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Math        < Previous


Schools With a Math and Science Focus


Q. Is it a good idea, or too specialized, to create a high school with a strong focus on math and science, that minimizes other subjects?


There are payoffs and dangers of such a plan. The payoffs include creating more students capable of surviving and excelling in college math and science classrooms and high-skilled jobs in science and engineering. By all accounts, our country sorely needs more people like that.


But the dangers might include creating a set of future citizens who are overdeveloped in narrow academic areas and underdeveloped in other important areas. If their focus is merely on math and science, they may lack the worldview and perspective that come only through studying history, for example. Or they may lack the important stress relief skills that come from developing their music and art talent while in high school. Overall, these usually left-brained, high-achieving type students might grow up into biased adults who don't respect and appreciate other types of giftedness besides their own, because they were "hothoused" in school and were only around other students who are just like them.


The solution in a growing number of communities is to create "a school within a school" that functions as a sort of magnet school for math and science but is still part of the mainstream of a full-service high school. The students are more intensely challenged in math and science within these programs than in the general student population, and typically do a senior project that is better than the math and science curricula in many colleges. But they still are in the same building and taking many of the same classes as everybody else.


That appears to be the most prevalent model among the members of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology ( which claimed more than 100 members serving 39,000 students in December 2007.


Example: Aberdeen High School in Harford County, Md., which has gained $1 million in federal funding for technology, teacher training, and enrichment field trips for its Science and Mathematics Academy. News accounts list high-level assignments such as studying the nerve and cardiac damage caused by chemical weapons, constructing a wind tunnel to test cars, and researching the effect of temperature on combustion engines.


The Math and Science Academy at that school takes up the top floor of the building and enrolls about 200 students, with three times as many students applying as getting in. Internships and help on the signature senior research project from area employers, including the U.S. Army and McCormick & Co., are a key component of the academy's success.


The curriculum builds to a senior research project, which each student designs and develops with a mentor who might be employed at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, at Battelle or at McCormick & Co. Inc.


For more, see their website:


Homework: Take a look at the class offerings at this math and science high school in the San Fernando Valley of California:


And here's another one in Virginia Beach, Va.:




By Susan Darst Williams Math 16 2008


Math        < Previous
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