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Manufacturers struggle to preserve 'shop math' skills

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Forum topic by Dan'um Style posted 04-08-2012 11:28 PM 3040 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan'um Style

14173 posts in 4004 days


04-08-2012 11:28 PM

to undisclosed recipients
http://www.centredaily.com/2012/03/27/3141661/manufacturers-struggle-to-preserve.html

Manufacturers struggle to preserve ‘shop math’ skills

By JANE M. VON BERGEN — The Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted: 4:00am on Mar 27, 2012; Modified: 8:08am on Mar 27, 2012

Harold’s fork truck is rated for 4,000 pounds. He has to move and stack 10 skids (pallets) of paper, each weighing 1,500 pounds. What is the maximum number of skids he can lift at one time?

If someone wants a job at Case Paper Co., that person had better know how to calculate the answer. Even more basic: Can the person use a tape measure?

“You’d be amazed at how many people can’t read a ruler to one-sixteenth of an inch,” said Lee Cohn of Case Paper. Case converts huge paper rolls into cardboard boxes, pharmaceutical packaging, even lottery tickets.

Gather a bunch of manufacturers like Cohn in a room, and it won’t take them long to start complaining about their inability to find workers adequately skilled in “shop math,” which can include trigonometry and calculus among other types of mathematics.

For years, shop-math skills weren’t really an issue because manufacturing, as a sector of the economy, was a perennial job-shedder. But since early 2010, manufacturers have been hiring – not enough to replace the nearly eight million jobs lost since the late 1970s, but enough to get policymakers worried about workforce capability.

“We want to get people back to work, and there’s a supply of bodies,” said Anthony Girifalco, a vice president of Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center, a quasi-public group that assists manufacturers. “There’s demand in the manufacturing sector. But how do you close the skills gap?”

Decades of job loss mean that the surviving workers, who are also the most skilled, are nearing retirement age. The pipeline to replace those workers – machinists, tool makers, and others – is woefully inadequate, especially when finding novice workers capable of the simplest calculations is a problem.

Experts in manufacturing and workforce development say that it’s easy to blame schools, but that they’re only part of the problem. The nature of the work itself has changed.

These days, manufacturing is complex – and so is the mathematics involved.

At K’nex Industries Inc., for example -the Hatfield, Pa., manufacturer of the popular construction toy – robotics is increasingly being used on the factory floor, Chief Financial Officer Robert Haines said. That means there are fewer lower-level jobs, but there is a demand for highly skilled workers who can program and repair the robots.

“It used to be if you worked fine with your hands, you could make it. You could have a job,” said Michael A. Lucas, director of the North Montco Technical Career Center, a vocational high school not far from the K’nex plant. “Now, if you cannot do a B average in math, you cannot even obtain that job, because the academic and technical skills must go hand-in-hand.”

Meanwhile, he said, the students most able to handle higher technical demands are choosing college over technical training for manufacturing.

Glenn Artman, a professor of science, engineering and technology at Delaware County Community College near Philadelphia, has spent the past 28 years teaching shop math, computer-aided drawing, blueprint reading, and other manufacturing skills.

To him, “shop math” is a misnomer. It’s simply the applied mathematics needed on a job, whatever the job is: A cook needs ratios to convert a recipe that feeds four to one that feeds 40. An auto mechanic needs to calculate cubic-inch displacement to check engine performance. A building-trades worker hanging drywall needs to be able to measure the distance between studs.

Old-timers on the job take their math skills for granted. “It’s so mundane to the people that do it every day,” Artman said. But it’s easy to get rusty, he added: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Relevance is an issue, he said. With the speed of technological change, even instructors with industrial backgrounds have to struggle to stay current.

At the North Montco Technical Career Center, curriculum developer Bob Lacivita has created guides that translate regular high-school mathematics concepts to “shop math.” There are different guides for auto mechanics, cooks and welders.

“The technical program serves as the catalyst for kids to understand math. It’s the motivator,” Lucas said. “We’ve had kids who have had difficult times with algebra and math in the high school setting, but as soon as they make the connection here, they start to do the mathematics, because it is relevant.”

