How to Help With Home Work

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math problem

As parents, we sometimes forget how confusing, frustrating and difficult middle school can be, and for some kids, math is especially confusing, frustrating and difficult. Being a middle school math teacher, I hear from many parents who want to help their children but aren’t sure how. Whether you identify with the Carla*, a mother who helps her son too much because she’s eager for him to get good grades or Todd*, a dad who doesn’t know how to help to his daughter because he “doesn’t understand the math” himself, every parent can benefit from these tips for supporting children who struggle with middle school math.

Before you can help your child, it’s important to understand what is happening (mathematically) to the adolescent brain. Middle school is an exciting time; adolescents’ brains are transitioning from reasoning in a concrete manner to understanding abstract concepts and ideas. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, middle school math typically begins with concepts such as fractions and decimals, and by the time students’ move on to high school, they have learned pre-algebra concepts, such as manipulating variables and solving or writing equations to find unknown values—ideas that cannot easily be visualized or explained with physical objects. Keep in mind that this is particularly hard for students stuck in a concrete state of mind; they tend to rely on memorizing steps or procedures to solve problems, which can lead to more difficulties later on.

Here are some useful tips on how you can support your child in math:

  • Always have notes from class, a textbook or other resources right next to a homework paper. If your child gets stuck, she is likely to find a similar problem in one of these resources that can help her move forward.
  • Ensure the student takes responsibility for her own learning by finding assistance independently; the ability to access help on your own is essential for student success in all areas of academics.
  • Never give children the answers to problems! By giving away answers, you’re depriving your child of the chance to develop the mental processes required to learn a new concept. No parent enjoys seeing their child struggle, but providing answers could set them up for frustration when they have to tackle more difficult problems and might even stunt their progress as classmates move to more advanced lessons. Furthermore, your child’s teacher will not be able to address the misconceptions or areas of weakness that should be targeted in school if homework assignments do not reflect the student’s level of understanding.
  • Encourage your child to underline or highlight key words or phrases in situational problems, as these often help students set up a solution.
  • Realize that your child may struggle with abstract concepts if his or her brain is not quite ready to reason at an abstract level. Your child’s brain will mature in time, and success in math class is likely to accompany this development.
  • If your child is frustrated by mathematics, show him how to focus on concepts rather than procedural knowledge. This might help some students approach and solve problems in a different way—one that makes more sense to them. For instance, ask your child to explain one problem in their assignment each night. If possible, choose one that incorporates both words and computation. If your child is simply reciting step-by-step instructions, encourage her to elaborate by asking questions focusing on the “why” of the problem:
    • What is the goal of the problem?
    • Why does that step work?
    • Why would we want to do that next?
    • What does this step in the process accomplish?
    • How do I know if my answer is reasonable?
    • Can I check my work to make sure it makes sense to me?
  • After your child has completed an assignment, ask her to share what she believes was the most important idea:
    • What is the goal of the problem?
    • What did these problems have in common?
    • Where would I use this in “real life”?
    • Why do you think your teacher gave you this assignment? What did he or she want you to learn?
    • How is this assignment related to the homework you had yesterday? In what ways is it similar or different?
    • Now that you can solve these problems, what do you think you might be able to do next?

    The most important thing to convey to your children is not to give up. Mathematical concepts are intricate and take time to fully grasp. Encouragement and patience go a long way. Read a book with your child while she works on homework or finish a Sudoku or crossword puzzle with her at the table while she studies to keep her company—just being in the same room and working on your own mind-stimulating puzzles might make them more comfortable with difficult homework. If your child continues to struggle and you’re becoming concerned, speak with the teacher or another administrative specialist.

By Diana Goldberg

Instill a Love of Math

Leadership, Math, Math News No Comments »

Family playing checkers

Parents are bombarded with messages to read with their children, but it’s rare to hear about the importance of doing math with them. Here are some helpful tips on why and how to instill a love of math in your children.

Early Math Matters
We may take for granted that our children will inevitably learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but early math lessons establish the base for the rest of their thinking lives. “Mathematics that kids are doing in kindergarten, first, second and third grades lays the foundation for the work they are going to do beyond that,” says Linda Gojak, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). “They are learning beyond just counting and numbers.” That’s why it’s so important to help children love math while they are still young. Parents can build on those first preschool lessons by counting with their children, asking them to look for patterns and recognize shapes, then moving on to numbers, Gojak says.

The goal should be to make math “real” and meaningful by pointing it out in the world around you. That could include checking and comparing prices at the grocery store, driving down the street counting mailboxes, reading recipes, calculating coupons, or even measuring food or drink at the dinner table. Kevin Mahoney, math curriculum coordinator at Pennacre Country Day School in Wellesley, Mass., says when his children were little, his wife kept a small measuring tape in her pocketbook. While they were waiting for their order at a restaurant, the children would measure different items on the table.

Just as you encourage your early reader to look for familiar letters, ask your child to watch for math, regarding math as highly as you do reading. “Every parent knows that it’s a good idea to read to your child every night, but they should also realize the importance of talking about mathematical situations with children every day,” says Mahoney.

So What If It’s Hard?
What if you hated math as a child? Parents should try to set aside their distaste for math and encourage their children as much as possible. Young children are eager to learn. “It’s hard to learn to talk or walk. But they don’t care,” says Sue VanHattum, a community college math teacher in Richmond, Ca., who blogs about math learning on www.mathmamawrites.blogspot.com. “They just push themselves over their limits. They are going to come at math with that same attitude.”

