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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz County

January 19, 2012


Challenges in Math Education

"Making a Difference in our Community" Scholarships
Suki: A Passionate Plea for More Mud Pies
Get rid of your good stuff! Buy other people's good stuff! Rain or shine!
Viva: Cook Book Challenge 2012
‘Golden' Lesson Combines Math, Art and Literature
Parenting Tip: Making It Fun Gets Results!
This Week
Whalefest Monterey
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(Special Event Images / Graphics) Science.jpgThis past week the universe kept sending me science and math messages. With the upcoming Santa Cruz County science fairs, these messages are timely!

I found another entertaining and informative local radio show for science buffs! Dr. Future, aka Al Lundell, "entertains all positive possibilities for the future." Listen Tuesdays, 2 - 4pm on KSCO 1080 AM and click here to listen to previous shows.

From the Tuesday, January 17 show I learned about:
BioCurious, a 2,500-square-foot community lab in a low-slung office building in Sunnyvale, opened in November as a place where scientists, entrepreneurs and others can meet to conduct biology experiments and innovate on everything from bacteria to thermal...
DIYBio.org, an online hub for sharing ideas on DIYbio (do-it-yourself biology) has grown to more than 2,000 members since its inception.
Planet Hunt in which members of the public are being asked to join the hunt for nearby planets that could support life.
Google Science Fair, the largest online science competition in the world, open globally to students ages 13-18.
Life Top Technologies can now sequence a person's genome for only $1,000
The X Prize Foundation whose goal is to stimulate innovative breakthroughs in molecular biology, stem cell research, bionics, organogenesis, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence in order to improve health care and extend healthy living.

The genome sequencing interested me because it ties in with Rebecca Skloot's best seller, "The Immortal Life of Hattie Lacks", a non-fiction story that traces the 20th century development of cell technology, the evolution of ethical guidelines relating to using humans, human cells and human organs in studies and the personal story of Hattie Lacks, her children and grandchildren.  It's the kind of read you can't put down.

Last week we introduced the advent of free online college courses in our article Education Turns Upside Down.  This week we learn that the ongoing educational technological revolution continues with textbooks becoming available through ipads -"Apple Kills Textbooks".  Coming soon: a textbook "wikipedia".  Do you think that will put an end to agendized textbooks?  A single textbook costs $$$ these days.  How close is that to the cost of a single ipad?  I think the difference will narrow. What will this do to the student backpack industry?

We parents do not need to be scientists to open up the amazing world of science to our children, not to mention ourselves.  Go for it!  After all educating our children is a privilege and responsibility that begins in the family.

Have fun with science, Parmalee                              

 
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  Challenges in Math Education

by Kristen Atkins, M.S.

It is a sad fact that students in the United States are falling behind in the study of mathematics. "Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education" from The National Research Council found that only half of the nation's students take more than two years of high school level mathematics. Most leave high school without the mathematical skills needed to meet the expectations of college level mathematics and today's jobs. In December 2011, an international assessment indicated that fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. ranked 25th among peers from 34 countries in math proficiency. Since many of our current jobs require expertise in the field of math, there is much debate about why U.S. students are lagging and what we can do. Here is a brief look at some topics that may be helpful for parents: math standards, what other countries are doing, what parents can do, and what schools can do.

Mathematical Standards
Standards are a way to define what should be mastered in a student's mathematical career. The United States has a de-centralized educational system so each state can develop its own standards. Recently, many states have modeled programs on the standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (see www.nctm.org).

One reason that teachers find math standards difficult to implement is that not all students can master each specific skill in the limited time allotted for teaching that skill. For example, if fifth graders must master the four operations with fractions (a developmentally appropriate skill), they may only have three weeks to master these skills. Yet many students need additional time to practice. Consequently, many students fall behind and never catch up. Teachers often lack time to assess each student for specific skill deficits and to remediate key issues. Math is cumulative, so if a student misses fundamental skills in the beginning, future new concepts get added to a rather unstable foundation.

It is important to make careful comparisons with countries whose students are outscoring U.S. children. Educators in the United States are often criticized for having a curriculum that is "a mile wide and an inch deep," meaning too much material is being covered without concepts being studied in depth. To make matters worse, poor performance in mathematics has almost become socially acceptable in this country. Many in the U.S. tend to falsely assume that differences in mathematics achievement are due to differences in innate ability. However, countries such as Singapore spend much more time on key subjects, giving students ample time to practice. Longer school years in other countries also contribute to higher math scores. U.S. and Californiastandards are strong, but we often don't have enough time in a school day to ensure that every child masters every concept.

The solution starts at home. Sixty percent of our students who enter community college require remedial math! This illustrates that the problem begins in elementary school. Fortunately, this is a time when parents can help their children see math as a normal part of everyday life, and also as a source of fun and play.

