Bridging the Chasm Between Grad School and Grade School

March 8, 2011

"The way science is taught, it’s as though everything has already been figured out. When children leave the classroom, they don’t feel empowered like they could actually contribute something to science, and I think that’s a huge problem.”

Those are the words of Sharlene Demos, a newly-minted PhD in bioscience who plans to make a difference in how science is taught. The CENtral Science blog just profiled Demos, who hopes to "make a career out of crossing academia with K-12 outreach. She loves working with kids and says her goal is to become a professor that helps bridge the gap between research scientists at the university and kids in grades K-12."

This makes her a bit of a rare breed. The chasm between colleges and schools can be very deep, so it's refreshing to hear about bridge builders like Demos. (The National Science Foundation is trying to create more like her through its GK-12 fellowship.)

Do you know of other trailblazers like Demos?


Tags: science

Why Math Matters in Uncertain Times

March 7, 2011

In case you're sleeping too well at night, considering the following newsreported by The New York Times:

A new report by McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, is gloomy about retirement. The report, Restoring Americans’ Retirement Security: A Shared Responsibility, says, “The average American family faces a 37 percent shortfall in the income they will need in retirement,” meaning “the average household will face a retirement savings shortfall of nearly $250,000 by the time of retirement.


The McKinsey report says that group faces the biggest challenge, but “they have the greatest ability to recover by changing their behaviors.” “This group,” the report says, “must rely almost entirely on personal savings” because the payouts from traditional defined-benefit pensions “will provide one-tenth of the retirement income of their parents’ generation.”

Yes, people will certainly have to save more. But they'll also have to be much savvier about their retirement options and wiser about their investments as the security of defined benefit plans fades into the night. And they'll have to be much better at math. A simple understanding of compound interest, for example, can go a long way.


Tags: math

Rallying more than 100 Bully Pulpits Around STEM Learning

March 3, 2011

Can corporate funding boost STEM education? That’s one of many questions MindShift blogger Sara Bernard recently asked Change the Equation (CTEq) CEO Linda Rosen. Their conversation is captured in Bernard’s recent post.

Learn why five of the nation’s top business leaders came together last fall to form the now 110-member strong CTEq; how Rosen addresses skepticism toward corporate funding of public education programs; and why she thinks it’s critically important for the United States to rally around improved STEM learning outcomes.


The Hidden Scientists of Hollywood

March 2, 2011

From The New York Times comes news that newly-minted Oscar winner Natalie Portman was a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, a student of neuroscience at Harvard, and an all-around smartypants. The piece, by science writer Natalie Angier, mentions a few other actors who have excelled in science. Danica McKellar helped develop a mathematical proof. Hedy Lamarr was a rocket scientist.

We can add a couple of other actors to the list. Will Smith (it is said) was admitted to a pre-engineering program at MIT. Dolph Lundgren(remember him?) had a Fulbright at MIT but quit to pursue acting. There are surely others.

In a culture obsessed by celebrity, it's heartening to hear about actors like Portman, who make such a mark in math and science. We need all the positive role models we can get in an age when Snooki's bar brawls and Lindsay Lohan's latest legal pecadillo dominate the tabloid and even the mainstream press.

So we just named five actor/scientists. Can you name any others?


Tags: science, math

Creating the Future We Want for Women in STEM

March 1, 2011

Follow-Up: The Future We Create Conference was an inspiring success. Click here to watch the broadcast in its entirety; skip to 15:34 to hear our CEO Linda Rosen advocate for a learning environment of collaboartion, discovery, and community to help create more women leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

 Change the Equation CEO Linda Rosen knows exactly when her lifelong love affair with math began: the first day of her seventh grade math class. Rosen was part of a class of students who were piloting new math curriculum materials. “From that moment on, I was hooked,” she said. So hooked in fact that she couldn’t get home fast enough that day to do her homework about different number bases.

Rosen wants girls across the U.S. to get as excited as she is about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)—whether or not they ultimately choose to go into a STEM career.

Rosen is one of 60 luminaries being featured today on a free virtual conference hosted by Dow Chemical Company.  The hour-long "micro-conference" seeks to answer the question: How can we work together to expand women’s contributions and leadership in chemistry and the sciences?

Hosted at, the event will consist of videos from speakers in the fields of chemistry and other sciences, business, journalism and literature, and women's studies.

We invite you to listen to and be inspired by Linda’s story. And the dozens and dozens of other women who have exciting, challenging careers in STEM-related fields. Find out what sparked their interest and what they recommend moving forward.

For more information go to


Tags: math, women & girls

Will Watson Revolutionize Testing in Education?

February 27, 2011

Even if you aren't much of a Jeopardy fan, you most likely heard about the rout that took place on the show the week before last. An IBM computer named Watson soundly beat two all-time Jeopardy champions. After day two of the three-day drubbing, we pondered what effect Watson could have on education. Not surprisingly, the folks at IBM have thought much deeper on this question than we have.

Stanley Litow of IBM believes Watson could revolutionize educational testing. Here's what he toldThe Chronicle of Philanthropy:

In the United States of America, we have something called the common core standards that have now been developed in more than 40 states. We’re now developing new standards in science, math, history, and English. But if you’re still stuck with the same multiple-choice testing, even if you have higher standards, it won’t raise people up, it will dumb things down so people base their teaching and learning on those multiple-choice tests.

