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U.S. Students Struggle With Reasoning Skills 488

sciencehabit writes "The first-ever use of interactive computer tasks on a national science assessment suggests that most U.S. students struggle with the reasoning skills needed to investigate multiple variables, make strategic decisions, and explain experimental results. The results (PDF) are part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress that was given in 2009 to a representative sample of students in grades four, eight, and 12. What the vast majority of students can do, the data show, is make straightforward analyses. More than three-quarters of fourth grade students, for example, could determine which plants were sun-loving and which preferred the shade when using a simulated greenhouse to determine the ideal amount of sunlight for the growth of mystery plants. When asked about the ideal fertilizer levels for plant growth, however, only one-third of the students were able to perform the required experiment, which featured nine possible fertilizer levels and only six trays. Fewer than half the students were able to use supporting evidence to write an accurate explanation of the results. Similar patterns emerged for students in grades 8 and 12."
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U.S. Students Struggle With Reasoning Skills

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  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @01:54PM (#40372809) []

    Philosophy can be integrated into the curriculum as early as Elementary school, and has wonderful effects that extend beyond developing reasoning skills.
  • Re:No suprise there (Score:5, Informative)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:21PM (#40373215)

    :"Dangers of a Salaried Bureaucracy," 1787

    "Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects."
    Benjamin Franklin

  • by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:25PM (#40374379)

    Well, there are far more than four, if we're to get technical. For the correct answer to be three, the test would have to indicate that it's referring to classical states, but if it merely asked for states of matter, none of those answers are correct.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:14PM (#40375257) Homepage Journal

    my point was that the study never collected any data about other countries in the first place.

    If I did a study on pigs, and discovered that pigs are quite fat, what noun should I put in the headline? Mammals? Animals? The study is about pigs, the conclusions are only relevant to pigs (and have nothing to say one way or the other about elephants or crocodiles) ergo generalizing the findings to anything other than porkers would have been totally bogus.

    You're presumably an American since you're unable to cope with anything that says you're not "number one". Defing the inherent irony in this situation is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:51PM (#40379799)

    The three classical states are so grouped because each can change into any of the others. You probably are already familiar with freezing/melting and vaporization/condensation, but may not be familiar with sublimation or disposition.

    Plasma is grouped as a high-energy state of matter, apart from the other three, because only a gas can undergo ionization and become plasma (and a plasma can undergo deionization to become a gas). Another high-energy state is quark-gluon plasma (not to be confused with typical plasma).

    Low-temperature states (consequently low-energy, but I refrain from calling it this directly) are on the other side of the spectrum. Perhaps the best example is superfluid, created when matter is cooled close to absolute zero. It has some pretty interesting properties, among the most prominent being infinite fluidity and infinite thermal conductivity.

    Also a low-temperature state, Bose-Einstein Condensate, is when the matter stops behaving like you would expect it to (separate particles) and instead in a quantum state.

    For obvious reasons, you can see why these other states of matter aren't included in third grade textbooks, since many of them require some higher level mathematics and understanding of physics to begin to understand. Plasma is sometimes included early on because it is easier to explain and very common in everyday life (fire, electricity).

    But that doesn't vindicate teachers from teaching it wrong. Adding the word classical can make a whole world of difference when later they're taught about additional states, and doesn't leave the impression that those three are the only states of matter. It's akin to an elementary teacher telling children that rational numbers are the only numbers there are (irrational numbers are very real, so too are unreal numbers and hyperreals). Just because you can't explain something doesn't excuse you of teaching it wrong.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith