Do you know what distinguishes a good student from bad student? A good student wants to leave college with more than just a degree. They want knowledge.
There are a number of observations that can guide you in deciding which kind of student you’re dealing with. One of the most obvious is the post-exam reactions. If a student asks for an explanation as to why they got a particular question wrong, and that’s all they’re looking for, then you’re more than likely dealing with a good student. On the other hand, if a student argues over points—especially if those points amount to a fraction of a percent of the overall grade—well you can guess what category I’d put them in.
And then there are those students with the mantra, “C’s get degrees”.
Zach Weiner, in his webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, suggests yet another measurement to distinguish between a good and a bad student: see how they react to their loan statement.
It’s that time of year again where I’m hard at work writing syllabi for the upcoming semester. This spring I’m slated to teach Astro 101 for the umpteenth time, in addition to my first go at the introductory, calculus-based physics course. As I click away at the keyboard, I’m reminded how particular I have to be in writing my syllabi. With each new semester I have to patch the many holes in my policies that students have found. One particular policy that has changed over the years is my take on attendance.
The first semester I taught I required regular attendance. For most students this wasn’t a problem, but for a few unmotivated bad eggs this was an issue. Those individuals would often come to class for nothing else but to earn their attendance points. Once in class, however, they would proceed to be a distraction. As the semester progressed the antics of these students led to lower class morale. (Admittedly I’ve also learned a lot about classroom management from this experience as well.)
Since then I’ve reversed my attendance policy. I’m now of the opinion that a student’s grade should in no way be directly based on their attendance. This isn’t because I’m avoiding the issue of in-class distractions, which I have focused on heavily, but rather in my belief that a student shouldn’t earn a grade based on their ability or inability to sit in a chair during a specified time. This isn’t elementary school after all. It’s college. I would rather assign grades based on a student’s content knowledge and/or their demonstrated ability to complete a relevant task.
This is a slight point of contention between myself a few of my colleagues. The two main counterarguments to enforcing an attendance policy is (1) there are certain assessments or activities that can only be done in a classroom setting, and (2) many students require an attendance policy to get them into the classroom where they will ultimately benefit.
I can’t argue with the first point. Activities, such as most laboratory exercises and in-class quizzes or exams, can only be completed by attending class. On these matters, my policy is simple. If a student misses class then zeros are recorded for those grades unless a prior arrangement has been made to make up the activity. Personally I feel that such a policy is only reasonable if I commit ahead of time to when those required in-class activities will occur. It’s part of the syllabus contract between the students and the instructor.
On the second counterargument, I again cannot disagree. There’s plenty of evidence demonstrating that regular class attendance explicitly improves a student’s success in a course. (see Class Attendance Article for a nice summary of these studies.) However, college students are adults and need to be responsible and attend class on their own accord. Of course, reality isn’t such. For many students, college represents the first time in which they don’t have the constant parental guidance (or more appropriately called pressure?) to attend school. Instead students make … umm, let’s just say unusual decisions, many of which lead to not attending class.
So if I don’t require attendance, why would any student attend my class? It starts with what happens in the classroom. I believe that if my teaching style is not dependent on the presence of the students, then I’m doing something wrong. Class time is a distinctive period when instructors and students come together to actively engage the material. Through a combination of lecturing, group activities, peer instruction, Q&A, etc. students are able to take advantage of a unique opportunity to learn and master the material. In short, I try to make class time an enjoyable and social journey through the material.
To convince my students of this, I ran a little experiment in my Astro 101 class last semester. As is typical, on the first day I covered the syllabus and various class policies. I told the students that their final course grade is completely dependent on their work, not on their ability to attend class. I did remind them that although class attendance is not required, it’s still expected. I then went on to explain that during the semester I was going to still take attendance. The intent was to demonstrate that even without a requirement for regular class attendance, those that attend will naturally perform better in class. In other words, a plot of Course Grade vs the Percentage of Classes Attended so should a strong correlation, which is exactly what I found. (A linear fit has an R² value of 0.67.)This plot is for the final grade, but as the semester progressed I showed the students intermediate versions, all of which showed the same conclusion: attendance leads to better grades. (The above personalized experiment is really a verification of the results found in Park & Kerr, Determinants of Academic Performance: A Multinomial Logit Approach.)
