kitchen table math, the sequel: 7/29/07 - 8/5/07

Saturday, August 4, 2007

sentence "composing" redux?

I'm wondering whether Don Killgallon's sentence composing books, which didn't work out the first time I tried them, might be a good next step after Altman's Sentence Combining Workbook.

I'm guessing it will be. I probably got ahead of myself starting with Killgallon.

Don Killgallon's home page

results of sentence combining exercise

This is the 2nd sentence combining exercise Chris has done using Altman's book.

Exercise Two Exam Stress

source: Sentence Combining Workbook, Second Edition by Pam Altman, Mari Caro, Lisa Metge-Egan, & Leslie Roberts ISBN 1-4310-1977-3

Sigmund, a college student, is taking an exam in his psychology class, and one of his short-essay questions reads:

What are some of the causes of problems between parents and teenagers?

Immediately Sigmund writes down some points he wants to include in his answer:

1. Rules and expectations aren’t made clear.
2. Resentment occurs when chores aren’t done.
3. Blame is placed on teenagers for anything that goes wrong in the home.
4. The way in which parents discipline is by yelling too much.
5. The complaint is that teenagers aren’t listened to.
6. There isn’t the ercognition that parents are human beings too.
7. Enough respect isn’t shown to parents.

Then Sigmund begins to write his answer:

The causes of problems between parents and teenagers are …

but he gets stuck before he even begins to show what he knows. Why? He has begun by focusing his first sentence on the subject causes, an abstract word, and the verb are. It looks like he is going to name all of the causes of problems in one sentence.
Help Sigmund by writing a more clearly-focused beginning sentence. Ask yourself “Who does what?” and make your answer the subject of the sentence.

Write your beginning sentence here:

Chris wrote:

Parents and teenagers have problems because


Now go back and improve the focus of six of the seven sentences in Sigmund’s notes. Ask yourself “Who does what?” in each sentence, and make your answer the sentence subject. Write your clearly-focused sentences in the spaces provided. Sigmund’s original sentences appear in parentheses below the spaces.
EXAMPLE 1: (Rules and expectations aren’t made clear.)
SOLUTION: Parents don’t make their rules and expectations clear.

Chris wrote (this is his original spelling & punctuation):

2. When teenagers don’t do their chores parents show resentment. [comma error]

3. Parents blame teenagers for anything that goes wrong in the home.

4. Parents yell too much when they dixxxxxxx (indecipherable) thier children. [2 spelling errors]

5. Teenagers feel their parents do not listen to them.

6. Teenagers don’t see their parents as human.

7. Teenagers don’t show enough respect to their parents.


Now write three well-focused sentences in which you state what you think are the causes of conflict between teenagers and parents:

Chris wrote (his original spelling & punctuation):

1. Parents make their children do work during the summer and weekends.

2. They let other siblings have television in their rooms.

3. They constantly threaten to take away rights from their children.

I'm sold.

Sentence combining is a brilliant technique. I gather there's a fair amount of evidence that sentence combining works; see here and here. But as far as I'm concerned, the proof's in the pudding. These sentences, which Chris wrote on his own, are far more sophisticated than anything he's written before; they have fewer errors to boot.

We're doing the whole book.

help for the struggling writer
sentence combining exercise
we're starting a copybook
man-eaters of Kumaon - text reconstruction
expert advice on teaching writing from Joanne Jacobs
more from Joanne Jacobs
doctor pion on writing a precis and critical reading
first crack at editing exercise
home writing program in place, for now
why kids should do text reconstruction
Arthur Whimbey obit
BGF Performance Systems (carries Whimbey's books)
Why Johnny Can't Write
Tips for Teaching Grammar from the Writing Next Report (pdf file)
Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve the Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools (pdf file)

why kids should do text reconstruction

I've found the answer for our household re: afterschool writing instruction.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'm using two books:

You can look at Whimbey & Jenkins' book online at Google books, and order his books from BGF Performance Systems. (You can find them used online, too.)


C's first completed exercise, on page 36 of the book, tells me why reading doesn't (necessarily) translate to writing.