Here are some suggestions for helping your kids develop a love for math:

  • Encourage your child to see the beauty of mathematics by showing them that math is all around them in art, sports, nature, architecture, and technology.
  • Read children's books that focus on math.
  • Encourage your child to estimate answers that you pose, such as, "How many hamburgers do we need to make to feed our family?"
  • Teach your children how to purchase items and how to make sure they have the correct change. Allow them to practice this skill.
  • When driving in the car, practice math facts in a fun way: "I am thinking of a number that is even - what can it be?" Or, "I am thinking of a number that is one more than 89, what is it?"
  • Review your child's math work and look for potential errors. Check to see if their paper seems disorganized. Do they know their math facts? Are they adding instead of subtracting? These types of errors need to be addressed and fixed. You may need to begin a dialogue with your child's teacher. Do not just wait, hoping they will eventually figure it out.
  • Use the Internet to learn about topics in math yourself, and share this with your child. It's never too late to learn about the joys of math.

We can also be alert to areas where problems may arise for our children as they attempt to learn key math concepts.

Math Vocabulary & Symbols -

  • Mathematics has a vocabulary that is specific, and many teachers and students struggle with this aspect of the curriculum. For example, is subtraction "take-away," "minus," "less than," or "finding the difference"? Math textbooks will often use one term and teachers supplement with other materials that use different terms. This can cause confusion, so help your child understand which terms are preferred, as well as the meaning of less familiar terms, as they arise. Check with your child's teacher if you yourself are not sure.
  • Symbols, too, can be challenging and they change over the course of a student's mathematical career. When you are in elementary school, the sign for multiplication is an "x." When you get into high school, it becomes a dot or a set of parentheses. On computers, it is often an asterisk, and some exams use that symbol. Experienced teachers point out these challenges because they know they can cause frustration.
  • Curriculum Changes - Teachers in public schools must use state approved textbooks in their classrooms. Some districts change textbooks every 2-4 years, which means the teachers must learn to use a new curriculum that often focuses on different techniques. A new teacher who does not have the best confidence in his or her ability to do math, using a new textbook that illustrates techniques not previously used, trying to teach a class of 30 students with minimal support, might have the best intentions. Even so, over the course of a full academic year, some aspects of math concepts could be skipped or presented less fully.

What can we do?

If you suspect your child is falling behind in math, don't wait until the problem gets worse. Talk to your child's teacher immediately and discuss a strategy for support. Until we, as a state or a nation, decide that it is better to learn mathematical concepts in depth, as opposed to spending only one or two days on each key concept, the fear is that we will remain a nation that is not meeting the demands of this twenty-first century. Parents should discuss these issues at school board meetings and with their principals.

Math Specialists - When budgets permit, some schools have hired elementary math specialists who demonstrate a passion and expertise for teaching students in ways others cannot. This may seem unusual at first, but it is not much different from the practice of hiring specialists to teach music, art and physical education, as is done now at the elementary and middle school levels. An inspired, enthusiastic teacher who knows and loves a subject can often find even more ways to help students succeed and enjoy the subject, too.

If you suspect your child is falling behind in math, here are some things you can do:

  • Find a tutor. Tutoring your own child, while convenient, often confuses the role of teacher versus parent. If you cannot afford a private tutor, contact your local library for information on their after school homework and tutoring programs.
  • Inquire about options for support at your child's school. Many schools provide remedial math instruction through after school programs or summer school.
  • Consider having your child repeat his/her math class. Research suggests that if your child earns a C in Algebra, he or she will most likely struggle with Geometry and Algebra II. Why? A "C" is, indeed, passing but it does not indicate that your child has mastered the material in enough depth to apply it in a higher-level math class.

    Kristen Aikins, M.S. is the Dean of Curriculum at Chartwell School and welcomes your questions.

 

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  "Making a Difference in our Community" Scholarships

(Logos Business) BayFedLogo.jpgBay Federal Credit Union "Making a Difference in our Community" Scholarship Applications Now Available

Application Deadline: Friday, February 24, 2012

Bay Federal Credit Union will award up to three $1,000 scholarships to individuals pursuing their academic, professional, or vocational education at any post-secondary school, college, or university. High school seniors, college students, and adults re-entering school are encouraged to apply. For more information or to obtain an application, visit www.bayfed.com or inquire at any Bay Federal Credit Union branch.

  Suki: A Passionate Plea for More Mud Pies

(Photos General) SukiRedHead_138.jpgYou'd think that hanging out with homeschoolers, as I do, would insulate me from people who feel the need to do academics with kindergarteners. However, amongst new homeschoolers you hear this common refrain: I really don't know how to homeschool, so I just want to find a curriculum in a box I can do with my five-year-old. The people saying this mean well-they really think that a curriculum-in-a-box will be better for their children than just hanging out with mom and doing whatever lame stuff she comes up with. But those parents have fallen into the same trap as the administrators of our public education system. They think this is some kind of race, and they'll be hurting their children if they don't get them on the track and running as soon as possible.

