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WASHINGTON — The nation’s high school seniors are slipping in math and failing to make progress in reading, with just one-third of the 12th graders ready for the academic challenges of college.

Scores released Wednesday from the Nation’s Report Card also show a widening gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students.

Only one-quarter of 12th-graders taking the test performed proficiently or better in math. In reading, 37 percent of the students were proficient or above — meaning they had a solid grasp or better of the subject material.

The average math score on the test last year was 152, down from 153 in 2013, the last time the test was given. It marks the first drop in math in a decade. For reading, scores were flat over the same period of time, and down five points from more than two decades ago when the test was first given to students in 1992.

Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., says schools have undergone “some of the most significant changes in decades” as teachers retool their classroom practices to adapt to new and higher standards.

“We know the results of those changes will not be seen overnight, so we need to be patient — but not passive — in continuing to pursue the goal of preparing all students for success after high school,” King said.

Since 2009, more than 40 states have adopted the Common Core learning standards, which outline skills students should learn and know in math and reading by the end of each grade. They emphasize critical thinking, with less of a focus on memorization.

Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the test, said the report suggests a pattern in reading scores that needs a closer look. “There is a gap, a widening of a gap of higher and lower ability students, and I think that’s something we need to think about,” said Carr.

Reading scores increased by two points for the highest-performing students, and were down six points for the lowest-performing seniors. Math scores saw no significant difference over two years for the highest group of test-takers, but declined for the group of students at the bottom.

Bill Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, said the scores were disappointing.

“We’re not making the academic progress that we need to so that there’s greater preparedness for post-secondary, for work, for military participation. These numbers aren’t going the way we want,” Bushaw said.

The report estimates about 37 percent of students, for both reading and math, scored well enough to be considered likely to possess the knowledge and skills to be academically prepared for college-level work. That is not much different than how well-prepared seniors were in 2013.

Other findings:

—The average math score was 152, on a 300-point scale. The average reading score was 287 on a 500-point scale.

—No significant change was seen from 2013 in the average math score for any racial and ethnic groups. And it was the same for reading, with no real change seen from 2013 for any groups.

—In math, the average score for English language learners was higher last year, up six points from 2013.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is considered a national yardstick by which to measure student achievement. The math test was given last year to about 13,200 twelfth-graders in public and private schools. About 18,700 students took the reading test.

The post Math scores slip, reading flat for nation’s 12th-graders appeared first on PBS NewsHour...]]>

That was a rare exception. Principal Ben Sherman said most of his middle schoolers took about three hours, the same as usual, on each day of testing. Just a handful of English Language Learners and students with special needs needed more time.

Still, he called the opportunity to take as long as they wanted "a bonus for everybody" because it lowered anxiety among students and teachers.

A few other principals contacted by WNYC agreed. One Bronx middle school leader said untimed testing "alleviated pressure," especially for students already struggling with vocabulary and reading comprehension. Elizabeth Culkin, principal of P.S. 176 in Bensonhurst, said her teachers and pupils loved the untimed tests.

"Students were able to concentrate on the reading passages, questions and responses," she said. "In this testing period we witnessed more of a reflective thinking process and that's what reading should measure."

However, one Brooklyn middle school principal - who did not want to be identified - called untimed testing "a horrible experience."

This school leader said children were more stressed, and did not have the maturity to cope with unlimited time. For example, one child who started writing an essay, "change the opening sentence no less than six times," the principal said.

Nor was this an isolated case, because the principal claimed about half of the school's pupils took longer than usual - especially those in gifted classes. The kids didn't appear to labor as much on the math tests.

A few found other problems with untimed tests. One principal, who also didn't want to be quoted, said it was a bit complicated, logistically, to find space for kids finishing at different times in a crowded building.

New York State's Education Department changed the tests in response to a massive protest last year, when 20 percent of third through eighth graders opted out of the math and reading tests. Many parents said they opposed to the state's heavy reliance on standardized testing and the amount of classroom time spent on test prep.

