First Take: Sputnik 2.0

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 05:57 PM

President Obama delivers his second State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 25th. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty)

At last night's State of the Union, President Obama drew on a moment from a very different era to make one of his biggest points. He said we've reached our generation's "Sputnik moment." Like the space race of 40 years ago, the president said, the U.S. needs to come up with the Apollo projects of our time.

On tomorrow's show, we'll look at how the first Sputnik moment changed America and what Sputnik 2.0 might look like.

We'll also look at another issue raised in the State of the Union: How American students can get better at math and science. We'll look at what can inspire today's kids to pursue careers in those fields, as the president is asking. And we've been asking you what, if anything, inspired you to study math or science. Here's what you've told us by text message today:

Jersey City, NJ
I have only been inspired to learn math and science through realizing that I might actually need the information for work. Before that they were just demanding classes with little application to my life.

Pontiac, Mich.
My parents inspired me. Specifically, my father's belt. Eventually, I loved how math allowed me to understand the world, from a bank balance to planet motion.

Jay Fabrizio, Centerdale, RI
I was always bad at math. Not everyone can be good at math plain and simple. Those that are good should be challenged to use math to solve energy.

Columbia, SC
I never once had a single even remotely "inspiring" math/science teacher, and that includes my collegiate education. Had several top notch linguistics and other Arts teachers over the course of of my educational history.

And The New York Times just posted a lengthy account by editor Bill Keller about the paper's dealings with Julian Assange and Wikileaks. We'll talk to Keller about it in the morning.

Finally, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission releases its final report tomorrow morning. As the financial industry shows signs of resurgence, with the Dow cracking 12,000 today, we'll look at whether we're in danger of slipping into another crisis any time soon.

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Comments [2]

Jay from Queens

I teach statistics to advanced students. Some are reasonably well prepared but too many are unprepared to do even high school level mathematics. They simply have no idea how to reason mathematically, which involves problem solving, reality checking, etc. This makes learning any advanced topics VERY difficult because much of what you need to do in any more advanced topic isn't complex calculations but having good instincts for what's sensible and not, and developing methods for testing ideas.

How to get out of this gulch? I don't think there is a shortcut. Learning how to think mathematically requires practice, practice, practice, and benefits immensely from guidance from someone who has a reasonable working knowledge in the topic. Both problems are difficult to solve. One way that might help would be to incorporate mathematical reasoning into other areas that often do not otherwise contain it. For instance, a history assignment could involve some basic calculation on the part of students of things like demographic growth rates, which could be presented on a graph. This helps reinforce the notion that math is a tool for understanding, not something separated from content.

Jan. 27 2011 08:48 AM
Robert Prouse from Manhattan

Sputnik Moment: No love for the English majors....

Jan. 27 2011 06:26 AM

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