I’ve divided the above plot into four regions. The horizontal line at 65% represents the required percentage of points students must earn to pass the class. (Instead of curving individual assignments or exams, I curve the overall course grade by 5% on day one. This is just experience telling me how to curve the class to get the desirable bell shape curve.) The vertical line at 75% is related to Coastal Carolina University catalog which states that “An instructor is permitted to impose a penalty, including assigning the grade of F, for unexcused absences in excess of 25% of the regularly scheduled class meetings”, a policy that I don’t adopt but is useful for comparison.
- The plot clearly demonstrates that for those that attend classes regularly they tend to pass with varying degrees of success, region 1.
- This particular semester two students were able to pass the class with less than 75% attendance, region 2. In each instance these were stronger students that had unusual circumstances that caused them to miss a few classes.
- Those that did not come to class regularly failed, region 3. To be fair about the reported values, three out of the four data points represent students that saw the writing on the wall and withdrew before the end of the semester. Consequentially, the low percentage of class attendance is exaggerated.
- Only one student that attended class regularly was not able to secure a grade of C or better. However, their D did allow them to satisfy the core requirement and so they won’t have to repeat the class.
So where do I go with this? At the start of this coming semester I’m going to show the new crop of students this plot as a warning. Kinda like a how the old Caribbean ports left hanging bodies to deter pirates. Ye come to class or pay thar penalty of failure.
The other day I published a posting on my Reactions to Recent Examples of Academic Dishonesty. That posting is by far and away my most popular yet. I’ve received positive feedback through the blog comments, Facebook, and in person. For those that have read it and gave me feedback, thanks.
What I wanted to talk about today is a follow-up to that blog entry. Specifically, in the first example of academic dishonesty I’d mentioned that I was envious of the academic mercenary, a person hired to anonymously complete assignments, online courses, and even post-graduated theses. I think some explanation is in order.
First off, I do not condone this person’s profession. As I mentioned in the previous article, it sickens me to think that there are people out there willing to cheat their way through college to gain a higher economic or social status. By being an hired author this person is perpetuating a dishonest action. Yes, I know that if he’s not doing it someone else will. But that’s just like the defense given in the second example of academic dishonesty: everyone else is cheating so it must be acceptable.
The hired author profession exists because there’s a market. It’s very analogous to email spam. Although spam is inherently bad, it wouldn’t exist if there weren’t people clicking on those damn links or actually giving away their information in a Nigerian scam. To go back to the original Shadow Scholar article, the author describes how he got his start. His desire to write, coupled with a need for money, filled the needs of “lazy, Xanax-snorting, Miller-swilling classmates”. Thus a business was born.
So now, why do I envy this individual. While the nature of the business requires that the author stays anonymous, he’s getting paid to learn with very little consequences. Students pay thousands of dollars for this person to learn and write about all kinds of topics. If he turns in a subpar paper, so what. The client may not return for more business, but I’m sure there are plenty of others waiting in line to fill the void. In fact, from reading the article it sounds like there’s enough business that he gets to pick and choose which assignments he accepts.
Imagine this realistic scenario. Recently I’ve become curious about figuring out what the heck the Tea Party is all about. I’m suspecting there are plenty of requests from students needing assignments completed related to, or close enough to bend to, the topic of the Tea Party. So I agree to complete the assignment and in the process I get to learn about the Tea Party. Sure I don’t get a pat on the back in the form of a grade, but I do get paid a few thousand dollars to learn about a personal curiosity. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Moreover, if I were an academic mercenary—which I still don’t condone—I would compile, heavily edit, and attempt to publish a good amount of my anonymous work. In fact, I’ve heard of many non-fiction books that were seeded by a series of correspondences, blog entries, or a compilation of magazine article. If the academic mercenary followed this path not only will this produce an income, the shadow scholar will become the desired publicly known author he’d originally set out to be.
I’m curious though, would it be consider plagiarism if the shadow scholar publishes material that was previously made public under someone else’s name? Would, or more importantly could, the original client that hired the academic mercenary sue over this?
A serious problem that plagues college campuses is academic dishonesty. To put it simply, it’s the problem of cheating. Academic dishonesty has taken on many faces. It ranges from deceptive activities (like claiming a problem with internet connectivity prevented the completion of an assignment) to blatant plagiarism and even sabotage. Although it’s possible to categorized the various examples of academic dishonesty, it’s not fair to rank the offensiveness of each type. I would argue, however, that there is a spectrum of possible consequences that results from cheating.
Coincidently in the last few weeks a handful of stories relating to academic dishonesty in the collegiate classroom have come to my attention.
