Monday, June 25, 2007

ScienceDaily: How Dads Influence Their Daughters' Interest In Math

ScienceDaily: How Dads Influence Their Daughters' Interest In Math: "'We've known for a while now that females do as well as males on tests that measure ability in math and science,' said Pamela Davis-Kean, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). 'But women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math graduate programs and in careers based on those disciplines.'"

I am concerned about this with my daughter. I believe her to very smart and plenty capable to do this kind of work but there can be other factors at work to. The cultures found in the math and sciences are not totally women friendly.

I wonder if it may be that they have the impression that these things don't relate to anything in the real world. And get out of it because they want to do other more realistic things.

That is my biggest problem with most curricula is that everything is taught in a vacuum. Each subject is taught without any relation to any other subject. History is a set of names, places and dates that are rarely ever related to each other except that they happened before or after each other.

I learned far more calculus in my physics class then in my calculus class. Mainly because it hooks into other parts of my knowledge. Newton used calculus to be able to explain how physics works in a quantitative manner.

I totally loved "Connections" because history was suddenly a action oriented where one thing happened which caused or allowed something else to happen and we see the results in our daily lives.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Families' Eldest Boys Do Best on Tests -

Families' Eldest Boys Do Best on Tests - "Boys at the top of the pecking order - either by birth or because their older siblings died - score higher on IQ tests than their younger brothers. The question of whether firstborn and only children are really smarter than those who come along later has been hotly debated for more than a century."

Reading the article it seems that they can have up to a 3 point advantage, but 3 IQ points just isn't all that much. You'd be hard pressed to work with someone over time and notice that difference.

I can see firstborn children getting extra learning from teaching their siblings about how to do things. But I have also noticed that younger siblings start doing things earlier because of that teaching or imitation.

IQ seems to work best in academia. The higher your IQ the better you do in school. That doesn't always translate to doing better in the real world.

From Slashdot

A Student's Guide: Research -- Taking Notes

A Student's Guide: Research -- Taking Notes: "Well, the first rule is quite simple: To take good notes is to know in advance what you are looking for. "

Keeping good notes is always a struggle but well worth the effort.I've mainly gone to the Hipster PDA index card system with data dumps into VoodooPad to keep things safe. However that spellbook from yesterday has fired my imagination. Mainly because it is fun.

From Ask MetaFilter | A Resource for Parents of Learning Children | A Resource for Parents of Learning Children

They want to become the WEbMD of education sites. This could be useful.

from CNet

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Children See, Children Do

Too True.

David Seah : Modern Spellbooks

David Seah : Modern Spellbooks: "As technology gets newer and I get older, learning new things becomes frustrating"

Actually I do similar things when I need to learn something.
When I need to do sensemaking, I create a learning journal. Just someplace to toss all the things I learn as I learn them. I generally use a text file rather then an actual book.

Right now I am learning Dreamweaver for work as we revamp one of our websites. It isn't hard but there are a few pit falls and such that make it interesting. I have created a Dreamweaver Procedures file where I just dump things as I learn them that I think I will need again when I come back to it in a few weeks and won't remember how I did something.

Calling it a spellbook is just so darn cool. though. I'll be using that on a number of new projects I'm starting.

Duckon 2007-Steve Ward's Singing Tesla Coil video

Duckon 2007-Steve Ward's Singing Tesla Coil video: "This is a solid-state Tesla coil. The primary runs at its resonant frequency in the 41 KHz range, and is modulated from the control unit in order to generate the tones you hear."

Serious cool!

Teachers learn pragmatic plan for classroom |

Teachers learn pragmatic plan for classroom | "If you walk into a department store to buy $26 worth of clothes at 7 percent sales tax, how much will you owe?

If you give the cashier two $20 bills, how much change should she hand back?

If bottles of water are $8.50 a dozen or 75 cents a piece, which is the better deal?

Those are examples of relevant, work-related questions Georgia high school teachers are told to ask students at a math workshop this week presented by the University of Georgia's workforce education department."

Math doesn't exist in a vacuum, why is it taught that way?

Timeline of knowledge-representation

imhoFAQ timeline of knowledge-representation, part 1

Here is a marvelous timeline of what we (humans) have learned. Very impressive.

The Denver Post - AP Impact: Fire inspector says school open despite violations

The Denver Post - AP Impact: Fire inspector says school open despite violations
: "The head of Colorado's public safety inspection division allowed children and teachers to occupy a charter school despite warnings from a state inspector the building was unsafe, The Associated Press has learned."

Is your child's school actually safe?

There are lots of laws out there to protect our children. That is good, a civilized nation protects the weak and helpless. Education is good too. But all of these things are expensive too.

The hardest part of it is that there are all those well-meaning people working against each other. How to make it work better?

How public schools must react to test scores

"The No Child Left Behind law requires schools to meet annual goals largely based on student test scores. When schools fail to make "adequate yearly progress," the law assigns them a label and requires them to take certain corrective steps."

The article continues in outlining what needs to happen over the course of six years before a public school is required to actually do anything substantive.

6 years is half of your children's educational lifespan. We really can't afford to have our children be in a underperforming school because it will take too long.

When I was in 5th Grade I got bumped up, but only after the school year had started, I was totally bewildered by all the things they were talking about, while it didn't take me all that long to catch up, it was demoralizing at first.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Go outside and play

Coining the term "nature deficit disorder," Louv has argued that indoor kids are more prone to a range of childhood problems, including obesity, depression and attention disorders. He contends that they miss out on the spiritual, emotional and psychological benefits of exposure to the wonders of nature, including reduced stress and improved cognitive development, creativity and cooperative play.

