WBEZ | STEM http://www.wbez.org/tags/stem Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Could a nail art printer be girls' gateway to the tech world? http://www.wbez.org/news/science/could-nail-art-printer-be-girls-gateway-tech-world-113728 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/5031941016_3c15375f92_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res454057286" previewtitle="The co-founder of Preemadonna, maker of the Nailbot, hopes the nail-art printing device will help attract girls to tech."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="The co-founder of Preemadonna, maker of the Nailbot, hopes the nail-art printing device will help attract girls to tech." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/02/nailbot_product_1_wide-2a6de315d988123f2ab3e665fb87e9648889319c-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="The co-founder of Preemadonna, maker of the Nailbot, hopes the nail-art printing device will help attract girls to tech. (Courtesy of Preemadonna)" /></div><div><div><p>With all the talk about getting more women in technology, I&#39;m always looking for female-run companies. Recently, I got an email from Preemadonna, which bills itself as a San Francisco-based company that focuses on using technology to provide lifestyle products for women and girls.</p></div></div></div><p>That sounded good. Then, I looked at the product.</p><p>It&#39;s called the Nailbot. And its premise is to&nbsp;<a href="http://techcrunch.com/2015/09/22/preemadonna-turns-your-smartphone-into-a-nail-salon/">instantly print art</a>&nbsp;onto your fingernails using your smartphone.</p><p>Is this the cutting edge of women-centered technological innovation?</p><p>I asked CEO and Co-founder&nbsp;<a href="http://www.preemadonna.com/inventors" target="_blank">Pree Walia</a>, and the way she laid it out, it was like the Nailbot was a gateway drug for girls to the world of technology:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.preemadonna.com/home">Preemadonna</a>&nbsp;is trying to meet many young girls in a place where they can express themselves and have fun.</p><p>&quot;It is a beauty tool, but for young girls it&#39;s a learning tool,&quot; Walia says.</p><p>Walia says when they see the Nailbot, which will sell for about $199, both girls and boys want to know more about the technology behind it. And Preemadonna is pitching it as both a beauty device and a sort of arts and crafts tool.</p><div id="con454914957" previewtitle="Related"><div id="res454914941">&quot;Girls can design their own Nailbot art,&quot; Walia says. &quot;It&#39;s really a mobile platform for art with uses well beyond fingernails.&quot;</div></div><p>Nail art may actually be a smart place to start from a business perspective. According to Mintel, which does research on the &quot;beauty market,&quot; 92 percent of girls between 9 and 17 years old use some kind of nail product, making nails the most popular cosmetic item among teen girls.</p><p>The two women who founded Preemadonna came at it with credentials in both business and tech. Walia has an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and spent several years working in startups that focused on LED lighting and building automation. Co-founder Casey Schulz has degrees in mechanical engineering and has worked at NASA Ames and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.</p><p>Still, there&#39;s a part of me that wants women in the startup world to focus on something heavier &mdash; a new method for detecting breast cancer, a better way to report assaults. But maybe this is as good a start as any. After all, a lot of boys get drawn to technology by playing shoot &#39;em up video games, and Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook on top of a site he had originally set up to rate who was hot and who was not on the Harvard campus.</p><p>Preemadonna has raised $400,000 from investors, according to Walia. And the first investment came from college pal Diane Donald, wife of golf champion Luke Donald.</p><p>The CEO says a lot of male venture capitalists have looked at her and said, &quot;Is this just a fad, Pree?&quot; It might be, but so are numerous startup ideas pitched by men. And maybe there&#39;s a chance that this one gets a few more young girls interested in tech.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t go around in a hoodie,&quot; Walia says. &quot;I have a dress and I have high heels and I own it.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/11/08/453290268/could-a-nail-art-printer-be-girls-gateway-to-the-tech-world?ft=nprml&amp;f=453290268" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 10 Nov 2015 13:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/could-nail-art-printer-be-girls-gateway-tech-world-113728 More universities are adding drone programs http://www.wbez.org/news/more-universities-are-adding-drone-programs-113751 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/16645905601_b866e073ac_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="attachment_95672"><img alt="The Autonomous Flight Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington. (Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2015/11/1106_drones-lab-624x414.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="The Autonomous Flight Systems Laboratory at the University of Washington. (Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)" /><p>If you want to go to college to learn how to design, build, fly or fix a drone, your time has come.</p><p>Colleges and universities around the country are recognizing that unmanned aircraft could become a key technology of the future.</p></div><p>But the murky and evolving regulations for flying drones present hurdles to getting hands-on piloting experience.</p><p>From the&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/11/09/university-drone-programs" target="_blank"><em>Here &amp; Now</em></a>&nbsp;Contributors Network,&nbsp;Tom Banse&nbsp;of Northwest News Network reports.</p></p> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 12:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-universities-are-adding-drone-programs-113751 Clock-making Texas teen visits White House for Astronomy Night http://www.wbez.org/news/clock-making-texas-teen-visits-white-house-astronomy-night-113420 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/President Barack Obama talks with Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed during the White House&#039;s Astronomy Night event on the South Lawn Monday night..jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res450217853" previewtitle="President Barack Obama talks with Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed during the White House's Astronomy Night event on the South Lawn Monday night."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="President Barack Obama talks with Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed during the White House's Astronomy Night event on the South Lawn Monday night." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/20/gettyimages-493368252_wide-312fa87492caa6ade9a0e417e6127b145c8bcbf3-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="President Barack Obama talks with Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed during the White House's Astronomy Night event on the South Lawn Monday night. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas student who was arrested and suspended from high school for bringing a homemade clock to class, attended a science event at the White House Monday night.</p></div></div></div><p>After the teenager attracted the suspicions of teachers and police with his clock, he received thousands of messages of support on social media &ndash; including one from President Obama,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/09/16/440890750/obama-invites-texas-teen-to-white-house-after-bomb-hoax-incident">who tweeted</a>, &quot;Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science.&quot;</p><p>Called Astronomy Night, last night&#39;s event was held on the South Lawn, where Mohamed, 14, joined several hundred people, including teachers, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and scientist Bill Nye, in discussing efforts to explore space, as well as careers in science and technology.</p><div id="res450217242"><div style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/myf_VYrnTAk?