The Problem of an Academic Mercenary
The first I want to respond to is an article posted on the Chronicle for Higher Education by an anonymous author. The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story is an essay meant to bring to light an underground world of plagiarism. To summarize the article for those that haven’t taken the time to read it (yes, there’s some irony in this), it’s the personal account of an author that’s hired by students to write whatever papers, proposals, entrance essays, theses, dissertations, etc. that are needed but for which the students are too lazy or incompetent to do for themselves.
After reading this article I was pissed. Pissed not at the author—who I actually envy—but at the clients. It irritates me beyond belief that there are people out there who are publicly misrepresenting themselves. They have arrived at a financial and/or social standing by using the work of others. In short, they are dishonest people. But what really sucks is that in many cases they’re able to get away with it.
The anonymous author is right to point out that we have created a culture where cheating appears as a reasonable means to an ends. Students are continually evaluated, graded, and assessed. As the author found out for himself upon attending college, “How dispiriting to find out that college was just another place where grades were grubbed, competition overshadowed personal growth, and the threat of failure was used to encourage learning.” I love that last line. Students must constantly deal with the pressure of failing and are sometimes willing to take dishonest paths in order to avoid it.
This is why I’m partially sicken to know that these clients exist. Not only are they dishonest people, they probably don’t have the knowledge that their credentials would assert. I would rather have a medical student fail out of school because of incompetence then to have them cheat their way through school only to eventually perform surgery on me. Likewise, I want an honest accountant to handle my financial future. I want an honest person to educate my children.
Is it fair to place students into this highly pressurized environment and expect them to succeed? To some extent I would say yes. Again, I want my doctor, lawyer, accountant, educator, etc. to be able to handle whatever is thrown at them. On the flip side, I can also appreciate that educational institutions have missed the boat by over assessing and devaluing the education and personal growth of students. Is there a middle ground? Maybe. Reed College has implemented a successful approach where grades are assigned but downplayed. Instead students have close relationships with faculty members. Through frequent individual conferences students receive guidance and personal evaluation.
It does amuse me to think about those that hire anonymous authors in another light. These students pay a lot of money (about a semester’s worth of in-state tuition at a state university) for a service that’s not necessarily guaranteed. If the hired writer does a bad job, what’s the recourse for the client? If they complain they’re exposed. In fact, the Shadow Scholar author even admits that “I don’t ever edit my assignments … So some of my work is great. Some of it is not so great.” It’s even laughable to think of the dishonesty the hired author has to portray to get business. ”I say yes when asked if I have ever designed a perpetual-motion-powered time machine and documented my efforts in a peer-reviewed journal.” Just an itsy-bitsy bit of critical thinking should make a student skeptical of the writer’s credentials. Of course, these students probably either don’t care, or they’re in such a desperate situation as not to care.
As a professor, what am I to do to prevent academic mercenaries? Say there’s a student that’s just short of incomprehensible in a face-to-face conversation but turns in an intelligent piece of written work. What evidence do I have to claim plagiarism? I would suspect that the argument, “in person you’re an idiot, but on paper you’re brilliant” won’t be enough to prosecute a student for academic dishonesty. I need more evidence and I’m not sure where to get it.
One Approach to Dealing with Academic Dishonesty
This brings me to a second account of academic dishonesty. In this story, a University of Central Florida marketing instructor, Richard Quinn, discovered that a large fraction of the students in his Strategic Management course were able to get a hold of the test bank from which the midterm exam questions were taken. (Check out this YouTube video of Mr Quinn addressing his class about the incident.) Naturally, for those students that had, and used, a copy of the test bank, their exam scores were higher. In fact, the first piece of evidence that something was afoot was a statistical analysis that showed a bimodal distribution, meaning there was an outside influence that skewed the data. (Hooray for math!) More supporting evidence came from a mystery student placing a copy of the test bank in a bin outside Mr Quinn’s office, thereby demonstrating that the test bank was floating around campus. Lastly, some of the honest students (those screwed over by the cheaters) contacted the teaching assistants to complain about dishonest students who were bragging they aced the exam because they had the answers ahead of time. In the end, it was clear that a substantial number of students had committed an act of academic dishonesty.
In response to the cheating, Mr Quinn decided to throw out the exam results. A new exam was written, but not from an existing test bank. Finally, students were given the ultimatum to either turn themselves in and be required to take an ethics course through Academic Affairs, or face the possibility of Academic Affairs prosecution which will most likely result in a permanent negative mark on the offenders’ transcripts.
