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utah s math future the nasa math plan

Utah’s Math FutureThe NASA Math Plan

(This *IS* Rocket Science)


what is nasa math background
“Nuclear industry looking for a wave of new hires... 35 percent of its work force, to [retire] by the end of 2012.” AP 9/12/08

Engineers and scientists are retiring in droves creating a crisis at NASA and all across the nation.

We need a highly technical workforce to ensure the economic, military, and technical leadership the United States once provided to the world.

What is NASA Math?-Background-
utah s current dire straits
Utah’s Current Dire Straits

“Debunking Utah\'s ACT test score myth”

Salt Lake Tribune Op-Ed 8/30/08

"Are Utah youngsters among the stupidest kids on God\'s green Earth? That\'s what a reasonable person might conclude based on ACT scores over the past 20 years.“

“Utah test scores are startling”

Deseret News 11/02/07

“Comparison study of results ranks state last”

“Utah\'s typically gleaming scores on national tests could be mere veneer...”

UVU has a math remediation *department* because 2/3rds of incoming students require an average of 3 semesters of remedial math.

the united states
The United States

A few countries that scored above the United States on the last TIMSS exam:

  • Singapore
  • China
  • Belgium
  • Hungary
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Malaysia

The United States has elected not to embarrass itself participate in the next TIMSS exam.

the hope for utah
For several months a committee of legislators, district and state school board members, educators, and concerned citizens have been meeting to put together a solid math package that would make Utah the premier state in the country to fill the void.The Hope for Utah
the moonshot
Mission Statement:Utah will become the premier state in our country for math education within 10 years by partnering with members of the NASA Advisory Council and the National Mathematics Advisory Panel to create standards and programs such that NASA will look first to Utah for at least 10% of its recruits and Utah is recognized as a top source of skilled scientists and engineers.The Moonshot
it s all about expectations
It’s All About Expectations

"There is a chasm of difference in expectations between NAEP and the problems used by world-class mathematics leaders. We expect too little from our children, and by lowering our expectations we lower their incentive to achieve."--Dr. John Hoven, Economist; Co-president of the Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County, MD

the plan
The following proposal is the path to achieving this high goal. The first step is to create the environment and expectations to achieve greatness.The Plan
utah s math future proposal
Curriculum: Singapore math implemented in grades K-8.

Standards:  Rewrite to match Singapore math.

Testing:  End-of-level tests should reveal basic to advanced subject mastery.

Utah’s Math Future-Proposal-
utah s math future proposal1
Algebra:  Eighth grade math should be an authentic algebra course.

Student Progress: Gifted and motivated students may proceed faster than regular classes.

Schedule:  Math should be taught daily and total at least 144 hours of instruction and testing time each year.

Utah’s Math Future-Proposal-
utah s math future proposal2
7. Mathematically knowledgeable classroom teachers:

Teacher Preparation—better preparation of elementary teachers and a higher level subject matter certification for secondary teachers

Teacher Leaders—Singapore math trainers and single subject math teachers for 4-6th

Teacher Evaluation—value added analysis

Professional Development—Common curriculum training for Singapore math

Utah’s Math Future-Proposal-
point 1 curriculum singapore and its math
Point 1: CurriculumSingapore and its Math

“We are not teaching math, we are teaching thinking through the medium of math.”

-Dr. Yeap Ban Har, Singapore Ministry of Education


A Singapore Math problem for 4th/5th graders illustrates advanced problem solving.

The figure below is made up of 2 identical squares, 4 identical rectangles and 3 identical semi-circles. What is the area of the figure?

The figure below is made up of 2 identical squares, 4 identical rectangles and 3 identical semi-circles. What is the area of the figure?

70 cm

70 cm


This brilliant strategy enables younger students to grasp algebra concepts visually.

“I never realized that I do not understand math until I had to teach mathematics from the Singapore textbooks.” ~ Teacher quoted in A.I.R. report prepared for U.S. DOE (American Institutes for Research)

singapore teachers
Singapore Teachers

In Singapore, teachers are not highly educated but have achieved results.

point 1 curriculum why singapore math
Point 1: CurriculumWhy Singapore Math?

Results Talk: Imagine a state where 40% of the population had an advanced understanding of math

point 1 curriculum why singapore math1
Point 1: CurriculumWhy Singapore Math?

Where over 90% had an intermediate and nearly 80% had a high understanding of math

point 1 curriculum why singapore math2
Point 1: CurriculumWhy Singapore Math?

Where far less than 1% couldn’t pass

a basic skills test

point 1 curriculum looking to the leader
Point 1: CurriculumLooking to the Leader

“Singapore ranked first in the world in math and third in science, in spite of the fact that the country was ranked next to last for the level of home educational resources available. In other words, Singapore’s impressive academic results seem to have very little to do with an advantageous home environment and a great deal to do with an effective school system structure organized around a solid, rigorous curriculum.“

-Dr. E.D. Hirsch

point 1 curriculum but what about
Point 1: CurriculumBut what about...

Myth: In Singapore they don’t test all the kids, just the ones going to technical schools, right?

Fact: FALSE. The TIMSS exam is a cross section of the entire population. This 4th grade result set prior to any separation in students is almost identical to the 8th grade results.

point 1 curriculum but what about1
Point 1: CurriculumBut what about...

