But We Feel Good About Ourselves

By Sean Carroll | October 5, 2006 2:23 pm

Chet Raymo, who for years wrote very enjoyable science columns for the Boston Globe, has a blog called Science Musings that is well worth checking out. He posts today about an article in the Atlantic, derived in turn from this report, that compares the mathematical performance of U.S. students to those in various Asian countries.

(I wonder if the Australian scores were collected before or after Mark got there?) Now, self-confidence is a good thing, all else being equal. But being educated well is also a good thing. It’s no secret that we don’t train our teachers well, provide schools with proper resources, or challenge our students enough in the classroom. Maybe there’s something we can learn from what’s going on in Asia.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Academia, World
  • http://insti.physics.sunysb.edu/~siegel/plan.html Warren

    We learn that taking a lot of hard exams makes you humble.

    I wonder how the teenage suicide rate compares in those countries.

  • Ambitwistor
  • http://snews.bnl.gov/popsci/contents.html Blake Stacey

    The wonderful thing about that top graph is that the differences among the countries would appear negligible if we only rescaled the vertical axis to start at 0.

  • JC

    How much of this is related to kids seeing math and science as a “road to nowhere”?

    Many freshman students have deicided they don’t want to go into science/engineering for the reason that there’s not many jobs, and they hear all kinds of stories of hi-tech companies firing many engineering/tech types on a regular basis. With all the stories of hi-tech companies firing tech workers regularly, along with stories of older laid-off tech workers not being able to find another job doing similar tech work, I would certainly be reluctant to be majoring in science/engineering if I was a freshman college student these days.

  • Ambitwistor

    It looks like the U.S. and Australia are anomalies, here… this is more evident in my crudely generated scatterplot. The other five countries seem to obey a roughly linear relationship between performance and self-confidence.

  • fh

    Singapore has an almopst 10% lead, hardly negligible. Without more detailed knowledge of the tests used that absolute scale is rather meaningless anyways though.

  • Ambitwistor

    JC: Regardless of how college freshman feel, I’m not sure that 8th grade students are very aware of the sociology of the tech industry.

  • smm

    I, for one, think this is good news for the U.S. Self-confidence is what drives people to decide for themselves what they ought to study. Most people find something they want to study. Students here are generally more demanding (self-confident) with respect to their education. They seem less likely to embrace the standard curriculum and more likely to resist coercion by their superiors. Yes, we end up with a population that scores poorly on some standardized test, but who gives a shit?

    As a physics grad student, I’ve found American students are far more likely to challenge their professors and their ideas. These are the people who have to arrogance needed to actually contribute something original to science. Isn’t that what we really want as the end product of an education? An original and independent thinker?

    In general, I think we need to challenge the (poor test scores) = (american idiocracy) conventional wisdom.

  • http://snews.bnl.gov/popsci/contents.html Blake Stacey

    That article in the Atlantic says something which bothers me. They lead into the story in the following way:

    Motivational speakers may tell you to believe in yourself, but if you want to do well in school, you may be better off taking a more pessimistic attitude toward your own abilities.

    Isn’t this a textbook example of confusing correlation with causation?

  • joe

    Dr Hubisz/NC State (physics prof) has been going public on the issue of poor science textbooks. The CNN article here mentions the issue of America VS other countries.

    “Other countries are only educating their best and brightest,” said Driesler. The student who is going to work on a farm or in the family store is long gone by eighth grade in Japan or Singapore,” he said.

    That’s why educators in the United States believe the curriculum and texts have to serve a wide range of students — from the brightest to the least gifted, Driesler said.

    I saw the CNN report on TV, & the MSU statistics prof made the point (not incl in the above article) that the Japanese texts were “really thin, compact” whereas the US text was a humongous pig. Hubisz exclaimed “..this is too much!”. I liken the whole thing to “American is a junk food society”..incl textbooks. A USA Today article by Hubisz here.

    This parallels an experience R. Feynman had with middle-school textbooks, see here

    ” That’s the way everything was: Everything was written by somebody who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, so it was a little bit wrong, always! And how we are going to teach well by using books written by people who don’t quite understand what they’re talking about, I cannot understand. I don’t know why, but the books are lousy; UNIVERSALLY LOUSY!”