In all fairness, there were two rebuttals from students. The first can be seen in the video associated with the WFTV article, UCF Learns Hundreds Cheated On Mid-Term. Did you catch it? The second student’s defense is that, “This is college. Everyone cheats. Everyone cheats in life in general. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn’t cheated on an exam. They’re making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if it were to teach us some kind of moral lesson.” Umm, okay. It seems that the defense here is that because everyone else is dishonest it’s acceptable to be dishonest yourself. Do I even need to counter-argue this point?
The second rebuttal has a little bit more teeth to it. In this YouTube video students counter that Mr Quinn was dishonest in claiming that he wrote the exam; it’s acceptable to use “an available resource from a publisher” as a study aid; and it’s unfair to the honest students that they too are also being punished. The suggested recourse for Mr Quinn, according to the makers of the video, “Just formally apologize for laziness and give ALL the students an extra letter grade higher on our final grades.”
I have to admit, there is a double standard in claiming to write the questions for an exam and then pirating them from a publisher’s test bank. But, if you watch the video closely you notice that Mr Quinn claims to create the exam, which I would contest can be interpreted to mean he selects the questions. He does, however, state that he occasionally writes bad questions. If 100% of the exam comes from the test bank, then Mr Quinn is not being honest. If he contributes his own questions, in addition to the publishers questions, then there’s no problem here. I don’t have enough knowledge about the situation to distinguish these two scenarios.
Now for the big question, is it academically dishonest to use available resources from the publisher to study for an exam? There are two answers to this question. There are certain materials that publishers produce that are meant to be used by students as study aids outside of the classroom. In the case, it’s not cheating. However, there are other materials that are for instructors’ eyes only. These materials should not be used or even seen by students. It would be academically dishonest to use such materials as study aids, even if they are readily available. What is not clear from the information I can find is which of the two types of materials the exam questions were pulled from. I suspect, based on the reaction of Mr Quinn and the students, that the questions came from a test bank meant for the instructors use only.
Personal Experiences with Academic Dishonesty
This last issue is one that hits close to home. In physics and astronomy, we use textbooks that have end-of-chapter problems. It’s very convenient to just assign a handful of these and call it a homework assignment. What makes it even easier is that solutions sets for the problems are available from the textbook publishers. But these are exactly the types of materials that find their way into student hands. Worst yet is that with the internet students don’t even have to get the entire solution set. By simply copying the question into a Google search engine, answers to individual questions can be found.
Is the use of Google academic dishonesty? If a student is willfully using material that states that it’s meant for instructors only, and most of these materials do, then it’s clearly cheating. It’s also cheating if the instructor, or the syllabus, explicitly state that the use of Google or whatever other resources are forbidden. This assumes, of course, that the students are modifying the information they receive from Google. If, on the other hand, they are simply transcribing what they found on the internet and turning it in as their own, they are committing academic fraud. They’re essentially using an academic mercenary without paying for it.
I can honestly say that I’ve never cheated. I never saw value in it. I’m someone that’s driven by gaining new knowledge. I’ve also come to realize that the best way to understand something new is by doing the work myself. Consequently I’ve pulled all-nighters, I’ve turned in partially completed and sometimes crappy assignments, I’m embarrassed by some of the horrible typos in my dissertation, but I can proudly say that it’s my work.
As a college professor I have caught students cheating and I would be ignorant to think others did not get away with it. It does happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t proactively attempt to short-circuit cheating. There are a number of techniques I’ve tried, some have appeared to work while others have not necessarily had an affect.
One approach that I’m particularly proud of is using assessments that are not simple factual regurgitation. Most of my homework assignments, in-class activities, exams, etc. don’t ask students knowledge based questions like, “What does Kepler’s First Law state?” but rather application or analysis questions such as, “Why was Kepler’s Law so revolutionary?” By requiring students to apply knowledge (i.e. going to a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy), they’re put into situations that are not readily available from other resources. That isn’t to say that there isn’t support out there to answer these questions for students to “borrow”. The hired mercenary is one example. But if it’s a lot more work and/or if the student is under a time constraint, then these sources are less appealing.
I also have an advantage in that I teach relatively small classes, less than forty students a semester. This affords me the opportunity to get to know my students individually. By about two-thirds of the way into a course I can assign final grades to within a half letter grade accuracy. By personally addressing their questions, listening to them work in groups, and grading their assignments I’m able to build a fairly accurate profile for the abilities within the content of the class. I can easily imagine that for a professor at a large state school, with classes of literally hundreds of students, students don’t have to struggle to blend into the scenery which allows for better opportunities for cheating. I can what I’m saying is that one way to flag possible cheating is to get to know your students.
