The secret to being good at Science: Take more Math classes


This quote applies to high school, but can it relate to elementary school classes?

Students who had more math courses in high school did better in all types of science once they got to college, researchers say.

On the other hand, while high school courses in biology, chemistry or physics improved college performance in each of the individual sciences, taking a high school course in one science didn’t result in better college performance in the others.

Source: Want to be good at science? Take lots of math – CNN.com

Enjoying math myself, I see the relationship of math being the foundation for all the sciences. It gives the student a base of analytical understanding. In elementary school, the students are just learning what science and math are, but a good foundation in math would certainly help a student feel more comfortable with science as they start to learn it.

At our school we use a multitude of programs to help the students learn math, especially when it is a major part of the . They run the gambit of knowledge levels from pre-K to 6th grade and from easy to hard within each program. Ones that are used everyday include , and .

All three are very successful, but the one the kids like the most is FASTT Math because it is like a game to them. They like to do it, so they spend more time trying to do the best they can at it. You advance by being able to answer math questions fast, but also correctly. Here are a couple of screen shots.

fasttmath1 fasttmath3

I see this as a beginning to understanding science, but also creating students that are more organized and analytical. Maybe these studies need to be moved to the elementary level. That is the place where the learning foundation starts.

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6 thoughts on “The secret to being good at Science: Take more Math classes

  1. Taking more courses in math may help performance in science courses, probably has more to do with the way that the subjects are taught – relying on basic problem solving skills. True, there are connections between the subjects and in order to solve many problems in physics you would need to know some calculus, but do we really need to be concerned with the exact answer? I am a fan of giving kids calculators and teaching them how to use graphing software, AFTER they demonstrate an understanding of the basics.

    My point is that the concepts BEHIND the science and the math is so much more important. With the rise in technology there is no need to solve complicated math problems by hand any more – we should be using the tools for what they were designed for and teaching our kids what the concepts are. Unfortunately, our society seems driven to get only the one correct answer, rather than see the connections between concepts.

  2. Taking more courses in math may help performance in science courses, probably has more to do with the way that the subjects are taught – relying on basic problem solving skills. True, there are connections between the subjects and in order to solve many problems in physics you would need to know some calculus, but do we really need to be concerned with the exact answer? I am a fan of giving kids calculators and teaching them how to use graphing software, AFTER they demonstrate an understanding of the basics.

    My point is that the concepts BEHIND the science and the math is so much more important. With the rise in technology there is no need to solve complicated math problems by hand any more – we should be using the tools for what they were designed for and teaching our kids what the concepts are. Unfortunately, our society seems driven to get only the one correct answer, rather than see the connections between concepts.

  3. Jay,

    I don’t think it’s finding the correct answer that’s important (except on the FCAT). As you say it’s in problem solving skills, which is what math is all about.

    As for the technology, as a technology support person, I agree that we need to let the kids use the technology. But, they also need the old fashioned understanding to figure out the answer (our society depends on answers unfortunately). If we let them use a calculator, then they miss out on some of the problem solving skills that it takes to get to the end of a situation or problem.

    I believe they should use both their minds and technology or we will lose the ability to do it when “the power is out” and we have to do it on our own.

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion…

    Ray

  4. Jay,

    I don’t think it’s finding the correct answer that’s important (except on the FCAT). As you say it’s in problem solving skills, which is what math is all about.

    As for the technology, as a technology support person, I agree that we need to let the kids use the technology. But, they also need the old fashioned understanding to figure out the answer (our society depends on answers unfortunately). If we let them use a calculator, then they miss out on some of the problem solving skills that it takes to get to the end of a situation or problem.

    I believe they should use both their minds and technology or we will lose the ability to do it when “the power is out” and we have to do it on our own.

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion…

    Ray

  5. Ray,
    I would teach the calculator as a tool just as I would any other shortcut method in math. It is not appropriate until the student has demonstrated an ability to do it on her/his own, but once that happens why shouldn’t we use technology? I don’t think we should plan for when “the power is out” – though my memories of Florida is that it happens quite often πŸ˜‰

    I’m a big fan of teaching the kids the concepts before even teaching them how to arrive at the answer. Most of the math students are taught is a shortcut, and they don’t know why it works – like writing a zero in the ones place when multiplying by a two-digit number. We spent years helping them to grasp place value, and then it all gets negated by a shortcut. I once flabbergasted a statistics professor when I asked how to find a standard deviation… he showed me the formula. I asked him where the formula came from and he told me the book, with a puzzled look. He couldn’t explain to me what the formula did and why it worked… he just told me to plug in the numbers. Courses like Conceptual Physics usually require math that a third grader could do, but the topics covered are difficult to grasp – it’s not concerned with the exact answer, but rather how events are related – unfortunately for our students, that knowledge is difficult to assess and therefore makes it difficult to reduce our students to a single score that can be analyzed.

    My point: what good is it if a kid can plug numbers into a formula or follow a set of directions to calculate an answer, but gets flustered by real-world problems and can’t apply the concepts correctly? He needs to understand the concepts – if he does, then why shouldn’t he use a calculator?!

  6. Ray,
    I would teach the calculator as a tool just as I would any other shortcut method in math. It is not appropriate until the student has demonstrated an ability to do it on her/his own, but once that happens why shouldn’t we use technology? I don’t think we should plan for when “the power is out” – though my memories of Florida is that it happens quite often πŸ˜‰

    I’m a big fan of teaching the kids the concepts before even teaching them how to arrive at the answer. Most of the math students are taught is a shortcut, and they don’t know why it works – like writing a zero in the ones place when multiplying by a two-digit number. We spent years helping them to grasp place value, and then it all gets negated by a shortcut. I once flabbergasted a statistics professor when I asked how to find a standard deviation… he showed me the formula. I asked him where the formula came from and he told me the book, with a puzzled look. He couldn’t explain to me what the formula did and why it worked… he just told me to plug in the numbers. Courses like Conceptual Physics usually require math that a third grader could do, but the topics covered are difficult to grasp – it’s not concerned with the exact answer, but rather how events are related – unfortunately for our students, that knowledge is difficult to assess and therefore makes it difficult to reduce our students to a single score that can be analyzed.

    My point: what good is it if a kid can plug numbers into a formula or follow a set of directions to calculate an answer, but gets flustered by real-world problems and can’t apply the concepts correctly? He needs to understand the concepts – if he does, then why shouldn’t he use a calculator?!

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