U.S. school children, numerous studies show, trail other countries in science and math skills. Millions in new private funding will try to change that.

An $11 million commitment from Time Warner Cable aims to change Ohio schoolkids' perceptions of math and science, helping to correct expected deficiencies in the American work force.

The pledge is part of a nationwide initiative - called Connect a Million Minds - that will distribute $100 million in cash grants and in-kind services to nonprofit organizations over the next five years. The beneficiaries include COSI Columbus, which hosted an announcement of the effort last month.

The Downtown science center will use part of the money to create off-site after-school science programs.

The first monthly event is planned for mid-January at the Gladden Community House.

At the museum, new "Science Days" with varying monthly topics will invite children to participate in experiments designed to be equal parts educational and entertaining."We lose many more kids because they think they don't like math and science rather than because of an inability," said COSI's David Chesebrough, president and chief executive officer. "If you don't have them emotionally, you're not going to have them intellectually."

The initiative also will benefit the Just Think Inc. Invention Convention, an annual student competition in Columbus and statewide.

More than 80 percent of the New York-based company's charitable efforts will focus on Connect a Million Minds, its largest philanthropic mission, spokeswoman Judy Barbao said.

Recent research suggests that international students are outperforming their American counterparts in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Among the troubling statistics: The National Science Foundation estimates that 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require some math and science knowledge.

Meanwhile, in a survey by the defense contractor Raytheon, 84 percent of American middle-school students said they prefer cleaning their room or taking out the trash to doing their math homework.
"(Research) clearly states we're not going to be prepared to compete in the global economy if we don't address this issue," Barbao said. "We're trying to make science go from being dull to cool, so kids look at it not as a chore but as an exciting activity - and that's going to be a challenge."

To find local science-related activities or apply for grants from Time Warner Cable, visit www.connectamillionminds.com.