Avoid talking negatively about math, even if you have no need for trigonometry in your daily life. “A lot of people will only joke that they cannot do math or announce publicly, ‘I’m not a math person.’ When a parent does that in front of a child, it suggests that math’s not important,” says Char Forsten, education consultant and writer, who urges parents to create that desire to learn by constantly screening the environment for math. “Have you seen any good math lately?” she likes to ask students.

If your child believes that math doesn’t really matter, he’s not going to be as open to learn. “Attitude has everything to do with learning. You can’t make anyone learn. If a child has learned not to love math, if they don’t love math, and aren’t willing to learn, you have to deal with that first,” Forsten says.

If you are stuck on how to foster math enthusiasm, talk to your child’s teacher about some ways to support math learning at home. There may be a new game that you have never heard of, which both you and your child will love.

Play Games
With so many facts and figures to memorize and apply to math problems, children learn early that math is something that requires work. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun; keep the pleasure in math by playing games with your children. Many games, even the ones adults play, rely on math. With countless websites, computer games and phone apps, parents have endless options, but don’t forget about the nondigital games you loved as a child. The classics that require manipulating cards and game pieces, calculating along the way, may have the same appeal for your kids as they did for you. One game worth considering is Chutes and Ladders. A 2009 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Maryland found that preschoolers who played the game improved math skills significantly compared to those in the study who played a different board game or did nonmath tasks.

As you play with your kids, try to tap into your own love for math. When you play Trivial Pursuit, you are using math to determine how many spaces you need to get to the next wedge or predict which category you can answer best. The game doesn’t have to be about math, but should involve it. If you have a good game store in your area, stop by and ask the salespeople for help. Some of VanHattum’s favorite games really push logic, which is the basis of math, and get children thinking visually. Check out Link, SET, Rush Hour, Blokus and Spot It, to name a few.

“Playing games is a great family activity,” VanHattum says. “The more you have a tradition of playing games, the easier it is to bring in other games you like.” So while you may not be passionate about your child’s latest board game, you can work up to another game you like. Try to make the game personal to your family by playing it in your own special way. “Mathematicians make up their own rules,” VanHattum says. “It’s really important to be open to making up your own games. Change the rules. ‘In our family, we play the game this way.’”

Flexing Math Muscles
Riding a bike, swimming in the deep end, and playing an instrument are just examples of our favorite childhood activities that require practice to master. So does math.

“Math is an intellectual muscle building; it’s crucial for fully developing a child’s potential,” Mahoney says. “Those muscles can atrophy. If school is the only place you do math, then it becomes something you only do at school. Then you don’t even think about using it in real life.” So brush off those negative feelings about math and instill enthusiasm. Math will play a role in your child’s life forever.

“It’s important to remember that those basics are essential for later learning. A lot of the stuff we learn in math we apply in different ways later,” says Gojak, who emphasizes the thinking skills that math provides. “I might not have to worry about what an isosceles triangle is, but it’s still an important part of education.”

As they grow, kids will learn that they are willing to work hard at something they love. It may just be math. Either way, remember that your child does not have to excel at math to enjoy it. “It doesn’t matter if they’re good, it matters whether they like it,” VanHattum says.

By Laura Lewis Brown

When is it Time to get My Child a Math Tutor

Leadership, Math, Math News 1 Comment »

As parents, we all want to see our children excel in school. Some children are great at motivating themselves, while others need a push to catch up or even a little help to accelerate beyond their current curriculum. When it comes to building math skills, there is no reason to postpone giving your child that push.

Signs Your Child May Need a Math Tutor
If your child is old enough to receive report cards, you can tell pretty quickly whether or not he might need help when you see his grades. “Always look at grades,” says Richard Bavaria, Senior Vice President for Sylvan Learning, who offers helpful tips and advice on DrRickblog.com. “Grades can indicate anything from a straight-A student getting her first B to a kid showing signs that he needs extra help.”

Beyond slipping grades, look out for a lack of enthusiasm for math. “Elementary school kids love to learn about new subjects, especially math. They like to learn about counting, money, telling time, all math-related subjects,” Bavaria says. “When you see enthusiasm slip, that definitely signals something.”

That loss in interest could signal that your child needs help, but it also may mean that he or she is bored. That’s where a tutor can come in. “Tutoring is good for children who are highly able, not just for children who need academic help,” Bavaria says. “If the math course is not challenging enough, that might mean that your child is pretty smart in math and in need of extra challenges.”

One of the best ways to get more insight on how your child is handling math is to talk to his or her teacher. It is important for the teacher to know your child’s relationship with math, especially if it has changed. If your child used to love math in second grade but suddenly dislikes it in third, let the teacher know. Since you cannot be in the classroom, starting a dialogue with the teacher will help you identify how best to help your child.

Get Help Sooner Rather Than Later
Whether you choose to hire a tutor or provide more games and learning opportunities at home, it’s important to identify your child’s signs of needing extra help early on, particularly in math, due to its linear nature.

“No subject is more important than math when it comes to vigilance,” Bavaria says. “Each new year, each new course builds on the previous lesson and course. Once you miss a lesson, once you don’t master a particular skill, it’s difficult to build something on top of it without it all falling down.”

By delaying the process of getting your child the help he needs, you risk letting him slip further behind as well as lose confidence, which is essential to continuing learning, Bavaria cautions.

Hiring a Tutor
By the time your child has reached second grade, it will be pretty clear whether a tutor would be helpful. Once you decide to find a tutor, take your search seriously. You want someone who is properly trained, will assess your child correctly, has a good reputation, and will provide lessons that are age appropriate. Stay away from tutors who rely mostly on technology, because the time spent tutoring should be focused on the child and tutor working together, Bavaria says. That being said, the tutor should attempt to make learning fun.