I should have read it long ago, but I recently read what should be required reading for new homeschoolers... continued>>>

  Get rid of your good stuff! Buy other people's good stuff! Rain or shine!

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Family Flea Market at the Discovery Learning Center

Saturday, January 21, 9am - 1pm at the Discovery Learning Center, 411 Roxas St.

Come shop for gently used books, toys, curriculum, kids' clothes, baby gear, select household items, sports equipment, and more. There will also be booths featuring fine art, professional tie-dye t-shirts, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and used children's books. Our sale will happen rain or shine. If it's a nice day, bring the kids to play while you shop.

If you have good items that you were planning to get rid of, please call us for drop off times, 531-7352.  Contact Suki at secretary@dlcsantacruz.org.

  Viva: Cook Book Challenge 2012

(Graphics) LemonGirl.jpgI find that living frugally brings up a constant struggle between making cost-conscious choices and avoiding feelings of deprivation, boredom, or frustration that result from not buying whatever I want, whenever I want. These negative feelings can come up just as easily when I'm grocery shopping as when I'm (not) clothes shopping.

So, I've devised a 2012 cookbook challenge to bring some zest into my cooking while still maintaining our strict grocery budget.

And first, a word about that budget... I've now reduced our grocery budget to 30% of what it was before we started living frugally. But, a 70% reduction in food spending required putting some strict measures in place, such as eating boxed macaroni and cheese every Friday night and buying mostly cheaper meats (ground beef, chicken, stew meats) instead of choicer cuts like pork chops, steaks, tri-tip roasts, etc. I've been fairly creative about maintaining a tasty menu despite these changes, but it's time to be a little more intentional with my menu creativity for 2012....continued>>>

  ‘Golden' Lesson Combines Math, Art and Literature
 By Hema Walker

"Once upon a time..." may be an uncommon way to begin a mathematics lesson, yet in the kindergarten where I teach, that is just how I present our "Golden Number Book" lessons. During the kindergarten year, each student will create their own counting journal, called a "Golden Number Book." Every week the children add a new page to their book.

(Photos General) MountMadonna_PreKGoldenNumbersSand.jpgLet me back up just a little, though, and share what happens before students write or draw in their books. Each child works one-on-one with a teacher to practice the formation of the specific number we are learning that week: they trace a sandpaper version of the number; and then write it with their finger in a sand tray. Afterwards they use a pencil to complete a paper "number strip.'

Young children learn best when they are active and moving. The physical aspects of our Golden Number lesson support this need and make the activity "playful." Children this age are very kinesthetic learners, and when they enjoy what they are doing, they remain positively engaged. The more practice they have in forming the number, the stronger their "motor memory' of it becomes. For this reason MMS kindergartners practice their numbers in several tactile ways.

Once students complete their individual practice, we gather together in a group and I present the "number of the week' in a simple story, such as "One Magic Cooking Pot," "Two Frog Princes," or "Three Bears." This helps bring the number to life in the child's imagination. As the story is told, the children sit fully engaged, listening for a mention of the number and raising their hand in recognition.

"I like hearing it when the teacher tells the story," comments Anya, a kindergartner. "It's very fun hearing new stories."

In my years of experience working with children (as a parent and a teacher), I have come to understand that young children learn more easily in the context of "play." They naturally spend their time engaged in fantasy play helping them to make sense of their world and process their experiences. Teaching academic concepts in a story form appeals to kindergartners; and the stories are also great opportunities to support positive values such as choosing the right action, forgiveness, courage, positive self-concept and conflict resolution.

In our lesson, once the story is finished, the children stand up and practice clapping their hands, stomping their feet, nodding their heads and shaking their friend's hand the same number of times as the number they are learning. This brings a concrete experience of the number into their body. They then raise a "magic pencil' above their heads and follow my lead, writing the number in the air with their finger and then tracing it on their neighbor's back.

The kindergartners look forward to this weekly lesson. It's fun and the importance of that cannot be overstated! When children develop a positive attitude about school from the very beginning they have that positive feeling to draw on all the way through their school career.

(Photos General) MountMadonna_PreKGoldenNumbersCrayon2.jpgBy the time the children sit down and begin to work in their Golden Number books, they are ready to demonstrate their mastery of the number. When they open their book, the children like to admire their work on the previous weeks' numbers, before starting to create their new number page. They copy the number of the week from the chalkboard as well as its spelling on to two "ribbons of color" they create using the wide side of their beeswax block crayons.

On these colorful "ribbons', the children use a pencil to practice writing the number they are learning numerous times, as they become more familiar and comfortable with forming it correctly.

