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In early January, the President announced several new public-private partnerships that would invest more than $250 million to help prepare more than 10000 new math and science teachers and provide extra training to more than 100,000 existing teachers.

The current administration’s campaign is called “Educate to Innovate” and is pursuing many avenues to increase U.S. students’ standing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There is a concerted push to have teachers who can confidently and enthusiastically teach science. (See the full White House news release for details on how universities and private companies are working on the problem.

“Passionate educators with deep content expertise can make all the difference,” President Obama said in a prepared statement, “enabling hands-on learning that truly engages students — including girls and underrepresented minorities — and preparing them to tackle the ‘grand challenges’ of the 21st century such as increasing energy independence, improving people’s health, protecting the environment and strengthening national security.”

All of this points out that our schools still lack in properly educating children in the science and math they will need to succeed in their adult careers. As reported in previous blog postings here, our students’ rankings in science continue to fall compared to many other countries, which does not bode well for our ability to innovate and compete in the future.

For those who teach at home or in private settings, it points out the need to use engaging science materials at an early age. To make sure both the students and the teacher are comfortable, use materials that include “how-to” manuals for non-scientist adults who are doing the teaching.

A case in point is that Gravitas Publications was begun in 2002 because one home-school mom – who actually was a scientist with a Ph.D. – could not find age-appropriate, engaging textbooks that built a real foundation for understanding science.

Home schoolers of all backgrounds must feel confident in being able to present the lessons and make it exciting for the student – just like the national effort to train professional teachers.

What about the President singling out the need to engage girls? Here’s just one statistic that points out that problem:  Only 17% of undergraduate engineering degrees are awarded to women.

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