Archive for October, 2009

Thank you, Wall Street Journal!

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

It’s 2:45 a.m. in California and 5:45 a.m. in New York City.  At this moment the Saturday edition of  The Wall Street Journal is landing with that familiar thump on sidewalks and driveways on the east coast.   Why am I still up?  The Journal is publishing my story in their Profiles in Retirement!

All this came about because inspired by previous profiles, I emailed the editor telling him how much I enjoyed the column.  In the email I briefly described my journey from university English instructor to children’s math book writer.   The editor replied that he would forward my email to a journalist.   A few months passed and I forgot all about this.  Then one day, what should appear in my junk email box but an email announcing WSJ interview.  I gazed at it, wondering if it could have been sent by the same people who tell me I’ve won the Nigerian lottery.  But this one I opened.

There it was a real request from the WSJ by a real journalist.  For me, a budding entrepreneur, this is beyond a dream come true!  As a subscriber all these years,  I love the Journal because the articles inform me of cutting-edge  developments in business, health and science, entertain me in literature, culture and the arts and make me think about positions taken in editorials.  I can rely on the Journal to state and defend a position.  I may not always agree with it but I know where they stand.   Whether a human interest story or news of the latest business merger, your articles are consistently well written.

Since publishing my workbook in 2006 and launching my company, TeaCHildMath, the Journal has become my entrepreneur tutorial.  It provided me with a crash MBA.  Not only did I learn how to register a domain name but the intricacies of trademark registration and the advisability of hiring IP attorneys.  I also learned how to be my own publicist, brand developer and strategic thinker.  I could not have done this without you.  It is an honor to have my story told in your paper this morning.   I owe this recognition in great part to you.

Times Tables, the Key to Your Child’s Success?

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

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.”


About Eugenia Francis


Eugenia Francis spent 15 years teaching English at the University of California at Irvine. Faced with the challenge of teaching her son the multiplication tables, she developed her own innovative method, discovering patterns to the multiplication tables.




Special educational challenges faced by children of military families

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, families and friends gathered for a Welcome Home Ceremony for the 419th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion just back from a tour of duty in Iraq.  A convoy of Harleys ridden by grizzled vets roared into Camp James.  The crowd let out a cheer when the busses entered.   Families scrambled to hug soldiers. Children jumped into their father’s arms. Not a dry eye anywhere.

I was there because the Battalion Commander, LTC Kristin Hericks, is a family friend.   Deployed in Iraq for a year, Kristan left behind her husband and children.  Kristan humbly says, “It was my honor and privilege to serve my country.”  Every soldier in her battalion returned home.  There were no casualties.

Regrettably in 2008, Lt. Mark Daley from Irvine was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.  He was the first UCLA grad to be killed in the war and the first from Irvine.  A political science student,  Mark blogged about his view of the war and his mission.  His blogs were  so incisive and  his arguments so compelling, that these  were read from the Senate floor and have been quoted numerous times since.  His death struck at the heart of our community.

What could I do to honor his memory?  Give a donation to a favorite charity?  I decided to give 300 copies of my children’s math book to military families in Irvine.  However, the school district informed me there are fewer families now that the El Toro base has closed.  Within days, Mark’s mother contacted me and suggested I donate the books to children at Fort Bliss where Mark had trained with his battalion.  I did so.  I hoped the Daley family would find solace from out community’s outpouring of deep condolence.

Within a few weeks, I received a letter from the Commanding Officer at Ft. Bliss.  Colonel Burns thanked me for the books stating that a book like mine would make a difference in that children of military families face special challenges because  families are relocated from base to base so often, “sometimes once or twice every two to three years.”  I had never stopped to consider that. 

I went online with military families and found out from moms that this was indeed true.  Their children’s education does suffer.  Often, they are way behind academically when they enter the new school.   My proposal:  why not give children in military families the option of taking their textbooks with them to bridge the gap between schools?   Why not give military families a greater discount than the 10% they now have as “government employees” on computers and software?  There are corporations who provide scholarships to these children  but we need to do more.  Could not publishers offer free copies of textbooks to students whose families are transferred mid-year? 

Their education should not be yet another casualty of war.  We can do better. Military families face enough challenges, hardships and sacrifice without having their children’s education suffer.   By helping the children, we strengthen families.   By strengthening families, we support our troops.

