## Posts Tagged ‘TeaCHildMath’

### Halloween Candy Entrepreneur?

Friday, October 29th, 2010

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Sunday night your little goblins, witches, pirates and fairy tale princesses will be dragging home bags full of Halloween candy.

Now like any good parent, you will want to go through the bag with your child.  Maybe you don’t want them to eat all the sugary hard candy or squirrel away bubble gum that somehow appears in their hair the next morning.  Maybe you want to limit them to an assortment of favorite candy bars.  Snickers was a real get in my house.  At this moment your little princess or pirate will make a sour face and loudly protest that it’s not fair that mommy or daddy is taking candy from them.  Whoever  popularized the notion that something was as easy “as taking candy from a child” did not have children and, therefore, never experienced the outrage of a five-year old Dracula or the weepy indignation of a Strawberry Shortcake.  What is a concerned parent to do?

I suggest you and your child lay the Halloween loot on the kitchen table in order to decide how much and what kind of candy your child keeps.  Sort by type.  This is a good lesson for the little ones.  Instead of counting all the candy, arrange in rows of 5 or more and then multiply to find the answer.  You’re taking inventory just like a candy shop owner would.

Now after you and your child have determined what and how much to keep, offer to buy the candy you don’t want your child to have.  Why not a penny for each of the hard candy, 5 cents for the candy bars and so on?  The idea is to have your child do the math.  Let your child see the value of what she or he has collected.  A few dollars in exchange for the candy can be saved for a special non-candy treat.  Your child has not only learned a math lesson but also a lesson in entrepreneurship:  this much candy earned me this much cash.  “Hmm, how much can I collect next year?” your child may be thinking.  So this Halloween taking away some of your child’s candy will seem less of a mean trick and more of a  . . . fair exchange.

[Image from 97thfloor.com]

### Should we be funding mediocrity? Rating teacher effectiveness

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

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The documentary, Waiting for Superman, has put the the failure of our educational system under a scorching spotlight and ignited a debate between those who defend the status quo (largely the teachers union) and those (parents and taxpayers) who are frustrated with the desultory return on their tax dollar.   Adding fuel to the fire, The Los Angeles Times published evaluations of  6,000 city school teachers.  These evaluations were based on how well each teacher’s students performed on standardized tests. Included in the evaluation was a “value added” analysis that factors in where students started at the beginning of the school year and tracks their progress in subsequent years.  Within hours of being posted on the Times website, over 200,000 had viewed  the database.  Not surprisingly, the teachers union objected to the publication of this database saying it was unreliable measure of a teacher’s effectiveness. No one is arguing that this should be the sole criterion for gauging a teacher’s effectiveness but it should be one of the criteria.

Los Angeles spends \$30,000 per pupil .  Education accounts for 40% of the state budget.  However, the graduation rate is a dismal 40%.  Are our high schools “factories for failure” as one principal in Waiting for Superman claims?   Consider that almost 60% of Los Angeles high school students did NOT graduate yet only 2% of LA Unified teachers are denied tenure.  Doesn’t this discrepancy astound you?  Sixty out of 100 students don’t graduate but only two out of 100 teachers are dismissed.  Something is wrong with this ratio.  I applaud The LA Times for publishing this database.  Other city papers will follow suit and meaningful education reform will ensue.

[Image from blogs.babble.com]

### A Teacher’s Perspective

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

A friend sent this email:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:   ‘Let me see if I’ve got this right.  You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.  You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.  You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure they all pass the final exams.  You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language by email, telephone, newsletter, and report card.  You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for a supermarket position?“

My commentary:

Let’s help our teachers by promoting the best and compensating them well.   Let’s make it easier for truly gifted individuals to enter the teaching profession.  Why is it a teacher must have a teacher’s credential to teach high school English and yet that same individual can teach freshman English at our top universities as a TA with two-weeks of instruction and yearlong mentoring?  Why not do the same in our K-12 program?  Let’s bring the BEST and the BRIGHTEST into our classroom?

(Image above from blogs.babble.com)

### Waiting for Superman

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Child in Waiting for Superman

Have you seen Waiting for Superman, a documentary on the lamentable state of our public education system?  This documentary has ignited a debate in the editorial pages of our newspapers. This week Rupert Murdoch of The Wall Street Journal praised the film and called for reform in our public education.

