kitchen table math, the sequel: 8/21/11 - 8/28/11

Saturday, August 27, 2011

News 5 spots teens with alcohol

good lord

there's a whole crew of them, carrying boogeyboards

walking down the center of the street hollering

in a hurricane, in the dark

"Parents, if you see your children going out of the house, don't let them go out."

Earlier today, news crews filmed a mom on the beach shrieking for help because her 12-year old daughter was CAUGHT IN RIPTIDES ON HER BOOGEYBOARD. A friend of the mom's swam out to the rescue.

Meanwhile Irvington has ordered everyone off the streets.

update: C. thinks these have got to be the Fox teens.

resistance is futile

funniest thing I've read on Irene

actually, the only funny thing I've read on Irene so far

resistance is futile

Cape May

Ed just talked to his mom, who says the beach in Cape May, NJ is gone. Completely swallowed up. People think the sand may have been swept out to sea, though there's no way to know until the water recedes. She's hearing that the whole city may end up underwater.

Ed's uncle lives in Atlantic City a couple of blocks from the beach. They've been evacuated.

counting-all vs counting-on

When first learning to solve simple arithmetic problems (e.g., 5 + 3), children typically rely on their knowledge of counting and the associated procedures (Siegler & Shrager, 1984). These procedures are sometimes executed with the aid of fingers (finger counting) and sometimes without them (verbal counting). The two most commonly used counting procedures are termed min (or counting-on) and sum (or counting-all; Fuson, 1982; Groen & Parkman, 1972). The min procedure involves stating the larger (max) addend and then counting a number of times equal to the value of the smaller (min) addend, such as counting 5, 6, 7, 8 to solve 5 + 3. The sum procedure involves counting both addends starting from 1. Occasionally, children state the value of the smaller addend and then count the larger addend (the max procedure). The development of procedural competencies reflects a gradual shift from frequent use of the sum and max procedures to frequent use of min counting.
Numerical and Arithmetical Cognition: A Longitudinal Study of Process and Concept Deficits in Children with Learning Disability
David C. Geary, Carmen O. Hamson, and Mary K. Hoard
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 77, 236–263 (2000)
Why does academic language have to be so opaque?

Thank God for Google.

Here's what I think they mean.

When children first begin to add numbers, they rely on sum or counting all, which a Michigan State website defines thusly: "if given the problem 5 + 2, the student may count 5 on one hand and 2 on the other hand, and then count all fingers to get 7."

Then, as children progress, they switch to min, or counting on. With counting on, the child realizes he doesn't have to count the first number; he can start with the first number and start counting from there (hence counting on). So, if the child is adding 5 + 2, he starts with the number 5 and counts two more: "5, 6, 7."

Brian Butterworth describes it this way:
Counting on from first. Some children come to realise that it is not necessary to count the first addend. [When adding 3 + 5] they can start with three, and then count on another five to get the solution. Using finger counting, the child will no longer count out the first set, but start with the word ‘Three’, and then use a hand to count on the second addend: ‘Four, five, six, seven, eight’.
The development of arithmetical abilities
Brian Butterworth

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 46:1 (2005), pp 3–18
According to Butterworth, counting on from larger is stage 3:
Counting on from larger. It is more efficient, and less prone to error, when the smaller of the two addends is counted. The child now selects the larger number to start with: ‘Five’, and then carries on ‘Six, seven, eight’.
As to the timing, Butterworth writes: 
There is a marked shift to Stage 3 in the first six months of school (around 5–6 years in the US, where this study was conducted (Carpenter & Moser, 1982). Stage 3 shows a grasp of the fact that taking the addends in either order will give the same result. This may follow from an understanding of the effects of joining two sets, that is, taking the union of two disjoint sets.
This answers my question about Dr. Wilson's observation that children with dyscalculia use inefficient strategies for simple addition.