Above all, you want a tutor who will be a partner in your child’s education. This means that communication is key on many levels: between student and tutor, parent and tutor, and especially between tutor and teacher.

“For tutoring to be effective, the tutor needs to have contact with the classroom teacher in order to discuss the current curriculum and classroom goals, teaching styles and practices, and gaps the teacher is seeing in the school,” says Shannon Keeny, a private tutor in reading and math in Baltimore. “The tutor should support the learning in the classroom by reteaching or accelerating. The tutor becomes an advocate for the student’s learning for the school and a support for the parents.”

Setting Goals
When you select a tutor, make sure you explain to him or her what you (and your child) expect from the experience. To determine this, first sit down with your child and identify two to three goals you want the tutor to focus on, Bavaria suggests. Consider whether your child wants to catch up, keep up or get ahead. Does she want a higher grade? Does she want to study for tests better? Does she need help organizing? A good tutor should ask you some of these questions to help set goals.
When you establish the objectives, also determine how the tutor likes to work, so you can provide the best learning setting. “I like to have a quiet workspace. I don’t like the parent to be hovering, but it could be important for the parent to be in earshot to hear the language that is being used,” says Keeny, who tutors children in their homes. She also recommends parents explain to their children that tutoring is not a punishment, but rather is designed to help them succeed in the classroom.
“Half of my clients are tutoring for enrichment, not for remedial support,” Keeny says. “Tutoring is not looked at as something only for the kids who are behind and need a tutor; often they are at grade level, but parents want them to be challenged.”

Helping at Home
Math may not have been your best subject in school, but you can help your child by dusting off your math skills and knowing the lingo. If your child asks you to look at her geometry assignment, you want to be ready to relate as best you can.
“When you suspect that your child is having a little trouble in math, or any other subject, that may be a time to start boning up on stuff that you’ve forgotten since you were in a math class,” Bavaria says. “That doesn’t mean you have to be in expert in quadratic equations, but you should at least have the vocabulary to know what your child is talking about.”

You can ask your child’s teacher or tutor for ways to provide support. Another great way to keep in touch with your child’s schoolwork is by checking out the teacher’s web page, which many teachers maintain on the school’s site. Don’t let your child’s latest math challenge be a surprise to you.
Keep in mind, though, that you’re not required to be the teacher. If your child is struggling, let his teacher know that he needs more help and has been having a hard time with certain assignments. “Parents can encourage kids by giving them time to do their homework and by giving them a place to do their homework,” says Linda Gojak, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). “It’s not their job to be the teacher.”

Free Resources
Tutoring, especially if you do it on a weekly basis, can be expensive. With sessions running $35 to $75 an hour in many places, you may be interested in other options. Luckily, there are numerous free math websites that offer lessons, games, or a combination of both. These include funbrain.com, which has tons of math games, and sylvanmathprep.com, which offers free instructor-led videos. Gojak recommends the Illuminations section of the NCTM website, which provides activities for different grade levels as well as a collection of more than 700 links to online math resources.

You can also work math into the regular day. Keeny recommends normalizing math language in the home and conjuring up real-life math problems throughout the day. On the way to the store, talk about how long it takes to get there, then ask your child what time you will arrive. When you set the dinner table, ask your child how many forks you need, including how many to take away if Dad won’t be home for dinner.
“Math is everywhere,” Keeny says. Use that to your advantage and give your child the best chance for math success.

By Laura Lewis Brown

7 Tips That Will Help Our Children Grow Into Leaders

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canstockphoto3580131

While I spend my professional time now as a career success coach, writer, and leadership trainer, I was a marriage and family therapist in my past, and worked for several years with couples, families, and children. Through that experience, I witnessed a very wide array of both functional and dysfunctional parenting behaviors. As a parent myself, I’ve learned that all the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect you from parenting in ways that hold your children back from thriving, gaining independence and becoming the leaders they have the potential to be.

I was intrigued, then, to catch up with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore and learn more about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be. Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the Habitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Tim had this to share about the 7 damaging parenting behaviors that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives and of the world’s enterprises:

1. Let our children experience risk

We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. The “safety first” preoccupation enforces our fear of losing our kids, so we do everything we can to protect them. It’s our job after all, but we have insulated them from healthy risk-taking behavior and it’s had an adverse effect. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, they frequently have phobias as adults. Kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will likely experience high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders.

2. Don’t Rescue too quickly

Today’s generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did 30 years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. When we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with “assistance,” we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them: “If I fail or fall short, an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct.” When in reality, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works, and therefore it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.

3. Don’t rave too easily

The self-esteem movement has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. Attend a little league baseball game and you’ll see that everyone is a winner. This “everyone gets a trophy” mentality might make our kids feel special, but research is now indicating this method has unintended consequences. Kids eventually observe that Mom and Dad are the only ones who think they’re awesome when no one else is saying it. They begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, children eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it.

4. Avoid letting guilt get in the way of leading well

Your child does not have to love you every minute. Your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need. As parents, we tend to give them what they want when rewarding our children, especially with multiple kids. When one does well in something, we feel it’s unfair to praise and reward that one and not the other. This is unrealistic and misses an opportunity to enforce the point to our kids that success is dependent upon our own actions and good deeds. Be careful not to teach them a good grade is rewarded by a trip to the mall. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love.

5. Share our past mistakes

Healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings and they’ll need to try things on their own. We as adults must let them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them navigate these waters. Share with them the relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices. (Avoid negative “lessons learned” having to do with smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc.) Also, kids must prepare to encounter slip-ups and face the consequences of their decisions. Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because we’re not the only influence on our kids, we must be the best influence.

