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  1. 1. College Students’ Nightmare “Fear of Numbers” How Can Educators Help Overcome the Fear? Session 5.4 January 10, 2014 Presentation at the AFACCT 24th Annual Conference Prince George’s Community College – Largo, MD By Prof. S. Sengamalay MPA (Harvard), CPA (USA), FCMA (UK), FCIS (UK & Canada), FCA (Sri Lanka) 1
  2. 2. Why the Worry Over Numbers? Some Recent (Familiar) Press Quotes 1. Study: “U.S. Trails Asian Countries in Math and Science – Despite notable progress in mathematics, the United States has failed to raise student achievement in science over the past decade while Singapore and several other Asian countries continue to score higher in both subjects, according to a study released this week that compares math and science test scores of students from dozens of countries. America’s uneven performance in the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) immediately drew responses from policymakers and educators who are worried about how well the United States is preparing students for the global economy.” Source: US News and World Report (12/09/2008) 2
  3. 3. Why the Worry Over Numbers? Some Recent (Familiar) Press Quotes (Contd.) 2. U.S. Teens Lag as China Soars on International Test - “Fifteen-year olds in the U.S. ranked 25th among peers from 34 countries on a math test scored in the middle in science and reading, while China’s Shanghai topped the charts, raising concern that the U.S. isn’t prepared to succeed in the global economy.” Source: (12/07/2010) 3
  4. 4. Why the Worry Over Numbers? Some Recent (Familiar) Press Quotes (Contd.) 3. U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show – “Fourth and eighth-grade students in the United States continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations in math and science, although American fourth graders are closer to the top performers in reading, according to test results released.” Source: New York Times (12/11/2012) 4
  5. 5. Why the Worry Over Numbers? Some Recent (Familiar) Press Quotes (Contd.) 4. Poor student readiness for college, new standards trouble Pr. George’s “Only half of students who graduate from Prince George’s county’s public high schools in June 2012 enrolled in college, and 90 percent of the graduates in community college are taking remedial classes in math and reading, according to data shared with the county’s Board of Education on Thursday during a presentation on student achievement, secondary-school changes and the new academic standards.” A. Duane Arbogast, Chief Academic Officer Source: The Washington Post (Metro Section), Article by Ovetta Wiggins (10/12/2013) 5
  6. 6. In Montgomery, Still no Solution for Math Woes  MC Officials plan to survey students taking high school final exams in math next week about how they think about and prepare for the biggest test of the semester  MC School officials say they still have no clear answers for why a majority of 30,000 high school students in the high-performing district failed their finals in key math courses last year  Inadequate Preparation among possible causes cited for failed final tests  Some parents and educators suggest “the problem might be students have been advanced too quickly in math courses or they lack academic support.” Source: News item in Metro Section of the Washington Post on 01/05/2014 – By Donna St. George 6
  7. 7. The Tale of Woe Continues Headline - “In Global exam, U.S. teens’ scores remain stagnant. Teens in Asian nations score high in math, science and reading” “While U.S. teenagers were average in reading and science, their scores were well below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment or PISA. That pattern has not changed much since the PISA was first given in 2000.” Source: Washington Post, Page A4, December 4, 2013. News item by Lyndsey Layton 7
  8. 8. New Numbers in Old Debate in Education • Students in 36 U.S. States better than average in math, science on international test • Lowest scoring state in math Alabama; highest Massachusetts • But top U.S. students lagged behind S. Korea, Singapore and Taiwan • Only 19% of Bay State (MA) rated “advanced” vs. 50% of 8th graders in Taiwan, S. Korea and Singapore • Report gives new fuel to policymakers arguing for over 30 years that U.S. has stalled in educational attainment Source: Washington Post – Study released by the Federal Government (10/24/2013) 8
  9. 9. How About U.S. Adults? “Study Finds U.S. adults lag behind most countries in math, reading and digital skills” “Policymakers and politicians who wring their hands about the mediocre performance of U.S. students on international math and reading tests have another worry: The nation’s grown-ups aren’t doing much better.” “ Americans are decidedly weaker in Numeracy and problemsolving skills than in literacy” Source: Washington Post news item by Lyndsey Layton on 10/08/2013 quoting from OECD and U.S. Education Department Surveys. 9
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  12. 12. What is Numeracy ? Number Sense and Mental Computation (1)  Numeracy is defined as the ability to reason and to apply simple numerical concepts. Basic numeracy skills consist of comprehending fundamental mathematics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  For example, if one can understand simple mathematical equations such as, 2 + 2 = 4, then one would be considered possessing at least basic numeric knowledge. Source: Wikipedia 12