  • http://pantheon.yale.edu/~eal48 Eugene

    What’s more interesting to me is the fact that Singapore is the real anomaly of the lot : the country who kick ass in maths and knows it.

    The others are either overestimating or underestimating themselves.

  • KL

    Warren’s assessment struck me as dead-on: a culture of learning that encourages humility, sometimes through rather humiliating or abusive means.

  • JC

    There’s also the problem of many teachers teaching science at the jr. high or high school level, who know very little about the “science” they are teaching.

    One science teacher I had in jr. high, turned out to be some guy who majored in phys ed in college. He knew very little about what he was teaching to us. It was very obvious that he had a hard time answering questions about the subject, if the answer was not verbatim from the textbook.

    Some physics teacher I had would get angry at us whenever we asked questions like whether microscopic particles also had wavelike properties. He would tell us to shut the fuck up all the time. It was obvious he didn’t have a background in physics, and seemed to really hate the subject with a passion. Years later I found out this guy also majored in phys ed when he was in college, and only took a “physics for poets” general ed course when he was a freshman.

    I don’t think I had many teachers in jr. high or high school, who actually majored in science or engineering in college. The only teacher I can think of, was maybe one math teacher who happened to major in chemistry in college. He was good at answering hard questions from out of left field.

  • Doug S.

    How do they teach people real science in middle school, anyway? Until you know some real math or at least enough to understand “s = vt + .5at^2″, science education is just a lot of words and descriptions that don’t mean very much.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2003/hiebert052203.html

    In brief, Hiebert said, in most higher-achieving countries a majority of class time is spent dealing with new content—concepts and procedures that students have not seen before. The majority of time in a typical U.S. lesson is spent reviewing old material. Additionally, most higher—achieving countries spend some time during a typical lesson discussing the conceptual underpinnings of a topic (e.g., why a formula or procedure works to get a correct answer). Almost no time is spent this way in typical U.S. lessons. U.S. students spend most of their time just practicing procedures they have been taught, Hiebert explained.

  • JC

    Doug S.,

    The most “quantitative” science stuff we were taught in jr. high, was velocity in 1-dimension or simple 2-dim cases (ie. with right triangles). They also covered simple cases of “work done” = force x distance. Only other “quantitative” stuff was basic statistics like calculating averages of data sets. Towards the end of jr. high they covered stuff like cocave/convex mirrors and ray diagrams, calculations involving specific heat capacity and latent-heats of fusion/vaporization, and even some basic chemistry stuff like balancing chemical and nuclear reaction equations.

    Basically this is stuff which can be done with basic algebra from the 7th grade.

    Surprisingly the teacher I had for these science classes in jr. high was that guy who majored in phys ed in college, who knew very little about the “science” he was teaching.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    I think that children should be taught maths from grade 1 onwards. We now wait till they are 12 years old. Children of 6 years old are capable of understanding basic logic and there is no reason why they can’t be taught algebra.

    When I was in school I had the feeling that I wasn’t learning anything useful. I had to do the same type of sums over and over again. So, I decided to learn math from books myself. By age 16, I could solve complicated integrals using contour integration.

    Most children would not be able to study maths from books like I did, not because they are too stupid, but because they are not interested. If you make it interesting, then they’ll pick it up.

  • http://www.brannenworks.com/dmaa.pdf Carl Brannen

    The vast majority of the population has no need for science or math. And it’s not like this is something that is changing in a way that requires a better educated workforce. My grandparents were educated in useful things like the hand extraction of square roots, a skill few scientists know today.

    Here it is 2006 and still no need for the guys who pour concrete to understand calculus. Who’d a thunk it. In places where someone once might have needed to know the area of a triangle, now a CAD package computes far more complicated areas at the push of a button.

    Let’s see, what’s in the news these days that could save the American student. String theory is in trouble. Maybe they’ll finally ashcan the subject and let all those physicists get new jobs teaching high school. Or maybe having a job that required them to work 40 hours a week would dampen some of their enthusiasm for the subject.