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>After delivering a speech, the president shook hands with some of those in attendance and spoke briefly with Mohamed. The teenager, who embarked on a wide-ranging tour after his arrest made him famous, did not bring his clock along.</p><p>Before the astronomy event, Mohamed&nbsp;<a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/6da9a6a4679746e68b9afa9ba42acff0/texas-clock-kid-goes-arrest-white-house-visit">the AP reports</a>, the teenager said his story should teach people a lesson: &quot;Don&#39;t judge a person by the way they look. Always judge them by their heart.&quot;</p><p>At the event, Obama viewed the moon through a telescope, guided by Agatha Sofia &quot;Sofy&quot; Alvarez-Bareiro, a high school senior from Brooklyn, New York.</p><p>Calling her to the stage, the president said, &quot;We need you to come up here and help me with this telescope, because I don&#39;t know what I&#39;m doing.&quot;</p><p>Obama also said that NASA is working toward a mission &quot;to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.&quot;</p><p>He added, &quot;That means some of the young people who are here tonight might be working on that project. Some of you might be on your way to Mars.&quot;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/20/450208945/clock-making-texas-teen-visits-white-house-for-astronomy-night?ft=nprml&amp;f=450208945" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 09:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/clock-making-texas-teen-visits-white-house-astronomy-night-113420 Lewis University gets grant to train science, math teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/lewis-university-gets-grant-train-science-math-teachers-113050 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/640px-School-education-learning-1750587-h.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>ROMEOVILLE, Ill. &mdash; The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.4 million to<a href="http://www.lewisu.edu" target="_blank"> Lewis University</a> for a program designed to help recruit and prepare future math and science teachers. The program&#39;s intent is to increase the amount of those teachers for schools in need of them.</p><div><p>The program at the Roman Catholic university outside&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;will fund 36 scholarships over five years and recruit undergraduate majors in biology, chemistry, math and physics. Those registered in the program will prepare to become sixth through 12th-grade math or science teachers.</p><p>Dorene Huvaere is the Lewis University professor who led the team that applied for the grant.</p><p>Huvaere said science, technology, engineering and mathematics are becoming more important in education. She said there is a need for teachers in those fields as the pace of technological development picks up.</p><div>&mdash;<em> The Associated Press</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 09:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lewis-university-gets-grant-train-science-math-teachers-113050 #IStandWithAhmed resonates from White House to Silicon Valley http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-09-18/istandwithahmed-resonates-white-house-silicon-valley-112991 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/0918_ahmed-624x416.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Everyone from President Barack Obama to Facebook&rsquo;s Mark Zuckerberg has reached out in support to the 14-year-old Muslim boy Ahmed Mohamed who was handcuffed and escorted from his Irving, Texas, school after he brought a clock that he had made at home.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It&#39;s what makes America great.</p>&mdash; President Obama (@POTUS) <a href="https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/644193755814342656">September 16, 2015</a></blockquote><p>The event has spread across social media via the hashtag&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IStandWithAhmed" target="_blank">#IStandWithAhmed</a>. We look at some of the reaction to the story with Slate&rsquo;s editor-in-chief Julia Turner.</p><p>Here &amp; Now&lsquo;s&nbsp;Meghna Chakrabarti spoke with Slate&rsquo;s editor-in-chief&nbsp;Julia Turner&nbsp;on the reaction to the story.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/09/18/istandwithahmed" target="_blank"><em>Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-09-18/istandwithahmed-resonates-white-house-silicon-valley-112991 Pi Day makes math delicious http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/pi-day-makes-math-delicious-111699 <p><p>Every circle, no matter if it&rsquo;s a pea or a planet, has the same circumference-diameter ratio. That ratio is pi.</p><p>It&rsquo;s also a number. One that&rsquo;s not easy to quantify. Its digits go on and on and on&mdash;forever.</p><p>Pi has some interesting real-world applications: sound waves, global navigation, even rainbows have connections to pi.</p><p>Most people say pi equals about 3.14.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Pi Day is celebrated by math geeks around the world on the March 14.</p><p>This year is especially exciting because it&rsquo;s Pi Day to the fourth decimal point: 3.1415.&nbsp;</p><p>That won&rsquo;t happen again for a hundred years.</p><p>In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives jumped onto the math party wagon and issued <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-111hres224eh/pdf/BILLS-111hres224eh.pdf">House Resolution 224</a>, designating March 14 as Pi Day.</p><p>Amid a dozen whereases was concern that American students were lagging behind in math and science compared to kids in other countries.</p><p>Lots of math teachers didn&rsquo;t need a House resolution to get their kids excited about math. That&rsquo;s true for Mara Lewis, who teaches 7th grade math at Catalyst Maria charter school in Chicago.</p><p>She remembers celebrating Pi Day when she was a kid.</p><p>&ldquo;I specifically remember we used to have this contest of who could find these hidden shirts that had pi, 3.14, all over it,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And I still have a shirt that I won because I found it. So I&rsquo;ve been talking to them about this before I introduced what pi was to them.&rdquo;</p><p>Sofia Salazar, one of Lewis&rsquo; students, is catching on.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s interesting because it&rsquo;s one whole number with so many digits behind it,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And you can use it for so many different things.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked what she already knows about pi, she offers a nuanced answer:</p><p>&ldquo;Well, it depends which one you&rsquo;re talking about. But pi would be 3.14 or the delicious dessert, which is my favorite.&rdquo;</p><p>There&rsquo;s no real connection between mathematical pi and food pie, and math teachers aren&rsquo;t the only ones buying into the fun.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/150313%20pie.jpg" title="Employees at Hoosier Mama pie shop in Evanston prepare for this year’s Epic Pi Day. (WBEZ/Greta Johnsen)" /></div><p>Paula Haney runs Hoosier Mama pie shop.</p><p>&ldquo;Pi Day is probably third after Christmas and Thanksgiving,&quot; Haney said. &quot;It&rsquo;d be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Pi Day.&rdquo;</p><p>As she slices and squeezes tiny key limes, she says she and her husband opened their first pie shop on March 14, 2009, the first unofficial official Pi Day.</p><p>Since then, they&rsquo;ve learned just what a big deal Pi Day is. Last year, their shop in Evanston exceeded expectations.</p><p>&ldquo;Rachel, who was managing the front that day, was on a step stool yelling out what pies we had and what pies we didn&rsquo;t,&rdquo; Haney said. &ldquo;We couldn&rsquo;t keep the menu board written fast enough.&rdquo;</p><p>Haney says on a typical Saturday, she makes about 170 pies. This year, she&rsquo;s prepping for more than 400.</p><p>All the attention may be igniting enthusiasm among students, but so far, Pi Day hasn&rsquo;t done much to change how American kids rank in math compared to the rest of the world. But teacher Mara Lewis thinks it&rsquo;s fun to keep trying.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a nice way to make math relevant and see, you know, 3.14, we use numbers in everyday life, March 14th. It could definitely be incorporated into standardized testing and also used as a break from it&hellip;the kids are very excited about it, so it&rsquo;s exciting for me as a teacher.