It would be nice if instructors could catch more offenders. Then we could send them to the chalkboard and make them repeat the mantra:
By the way, I solemnly swear that I wrote this article. I’m sure there are plenty of my signature grammatical issues that support my claim.
The path to a professional career in the physical sciences is, admittedly, a bit bumpy. The below video, which shoes a conversation between a current grad student and a prospective physics PhD student, sarcastically highlights some of the issues with getting a degree in physics.
I laughed my bum off as I watched this movie because I can identify with so much of what’s being said. I am a theoretical astrophysicists (my field is gravitational wave astronomy) and I’ve gone through a path very similar to what’s depicted here. In fact, I expect to get a lot of flak from my colleagues after they watch this video.
The truth is that getting a PhD in any field is not trivial. It does take a lot of dedication, motivation, and patience. The path to a physics PhD starts with four years earning a bachelor’s degree, followed by another five to ten years getting a PhD. Yes, I said upwards of ten years. I do know people who took that long! After the PhD there are really one of four paths that can be taken: (1) get a postdoc, (2) go into industry/government work, (3) become a teacher, or (4) leave the field altogether and get a job doing something unrelated to physics (like financial modeling).
As the video accurately describes, to get a position at a top-notch university requires a couple of postdocs each of which can be up to three years in duration. A postdoc is like an apprenticeship. You’re not quite a professor but you’re definitely not a grad student anymore. You’re in academic purgatory. After a postdoc, or two, or three, then and only then are you ready to apply for one of those elusive academic positions—and they are rare!
The pain doesn’t stop there. The reward for landing a faculty position is that you get to spend your first six years on probation. During this time you have to prove to the university that you’re worth keeping for the rest of your professional career. So it’s only in your late thirties at best—more realistically it’s around forty—do you finally arrive at a secured position, doing what you want.
Dang. In retrospect, the path does sound scary and even a bit obnoxious. But as someone that’s came through the other end of the process (ok, sure I’m not quite tenured or at Harvard, Princeton, or MIT but I did follow a very similar path) I can say that the payoff can be enormous. I get to spend my days thinking about what it would be like to fly around a black hole, or the possible difficulties in exploring Europa for extraterrestrial life, or any other cool sciency stuff that interests me. I then get to go into the classroom and spread the good word about science and to support the interests of the students by showing them all that we know about the world. In doing research projects there are those moments when I get to pause and realize that I’m the only person in the world that has some specific knowledge that others will want to know about. That’s freaking cool!
Moreover, I have a job that allows me to have somewhat flexible hours—I do need to be in class at certain times and there are those darn committee meetings, but these obligations are much less than the forty hours some people have to spend in an office cubicle. I get to travel and meet people from all around the world. I get to read and write what I’m passionate about. And all of this came about because I stuck with the program even as grueling as it may be.
By the way, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of campus as the video So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities shows:
In my opinion, one of the most difficult concepts for non-sciencitists to grasp is the vast range of sizes needed to describe the objects that fill our Universe. In teaching Astro 101 I work hard to instill in my students a sense of how big the Universe really is. It’s not a trivial exercise for humans to get to the Moon, or to Mars, or ideally to another star. The reason being, there’s a lot of space in outer space. Unfortunately I don’t have time in Astro 101 to also impress on students how small the world of particle physics is.
Personally it still amazes me that the smallest length of interest in physics is the Planck Length at an astonishingly small value of
Conversely, the observable Universe is a whopping
in radius. That’s a huge range is sizes!
In between these two extreme sizes is EVERYTHING and science attempts to model all of it with just a handful of theories. To get you thinking about the wide range of sizes that scientists grapple with on a daily basis take a look at the Scale of the Universe.
To me it’s so cool that astrophysics can use basically electromagnetism and Newtonian mechanics, with the occasional appeal to Einstein’s relativity, to describe just about any macroscopic motion. On the other hand, quantum mechanics (and statistical mechanics if you want to split hairs) does a really good job at describing the microscopic motion of particles. With just these few theories, everything represented in the Scale of the Universe can be understood.
Since the release of the iPad last spring I’ve noticed an increase in the prevalence of e-readers, not only Apple’s entry but from anybody selling an e-reader. When I surf over to Amazon.com the homepage has an advertisement for the Kindle prominently displayed. Likewise, when I step into the local Barnes & Noble I’m welcomed by a display for the nook. Based on the recent boom in e-reader devices it may be that we are in the beginning stages of a paperless book reading experience. But how does this translate to the classroom?