  • JamieLynn

    It’s well known that American education is far below that of many other industrialized countries. So it really is not surprising that our 8th grade science scores are 5-10% lower than those countries. America simply doesn’t put enough into our children’s education. Self confidence, on the other hand, is something that can propel a mildly intelligent individual to great heights. I think I can mentality displays a will and drive to do more, to become a “better”, more valuable member of society. Our children may not spend 5 hours every day studying, but with self-worth, they have potential to achieve in this world. Most adults cannot pass a 6 question 8th grade science “exam”. If it doesn’t interest you, why would you stay on top of it?

  • JC

    There seems to be a disconnect between American kids doing poorly in math + science, and the fact that America is relatively advanced technologically.

    If Americans were genuinely “stupid” and/or “lazy”, then I would expect the society to resemble something like “Mad Max” and not a technologically advanced society.

    Maybe people are getting their “education” through other means such as: on the job training, going to college later in life, MBA school, trade school, etc … and not as much via the “traditional” academic school setting. I can understand kids being bored in the traditional academic school setting, and largely not giving a damn about anything. Those same kids may take things more seriously later in life, and get their “education” through other means.

  • http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/ John Baez

    Take a look at those graphs. The variations in self-esteem look pretty big: 56% of US students have “high self-confidence in learning science” (whatever that means), while only 20% of South Korean and Japanese students do.

    The variations in test scores look pretty big – until you see that the graphs misleadingly start at 500 out of 800 possible points. You can make any difference look big that way! The differences are not really so big: the Singaporean students get 578/800 = 72% of all possible points, while the US and Australian students get 527/800 = 66% of all possible points. Is this really worth worrying about?

    It would be interesting to see how they measured “high self-confidence in learning science”. I think Americans are raised to talk in ways that sound more self-confident (or showoffy, or arrogant) while Asians are conditioned to talk in ways that sound more timid (or modest, or polite). This became pretty clear to me after I spent a summer in Hong Kong and a summer in Shanghai. I had to adjust my behavior to avoid seeming like a jerk.

    So, cross-cultural comparisons of “self-confidence in learning science” don’t mean much except on a background of more general cross-cultural differences in expressing “self-confidence”.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    Carl Brannen – I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at, but one thing stuck out. Why do you think taking a job working 30% or so fewer hours would dampen someone’s spirits?

  • Jayson

    I think this whole issue of American kids being relatively poor in math skills in comparison to Asian countries is somewhat overhyped. The higher up one goes in the educational chain [i.e. especially in college-level studies and beyond], the more it matters what you understand vs. how fast you can solve a simple arithmetic or algebra problem; there, I’m afraid it matters little if your average score in 8th grade math exam was a few marks below a Singaporean or Taiwanese student. What really matters is the knowledge and expertise you gain; and here more than in any other part of one’s educational experience America stands as de facto number one!

    Jay

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Carl:

    The vast majority of the population has no need for science or math.

    The vast majority has no need for learning history either. What about geography? Does it really matter if you don’t know that the capital of Denmark is Kopenhagen? Why do we teach literature to children? Does it really matter if you haven’t read Shakespeare?

    The reason why we do teach history, geography, literature etc. to children is because we consider these things are part of our culture.

    I think that we should also consider science as part of our culture. Shakespeare’s works are no more important than Newton’s Principia.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Correct spelling isn’t very important either, considering that you can randomly permute all the letters inside words while keeping the first and last letter fixed and still end up with a text that is readable:

    The Lgrae Hoardn Coldeilr poecrjt, under cocnustirotn at CREN in Gnevea Stirnwzaeld, is the lagrset pojcert in High Egreny Pcyihss to date, if not one of the lrgsaet sificnteic ptjoercs urdnaetken by huimknnad. The two main hgih erngey dercteots are ALTAS and CMS.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Jay, the more higher up you go in the educational chain the more Chinese people you see :)

  • http://snews.bnl.gov/popsci/contents.html Blake Stacey

    John Baez wrote a little while ago:

    The variations in test scores look pretty big – until you see that the graphs misleadingly start at 500 out of 800 possible points. You can make any difference look big that way! The differences are not really so big: the Singaporean students get 578/800 = 72% of all possible points, while the US and Australian students get 527/800 = 66% of all possible points. Is this really worth worrying about?