Then, he said, the problem becomes that these students aren’t able to apply what they’ve learned on a practical basis to what they need to score well on the more theoretical mathematics in standardized tests.

“Yet we are being forced to be accountable to those scores and benchmarks,” Hughes said. So the school also translates shop math to regular math for test prep.

Charles Marcantonio, director of employment and training for the Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia, said the quasi-governmental organization has developed a basic manufacturing course that includes math instruction.

At Weber Display & Packaging Inc., process manager Chris O’Hearn tells applicants that he’ll teach them how to operate machines that fold, score, and label the boxes his Philadelphia company processes. But they have to be able to pass – using pencil and paper – a 26-question math and reading quiz, with questions like this one: “Multiply 3.6 times 9.6.”

O’Hearn estimated that 10 percent don’t even try. An additional 30 percent can’t pass the quiz, even with unlimited time. “I don’t think there’s anything difficult about it,” he said. “But if they can’t do this, we know they won’t be successful on the job.”

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain


14 replies so far

View RockyTopScott's profile

RockyTopScott

1186 posts in 3500 days


#1 posted 04-09-2012 01:07 AM

Let’s hear it for the success of the Department of Education and all the money we have pi$$ed away

-- “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” ― Thomas Sowell

View darkhollow's profile

darkhollow

60 posts in 2539 days


#2 posted 05-12-2012 12:58 AM

Thanks for posting this DAN, i read it back when you first put in up, and am planning on quoting it in my Master’s thesis. I am an education grad student looking into the curricular, elementary and high—school subject applications of craft skills. It is my belief that if you put something in the student’s hands that demonstrates the concepts, and allows the student to practice and test them out, that more students will be able to learn better, remember more and know how to use the knowledge presented to them in school.

-- You say Luddite like it's a bad thing ...

View Bibby's profile

Bibby

3 posts in 203 days


#3 posted 11-26-2017 09:51 PM

Thank you for posting this article. I agree with you 100 percent!!

Gibby
Ultimate Roofing and Construction

View Fresch's profile

Fresch

243 posts in 1942 days


#4 posted 12-01-2017 05:25 PM

And yet they can vote!

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ianmugoya18

2 posts in 109 days


#5 posted 02-28-2018 09:53 AM

View Fresch's profile

Fresch

243 posts in 1942 days


#6 posted 02-28-2018 12:51 PM

Not sure how much 10%and30% equals but, I think it is probably higher and the other numbers with the periods what are those?
Rewired a middle school years ago in an “influential ” school system and walked into the wood shop, that had everything you could want all tarped with boxes of crap on top, I asked the shop teacher about it he said “we don’t use that anymore we are training engineers here.”
I said “well who is going to dig the ditches?”

View olegrump's profile

olegrump

51 posts in 244 days


#7 posted 02-28-2018 01:50 PM

Oh, how I long for “Olden Days” when Math and Shop were REQUIRED subjects. The snot-nosed kids nowadays can’t even make change at the fast food register unless the machine tells them how much you’re supposed to get back. Yeah, I’m REALLY happy that 33% of my annual income goes to “educate” the younger generation. Most of them can’t read, write or do basic math. What the Hell are they LEARNING…..???

View JCamp's profile

JCamp

626 posts in 572 days


#8 posted 02-28-2018 03:42 PM

olegrump- they are learning to repeat back what they are told by the education system that is ran by the government and largely influenced by a certain political party. For the most part they do not want independent thinkers they want drones

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

377 posts in 3104 days


#9 posted 02-28-2018 04:48 PM

I have been helping my 8th grade daughter with her math homework and the schools are teaching the skills. Last nights problems involved calculating the time it would take for a rock to hit the ground when thrown upwards from the top of a house. It was way beyond 3.6 times 9.6. She is doing calculations in 8th grade that I probably did in 11th grade.

My daughter is able to keep up with the math class. However, I hear her talking to her friends and nearly all of them are struggling with math. I think the schools are pushing so hard that some kids reach their breaking point and give up. Once they fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up. And once a kid tells themselves that they are no good with math, that mindset sticks with them for the rest of their lives.

