Teaching your child the times tables during the corona virus shutdown

April 3rd, 2020

During this corona virus shutdown there have been requests from reporters on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) for fun learning activities for kids. I responded to several and offered each a copy of my workbook. All stated they had kids at home who needed to master their times tables. So I’m not only helping a reporter out but also a parent struggling to juggle work and the needs of their now stay-at-home children.

Those of you familiar with my workbook know that I developed my method based on patterns when my son was in the 3rd grade. Not surprisingly, Scott was bored by rote memorization. I knew there had to be a better way!

As a university English instructor, I was trained to look for the underlying patterns in literature so why not in math? Each day at the kitchen table I discovered amazing patterns for each of the tables. Soon our fridge was papered with these. Scott was fascinated. Years later I hired a graphic designer, decided on a circus theme and published a fun activity workbook to to help other children.

My workbook, Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, is sold on Amazon. Its 160 pages include skip-counting exercises, original art work, puzzles, coloring pages, patterns for odd and even numbers and engaging circus figures. My workbook provides kids with hours of fun and most of all–mastery of the times tables. I’m delighted to be helping countless parents and children out during this stressful time.

Babies, excellent documentary series on Netflix, explores the mystery of child development

March 12th, 2020

“Babies are the ultimate mystery,” says a voiceover in the trailer of this landmark documentary series. “They are much more complex than we ever thought.” This series tracks fifteen babies over the course of a year.

The documentary “showcases incredible, groundbreaking science revealing the developmental leaps and bounds babies go through in the first year of life while capturing the personal and emotional journey of the family as a whole,” according to Jane Root, executive producer of Babies. The series is extremely intimate. Invited into the family home, viewers share the parents’ wonderment in their child’s development.

Some of these babies are filmed from the moment they were born. Their journey from helpless newborns to independent toddlers is tracked by leading scientists in the US, the UK, France, Italy and Israel. Who knew universities have “baby labs” where all aspects of an infant’s development is meticulously charted.

There are amazing discoveries such as: a baby’s growth can be a startling centimeter on a given day, naps aid memory, and how toddlers in bilingual homes adapt to both languages. Not only is the scientific research compelling but also the personal stories shared by the scientists regarding their own babies.

Many thanks to the families who invited the cameras and researchers into their homes. Highly recommended to Moms and Dads.

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.