overstate the high standards of the developing world, particularly India and China. So, to test that assumption, my company Indian Math Online has created the "Third World Challenge" - this is a shortened and greatly simplified version of the multi-day proficiency test that 10th graders in India must pass to go on to the 11th grade.

Think American education standards are higher than the Third World - why not have your 11th or 12th grade students try the Third World Challenge?After all, in just a few more years "the challenge" will be in the global marketplace for high paying jobs.

Good luck,

Bob Compton
Executive Producer
Two Million Minutes

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Anonymous said...

Great post - I hope more teachers get an opportunity to try out the tests. There are multiple subjects. They only allocate 30 minutes but I don't think you get penalized (I wasn't aware of a time limit until I was finished. Definitely review your tangents - since I have been out of teaching - I had to prove things to myself. It would be a reasonable test for a student finishing geometry, but then I teach in California, I supplement with Serra, and my students generally do well on district end of course exams.

dan dempsey said...

So I assume you mean "Discovering Geometry" or ?? from Serra for supplementation.

What are the basic materials or assigned text in use?

What school district?

In Washington we've been pretty much stumbling in the dark for quite awhile.

Anonymous said...

Sweetwater Union in Chula Vista - I had a regular class of geometry 10th grade - Serra also has a resource book called Patty Paper So I use the wax paper for handling donuts I get from the cafeteria lady to fold the geometric constructions.

SUSHSD uses traditional textbooks, but I like Serra's approach better. With proofs especially he is more consistent - I think our adopted textbook was McDougall. At my school (with my ranting) we got rid of the low useless track (Glencoe basic schmuck) and we have everyone learn with the college track and we push-drag-pull kids through it with lots of rewards if they continue taking more math.

At our school we give them elective credit. :) So its possible to wind up taking math for 6 years instead of 2 or 3 and yet! never take calculas. You could take a class that only used Marcy Cook....and earn elective credit. I think its realistic when you have kids who might have spent their last six years in an elementary classroom where they only had excel worksheets. I'm working with potential dropouts (even some kids that are autistic) and we encourage these kids to take physics! So I'm a poor fit at traditional schools - they don't rock me. Watching a Core plus classroom is lot like watching a documentary dutch reform horror film.

Anonymous said...

Discovering Geometry has significantly better problems and McDougall et al cheats a little. They duplicate problems from other textbooks. The problems with proofs are inconsistent and so its really a waste of time to use teach the chapters dealing with proofs. You teach it first by modeling what you want kids to do and build on the model to make it more formal - so its a gradual process. I call it a theme, because its taught practically every day.

Anonymous said...

Imagine an alternative school getting the second highest scores in physics in a district with an enrollment of 36,000 students and generally on a year to year basis our school doesn't even have enough kids interested in taking science. I don't teach it every year. We had an autistic kid outscore over half the school district. The reason of course was that we focus on the math and I don't teach physics beyond thermodynamics which is about what most regular hs students can only handle in one year.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I feel sorry for Washington kids. My geometry teacher taught euclidean geometry when I was in hs here and it wasn't exactly preparation for college - I'm more like one of those salmon that managed to spawn upstream. I had to fight to get an education and I would have washed up on a beach somewhere, eaten by bear, if I'd stayed in Washington.

Anonymous said...

Hello . its not a miracle in India. Its inherited. When we are kids our grand fathers teaches us maths making it a game for us.
I never went to any tution classes for maths Geometry and one day i taught some of Hard Core Geometry problems to my teachers when i was in 10th Standard giving them a surprise !