&rdquo;</p><p>And after all, Pi Day is really about making math as delicious as possible.</p></p> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 14:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/pi-day-makes-math-delicious-111699 The man behind Common Core math http://www.wbez.org/news/man-behind-common-core-math-111304 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/06-jasonzimba_schaer-056-edit_slide-5e038b09161c4f9e2ebd6b3111e3c7aaa250cb4e-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.</p><p>If she gets the answer &quot;lickety-split,&quot; as her dad says, she can check them off. If she doesn&#39;t, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.</p><p>&quot;I would be sleeping in if I weren&#39;t frustrated,&quot; Zimba says of his Saturday morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail&#39;s public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar &mdash; even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.</p><p>But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He&#39;s one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.</p><p>And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughters&#39; school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.</p><p>Zimba and the other writers of the Common Core knew the transition would be tough, but they never imagined conflicts over bad homework would fuel political battles and threaten the very existence of their dream to remodel American education.</p><p>When Zimba was first hired to help write a new set of K-12 math standards in 2009, the groups behind the Common Core &mdash; including representatives from 48 states &mdash; set very ambitious goals. The tough new guidelines would match the expectations set for students in higher-performing rivals like Singapore and South Korea. The standards would not only catapult American students ahead of other developed nations, but would also help close the gaps between low-income students in the U.S. and their wealthier counterparts.</p><p>The Common Core would drive publishers and test makers to create better curricula and better tests, and push school districts and teachers to aim for excellence, not just basic proficiency, for their students. And the guidelines would arm every principal, teacher and parent with the knowledge of exactly what it takes to get into college and succeed.</p><p>The champions of the Common Core &ndash; including organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers &ndash; expected the task to be difficult. Overhauling textbooks would take a lot of time, and training teachers would take even more. But the bipartisan groundswell of opposition to the standards took them by surprise.</p><p>&quot;The creation of the standards is enshrouded in mystery for people,&quot; Zimba says. &quot;I wish people understood what a massive process it was, and how many people were involved. It was a lot of work.&quot;</p><p>As much as supporters emphasize the democratic origin of the standards and count out the dozens of experts and teachers who were consulted, the Common Core math standards were ultimately crafted by three guys whose only goal was to improve the way mathematics is taught. That, some experts argue, is what makes the Common Core better than the standards they&#39;ve replaced.</p><p>&quot;It was a design project, not a political project,&quot; says Phil Daro, a former high school algebra teacher who was on the three-man writing team with Zimba and William McCallum, head of the math department at the University of Arizona. &quot;It was not our job to do the politics while we were writing.&quot;</p><p>But the backlash was perhaps inevitable.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">The Inner Circle</span></p><p>On the surface, Zimba, 45, seemed an odd choice for a major national project like Common Core. McCallum and Daro were well known and admired in the world of math and education. McCallum is a prominent mathematician who has authored algebra and calculus textbooks and helped write Arizona&#39;s K-12 math standards. In 2009, Daro was a senior fellow at a for-profit curriculum and teacher-training company, America&#39;s Choice. He played a prominent role in rewriting California&#39;s highly regarded math standards.</p><p>In contrast, Zimba was an obscure physics professor at Bennington, an elite liberal arts college in Vermont. He wrote <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fjzimba.blogspot.com%2f">a quirky math and parenting blog</a> with posts about complex physics problems, his kids, and the occasional political issue, including a 2011 post titled, &quot;Numbers Don&#39;t Lie (but Michele Bachmann Does).&quot;</p><p>He grew up as an outsider. Raised in a working-class household in suburban Detroit, he was the first in his family to go to college. He chose Williams College in Massachusetts. Academically, the school was a good fit. Financially, it was more of a challenge. His friend, Eric Mabery, said the two got to know each other because they were the only poor people on campus. &quot;He was the only person who had several jobs,&quot; said Mabery, now a biologist at a San Francisco startup. &quot;He was the only other person who couldn&#39;t fly home. We had to take the bus.&quot;</p><p>But from Williams, Zimba&#39;s career took off. He was chosen for a Rhodes scholarship to England&#39;s Oxford University in 1991. At Oxford, he befriended <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.theatlantic.com%2fmagazine%2farchive%2f2012%2f10%2fthe-schoolmaster%2f309091%2f">a Yale student from Manhattan</a>, David Coleman. Coleman went on to become a consultant for McKinsey, the global consulting firm. Zimba returned to Detroit to do stints of factory work to help support his family, but eventually he headed to the prestigious math department at the University of California Berkeley for a PhD in mathematical physics. In 1999 reconnected with Coleman, who had an idea for starting an education business.</p><p>At first, they considered going into educational video games, but scrapped the idea in favor of an even bigger educational trend: standardized testing. The No Child Left Behind Act was still around the corner, but a growing education reform movement, which insisted that holding schools more accountable for student test scores would increase performance, had already pushed many states to expand standardized testing.</p><p>Coleman and Zimba&#39;s business, the Grow Network, found a niche in the burgeoning field of testing by producing reports that helped schools, teachers, parents and even students themselves interpret results from the new exams. &quot;To design a successful assessment report, you need to be thoughtful about what the teacher really needs, what the student really needs,&quot; Coleman says.</p><p>Thanks to Zimba, Coleman added, they were. Zimba had a genius for creating reports that were mathematically precise but also humanely phrased, Coleman says. Grow Network was hired by states like California and districts like New York City, and was eventually bought out by the educational publishing giant, McGraw-Hill, for an undisclosed price.</p><p>Zimba and Coleman went their separate ways. Coleman stayed on a bit longer with the company under McGraw-Hill. After a brief stint at a liberal arts college in Iowa, Zimba landed at Bennington, where Coleman&#39;s mother was president. Zimba and Coleman stayed in touch, often discussing a problem that had bothered them during their years studying standardized tests.</p><p>&quot;We looked at a lot of standards,&quot; Zimba says. &quot;Previous standards ranged from terrible to not good enough. The best of them were little more than test blueprints. They were not a blueprint for learning math.&quot;</p><p>Every state had its own standards, which varied widely in their expectations for students. For instance, some states required students to memorize the times tables, but about a third of states didn&#39;t, according to Zimba.</p><p>But what most worried Coleman and Zimba &mdash; and many education experts &mdash; was the sheer number of standards in most states. The common critique was that most American grade-level guidelines were &quot;a mile wide and an inch deep,&quot; in stark contrast to the fewer but more intense expectations in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore.</p><p>In 2007, Coleman and Zimba wrote a paper for the Carnegie Corporation, a foundation with interests in education (and one of the many funders of both The Hechinger Report and NPR). &quot;We were just trying to think about what could really matter in education,&quot; Coleman says. &quot;What could actually help? One idea we thought is that standards could be really focused and better. At Grow we&#39;d spent so much time with the endless vast and vague standards.&quot;</p><p>The paper got the attention of several groups that had latched onto a similar idea, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, one of the original leaders in the Reagan-era standards movement. A couple of years later, when the two organizations joined forces to draft a set of &quot;fewer, clearer, higher&quot; standards, Coleman and Zimba were picked to help lead the effort.</p><p>The CCSSO contracted with a new organization Zimba and Coleman founded, Student Achievement Partners. They declined to disclose the amount of the contract or the total spent on the development of the Common Core, but said funding was provided by the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation (another supporter of NPR), Carnegie and other foundations, as well as state membership dues from CCSSO and the NGA.</p><p>&quot;We were looking for a skill set that was fairly unique,&quot; says Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. &quot;We needed individuals that would know the mathematics &mdash; Jason and the other writers obviously know the mathematics &mdash; but would also be able to work with the states, and a bunch of teachers who would be involved.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Writing the Common Core</span></p><p>In September 2009, Zimba started writing the Common Core math standards. Although his second daughter was due the same month, the standards were all-consuming. Zimba recalled getting a text in the delivery room from one of his co-writers telling him to stop responding to emails about the project: &quot;It&#39;s time to be a dad now.&quot;</p><p>That fall, though, finishing the Common Core math standards came first. He was still on the faculty at Bennington, although on leave for part of the time, so the standards were mostly written at night, in &quot;the barn,&quot; an old garage on his property that he had transformed into a study.</p><p>&quot;It was hard on us as a family,&quot; he says. &quot;I gave an awful lot.&quot; In October, his mother, who had worked most of her life as waitress, passed away. Zimba kept working.</p><p>They started with <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fcommoncoretools.me%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2014%2f08%2fccrs-math-sept-2009.pdf">a blueprint</a> that laid out what students should know by the end of high school. It was written by Achieve, a nonprofit that advocates for better standards and tests, and by the testing groups College Board and ACT. Then they began consulting the research on math education and enlisting the ideas of experts in various fields of mathematics. During the course of the next year, they consulted with state officials, mathematicians and teachers, including a union group. Draft after draft was passed back and forth over email.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;d be up to 3 in the morning,&quot; says McCallum. &quot;Jason would be up till 5 in the morning.&quot;</p><p>The final drafts of the standards were released to the public in June 2010. By the following year, thanks in part to financial incentives dangled by the Obama administration, more than 40 states had adopted them. Zimba quit his job at Bennington to work full time at Student Achievement Partners to promote the standards.</p><p>The backlash didn&#39;t really begin until 2013 in states like New York, where new Common Core-aligned tests had sent scores plummeting, and Indiana, where conservatives were leery of the Obama administration&#39;s support of the standards. It hit<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/05/27/307755798/the-common-core-faq"> the mainstream in early 2014</a>, when a dad in North Carolina posted a convoluted &quot;Common Core&quot; question from his son&#39;s second-grade math quiz on Facebook, along with a letter he&#39;d written to the teacher. &quot;I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering which included extensive study in differential equations and other high-math applications,&quot; he wrote. &quot;Even I cannot explain the Common Core mathematics approach, nor get the answer correct.&quot;</p><p>Glenn Beck and other conservative pundits picked up the post, and it went viral. A couple of months later, the comedian Louis C.K. complained about his daughter&#39;s Common Core math homework on Twitter, and late-night comedians like Stephen Colbert began mocking the standards, too. Critics called the standards too convoluted, too abstract and too conceptual because of the focus on getting students to explain and discuss their answers.</p><p>By the summer of 2014, Indiana and Oklahoma had pulled out of the Common Core, other states had passed legislation to replace the standards in the coming years, and still others are threatening to do the same this year. Supporters of the standards, including teachers unions and the Gates Foundation, are now trying to salvage Common Core by calling on states to hold off on the stakes associated with new Common Core tests, including new teacher evaluations in many states based on student scores.</p><p>The backlash has both annoyed and baffled the writers. &quot;When I see some of those problems posted on Facebook, I think I would have been mad, too,&quot; McCallum says. Daro tells a story about his grandson, who brought home a math worksheet labeled &quot;Common Core,&quot; with a copyright date of 1999.</p><p>They argue there&#39;s actually very little fuzziness to the math in the Common Core. Students have to memorize their times tables by third grade and be able to do the kind of meat-and-potatoes problems Zimba asks of his daughter during their Saturday tutoring sessions, requirements he believes the so-called Common Core curriculum at her school essentially ignored.</p><p>Hung-Hsi Wu, a mathematics professor at Berkeley and one of the expert advisors in the Common Core process, blames the Common Core&#39;s problems on bad &ndash; and ubiquitous &ndash; textbooks that the publishing industry is reluctant to change. &quot;Publishers don&#39;t want to bother with writing anything because they&#39;ve gone through too many sets of standards,&quot; he says.</p><p>And that is the irony of the debate over the standards, and what may be their undoing. As powerful and influential in reshaping American classrooms as the standards could be, they don&#39;t include lesson plans, or teaching methods, or alternative strategies for when students don&#39;t get it.</p><p>Even as Zimba and his colleagues defend the standards against cries of federal overreach, they are helpless when it comes to making sure textbook publishers, test makers, superintendents, principals and teachers interpret the standards in ways that will actually improve American public education, not make it worse.</p><p>Like McCallum, Zimba agrees with the North Carolina dad that the question on his son&#39;s Common Core-labeled math quiz was terrible. But, as long as Americans hold to the conviction that most of what happens in schools should be kept under the control of states and local communities, the quality of the curriculum is out of his hands. &quot;Like it or not, the standards allow a lot of freedom,&quot; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">To triumph or die</span></p><p>Zimba gave up an academic career in which he had the freedom to wonder about abstract physics problems in the peace and quiet of his Vermont barn. But, he says, &quot;I&#39;m now participating in a much more urgent problem.&quot;</p><p>That problem is how to elevate the academic achievement of American students, especially the most disadvantaged, so the country can maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy. These days, Zimba and his colleagues acknowledge better standards aren&#39;t enough.</p><p>&quot;I used to think if you got the assessments right, it would virtually be enough,&quot; he says. &quot;In the No Child Left Behind world, everything follows from the test.&quot;</p><p>Now, he says, &quot;I think it&#39;s curriculum.