Myth: In Singapore parents push their kids so hard all they do is school work and have no time for a life or to be creative, right?

Fact: FALSE. Dr. Yeap Ban Har explained that Singapore students have a very similar life to American students:

  • 1 to 1 ½ hours of total homework a day (including reading and writing in a journal)
  • Extracurricular activities (music, clubs, sports)
  • TV  - they just ask parents to turn it off when children do their homework
point 1 curriculum success stories
Point 1: CurriculumSuccess Stories

“In L.A., Singapore math has added value”

LA Times 3/9/08

Here’s a little math problem:

In 2005, just 45% of the fifth-graders at Ramona Elementary School in Hollywood scored at grade level on a standardized state test. In 2006, that figure rose to 76%. What was the difference?

...Ramona began using textbooks developed for use in Singapore...

“... this is an inner-city, Title 1 school.”

point 1 curriculum why singapore math3
Point 1: CurriculumWhy Singapore Math?

Why just have one curriculum?


  • Economies of scale in purchasing
  • Professional development centers around one very effective program
  • Teachers specifically trained in the program
  • Multisensory approach covers all learning styles
  • Children enjoy math and get stimulated: fewer behavior problems
  • Easier to measure success
point 1 curriculum why singapore math4
Point 1: CurriculumWhy Singapore Math?

Why just have one curriculum?


  • Textbook publishers lose revenue
  • Current teachers will need training to use this program
point 2 standards why change
Point 2: StandardsWhy Change?

Adopting Singapore math will necessitate a change in standards to align with the program so that teachers, parents, and students clearly understand what is expected in this curriculum.

We do not want to just adopt Singapore’s standards, but have the following minimal participants on the drafting committee:

  • Mathematician from NASA’s Advisory Panel
  • Mathematician from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP)
  • Math Educator from the NMAP
point 3 testing we need better data
Point 3: TestingWe Need Better Data

How good are tests if they only measure a passing rate? We need tests similar to the TIMSS exam that shows how advanced our students are.

Parents need to know where their children are REALLY at so they can intervene and get their children the help they need. Immediate feedback helps children and parents make better decisions.

point 4 algebra algebra is the key
Point 4: AlgebraAlgebra is the Key

"Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that success in secondary school algebra is the single greatest predictor of success in college--not just for engineering and science majors, but for majors in all fields."Los Angeles TimesFriday, September 17, 1999

From the NMAP Report:

"All school districts should ensure that all prepared students have access to an authentic algebra course—and should prepare more students than at present to enroll in such a course by Grade 8.

Using Singapore K-8 will provide a cohesive program that prepares our children to succeed in algebra, which means success in college.

point 5 student progress excellence or mediocrity
Point 5: Student ProgressExcellence or Mediocrity?

From the NMAP Report:

"Mathematically gifted students with sufficient motivation appear to be able to learn mathematics much faster than students proceeding through the curriculum at a normal pace, with no harm to their learning, and should be allowed to do so." (pg. xxiv)

“No Child Left Behind” too often means “top students held back.” Our best and brightest aren’t given the chance to really excel when they are told they can’t go faster than the rest of the class.

point 6 instruction time and schedule daily immersion
Point 6: Instruction Time and ScheduleDaily Immersion

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends “All students need to be engaged in learning challenging mathematics for at least one hour a day at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.”

You can’t expect to learn a foreign language to mastery without daily immersion. Mathematics is the same process. It is a universal language.

point 7a teacher preparation basic skills
Point 7a: Teacher PreparationBasic Skills

NCTM President Skip Fennell: "To boost teachers\' understanding of math, the math departments at universities ought to place more emphasis on training educators.”

Basic teacher preparation must focus on content so that teachers are familiar with the subject matter and how it is used in the real world.

point 7b teacher leaders love of subject
Point 7b: Teacher LeadersLove of Subject

Not all teachers love math. Not all teachers can teach math. Those who can do it effectively and have a love for the subject are better prepared to instill in the students a love for the subject.

Utah should consider having teachers specialize in math and let other teachers handle their other non-math classes.

point 7c teacher evaluation measuring success
Point 7c: Teacher EvaluationMeasuring Success

From the NMAP Report:

"Teachers who consistently produce significant gains in students’ mathematics achievement can be identified using value-added analyses (analyses that examine individual students’ achievement gains as a function of the teacher). The impact on students’ mathematics learning is compounded if students have a series of these more effective teachers." (pg. xx)

point 7d professional development sharpening the saw
Point 7d: Professional Development Sharpening the Saw

Singapore teachers are entitled to 100 hours per year of professional development. Utah should adopt this practice and gear the training toward the actual course content.

Math and science teachers should have summer classes they attend that are approved by a mathematics department at a university to increase their knowledge of the subject matter. The teachers would be paid for their time taking the classes to further their professional development, and the classes would be paid for by the districts.

nasa math becomes utah math
NASA Math Becomes Utah Math

The approach outlined in this presentation will promote the greatest benefits for our children while creating a workforce that will be the envy of the country.

The results:

  • More skilled workforce
  • Economic job growth
  • Technical prowess
  • Higher graduation rates
  • Less remediation
  • Better prepared teachers
  • Better reasoning citizens
This IS Rocket Science

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