-- Steve

View Fresch's profile

Fresch

243 posts in 1942 days


#10 posted 02-28-2018 05:00 PM


I have been helping my 8th grade daughter with her math homework and the schools are teaching the skills. Last nights problems involved calculating the time it would take for a rock to hit the ground when thrown upwards from the top of a house. It was way beyond 3.6 times 9.6. She is doing calculations in 8th grade that I probably did in 11th grade.

My daughter is able to keep up with the math class. However, I hear her talking to her friends and nearly all of them are struggling with math. I think the schools are pushing so hard that some kids reach their breaking point and give up. Once they fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up. And once a kid tells themselves that they are no good with math, that mindset sticks with them for the rest of their lives.

- Steve Peterson

I like you helped my children, that is the difference, parental involvement, builds morals and increases self worth.
Keep up the good work!

View patcollins's profile

patcollins

1685 posts in 2887 days


#11 posted 02-28-2018 10:21 PM


I have been helping my 8th grade daughter with her math homework and the schools are teaching the skills. Last nights problems involved calculating the time it would take for a rock to hit the ground when thrown upwards from the top of a house. It was way beyond 3.6 times 9.6. She is doing calculations in 8th grade that I probably did in 11th grade.

My daughter is able to keep up with the math class. However, I hear her talking to her friends and nearly all of them are struggling with math. I think the schools are pushing so hard that some kids reach their breaking point and give up. Once they fall behind, it is very difficult to catch up. And once a kid tells themselves that they are no good with math, that mindset sticks with them for the rest of their lives.

- Steve Peterson

If the problem was an algebra problem where it went something like “a rock thrown upwards follows the equation Y=X^2+C1X+C2” and they had to find the roots to the equation to solve the problem I would see that as appropriate. Anything beyond that is a physics problem and not a math problem.

I am all for teaching advanced math in school (if done properly), but I think they need to teach kids to do basic stuff first. There are a ton of young adults that can’t figure out how to compound interest and amortize a loan that they will actually use in their life. I am an engineer and I have had more math classes than I can count, but I believe that there is no need to teach any math beyond beginning Calculus in high school, personally I only made it through trig in high school because I did not take Algebra till 9th grade.

Public schools do a poor job preparing students for a math in a scientific major in college, that was one of the first things I was told in my beginning engineering class back in 1992.

View MalcolmLaurel's profile

MalcolmLaurel

298 posts in 1645 days


#12 posted 03-01-2018 03:44 AM



If the problem was an algebra problem where it went something like “a rock thrown upwards follows the equation Y=X^2+C1X+C2” and they had to find the roots to the equation to solve the problem I would see that as appropriate. Anything beyond that is a physics problem and not a math problem.

My daughter, who’s an 8th grade science teacher, tells me there’s a push now to show how the different areas of study are related, so they’re using more math in science classes (and vice versa) even at that level than they used to.

-- Malcolm Laurel - http://MalcolmLaurel.com

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

3277 posts in 2010 days


#13 posted 03-01-2018 02:12 PM

If you do not like the way public schools are teaching math, do something about it. Talk with your school board members about your concerns and ask what can be done. Talk to the superintendent of the school about your concerns.

The best thing I read in this thread was parents involvement. Education does not just come from school but comes from parents being involved. You can help your children with the math, check that they have done their home work and discuss your expectations for grades. I think that too often parents are not involved in the education. There is so much involvement in sports but how many show up for educational programs.

View mudflap4869's profile

mudflap4869

1752 posts in 1481 days


#14 posted 03-01-2018 03:19 PM

How do we show our youth the value of education? Sports is the opiate of the uneducated. Just look at any high school year book and you can see where the outstanding academic achievement students, verses where the jocks stand in the opinion of the masses. See which ones get into the parades. 10 years later, see which one is an MD and who is a handyman working odd jobs, because he can’t even fill out a job application. In 1965 when we graduated the quarter back was hailed as the hero of the town. He was handed everything he wanted. In 1980 that same man was mowing lawns and struggling to make a living. He had treated me and others like trash during high school, but was now humble and respectful of those who could achieve. I tutored him through several classes until he finally became an EMT. It was not until he was presented with the reality of life that he learned the value of education.

-- Still trying to master kindling making

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