Education Reporters Do The Math

Today's one of those days where several folks have written about the same thing, in this case a Brookings study with the finding that countries where students don't love math do better at it. Journalists sure love them "man bites dog" stories, and this counter-intuitive story proves irresistable. But the Post, USA Today, and AP writers all treat it somewhat differently.

Over at the Washington Post, Jay Mathews focuses on teachers' use of self-esteem (Self-Esteem Might Not Equal High Scores), and has this line from Tom Loveless, one of the Brookings authors: "It is interesting that people grasp this notion in other areas of self-improvement -- eating healthy foods, getting exercise, saving for retirement -- but when it comes to education, for some reason, the limitations of happiness are forgotten."

Developing the athletics metaphor, USAT's Greg Toppo (Enjoying math not always a plus) gets a nice quote from Saxon Math's Frank Wang: "No one questions a football coach when he says we have to have two-a-day practices in 100-degree heat. People don't question it because they feel it's a necessary price to win."

Only AP's Ben Feller (Happy, confident students do worse in math) takes real a stab at questioning the study's results and implications, quoting the NCTM's Francis "Skip" Fennell: "If I'm a math student and I don't perceive myself as confident, you think I'm going to major in it? The answer is no...Is enjoyment important? You bet it is. Is confidence important? You bet it is. If we don't have those variables, we can't compete."

UPDATE: Sara Mead makes fun of the press coverage, too:Stupid and Happy


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