Math and Science Educational Resource Availability, Part 1

[The first of two articles discussing the availability of math and science materials on the Internet.]

I heard it a lot in the 1980s and 1990s. It is now 20 years later and I still hear it:

Recent studies indicate the American educational system is failing to provide a sufficient level of math and science instruction for our children. Therefore, we are falling behind in the global race to prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists.

I’m not sure if it was true then; I’m not sure if it is true now. But, at the bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the studies indicate. What matters is that we DO something to address math and science education, whether we’re lacking in it or not. We need to provide the resources. I’d be saying the same thing even if all the studies ever conducted indicated that we were far and away providing the best math and science instruction on the planet. It’s pretty hard to get too much of a good thing. And keeping up with the latest technology is more than a full time job.

I have two suggestions:

  • Don’t look at education as a competition; look at it as an opportunity never to be squandered.
  • Don’t lay the entire burden for education solely on the American educational system; take the responsibility back into the home and other non-school activities.

Resources Abound

The Internet, by way of the World Wide Web, is now the ideal resource for locating materials to directly advance this goal. It’s a double win: the act of learning the computer technology required to search the Web for more technology is a success all on its own. The resources are out there. They’re not all that difficult to find. Once identified, the key is using them correctly.

The Hurdle of Preparing Lesson Plans

Despite an overwhelming and ever increasing number of resources, there is a fundamental flaw in expecting teachers within the structured educational system to fold the new and innovative elements of math and science into their classroom activities. The plain fact is, teachers are:

  • generally overworked with their current assignments;
  • expected to follow a strict set of standardized lessons that don’t allow for much deviation, and so limit innovation;
  • unable or unwilling to spend the extra time and money converting the “raw material” of the new and the innovative into classroom-ready presentations.

One solution to some of these fall-backs [in spite of all the “other stuff” that is out there on the Web just waiting to snare and entrap the innocent children from grade school and junior high] is to simply TURN THEM LOOSE! A risky proposition? Yes. So put in all the filters and site regulators that you feel are needed. But, for Pete’s sake, turn the students loose. Just point them in the right direction. There are some excellent sites that can keep them busy for weeks on end.

Another solution is to totally drop the expectation that high technology learning will ever be fully integrated into classroom curriculum and simply move forward. That’s where “content providers” come in. They are the ones capable of either developing materials that are a finished product for in-classroom use or for taking on the role of both developer and presenter. But without access to the classroom, the venue for this material presentation will be the Web itself.

An Introduction

Let me introduce you to one site that I’m personally familiar with…. because I’ve put it together myself for a specific purpose: to be an entry point for nearly countless educational web sites targeting aerospace and astronomy. It’s the website for The Aerospace Educational Development Program (AEDP) at http://www.AerospaceEd.org. Is it complete? Not by a long shot. It’s a work-in-progress. But already it has several areas that offer some premium math and science resources.

More details of this resource will be discussed in Part 2 of this two-part article.