Another argument against dropping SATs in college admission

December 23rd, 2019

Sunday’s LA Times stated that using grades in admissions without SAT test scores could “exacerbate inequities because grade inflation is worse at affluent schools.” Imagine now the pressure on high school teachers to inflate grades. Every teacher has had students pleading to raise a B+ to an A-. As I used to tell my students on the first day of class, “everyone has an A. It’s your responsibility to keep it.”

Dropping the SATs will regrettably lead to more cheating at high schools — not only plagiarizing but cheating on quizzes. After a student in freshman composition submitted an in-class essay quiz that did not address the prompt at all, I questioned him. It was clear he had guessed what the topic would be and had filled in the blue book at home.

I did not want to repeat this experience. From that day forward, I had all students hand in a blue book the week before the quiz. I took these home, thumbed through them making sure there were no crib notes and then signed the cover of each. I distributed these the day of the quiz and stated I would not accept any blue book that did not have my signature on the cover.

The UC system needs to consider the pressure that will be placed on high school teachers both in terms of inflating students’ grades but also students increasingly plagiarizing and cheating on in-class quizzes. Yes, these has been cheating on the SAT and those responsible should be punished. The SAT and ACT administered correctly serve to evaluate students.

Groups sue UC over SAT & ACT

December 11th, 2019

The WSJ reports that a group of students filed a lawsuit against the University of California. The suit alleges that by requiring SAT or ACT admission tests, the UC system discriminates against low-income students and racial minorities.

In another suit, Asian students whose SAT and ACT scores are stellar are suing Harvard. They allege Harvard discriminates against them by capping the number of Asian students whose SAT and ACT scores more than qualify them for admission by ranking each student on “personality.” Asian students, are judged to be quieter and thus somehow deficient in “personality.” Asian students, too, often come from low-income families. Many are immigrants who have overcome innumerable hardships. Will they win their suit?

The SAT and ACT admission tests serve as an equalizer. (Yes, I deplore those wealthy celebrity parents who have gamed the system.) Students who underperformed in high school often due to circumstances beyond their control but excelled on the SAT or ACT should be given consideration. Also what of the student who got top grades but whose SAT or ACT scores are mediocre? Perhaps the “A” at this school is the equivalent of a “B” at another?

Standardized tests are indispensable to fairly evaluate students seeking admission to our universities. Otherwise, we cease to be a meritocracy.

Should college SATs be eliminated?

December 10th, 2019

I recently read the UC regents were considering eliminating SATs in student admissions. They argue that these unfairly benefit the more affluent students whose families can afford to pay for pricey SAT prep and tutoring. However, all students have access to online prep, notably the Khan Academy. These online services help even the playing field.

As a former English instructor at UC Irvine. I encountered freshmen who had great difficulty reading and comprehending an assigned essay. No, these students were not foreign-born. Their home language was English. How could their lack of basic reading and comprehension skills not have been detected in high school? I immediately contacted the students’ counsellors and insisted these students receive specialized tutorials.

SAT scores serve as a report card on high schools. We all know high schools differ. Some teachers are more prone to grade inflation. Is an A in American History at school X comparable to an A at school Y? There is no way to know. If the scores of their seniors are appallingly low, should these schools not be held accountable? If the thermometer says you have a temperature, do you throw out the thermometer or cure the underlying cause of the fever? If the SAT is abandoned, what measure will be used to determine whether students have the basic skills to enter and succeed in their college-level studies?

The SAT is an objective measure of a student’s skills. It should remain a factor in determining admissions to the university.

1000 Best Tips for ADHD recommended Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables workbook

March 31st, 2018

I was so pleased to receive a copy of 1000 Best Tips for ADHD and delighted that my workbook, Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, was recommended as a math resource.

The author, Dr. Susan Ashley, is a child psychologist specializing in ADHD. With over twenty years of experience, she has valuable insights into how to parent and teach a child with ADHD.

Her 1000 Best Tips for ADHD include:
• tips for instilling better behavior
• tips for creating a happy home
• tips for helping your child excel in school
• tips for healthy social interactions
• tips for parenting.

I highly recommend Dr. Susan Ashley’s guide for both parents and teachers. Every day you generously give of yourselves to improve the lives of children struggling with ADHD. Here you’ll find a quick reference on a myriad of topics.

Happy New Year!

January 4th, 2017

Just as 2016 was coming to an end, Teacher Heaven, a bookstore in Austin placed an order for their stores throughout Texas. The owner told me she loved the workbook. Teachers and homeschool moms will see my workbook on the shelves.

Texas has a huge homeschool community. My daughter, who lives in San Antonio, homeschooled her children for six years. I’ve had a booth at the Texas Book Festival in October and had a chance to meet teachers, parents and children.

2016 also presented me with the opportunity to travel to Paris and introduce the French edition to bookstores there. It’s gratifying to see orders coming in from Europe and the UK. I’m pleased that I’ve sold over 18,000 copies and now have a French edition. The Spanish edition will be available in the spring.

