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Although American students score lower on mathematics tests than do Japanese students, they show more of the cognitive diversity needed to estimate well, probably because their culture is less conformist, new research suggests.

Robert Reys and Barbara Reys, respectively a professor and an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Missouri, tested the estimating abilities of 5th and 8th graders in Japan and Mexico. They then compared their results with results from studies of children in the United States.

They found that estimation--the process of mentally formulating an approximate answer to a computational problem--is difficult for most students, regardless of their nationality. The researchers believe that is so largely because estimation has not been taught in the math curriculum and because students have been conditioned to think there is only one right answer.

Mexican students, most of whom do not progress beyond the 8th grade, estimated percentages better than did students in both Japan and the United States, who attend school longer. The researchers said the Mexican educational system seems to teach students concepts that provide them with a good intuitive feel for numbers.


Students who play in a high-school band may run a significantly greater risk than their peers of developing permanent hearing loss, a recent study asserts.

Judy Montgomery, director of special education for the Fountain Valley (Calif.) School District, and a group of speech-language pathologists and school nurses collected data from 1,495 district students in grades 2, 8, and 12.

Among 12th graders, they found, 26 percent of the musicians and 13 percent of nonmusicians had a hearing loss below the level of 25 decibels (the sound of a whisper at 2 feet). Only 9 percent of students that age are expected to have a hearing loss.


An analysis of educational spending in New Jersey has found no direct relationship between total per-pupil spending and student test scores.

The recently released 1989 annual report of the state's Economic Policy Council and Office of Economic Policy states that--once the effects of per-capita income, population density, and family characteristics are accounted for--there is no significant relationship between how much a given district spends on each student and how well the students in that district fare on a mandatory high-school graduation test.

Student test scores did tend to increase as more was spent on their teachers, but other types of educational spending actually appeared to lower test scores, the study states.--ps

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