Official estimates of how many students opted out of this year's tests are expected this summer.

]]>You’re probably reading this because you like Pi Day. Once a year, your office, your classroom or your group of friends partake in pies of lemon meringue or pumpkin or apple… You’re joined by people across the nation, nay the world, basking in the hilarity of eating circular food while celebrating the mathematical constant of a circle, pi. Here at the NewsHour, we’ve been known to celebrate with a selection of Pi Day pies.

Yet if you peel back the crust and take a deeper look at pi, one finds an imperfect hero. Much like Christopher Columbus day, Pi Day’s faults are masked by the crushing weight of heritage and popular opinion. Pi isn’t as unique as believed, and mathematically, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

RELATED CONTENTWhy Math geeks are so excited about March 14, 2015, at 9:26:53Pi Day Quiz: How many digits can you name?Here’s why in three simple lessons based on claims by pi lovers.

1. “Pi is infinite. That’s so special!”

Wrong, it’s quite ordinary. School teachers indoctrinate kids with the idea that pi wanders on forever behind its decimal. 3.1415926535…and beyond. But there are plenty of numbers with infinite digits. For example, 18, which has an infinite number of zeros behind it in decimal notation.

Plus even though pi has infinite digits, it is still finite. If you draw a number line, pi will always land between three and four. Pi isn’t boundless or wandering into infinity. It has always possessed the same number of digits today, yesterday, last year and a thousand years ago, and those digits have always been stuck squarely between three and four. If you don’t believe me, watch this:

2. “Pi is the circle constant. That’s so special!”

Except pi is a confusing circle constant.

Let’s start with the schoolyard definition of a circle. All points on a circle are the same distance from its center. This distance is the radius, and the length around a circle is the circumference. Society’s favorite constant for a circle would be defined by these two attributes: the radius and the circumference. This constant could be tossed into a math equation and any circumference and radius to instantly describe a circle.

But it isn’t. Pi fails at this mission. If you divide the circumference of a circle by its radius, you don’t get pi. You get two times pi. There’s an extra step of multiplying by two. Rather than define a circle’s circumference by its simplest element — the radius — tradition has taught us to use a circle’s diameter.

But that’s confusing for kids learning math. You know what’s a lot less confusing: tau. Tau is two times pi, or double pi. The equation for circumference goes from C = 2 times pi times radius to just C = tau times radius. Rather than one revolution being equivalent to 2π, as pictured below, it’s now equal to one tau.

People have written whole manifestos behind the constant tau (τ), given its ability to simplify the understanding of circles whilst alleviating the headaches of kids learning geometry and trigonometry.

3. “Pi doesn’t repeat itself. That’s so special!”

“That’s a cop out, Nsikan,” ...]]>

He happened to mentioned the work to a colleague, who immediately saw a similarity to an unsolved question in math. That question, known as the Kadison-Singer problem, was originally posed by two mathematicians in an apartment near Columbia University, in the late 1950s.

Some of the most talented mathematicians of the time had labored to find an answer to Kadison-Singer, but it remained a riddle.

While Spielman wasn't very familiar with the problem, he agreed it sounded connected. What's more, he thought, it seemed like something he could solve. It took five years. But working with colleagues Nikhil Srivastava and Adam Marcus, he did it.

"People in the fields where the Kadison-Singer problem had started were maybe kind of in shock," said Erica Klarreich, a writer for wrote about the breakthrough for Quanta Magazine. She said the way the team approached the problem points out the importance of bridging disciplines.

"Two hundred years ago," she continued, "you were just a mathematician and you studied everything. Now people are very specialized and they're trying to figure out how to find their way back that old state of mathematics."

Want to know more about the Kadison-Singer problem? View this video, where Srivastava, one of the trio, explains:

Hypothesis is written and produced by Alec Hamilton and edited by Matthew Schuerman. Sound design and engineering by Liora Noam-Kravitz and Wayne Shulmister. Original music by Josh Burnett.