I also signed up for “expanded distribution” on Ingram so my workbooks will not be available on online bookstores as well as brick-and-mortar stores. For all these reasons, I believe 2017 will be a good year.

I wish you a Happy New Year filled with love and laughter.

How an email to The Wall Street Journal led to a Profile Article

December 19th, 2016

For years I’ve been an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal. The Journal informs and entertains me. I especially look forward to the weekend edition, filled with fascinating articles.

One Saturday morning, I was reading Encore profiles, profiles of people who in retirement have done something interesting–something entirely different from their previous career. I sent off an email to the editor, telling him of my unlikely path from UCI English instructor to children’s math book writer. I mentioned how my father had been an entrepreneur, building two companies, and the lessons learned from him. I’d seen firsthand the risks and the rewards. To my astonishment, I received a response from the editor stating: “One of our reporters will be contacting you.” For a minute I stared at my computer screen in total disbelief!

Within a few weeks, one of their journalists interviewed me and asked me about my background, my math workbook and my company, TeaCHildMath. The morning of publication, I was up at 4:00 in my California home. Within three hours, PayPal orders poured in from East Coast to the West Coast. It was like seeing the map of the USA light up before my eyes. Hundreds of orders poured in!

Never would I have imagined the WSJ writing a profile article on me and my second-career story. How did it happen? I took the time time to write an email. Ten minutes paid enormous dividends. My father would’ve been so proud.

Indebted to Sandra Rief, author of How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/HD

December 15th, 2016

“Many children struggle learning and recalling multiplication facts and need other techniques rather than rote memorization to master these skills. Eugenia Francis’ workbook utilizes wonderful, brain-compatible strategies and methods to do so–such as learning to recognize and attend to patterns for each of the multiplication tables, using memory tricks/mnemonics, and other engaging and fun techniques. I recommend Teach your Child the Multiplication Tables as a helpful resource for children to learn the math facts and understand the principles of multiplication.” Sandra Rief, author of How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD

When I published my workbook in 2006, I gave copies to my local the elementary school, the school my son had attended. The Special Ed teachers in particular liked my book. “The patterns appeal to my students,” they said. Why did ADHD students have an affinity for patterns, I wondered.

I researched the topic and came across How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD by Sandra Rief, an excellent resource. I discovered that ADHD students are right-brain learners. They need to see the “big picture” in order to understand the parts. Most of us are left-brain learners and from the parts, we construct the whole. I immediately saw that my method based on patterns presented the “big picture.”

I sent Sandra a copy and asked for her comments. She generously offered to endorse my method. Her endorsement appears on the back cover of my workbook. I had the privilege of meeting her at an ADD conference. When I receive PayPal orders, I ask customers how it is that they heard of my workbook. Often the answer is: “Sandra Rief’s recommendation in ADDitude.”

Over 18,000 copies of my book have helped children master the times tables. Sandra helped launch my book in the ADD/HD community. Again, many thanks!

Benefits of the “Bilingual Brain” in Math

December 4th, 2016

Raised in Mexico City, the daughter of American parents, I grew up bilingual. Speaking another language has certainly proven to be an asset and no doubt influenced my decision to major in Comparative Literature. In my pre-university life, I excelled in math. I’ve often wondered if my bilingualism gave me an advantage in math?

A few years ago, I read a study conducted in Quebec in which children from French-speaking homes went to schools whose curriculum was taught in English and English-speaking students who went to French schools. Both groups did well in their acquired second language, but what surprised researchers was that these bilingual students did better in math than their monolingual counterparts at these schools.

The researchers concluded that bilingual students had developed strong analytical skills that facilitated understanding math concepts and solving complex word problems. The ability to think in two languages promoted higher levels of abstract thought, a crucial cognitive skill that benefits students in mathematics.

So beyond the apparent socio-cultural and economic benefits of speaking a second language, let’s not overlook the enhanced cognitive skills acquired in learning a second language.

Times Tables, the Key to Your Child’s Success? The benefit of a press release in launching your book

December 2nd, 2016

Often moms who have written a children’s book as me how I launched mine. Of great help was the press release below, published in 2016. This press release appeared on numerous websites and was published in five languages! It also was published in Education Matters, a journal for educators. Can you imagine what a full page ad in that magazine would have cost me?

