Curriculum Column

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Two educational publishers recently unveiled products designed to conform to national efforts to reform science and mathematics education.

The Glencoe division of the MacMillan/McGraw-Hill School Publishing Company announced last month at the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association that it will publish a new series of middle-school science books that are compatible with the principles of the association's Scope, Sequence, and Coordination of Secondary-School Science Project.

The series, called Science Interactions, teaches concepts--such as "light and color'' and "force and pressure''--as related ideas, rather than as discrete and apparently unrelated principles.

Bill G. Aldridge, the N.S.T.A.'s executive director, served as the series' principal author.

The Optical Data Corporation, meanwhile, announced earlier this month at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics that it had signed an agreement with Vanderbilt University to market The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury, a videodisk-based math program developed by cognitive-science researchers at the university's Peabody College. (See Education Week, Oct. 9, 1991.)

The joint licensing agreement makes the Warren, N.J.-based company the exclusive distributor of the series, which is designed for 5th- and 6th-grade students.

Optical Data hopes to release its first "Jasper'' products in September.

A study published this month offers new evidence for what teachers have long suspected: Children learn better when their lessons are couched in the context of a vivid fantasy.

In the study, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers tested elementary-school children's reactions to four computer-based learning programs--three of which embedded lessons in a story context, such as a pirate looking for a treasure.

The 47 3rd graders they studied overwhelmingly preferred fantasy versions, and chose them again later.

The researchers also randomly distributed the computer programs among 32 3rd graders. On tests given immediately following those sessions, the students given the fantasy-based programs fared better than their classmates. Those pupils also continued to score higher when they were tested again two weeks later.

"There is no reason to believe that results would not generalize to settings in which instruction is provided by ... any other medium of learning,'' said the authors, the Stanford University psychologists Louise E. Parker and Mark R. Lepper.

Vol. 11, Issue 31, Page 6

Published in Print: April 22, 1992, as Curriculum Column
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