In his recent Opinion piece, P. Michael Conn (The Scientist, 12[15]:9, July 20, 1998) comments on the outcome of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, which was administered in 41 countries worldwide in 1995. The results of this study, which were released in March 1998, have been widely interpreted as a scathing failure of our system of science and mathematics education here in the U.S. Although many politicians, journalists, and scientists have commented on these results, no one has yet mentioned this rather obvious explanation: The U.S. educational system differs, beginning in middle school, and even more so in high school, from that of the rest of the world. It is therefore invalid to compare U.S. high school students' objective knowledge with that of foreign students, because to a large extent, the two groups have not been taught the same material.

In both the British and German...

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