SOURCE: 'For Dummies'

June 27, 2011 05:00 ET

Solving the Mysteries of Math and Science From Wiley

Help Your Student Tame Tricky Subjects in School

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Jun 27, 2011) - (Family Features) Gone are the days when basic reading, writing and arithmetic were the gold standards for a child's education. Today there's a much greater emphasis on STEM education -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -- in order to prepare students for the world they'll be adults in. But as of now, however, many kids just aren't ready.

According to the National Science Foundation, eighty percent of jobs in the next decade will require some form of math and science, yet only 29 percent of American fourth grade students, a third of eighth grade students, and barely 18 percent of 12th grade students perform at or above the proficient level in science.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Nobel Prize winner for medicine Dr. Michael Brown wrote that "We must demystify math and science so that all students feel the joy that follows understanding." This is where parents and caregivers come in.

How You Can Help
A 2010 survey by the National Science Teachers Association found that the vast majority (94 percent) of science teachers wish their students' parents had more opportunities to engage in science with their children. However, more than half (53 percent) of parents of school-aged children admit that they could use more help to support their child's interest in science.

Here are some things that parents and caregivers can do to help their students not only make it through science and math classes, but actually enjoy them and see how they can impact their lives.

Make It Fun
There are plenty of ways to engage in math and science online. Check out some of these websites:

TV shows such as "Mythbusters" and "Life" on the Discovery Channel or "Through the Wormhole," "Meteorite Men," and "SciFi Science" on the Science channel all offer engaging and fun explorations of science.

Hands-on experiences are some of the best ways for kids of all ages to learn.

  • Look for local science museums, camps and programs that let kids play, build, experiment, get messy and have fun.

  • Students of all ages can help with citizen science projects, such as the ones at NASA. At www.science.nasa.gov, they can sign up to help study images from Mars, track meteorites hitting the moon, and help sort through the massive amounts of data gathered about Earth from space.

  • Check out library books and websites for at-home science and math projects. Using those skills in fun ways helps the lessons stick and keeps students interested.

Give Them Tools
Sometimes students need some extra help clarifying difficult concepts and reinforcing what they learned in the classroom. The For Dummies series of books can be helpful resources to do just that. They offer practical exercises and lessons for mastering the essential concepts of these sometimes tricky subjects.

  • Is your student having trouble with exponential and logarithmic functions? Or getting tripped up by graphing trig functions? Then "Pre-Calculus Workbook For Dummies" (Wiley) can help clear things up. The authors offer ten missteps to avoid in pre-calculus, such as Going Out of Order (of Operations), Oversimplifying Roots, Forgetting to Flip the Fraction, and Canceling Too Quickly.

  • Chemistry is sometimes called the central science because in order to have a good understanding of the other sciences, you need to have a good understanding of chemistry. "Chemistry For Dummies, 2nd Edition" aims to help demystify the subject with concrete examples, illustrations and figures along with the text.

Whether in middle school, high school or college, it's possible for your student to gain a greater understanding of subjects that may seem out of reach. It just takes a helping hand.

You can find additional resources for many math and science subjects at www.dummies.com.

Help with the Essentials
Students prepping for exams, studying new material, or who just need a refresher can have an easy-to-understand review guide that covers an entire course by concentrating solely on the most important concepts. "The Essentials For Dummies" series of books provide clear explanations, and are perfect for cramming, textbook supplements, and parent resources. These titles are currently available online and in bookstores: "Physics Essentials," "Chemistry Essentials," "Biology Essentials, "Pre-Algebra Essentials," "Statistics Essentials," "Calculus Essentials," "Algebra I Essentials," "Algebra II Essentials," "Geometry Essentials," "Grammar Essentials," "Spanish Essentials," and "French Essentials." Learn more at www.dummies.com.

How Biology Affects Your Life
From "Biology For Dummies, 2nd Edition" (Wiley, June 2010)

If you or your student has ever wondered what on earth biology had to do with real life, wonder no more:

  • Keeping You Fed - If plants didn't produce their own food, you wouldn't have anything to eat. So you can thank the process of photosynthesis the next time you sit down to a luscious looking salad or steak dish.

  • Providing You with Clean Water - Wetlands are areas that are saturated by water most of the time. They act like natural sponges, holding onto water and slowly filtering it around the plants that live there. Plants and organisms absorb human wastes such as fertilizers and sewage, cleaning the water and making it safer for humans and other animals to consume.

  • Staying Alive - Every minute of every day, your cells are quietly working away, digesting your food, sending signals that control your responses, transporting oxygen around your body and making all of your bodily processes happen.

Chemistry Fun Facts
From "Chemistry For Dummies, 2nd Edition" (Wiley, June 2011)

Here are some interesting ways to look at the world of chemistry:

  • A chemical substance can be both a good guy and a bad guy. The only difference is where and in what concentration it's found. For example, a person can overdose on water if he drinks enough of it. The same goes with the ozone in the stratosphere. On one hand, it shields us from harmful UV radiation. But on the other, it can be an irritant and destroy rubber products.

  • The floating property of ice is one of the reasons that life is able to exist on earth. If ice were denser than water in the winter, the water at the top of lakes would freeze and sink. Then more water would freeze and sink, and so on. Pretty soon, the lake would be frozen solid, destroying most of the life -- such as plants and fish -- in the lake. Instead, ice floats and forms an insulating layer over the water, which allows life to exist, even in the winter.

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