Dr. Anna Wilson lists confirmed, likely, and unlikely symptoms of dyscalculia

from Dr. Wilson's website:
Symptoms established by research

The following are seen in primary school, and well established by educational researchers:

1. Delay in counting. Five to seven year-old dyscalculic children show less understanding of basic counting principles than their peers (e.g. that it doesn't matter which order objects are counted in). [1-3]

2. Delay in using counting strategies for addition. Dyscalculic children tend to keep using inefficient strategies for calculating addition facts much longer than their peers. [2, 4, 5]

3. Difficulties in memorizing arithmetic facts. Dyscalculic children have great difficulty in memorizing simple addition, subtraction and multiplication facts (eg. 5 + 4 = 9), and this difficulty persists up to at least the age of thirteen. [6-10]

These symptoms may be caused by two more fundamental difficulties, although more research is needed to be sure:

1. Lack of “number sense”. Dyscalculic children may have a fundamental difficulty in understanding quantity. [11, 12] They are slower at even very simple quantity tasks such as comparing two numbers (which is bigger, 7 or 9?), and saying how many there are for groups of 1-3 objects. The brain areas which appear to be affected in dyscalculia are areas which are specialised to represent quantity.

2. Less automatic processing of written numbers. In most of us, reading the symbol "7" immediately causes our sense of quantity to be accessed. In dyscalculic individuals this access appears to be slower and more effortful. [13-15]. Thus dyscalculic children may have difficulty in linking written or spoken numbers to the idea of quantity.

Other symptoms

If you have read other websites on dyscalculia you may have seen quite a few other symptoms listed. Many of these are not yet proved to be symptoms (although this does not mean they might not be later on). This is because they have been reported by teachers or special education workers, but haven't yet been studied in detail by researchers. Based on my knowledge of dyscalculia and cognition I have listed likely and unlikely symptoms below.

The following are likely to be symptoms of dyscalculia:

1. Difficulty imagining a mental number line

2. Particular difficulty with subtraction

3. Difficulty using finger counting (slow, inaccurate, unable to immediately recognise finger configurations)

4. Difficulty decomposing numbers (e.g. recognizing that 10 is made up of 4 and 6)

5. Difficulty understanding place value

6. Trouble learning and understanding reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures

7. Anxiety about or negative attitude towards maths (caused by the dyscalculia!)

All these symptoms (bar the last) are related to quantity.

The following may sometimes be ASSOCIATED with dyscalculia, but not in all cases:

1. Dyslexia, or difficulty reading

2. Attentional difficulties

3. Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)

4. Short term memory difficulties (the literature on the relation between these and dyscalculia is very controversial)

5. Poor coordination of movement (dyspraxia)

The following are NOT likely to be symptoms of dyscalculia:

1. Reversals of numbers - this is a normal developmental stage which all children go through and is no cause for alarm in itself

2. Difficulty remembering names - no evidence to suggest that long term verbal memory has anything to do with dyscalculia
I wonder what she means by "inefficient strategies for calculating addition facts."

update: I think she means that children with dyscalculia continue to use counting-all to perform simple addition after their peers have switched to counting-on.

dyscalculia resources from Dehaene

Dehaene includes these resources in The Number Sense:

Dehaene Laboratory

Developing Number Sense

Number Race Software -- free download and complete access to sourceware

About Dyscalculia (written by Dr. Anna Wilson)

Center for Educational Neuroscience

The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics, Revised and Updated Edition

100 miles inland

The Accuweather guy is saying they've got 60mph winds 100 miles inland in North Carolina.

Where is Raleigh, speaking of 100 miles inland?

We're 30 miles inland, max. A mile from the Hudson.

update update

It's stopped raining.


Governor Christie says the lieutenant governor has evacuated to an undisclosed location.

He's trying to sweet-talk some elderly residents out of their high-rise buildings in Atlantic City.

And reports that everybody got off the beaches.

Billy is staying, Dayton is going

News 7 is interviewing Dayton and Billy. Dayton is going. Billy is staying because "the captain has to go down with the ship."

Liz Cho says "Billy should listen to his friend Dayton."


Back from the break: Dayton's leaning on a wood fence chatting on his cell.

We will see what Governor Chris Christie has to say about that. Governor Christie used some salty language yesterday! says Liz.

storm chase


I once emailed with a guy who chased tornadoes, but until this moment I had never heard of storm chase vehicles.

no D batteries in Stamford, either

News 7 is interviewing a lady in Connecticut who says there are no D batteries in the stores.

