Friday, July 27, 2012

Is America's Mediocre (At Best) Science Scores Due To Not Using The Metric System?

In my opinion, the answer is yes, in part.  We spend the first couple of weeks of chemistry class going over measurement in general.  Over half of that time is spent on the Metric System some of which they already 'learned' in other science courses.   I put learned in quotes because many students were not comfortable with it since they do not use it once they leave the classroom.

I use analogies to describe concepts, as most science teachers do.  For example, when talking about the fundamental concept of density which is mass divided by volume, common units for chemistry are grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm3).  I may ask a student to estimate the density of water using those units, they would at a loss, however, if I said use pounds per cubic feet (lbs/ft3) they would probably have a guess that is close to the answer of 63 lbs/ft3.  This makes analogies that much harder to because then I have to have the students convert these units to the Metric System.  This is where I lose a significant number of students as it adds another layer of mathematical minutia that would not exist if we were using the Metric System.  Incidentally, it is not an accident that the density of water in the Metric System is 1.0 g/cm3 but the reasons why the Metric System is so much better is a discussion for a later post!

Most (or maybe all) of my students from other countries perform much better than the U.S. born students.  A few years ago a former student moved to CT from Albania.  She joined the class after the first marking period and barely spoke any English.  I was thinking to myself "how is this student going to function not speaking English?"  However, it soon became apparent that I when started putting equations on the board, she saw and understood the familiar units and ended up being the curve breaker.  Her math skills along with her knowledge of the Metric System allowed her to succeed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012



While camping in Western MA we went to Berkshire Botanical Garden where they had a wonderful special feature on sundials.  Through the gardens there are sundials made of stone, bronze, iron, and other materials.  
Fig 1
DSC_0032_01 by kurt zeppetello 
                  Fig 2
(DSC_0032_01, a photo by kurt zeppetello on Flickr.)

The spherical sundial in Fig 1 shows the time at 2 o'clock while the time on the permanently displayed sundial in Fig 2 indicates the time as 1 o'clock even-though they were taken almost at the same time.  Since this event is scheduled from June 23 - October 15, only the 'temporary' sundials are set to Daylight Savings Time.  The others are set to Eastern Standard Time.

My favorites are:

All of the sundials can be viewed on the following link: Berkshire Sundials 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Connecticut Audubon Society: Aspetuck Land Trust and Connecticut Audubon Societ...


We tagged along a wonderful vernal pool walk set up by the Aspetuck Land Trust in late May designed for kids.  The following link shows the results.  Somehow my son ended up in most of the pictures.

Connecticut Audubon Society: Aspetuck Land Trust and Connecticut Audubon Societ...: In late May, the Aspetuck Land Trust set up a vernal pool walk for kids at the Trout Brook Valley Preserve led by our own Conservation Biolo...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Blog of Phyz: "The good ole days weren't always good...

The Blog of Phyz: "The good ole days weren't always good...: And tomorrow's not as bad as it seems." Billy Joel "Keeping the Faith" Here's an interesting eye-opener from Slate : Five Misconception...

Dean Baird summarizes "Five Misconceptions About Teaching Math and Science" from Slate.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Featured Scientist of the Month

In an effort to keep my homepage in a somewhat dynamic state and to increase student (or anyone else's) interest in science I will feature a person each month who participated in science.  Also, I really enjoy learning about what made these people tick.  It will consist of a picture and short teaser bio with a link to more extensive bio.  Think of it as my "Hall of Fame" for scientists...