    Thank you! Even if the answer turns out to be “yes”, I highly doubt it could be deduced from this “data”. Other things in the original report are worth discussing, I think, but this particular graph has had too many trips to the graphic-design department.

  • Richard E.

    I read this and immediately had the same thought as poster #27 — they have suppressed the origin on these plots, and the differences are at the 10% level.

    Moreover “self confidence” seems very hard to quantify, and I am guessing that any self-reporting here has large cultural biases. All it seems to “prove” is that American and Australian kids have a pretty good opnion of themselves (and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to find *that* out).

  • http://www.allysonbeatrice.com/blog/ Allyson

    For added fun, there’s the competence study.

    In a series of studies, Dr. Kruger and Dr. Dunning tested their theory of incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the most likely to “grossly overestimate” how well they had performed.

    Sometimes, being spectacularly confident leads to complete blindness to one’s own incompetence and abilty to learn from mistakes.

    I think American kids are sometimes raised with an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, that one is awesome just for trying, so there’s no real difference between losers and winners. Everyone gets a prize just for showing up, just to not damage self-esteem.

    Which reminds me of Jennifer Oullette’s post on The Tick. Spectacular incompetence, spectacular self-confidence. Bless Ben Edlund’s heart. He captured half of my graduating class, but they weren’t half as endearing.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Guys, the fact that the math-scores graph starts at 500 is of course completely irrelevant. The real question is whether the differences are statistically significant, which depends on the error bars on those scores, not their absolute differences. If the error is 1 point, those differences are huge! If its 100, not so much.

    Sadly, one rarely sees error bars on graphs in non-technical papers.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    The data were presented this report:

    http://www.internationaled.org/mathsciencereport.pdf

    If you look on page 19 you see a diagram of the percentage of students in 8-th grade achieving advanced math score. In Australia and the US this is 7%. Japan has the lowest score of the sampled Asian countries with a a score of 24% and Singapore has the highest score of 44%.

  • smm

    Good point, Allyson (#29). I can’t disagree with that. I just feel we ought hesitate before assuming poor test scores means we’re headed for disaster. There’s just so much more that leads a particular person to success than performing well in school. Self-confidence (coupled with curiosity) has to be an important part.

    Also, I feel there’s a general confusion between academic achievement and actual achievement. Sure, winning a Rhodes Scholarship is nice, high test scores, and getting A’s are nice, but these only indicate the potential to do something real. Real achievement is writing a book, running a business, or making a scientific discovery. Yes, an education is an end in itself, but not an end that can be measured with such things as scholarships and grades.

  • Darrell

    A couple of posters have expressed the view that self confidence is a useful trait, perhaps more useful than being proficient at math and science, and therefore so what about the claims of this article.

    My point of view is that we should strive for being the best in both categories. It seems a given that we are slipping behind, though to what degree is less clear but, I think we need to figure out how to get ahead right now.

    As for science and math not being important to the vast majority of people in this country, I strongly disagree. Sure, most jobs don’t require specific use of differential equations or the application of GR theory, and I don’t claim that everyone should be required to reach those levels of education. But even if you don’t choose a career in science or math, learning the basics of these fields of study, and learning them well, gives you a huge variety of problem solving skills and concepts that you can apply to just about anything you can think of from home improvement projects to learning how to better ride a motorcycle. We are all part of a technological society and the more people that have a better understanding of all these technologies that surround us, the better off we will be as a whole and indvidually. No, we can’t all be experts, but we can be informed amateurs.

  • Tom Renbarger

    “The variations in test scores look pretty big – until you see that the graphs misleadingly start at 500 out of 800 possible points. You can make any difference look big that way!”

    Indeed.

  • http://www.DensityMatrix.com Carl Brannen

    As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that the American work force is insufficiently educated in mathematics. If the rest of the world wants to be educated in a difficult subject that they will find that they do not need as an adult, then we should let them.

    The underlying problem is that everyone wants their child to be a scientist, a doctor or a lawyer. So our educational system is designed to turn out 100% of these type of adults. Of course the jobs are not available; someone has to stock the supermarket shelves; someone has to drive the big trucks, etc.

