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Learning Curve: Newton parents start group to push math and science

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 16, 2011 03:43 PM

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About a dozen Newton parents are launching a new organization to boost science, technology, engineering, and math education in the city’s schools.

Calling themselves the Newton STEM Coalition, the group is seeking to engage students through hands-on learning and to bring together parents and other community members who have ideas for making the STEM curriculum even better than it already is, said Joshua Cohen, a co-founder of Newton STEM (www.newtonstem.org).

‘‘Kids who are still in elementary school, middle school certainly, and even in high school don’t have a full awareness of how pervasive math and science is in a range of careers they would never even think of,’’ said Cohen, who works as a health economist and has served on the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s panel to revise the math curriculum.

Cohen said he hopes the group can encourage the schools to access outside resources such as the Massachusetts-based DIGITS program, which trains math and science professionals to share what they do in the classroom.

Cohen got interested in the topic after watching his twin son and daughter, now ninth-graders, tackle math and science.

‘‘In elementary I just felt what they were doing was fine and some of it was quite good, but I felt, ‘Gee we could be doing more here,’’’ he said.

Cohen started making up his own lessons for them and soon some of their friends joined in.

Newton STEM will hold a launch event on March 7, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Newton Senior Center. Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray will deliver the keynote speech. State Representative Ruth Balser, a Newton Democrat, will be joined by several professionals in science, technology, engineering, and math for a panel discussion.

Murray chairs the governor’s STEM Advisory Council, which issued a report on the topic this past fall. It found that interest in STEM careers is on the decline among Massachusetts students, even though jobs in those subject areas command high salaries and are a vital part of the economy.

Learning Curve is a new blog about K-12 education in the Your Town communities. Please send ideas about issues, people, and upcoming events involving your school to Lisa Kocian at lkocian@globe.com.

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