  13. 13. What is Numeracy ? Number Sense and Mental Computation (2)  Substantial aspects of numeracy also include number sense, operation sense, computation, measurement, geometry, proba bility and statistics.  A numerically literate person can manage and respond to the mathematical demands of life. By contrast, the lack of numeracy or innumeracy can have a negative impact if the skills are absent.  Numeracy has an influence on career professions, literacy, and risk perception towards health decisions. Source: Wikipedia 13
  14. 14. Numbers, What Are They? A number is a mathematical object used to count, label and measure. 14
  15. 15. Numbers - Origin The abacus, a counting frame, was in use centuries before the adoption of the written modern numeral system and is still widely used by merchants, traders and clerks in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Source: Wikipedia 15
  16. 16. Plus Education Catch them Young !! • Never too Young 16
  17. 17. Classroom Size Abacus for Head-Start !! 17
  18. 18. 3 Year-Old Kids Can Grasp Some Math Concepts “Children as young as 3 can understand the meaning and value of multi-digit numbers and might be ready for direct math instruction when they begin formal schooling than previously believed” (New Research Study by Developmental Psychologists) “Contrary to the view that children do not understand place value and multi-digit numbers, we found that they actually know quite a lot about it.” (Kelly Mix, Professor of Educational psychology at Michigan State University and lead investigator on the Study) Source: Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post, December18, 2013 18
  19. 19. Mad Scientist Goes Back to Basics !!! 19
  20. 20. Millennial (Generation) Missing Basic Ingredients • • • • • • • Growing up without simple Educational Toys Creative Gadgets take human initiative away Dependence on machines Disconnect between answer and intelligence Disparaging those good with numbers -“Nerds” Expecting Quick Results sans Needed Effort Literate, but lack Numerical or Financial Literacy 20
  21. 21. (Relative) Quality of Community College Incoming Students • • • • • • • Lower Grades in High School Unwilling to work hard Less Motivated to study Lack of Curiosity to Learn Less Ambitious to get ahead in career Less focused, more distractions From low Socio-Economic Status, low income, dysfunctional families • Lower expectation • General attitude - Community College is easy 21
  22. 22. Remedial Measures (Challenges for Professors) • Numerical and Financial Literacy in High Schools (Missing?) • Initial Screening during admission of Students to courses with numbers (Weak?) • Initial Periods in class devoted to simple, live examples from day to day life (Lacking - Time Pressure?) • Disclose honestly genuine effort needed to succeed in course – Preaching vs. Teaching (without scaring students?) • Provide continuous feedback on computation and presentation of numbers to reveal their appropriate meaning (Repetitive, time consuming?) • Balancing needs of good students vs. No Child Left Behind Policy (Something has to give?) 22
  23. 23. First Lesson in Numbers You cannot Avoid Them !! Virtually Every Activity in an Individual’s Life:  Age, Birth Days, Anniversaries, death  School, Class size, Grades, Graduations  Sports, distance, height, speed, timing  Shopping, sales tax, bills, fees, other taxes  College Fees, student loans, expenses  Parent’s earnings, mortgage, family commitments  Salary, benefits, FICA, Federal/State income taxes  Filing of annual Tax Returns (Personal and corporate) and quarterly payments  Even Supreme Court Justices have to face numbers !! 23
  24. 24. How Lawyers and Journalists Choose their Profession ? Joke: “They choose their professions on the promise that there would be no math or hard science involved in their work.” Source: Washington Post of 06/17/2013 - Robert Barnes on the Federal Page on a Supreme Court case involving the IRS and a corporate taxpayer disputing a tax liability formula: Tax = 51.71% x {P – (FV/9) x 4.0027} P = Total Profits, FV = Floating Value at which company was privatized, 9 = P/E Ratio, 4.0027 = number of years 24
  25. 25. Findings of an AACU Survey of Employers in January 2010 Over 65% of the employers said that two and four year colleges should place more emphasis on: (i) Understanding global context of situations, (ii) Global issues’ implications for future, (iii) Understanding the role of U.S. in the world, and (iv) Knowledge of cultural diversity in the U.S./world 25
  26. 26. Readiness of Students for Work in the Global Economy • Knowing and understanding the rest of the world (Geography, History ?) • Basic Knowledge of how the U.S. Government and Big Corporations function (Civics ?) • Role and status of U.S. in global economy (Business magazines ?) • Being current on major developments in U.S. and world business (Newspapers and Business Magazines?) 26
  27. 27. Comparison of Official Development Assistance by G -7 Countries Country 2008 2009 2010 2010 ( %) % of GNI 2010 USA 26,437 28,831 30,154 34% 0.20% United Kingdom 11,500 11,283 13,763 16% 0.57% France 10,908 12,600 12,916 14% 0.50% Germany 13,981 12,079 12,723 14% 0.38% Japan 9,601 9,457 11,045 12% 0.20% Canada 4,795 4,000 6% 0.36% Italy 4,861 3,297 5,132 3,111 4% 0.17% 100% Target 0.7% G-7 Total Norway 82,081 81,548 88,844 4,006 4,086 4,582 1.10% 27
