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Problem solving is a critical 21st Century skill and Gastonia middle schoolers are being left behind.
The performance of Gaston County Schools (GCS) students on recent standardized tests is evidence of the need to strengthen science and mathematics education. The 1,807 students who attend middle school within Gastonia city limits make up 26% of the GCS middle school population. Those schools are Southwest, Grier and York Chester Middle Schools.
According to the district’s 2016 report card, less than 3 in 10 of these students are on track to be college or career ready by the time they graduate high school. Less than 50% of our children are on track to be college or career ready in science and just 24% are on the right track in math.
The math scores are the most staggering of all.
TWENTY. FOUR. PERCENT.
So, what’s up with math?
“Students are often good at answering the first layer of a problem in the United States,” said Schleicher. “But as soon as students have to go deeper and answer the more complex part of a problem, they have difficulties.”
Before you get started, this is not the place to debate about “putting too much emphasis” on mathematics or STEM. This is about basic middle school math, the kind you’ll actually use.
For a recent article published by the Associated Press, Jennifer C. Kerr, interviewed Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD (the organization that presents performance data about average and medium term trends in Science, Mathematics, and Reading) about why American students are failing math. “Students are often good at answering the first layer of a problem in the United States,” said Schleicher. “But as soon as students have to go deeper and answer the more complex part of a problem, they have difficulties.” In other words, they don’t understand.
You can check out the results for yourself here.
As the parent of a middle schooler, you may feel isolated and discouraged when it comes to helping your child understand math, but you are not alone and there are many things you can do to help your student succeed. Below are some tips to help you get your middle schooler on the right track.
DO Subscribe To and Read the newsletters distributed by your child’s teachers. These newsletters are not just about upcoming events. They are packed with information on what your child is learning, what homework they will have, and links to resources for extra help.
DON’T do your child’s homework for them. Your middle schooler is learning to understand abstract concepts and ideas. Instead, if your child is having a hard time focusing, engage them in conversation about the homework. Additionally, having conversations with your child about the why of a word problem will help her to focus on concepts, instead of procedures which will help to deepen your child’s understanding; this will be key to success in high school math.
DO study and go over notes from class daily. Your child needs to learn good study habits. Having your child read through notes from class helps them to develop good study habits. This also presents an opportunity to discuss anything that your child does not understand.
DON’T hesitate to ask for extra help. Schedule a conference, hire a tutor, or enroll your student in an after school program that offers project-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning opportunities. Project-based STEAM learning provides an opportunity for your child to apply what they are learning in school to the real-world, deepening their understanding.
By Ciera Mack, eSTEAM Club (Esther’s STEM + Art Club)
We used to have a royal blue punch buggy. We loved that car. My daughter loved it more than I did. It broke down and rather than get it fixed, we got a new car. My daughter never quite got over it. It’s been five years and she still asks me at least once a month, “can we get a punch buggy?”.
This year, she asked me if I would buy her a red convertible when she turns 16. I told her that I would do even better; if she made Straight A’s from now until she’s 16, I’d buy her a red convertible punch buggy.
Her response, ” For that long!” 🙂 ha. The truth is, she’s a straight A student, but she’s a lazy straight A student; meaning, she doesn’t put forth a lot of effort to make good grades. My goal is to convince her to become more disciplined and to develop good study habits. As long as she’s consistent and puts forth her best effort, I’d give her the world.
Besides, she’s only ten… what are the odds she’ll hold me to a six year old promise anyway? 😉
Anyway, I’m only putting this out here because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t create a slide deck to motivate her… and how else could I embarrass her unless I put it on the internet for the entire world to see?
All jokes aside, I hope you can use these tips and tricks to help motivate your kids, or at least to get some good study habits from them. I snagged these from psychcentral and education corner. Good Luck!
The mere fact that you are reading this letter is proof that you value your child’s education. At the eSTEAM Club we take education seriously, too. We are passionate about cultivating a love for life long learning. We want to partner with your family on this educational journey.
Someone once said, “the only thing constant is change”. With new technological innovations, seemingly daily, some skills can quickly become obsolete. Remember keyboarding? We understand that to be successful in the 21st Century will require us to be flexible. That’s why the ability to think critically, learn new concepts, and adapt quickly to new technologies will never get old.
The eSTEAM Club is one of a kind with its unique combination of a project based learning (PBL) model and gaming concepts strictly focused on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. The club was established to provide a safe and fun environment where children can immerse themselves into a world of discovery.
It’s our belief that children learn best through play; therefore, the club encourages learning by featuring customized gaming concepts. Each meeting will avail the opportunity to earn badges, keys, quest clues, and other incentives which they can use to level-up. At the end of each quest, will be a team based competition for a grand prize.
Our programs are based on a PBL model which will allow your child to collaborate with others on projects while investigating new innovations, applying mathematical concepts, and exploring careers in the STEAM fields.
To help your child hone their skills in areas where they are especially interested/gifted, they will also be invited to join “secret” societies, like the Mad Scientists where they can learn more about chemistry or the SFX Society where they can practice special effects.
For more information, please call (980) 251-0414
I hope to see you there!
Founder, eSTEAM Club
I am not an educator, but I love to learn and I also enjoy a good project every now and then.
There are 5 key elements to any project:
- Identifying what you’re going to do,
- Planning how you’ll get it done,
- Planning what you’ll do if something goes wrong,
- Doing the work, and of course
- Posting the results to Social Media
Identifying what you’re going to do…
The great part about being in the eSTEAM Club is kids will get a chance to choose which projects they want to engage in.
They’ll obtain real life experience by managing projects that impact their community.
Planning how you’ll get it done…
Kids will get an opportunity to use critical thinking skills to develop creative solutions to complex problems.
Planning what you’ll do if something goes wrong
Problem Solving skills are essential (full stop). You can’t always prevent things from going wrong, but you can try to prepare for when they do. Learning problem solving skills early in life can help kids to become effective leaders in the future.
Doing the work – real world experience
The best part! The highest reward.
Engaging your child in real world projects helps them to learn using all 5 senses and helps to develop that 6th sense… intuition.
Real world experience could lead to
- Self motivation
- Increased cognitive ability
- Love of learning
- Better grades in school
Posting the results to Social Media
It’s not just bragging…
Children should be proud of their work and they need to know that others are proud of them, too.
We’ll celebrate their accomplishments, big and small, because they are never insignificant.
A scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. To be a scientist, you simply need to follow these steps:
- Research your topic
- Narrow down your research to testable problem and include variables
- Develop a hypothesis and write it down.
- Use and document independent variables, controlled variables, and dependent variables.
- Document Results (use graphs and tables to show your results).
- Discuss how the results answer the hypothesis.
- Write a report