6. We should not mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity

Intelligence is often used as a measurement of a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume an intelligent child is ready for the world. That’s not the case. Some professional athletes and Hollywood starlets, for example, possess unimaginable talent, but still get caught in a public scandal. Just because giftedness is present in one aspect of a child’s life, don’t assume it pervades all areas. There is no magic “age of responsibility” or a proven guide as to when a child should be given specific freedoms, but a good rule of thumb is to observe other children the same age as yours. If you notice that they are doing more themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.

7. Practice what we preach

As parents, it is our responsibility to model the life we want our children to live. To help them lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their words and actions. As the leaders of our homes, we can start by only speaking honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character. Watch yourself in the little ethical choices that others might notice, because your kids will notice too. If you don’t cut corners, for example, they will know it’s not acceptable for them to either. Show your kids what it means to give selflessly and joyfully by volunteering for a service project or with a community group. Leave people and places better than you found them, and your kids will take note and do the same.

Why do parents engage in these behaviors (what are they afraid of if they don’t)? Do these behaviors come from fear or from poor understanding of what strong parenting (with good boundaries) is?

Tim shares:

“I think both fear and lack of understanding play a role here, but it leads with the fact that each generation of parents is usually compensating for something the previous generation did. The primary adults in kids’ lives today have focused on now rather than later. It’s about their happiness today not their readiness tomorrow. I suspect it’s a reaction. Many parents today had Moms and Dads who were all about getting ready for tomorrow: saving money, not spending it, and getting ready for retirement. In response, many of us bought into the message: embrace the moment. You deserve it. Enjoy today. And we did. For many, it resulted in credit card debt and the inability to delay gratification. This may be the crux of our challenge. The truth is, parents who are able to focus on tomorrow, not just today, produce better results.”

How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Tim says: “It’s important for parents to become exceedingly self-aware of their words and actions when interacting with their children, or with others when their children are nearby. Care enough to train them, not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle. “

Here’s a start:

1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino, Contributor

I cover career growth, leadership & women’s professional development

89 Year Old WWII Vet Reaches Out and Tutors Students in Math

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A photocopy of a picture of Frank in 1944, when he was serving in the Navy

Math tutor Bernard Frank, 89, works with Bexley Middle School eighth-graders Hannah Dolen, 14, left, and Nicole Beckman, 13.

Bernard Frank had plenty of reasons to kick back and relax when he retired almost 14 years ago.

He had been second-in-command of a small fighting boat in the Pacific during World War II; he had earned a degree in industrial engineering from Ohio State University; and he had taken over a jewelry store from his father-in-law, brought it out of bankruptcy and turned it into a successful Downtown business for half a century.

But when he retired in 2000 at age 76, he decided he still had something to give. He applied to be a substitute teacher in the Bexley City Schools.

“They said, ‘When do you want to start?’ I said, ‘Tomorrow,’??” Frank said.

Now, at age 89, he is a math tutor, putting to work his minor in math from Ohio State. He figures he has worked with more than a hundred kids, mostly one-on-one. Sometimes he gets paid, other times not, depending on the parents’ situation.

“What Bernie brought to the table was he could do it on an as-needed basis and charged on kind of a floating scale,” with the bottom of the scale being free, said Harley Williams, the principal of Bexley secondary schools.

Frank said he always gets paid: “I get paid in the heart. When you’re paid in the heart, you don’t spend the heart. When you get paid money, you spend it.”

Frank will talk your ear off. And he has built up a lot of stories over 89 years.

He was born in 1924 in Youngstown to a dad who “really did very little; he had jobs and made very little money,” and a mom “who was one of those first ladies who went out into the world and became a working mother” to help support them, he said.

In 1942, he moved to Columbus to attend Ohio State. Back then, “Anybody who wanted to go could go” because it cost very little, Frank said. “I was a rich kid at Ohio State whose mother and father didn’t have any money, but I didn’t tell people.”

There were no college deferments during World War II, and on his 18th birthday, after only three months of college, “I decided that I wanted to join the Army and not be drafted,” Frank said.

But he soon realized that by the time basic training was over, he’d be ripe for the invasion of Europe that everyone knew was coming. So he went back to the enlistment office and said he needed to join the Navy, because his dad and grandfather had been in the Navy (which was true) and “They were having fits” that he had joined the Army (which wasn’t true).

The Navy was happy to have him and, because of his college experience, sent him into the officers’ program. Eventually, he found himself in the Philippines, second-in-command of a fighting boat, the USS APc-8, which looked like an armed tugboat.

His scariest moment came when the boat hit a reef in the Sulu Sea and looked like it was going down, with no one around to help. Frank put on three life jackets thinking that was better than one. But they got the boat free and limped to safety.

After the war, Frank returned to Ohio State and got his degree. He married and took over Lynn’s Jewelers at 171 S. High St. from his father-in-law.

There were a few missteps, such as when Frank accidentally dropped a bag containing $25,000 in diamond rings — more than $49,000 in today’s dollars — in 1989 near Town and High streets. A man found the bag and returned it.

After closing the store in 2000, Frank went to Columbus State Community College to brush up his math skills, got a teaching certificate and became a substitute teacher.

Frank goes beyond just being a tutor, said Williams, of Bexley schools. “As much as he’s done with the students in math, I’ve also been as pleased with just the intergenerational experience he’s been able to provide our students.”