Also, there are no flashlights, rendering the no-D batteries issue moot.

I am not going to enjoy 5 days without electricity, if it comes to that.

Jersey shore

They just interviewed a NJ guy who's standing his ground.
I'm not leaving.

I came out to enjoy the day. It doesn't look that bad to me, and I came out to enjoy the day.

I have no food or water.

Rescue won't be necessary.

I wonder if he's got batteries?

Now the news anchor is expressing amazement that people are still walking on the beach.

They're interviewing a family holding their little kids and looking at the waves.

a tornado watch, too

more is more

remembering treemageddon

Our neighbors didn't have electricity for 5 days.

I'm trying to remember how high the winds were that go-round.

liveblogging the run-up to Irene

The News 7 people are having a ball.

Friday, August 26, 2011



Back tonight from Niagara Falls to Hurricane Irene territory, so our vacation from the vacation* will have to wait 'til next Tuesday or Wednesday . . . or possibly Thursday . . . or whenever running water, electricity, and civil order have been restored, haha.

Ed's just home from Costco: not a single loaf of bread on the shelves, or any D batteries, either.

Meanwhile C. and I are ogling hurricane coverage on CNN, where a hurricane analyst (hurricane analyst?) was just asked, How bad is it?

Answer: "It's not a doomsday scenario." His exact words. Not a doomsday scenario. What can that possibly mean? How large is the set of all things that are not a doomsday scenario? And, more to the point, what kind of supplies does a person need to cope with an event that is bad enough to shut down all subways, trains, and airports but not bad enough to be a doomsday scenario?

Thunderstorm, strong winds, and scattered electrical outages-type supplies?

Or Northridge earthquake-category supplies? 

Moving right along.... Now they're telling us Hurricane Irene is as big as Europe. As big as Europe and spinning on its axis with winds up to 100 miles per hour, but minus the looming sovereign defaults and the ECB.

So I'm guessing Costco is probably fresh out of gas generators, too.

The FEMA guy is talking. Disasters are expensive, etc.

More weather people... "This is a deadly and giant storm"..."It's going to be a 3-ring circus"... this last from a professor wearing a bow tie.

Now Ed's back from getting gas. Heard on the radio that in New Jersey, if you don't evacuate you're supposed to write your social security number and the name of your next of kin in indelible ink on a 3x5 card and put it inside your left shoe. That's assuming Costco in New Jersey still has 3x5 cards and Sharpie pens in stock, of course.

I need batteries.

* for passers-by: vacation in our household means air and/or car travel with 3 boys, two of whom have autism. Hence: vacation from the vacation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do I Still Believe I Can Get the Perfect Score on the SAT?

Here's the short answer:


(with little "y")

I absolutely know I can do this. The ever so slight hesitation has to do with the timeframe I set for myself (i.e. in the year of 2011).

Here's what I see as my biggest hurdle:

Will I learn to "MacGyver It" before the end of the year.

I'm not talking about IQ (i.e. potential) or knowledge (i.e. hard work). I'll devote every hour left in 2011 to the "deliberate practice" that's necessary. My hesitency is about my innate ability to think fast on my feet, under pressure with time constraints before the end of the year.

I've come to believe that some people have brains that are more prone to this type of thinking than others.

Cross-Posted on the Perfect Score Project

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

an earthquake and five aftershocks later.....

The earth will never feel the same to me again.

Half an hour after the last one (a mag 4.5) my heart hasn't stopped racing, partially because the racing heartbeat makes my legs feel like jelly, and then it feels like yet another tremor, which just sets the whole cycle going again.

(I'm currently in Charlottesville, Virginia, 30-40 miles away from the epicentre.)

They Do What They Do

After an exhaustive and exhausting school search, and an additional exhausting soul search, we chose to send our eldest to a private school for Kindergarten. It was not my first choice, nor my second, but those two were charters on which we're 100+ on the waiting list. It was, literally, the last school of the 10 I visited.