Nature Deficit Disorder? This is just a little over done.

I was one of those kids who's Mom always said, "Go outside and play." I would much rather have spent even more time rotting my eyes reading a book. TV was okay sometimes but mostly the world of books was far richer.

Putting a name to something makes it special, I understand that but let's not go overboard here. I know it is scary for parents to send their children outside nowadays. We are wrestling with that right now. We want to have a place with a nice little yard, big enough for a garden a swing set and a place to cook out and eat out.

Right now our daughter loves being outside so much she'll come up with any kind of excuse including "the car needs a hug."

Balance, moderation, variety is what we need to be looking at. A day here, a day there and maybe a little less fear. My wife is all worried about not being able to teach PE to her, I've watched our daughter, let her outside and she'll get all the PE she needs. I'm not going to worry about rules of games for a while as she might be able to come up with something new.

Link from Instapundit

Monday, June 18, 2007

Boing Boing: Map shows how kids aren't allowed to roam around

Boing Boing: Map shows how kids aren't allowed to roam around: "The Daily Mail has an article about how kids have been restricted from roaming far from their houses when they play or go to school, and why this is bad for their mental health. It includes a map that shows how, over four generations, the roaming range afforded to kids has shrunk to the size a a backyard."

My wife and I are talking about this right now. She is leaning more toward homeschooling because the school is just under a mile away, there is no way we can let a kindergardener walk that far alone and across a major road.

It isn't abduction that is our big fear, it is all the crazy drivers around here. They have some good crosswalks around here and some bad ones. You can guess where we are:(

The US isn't Ready for the Next Big Thing

Inability to meet "grand challenges" of physics likely to hurt US competitiveness
: "Although the US has dominated the field during the 20th century, a number of reasons are listed to suggest that it is poorly positioned to continue at this pace. As someone who has followed the funding situation in biology carefully, the problems facing physics appear to be essentially identical."

It comes down to this. Our children don't have the education to solve these hard problems. They are too busy getting schooled.

The Universe of Discourse : How to calculate binomial coefficients

The Universe of Discourse : How to calculate binomial coefficients: "I ran across this algorithm last year while I was reading the Lilavati, a treatise on arithmetic written about 850 years ago in India. The algorithm also appears in the article on 'Algebra' from the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1768.

So this algorithm is simple, ancient, efficient, and convenient. And the problems with the other algorithm are obvious, or should be. Why isn't this better known?"

Okay, this is pretty darn advanced stuff, but it goes back a long way. The Seljuk empire was coming to a close at that time in Turkey but it controlled Northern India, as was the Sumatran Empire. So it was an exciting time of change.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TV's 'Mr. Wizard' Don Herbert dies at 89

TV's 'Mr. Wizard' Don Herbert dies at 89: "'He really taught kids how to use the thinking skills of a scientist,' said former colleague Steve Jacobs. He worked with Herbert on a 1980s show that echoed the original 1950s 'Watch Mr. Wizard' series, which became a fond baby boomer memory."

Now this is something terrible. Mr. Wizard was one of the greatest uses of television ever. Science was real when he was on. We'll miss him. Math is the language of science but he made it easy to understand and do.

The saddest thing of all is that Amazon doesn't seem to carry any of his shows. But you can head over to Mr. Wizard Studios to get them.

Science is dangerous and I think a lot of people are afraid of the nannys who sue when they see something dangerous. Heck, I remember reading that someone wanted to bring back an old chemistry kit but a third of it was illegal to sell and of the rest no corporate council would sign off on the risk. And we are wondering why there are never enough scientists and engineers to go around.

There aren't many science shows out there. Junkyard Wars, Mythbusters, Bill Nye and Alton Brown are the only ones I can think of. Sadly most of the other science shows skip the important parts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How testing is changing kindergarden

The Times has a article that is troubling to me. I am a father of a 4-year-old and she just makes the birthday cutoff by 3 days. We are still a few months from the start of school, but I am not sure she is ready for kindergarden just yet.

My concern is that since she is so young, she will be put in the "gift of time" group which will put her at a disadvantage in school for the next decade. They tracked the effects of being too young into the 8th grade. She has shown us great creativity and problem solving skills. I really don't want her to be mind numbed just because of her birthdate.

I am sure that over time, that more and more schools will be moving up their birthday cutoffs just to do better on the standardized tests that come years later. They would be stupid not to, but I do not believe it to be in the best interests of the children to do it this way. But the best interests of the individual has never been a primary focus of education but rather the group, the state.

Homeschooling is looking better and better to my wife.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Its not the school, its the parents.

There is a lot of talk about successful schools and failing schools and how one stacks up against the other and so on. And I have come to realize that it isn't about the schools or the teachers. its the parents.

It is annoying when something is staring you in the face and you just don't notice it. This has been one of those things.

Many parents move so their children will be able to go to the "good school." Often these good schools are in the more affluent part of town. They spend lots of money on a house they can barely afford to help their children get a good education. These are the parents who make their children to do their homework before television and games. These are the parents who teach their children real world skills.

How many times have I heard teachers lament, "The parents aren't involved in their children's education."

With parents like these, these children would do well virtually anywhere. Look at the Asian community, they are often enough mixed in with everyone else but the parents make sure they do their homework and study for tests and they are involved, pushing and challenging their offspring.

Kansas city spent enormous sums of money on their school system a few years ago and nothing changed. The buildings were upgraded and everyone got books and lots of computers were made available but the parents stayed the same and so did test scores.

Are parents going to change? Not likely, they have quite enough to be going on with already. I just want to make it easier for those that do want their children to be successful.