American students are not competitive in math and science: Their scores have remained flat, while scores of students in other industrialized countries have increased.   According to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 36% of 4th grade students and 69% of 8th grade students reached proficiency in math for that year.   The December 2004 results for the Program for International Student Assessment Test found the United States ranked at the bottom, 24th out of 29. The test is conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  The figure below represents the Percentage distribution of 15-year-old students on the combined mathematics literacy scale, by proficiency level and country: 2003.
Math and Science skills deficit
“84% of middle school students would rather clean their room, eat their vegatables, go to the dentist, or take out the garbage than do their math homework ”
Source: KRC Research
A 2005 survey conducted by KRC Research on behalf of Raytheon confirmed what we know and what all of these studies confirm—that America has a math problem.
    1. 84% of middle-school students would rather clean their room, eat their vegetables, go to the dentist, or take out the garbage than do their math homework.
    2. Only one third of students liked math.
    3. 43% of students have difficulty understanding the math they are taught in   school. By 8th grade, 45% of students describe math as boring.
It would be simple to just say that kids aren’t interested in learning math. However, this isn’t the case. The same KRC research survey found that 67% of students want to do better in math, and 94% think math is important to their lives.
A 2005 Pew report defines the digital divide in terms of Internet access at home, and the differences are dramatic. Individuals in higher-income households are more likely to go online (93% access) and more likely to have high-speed connections (71%) that households with incomes below $30,000, where 49% have access and just 23% have high-speed connections.
The digital divide is significant by race as well, even when income levels are comparable. Both home computer use and home Internet access was 13% to 18% greater for Whites in lower-income brackets than for Blacks in the same income brackets.
Studies identifying this digital divide brought attention to these disparities in learning opportunities facing students already at high risk for academic failure. To address these disparities, the federal e-rate program was developed to invest public funds into hardwiring public schools for computer and Internet access. The result is that computers and Internet access are available in our schools. What hasn’t changed is that the digital divide continues after school hours, when children go home.
Once students in our country’s poorest families go home, they lose an important learning advantage, slipping further behind students who can extend their learning day into their home. The problem shifts from concerns about technical access to concerns about digital participation.
This need not be the case if we can harness mobile technology to deliver supplemental education. Cell phone penetration rates among high- and low-income households seem to be overcoming these inequities to a greater extent. A recent report released by NOP World Technology highlights cell phone penetration rates in the United States.
- 73% of 18 year olds have cell phones, a 15% increase from 2002 to 2004.
- 75% of 15 to17 year olds have cell phones, up 33% from 2004 to 2005.
- 40% of 12 to14 year olds have cell phones, up 27% from 2002 to 2004.
If at-risk students are in fact to participate in the digital millennial and take full advantage of what digital learning has to offer, new products must be designed to align the formalized learning environment of the schools with the informal digital learning environments. The most promising of the available systemic approaches is the use of the cell phone to bridge both the digital divide and the digital learning participation gap.
Access (Digital Divide)
“Broadband, or high-speed Internet, is “a technology that, in terms of powering economies, could be the 21st century equivalent of electricity.”
Source: Robert McChesney and John Podesta
“By high school, US students rank 24th in the world in math literacy ”
Source: PISA 2003