Eighth-grader Nicole Beckman, 13, said she “was in a little bit of a rut these past few months” with her math, “and then, just recently, I started getting better when I started working with Bernie.”

“He helped me realize that some answers don’t make sense and you have to go over everything and make sure that it’s right.”

Hannah Dolen, 14, also in the eighth grade, said lots of stories get mixed in with the math work.

What about? “Everything. His whole life,” Hannah said.

Frank and his wife, Nancy Ann Frank, had three children. His wife died 1 1/2 years ago after 62 years of marriage.

“I cry for her quite often,” he said.

He tutors about two days a week now. He’d like to see more retired people tutor and plans to continue for at least 10 more years.

“Until I’m 99,” he said. “If I get there and I want to go longer, I will.”

By Bill Bush The Columbus Dispatch

Students helping fellow students make gains in academics

Math News No Comments »

Mark Gniewek, EEV leadership development teacher and retired educator, and Lear consultant Geraldine Whiteside prepare a group of six potential tutors for tutoring sessions with Clark students.

Mark Gniewek, EEV leadership development teacher and retired educator, and Lear consultant Geraldine Whiteside prepare a group of six potential tutors for tutoring sessions with Clark students. / Voice of the Ville

Juniors and seniors enrolled in the Leadership Development course at East English Village Preparatory Academy have earned part-time jobs tutoring students at J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy in mathematics. Student tutors travel by school bus four days per week and tutor Clark students in grades six through eighth. The tutoring sessions with each student lasts approximately 35 minutes. Each student tutor receives $8 an hour and DPS community service credits required for graduation. The Lear Corporation, a Southfield-based auto supplier, donated $1.5 million to fund the three-year program and pays the wages of the student tutors. Lear and the schools have partnered with a financial institution to open bank accounts for direct deposit, and financial literacy programs will be created for the students. The DPS Office of Nutrition provides nutritious snacks and refreshments.

Mark Gniewek, EEVPA Leadership Development teacher said Lear chief executive Matt Simoncini, who attended Clark, started the program because he wanted to help his former school increase its math scores and improve the community surrounding the school. According to Gniewek, EEVPA students interested in the position must qualify in five areas: good attendance record, successful interview, score proficiently on various math tests and assessments, maintain a minimum 2.7 grade-point average and successfully completing the instructional techniques and expectations training taught in the course.

These requirements differ from the first year of the program because students were scheduled into the class as a regular elective. Some students enrolled in the class were experiencing difficulty meeting the math benchmarks and needed to review sixth through eighth grade skills. Lear has hired at least three retired educators as consultants to help Mr. Gniewek train the student tutors and pull them into small groups to master skills so they are ready to tutor the Clark students.

“Sometimes you need to review something you haven’t done in a while. But, when you study it again, everything comes back to you,” said Debrayah Williams, an EEVPA 12th grade tutor and honor roll student enrolled in the course. “It is an excellent program and I know we are doing a good job because the students tell us they are glad we are helping them and their teachers tell us their math scores are increasing.”

The tutoring program has helped Clark and East English Village student tutors make academic gains. They will be honored at the 21st Annual National Tutoring Association Conference, April 5-9 in Tampa, Fla., as New Tutoring Program of the Year.

By Charmain McElrath

There’s one key difference between kids who excel at math and those who don’t

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People in China, Japan, and Korea are more accustomed to criticism as a means to self-improvement, whereas Westerners avoid it or resent it. Reuters/Lee Jae Won

By Miles Kimball and Noah Smith

Miles Kimball is an economics professor at the University of Michigan. He blogs about economics, politics and religion.

Noah Smith is an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University. His blog is Noahpinion.

“I’m just not a math person.”

We hear it all the time. And we’ve had enough. Because we believe that the idea of “math people” is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a pernicious myth that is harming underprivileged children—the myth of inborn genetic math ability.

Is math ability genetic? Sure, to some degree. Terence Tao, UCLA’s famous virtuoso mathematician, publishes dozens of papers in top journals every year, and is sought out by researchers around the world to help with the hardest parts of their theories. Essentially none of us could ever be as good at math as Terence Tao, no matter how hard we tried or how well we were taught. But here’s the thing: We don’t have to! For high school math, inborn talent is just much less important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence.

How do we know this? First of all, both of us have taught math for many years—as professors, teaching assistants, and private tutors. Again and again, we have seen the following pattern repeat itself:

  1. Different kids with different levels of preparation come into a math class. Some of these kids have parents who have drilled them on math from a young age, while others never had that kind of parental input.
  2. On the first few tests, the well-prepared kids get perfect scores, while the unprepared kids get only what they could figure out by winging it—maybe 80 or 85%, a solid B.
  3. The unprepared kids, not realizing that the top scorers were well-prepared, assume that genetic ability was what determined the performance differences. Deciding that they “just aren’t math people,” they don’t try hard in future classes, and fall further behind.
  4. The well-prepared kids, not realizing that the B students were simply unprepared, assume that they are “math people,” and work hard in the future, cementing their advantage.

Thus, people’s belief that math ability can’t change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The idea that math ability is mostly genetic is one dark facet of a larger fallacy that intelligence is mostly genetic. Academic psychology journals are well stocked with papers studying the world view that lies behind the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy we just described. For example, Purdue University psychologist Patricia Linehan writes:

A body of research on conceptions of ability has shown two orientations toward ability. Students with an Incremental orientation believe ability (intelligence) to be malleable, a quality that increases with effort. Students with an Entity orientation believe ability to be nonmalleable, a fixed quality of self that does not increase with effort.

The “entity orientation” that says “You are smart or not, end of story,” leads to bad outcomes—a result that has been confirmed by many other studies. (The relevance for math is shown by researchers at Oklahoma City who recently found that belief in inborn math ability may be responsible for much of the gender gap in mathematics.)

Psychologists Lisa Blackwell, Kali Trzesniewski, and Carol Dweck presented these alternatives to determine people’s beliefs about intelligence:

  1. You have a certain amount of intelligence, and you really can’t do much to change it.
  2. You can always greatly change how intelligent you are.

They found that students who agreed that “You can always greatly change how intelligent you are” got higher grades. But as Richard Nisbett recounts in his book Intelligence and How to Get It, they did something even more remarkable:

Dweck and her colleagues then tried to convince a group of poor minority junior high school students that intelligence is highly malleable and can be developed by hard work…that learning changes the brain by forming new…connections and that students are in charge of this change process.

The results? Convincing students that they could make themselves smarter by hard work led them to work harder and get higher grades. The intervention had the biggest effect for students who started out believing intelligence was genetic. (A control group, who were taught how memory works, showed no such gains.)

But improving grades was not the most dramatic effect, “Dweck reported that some of her tough junior high school boys were reduced to tears by the news that their intelligence was substantially under their control.” It is no picnic going through life believing you were born dumb—and are doomed to stay that way.

For almost everyone, believing that you were born dumb—and are doomed to stay that way—is believing a lie. IQ itself can improve with hard work. Because the truth may be hard to believe, here is a set of links about some excellent books to convince you that most people can become smart in many ways, if they work hard enough:

So why do we focus on math? For one thing, math skills are increasingly important for getting good jobs these days—so believing you can’t learn math is especially self-destructive. But we also believe that math is the area where America’s “fallacy of inborn ability” is the most entrenched. Math is the great mental bogeyman of an unconfident America. If we can convince you that anyone can learn math, it should be a short step to convincing you that you can learn just about anything, if you work hard enough.

Is America more susceptible than other nations to the dangerous idea of genetic math ability? Here our evidence is only anecdotal, but we suspect that this is the case. While American fourth and eighth graders score quite well in international math comparisons—beating countries like Germany, the UK and Sweden—our high-schoolers  underperform those countries by a wide margin. This suggests that Americans’ native ability is just as good as anyone’s, but that we fail to capitalize on that ability through hard work. In response to the lackluster high school math performance, some influential voices in American education policy have suggested simply teaching less math—for example, Andrew Hacker has called for algebra to no longer be a requirement. The subtext, of course, is that large numbers of American kids are simply not born with the ability to solve for x.

We believe that this approach is disastrous and wrong. First of all, it leaves many Americans ill-prepared to compete in a global marketplace with hard-working foreigners. But even more importantly, it may contribute to inequality. A great deal of research has shown that technical skills in areas like software are increasingly making the difference between America’s upper middle class and its working class. While we don’t think education is a cure-all for inequality, we definitely believe that in an increasingly automated workplace, Americans who give up on math are selling themselves short.

Too many Americans go through life terrified of equations and mathematical symbols. We think what many of them are afraid of is “proving” themselves to be genetically inferior by failing to instantly comprehend the equations (when, of course, in reality, even a math professor would have to read closely). So they recoil from anything that looks like math, protesting: “I’m not a math person.” And so they exclude themselves from quite a few lucrative career opportunities. We believe that this has to stop. Our view is shared by economist and writer Allison Schrager, who has written two wonderful columns in Quartz (here and here), that echo many of our views.

One way to help Americans excel at math is to copy the approach of the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans.  In Intelligence and How to Get It, Nisbett describes how the educational systems of East Asian countries focus more on hard work than on inborn talent:

1. “Children in Japan go to school about 240 days a year, whereas children in the United States go to school about 180 days a year.”
2. “Japanese high school students of the 1980s studied 3 ½ hours a day, and that number is likely to be, if anything, higher today.”
3. “[The inhabitants of Japan and Korea] do not need to read this book to find out that intelligence and intellectual accomplishment are highly malleable. Confucius set that matter straight twenty-five hundred years ago.”
4. “When they do badly at something, [Japanese, Koreans, etc.] respond by working harder at it.”
5. “Persistence in the face of failure is very much part of the Asian tradition of self-improvement. And [people in those countries] are accustomed to criticism in the service of self-improvement in situations where Westerners avoid it or resent it.”

We certainly don’t want America’s education system to copy everything Japan does (and we remain agnostic regarding the wisdom of Confucius). But it seems to us that an emphasis on hard work is a hallmark not just of modern East Asia, but of America’s past as well. In returning to an emphasis on effort, America would be returning to its roots, not just copying from successful foreigners.

Besides cribbing a few tricks from the Japanese, we also have at least one American-style idea for making kids smarter: treat people who work hard at learning as heroes and role models. We already venerate sports heroes who make up for lack of talent through persistence and grit; why should our educational culture be any different?

Math education, we believe, is just the most glaring area of a slow and worrying shift. We see our country moving away from a culture of hard work toward a culture of belief in genetic determinism. In the debate between “nature vs. nurture,” a critical third element—personal perseverance and effort—seems to have been sidelined. We want to bring it back, and we think that math is the best place to start.

Algebra Tutoring in Baltimore

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Looking for Algebra tutoring in Baltimore?

TutorsASAP.com for Algebra Tutors in Baltimore

TutorsASAP.com Professional Tutors in Baltimore

Let’s face it.  Algebra does not come easy to everybody, but eventually we all have to learn it. TutorsASAP.com understands that learning goes far beyond the classroom and each person learns in their own way.  Sometimes it isn’t the Math that is the problem.  It can be how the subject matter is presented to the student.