Over on The Active Class blog is a nice post on teaching a paperless class. Among the issues raised are the ease of interacting with a bound text and the general nostalgia of handling a book. These issues tend to outweigh the convenience of a cheaper, more portable version of the same text. As a result, there seems to be some resistance to completely transforming into a paperless class.
Referenced in the same Active Class blog entry is a posting on Mashable entitled Digital Textbooks: 3 Reasons Students Aren’t Ready. This article adds to the discussion that an e-text revolution isn’t quite here because of the lack of a substantial cost savings, no universal standard, and a question of ownership of the downloaded material.
In the Physics Department at Coastal Carolina we’ve discussed the issue of promoting e-texts, mostly with the motivation of saving our students money. Central in our discussion is the last point made on Mashable. Physics majors need to keep their texts years after the actual class. As a faculty member I still reference textbooks I used as a student. So when a student elects to use an electronic copy of the text, the question arises, how longs does the student have access to it? Will the material expire? How is accessibility handled as students purchase new e-reader devices? These are important questions that need to be made more clear before the large leap into the paperless class can be made.
For the non-majors—those students that typically celebrate passing physics and never want to look back—they can’t wait to sell their expensive books back to recoup at least some of the original purchasing cost. With e-texts, it doesn’t seem that resell is possible. If a student spends a substantial amount of money on a digital copy of the text, they would like to get something back at the end of the day.
The other large issue I see with going paperless is a reliable device for reading the material. A few years ago—or even arguably a few months ago—the only readily available e-reader device was a computer. A desktop limits the location of where an e-text can be read. It’s also more restrictive in the physical positions a person can be in while interacting with the material. (How many of us have a desktop that we can use while lying down.) Laptops alleviate most of the desktop issues but they fall short in that laptop battery lifetimes tend to be short. In my own classroom students that use a laptop during class are often tethered to the wall because their computer’s battery can’t even make it through class. For these reasons, and those discussed elsewhere, I think students may be hesitant to embrace the e-text idea.
However, now that there are a number of more portable, long battery life devices out there, maybe the time for e-texts is here. These new devices are cheaper than a traditional computer, which makes them more financially accessible to students. They’re also more inviting as devices that can be more than just an e-reader. In one composition book sized object you have not only an e-reader, but access to email and the world wide web in addition to a number of relevant applications. Think of apps like The Elements and Star Walk to name just a few.
Still, there are issues of material ownership and universal access for electronic materials. How long can students access digital texts? Can one student use a Kindle while the next student use an iPad? Also, students have to overcome the nostalgia factor of interacting and collecting bound texts.
My suspicion is that as these new e-readers become more prevalent in our leisure lives, we’re going to see more of a push to address the concerns over going paperless in the classroom. In other words, as devices such as the iPad are used for things other than schoolwork, students are going to realize the comfort and benefits of going paperless with their textbooks as well. More importantly, as publishers see sales of e-readers increase, they’ll see a window of opportunity and will in turn clarify issues with universal accessibility and expirations. The business models will follow customers’ desires.
Annual pay for Bachelors graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have 2 years of experience; mid-career have 15 years. See full methodology for more.
Do you see a common thread in all of these jobs? It’s math! Each career requires a substantial amount of math. Some more than others, but literally every job is built on a mathematical foundation. So what’s the big deal?
The problem is that a number of people have a math phobia that usually develops early in life. One particular study by Beilock et al. suggests that females may develop a math phobia as early as the first or second grade. Moreover the Beilock study suggests that the phobia originates from an adult role model—in this case the child’s teacher.
As an science educator at an undergraduate institution I regularly come across students, both male and female, with math phobias. It’s disheartening to see someone freeze-up when presented with a math problem. In many cases the person is intelligent and can understand scientific reasoning, but when asked to perform a calculation often leads to a deer in the headlight response.
Unfortunately for anyone that develops a math phobia, they can be excluded from the highest paying jobs. As a colleague of mine puts it, when adults inject (intentionally or not) a math phobia into kids they’re doing them a great disservice. I would add that there are a number of very intelligent and talented people out there that are not in these mathematical fields because at some point in their childhood they developed a math phobia that has directed them away from such career paths.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is to keep an open mind when discussing mathematics with children. Otherwise you may accidentally short-circuit a career path years in advance.