&quot;</p><p>This year, Zimba convinced his daughter&#39;s school to try out a new curriculum that&#39;s better aligned to the standards he wrote. He is also devoting his time at his nonprofit, Student Achievement Partners, to create checklists other schools can use to find good textbooks that match the Common Core. The group has published training materials, including videos in which teachers demonstrate Common Core lessons.</p><p>On a recent rainy afternoon in Manhattan, the organization gathered in a conference room to hash out ideas for an online tool, funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (also among the many funders of The Hechinger Report), that could help teachers better understand the standards.</p><p>One idea for this tool was a &quot;swipe-y&quot; app that teachers could use to figure out whether students grasped a standard or not &mdash; something that would function much like Tinder, the matchmaking site. In the end, the group was most enthusiastic about a more low-tech option: a hotline that teachers and parents could call to find out if the Common Core-labeled math problems they found in their textbooks and homework were good or bad.</p><p>Daro and McCallum are leading their own efforts. McCallum founded a nonprofit called Illustrative Mathematics that produces sample tasks linked to the Common Core, trains teachers and produces curriculum blueprints. And Daro is actually writing an entire Common Core math curriculum for use on tablets, to be put out next year by educational publisher Pearson.</p><p>But it&#39;s unclear if their efforts, and similar ones by like-minded nonprofits and funders like the Gates Foundation, will trickle down to the millions of classroom teachers attempting to adapt to the new standards. Or if the bad curricula still circulating, coupled with the nation&#39;s fractured politics, will do them in.</p><p>For his part, Zimba is optimistic. &quot;The influence of the tests on the curriculum, it&#39;s negative,&quot; he says. &quot;They&#39;ve been a pale imitation of mathematics. I&#39;ve talked to teachers who say teaching these standards, &#39;I feel like a teacher again.&#39; That&#39;s not going to be easy to take away. Once you taste that, that&#39;s powerful.&quot;</p><p><em>&mdash;</em><em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/29/371918272/the-man-behind-common-core-math" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p><p><em>This story was produced by <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=file%3a%2f%2f%2fC%3a%5cUsers%5carthurlaura%5cDownloads%5chechingerreport.org">The Hechinger Report</a>, a nonprofit, independent news service focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about <a href="https://mail.npr.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZIfOsoR2YkiZlzpXShLoC6PnYW8O6NEIYqwh-9_jOYIWyXZlUh08FQE%E2%80%9443Ft-MMlvZCmlbbELE.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fhechingerreport.org%2fcategory%2fspecial_reports%2fcommon_core%2f">Common Core</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 17:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/man-behind-common-core-math-111304 Museum helps build better science teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/museum-helps-build-better-science-teachers-109924 <p><p>In a science classroom across from the coal mine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, the students are sitting at high lab tables, studying Petri dishes full of bacteria.</p><p>At the front of the room, the teacher explains the lesson&rsquo;s objectives&mdash;compare animal and bacterial cells, review pathological and non-pathological bacteria. But there is a broader goal here, one the Museum of Science and Industry wants to help achieve: improve science teaching in Chicago and its suburbs.</p><p>The students here are all teachers, all responsible for imparting science to upper-elementary or middle-school students. It&rsquo;s a job that many in this class&mdash;and many teachers in many grammar schools--feel decidedly unprepared for.</p><p>&ldquo;Definitely, that&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m here,&rdquo; says Chicago Public Schools teacher Joel Spears. &ldquo;I teach 5th grade, and it&rsquo;s self-contained, so I teach all the subjects&mdash;math, science, language arts, social science. I went in not knowing how to teach science, really. I didn&rsquo;t have the materials or the know-how to even teach it properly.&rdquo;</p><p>Once a month. Spears and dozens other teachers enrolled in this professional development course come to the museum for a day of lessons, curricula, and materials they can then take back to their classrooms across the Chicago metro region. Since the teacher training courses were first offered in 2006, 804 teachers from 320 schools have participated. About two-thirds of teachers are from Chicago public schools.</p><p>Many of the teachers say they&rsquo;re trying to tap into the natural enthusiasm kids have for science&mdash;when it&rsquo;s taught right.</p><p>&ldquo;We did some previous lessons that I learned here, and they love it. They always want to do science,&rdquo; says Spears. &ldquo;&rsquo;Cause it&rsquo;s hands on&mdash;they&rsquo;re not just reading. They&rsquo;re constructing, they&rsquo;re doing.&rdquo;</p><p>On a recent morning, the Museum of Science and Industry instructor runs a lesson exactly as if she&#39;s teaching middle schoolers. The teachers put themselves in their students&rsquo; shoes. They work activities, make Venn diagrams, and then get to the fun part: an experiment with black light and Glo Germ that exposed bacteria still present on their hands, even after washing.</p><p>Near the back of the class, teacher Jonathan Fisher looks at a cell diagram before him and admits this is the first time he has seen flagella since high school. The philosophy major avoided the life sciences in college. Now&mdash;ironically, he says&mdash;he&rsquo;s teaching the subject to fourth graders. He says he can implement certain techniques and lessons almost as soon as he learns them. Others, like a genetics lesson his students loved, take more planning.</p><p>&ldquo;We had an experiment where the students used Styrofoam blocks and different body parts&mdash;so limbs and dowel rods and different-sized eyes,&rdquo; says Fisher, who teaches at Murphy Elementary on the Northwest Side. &ldquo;That was a hands-on way for them to understand how genetics are passed down from one generation to the next. And the classroom couldn&rsquo;t have been more excited, flipping the coins to figure out which genes would be passed on to their kids.&nbsp; (The lesson) took something very abstract like genes and genetics and turned it into something the students could relate to.&rdquo;</p><p>Fisher is one of eight teachers from Murphy who&rsquo;ve been involved in the museum&rsquo;s teacher courses. He said his school is serious about becoming better at teaching science, but he also says it&rsquo;s not hard to figure out what the priorities are in education right now. &ldquo;If it&rsquo;s not reading or math, then it&rsquo;s not an emphasis. Learning to be a teacher, all the other subjects could be cool, but if it&rsquo;s not reading or math, that won&rsquo;t be a focus.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The role of museums in science education</strong></p><p>There&rsquo;s been a big push lately to improve the teaching of science in American schools, with more focus on STEM education&mdash; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Andrea Ingram, the Museum of Science and Industry&rsquo;s vice president of education and guest services, says museums can play a role in that.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the challenges in the U.S. in getting kids engaged in science is that we don&rsquo;t have enough really high-quality science teachers in the middle grades&mdash;and that&rsquo;s kind of like the early childhood of science,&rdquo; says Ingram. &ldquo;We either capture kids&rsquo; enthusiasm there, get them committed to science&mdash;or we don&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Ingram says museums across the nation are important partners in improving science instruction, especially given tight school budgets. They are popular with philanthropic, business and civic leaders. They can fill specific needs that may vary community by community. And where else can you find tornados, lightning, and real cow eyeballs to dissect?