Even though we all have to deal with life in classroom, taking a step out of that environment with a tutor can give the student the opportunity to interact with Algebra in a different way. The demands on a teacher are tough and devoting sufficient time with every student is almost impossible.

That’s why TutorsASAP.com has become one of the finest educational alternatives in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. Our certified tutors are Algebra experts. (yes people do love Algebra) Our tutors take their love of Algebra and create a dynamic individualized learning program for every student they teach.

We go to great lengths to discover exactly where the problem with Algebra, or another subject, begins and concentrate on building the right study skills to overcome the current challenge. Our tutors teach students to capitalize on their strengths and identify weaknesses so they become confident learners.

There are reasons why some students never raise their hands in class, or dread being called to the board. Some kids love to shout out the correct answer while others sink in their chairs hoping they are not noticed.

The truth is, Algebra is fun and we use it in our everyday lives. The challenge is to present Algebra in a compelling way so each student can embrace the subject and excel in class or on exams.  Algebra Tutoring has proven to be an effective way to meet or exceed this challenge.

Remember, Algebra is included in almost every standardized test used to evaluate students’ skills or to gain entry into College and even Graduate School.  Some of these tests include:

With all this at stake TutorsASAP.com can help take the stress out of learning Algebra. We are finding that it is not just students who want to learn. Many home schooling parents in Baltimore use us as an Algebra resource. Our professional tutors are happy to report helping adults as well as children master the subject. So contact us today.

Algebra Tip:
“Do unto one side as you would do unto the other”

Try These Fixes for a Low GMAT Score

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Jan 16, 2014  RSS Feed Print

Students can offset a low GMAT score with proven job success, a high undergraduate GPA and compelling extracurricular activities.

Students can offset a low GMAT score with proven job success, a high undergraduate GPA and compelling extracurricular activities.

A strong performance on the GMAT is a key component of the MBA application to most top business schools. But what can you do if your score is not where you want or need it to be?

Any number of factors could have thrown off your game, from illness to test anxiety to insufficient preparation. The first step is to make peace with the fact that taking the test twice or even three times is completely normal. In fact, this dedication to improving your score is often interpreted by the admissions committee as a sign that you’ll do whatever it takes to prove you’re ready for business school.

If the issue is not being prepared enough, ramp up your studying, take a class or consider hiring a tutor who can help you streamline your efforts and teach you the best methods for answering the various question types. However, if you do find that your score hasn’t improved significantly despite two or more attempts, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your energy would be better spent taking a broader look at your entire application strategy.

[Learn which MBA programs receive the most applications.]

While it’s natural to become hung up on achieving the highest score possible, or fixate on the average GMAT score reported by the schools, I urge test-challenged clients to focus instead on aligning their scores within the 80 percent range. Many schools list this information directly within their class profiles.

For example, the 80 percent range for the MBA class entering UC—Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in fall 2013 is 680-750. At Columbia Business School, the MBA class entering in 2012 had an 80 percent range of 680-760, and University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School lists the 80 percent range as 690-760 for the class of 2015.

Targeting these numbers at the lower end, rather than at the out-of-reach average, may keep your application viable. However, if you’re 50 points away, it’s time to rethink your selected programs and consider adding options in the top 20 or 30. You can still leave the highest-ranked options on the table, but these have officially become what we call “reach” schools.

[Learn the do’s and don’ts of applying to MBA programs.]

When a client is really dissatisfied with their GMAT score, sometimes the best option is to think way out of the box. Jamie came to us with rock-solid work experience, a lengthy history of international exposure and interests and stellar extracurricular activities.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t get her GMAT score to cooperate. Her highest score was a 600, and to make matters worse, her quantitative percentile hovered around 40, which was about half of the target score at Harvard Business School, Jamie’s first-choice program.

Although we’ve seen schools take risks on very strong clients who happened to have a low GMAT score, we decided Jamie should take the GRE and see how the two scores stacked up.

In the end, her overall performance with the GRE was actually lower. But interestingly, her score was balanced toward a much stronger performance in the quant section, which made a compelling argument for submitting the GRE instead of the GMAT.

This tactic proved successful. An ecstatic Jamie was admitted to Harvard, and didn’t give a second thought to the three back-up schools she had added to her list.

The GMAT score foretells how well one would do in the core academic courses of an MBA program, but isn’t a predictor of success throughout the entire b-school experience. This is why most schools have a holistic approach to considering each application.

[Discover what matters most in MBA admissions.]

It’s entirely possible to offset a low GMAT score with a proven track record in a quantitative job, a high GPA from a respected undergraduate school and compelling extracurricular or leadership activities. Put your energies toward boosting your candidacy in the areas of your application you can control, namely the essays, extracurriculars and, to some extent, the recommendation letters, where your recommenders can highlight your quantitative skills.

Although you may feel tempted to use the optional essay to explain a low test score, try to resist, as this will likely come across as making excuses rather than providing additional information.

In the end, your exceptional accomplishments will likely shine through despite some academic challenges. The admissions process is a complex one, so after you’ve done the best you can on the GMAT, it’s time to focus on developing your personal brand by packaging your goals, passions, work experience and “why business school, why now” into a compelling case for your admission.

What Will Common Core Mean for Mathematically Talented Students?

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October 3, 2013 Filed under: Critical Thinking,Curriculum Development,Gifted And Talented — IMACS Staff Writer @ 1:00 am

After school, weekend and online programs in math and computer science for gifted children who enjoy fun, academic challenges.

