Female African-American Mathematicians at NASA in 1961

Posted on February 24, 2017 1 Comment

Hidden Figures is a film based on the experiences of female African-American mathematicians at NASA in 1961 including Katherine Johnson. It is easy to forget our history if we don’t make an effort to remember.

Popular movie adaptations are not the best source for completely accurate history but they are a great way to raise awareness when they hold somewhat close to historical events.

It is amazing to see what was accomplished and also remember how badly mistaken our society was in important ways. We have made strides as a society, but we still have significant problems we need to address. Movies like Hidden Figures are a positive reminder of what can be accomplished when we give people opportunities. We need to remember that lesson and do what we can to remove the barriers that continue today.

NASA video on Katherine Johnson’s career:

Read more

Highest Paying Fields at Mid Career in USA: Engineering, Science and Math

Posted on September 20, 2015 1 Comment

Payscale has again provided details on average salaries by major for various fields. Once again engineering, math and science dominate. For this data they define mid-career as those with 10+ years of experience.

The top 15 bachelor degrees by mid-career salary were all from those 3 fields. And the median salary was $168,000 for petroleum engineering degrees (at the top) to $107,000 for Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science and Mathematics (tied for 14th).

The starting salaries for those with these degrees ranged from $58,000 for Actuarial Mathematics (though by mid-career salary they were in 3rd place at $119,000) to $101,000 for petroleum engineering. My guess is petroleum engineering salaries will decline from their current highs (as they have done in previous oil price busts). The second highest paying bachelor degree starting salary was for mining engineering at $71,500 – with most of the other fairly close to that amount.

Nuclear engineering pay started at a median of $68,200 before rising to the 2nd highest mid-career level of $121,000.

Payscale also provided data based on master’s degree field. Again petroleum engineering was in first place by mid-career ($173,000). Nurse anesthesia was in second at $159,000 and held the first spot for starting median salary ($139,000).

Taxation is the only filed that is obviously not STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related which had the lowest initial median salary of $60,700 but was tied for 5th for mid career salary at $126,000. Technology management and operations research are also not STEM fields though are a bit related to the STEM area.

PhD degree’s with the highest mid-career median earning are again all STEM fields. Economics is one many people probably don’t think of as STEM but it is (as a social science) and really it is largely mathematics at this point.

Many of the PhD starting salaries are at $100,000 (or close). The disciplines with the highest mid-career median salaries are: Electrical and Computer Engineering $142,000; Computer Engineering $139,000; Chemical Engineering $138,000; Biomedical Engineering, $137,000; and Economics $134,000.

Related: No Surprise, Engineering Graduates Pay Continue to Reign Supreme (2012)The Time to Payback the Investment in a College Education in the USA Today is Nearly as Low as Ever, Surprisingly (2014)Engineering Again Dominates The Highest Paying College Degree Programs (2011)Earnings by College Major” Engineers and Scientists at the Top (2013)Looking at the Value of Different College Degrees

Math Education Results Show China, Singapore, Korea and Japan Leading

Posted on March 4, 2014 4 Comments

The most comprehensive comparison of student achievement in math and science around the globe undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) focuses on math understanding of 15 year olds (the 2014 report will focus on science). The 2009 report focused on the results of science education student achievement around the globe.

2012 results for the math portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):

  • 1 – Singapore – 573
  • 2 – Korea – 554
  • 3 – Japan – 536
  • 5 – Switzerland – 531
  • 6 – Netherlands – 523
  • 7 – Estonia – 521
  • 8 – Finland – 519
  • 9 – Canada – 518
  • 12 – Germany – 514
  • 24 – UK – 494 (this is also the OECD average)
  • 34 – USA – 481
  • 49 – Malaysia – 421
  • 50 – Mexico – 413

All 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries and economies participated in PISA 2012, representing more than 80% of the world economy. Portions of China participated and did very well including Shanghai-China (highest mean score of 613 points – if you ranked that as a country, I ignored these “regional results” in the ranks I shown here), Hong Kong-China (561, 3rd if including countries and regions together), Chinese Taipei [Taiwan] (560, 4th), Macao-China (538, 6th).

Boys perform better than girls in mathematics in 38 out of the 65 countries and economies that participated in PISA 2012, and girls outperform boys in 5 countries.