"My favorite part about Golden Number Books is when you get to write the number and spell the word," says kindergartner Ethan, "because I like how they look."

Next a picture from the number story is drawn on the classroom chalkboard depicting the appropriate number of objects. The children are then instructed to draw a picture from the story in their Golden Number book. Some students choose to copy the picture from the chalkboard, while others draw their own design inspired by the story; the only requirement being that the appropriate number of objects are shown. The lesson ends with the child dictating a story about their picture to the teacher who writes it in their book.

"I like writing the story, because you get to write about exciting adventures," explains Adrian, one of the students in the class.

The holistic nature of this lesson appeals to the kindergarten children on many levels. Isabel likes the part of the lesson when her friend, Paris, writes the number of the week on her back. Sophie and Sebastian's favorite part of the lesson is drawing the pictures. The end result is a precious rendition of their very own counting book, a solid understanding of the basic numbers, a creative integration of art, literature and mathematics in a single lesson, and delight in the learning process.

Hema Walker teaches preschool and kindergarten at Mount Madonna School. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an AS in Early Childhood Education from Cabrillo College.

  Parenting Tip: Making It Fun Gets Results!
"This year I decided to be more silly with my children.  There was one particular week where I realized that the bulk of my interaction with my children was directing them to do things or not to do things.  Lecturing, ordering, cajoling were my methods.  Instead, I wanted to find ways to get across the message without making everything so serious.  So I started being silly when I suggested things: singing them, making games out of chores, just having fun.  
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The best one was when I had the kids eat their vegetables in the bathtub.  I didn't want to do another dinner lecture so we moved it to the bath.  They thought it was just silly enough to eat them all up!  I learned that they were more likely to do what I needed to do, remember the interaction as a positive one so that they would do it again, and have a lot of fun along the way. It made routines (dinner, morning) a lot easier."

When Casey Coonerty-Protti is away from the company of her two young children she can be found running Bookshop Santa Cruz.  If you also have toddlers, be sure to join Bookshop in celebrating the new edition of 1, 2, 3...The Toddler Years Panel Discussion Sunday, January 22.
  This Week

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Museum Free Days Parenting Workshops Guided Hikes & Park Activities
 

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School Corner

 

 

 

Santa Cruz Montessori Pre-8, Cosmic Classes for Parents 1/25


Aptos Academy Pre-8, Open House 1/19

 

Discovery Learning Center, Art & Great Artists 1/20

 

Gateway School K-8, Saturday Open House 1/22

 

SPIN K-12, Legal & Advocacy Issues 1/22

 

Kirby Prep 6-12 Open House 1/28

 

Santa Cruz Waldorf K-8, Kindergarten Open House 1/28

 

Monte Vista 6-12 Open House 1/29

 

Santa Cruz County Science Fair K-12 Registration Deadlines 1/31 & 2/16

 

Good Shepherd Pre-8 Open House 2/1

 

Bay Federal $1.000 Scholarship Applications Deadline 2/24

 

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 Whalefest Monterey

(Logos Event Calendar) MontereyWhaleFest.jpgThe Old Fisherman's Wharf Association in Monterey is sponsoring WHALEFEST MONTEREY, a free fun event for all ages that celebrates the Monterey Bay, Old Fisherman's Wharf, and whales, while benefiting many local marine conservation non-profit organizations.

WHALEFEST MONTEREY is held in January during the migration of the gray whales although whales are spotted in the Monterey Bay year-round. The day will feature a wide array of fun activities at Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey near the Custom House including a scavenger hunt, a beach clean up, a bocce tournament on Fisherman's Wharf, whale watching excursions, live music, a dance, and other entertainment, a special concert presented by Marine Life Studies with Barbara Joy and the La Mesa School Children's Chorus plus "Whiskie the Whale Spotter" who will do whale tricks, a dance with live musical performances by The Whales and Nick Fettis, and Jonah and the Whale Watchers, a beach clean up by Save Our Shores, hands-on interactive presentations (for all ages) by Save The Whales, squid and fish painting, chalk art, literary participation by local maritime authors, lectures by world renowned marine specialists, informative and educational exhibits by marine organizations, face painting, a raffle, documentaries will be presented by BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit", and much more.

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Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival
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  Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival
UCSC Women's Club
Date: 01/17/2016 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Ages: All ages
Details: Chocolate vendors are preparing to nourish your souls and treat your taste buds with their culinary delights.
Special Instructions: 6 tastings for $15
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  Public Roller Skating
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Date: Every Su, Tues, Wed, Th, Fri and Sa
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Details: There's nothing like a good skating session to expend good energy!
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Fruit Trees 101: Basic Fruit Tree Care
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  Fruit Trees 101: Basic Fruit Tree Care
UCSC Farm
Date: 01/16/2016 from 9:30am to 1:00pm
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