The exercise asks students to arrange a set of sentences giving directions from the the corner of Oak and Adams to the movie theater. The map is below; you can see a larger version of it here.
_____ Go two blocks, which will bring you to the end of the road, and make a left onto Blossom.

_____ You will come to a fork in the road, where you should take the left branch, putting you on Spruce.

_____ Drive west along Oak Street to the first light and make a left.
_____ When you get to the Texaco station, bear right onto L Avenue.
_____ Go straight until you pass over the railroad tracks, then at the next corner make a right.

C. correctly numbered the sentences, but he didn't do the text reconstruction well at all. The directions for reconstructing the passage from memory:

Next, copy the sentences in the order you numbered them on a separate sheet of paper. Copying sentences can be especially helpful for improving writing skills if done as Ben Franklin did -- from memory. Do not just copy word-by-word. For each sentence, follow these steps:

1. Read as many words as you believe you can write correctly from memory (usually five to ten words).

2. Write those words from memory, including all capitals and punctuation marks.

3. Check back to the original sentence and correct any errors you made.

4. Read the next group of words and repeat the steps.

Generally you will be able to read, memorize, and correctly write between five and ten words. Sometimes you may be able to remember an entire simple sentence correctly. But with a large difficult-to-spell word, you may try to write only that one word correctly from memory.

Writing from memory is a powerful technique for learning the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word patterns used in standard written English (Linden Analytical 2).

Here's what C. wrote:
Drive west along oak street and turn left. Go two blocks and make a left on to Blossom. Get to the Texaco station and turn right on L ave. Turn left on Spruce. Pass over railroad tracks and turn right. Drive two blocks and arrive at movie theater.

See what's missing?

C's version is correct in terms of content, but the coherence devices are missing. When Ed looked at C's version he said, "This is a list, not a paragraph."

This is the way the brain reads. We remember the meaning of a passage, not the specific words. I'm wondering whether good readers, which C. is, may absorb less useful information vis a vis writing when they read than not-so-fluent readers. (I think I've read research showing that autistic readers do the opposite ... they focus on the words more than the meaning. Will have to track that down.)

In any case, the fact is that C. is going to have to be taught coherence devices directly; he isn't going to "pick them up" from reading (I don't think). He doesn't seem to be getting a lot of direct instruction in coherence devices at school, though I could be wrong. As far as I can tell, the school is assigning book reports and "research papers" to kids who can't yet write a coherent paragraph.

short writing assignments with a point

After each text reconstruction exercise, the student writes his own paragraph:

A friend wants to drive from the bowling alley to Turner Ct. at night when it will be har to read street signs. Write directions using these easy-to-see landmarks: fire station, fork in the road, AAA Restaurant, Star Motel, and bridge over stream. Remember to mention in which direction your friend should start driving along Central Ave.

fluency in mechanics and punctuation

I cleaned up C's punctuation & mechanics before posting his reconstruction of the paragraph, because I couldn't bear to put the thing up here in all its non-punctuated, non-capitalized glory.

He knows how to capitalize street names, but didn't bother to do so because he's writing for me, not the school.

This tells me that while he "knows" capitalization, he's not fluent in capitalization; he doesn't do it automatically. It takes effort to remember to capitalize street names, where for me it would take effort to remember not to capitalize street names.

We'll be practicing mechanics and punctuation to fluency, too.

whole language at home

The irony here is that Whimbey considered his approach to be "whole language," which I suppose it is -- (!) He was also, I gather, a leading figure in the "thinking skills movement."

help for the struggling writer
sentence combining exercise
we're starting a copybook
man-eaters of Kumaon - text reconstruction
expert advice on teaching writing from Joanne Jacobs
more from Joanne Jacobs
doctor pion on writing a precis and critical reading
first crack at editing exercise
home writing program in place, for now
why kids should do text reconstruction
results of sentence combining exercise
Arthur Whimbey obit
BGF Performance Systems (carries Whimbey's books)
Tips for Teaching Grammar from the Writing Next Report (pdf file)
Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve the Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools (pdf file)