It had only 1 of the 4 "wants" on my list, making it 1 more than most schools I visited. (Only one school had 2: one of the charters we're wait listed at.) (The 4 wants were: 1) half day, 2) use phonics, 3) use Singapore Math, 4) have recess in addition to lunch recess.) They use Orton Gillingham to teach phonics. But they do have music, art, gym, library, and an ice rink, with ice skating for the kindergarteners. Still, I wanted to believe. They have been working with MSMI, and they have some very experienced teachers. The kindergarten teacher we wanted had a concrete plan for how to work with our child, who reads anything you hand him, does arithmetic already, etc. etc. And the principal, when I asked him "what will you do for our son?" answered "I don't see why we don't do whatever you want".

What sealed the deal was that they were conveniently located near 2nd child's preschool, and ended at 3:00 pm, allowing me to pick up 2nd child from preschool between 3:15 and 3:30. The preschool is outstanding, and I was not going to deny 2nd child this preschool for such mediocre kindergarten options.

But then two weeks ago, I got an email from the school, a welcome letter. In it, in small print at the bottom, "this year, class ends 10 minutes later, at 3:10. 10 minutes more instructional time a day translates into ...."

I read this at 3 AM, at the height of sleep deprivation due to the newborn 5 week old. Needless to say, I was irrational. I burst into tears. I could not for the life of me figure out how I missed that school was ending at 3:10. I'd only visited 4 times, had a dozen conversations with admissions folks, met the principal 3 times, met the K teacher twice, been to the kindergarten readiness day with the asst principal, read all of the paperwork for admission, read all of the paperwork for acceptance and payment. Right then and there, I blasted off a short email to the principal, telling him that I didn't know how I'd been uninformed about this, but I couldn't possibly have our son enrolled unless I could find a way to pick him up at 3, and that even a ten minute change was devastating to us.

He wrote back that he would find a way to accommodate me. I calmed down for a while, though how we'll manage I still don't know.

But today, I met the Kindergarten teacher, and explained my predicament. She told me that she appreciated my problem, because *the staff returned from summer break to find this change in the school day too*.

I didn't miss it. It was never mentioned in any of the prior interactions, because they consulted no one. No parents. No teachers. Not even the pretense of focus groups asking our opinions. No, the principal and asst principal thought it best to solve a non existent problem and add 10 minutes to the end of a day to "increase instructional time", so they did.

They do what they do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Does Yoga Help ? And other Questions I've Been Asked About the SAT

I been collecting questions and making flashcards out of them over the last few months, but now I want to take them down, bird by bird, before I'm "immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead."*

Questions such as:

  • Have my opinions and ideas on this project changed?
  • Do I still believe that it is possible that I can achieve a perfect score?
  • Have my ideas on influencing my children changed? Do I feel that I've influenced them at all...either in the negative or positive sense.
  • Am I starting to believe that the SAT is more or less important than I first thought?
  • What were my parents' expectations of me when I was in school?
  • How did I respond to those expectations?
  • Did I push back? (Short answer: You have no idea.)
  • Do I wish my parents had pushed me more?
  • What do I think I've missed out on in life because I didn't do as well as I would have liked to in school?

.....and on and on and on.....

I'm going to start with one from the easier pile:

How important do you think yoga has been to working through the SATs? which I responded:

YES YES YES, Yoga Helps. Enormously.

I found a few more words in my notes from last January, a few weeks before my first SAT since 1982:

My anxiety about this SAT is so extreme that I committed to going to yoga every single day. I had an epiphany in the midst of chants and oms and happy baby poses that the best thing I can do is to figure out how to relax.

I still had more to say, but the words I was looking for were delivered today in the form of a book called Zen in the Art of the SAT.

Instead of me wracking my brain, I'm just going to go with, yeah, what they said:

With the SAT, it's not enough to know the material. To excel on the SAT you must be confident about your ability to read carefully and solve problems -- even strange, inscrutable ones -- under timed conditions. That's what makes the SAT so intimidating. You can't just memorize the material and then regurgitate it; you have to act in the moment......

As you learn how to ace the SAT, you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself....You will learn to do your best on the SAT not through any tricks or secret formulas, but rather by getting a firm handle on the workings of your own mind.

*Quote comes from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. If you haven't read this book yet, you must.

Cross-posted on Perfect Score Project