Patterns in nature as seen by your child

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I remember when my then four-year-old son Scott looked up at the moon.  “Mommy, soccer ball moon!” he said.  The moon was exactly that — round as a soccer ball.   A child’s imagery is often poetic.  Jot these down.  You will treasure them.

Patterns in nature – the Chambered Nautilus

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

chambered-nautilus-outside1Discover 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?



chambered-nautilus-inside1If  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.

Children benefit from parents volunteering at school

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

This morning,  The Wall Street Journal had an article in the Work & Family column on the benefits to children of parents volunteering at their schools. 

The School Volunteer Jobs That Most Help Your Kids states that cash-strapped schools are even more dependent on parents.  They may enlist you for fundraising or any number of other important functions.   “But for parents with limited time and energy, which roles deliver the biggest benefit for your kids?”  Sue Shellenbarger, the author of the article, asks.

In elementary school, the author suggests :  “Volunteer where your child can see you.”    The message the child receives is:  “My parent is at school, my parent cares about me.” 

As a volunteer myself in my daughter’s first-grade classroom, I know this to be true.  Not only did I get to know the teacher and the curriculum  but also how I could best reinforce the material at home.   I could also see where my daughter stood in relation to her peers.   Students in first grade represent a wide spectrum.  While one student effortlessly reads the entire sentence, another struggles to sound out words.  I gained empathy for the struggling students, whom I worked with, and the formidable task facing a first-grade teacher.

In first grade, students who have difficulty with the material begin to form negative perceptions of themselves.  They are now aware of what mastery they have or lack.  They now compare themselves to peers.  As a parent, particularly if this child is your eldest or only child, you might not be aware that your child is having difficulty with the material.  You might not be aware of how well your child’s peers are doing.  If you are in the classroom, you will know.  In the afternoon at the kitchen table, you can help your child by going over the material and making sure that your child catches up with his/her peers.

As a teacher myself, I know that despite my best efforts, some students fall behind for any number of reasons, many beyond my control.  A parent is a child’s FIRST and PRIMARY teacher, it is up to parents to ensure their children do NOT fall behind particularly in the first three years of elementary school.  Attitudes are shaped not only toward school but about oneself such as:  “I’m not good in math” or “I’m not good in reading” or “I’m not smart” or “I hate school.”  NEVER reinforce this by saying: “I wasn’t good in math” or “I didn’t like school either.”   If you do this, you are giving your child permission to fail.  You are setting low expectations. Parents can and must shape positive attitudes toward self and school.

What can parents do to shape positive attitudes?  The author states:  “If you lack time to volunteer, or find yourself at the bottom of a long waiting list of wannabe school helpers, don’t despair.  How you coach your child at home matters more.”  The author adds:  “Throughout school, the most important parental role of all is to shape your child’s attitude toward learning and school, communicate high expectations, and help him or her set goals and solve learning problems.”

In middle school, kids do not want parents in the classroom.  The author suggests you volunteer where you can learn the most about the school’s curriculum and classes.    In high school, volunteer where your student can learn from your example.  Volunteering in high school has less impact on your child.  “The coaching role is nearly five times more powerful at this stage,” the author states.  However, volunteering at your student’s high school still communicates:  “I care about you and your activities.” Another benefit: children of parents who volunteer are more likely to volunteer as adults. 

Children learn from our example.  We need to ask ourselves, “What has my child learned from me today?”  and  “What example did I set?”

Career Switch Profile on MSN

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Last Friday when I logged onto my email account, I found PayPal orders pouring in, one after another!   When I asked customers where they heard of my workbook, the reply was:  Career Switch Success Stories on  MSN is my homepage.  I scrolled down and found the following:

English instructor to multiplication guru
“I was a [university] English composition instructor. With endless office hours and a deluge of e-mails from students every night, I felt it was time to pursue my dream. I had a big idea: a better way of teaching the times tables. As any parent knows or remembers, learning the multiplication tables represents a dreaded rite of passage for many children. When my son struggled with rote memorization, I invented a method based on easy number patterns. I published Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables, Fast, Fun & Easy!  to help other families and launched my company, TeaChildMath. This journey has been fantastic!” — Eugenia Francis, founder, TeaChildMath

Thank you, MSN and the author Rachel Zupek!