Tracking trends in Native American education is difficult but important. Rural students need more STEM opportunities. And a powerful home-schooling lobby keeps regulations at bay.

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TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT NATIVE AMERICAN/RURAL EDUCATION

It’s difficult to sort out demographic data for Native American children for a variety of cultural and technical reasons, but it’s important to track those trends because “America’s indigenous children are so often left out of conversations about closing ‘the achievement gap,’ ” according to Alia Wong’s story in the Atlantic.

Those gaps in math and reading are large even when compared with other traditionally disadvantaged minorities, but another story published  in the Hechinger Report and the Atlantic focuses on a teaching approach in math that shows promise.

Teachers at  Wyoming Indian Elementary School are building kids’ understanding of what numbers represent and how they can be combined and taken apart — a concept researchers call “number sense” that is essential to grasp more complex math.

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With the help of  First People’s Center for Education, a Wyoming-based nonprofit organization, the school is using an approach called Strength in Number that teaches children problem-solving strategies that build number sense. The passing rate on third grade state math tests at that school rose from 23 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2011.

Better math skills could lead to jobs in technology and industry, but pursuing those careers typically means that rural students must leave beloved, tight-knit communities behind, which has proven to be a barrier to college enrollment.

Education Northwest, a Portland-based nonprofit, recently published a report outlining ways that educators can give rural students more opportunities to learn about STEM careers that could keep them close to home such as farming, resource management, clean energy and water conservation.

IF YOU MISSED IT

DON’T MISS

  • A small but highly effective lobby has repeatedly squashed lawmakers’ attempts to regulate the education of the country’s  1.5 million home-schooled children, according to this ProPublica story in Slate.
  • Children who are born blind still activate the part of their brain specialized for sight, but they use that patch of cortex at the back of the head to process language tasks such as speech and comprehension — a transformation that appears to happen before they turn 4, according to a new MIT study.

See something interesting that we missed?  Share it with John Higgins at jhiggins@seattletimes.com or on Twitter at @jhigginsST, or with Seattle Times education editor Linda Shaw at lshaw@seattletimes.com or on Twitter at @LShawST.