Related: Playing Dice and Children’s NumeracyNumeracy: The Educational Gift That Keeps on GivingMathematicians Top List of Best OccupationsThe Economic Consequences of Investing in Science EducationCountry H-index Ranking for Science PublicationsEconomic Strength Through Technology Leadership

Read more

Teen Solves Puzzle That Has Stumped Mathematicians for 300 Years

Posted on May 27, 2012 No Comments

Teen solves Newton’s 300-year-old riddle

An Indian-born teenager has won a research award for solving a mathematical problem first posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago that has baffled mathematicians ever since.

The solution devised by Shouryya Ray, 16, makes it possible to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance. Shouryya, who lives in Dresden, eastern Germany, came up with the solutions to this and a second mathematical riddle while working on a school project.

Only partial solutions had been discovered up to now, requiring simplified assumptions or calculations by computer. Shouryya’s elegant solutions could contribute to greater precision in fields such as ballistics.

Related: Teen Tackles Centuries-old Numbers challenge (this time it was an Iraqi immigrant in Sweden)Numeracy: The Educational Gift That Keeps on GivingOur Brains Reorganize As We Learn Math

Top Countries for Science and Math Education: Finland, Hong Kong and Korea

Posted on December 7, 2010 32 Comments

The 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)* report has been released. The report examines the science of 15 year olds from 57 countries in math, science and reading. The main focus of PISA 2009 was reading. The survey also updated performance assessments in mathematics and science.

The Asian countries continue to do very well for several reason including tutoring; they have even turned tutors into rock stars earning millions of dollars. The results show that the focus on student achievement in sciences has had an impact in Asia.

The emphasis is on mastering processes, understanding concepts and functioning in various contexts within each assessment area. the PISA 2012 survey will return to mathematics as the major assessment area, PISA 2015 will focus on science.

Results for the Science portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):

  • 1 – Finland – 554
  • 2 – Hong Kong – 549
  • 3 – Japan – 539
  • 4 – Korea – 538
  • 5 – New Zealand – 532
  • 6 – Canada – 529
  • 7 – Estonia – 528
  • 8 – Australia – 527
  • 9 – Netherlands – 522
  • 10 – Taiwan – 520
  • 11 – Germany – 520
  • 14 – United Kingdom – 514
  • 21 – USA – 502 (up from 489 and 29th place in 2006)
  • OECD average – 501
  • 25 – France – 498
  • 46 – Mexico – 416
  • 49 – Brazil – 405

Results for the math portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):
Read more

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring

Posted on July 18, 2009 3 Comments

Project Exploration wins a presidential award for science education

This week, Project Exploration received one of 22 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, a prize that carries a $10,000 grant and an award ceremony this fall at the White House.

So Project Exploration started summer and after-school programs to expose students underrepresented in the sciences, primarily girls and minorities, to scientists and their real-life work. Students design research projects and test them in the field, or work summers at museums demonstrating science to young children.

One group of girls is currently tracking coyotes in Yellowstone National Park, Lyon said. “Over time, they find they’re making discoveries not just about science but about themselves,” she said.

Related: Presidential Award for Top Science and Math TeachersFund Teacher’s Science ProjectsNSF CAREER Award Winners 2008Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (2007)

SUNY Plattsburgh professor earns presidential honor

Her students have been working to unlock the mysteries of the past as they analyze the DNA from skeletons of ancient Maya. They are trying to answer questions like did the disorder Beta-Thalassemia, a type of anemia, really exist in the Americas before Columbus set sail? What accounts for differences in burial among some of the Maya? Were some from more aristocratic family lines? What route did the Maya take across the Bering Strait? And are there other Native American tribes that share a common ancestry?

Her students are also working to unlock mysteries of the present, studying a newly found gene that exists in paramecium (single-celled organisms) that may tell them more about evolution.

Others have just completed a joint project, working with Elwess, Adjunct Lecturer Sandra Latourelle and members of the college’s psychology department – SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Jeanne Ryan and Professor William Tooke. They searched for links between an individual’s genes, aggressive behavior and the ratio of one finger to another. Their results will be released soon.

This sort of work has led to SUNY Plattsburgh undergraduates winning top honors for poster presentations at both the National Association of Biology Teachers and International Sigma Xi conferences four years in a row. In addition, many of Elwess’ students have also gone on to pursue higher degrees in the field, being accepted into schools like Yale and the University of Oregon.