    A very high percentage of the public has sufficiently high math sckills to do their job. What more could one demand of the population? More mathematics than is needed, is clearly of less utility than more understanding of history, psychology, medicine and all that knowledge of the human species that could be taught instead of mathematics.

  • http://cyperus-papyrus.livejournal.com/ cyperus-papyrus

    A similar article, Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth, on Scientific American’s web site discusses research that indicates “that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower subsequent academic performance.” Self-confidence that grows out of experience and learning seems valuable, as such people have the knowledge to evaluate their decisions and behavior based on their experience and learning. But as Allyson pointed out: “Sometimes, being spectacularly confident leads to complete blindness to one’s own incompetence and abilty to learn from mistakes.” The Sciam article supports that idea.

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  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Presumably a public that understood the science of evolution would not leave much space for Intelligent Designers.

  • joe

    Here is what Dr. Brian Marsden (Harvard/Center for Astrophysics) said in a 1988 article in Sky&Telescope:

    “Amateur astronomers of North America: Wake up! The rest of the world is passing you by. ..

    I maintain that, as a whole, modern-day amateur astronomers in the United States and Canada perform dismally compare to those in several other parts of the world. ..

    Amateur computers, notably also in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, West Germany, and Japan, predicted mutual phenomena of Jupiter’s satellites, occultations of stars by planets, and positions of asteroids and comets. ..

    And whenever some computation is required in order to reduce an observatio to usable form, the U.S. amateur usually fails to produce. ..

    Yet if amateurs want to be taken seriously by professionals they must perform to professional standards These standards involve not just the act of observing, but a moderately quantitative understanding of what an observation means and how to make it connect to other information that may be available. Such work requires more scientifica literacy than many North American amateurs seems to possess.

    I constantly receive discovery messages form professional and amateur astronomers around the world. It is usually the U.S. amateur who inissts that the anomalous speck on the single photograph he took last weekend refers to some new celestial object. On the other hand, there are, at least in Japan and Italy, amateurs whoo do find minor planets, determine that they are new, make appropriate astrometric observations, calculate orbits, and thus get to name their discoveries.

    Amateurs in Australia, Frnace, England, West Germany, Italy, and especially Japan are making excellent contributions in this area.

    The above is a real-life “experiment” from a Harvard astronomer, who samples the population of amateur submissions from all over the world. American amateurs (“as a whole”) sound like morons.

    He is saying what a scientist friend of mine (also an amateur astronomer, UofArizona grad) says:

    “The distribution curve of American amateurs is skewed over to the DOLT”
    “We’re in the Dark Ages”

    The last statement was also told to me by an adjunct astronomer (UofArizona, Steward Observatory), when we talked at the 2001 AAS meeting. I.e., the science-ignorance in USA is SO BAD due to poor education system, it’s like the Dark Ages. Just like what Carl Sagan said “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”. Pseudo-science is so prevalent, it’s fairly common to run into crackpots (like on airplanes, see recent thread “Pseudoscience in the Sky”)

    The above scientist friend related a story (from U of Arizona physicist):

    “You know, he’s really discusted with freshman physics class at UofA. They have had to setup remedial physics courses to deal with it”

    I heard the same thing from a Cal Sate Long Beach astronomy instructor, he was apalled at the quality (“as a whole”) of his students. A classmate of mine (MIT PhD, U of Indiana economics prof) said the same thing for his undergrad students, “poor mathematical skills”.

    “I consider this an EMBARASSMENT”
    “I’m EMBARASSED to be an American”

  • http://catownersregrets.blogspot.com serial catowner

    With apologies to Sean, an ordinary person can ask whether the difference between 527 and 578 can be all that huge. We are, after all, discussing 8th graders, who have some ways to go before they become a functioning cog in our well-oiled society. Or not, as the case may be.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Well, the difference between 578 and 527 is 51. Is that huge or not? The relevant question is whether it is statistically significant. The correct measure of hugeness is 51/σ, where σ is the standard deviation of the measurement. Without knowing what σ is, there is absolutely no way of knowing whether the difference is huge or not.