NYRB Children's Collection

WAPO article here

NYRB collections summer sale

NYRB Classics

NYRB Collections

NYRB Children's Collection

The Backward Day sounds adorable:
For some reason, young children get an absurd kick out of doing things backward, or spelling words backward, or otherwise behaving contrariwise for comic effect. This can be charming, but it can pretty quickly get tedious, too, as any parent will attest who has ever tried to get a straight answer out of a bunch of gleeful children chanting, "It's opposite day! It's opposite day!' " Ruth Krauss's 1950 picture book, "The Backward Day" -- just revived in elegant hardback as part of the New York Review's Children's Collection -- speaks directly to this anarchic impulse. In the brief tale, a little boy wakes one morning and decides that it is "backward day." So he gets up and puts on his coat, then his clothes -- with his underwear on the outside. He puts on his shoes, and over them his socks. "Then he turned his head backward as far as he could, to see over his shoulder, and he walked backward out of the room and backward down the stairs."
Come to think of it ... this description, of children's affection for doing things backwards, fits perfectly with what Temple and I are saying about the nature of play in our book about animal welfare ....

So I guess that means I have to buy this book.

I have to buy this book because it's a business expense!

I've just ordered The Bear and the People from Amazon Marketplace. I have no idea whether C. will like it, but how many children's books about God come across my path? None.
"Well, there was a man once, and he had a bear . . ." begins this story about a life long friendship between man and beast. The Bearman and the bear understand each other. Together they travel all over the country, "a part of the highway like the knotty old apple trees and whitehorn bushes," as they go from village to village, where they play music and juggle and dance and the children are always happy to see them. At night they sleep in the open, and before they do the Bearman tells a story and plays a beautiful melody on his horn for the bear and for God, a melody so beautiful that all the animals in the forest raise their heads and the leaves themselves stop rustling and listen.

And yet the Bearman and the bear have enemies: the jealous members of the Duda family, who are thieves and tricksters; and even more than that, the dogs. And when the Bearman dies, the bear must retreat into the wilderness for safety—until, after many adventures, he meets a new friend: a boy.

The Bear and the People is a lovely parable of friendship and courage and reverence for the natural world. It is a tale that is as exciting as it is touching and profound, and it will delight children and parents alike.
And I'm seriously contemplating hitting the Two-Day 1-Click -- Free button for The Lost Island, The Little Bookroom, and The Island of the Horses. Here's NYRB's description of the author, Ellis Dillon:

Eilís Dillon (1920-1994) wrote more than thirty books for young people, as well as fiction for adults, including the best-selling historical novel Across the Bitter Sea, about the struggle for Irish independence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With few exceptions, her young people's books are set in the west of Ireland, in small communities struggling to make a living on the islands and along the Atlantic coast. As the critic Declan Kiberd wrote in Dillon's obituary: “What Laura Ingalls Wilder did for children's literature in the US, she achieved in Ireland, imparting a sure historical sense in books such as The Singing Cave. That interest in history was a natural expression of her curiosity of mind, and of her family inheritance.
I better knock off here and go do some math.

Which reminds me.

The book all of us parents of middle schoolers really need is How to Think Like a Behavior Analyst, by Jon Bailey. What an enormous help. Somehow I had managed to forget the most basic principles of behavior analysis, up to and including "Grandma's Rule," aka the Premack Principle.

I've put Christopher & me both on the Premack Principle and it is working.

Of course, keeping myself (and everyone else) on a Premack Principle regimen is the question.

page-turners for boys (and girls?)

Competition is a good thing.

Christopher's friend J. was here a couple of weekends ago; he said he'd read 5 books so far this summer.

That's five books as compared to Christopher's none.

We all started razzing Christopher about J's great reading habit, compared to Christopher's complete and total absence of a reading habit, and, lo and behold, he has now, exactly two weeks later, read 2 1/2 books:

Monster by Walter Dean Myers
The Recruit by Robert Muchamore
The Dealer by Robert Muchamore

He starts Maximum Security next, and I'm ordering the rest of the books in the series.

Here's the publisher's blurb for the CHERUB series:

CHERUB agents are all seventeen and under. They wear skate tees and hemp, and look like regular kids. But they’re not. They are trained professionals who are sent out on missions to spy on terrorists and international drug dealers. CHERUB agents hack into computers, bug entire houses, and download crucial documents. It is a highly dangerous job. For their safety, these agents DO NOT EXIST.