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“The Earth is round.” Teachers say it. Scientists say it. But how do they know?

I ask because an Internet conversation has surfaced among celebrities like former television personality Tila Tequila whereby they state the Earth is flat. On Monday, musician B.o.B took up the mantle on Twitter, spurring a spicy conversation with noted astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Tweets were exchanged on both sides, and eventually, rap songs too.

There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

Miss Tequila and B.o.B aren’t alone. Flat Earth thinking dates back thousands of years, when early societies like the Sumerians, Babylonians and Ancient Egyptians believed that the planet resembled a pancake. Christopher Columbus is often miscredited for correcting this idea and discovering the Earth’s curves by not sailing off its edge, but in fact, it was Ancient Greeks, such as Aristotle and Pythagoras, around 2,400 – 2,600 years ago, who first proposed that the Earth was round.

But you’re not here for a history lesson. You’re here for experiments!

Any mere mortal can validate our planet’s shape with basic household items like lamps, rulers and soccer balls. So without further ado, here are seven ways that B.o.B, Miss Tequila or any round-Earth denier can convince themselves that the Earth is indeed round.

Experiment 1: Watch a lunar eclipse

Things you’ll need: functioning eyes, the moon, and a telescope (optional).

Every now and again, the Earth passes between the moon and the sun, completely blocking its light and casting a shadow across the moon called a lunar eclipse. If you look closely while this happens, you would notice that the Earth’s shadow forms an arc as it creeps across our view of the moon.

You might respond, “You’ve shown the Earth is round, but couldn’t it be round, but still flat — a flat disc?” Well, your eyes and telescope would also spot the 3D spherical nature of the moon. The Flat Earth Society does admit that the moon, the sun and other planets are indeed spherical, but claim that the “Earth is not a planet,” and unlike other celestial bodies, is flat.

So let’s ignore the moon for now and examine the other member of the eclipse trifecta: the sun.

Experiment 2: Take a trip to San Francisco and Sacramento

Things you’ll need: A flight ticket, a long straight stick and a tape measure.

As theoretical physicist Ethan Siegel explains in great detail, you, me and B.o.B have something in common: we can use the sun to witness the curvature of the Earth. Here is Siegel:

…the Sun reaches a much higher point (and shines for more hours during the day) during the summer months, and reaches a significantly lower point (and shines for fewer hours) during the winter…

In fact, if you charted out the Sun’s path through the daytime sky, you would find that it takes its lowest path (for the fewest number of hours) on the Winter Solstice — usually ...]]>

→ Event: Arthur Benjamin will be performing his "mathemagical" stunts at the Museum of Math on Wednesday, September 23rd, from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Click here for more details.

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Follow Dan on Twitter and Instagram @TheSporkful and at Facebook.com/Sporkful.

Joining them on the panel is the film's director, Gus Van Sant, and actors Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgard.

]]>]]>

Try some sample problems, courtesy of teacher Peter Schmitt:

1.

(Peter Schmitt)

2.

sample problem (Pearson's Connected Mathematics 3/Peter Schmitt)

3.

sample problem (the 2014 NYS Math Test/Peter Schmitt)

4.

sample problem (Glencoe's IMPACT Mathematics Course 3 (Grade 8) Textbook/Peter Schmitt)]]>

Because this date falls on a Saturday, more people are getting married—Las Vegas wedding packages are sold out, and according to a poll done by David's Bridal, more than 20,000 couples plan to marry on 12/13/14. Last year just 7,000 people married on 12/13/13.

One of those people getting married on Saturday is Zila Acosta. She says a close friend persuaded her to tie the knot on a significant day and that the challenges in finding a venue, picking out linens, and even inviting guests—one guest told her they'd been invited to three other weddings—are all because of this sequence in the calendar.