President Obama today named more than 100 science, math, and engineering teachers and mentors as recipients of two prestigious Presidential Awards for Excellence. The educators will receive their awards in the Fall at a White House ceremony.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, awarded each year to individuals or organizations, recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering and who belong to minorities that are underrepresented in those fields. By offering their time, encouragement and expertise to these students, mentors help ensure that the next generation of scientists and engineers will better reflect the diversity of the United States.
Read more

Mathematicians Top List of Best Occupations

Posted on January 21, 2009 6 Comments

These lists are basically silly but here is one sites opinion on the best occupations. I don’t really accept the methodology used as providing anything very meaningful about the “best jobs” but at least the spell it out. Best jobs

  1. Mathematician
  2. Actuary
  3. Statistician
  4. Biologist
  5. Software Engineer
  6. Computer Systems Analyst

Their criteria really value being able to sit at a desk and not having to do physical work. High salary and limited stress are also significant factors.

Related: The Economic Benefits of MathWho Killed the Software Engineer?Knowledge Is Power – Teaching MathThe IT Job Market in the UK

Making Magnificent Mirrors with Math

Posted on January 20, 2009 1 Comment

At Drexel, he designs amazing mirrors

Could math provide the path to better reflection? Perline asked.

Indeed it could. Eight years and numerous calculations later, Hicks is now testing a prototype mirror – for a car, not a bike – and he is in talks with a foreign manufacturer. As with the bike mirror, the rounded surface provides a wide field of view – so wide that it eliminates the dreaded, driver-side “blind spot” – yet the subtle mathematics of his design result in little or no distortion.

He didn’t stop there. The 42-year-old mathematician went on to design half a dozen other reflective surfaces for various applications – a few of them in collaboration with Perline – and they are like nothing you’d ever see on the bathroom wall.

Panoramic mirrors. Mirrors for use with high-tech surveillance cameras. Mirrors with odd, undulating surfaces that are fashioned with a computer-guided milling machine. And one wacky mirror that doesn’t yield a mirror image at all. If you raise one hand while looking into the curved surface, your reflection appears to be raising the opposite hand.

It’s not clear what use that one will have, beyond entertainment – Perline calls it “the vampire mirror” – but with his driver-side prototype, Hicks may be onto something.

Related: Innovation with MathThe Emperor of MathTimemath related posts

Brain Reorganizes As It Learns Math

Posted on December 26, 2008 2 Comments

Brain reorganizes to make room for math

It takes years for children to master the ins and outs of arithmetic. New research indicates that this learning process triggers a large-scale reorganization of brain processes involved in understanding written symbols for various quantities.

The findings support the idea that humans’ ability to match specific quantities with number symbols, a skill required for doing arithmetic, builds on a brain system that is used for estimating approximate quantities. That brain system is seen in many nonhuman animals.

When performing operations with Arabic numerals, young adults, but not school-age children, show pronounced activity in a piece of brain tissue called the left superior temporal gyrus, says Daniel Ansari of the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. Earlier studies have linked this region to the ability to associate speech sounds with written letters, and musical sounds with written notes. The left superior temporal gyrus is located near the brain’s midpoint, not far from areas linked to speech production and understanding.

In contrast, children solving a numerical task display heightened activity in a frontal-brain area that, in adults, primarily serves other functions.

Related: Brain DevelopmentThe Brain Hides Information From Us To Prevent MistakesHow The Brain Rewires Itselfposts about brain research

Documentary on 5 Women Majoring in Science and Math at Ohio State

Posted on November 10, 2008 3 Comments

In the clip, Jennifer Jones, a civil engineering student who talks about her challenges and determination to overcome obstacles in her honors program at Ohio State University. The clip is from Gender Chip Project, a documentary following 5 women majoring in the sciences, engineering and math at Ohio State University.

Related: Women Working in ScienceWomen Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and MathGirls in Science and EngineeringFixing Engineering’s Gender Gap

Science, Engineering and Math Fellowships

Posted on November 1, 2008 No Comments

I work at the American Society for Engineering Education as an Information Technology Program Manager (this blog is not affiliated with ASEE). A large portion of the computer applications I work on are related to the science and engineering fellowships we administer. The fellowship applications are all open now (for certain fields the NSF application deadline is next week). Those fellowships include:

Other scholarships and fellowships (these are not managed by ASEE): Gates Millennium Scholars Program (January 12th deadline) – NASA Graduate Student Researchers (February 1st) – Goldwater Science Scholarships (January 30th)

Related: Science and Engineering Fellowship Applications Open NowDirectory and application advice for science and engineering scholarships and fellowships