Equity & Diversity

Immigrants’ Children Inhabit the Top Ranks Of Math, Science Meets

By Sean Cavanagh — September 21, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The nation’s most talented high school seniors in science and mathematics are contemplating Einstein’s equations, neutron stars, and elliptical orbits from such recognizably all-American locales as Fresno, Calif.; Athens, Ga.; and Shaker Heights, Ohio.

See Also...

View the accompanying chart, “High Achievers.”

But many of them live in the United States as a result of their parents’ emigration from Turkey, China, Romania, and a host of other foreign nations, a study released last week finds.

Research conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy shows that 60 percent of the nation’s top science students and 65 percent of the top mathematics students are children of recent immigrants, according to an analysis of award winners in three scholastic competitions.

“The Multiplier Effect,” is available from the National Foundation for American Policy. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“The Multiplier Effect” is based on an analysis of the 2004 student finalists for the Intel Science Talent Search, the U.S. team for the International Mathematical Olym- piad, and the U.S. Physics Team, three prestigious competitions.

“There’s a very strong emphasis on education as a way to get ahead among [immigrant] families,” said Stuart Anderson, the executive director of the foundation, who wrote the study. The commitment, he said, is “something you can trace throughout history” among new arrivals to the United States.

Mr. Anderson also attributed such students’ success partly to their parents’ insistence that they manage study time wisely. Many immigrant parents also encouraged their children to pursue mathematics and science interests, believing those skills would lead to strong career opportunities and insulate them from bias and a lack of connections in the workplace, Mr. Anderson said.

A strong percentage of the students surveyed had parents who arrived in the United States on H-1B visas, reserved for professional workers. U.S. policymakers who back overly restrictive immigration policies do so at the risk of cutting off a steady infusion of technological and scientific skill, said Mr. Anderson, whose nonprofit Arlington, Va., foundation focuses on immigration, trade, and education issues.

Influx of Talent

The recent arrivals include Andrei Munteanu, 18, a finalist for the 2004 Intel competition whose parents moved from Romania to the United States five years ago. Mr. Munteanu, who graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, this year, was named a finalist for his work in exploring the minimum distance between elliptical orbits, specifically how close asteroids can pass by Earth.

He has a prime laboratory: the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, where the Harvard University-bound student has been able to hone his theories, while working part time. His original inspiration for the project was not drawn from a textbook, but rather from the big screen: He had seen the 1998 Hollywood doomsday epic “Armageddon,” a fictional account of a heroic effort to prevent a massive asteroid from ramming into Earth.

Mr. Munteanu said his lessons in Romanian schools were noticeably more demanding than those he encountered when he began 7th grade in the United States. “The math and science classes [covering the same subject matter] I was taking in Romania … when I was in 4th grade,” he said.

That observation did not surprise Gerald F. Wheeler, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, in Arlington, Va. While he cautioned against drawing overly broad conclusions from looking at competitions that measure the skills of the truly elite math and science students, he said he believed that foreign countries were more inclined to push students through increasingly difficult subject matter, at each new grade level.

“We really should be revamping our curriculum,” Mr. Wheeler said. “There’s a deadly redundancy.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 28, 2004 edition of Education Week as Immigrants’ Children Inhabit the Top Ranks Of Math, Science Meets

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty