(by Michael Lavine)

To improve K-12 math and science education, the National Science Foundation supports a program of Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) (http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5756) that “contribute to what is known in mathematics and science education and serve as models that have a sufficiently strong evidence/research base to improve the mathematics and science education outcomes for all students.”

The MSPnet website (http://hub.mspnet.org/) collects findings and data from many MSP projects, as well as other research articles, all about K-12 math and science education. Anyone can browse their library, which contains much to interest statisticians. Of course there are articles such as Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (http://hub.mspnet.org/index.cfm/22819) about improving education.

But in addition, many of the articles either contain or are about statistical analyses or meta-analyses of educational data. Here are four recent examples, all about the effects of class size on learning.

1. “Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy,” Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Matthew M. Chingos, The Brookings Institution, May 2011.

http://hub.mspnet.org/member.cfm/22678

2. “Do Reductions in Class Size Raise Students’ Test Scores? Evidence from Population Variation in Minnesota’s Elementary Schools,” Hyunkuk Cho, Paul Glewwe, Melissa Whitler, University of Minnesota, June 2010.

http://hub.mspnet.org/member.cfm/22679

3. “The Consistency of Class Size Effects: A Meta-Analytic Approach,” Spyros Konstantopoulos, Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) Spring Conference, March 2010.

http://hub.mspnet.org/member.cfm/22680

4. “Are Teacher Effects Larger in Small Classes?,” Spyros Konstantopoulos, Min Sun, 24th International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement, Limassol, Cyprus, December 2010.

http://hub.mspnet.org/member.cfm/22681

Math and science education is changing and can differ markedly from the way I was taught. But there is still disagreement on best practices, so research continues. It is an area that could benefit from the insight of statisticians who might find it interesting and who would be performing a public service at the same time.

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Can you comment on the extent to which probability and statistics are taught in US high schools these days?

I ask because I participated in an outside review a few years ago of a polytechnic (2nd/3rd-quartile students, by mission) and one of the classes we attended had 17-year-olds learning about Poisson processes and doing OK. The view was that for many jobs, they likely needed this more than calculus, for example.

Many states in the US have recently adopted the Common Core: a set of curriculum standards. You can see the Mathematics standards at http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics/. That page contains links for different grades. If you follow the links you can find out what statistics and probability concepts are supposed to be taught in each grade, K-12.

Michael