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Changes in Math and Science Education

Updated on December 26, 2017
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul spent the 1950s living in a suburb of Milwaukee and also on a small dairy farm in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Changes in Math and Science Education

There have been striking changes in math and science education since the 1950s. Elementary and secondary students are learning more and at a faster pace today than when I last attended high school in 1962. This obviously is in response to the great scientific and technological changes which have occurred in our lifetime. From my past experiences as a student in the 1950s and early 1960s, and present experience teaching in grades 1-12 school in Thailand, this article will illustrate how science and math education today is much different from my youth.

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Science and Math Education in the 50s and Early 60s

My observations are based on attending eight years of Catholic grade schools in both rural and city areas, and four years of high school in a small town in the 50s and early 60s. All schools were relatively small, and only 500 students attended my high school. I will first examine my science and math education during eight years of grade school, and then detail my high school education in those subjects.

1. Grade School Math And Science Education

I studied math during all eight years of primary school. During the first two grades, I remember learning my numbers and addition and subtraction skills. By the third grade, I was learning multiplication tables and then moving into the multiplication and division problems. By the end of sixth grade, I had already mastered fractions and decimals. Next, during the seventh grade, percentages, and percentage problems, as well as geometric angles, were introduced. By the time I graduated from the eighth grade, I had been introduced to pre-algebra topics.

Grade school science was a different story. As a matter of fact, I received no instruction in science in the three different Catholic schools I attended. I clearly recall that science was not offered as a subject because it would probably compete with religion, English, and math. No one seemed to object at the time.

2. High School Math And Science

After graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas School, I entered Burlington High School. In this four-year secondary school, math was a required subject for only the ninth grade. Kids who were planning to attend college took an introductory linear algebra course. General math was required for all other students not going on to college. During the tenth grade or sophomore year, students in the college prep track enrolled in plane geometry. During the 11th grade or junior year, college-bound students took one semester of advanced algebra and one semester of trigonometry. Finally, during the last or senior year, some of my classmates and I had another semester of advanced algebra and one semester of solid geometry.

Believe it or not, no science courses were offered during the ninth grade. My first science course began in tenth grade when I studied biology. Biology was a required science subject for all students. During the junior and senior years, chemistry and physics were offered to all college-bound students. If a student wasn't attending college, he or she would take an agriculture, home economics or industrial arts class. No other science courses were available to students.

Science And Math Education Today

For six years I taught at an all-girls' Catholic school in the Bangkok area. The school has around 3,000 students and encompasses grades 1-12. Although I taught primarily English, I did have some experience teaching science and math during my first year at the school. These are my observations of what is being taught in science and math education today in Thailand:

1. Grade School And High School Math

Students are all required to study math during six years of primary school. Similar to my childhood experience, students are busy learning basic arithmetical operations during grades 1-4. Starting in fifth and sixth grades, however, students are introduced to beginning algebra and geometry topics which I never had in grade school math. By seventh grade, students are reviewing all basic arithmetical operations and percentages and then starting to move into linear algebra. They are also learning supplementary math topics such as exponents, doing math in different number base systems, and more geometry topics. By the end of ninth grade, students have already been taught all topics in geometry, trigonometry, and advanced algebra. During the last three years of high school and especially during the last year, students are introduced to advanced math topics including differential and integral calculus which I first learned during my first year of college.

2, Grade And High School Science

Science is a required subject for all students at least through the ninth or tenth grades. Students start learning science in the first grade, and by the third grade, they have been introduced to the process of photosynthesis. I was surprised to find out that by the fifth and sixth grades, students are learning all the basic biology which I didn't learn until the tenth grade. In the seventh and eighth grades, students are being introduced to basic physics principles such as electricity, heat, forces, and light which I didn't study until the 12th grade. During the last three years of high school, students can study advanced biology, chemistry, and physics courses for two years. In general science courses, they are also able to study topics in subjects such as genetics, astronomy, and geology which I never had in high school.

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Higher Mathematics

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Evaluation of Changes in Math and Science Education

Changes in math and science education have had to occur to keep up with scientific and technological changes in the past 60 years. They have also been necessary to prepare students for new jobs in the scientific world.