If you watch the news, you may have seen Davis Guggenheim, the director, discuss this documentary or Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, one of the heroes of this film. In the late ‘90’s, Geoffrey Canada proved that children from the most blighted and drug-infested areas of Harlem could not only succeed in his charter school but go on to graduate from college.  So remarkable and inspirational is his story that 60 Minutes interviewed him, so too have Charlie Rose and Oprah.

Stop to consider the social consequences of high schools whose drop-out rate is 60 per cent.  These high schools in our inner-cities are nothing but factories for failure.  It is time for education reform in our country.  It is time for the teachers union to weed out ineffective teachers and improve their ranks.  Bad teachers make it difficult for the good teachers to their job as they must spend so much time  doing remedial work with students taught by these teachers.

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Parents must demand accountability from the schools.  At the same time, they must provide an environment at home which fosters learning.  As I’ve said time and time again, a parent is a child’s first and primary teacher.  Make sure homework gets done,  Monitor television viewing.  There should be NO tv in a child’s bedroom.  The distraction is too great.  Teachers must be accountable but so must parents.

I urge you to see this film and join in the debate.

### Pattern Recognition and Intelligence

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

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My method of teaching the times tables is based on pattern recognition. Did you know there’s a relationship between pattern recognition and intelligence?

I found the following on

Out of all mental abilities this type of intelligence [i.e., pattern recognition] is said to have the highest correlation with the intelligence factor, g.  This is primarily because pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment . . .  Patterns can be found in ideas, words, symbols and images and pattern recognition is a key determinant of your potential in logical, verbal, numerical and spatial abilities.  It is essential for reasoning because your capacity to think logically is based on your perception of the logic around you.  Your pattern recognition skills are expressed verbally through your long term exposure to language and your mathematical and spatial abilities are based on your perception of numerical data and 3D objects.

The webpage presents five problems that can be solved through pattern recognition.

Back to ”pattern recognition is the ability to see order in a chaotic environment.”  Don’t we feel relieved when we recognize a pattern when confronted with a chaotic environment?  We feel panicked and stressed in a chaotic environment.  Stuck in a long line at the movie megaplex?  You notice the line on the left is comprised mainly of families with children while your line has mostly adult couples.  Your brain takes this in.  It has found a pattern.  The line with the families will move more rapidly because there will be fewer transactions at the box office. You step into the left lane behind families and smile as your line moves more quickly than the other. You’ve made order out of chaos.

We are happy when we make sense out of chaos.  We are frustrated when we can’t.  This is how many children feel when confronted with mastering the multiplication tables.  All those tables, all those math facts to learn.  For many children, the tables become a blur.  How to make order out of the chaos?  I believe my method of pattern recognition does just that.

### Our High School Curriculum Fails Our Students — What Can Parents Do?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

An article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reported that fewer than 25% of this year’s high school grads who took the ACT college-entrance exam, had the necessary academic skills in math, reading, English and science required to pass entry-level college courses.  Yet elementary school students improved on national achievement exams.  So why the desultory results for our high school students?

Experts, quoted in the Journal, fault the lack of rigor in high-school courses.  “High schools are the downfall of American school reform,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy.  “We haven’t figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren’t dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally.”

As a former university English composition instructor, I can attest that the students who loved to read and were voracious readers had the greatest fluency in writing.  They knew how to compose coherent sentences and paragraphs and knew the rules of grammar.  They also had excellent vocabularies.

Regrettably, reform in our schools comes slowly.  The teacher’s union is powerful.  It is resistant to change.  Good teachers tire of battling complacent administrators and leave.   Parents tire of battling administrators and opt to homeschool.  Whether you homeschool or not, recognize that YOU are your child’s first and primary teacher.  The school may schortchange your child but you as a parent should not.

……………………………………………The WSJ article can be found at:  online.wsj.com/…/SB20001424052748703824304575435831555726858.html

### Little Rabbit Foo Foo is a page turner!

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Little Rabbit Foo Foo, a storybook by Michael Rosen, charmed my  three and four-year old grandchildren. No matter how many times we read it, they couldn’t wait to turn the page and see Little Rabbit Foo Foo bop yet another creature on the head despite Good Fairy’s warnings!

Within one afternoon, they had memorized the book and knew when to turn the page. My daughter grew up with the song/game so it was fun to see her children enjoy it so. The illustrations by Arthur Robins of Rabbit Foo Foo riding through a forest on a motorbike, red mallet poised in the air are delightful as is the put-upon Good Fairy. For the children, it was thrilling to see naughty Rabbit Foo Foo defy the Good Fairy but there were consequences.  Your little ones will love it!