The new school year is now a month old. By this time, most children who attend a public K-12 school in the US will have experienced the new Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM). On the one hand, IMACS is pleased to see that key elements of the teaching philosophy we have lived by for more than 20 years are reflected in the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice. For a variety of reasons, however, we maintain a healthy amount of skepticism about whether the implementation of the CCSSM will lead to meaningful, positive change in mathematics education, particularly for our most talented youth.

Common Core Was Not Designed for Gifted Kids

First, the CCSSM was not designed with exceptional kids in mind. The official Common Core Web site states plainly that:

“The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations.”
[Source: http://www.corestandards.org/Math]

The Web site further acknowledges that Common Core, like its predecessors, cannot adequately address the unique needs of individual learners:

“No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom.”
[Source: http://www.corestandards.org/Math]

As to what educators should do about serving the diverse needs of a student body, Common Core guidance leaves them with unresolved internal conflict, offering both:

(i) “Learning opportunities will continue to vary across schools and school systems, and educators should make every effort to meet the needs of individual students based on their current understanding.”
[Source: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/introduction/how-to-read-the-grade-level-standards]

and

(ii) “The Standards should be read as allowing for the widest possible range of students to participate fully from the outset, along with appropriate accommodations to ensure maximum participaton (sic) of students with special education needs.”
[Source: http://www.corestandards.org/Math]

[Note that Common Core does not include gifted children as an example of “students with special education needs.”]

But children in the right-hand tail of the distribution do have special education needs. Whether due to a failure to understand this fact, budgetary pressure, or some other constraint, some school districts seem to be latching on to (ii) above, using the arrival of Common Core as a reason to reduce or eliminate services or accommodations for gifted students. Should this become a national trend in education policy, our country will surely suffer as the majority of gifted children who rely on public education are left without appropriate alternatives.

What About Creative Problem Solvers?

Notwithstanding the potential for improving the thinking skills of typical students, the CCSSM are simply not built to inspire or nurture the creative problem solver. The unfortunate embracing of computerized testing as a cheap means of measuring “learning” — consequently resulting in a culture of teaching to the test — has made the K-12 classroom a place to dread for many unique thinkers. The plan to continue use of computerized testing under the new standards suggests that the non-standard thinker may still be out of place in the Common Core classroom.

IMACS recently asked Gerald R. Rising, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at the University at Buffalo, how he thought the CCSSM would affect mathematics education for bright children, to which he replied, “Any imposed curriculum can have a depressing effect on special programs for gifted students.” He also shared the following anecdote about the limits of standardized testing:

“On one of the tests appeared the trivial-sounding question that went something like this: ‘A workman seeks to pass a 20-foot long board through an opening with rectangular 6-foot by 8-foot cross-section. What is the maximum width of the board that is possible?’ The answer choices were: 8 feet, 9 feet, 10 feet and 11 feet. Several of our students answered 9 feet, because the board would necessarily have some thickness that would prevent a 10-foot wide board from passing through the opening. They lost full credit for thinking that was perfectly reasonable but that did not fit the professional test constructor’s overly simplistic model.”

IMACS has been delivering courses and administering tests online to bright and creative children for over 15 years, so we know a thing or two about designing effective computerized assessments of high-level thinking skills. Let’s just say that it takes tremendous creativity, foresight, and a deep understanding of how to leverage the power of technology. If high-stakes testing is here to stay, as it appears to be, we sincerely hope that the consortia working on Common Core-aligned assessments will find ways to reward (or at least not penalize) creative problem solvers.

Inadequate Investment in Training

Common Core marks a major change in teaching philosophy for math education in the US. The intent is to move away from just teaching procedural skills by giving equal weight to conceptual understanding. Teaching math with an emphasis on thinking and understanding, however, is not something one becomes proficient in after a few hours of training, which is all that many districts have provided to their teachers.

Such a radical shift in mindset can be especially challenging for some who have taught math with a completely different focus for many, many years. This is not to say that teachers are incapable of learning to teach a new way — quite the contrary. But, as with any field undergoing fundamental change, extensive training and professional development are necessary if districts and schools want a successful implementation of Common Core. So far, the evidence suggests that they cannot or will not be making that investment.

“Common Core” Textbooks In Name Only

Many of the textbooks currently on the market that say they are aligned to the Common Core standards were developed before the creation of the CCSSM. Note the example below of pages from old and new versions of a math text currently being used in California. The pages on the left were from the edition published in 2009, the year before states began adopting the CCSSM. The pages on the right are from the current edition that proclaims “Common Core” on the cover. (Click on an image to enlarge.)

After school, weekend and online programs in math and computer science for gifted children who enjoy fun, academic challenges.
After school, weekend and online programs in math and computer science for gifted children who enjoy fun, academic challenges.
After school, weekend and online programs in math and computer science for gifted children who enjoy fun, academic challenges.

Furthermore, such textbooks often only align to the specific content skills listed in the CCSSM rather than subscribing to the overall philosophy of the CCSSM. Many that claim to be aligned to the CCSSM do not include problems or tasks that involve the higher-level thinking skills that are supposed to be measured by the new Common Core standardized tests being developed.

Awareness and Advocacy Are More Important Now Than Ever

What does all this mean if you are the parent of a talented child? Probably more work for you. Just over a month ago, nearly two-thirds of respondents to a poll on education said they had never even heard of Common Core! So, if you’re thinking that someone else will speak up first, don’t count on it. Advocacy for a gifted student has never been easy given the lack of awareness and amount of misinformation about their unique educational needs. With the potential for Common Core to bring more harm than good to the education of exceptionally bright kids, it is more important now than ever to be heard.

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