But what other days are coming up in the next 89 years that are sequential but have significant meaning? Victoria Jaggard is online editor for Smithsonian Magazine. She says that there are many dates coming up that have mathematical significance like 08/25/43—a Recaman sequence wedding in 29 years perhaps?

Read Victoria's piece 'After 12/13/14, What Are the Next Fun Dates for Math Lovers?' here.

]]>Winston Churchill credited Turing with winning the war. Yet despite his contributions, Turing's accomplishments were kept from the world. In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency (for being gay) and chemically castrated.

The film "The Imitation Game" was inspired by the biography "Alan Turing: The Enigma," by Andrew Hodges. In addition to being a biographer, Hodges is a mathematician and gay rights activist. He joins The Takeaway to explain Turing's legacy and the injustice he suffered.

]]>Mathematicians, in particular, get rather touchy feely about Stark's work — they send her notes comparing her sculptures to complex equations and theories of infinity. One e-mailed her a paper by Cornell University mathematician Karen Vogtmann, pointing out the similarities between Stark's Burst and Vogtmann's concept of Outer Space. That's not the space we know with the sun and the stars but rather a mathematical idea. An Outer Automorphism is a collection of groups, each filled with ways to map points of an object to itself, while maintaining the object’s deeper structure. It can get your brain all twisted up just thinking about it and so can Stark’s art objects.

Jen Stark's Burst alongside Karen Vogtmann's Outer Space (via)Stark is not a mathematician or scientist. She studied art in Maryland and in 2004, spent a summer in Aix-en-Provence. She found she couldn’t afford French pastels or oil paints, so she bought blocks of kiddy construction paper and began cutting. The meticulous, sequential work felt meditative, Stark says.

A single sculpture can take months to finish, built layer by wafer-thin layer. Stark makes everything by hand and has to pace herself so she doesn’t wreck her fingers. She's come up with a few cheats: she wears mittens and pads her X-Acto knife with cotton balls. Having a sense of humor helps too. For one sculpture, Stark cut 10,000 shapes of paper every day for 100 days. The title of the piece: How to Become a Millionaire in 100 Days.

Jen Stark in her studio (Peter Vahan) How to Become a Millionaire in 100 Days (2007)Vortextural (2013)

Cosmic Complex (2013) and Vividity (2012) ]]>

These are some of the pieces included in Compounding Visions, an exhibit by twin brothers Ryan and Trevor Oakes at the National Museum of Mathematics.

It features a total of 25 works, representing 12 years of their explorations with visual perception and algorithms. “An algorithm is simply a recipe of mechanical steps,” Trevor said. “So when you bake muffins you are following the algorithm for making muffins.”

Some of the pieces in the show were made on spherically-curved sheets of paper in the form of realistic drawings and paintings. The concept originates from recognizing that human vision is spherical. Visitors are encouraged to test their own scope of vision with experiments placed as an exercise on optical consciousness.

Time Passing Across Central Park (in progress) by the Oakes brothers (Courtesy of the Artists)

The spherical images come from a technique for drawing that the twins discovered and have explored for about 10 years. It includes the invention of a concave easel; a loony-looking device that serves as a tool to capture with pen or brushstrokes what the human eye really sees.

“It looks like a satellite dish with someone’s head inserted into it,” Ryan said. “It gets a lot of questions. Some people are able to deduce a drawing is being made, other people just don’t come to that conclusion and ask wildly varying questions like ‘are you communicating with Mars?’.”

As a live component of this show the twins have framed a composition of the Flatiron Building that is very similar to Edward Steichen’s photograph from 1904, when it was the tallest building in New York City. They are most likely in a different spot on the sidewalk than Steichen’s camera was, but that is because the twins’ curved paper covers a much wider angle. They said they compensate it by coming closer to the building.

The Oakes brothers will be drawing directly across from the tip of the Flatiron on 23rd Street and Broadway. They will be off-and-on with their concave easel throughout the exhibit that runs until July 21st at the National Museum of Mathematics on 11 East 26th Street in Manhattan.