</p><p>Programs like the teacher training courses at the Museum of Science and Industry build important bridges between schools and museums, says Nathan Richie, who chairs the education committee of the American Alliance of Museums: &ldquo;Museums can use the resources at their disposal&mdash;be it the location that they have, the content, the artifacts, the experts&mdash;and help train the practitioners in the classroom to use those to engage students.&rdquo;</p><p>Richie says the role museums are playing in science education has increased with a new national emphasis on STEM education. Ironically, in an age of shrinking budgets and more dictates over how much time students must be in the classroom, Richie says schools take fewer field trips. This is a way of getting the museum into schools.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="487" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3538web.jpg" title="Teacher Graciela Olmos helps students with a hands-on lesson she learned through the Museum of Science and Industry's courses for teachers. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" width="650" /></div><p><strong>Marbles and mechanical energy</strong></p><p>In Graciela Olmos&rsquo; eighth grade classroom at Sawyer Elementary on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side, kids are rolling marbles down incline planes, measuring how far the marbles push a little Styrofoam cup. Olmos first saw this lesson about mechanical energy at the museum.</p><p>Olmos says she&rsquo;s used to being told to teach to higher standards. The museum has shown her<em> how</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;They model for us. This is how it&rsquo;s going to look. And that&rsquo;s something we lack.&rdquo;</p><p>Though she won&rsquo;t say that&rsquo;s the only thing she lacks. &ldquo;We need so many things,&quot; Olmos says. &quot;We need to have science labs with gas lines and sinks. If my specialty is science, then let it be science. Don&rsquo;t give me so many other things to do aside of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Science education professor Joanne Olson says getting dedicated, well-trained science teahcers has been &ldquo;a perpetual challenge for us in science education, particularly at the elementary grades.&rdquo;</p><p>Olson, who is also president of the Association for Science Teacher Education, says she&rsquo;s been advocating for years for schools to have science specialists.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like the PE teacher,&rdquo; says Olson. &ldquo;You have one teacher who&rsquo;s dedicated to that particular subject area, and that way the teacher can be very well prepared in that area and doesn&rsquo;t have to take on literacy instruction, math, in these other areas.&quot;</p><p>Olson says research shows that 65 percent of elementary teachers have gotten fewer than six total hours of science training in the last three years. &ldquo;And we know that teachers need about 100 hours,&rdquo; she says. &quot;So we&rsquo;re far under. Anything that can be done to help is a good thing.&rdquo;</p><p>A study of the Museum of Science and Industry&rsquo;s teacher training program is being released today by well-known science curriculum expert William Schmidt, of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.<br /><br />It finds the teachers trained by the museum know more science&mdash;and, significantly, so do their students.</p><p>The Museum is marking the news of its success with an announcement&mdash;it&rsquo;s committing to train 1,000 middle-grade teachers in science over the next five years.<br />&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3521web.jpg" style="height: 488px; width: 650px;" title="Students in Graciela Olmos' science class at Sawyer Elemetary run experiments to help them learn about potential, kinetic and mechanical energy. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 05:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/museum-helps-build-better-science-teachers-109924 Small is big at new nanotechnology lab in Wheeling http://www.wbez.org/news/small-big-new-nanotechnology-lab-wheeling-109004 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/duncan.PNG" style="height: 167px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Arne Duncan talks with Wheeling High School students about the school’s new nanotechnology lab. Magnified on the screen is a penny. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></p><p>U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped inaugurate a special science lab in the Chicago area Thursday&mdash;and attended a separate event promoting more rigorous learning standards.</p><p>Wheeling High School officials say their nanotechnology lab is the first of its kind in a U.S. public high school.</p><p>Teacher Nancy Heintz says the lab&rsquo;s high-powered microscopes can drill down to the nano level. How small is that? Think of the Lincoln Memorial on the back side of a penny, she says.</p><p>&ldquo;If you imagined the eyelash on the Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the penny&mdash; that gets you pretty close to the nano level.&rdquo;</p><p>Heintz says teachers were able to see single atoms of copper when they came to learn how to use the scanning electron microscopes and atomic force microscopes over the summer.</p><p>On Thursday, students showed off images of things they&rsquo;d seen close up: butterfly wings, strands of hair, a DVD.</p><p>Senior Bryan Zaremba was impressed by paper. &ldquo;It looks almost like a spider web, you can see all the fibers,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;This is zoomed in at 3,300 times, so it&rsquo;s pretty small,&rdquo; explained his lab partner, Eric Kaplan. On the computer screen was an image that looked more like a gray, post-apocalyptic forest than a scrap from someone&rsquo;s notebook.</p><p>Next to Zaremba was a scanning electron microscope &ndash;which looks like a large desktop computer tower. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a crystal in here that shoots electrons down at a sample, and when the electrons hit the sample, they bounce back to detectors, and they build an image,&rdquo; Zaremba says.</p><p>The lab is part of the school&rsquo;s focus on STEM education&mdash;short for science, technology , engineering, and mathematics. It cost $615,000--$400,000 for equipment and $215,000 for upgrades to the lab itself. The district received a $250,000 grant from the state.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3200web_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="Wheeling High senior Stephanie Maglaris poses with a magnified image of a strand of her hair." /></div><p>Duncan has joined a national push for more STEM education, which is being fueled in part by American students&rsquo; lackluster performance on international science and math exams.</p><p>Duncan says two million high paying jobs are unfilled right now, many in the STEM fields.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, it&rsquo;s not even just about the jobs,&rdquo; Duncan said at Wheeling. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about having students being excited about coming to school every single day. It&rsquo;s about having real relevance to the real world.&rdquo;</p><p>The lab isn&rsquo;t just for honors students&mdash;Wheeling&rsquo;s goal is to get every student to use it. &ldquo;Some of these kids might go on to be technicians, where they could get a living wage job right when they get out of high school,&rdquo; says Heintz. Others will go on to study engineering, biology, or chemistry at high levels.</p><p>Wheeling students are already working with the entomology lab at the University of Illinois. They&rsquo;re examining silk produced by silkworms in Madagascar, and comparing it to silk made by domesticated silk worms.</p><p>Many colleges don&rsquo;t have the sort of technology Wheeling High does.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m planning on studying nanotechnology in college. This class really drove me to choose that for my career,&rdquo; says senior Stephanie Maglaris, who plans to combine nanotechnology with civil or mechanical engineering. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really interesting&mdash;and it&rsquo;s gonna open up a whole new field of jobs and studies,&rdquo; says Maglaris.</p><p>Duncan touted Wheeling as a school that had set high standards for students. The school has seen a big demographic shift in the past decade. Half of students are Latino, around 40 percent are low-income.