Be sure to also teach your children the game.  Children sit in a circle and recite the verses as a child in the role of naughty Little Rabbit Foo Foo circles the group and then lightly taps one of the children on the head who in turn becomes Rabbit Foo Foo.

### Does Your Attitude Towards Math Influence Your Child?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

At book fairs, some parents tell me they weren’t particularly good at math.  Some will go even further and say they hated math. Some go even further than that and say, “My daughter’s a dummie in math like me.”  What’s shocking to me is they tell me this with their child standing at their side.  STOP and think what this message conveys to your child:

·     Mom/dad wasn’t good in math so maybe I won’t be either.

·     Mom/dad wasn’t good in math and doesn’t expect me to be good in math either.

·     I’ll show up mom/dad by if I do well in math.  They won’t like it if I’m smarter.

If you say YOU hate math, be aware you are shaping your child’s attitude toward math, particularly if you’re a mom speaking to a daughter.  Your daughter loves you and seeks to be just like you.  She may pick up the false message math isn’t for girls.  Now most moms would never say, “I hate reading.  I hate books. I haven’t read a book since high school.”  Yet somehow it’s okay for parents to disparage their math skills.

If YOU say your child is a dummie in math like you, you are setting your child up for failure.  Your child may choose not to disappoint you.  Like mother, like daughter?  Like father, like son?

My recommendation:  do not to share your negative math experience with your children but encourage them.  If you feel you must share this experience, frame it this way:

·      I had trouble with math but you won’t because you have a parent who really cares about your success in math and will help you.

·      Your teacher also cares about your success in math and will help you.

·      You have resources I didn’t have such as fun workbooks, video tutorials, multiplication CDs and math video games.

My point is:  your negative experience should not influence your child.  Although you had a negative experience, you expect your child to have a positive experience.  You expect your child to succeed in math.  Your child will fulfill these expectations.  There are few parents who do not have the basic skills to make sure their third grader succeeds in math.   Do not project your negative experience onto your child but rather give him or her the extra help and reassurance your child needs to succeed.

Image by Robert Hunt/istockphoto.com

### Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

I imagine all of you celebrating the Fourth with friends and family today.  Watching our wed by some impressive homemade floats, I thought of years past with my two children.

Now it’s my five grandchildren who dress up like prairie  girls, Pilgrims and Statues of Liberty.

This evening I will picnic on the lake with my family and watch the fireworks.  It’s a wonderful day to celebrate with family.

I wish you and your family a Happy Fourth!

Images from honna.org, eats.com, cohomepages.com.

### Patterns in Nature — The Chambered Nautilus

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Discover the beauty of patterns in the natural world. Look at the structure of  a starfish or  a chambered nautilus?

A starfish has five points.  If we measured each point of the starfish, would they be the same?  Why is a starfish named starfish?  Is its shape similar to a star?  Does it have the same pattern?

If  we look at the structure of a chambered nautilus, we discover a nearly perfect equiangular spiral.   Why does each chamber become increasingly  larger as we spiral from the center?  Is it because the nautilus as it grows expands its living space, adding more and bigger chambers in an every increasing spiral?  The body, of course, would live in the biggest chamber of its “house.”

Let’s look at the shell’s outer surface.  There’s a brown zebra stripe pattern on top and yet the bottom of the shell is white?  Why would this be?  Nothing in nature is random.  The brown zebra stripes on top act as camouflage.  Seen from the top by predators, the nautilus blends with the ocean depths.  When seen from below, it blends with the light coming from above.  Its shell is hard.  When the nautilus is threatened by predators, it withdraws into its shell and seals the door.  Did you know chambered nautilises existed 265 million years before dinosaurs roamed the earth?  These beautiful nautilises are described as living fossils.  Why?  Because they have remained virtually unchanged for millions of years.  So their beautiful design was perfect from the start!  In nature, patterns serve a function.  Patterns help the animal fool its predators and survive.

Our innate curiosity leads to discovery.  Stimulate your child’s curiosity by pointing out patterns in the natural world.  Explore the wonder of nature with your child.

Although we now have the internet and can look up anything to explain the mysteries of nature to our children,  for a young child there’s nothing like books or magazines with photographs and illustrations to captivate his/her imagination.  A child turns the page at his own pace.  Best of all, he/she is there cuddled up with mom or dad.

Images  from thehealingsprial.co.uk, belljarblog.wrodpress.com and huronscuba.com.