Sounds like a huge amount of fun.

Friday, August 3, 2007

a possible case of buyer's remorse in the offing

So.... we've just purchased a 300-dollar device for taking our pulse.


There's no frigging way you can take your pulse, lower your pulse on purpose, and slow your breathing without a biofeedback mechanism.

Either that or a committed program of meditation.

Which I, for one, don't happen to have and am not likely to have any time soon.

This thing is going to do what technology usually does, or intends to do: save time.

you heard it here first (possibly)
StressEraser on YouTube
a possible case of buyer's remorse
gadget of the week

StressEraser on YouTube

So far the young 'uns seem to think the StressEraser is dumb.

They like stress!

Here's Gizmodo.

Yeah, well, I probably would have thought this thing was stupid, too, back when I was age TEN.

you heard it here first (possibly)
StressEraser on YouTube
a possible case of buyer's remorse
gadget of the week

you heard it here first (possibly)

Tomorrow or the next day Ed and I will become the proud owners of our very own StressEraser.

First thing this morning, Ed talked to the kids' psychiatrist,* who is a genius. He says this thing works. He has one himself, and can now will himself to lower his stress level just by deciding to.


He uses it prophylactically, too. When he knows he's going into a stressful situation, he uses it beforehand.

I know biofeedback works, because I've done it.

I was the psych department research assistant in college, which meant that I helped with lectures and demonstrations if I was needed. So, when the professor gave a lecture on biofeedback, I was the subject. He put electrodes all over my head, switched the machine on, and told me to make the tone it was producing turn off.

The tone sounded whenever my brain wasn't producing delta waves.

The tone stopped sounding whenever my brain was producing delta waves.

This meant the tone was sounding continuously at the outset, since under normal conditions your brain produces delta waves only when you close your eyes. I was supposed to will my brain to produce eyes-closed brain waves with my eyes wide open.

Within a minute or two, I could do it.

It felt bizarre, like drifting off to sleep while sitting bolt upright in a wood chair, eyes open, lights on, 100 people watching, and not sleepy. Very strange.

But doable.


Ever since then I've wondered why we don't have biofeedback machines on every corner like Starbucks.


Amazon reviews of StressEraser

And here is Jim Robbins' original article in Psychology Today on biofeedback used to treat epilepsy & ADHD. Robbins is talking about "neurofeedback," which is what I did in my psych class. I'm guessing the StressEraser measures galvanic skin response, but I don't know. [No - it's pulse rate; plus it trains you to slow your breathing. Very simple.]

Wired for Miracles?

Like many children with epilepsy, Jake took two heavy-duty anti-seizure medications: Depakote and Tegretol. Both are depressants, and both have serious side effects. As a result, the boy was logy and often tired. "We felt that Jake was losing his personality," says his mother. "He was zoned out."

I had known Jake since his birth; the incredible story of his survival had made him something of a celebrity in our town of Helena, Montana. Two years ago, I was in Santa Fe doing a piece on the use of different technologies to enhance brain performance; while I was there, I heard about a new technique for the treatment of epilepsy--a natural treatment called electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback, or neurofeedback, that often reduced or eliminated the need for drugs. I was skeptical, but l mentioned it to Jake's mother at a Christmas party. They drove three hundred miles to Jackson, Wyoming; for a week at the local hospital, Jake underwent two hour-long sessions a day on a computerized biofeedback program.

Within just a few days, Jake's condition had improved. "His teeth-grinding and sleep problems disappeared," says his mother. "We could carry on a conversation for the first time ever. He wanted to cut and draw and zip and button. He could never do any of that." Unprompted, friends and relatives remarked that Jake seemed more centered.

Later, Jake repeated the protocol for another week. The results were similar. Jake's pediatric neurologist, Don Wight--who had been extremely skeptical--examined the boy. When he was done, he concluded that he had found a new and exciting way to supplement his practice: "There was a qualitative and quantitative improvement in the way he was functioning," says Wight. "It was very real."