</p><p>At a separate townhall event sponsored by the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Institute of Politics, Duncan highlighted another priority of the administration, the Common Core learning standards.</p><p>The standards have been adopted by a total of 45 states&mdash;including Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and are debuting in many schools this fall.<br /><br />&ldquo;Raising standards is one of the most important things we can do to help all kids, but especially disadvantaged children, have a chance to be successful,&rdquo; Duncan told reporters at the event. &ldquo;The hard part is the implementation, how we support teachers and principals and students themselves and families in the hard work of hitting this higher bar.&rdquo;<br /><br />During a townhall style forum, Duncan was challenged by audience members about where the arts and critical thinking fit in the standards.<br /><br />Many in the audience applauded when economist and education expert Fred Hess suggested&nbsp; it&rsquo;s a mistake to introduce high-stakes teacher evaluations at the same time states are rolling out new standards and tests.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 25 Oct 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/small-big-new-nanotechnology-lab-wheeling-109004 Women still face gender bias in math, science fields http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/women-still-face-gender-bias-math-science-fields-108870 <p><p><img alt="" bang="" big="" cbs="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The%20Big%20Bang%20Theory%20promo%20photo.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" the="" title="Publicity photo for &quot;The Big Bang Theory.&quot; (CBS/Big Bang Theory)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">A recent article in the&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">New York Times</a></em>&nbsp;asking and then answering the perpetual question,&nbsp;&quot;Why are there still so few women in science?&quot; should be required reading for anyone who believes that gender bias in higher math and science fields no longer exists.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Author Eileen Pollack&mdash;who was one of the first women to receive a bachelor of science degree in physics at Yale in 1978&mdash; writes that even in 2013, American women are not only given low expectations from the start for success in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but also are seldom encouraged, sometimes even discouraged, to pursue higher education in these fields.&nbsp;Additionally, Pollack cites several research studies as proof that gender inequality remains a rampant problem in the male-dominated world of STEM careers and academia, especially in the upper echelons of physics, engineering and computer science. &nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One such study, published last year by Dr. Jo Handelsman and Corrinne Moss-Racusin, found direct gender bias in American faculty members in three scientific fields&mdash;physics, chemistry and biology&mdash;at six major research institutions across the country. Each professor was given identical resumes to rate in terms of competence, hireability, likeability, and willingness to mentor the student, with the only difference being that one applicant was named John, and the other named Jennifer. When the results were collected, John was rated an average of half a point higher than Jennifer in all categories except &quot;likeability.&quot; Also, John was offered an average starting salary of $30,238, while Jennifer was offered $26,508.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another study, conducted by the American Mathematical Society to track standout performers in various international competitions, found that American competitors were almost always the children of immigrants, and very rarely female. Moreover, according to the study&#39;s authors, &quot;gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/science.jpg" style="float: right; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Woman working in Genspace Lab. (Flickr/William Ward)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Immediately, my mind flashed to the apropos film and television references, from Lindsay Weir attempting to hide her Mathlete past&nbsp;on &quot;Freaks and Geeks&quot;&nbsp;to Cady Heron&nbsp;heeding the advice of her new friend Damien in &quot;Mean Girls,&quot;&nbsp;who blurts, &quot;You can&#39;t join Mathletes; it&#39;s social suicide.&quot; Still, Lindsay and Cady&#39;s quests to become &quot;cool&quot; ultimately result in newfound appreciation of their gifts, perhaps prompting other young women watching them to realize their &quot;limit does not exist!&quot; as well. We all have Tina Fey to thank for that line.&nbsp;</p></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, the main characters on the CBS sitcom <a href="http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/stereotype-and-the-big-bang-theory-are-keeping-women-out-of-science" target="_blank">&quot;The Big Bang Theory&quot;</a>&nbsp;tend to serve a more unfavorable purpose: reinforcing stereotypes of male and female nerds in popular culture, while also keeping the gender divides firmly drawn.&nbsp;For example, the character of Amy (played by the lovely and talented Mayim Bialik, who also happens to hold a <a href="http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/08/zombie-science-math-education/" target="_blank">Ph.D. in neuroscience</a> in real life) is a dowdy, socially inept spinster-turned mate for theoretical physicist Sheldon. Bernadette, the other female scientist on the show, has a comically high-pitched voice and doesn&#39;t contribute much outside of playing the love interest to mechanical engineer Howard. The other male leads, Leonard and Raj, are respected physicists who also cater to stereotypes as socially awkward man-children, while the beautiful, science-illiterate neighbor Penny serves as the bubbly object of adoration for both sexes.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Of course, &quot;Big Bang&quot; has its cute and funny moments; but, as Pollack also suggests in her article, what &quot;remotely normal&quot; person would choose to be an Amy when she could be a Penny? Furthermore, what other cultural biases factor into the current acceptance (or lack thereof) of women in these fields; and, as a result, potentially discourage would-be female engineers or astrophysicists from continuing their studies? How many brilliant young minds do we leave untapped, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1DnltskkWk" target="_blank">Will Hunting</a>-style, when science and math teachers fail to provide female students with the same opportunities and encouragement given to male peers?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><p>To gain new insight into these questions and more, I asked four women involved in STEM fields to share their thoughts and personal experiences in bridging the gender gap.&nbsp;</p><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Veronica I. Arreola, Director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender&#39;s Women in Science and Engineering Program&nbsp;at the University of Illinois at Chicago.</span></em></p><p><strong>On gender bias: </strong>&quot;The literature clearly shows a bias against women, by both men and women, in STEM.&nbsp; As for how it plays out in the classroom...it plays out in different ways. We have seen women delegated to secretary positions, men doing the actual experiments. Men often yell out answers, women raise their hands and wait to be called on. There are ways to minimize these examples, but it takes additional work. The tough thing about bias is that we often feel like we don&#39;t have them, so we don&#39;t work to minimize them. But we&#39;re all biased.&quot;</p><p><strong>On the lack of women pursuing higher math and science degrees:</strong>&nbsp;&quot;There are many theories. The one I focus on is awareness of the different careers in STEM. For example, I work with a lot of pre-med students, who might be better suited as researchers versus clinicians. Our society does not do a great job at exposing young people, boys or girls, to the wide range of careers available. When students are debating leaving, I often hear, &#39;I want to work with people.