  28. 28. ODA, Philanthropy and Remittances Total Assistance from OECD Donor Countries to Developing Countries: ODA, Philanthropy and Remittances in 2009 (USD billions) Totals United States UK Germany France ODA Canada Japan Philanthropy Spain Remittances Italy Netherlands Australia Sweden Norway Switzerland Denmark Belgium Austria Korea 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 Source: Hudson Institute, 2011 Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances 180 200
  29. 29. Initial Responses from Students in a Typical Accounting Class Q. How many of you like dealing with numbers? Answer: • I am scared of numbers • I hate numbers • I do not like numbers • I would rather deal without numbers • I do not have the patience to deal with numbers • Can’t we have just written essays instead of problems with numbers? 29
  30. 30. Numbers Always Tell Stories Not in an abstract form; but when Expressed with a title to them (say number 9 by itself does not convey any meaning, but with a title, it will get life). Examples abound in our daily life: 9 Months, 9 Years (of age) 9 % (of what? – of salary, population, land area) 9 Feet (tall, deep. in length) 9 Miles (from point A to point B) 9 Boys, 9 Girls (composition of the class, group) 9 Dollars and Cents (purchasing power) 9:1, 9:5 (ratio of say poor people to rich people) 9 Gallons, Ounce, Pints (milk drunk per person) 9 Units (of anything) 30
  31. 31. First Day in Accounting Class • Work out as a Group the Average Age of Students in the class – step by step • Average age of Male students • Average age of Female students • Professor works manually on the board and Students to use Calculators to get answers • Seek final answers from as many student as possible • Surprise !!! 31
  32. 32. Making Students Comfortable Dealing with Numbers First Steps: • Write and read numbers in an understandable manner – units, tens, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions etc., • Get used to Decimals and simple fractions – ¼ = .25, 1/3 = .33, ½ = .5, ¾ = .75 • Calculate Percentages – formula • Calculating Ratios – with simple Multiplications, Divisions and Percentages • Express every number with appropriate Title 32
  33. 33. Making Students Comfortable Dealing with Numbers (Contd.) First Steps (Continued) • Drawing Graphs and Plotting Data – Significance and meanings of Axes and lines • Drawing Illustrations with Charts – Bar Charts, Pie Charts • Translating Concepts into Numbers and Deriving Answers/Results • Interpreting Results and explaining clearly 33
  34. 34. Ask Students After Explaining Every Concept (?) Does it Make Sense ?? Response: Yes – Few No - None Silence (?) - Most 34
  35. 35. Are Other Countries’ Kids Really Brighter? 1. South Korean Example: • Evening Tutoring Academies abound • Kids essentially live in the classroom • Spent twelve hours every weekday in class • Went to school two months longer • Students slept in the class due to exhaustion • Reputation for academics is more corrosive than inspiring Source: Book titled “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way” by Amanda Ripley (Book Review in Washington Post - Outlook Section 09/22/2013) 35
  36. 36. Are Other Countries’ Kids Really Brighter? 2. China Example: “In top Middle Schools and on up the ladder, brains may not be enough to get kids in. Often, bribes help” “Almost everything, from admission to grades to teacher recommendations, is negotiable in Chinese schools if you know the right person or have enough cash, parents and teachers say.” Source: Washington Post front page headline on 10/08/2013 – By William Wan 36
  37. 37. Asia’s Academic Obsession !! “This month, for the third time in a row, the Asians kicked American butt – academically, that is. On reading, science and math, students in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore earned the top scores on the international PISA test. U.S. students scored below or near the worldwide average, prompting suggestions that American education as a whole is failing. (However), As a Hong Kong educator, I’m confident that the last thing the United States needs to copy is Chinese education.” Source: Kelly Yang, an after school Tutor in Hong Kong for students (Washington Post article 12/20/2013) 37
  38. 38. Reasons to Worry about U.S. Education (Some Insights)  “The gap in math between Shanghai and Massachusetts (the top performing U.S. state) translates into two years of schooling. Because of the longer academic year in China, by the time the average Shanghai kid gets to be age 15, he/she has spent about two years more in school than the average 15year old American.” (OECD Study)  “U.S. has unusually large gap between its best and worst students”  “U.S. has done very well in harnessing the talents of its top 1 percent and in attracting the top 1 percent from the rest of the world to live and work here. These are the engines of innovation, growth and dynamism”  “ It’s possible that the top 1 percent will continue generating enough growth to keep the country moving, but it is more likely that the weight of a stagnant middle class will eventually slow the economy” Source: Op-Ed Article by Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post Op-Ed on December 6, 2013. 38
  39. 39. Conclusion, Q & A & Discussion • Students to develop affinity to numbers in High School • Partnership between Community Colleges and High Schools – e.g. Montgomery College/MCPS for AP Students (Concurrent Enrollment Program) • Remedial Courses in Community Colleges • Incentives to Enroll in Courses involving numbers with enhanced screening • Increase retention, completion, and graduation (Hopefully !!!) 39