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The quality of your grade three teachers matter throughout life

December 24th, 2014 Comments off
  • The Importance of Teacher Quality – From an interview with he John Bates Clark medal winning economist Raj Chetty: “Much to our surprise, it immediately became evident that students who were assigned to high value-added teachers showed substantially larger gains in terms of earnings, college attendance rates, significantly lower teenage birth rates; they lived in better neighborhoods as adults; they had higher levels of retirement savings. Across a broad spectrum of outcomes, there were quite substantial and meaningful impacts on children’s long-term success, despite seeing the same fade-out pattern for test scores.”
  • Politicians ought to have a pint with their opponents more often – Politics without blind tribal dogma? I’ll drink to that.
  • The more things shuffle, more they stay the same – “Reshuffling the cabinet is like changing who wears which colour skivvy in the Wiggles: it doesn’t make any difference, and they all end up singing the same old tunes, writes Tim Dunlop.”
  • France PM calls for calm after spate of attacks – “French authorities have called for calm after a string of attacks across the country left dozens of people injured, saying there was no evidence to connect the spate of violent acts.”
  • Is Saudi Arabia Trying to Cripple American Fracking? Well, it’s said as much, but the real reason for the flood of new Saudi oil is more complicated. “Saudi Arabia isn’t flooding the oil market to cripple America’s shale revolution, it’s doing it to win favor with Washington by weakening Russia and Iran.”
  • Average temperature in Finland has risen by more than two degrees – “According to a recent University of Eastern Finland and Finnish Meteorological Institute study, the rise in the temperature has been especially fast over the past 40 years, with the temperature rising by more than 0.2 degrees per decade. “The biggest temperature rise has coincided with November, December and January. Temperatures have also risen faster than the annual average in the spring months, i.e., March, April and May. In the summer months, however, the temperature rise has not been as significant,” says Professor Ari Laaksonen of the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. As a result of the temperature rising, lakes in Finland get their ice cover later than before, and the ice cover also melts away earlier in the spring. “

Rote learning gets an educational tick

August 23rd, 2014 Comments off

School days, school days

Dear old Golden Rule days

Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic

Taught to the tune of the hick’ry stick

The argument among educationalists about the best way to teach children mathematics will be enlivened by a recent paper by American and South Korean scientists in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Hippocampal-neocortical functional reorganization underlies children’s cognitive development looks at the transition from procedure-based to memory-based problem-solving strategies.
In their scientific language the researchers write that “longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 7–9-year-old children revealed that the transition from use of counting to memory-based retrieval parallels increased hippocampal and decreased prefrontal-parietal engagement during arithmetic problem solving.” This is being interpreted by some educators as showing the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.
Reports Canada’s National Post (behind a paywall):
The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.
In effect, as young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like “overlapping waves,” the researchers write, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child’s brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.
By tracking a group of young students over the course of a year, the authors show “that children learn to associate individual problems with the correct answers. Repeated problem solving during the early stages of arithmetic skill development also contributes to memory re-encoding and consolidation, thus resulting in enhanced hippocampal activity and ability to recall basic arithmetic facts… The maturation of problem-solving skills is characterized by a gradual decrease in the use of inefficient procedures such as counting and an increase in the use of memory-based strategies.”
As a scientific justification of rote learning, the study seems likely to further polarize the controversy over math teaching styles, in which arithmetical fundamentalists are squared off against the popular and progressive forces of “discovery-based” learning, in which students are encouraged to find their own ways to the right answer.
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Australia gets a good education report from an OECD PISA test

July 9th, 2014 Comments off

Australian 15-year-old students are among the best performers in an OECD Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) survey of financial literacy. Among the 18 countries and economies that participated in the assessment, Australia ranks somewhere between 3 and 5.

9-07-2014 financialliteracy

PISA 2012 defines financial literacy as “…knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life”.

The PECD found that in Australia, financial literacy is strongly correlated with mathematics and reading performance. Around 79% of the financial literacy score reflects skills that can be measured in the mathematics and/or reading assessments (compared with 75%, on average, across OECD countries and economies), while 21% of the score reflects factors that are uniquely captured by
the financial literacy assessment.

However, students in Australia perform better than might be expected in financial literacy, based on their performance in mathematics and reading. The difference between observed and expected performance in financial literacy is particularly large among students with high scores
in mathematics.

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