Linky Friday: From Which Other Things STEM


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website

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16 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Sc7: Telescope-related, the new adaptive optics package for the Europeans’ Very Large Telescope allows it to acquire images comparable to the Hubble’s images in sharpness. Similar adaptive optics for their new Extremely Large Telescope (first mirror segment successfully cast earlier this year) should allow for direct imaging of large extra-solar planets. NASA recently announced that their Webb space telescope won’t launch before 2021, and that they’ll need Congress to appropriate more money for them to finish it.

    Ma7: Anecdata, but on the difficulty of programs that attempt to bring in non-educators to teach math… A friend of mine who is a quite good applied mathematician signed on to teach math at the charter* high school her children attended. She was led to believe by the administrators that she would be teaching at the top end of the curriculum, encouraged to bring in colleagues who could talk about how they used math in their careers, etc. Once she was hired, the head of the math group said she would be treated like the rest of the math group, and as junior instructor, would get the Algebra I and II classes of kids who were taking it only to meet the state requirement and had no interest whatsoever beyond passing with a minimal grade. Pre-calc, calc, and statistics classes were taught only by the instructors with the most years. My friend lasted a semester.

    * In Colorado, “charter school” is the term for a stand-alone school funded by the local district with tax dollars. They are exempt from a large number of the restrictions on who can be a teacher (certification in particular). They are public schools in that they get the tax dollars, can’t charge tuition in addition to that, have to do the same standardized tests, and can’t turn kids away except for some very particular reasons.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I would have walked out the door right there.Report

    • I’ve heard and read several stories similar to your teaching friend, both in shortages and being shuttled into situations that are not what they signed up for.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Michael Cain says:

      That’s what I remember the math teachers saying 20 years ago as well. There’s no shortage of math teachers who want to teach stats and calculus. A classroom full of motivated students learning something that’s really new to them is a lot of fun. And there are relatively few sections of calculus and stats to teach at any given school.

      They need people who are qualified to each algebra II, which is advanced enough that most adults have forgotten it so it requires a math specialist, but is also low-end enough that there are a bunch of sections to teach and they’re full of students who don’t want to be there. It’s everybody’s least favorite class–students and teachers.Report

      • I never did pass Alegbra 2 so I’ll raise my hand there, took 1, stats and geometry which the later two I really liked. I can see why a teacher that loves and has a passion for math would get weary of banging their head against the wall of kids that dont want to learn it. I was one of those kids and was a pain for my teachers.Report

        • I find people who struggle with Algebra 2 and Calc (I have taken calc twice in my life and also read books purporting to teach calculus to adults and I still don’t have more than a superficial understanding) do well in stats.

          I like stats. In its simpler forms it’s very practical, though I admit I look at some of the newer Bayesian stuff and go “I really probably should be teaching THAT,” but again, Bayes edges into the calculus-like realm for me.Report

      • True, but it does smell like bait-and-switch to imply that you’ll get to teach upper-division classes to motivated folks, and then get handed classes full of people who are only there because they HAVE to be there.

        I mean, “Stand and Deliver” is a good movie, but it’s just a movie.

        I’ve taught (biology) to upper-division students (specialized classes), to intro-level majors, to intro-level “I only am here because I have to have a science hour to graduate,” and to people from a different major with very different expectations.

        An unmotivated class can kill your enthusiasm for teaching like nothing else. I did my best in those classes but, ngl, there are a lot of days I went home and cried when I was teaching non-majors Gen Bio. And that didn’t even count the day when the woman got all up in my face (I mean, LITERALLY) screaming at me that I had to be an atheist because I was teaching evolution.

        My department, because it’s small, everyone has to cycle through the undesirable classes. There’s no one who gets a pass because they’re a superstar or have lots of grants or anything. It’s more fair, I think, than sticking only the most-junior people with it. (Some people like and ask for the non-majors classes. I dunno, I guess it’s just not in my skill set and my personality seems better suited to incoming majors who want to learn but are scared to death of all the terminology)Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Not only is it a bait & switch, it’s a really bad switch, not only for the non-teacher, but also for the students in those classes, as the non-teacher is not going to have the tools to get such kids motivated to learn, the way that someone who has the training in curriculum & pedagogy will.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    En6: It was not much of an issue for the Navy to launch a plane from a ship, but recovery was a thorny problem until the tailhook and snare cable system was developed.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    En3 – “many are hoping they do for engineering and sciences what little league does for future pro players.”

    Exploit them in a ruinous zero sum competition where only a few will go on to success while sucking the fun out of it for most?Report

    • That’s a pretty dim view of it. I can kind of see that point with some of the extremes and how some folks take it too far, but there is good aspects to youth sports as well, kept in proper perspective. To be fair, some parents are just as awful and hypercompetitve regarding getting there perceived wunderkind into the best schools and such. Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

        To clarify & extend, with a little less zip on the fastball, I think the characterization of Little League Baseball as a feeder into the pro leagues is incorrect. Little League Baseball is fine and fun – as are most youth sports leagues. The type of program that has a pipeline feeder focus (in America) doesn’t usually start till the high schools (but does effect who gets into certain private, usually Catholic prep schools)

        Televising the Little League World Series, and how the associated leagues reconfigure themselves to get to that point, is still somewhat Problematic(tm) though.

        I think if youth leagues *start* to explictly (even if not exclusively) focus on future pro prospects, that would be terribad. And I’m sure some parts of some leagues already do.Report

        • Very fair point. If your selling the pro thing to people with no chance is where you have the issue. The AAU model in basketball comes to mind, for example. Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

          We live next door to a park where several kids’ baseball teams play and practice.

          I see lots of good supportive fun-first coaching, and a bit of truly awful abusive coaching. I’m not sure if those latter are parents or staff / volunteer coaches, but if I once saw my kid treated that way by a coach, there is absolutely no way I’d let that coach ever speak a single word to my child again. Not even an apology – I’d have them write it down so I could review it before delivering it to the child.Report