Cardboard Sculpture by the Oakes brothers (Courtesy of the Artists)

]]>"My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry," he wrote. "Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!"

(The state teachers union, which has also criticized the new tests, made a compilation of his tweets.)

Both testing and classwork are changing because of the state's new Common Core standards, and the comedian isn't the only city parent who's baffled by the new math. Outside P.S. 261 in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill neighborhood, Anita Pettway said she's confused by her fourth-grade son's homework.

"I mean, it is something different for them because it’s like it’s geometry, and that’s something they usually get by eighth grade," she said. When asked if she's able to help him she laughed, and said she gives that job over to someone else.

"I have older daughters that just graduated from college, so basically they know that stuff already," she said.

Dylan Foley, whose twin daughters are in fifth grade, said he was thinking of opting out of the math tests. Like Louis C.K., he wasn't happy with the test prep questions.

"The questions had to be read three or four times to make sense."

Nine year-old Dexter Wells agreed the questions weren't well written.

"Sometimes they don't make the question clear or give enough information to do the question," he said.

Meanwhile, the state education department said it wasn't responsible for the test prep questions Louis C.K. photographed and shared on his Twitter feed.

"The passages that he references are not our material," said spokesman Tom Dunn.

]]>Galileo thought this way. He got a bunch of weights, dropped them and discovered just such a rule. (I would never have expected it. When I drop an object, it feels like a drama, a short story that will never repeat the same way. But I'm not a physicist — I am whatever the opposite of a physicist is.)

Here's what Galileo did. (You can do it, too. In his new book, The Accidental Universe, physicist Alan Lightman tells us how.)

First, "drop a weight to the floor from a height of 4 feet, and time the duration of its fall," Alan says:

Robert Krulwich/NPR

You should get about 0.5 seconds.

Then try it again, this time from a height of 8 feet. That should take, Alan says, about 0.7 seconds:

Robert Krulwich/NPR

Again — but now from a height of 16 feet. Duration: about 1 second.

Robert Krulwich/NPR

Says Alan: "Repeat [this experiment] from several more heights and you will discover the rule that the time exactly doubles with every quadrupling of height."

This always happens. Four times higher, the falling time doubles. Always. "With this rule," says Alan, you can now predict the time to fall from any height. You have witnessed, firsthand," he says triumphantly, "the lawfulness of nature." As you watch things drop, now you can say, "Of course. How beautiful! How logical!"

Mathematicians believe (actually, they know) that there are rules out there in the real world — patterns that don't vary. If you follow the math, the equations can lead you to otherwise invisible objects in the universe, things that logic tells you must be there. The math says, "Look here." You look, and bingo! There it is. (That's how we found the planet Uranus.)

But sometimes the math does something even stranger. Spookier. Instead of "Of course!" it makes you say, "Huh?" (Or, in less polite circles, "WTF?")

What you're about to see is a deeply beautiful "Huh?" story.

This Is A Queer Universe, Says The Math

The math isn't hard. It comes in simple steps. But it leads to the strangest, most impossible-sounding conclusion. Yet every step you take makes perfect sense until you get to the end — and go, "No way!"

I'm a total math dummy, and yet I followed this puzzle almost to the end. It's one of the few times I've ever been able to feel what it's like to be a mathematician exploring the universe.

Go ahead. Even if you think you'll hate it, take the chance. It's only a few minutes long. Give yourself a "Huh?"

]]>These algorithms live in the background - we don’t see them or ever have to understand them.

A group at the MIT Media Lab called “Playful Systems” is trying to change that. They embrace algorithms' complexity and bring them to the foreground through games, stories, visualizations and narratives.

Kevin Slavin, assistant professor at MIT and founder of the Playful Systems group at the MIT Media Lab, joins The Takeaway.