Times Tables, the Key to Your Child’s Success?
Irvine, CA- When did you lose interest in math?  Never had any?  Maybe, but Eugenia Francis knows exactly when it started to happen to her son.  The moment?  The dread rite of passage all children face:  the multiplication tables.
As her son struggled with endless drills, Francis realized there had to be a better way.  Why not learn the tables in context of one another and emphasize the commutative property (i.e. 4 x 6 is the same as 6 x 4) of the multiplication tables?  Francis drew a grid for tables 1-10 and discovered patterns for her son to decode.  The mysteries of the times tables unfolded as a daily exploration of “magic” never discussed in his third-grade class.  Their fridge eventually was papered with patterns that made the times tables intriguing. “Patterns made my son smile,” Francis says. “He could see the structure and knew he got it right.”
Ever the creative educator, Francis taught college English. “Patterns whether in literature or math,” she says, “reveal the underlying structure.  There is an inherent simplicity in them, an inherent beauty.  Math should engage your child’s imagination.”
At the kitchen table, Francis applied her skills to math.  Why not learn the tables in order of difficulty?  Tables 2, 4, 6 and 8 are easy to learn as they end in some combination of 2-4-6-8-0.  Tables for odd numbers also have distinct patterns.  Why not a more creative approach?  Thus was born Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, Fun, Fast and Easy with Dazzling Patterns, Grids and Tricks! (available on Amazon and ) and mom the entrepreneur. 
Patterns appeal to children. Learning to recognize patterns teaches analytical skills. A review in California Homeschool News stated:  “My daughter thinks it’s is lots of fun.  She’s already had quite a few ‘ah-ha moments as she recognizes and predicts the various patterns.”  Patterns enhance recall.  “Children with ADHD, dyslexia and autism do well with my method,” Francis says.
Parents and teachers must ensure children learn the multiplication tables. “Without them a child is doomed,” Francis states.  A child who has not mastered the times tables has difficulty succeeding in mathematics beyond the third grade. 
A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times noted that failure to pass Algebra I was the “single biggest obstacle to high school graduation” and that failure to master the multiplication tables was one of the main reasons.  A survey of California Algebra I teachers report that 30% of their students do not know the multiplication tables.  It is hardly surprising then that fifteen-year olds in the U.S. rank near the bottom of industrialized nations in math skills. 
“We have one of the highest high school dropout rates in the industrialized world,” Bill Gates stated.  “If we keep the system as it is, millions of children will never get a chance to fulfill their promise because of their zip code, their skin color or their parents’ income.  That is offensive to our values.”
Teachers must innovate and bring the magic of math into the classroom.  Parents must do their part.  “Parents have a huge influence over a third or fourth grader,” Francis states.  “By high school it may be too late.  Why not take the opportunity that teaching the multiplication tables provides to give your child a head start in math and develop analytical skills necessary for algebra?  Mastery of the multiplication tables is essential to your child’s future.”
Francis published her innovative workbook to help other families. “If more of us would do for other people’s children what we do for our own, the world would be a better place.”

In Paris Last Month/Dropped French edition at schools and libraries

November 30th, 2016

I had the good fortune of traveling to Paris with my sister last month. We stayed in the charming Hotel d’Angleterre on the Left Bank, very near Notre Dame. The hotel had been the British embassy and notables like Benjamin Franklin, Washington Irving and Hemingway stayed there.

The weather was perfect — in the 70s with sunset was around 8:00 pm. Lovely long days with walks through sun-dappled Tuileries Gardens. My sister Betty abhors the metro so got around Paris on the double-decker bus. When in Paris why not see Paris? Not only can you ride till 10:00 pm up the Champs Elysees and over to the Eiffel Tower and see these sights day and night but there are two other routes. We took one to Montmartre. I’d spent my Junior Year in France and knew the city well. What was so amazing was being atop the double-decker bus, sometimes listening to the audio tours, and seeing parts of Paris I’d never seen that year or on subsequent trips to Paris. If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll enjoy Paris, the Novel by Rutherford. The history of Paris from the 12th century on is woven through the lives of five families.

We decided September would be ideal. What with the internet, it’s easy to plan a trip. Through Expedia, I booked a Vivaldi concert in the magnificent Sainte Chapelle. To see the jewel-like Sainte Chapelle with seating like a chapel (on a normal visit it’s an empty space surrounded by beautiful stained-glass windows) was an extraordinary experience. Not only did we enjoy the concert but also the spectacle of light slowly dimming in the windows, turning them cobalt-blue as night fell.

Other highlights included a night walking tour of Paris, a trip to Vaux le Vicomte and a trip to the Champagne region. Of course, fabulous meals along the way and a de rigeur stop for divinely decadent desserts at Laudere just down the street from our hotel. Tables in cafes are so close together (you’re elbow to elbow) that we chatted with countless fellow diners. Paris was a party and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

An elementary school was by our hotel and we dropped copies of Enseignez a votre enfant les tables de multiplication. We also went by bookstores including Shakespeare and Company. I left copies of the English edition with WH Smith, an English bookstore by the Place de la Concorde. As a Junior Year in France student, my friends and I would have tea and scones there.

I long for the next trip to Paris. My mission to introduce both the English and French editions to Paris was successful. I am now getting orders from France. Every order that comes in for my French edition makes me tres contente. I envision enfants sitting with their mamans learning les tables with my little book.