The technology behind Watson blows that up. It says you could have long-answer questions, you could have the ability to grade lengthy paragraphs of information. If the testing system incorporates that, it will allow teachers to test to higher standards and children to learn at higher levels. And it will save lots of money in what is currently a very ineffective and inefficient testing and assessment system.

Could Watson save us from the bubble test?

Disclosure: IBM is a member of Change the Equation.

(Hat tip to the Huffington Post.)


Tags: computer science, technology

Urban Districts Lag in Science

February 25, 2011

In the past few months, we've had to endure a steady drumbeat of middling to bad news about how US students are doing in math and science. Yesterday came the news that students in many of our largest urban districts are doing much worse than the uninspiring national average. Surprising? No. Depressing? You bet.

The 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment in science found that almost three out of every four fourth graders in Detroit scored below basic in science. What's worse, students seem to lose ground as the go through the system. A jaw-dropping four fifths of Detroit's 8th graders were below basic. Things were barely better in Cleveland and Baltimore.

The differences among cities are every bit as interesting as the big headlines. One urban district, Austin, Texas, was on par with the US average in both fourth and eighth grades. Charlotte and Jefferson County (Louisville, Kentucky) met the national average in fourth grade but were lower in eighth. Fourth grade Black students in Boston and Charlotte did better than Black students nationally.

Why do some districts to better than others with certain groups of students? The answers to that question might yield some big insights into what works in urban education.


Tags: science, minorities

SAS and Activision Show Us Cool Jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

February 24, 2011

 Activision and SAS. You could hardly find two companies that are more different. Activision is a leading publisher of video games. SAS is a leader in business analytics software and services. But both companies agree on one very critical point: Jobs that require math and science are very cool.

Both companies shared first prize in a groundbreaking video contest to show just how exciting jobs requiring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can be. We at Change the Equation (CTEq) sponsored the contest among our 110 corporate members to inspire more young people to pursue such jobs. CTEq is a non-profit, non-partisan CEO-led initiative to improve STEM learning in the United States.

Our members are united by a profound concern about the lackluster performance of American youth in math and science. In 2010, only 43 percent of U.S. high school grads were ready for college work in math, and a mere 29 percent were ready in science. And the latest international tests of math and science confirmed, once again, that U.S. students lag far behind students in other developed nations.

News like this brings home the point that far too many of our students are missing out. They're missing out on economic opportunity, to be sure, because jobs that use STEM skills pay well and fuel much of our economic growth. But they're also missing out on much of the most important and thrilling work of the 21st century. That's a message we have to send to our young people. The winning videos did just that.

Take the SAS video, for example. Your typical teen doesn't know what "business analytics" is. But the video makes it vivid. We hear SAS employees explain how they keep bad guys off the streets, fight climate change, improve cancer research, and create smart phone apps -- and that's just a start.

Unlike SAS, Activision is already part of the teen lexicon.There's hardly a teenager alive who doesn't know that Activision makes games. But Activision's video goes far deeper than that, showing the math, physics and complex anatomy beneath the sights, sounds and action that draw so many kids to gaming in the first place.

Both videos drive home the point that jobs requiring math and science defy the stereotypes that discourage too many young people from taking higher level courses in STEM. If we don't get that point across to many more of our kids, they could face a very grim future, indeed. 
So take a look at our winning videos -- and share them with your friends.


Tags: video, math, science

MIT and the Smithsonian Team Up on a Science Mystery for Middle Schoolers

February 23, 2011

If you know a kid in middle school, tell her to mark April 4th on her calendar (or whatever a middle schooler's equivalent of a calendar is). That's the day when MIT and the Smithsonian will launch a new online game where players use science to solve an environmental mystery and thereby avert disaster.

From the press release:

VANISHED is a first-of-its-kind experience where participants become investigators racing to solve puzzles and other online challenges, visit museums and collect samples from their neighborhoods to help unlock the secrets of the game. Players can only discover the truth about the environmental disaster by using real scientific methods and knowledge to unravel the game's secrets.

Players will have access to real scientists as they hunt down clues, and they will be able to join an online network of other middle school students who are trying to solve the mystery."Kids from all across the country can work together to form a scientific community just like you would in the real world and try to solve this puzzle," says Caitlin Feeley of MIT.

Vanished already has a website where you can sign up to get news of the game. There's not much to see there yet, only some appropriately cryptic messages and an ominous countdown: less than 3,500,000 seconds before the game begins!

(Hat tip: Eduwonk).


Tags: science

Change the Equation Basks in the Presidential spotlight

February 22, 2011

In a speech at Intel's campus in Hillsborough, Oregon last Friday, President Obama named Change the Equation as a part of the nation's strategy to "win the future" through better education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). He could hardly have found a better backdrop for his message that US students' success in math and science is vital to kinds of innovation that fuel our nation's economic growth.

Intel came in for heaps of praise from the President. He noted that Intel "was one of the four companies that initially joined our administration’s nationwide campaign to boost math and science education here in America, as part of a new organization called 'Change the Equation.'” He also applauded the work Intel has done in Oregon and elsewhere around the country:

You’ve started programs that get kids interested in engineering and technology as early as elementary school....  You’ve sponsored mentoring and engineering competitions for poor and underserved high school students.  Your employees tutors in nearby schools and universities.  You’ve helped train 7,000 Oregon teachers over the last 10 years.

Intel has trained many of those teachers through K-8 Math Progressions, a CTEq Featured Program that began its life as Intel Math.

Here's a video of the president's remarks:


You can read a transcript of these remarks here.


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