&#39; Which is exactly what scientists and engineers do &mdash; they work with people to solve problems for people. From climate change to curing cancer, it&#39;s all teamwork. I also hear that there aren&#39;t enough jobs. For some fields, it may be true, but tech companies and banks cannot hire enough computer scientists fast enough, yet fewer men and women go into computer science. Lastly, the family-work juggle does get mentioned. For some reason, science and engineering does not come across as family-friendly. I remind students that until we have a national child care system and paid family leave, few careers are truly family-friendly. Plus, the women in academia do have much more control over their hours than women in almost any other field.&quot;</p><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Colleen, Northwestern University graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p><strong>On studying physics at Northwestern: </strong>&quot;The majority of my peers were male, and I&#39;m sure I wanted to stand out and prove to everyone that I was capable and that I could do physics just like them. But when I joined a lab, it felt like everyone knew more than I did, and everyone who was working on a research project had brilliant ideas right away. By not meeting those standards from the start, I saw myself as being behind; but the truth is, there was far more collaboration and discussion than I realized. I could have been asking for help, but to me that felt like admitting I wasn&#39;t good enough to contend with the &#39;big boys&#39; in the lab...&nbsp;I eventually decided that pursuing a Ph.D. was not for me. In talking with other female graduates of STEM fields, it sounded like I was not the only person who felt lonely working through her degree. I think if I had figured out the keys of positive collaboration and had managed to boost my confidence earlier in my college career, I might have graduated with a different outlook on what a life of academia would hold for me.&quot;</p><p><strong>On gender roles in an academic setting:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;This certainly isn&#39;t true for everyone, but to me, it appears that young women are appealing to the popularized notion that they should be polite, considerate, and soft spoken rather than being loud and roaring with&nbsp;competitive&nbsp;opinions. I think something about our educated culture results in men being more willing to ask questions and find solutions without encouragement; so, it&#39;s not that they&#39;re any more capable of problem solving, men are just more visible while they&#39;re doing it. I&#39;m sure this&nbsp;trend can be traced all the way back to young boys: something about young male culture makes it cool to be the &quot;class clown,&quot; to confidently disrupt class and be loud. I did not experience a young female culture that would support or encourage those traits. If there is a confidence curve, then in my experiences, young girls are positioned to be playing catch-up from an incredibly early age.&quot;</p><p><strong>On dating:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;Outside of individuals in a traditional STEM field, I have yet to introduce myself to someone who upon learning that I earned my degree in physics didn&#39;t respond with a double-take or a &#39;Wow really? You must be really smart.&#39; I&#39;m never sure how I should respond to that, so I usually mumble a, &#39;Yes, maybe? I just really liked physics.&#39; I don&#39;t know if this has ever deterred the potential pursuit of a significant other, but if the prospect of dating a physics major is intimidating to the point of deterrence, then I probably wouldn&#39;t be happy dating them anyway.&quot;</p><div><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Kelsie, Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.</span></em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><strong>On pop culture reinforcing stereotypes: &quot;</strong>In&nbsp;&#39;The Big Bang Theory,&#39; there is a lot of physics jargon and complicated topics that Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj talk about that I feel aren&#39;t even meant to be understood by the audience. However, I think that Amy and Bernadette&#39;s careers are presented in a much more palatable, &#39;dumbed-down&#39; version and are generally less referenced. Aside from maybe one or two times, I think Amy&#39;s research topic is presented as tobacco addition in monkeys&mdash;which is a very easy-to-understand topic, unlike many of the physics topics studied by the male characters. Also, what is presented about Amy&#39;s research is often inaccurate or comical. To name a few off the top of my head, Amy having a cigarette-smoking research monkey in her apartment (which goes against so many animal research federal regulations) and eating lunch/answering her phone while dissecting a brain in lab. Aside from Bernadette being a microbiologist and doing drug development, I don&#39;t think much is ever really mentioned about her science career.&quot;</p><div><strong>On the theory that more women are drawn to &quot;people&quot; sciences, like biology:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;It&#39;s certainly a reasonable explanation for why more women go into biomedical and social sciences, though this isn&#39;t really my specific reasoning. To me, the difference is working with something that feels concrete and tangible. I started at Northwestern University intending to be a chemistry major, and then switched to biology when I realized I liked working with living things that I can see or conceptualize better (meaning, cells or proteins in biology as opposed to chemical reactions with chemistry). I don&#39;t really consider my work to involve people, since I typically work on a much, much smaller scale, with a culture dish.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Jessica, Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering.</span></em></p><p><strong>On gender discrimination:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;I&#39;ve heard from a number of women that they&#39;ve been told by male professors they shouldn&#39;t be an engineer or don&#39;t belong in the field. There are also a number (very few)&nbsp;classmates&nbsp;who refused to work with female students, because they don&#39;t feel that they pull their weight. Those same men sometimes accuse their female&nbsp;classmates&nbsp;of being able to get answers or help on homework easier then men because of their looks or a&nbsp;damsel-in-distress act. I had one classmate who acted this way, but then would ask one of my female classmates for help.&quot;&nbsp;</p><div><div><strong>On misunderstandings of STEM careers:</strong> &quot;From the research I&#39;ve read, girls gravitate toward &#39;helping&#39; careers (doctors, vets, teachers, nurses) and stereotypes about STEM careers don&#39;t include that. That&#39;s why you see so many women in biology&mdash;much of biology research is centered on killing disease. What people don&#39;t understand is that engineering is all about making people&#39;s lives better and math modeling (or applied math) can be used on genetics projects to help cure diseases, find the best path for emergency vehicles, etc.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>On the power of support and encouragement:</strong>&nbsp;&quot;I attended a private school where there was never any gender bias in math and the sciences. I had male and female teachers who encouraged me in my course work. I also had very supportive parents and a mother who was a biology major and eventually a computer programmer. I think that as long as a girl has support from parents and teachers, she will succeed.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As for positive influences in pop culture, there is some good news!&nbsp;Marvel is teaming up with the National Academy of Science,&nbsp;the Girl Scouts of America&nbsp;and Natalie Portman to use the upcoming release of&nbsp;&quot;Thor: The Dark World&quot;&nbsp;to promote female interest in careers in STEM. The project is called Thor: The Dark World <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2013/10/03/can-thor-2-and-natalie-portman-hook-girls-on-science/" target="_blank">Ultimate Mentor Adventure</a>, and it sounds incredible.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. You can find her on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/women-still-face-gender-bias-math-science-fields-108870