Why astronomy should be taught inhigh school and how it can benefit mathematics education By Doug Edsey “If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics.” - Galileo Galilei
Overview● Why should we study astronomy and space exploration and why should we invest in it as a nation?● What is the importance of offering astronomy courses at the high school level?● What can it do for mathematics education?● What is the current status of high school astronomy education?● What barriers exist in promoting high school astronomy education and how can we overcome them?
Why study astronomy and space exploration?Why invest in it as a nation? ● Scientific knowledge
Why study astronomy and space exploration?Why invest in it as a nation? ● Spin-off technologies have applications in other fields
Why study astronomy and space exploration?Why invest in it as a nation? ● Opportunities for international cooperation
Why study astronomy and space exploration? Why invest in it as a nation?● Great ROI both academically and financially – Relatively few astronomers, but their research can be quite significant – Contrary to public perception, NASAs budget is only 0.5% of Americas annual budget ● “When you innovate, you create new industries that then boost your economy. And when you create new industries and that becomes part of your culture, your jobs can’t go overseas because no one else has figured out how to do it yet.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Why study astronomy and space exploration? Why invest in it as a nation?● Other sciences benefit from synergy – Example: on board the ISS, experiments are done in biology, biomedical research, biotechnology, physics, meteorology, materials science, and combustion science, and other fields
What is the importance of offering● astronomy courses at the high school level? ● It is a gateway into science ● Teaches content not offered elsewhere in high school
What is the importance of offering ● astronomy courses at the high school level?● Teaches applications of high school science and math● Students have requested it!
●What is the importance of offering astronomy courses at the high school level?● Has a positive impact on most students who take it● Fosters the wonder and excitement to build upcoming scientists and thinkers
● What is the importance of offering astronomy courses at the high school level?● It may help the AYP status of a school● To make our educational system more competitive internationally
What is the importance of offering● astronomy courses at the high school level?● It would add an additional science elective● Or it could be added as a 4th year science course● It is interdisciplinary and can function as a capstone course
What is the importance of offering ● astronomy courses at the high school level?● It may be the last opportunity we have to turn kids on to science● Astronomy can be a lifelong practice! – Unlike other sciences, amateur astronomers regularly contribute to the field!
What can it do for mathematics education?● First, some common criticisms of or issues with American mathematics education (K-12) ● “Math Wars” – A heated debate over the past 20 years concerning the classroom approach of teaching mathematics: teacher-centered vs. student-centered. ● Lack of integration with science education ● Lack of immediate and relevant applications
What can it do for mathematics education?● Regarding the “Math Wars”... ● 63% of current high school astronomy courses are inquiry based ● Those that arent still typically include student- centered activities and labs ● Math is already a component of these courses, so it can be taught by inquiry without “fueling the fire” of the math wars.
What can it do for mathematics education?● Regarding integration with science education... ● Standard high school math education: – Algebra 1 – Geometry – Algebra 2 – Pre-calculus and trigonometry (time-permitting) ● Mathematics used in high school astronomy: – Algebra – Geometry – Trigonometry
What can it do for mathematics education?● More specifically, mathematics topics learned and applied in high school astronomy include: – Inquiry – Unit conversions – Protractors, rulers, Calc. – Fractions – Numbers, patterns, & – Graph or table analysis percentages – Solving for x – Averages – Evaluating functions – Time, distance, speed – Modeling – Areas and volumes – Trigonometry – Scale drawings – Pythagorean Theorem – Geometry – Vectors – Probability – Limits, integrals, derivatives, – Sci. Not., Logs, exps gradients (advanced)
What can it do for mathematics education?● Regarding immediate and relevant applications of mathematics... ● Here is a course outline from a syllabus of an astronomy course at a High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin
Course Outline Example● 1. Introduction to ● 2. Gravity & Motion ● 4. Telescopes ● 8) Beyond the Solar Astronomy System a. Speed & velocity a. types of telescopes a. Scaling a. Star properties b. Acceleration and “g’s” b. optics b. Scientific Notation b. Stellar life cycles c. Newton’s Laws c. nonvisible wavelengths c. SI Review distances in space c. Milky Way & other d. Centripetal force d. false color galaxies d. age of the universe e. Universal gravitation e. atmospheric windows d. Cosmology e. speed of light f. Mass of orbited bodies ● 5. Project Research f. star maps g. Escape & orbital velocities ● 6. The Solar System g. motions in the sky ● 3. Light a. The Earth h. lunar phases a. definition b. The Moon & The Space i. eclipses Race b. wave terminology j. Earth’s shape & size c. Solar System Overview c. wave energy k. theories of the universe d. Inner Planets d. Doppler effect l. classical astronomy e. Outer Planets & Dwarfs e. Wein’s Law m. history of space exploration f. Asteroids, Meteors, & Comets f. color theory n. heat & temperature g. The Sun g. EM spectrum o. planetary configurations h. light spectra
What can it do for mathematics education?● NASA has an entire website dedicated to “space math” which includes lessons, activities, and homework problems for teachers (K-12) to use either in their math or science classrooms! http://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/● NASA has another similar website dedicated entirely to space science education http://teachspacescience.org/cgi-bin/ssrtop.plex
The current status of high school astronomy education● Stats on availability and popularity – 12% of US high schools offer astronomy courses – 3.5% of high schools student take astronomy, this is about 80,000 kids a year● Stats on astronomy teachers – Most have a science background (physics or earth & space science) – Most have masters degrees● Structure of the course – Usually all-inclusive with a focus on traditional astronomy over contemporary astronomy – Few high school textbooks exist, so web resources are often used
What barriers exist in promoting high school astronomy education and how can we overcome them?● No teacher = no course – More teachers, and preferably more trained teachers – Few astronomy majors go into high school teaching – No state certification for teaching astronomy ● Solutions – We need to find teachers who would want to teach it – We need to find or create training for non-college astronomy teachers so that they can be HQed – Online certification programs might be a good start – University of Wyoming
What barriers exist in promoting high school astronomy education and how can we overcome them?● We need students interested in taking a course to be in a position to actually take the course – Interest in the subject by high school students is documented as being very high, BUT... – Students are typically pushed into the 3 major sciences and other electives. (Doesnt carry the weight of an AP class either) – Class schedules and other requirements dont often allow students to make room for extra science classes ● Solutions – Promote the course in school with brochures or guest lectures in the other sciences – Make astronomy a 4th year course (but then it will have no effect on high stakes testing) – Coordinate with colleges for college credit
What barriers exist in promoting high school astronomy education and how can we overcome them?● Approval by higher levels of administration (local, district, or state) – An astronomy course may be looked at as “filler” or “fluff” ● Solutions – There are national standards that include astronomy as well as many state standards – If necessary, an astronomy course can be viewed as another physics or earth science course – Astronomy reinforces prior learning which makes it a great capstone course – Possibly improves AYP scores (provided students can take it before testing)
Some final thoughts from a student● “Astronomy’s not a course where you say OK, today we’re going to learn some random facts about stuff that if you’re not going into organic chemistry like the hydrocarbons, or you’re not going into quantum physics or nuclear physics or anything, then you don’t need to know about it. But astronomy, it teaches you where you are, what’s going on around you and everything like that. It’s just such a course that’s necessary, because you need to know these things. You need to know your neighbors, you need to know who’s up and down your street, you like to know who’s in your country, why not know your solar system, why not know your sun, your neighbor planets and the galaxy we’re in and all that. And the universe that you live in. It’s a pretty big deal, and we’re a part of it.” – Scott, grade 11
References and Links● The Modern U.S. High School Astronomy Course, its Status and Makeup, and the Effects of No Child Left Behind, By Larry Krumenaker, Astronomy Education Review, 2009● The Modern U.S. High School Astronomy Course, Its Status and Makeup II: Additional Results, By Larry Krumenaker, Astronomy Education Review, 2009● What It Would Take to Increase the Number of High School Astronomy Courses: A Survey of Principals and a Comparison to Astronomy Teachers, and a Prescription for Change, By Larry Krumenaker, Astronomy Education Review, 2009● Astronomy and Astrophysics Panel Reports, National Academies Press, 1991● Why Should We Teach Astronomy in High Schools? podcast, hosted by Colin Jagoe, http://365daysofastronomy.org/● http://nasa.gov/● http://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/● http://teachspacescience.org/