]]>Read more:

Janna Levin, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

David Leavitt, The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer

James Gleick, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

]]>Non-mathematicians miss all this. We see the flurry of what's happening, not the tight logic underneath. But now comes this minute-and-a-half little video — a cheat sheet for math-challenged folks like me. It shows us what it's like to look around as if we were Galileo or Einstein or that kid who always raised his hand first in math class ... This is what they get to see ...

Thanks to Aatish Bhatia for sending this my way.

]]>During his conversation with Leonard brought up a 2002 survey that found a very high correlation between people who took and succeeded algebra 2 and those who made money and were successful later in life. Baker said, “It isn’t more than a statistical correlation, but people pounced on this and said, my god! Algebra 2! It’s the mystic door! If we force every child go through this door successfully, if we make them do it and we make them succeed, then they’ll all be above average and the world will be a better place.” But he argues, that making it a requirement for everyone for college admission is “not just a waste of time but a real source of suffering for many people.” Baker noted that it shouldn't be removed entirely from the high school curriculum, but that it shouldn't be required for every student, especially for otherwise good students who are struggling to pass it. "I think kids should be compelled to take some algebra...so you get a sense of what's out there and whether you have a head for it," he said.

Many callers and commenters defended algebra, saying it teaches problem-solving and intellectual discipline, but a number of people agree with Baker that not every student should be forced to take algebra 2 if they're struggling to pass it.

Nicholson Baker's article “Wrong Answer” is in the September 2013 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

]]>Skip to the 6-minute mark to see the big hand between Annie and her brother Howard Lederer:

]]>Of course, it’s not easy to choose just one guest when you’re doing a creative pi segment. The world is filled with artistic tributes to pi. There’s Darren Aronofsky’s creepy 1998 thriller, "Pi," Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning movie "Life of Pi" (and the book it's based on), and songs ranging from rap to electronic.

But a certain musical talent stood out to us: Kenneth Ferrier, geologist, pi enthusiast, and post-doc at Harvard University. He co-wrote and performed the song "Mathematical Pi" with his friend Antoni Chan, and it’s since taken on a life of its own on Youtube and pi tribute sites (they exist).

]]>In the end, however, Watson and Crick received a Nobel for their work, along with Maurice Wilkins, and Franklin did not.

We think that’s a shame. And so today, in Rosalind Franklin’s honor, we’re celebrating other unsung female heroes of science.

First, Henrietta Lacks. An impoverished African American woman who died in 1951 at the age of 31, her cells were taken without her consent and used to create a still-living line of cells that have been used in breakthrough research ever since. Rebecca Skloot wrote her seminal biography, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

Second, Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who lived in the 1800s and died at age 36. She wrote the first algorithm intended to be processed by a computer. Because of this, she is widely considered the world's first computer programmer. Dr. Betty Alexandra Toole is an expert on Lovelace. Her book is called "Ada: The Enchantress of Numbers."

]]>Glen Whitney thought so. Whitney, a math professor turned hedge fund algorithms manager, raised $23 million to bankroll the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath), which just opened its doors in New York. Studio 360 sent its intrepid reporter Henry Alford to visit, after doing his breathing exercises. “The math you’re scared about is not the math that’s here,” Cindy Lawrence, the museum’s associate director, reassured him. There’s more than one math? “The math that you don’t like is one little area of math, where we’re showing a broad expanse. Math can be creative colorful, engaging, fun.”

After winning a contest against a three-year old and forcing Whitney, the museum’s executive director, into a crabwalk, Alford revealed his burning question. “I buy a salmon fillet that’s shaped like Massachusetts and I’ve got to cut it in half to get two even pieces,” he explained. Whitney didn’t bat a decimal point. “There is a theorem which says that any angle you put your knife at, if you slide it back and away from you, there is one location that will cut the salmon into two identically-sized pieces.”

Unfortunately, he says “the theorem didn’t say that there was a way to find it. It just said that it existed.”

Slideshow: Inside the Museum of Mathematics

]]>Credit: Courtesy of Yunfun Tan

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