[Excerpt] The Problem: The scientific and mathematical competence of American high school students is generally recognized to be low. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that 92 percent of high school seniors cannot "integrate specialized scientific information" and do not have "the capacity to apply mathematical operations in a variety of problem settings." (NAEP 1988a p. 51, 1988b p. 42). There is a large gap between the science and math competence of young Americans and their counterparts overseas, particularly at the end of high school. The Americans who participated in the Second International Math Study were high school seniors in coUege preparatory math courses. This group which represented only 13 percent of American 17 year olds, was roughly comparable to the 15 percent of youth in Finland and the 50 percent of Hungarians who were taking coUege preparatory mathematics. In Algebra, the score of 40 percent correct for this very select group of American students was about equal to the score of the much larger group of Hungarians and substantially below the Finnish score of 79 percent correct (McKnight et aI 1987).