In many respects, the changes in math and science education are very good. Students have more courses and knowledge available to prepare them for college or technical schools. The institution of AP high school courses in math and science also greatly benefits gifted and talented college-bound students. The teaching of science starting in the first grade is also a welcome change from the absence of science courses in my childhood.

In other respects, I wonder if the quality of math and science education today is better than it was years ago. Are our teachers today the best, as dedicated, and doing all they can to stimulate the development of future scientists? As a final thought, why are the United States and Thailand today lagging behind other countries in science and math education?

Changes in Math and Science Education

How has math and science education changed the most in the past 60 years?

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© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      10 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      George, I am pleased that you found my article interesting. Although I have never really been a math teacher, there probably are too many expectations for teachers today to be specialists in their field. When I briefly taught math in Thailand, however, in 2008, there was no expectation for me to be a specialist. I was learning or reviewing my math to keep one step ahead of my students.

    • verdict profile image

      George Dimitriadis 

      10 months ago from Templestowe

      An interesting article. I went through the education system in the sixties and seventies and I, like you, today am a teacher of mathematics. Do you think there are too many expectations on the teacher today to become specialists in their field to keep up with what students pick up on their own from other sources such as the internet?

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you very much for your great insightful comments. There is certainly more knowledge to impart and learn which brings more vocational choices as you mentioned. It's a shame that education is now viewed more as a business than a needed service. I see this situation in Thailand today as it is in your country. I greatly appreciate your votes and sharing of this hub!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting read, Paul. With advancement in technology and science, there are more vocational choices than we had in the 60's. Though, at the same time, I feel the quality of education has gone down both in terms of dedication of teachers and the schools/colleges to impart education. Education today is viewed more as a business proposition than a noble service at least in my country.

      Voted up, interesting, shared and pinned.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Torrilynn,

      Thank you once again for commenting on my hub. I can't believe how rapidly science has developed during my lifetime. Kids are really fortunate to have all of this information available to them today. I appreciate your votes.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 

      5 years ago

      I believe that subjects have changed greatly and that they continue to change. I remember asking my dad about algebra when I was in middle school and he didn't even know what I was talking about. thanks for this hub. very valuable. Voted up.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for reading this hub and I appreciate your comment. I do agree that a lot of science is taught as disconnected facts especially at my school.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 

      6 years ago from California

      I definitely think it's good that schools are teaching science in elementary school. One problem though is that science is often taught as a lot of disconnnected facts. Kids might learn about volcanoes one day and how seeds grow the next. A better approach might be to spend a year on biology, a year on geology, etc., so kids can really build mastery.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      SuffolkJason,

      Thanks for reading and your good comment. I appreciate it.

    • SuffolkJason profile image

      SuffolkJason 

      6 years ago from Ipswich, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom

      Very interesting and thorough article.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      jbern,

      Thank you very much for reading and your great comments. I had a lot of trouble with college calculus, especially the theories about limits, because we didn't learn much theory in high school. It was all about trying to solve problems with not really knowing what or why you were doing some operation.

    • Jbern117 profile image

      Jbern117 

      6 years ago from Dunmore, PA

      My small public high school was a bit behind on things; and it certainly was not preparing students well enough not to struggle when attending college, nevermind to compete in today's global economy.

      My first science class was in third grade, and as a High honors student, had one year of calculus (the highest math offered at my school) which barely introduced integration. I know many people who, after doing extremely well in high school floundered in college simply because they had no foundation in simple mathematics.

      Great Hub, voted up and interesting!!

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      phdast,

      Thank you very much for reading and your excellent comments. I also appreciate you sharing some of my other hubs.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Brooke,

      Thank you for reading the hub and your comments. Perhaps my hub was a little misleading. Not all Thai kids take integral calculus in their senior year. Only a few will enroll in it during 12th grade.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting. I wonder if average American schools come anywhere close to being as rigorous as a Catholic Schools in Thailand. They probably don't, which is a sad fact, and that needs to change so that our children are prepared for the changing economy and world. Thanks for a great hub.

    • Brooke Lorren profile image

      Brooke Lorren 

      6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      I'm not sure if your experience in Thailand is typical. I don't think that most American kids today take integral calculus. They do take science from grade 1 though.

      While my daughter started division in 3rd grade (we homeschool), some of her friends didn't start learning division until 4th.

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