    Not trying to be clever here, that’s just the right way of looking at it. The amusing thing to me was not the disparity in scores, but the (inverse) correlation with satisfaction. Which is also not demonstrably significant, but nevertheless amusing.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    The difference is much larger if you look at the percentage of students in 8-th grade who achieve advanced math score. See page 19 of this PDF file:

    http://www.internationaled.org/mathsciencereport.pdf

  • http://luolin88.wordpress.com Luolin

    Arun (#38)-I had an eighth-grade biology teacher who didn’t believe in evolution. He made a comment along the lines that evolution leading to humans was like monkeys at typewriters producing the Bible. I was appalled, and I wonder if things like that are more common now.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Carl:

    As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that the American work force is insufficiently educated in mathematics.

    I think that the average grown-up (in the US or anywhere else in the world), is not educated in mathematics at all. Just ask a random person on the street why -1 times -1 equals 1.

    In school what they teach you year after year after year is arithmetic and some rules that you can use to manipulate equations, drawing graphs and drawing triangles etc. It’s like kindergarten for grown ups, an insult to our intellect.

    The reason why you need people to drive trucks is similar to the reason why the Amish need people to drive their horse-drawn carts and why the indiginous people in the Amazon need people to make bows and arrows.

  • citrine

    JC on Oct 5th, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    There seems to be a disconnect between American kids doing poorly in math + science, and the fact that America is relatively advanced technologically.

    If Americans were genuinely “stupid” and/or “lazy”, then I would expect the society to resemble something like “Mad Max” and not a technologically advanced society.

    *******************************************************

    JC,

    Some of the contributing factors to this maybe the larger population of the USA – which compensates to some degree the percentage distribution of skills – and the contributions to the tech workforce from immigrants. Plus the post-WWII boom may have given the USA head start in establishing labs, etc.

  • http://vacua.blgospot.com Jim Harrison

    Let us analyze things as a chemist might. Maybe what matters in determining the scientific prowess of a country is not the average proficiency of its students or the proportion of students who are greatly proficient, but the absolute number of students who are greatly proficient. Does anybody have numbers on that?

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  • http://erraticflightpath.blogspot.com/ Sara T

    Okay, this IS a complicated issue, but a blog can be for ranting, right? That’s the beauty in a way, part of the discussion. So, I am gonna say:

    A big component of the USA’s dismal knowledge of and inappropriate self-confidence regarding science and engineering is HOLLYWOOD [aka Burbank and Culver City].
    Or, if you want it a bit narrower, commercial TELEVISION.
    Even a show that at least tries to have in its premise logical investigation, like “House,” always has to have the mystical, feel good, fuzzy folks WINNING, and House’s crumudgeonly but scientific (including the leaps of ideas) approach seen as, okay, problem-solving, but to no good end as it screws him up.
    There are no scientists and engineerings producing or directing in Hollywood (I hope someone corrects me!). There are probably some folks writing, but these things never get on the screen, big or little, in the original form.

    Well, I’m sure this is not an original rant and I have some work to do, but felt like weighing in. A similar rant re elected officials, especially in Congress, would also be appropriate!…

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  • http://www.allysonbeatrice.com/blog/ Allyson

    Sara T., might as well ask why there aren’t more physicists in the NBA.

  • http://www.allysonbeatrice.com/blog/ Allyson

    I hate being the threadkiller.

  • http://impropaganda.blogspot.com Suz

    Thanks for the link to the incompetence article, Allyson… I’ve been thinking for a long time why so many incompetent people do so well (i.e. get professorships at Harvard or become presidents of Harvard, etc.) and while so many competent people aren’t in better positions of power/ prestige. While it’s a different topic, I think the inability to estimate one’s (in)abilities is somewhat related.

  • damselfly

    Sean makes the point that “…we don’t train our teachers well, provide schools with proper resources, or challenge our students enough in the classroom.”

    Some good points. But we also need to give teachers some credit. If you want to teach 8th grade math or science half the job will be dealing with the “problem” students – the child who’s totally unsupervised at home & used to doing as they please, whenever they please, the child who’s being bullied, the child who’s doing the bullying, the chronically disruptive child, the withdrawn child who may be pregnant…just teaching won’t be enough. You’ll have to be a surrogate parent and social worker as well, and for that – there are no test scores.

  • Savyasachi

    Since there is no proof that science curricula in these countries were standardized, what sense does this comparison make?

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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