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Business and science groups are reviving images of the Cold War space race in an effort to persuade lawmakers to spend millions to recruit and train high-caliber math teachers.

They argue that, just as a stronger focus on math helped the United States top the Soviet Sputnik launch by putting a man on the moon, the country needs to improve math education to win an economic race with China and India and a national security race against terrorism.


Raytheon, General Electric and IBM are among companies with programs aimed at making math cool: turning children on to math and improving math education.

Math for America offers scholarships, mentoring and pay bonuses to math whizzes who become teachers. The program was founded by Jim Simons, who earned a doctorate in math through a Pentagon program during the space race, worked as a math professor and went on to found a hedge fund and become a Wall Street billionaire.

Simons has hired a Washington lobbyist to urge the government to establish a program like his nationwide, and references to the Sputnik launch are also part of that lobbying effort. Simons vividly recalls the day Sputnik launched.

"Congress went bananas, said, 'Oh my God, the next thing, they'll have atomic bombs on the moon,"' Simons said. That prompted the government to invest in recruiting mathematicians and scientists and led to higher pay for math and science professors, he said.

Simons sees a shortage of people teaching math who really know math, and he thinks the solution is simple: Recruit people who know and love math, pay them enough to make teaching attractive, and they in turn will inspire more students to choose math careers.

Math for America is getting a tryout in New York City public schools. Participant Valerie Vu, in her first year as a ninth-grade math teacher at Park East High School in East Harlem, said she had planned to become an actuary and didn't consider teaching until she heard about the program during her senior year at the University of Connecticut.

The stipend offered -- $90,000 over five years on top of a teacher's regular salary -- helps her get by in costly New York. Still, the job isn't easy. Many of Vu's students come from backgrounds where education isn't a top priority.

"So, as a teacher, that's my challenge, to instill some kind of motivation for them to want to learn, for them to want to go on," Vu said, "and I think that probably comes from them catching a glimmer of success in the classroom."

Site: Math for America

-- GoogleMaster - 01 Feb 2006


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Hey! Thank you!

I'll get this posted up front, too.

I believe President Bush may be announcing scholarships for math teachers tonight. Possibly.

I'm actually very interested myself.

BUT I don't think at this stage of the game I can teach in Harlem.

When I was younger, you bet.

But now, with 3 kids & 2 autisms AND a commute.....

I don't think it's gonna happen.

-- CatherineJohnson - 01 Feb 2006

Feel free to reformat and make it look pretty.

My interest was more that it sounds as though someone finally figured out that people who are failing algebra for the third time at the age of 19 shouldn't be the ones becoming third grade math teachers.

-- GoogleMaster - 01 Feb 2006

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