This is epilepsy week for me, it seems. This morning the Sun carried a long interview with our friend Marty Morrell, who researches epilepsy. Marty and her family moved to Irvington the same year we did; C. and her son went to nursery school together. A couple of years ago they moved back to California so Marty could work on a brain-stimulation device to treat the disorder. I was incredibly excited when she told me this, because for a few years now I've been thinking that the "cure" - or at least a major treatment - for autism is going to be exactly such an animal: a pacemaker for the brain.

Can't explain why, exactly, except to say that when you live with autism you can see that autistic people's timing is wildly off, and I think that's probably true at all levels. As I recall, by the time I left NAAR, researchers were starting to find timing problems in the brain, but don't quote me. The point is: for some reason, at some point, pacemaker for the brain started to sound like something my kids needed.

I bought Robbins' book, A Symphony in the Brain, years ago, but it's part of my Great Unread. Probably time to give it another go.


What I really want is a Segway.

you heard it here first (possibly)
StressEraser on YouTube
a possible case of buyer's remorse
gadget of the week

* for newbies - 2 of our kids have autism

Thursday, August 2, 2007

merit aid

Just checked with Ed.

His "source" told him that only 3 colleges in the country are not offering what they call "discounts" (the public term is "merit aid") to students in order to lure them away from other colleges.

As he recalls, the 3 colleges named were Harvard, Princeton, and Amherst. (He's not sure about Amherst.)

The Ivies compete with each other.

As far as I can tell, the competition is over SAT and/or ACT scores, which it would almost have to be. The scores are the metric everyone uses: average scores of Princeton's entering freshman class, average scores of Harvard's, etc.

Of course, this is another K-12 irony. At a time when college costs $40K a year - and colleges are awarding merit aid almost exclusively on the basis of SAT scores - our entire education establishment has decided to focus on authentic assessment.

Every kid in my district is going to have his own portfolio.

parent involvement

Gadfly links to a study comparing urban, suburban, and rural schools, and makes this observation:

That rural students' overall academic performance isn't higher may be surprising to those who believe that involved parents and satisfied teachers are the key to student academic achievement. The study found that rural parents are more likely to be involved in their children's schools and learning than in other locales, and that rural teachers are more satisfied with their jobs. (Involved parents are nice, but hardly necessary for students' success. As for teachers, competence and skill matter far more than how satisfied teachers are in their positions.)

It really is time for the parent involvement meme to go. There is a difference between experts and amateurs. Very few non-homeschooling parents can do what competent teachers can do. see: ten-year rule

The NSDC on parent involvement

So here is yet another edu-organization I've never heard of. The list goes on.

Their thoughts on parent involvement sound sensible enough.

Obviously it's better for a school to have good relations with parents than bad relations; if a school can build a working relationship with parents, so much the better. I had working relationships with C's K-5 teachers; I have a working relationship with Jimmy's and Andrew's teachers to this day. It's wonderful.

Schools should pay attention to the state of their relationships with parents (and taxpayers), just as all organizations should pay attention to the state of their relationships with the public.

But when it comes to the core mission of the school, which is the transfer of knowlege from one generation to the next, teachers are the people who know how to do that.

Leaving aside, of course, the fact that our schools of education have not believed in the transmission of knowledge since the 1960s.

But that's another story.

Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance
National Coalition for Parent Involvement in the Schools

Hess & Finn recommend changes to NCLB changes

No Child Left Behind needs some Work

Have yet to read.... looks like they're recommending value-added measurements as one revision to the law.

advice re: fractions, decimals, percent

from the Comments thread to: What is 10%?

from Steve H:

"What is 10% off? issue."

I've just been going over this with my son. I keep asking him 10% of WHAT NUMBER, exactly? I want him to always know what that amount is. I don't call it the whole because it might be confusing for problems that ask for 10% off of 50% off. The classic problem is the store that tells you that you can get an additional 10% off of the 30% off discount price. The question is WHAT number, exactly, does the 10% refer to?

I also got done telling him that when you see something like 30% in a word problem, you never use the number 30 in the calculations. You have to use either .3 or 3/10. It seemed like a minor point, but I could see it sink in.

In the past, we've talked about 15% tips and how to calculate them, but he needs to see percent problems in all forms and see fractions and decimals as two different forms of the same thing.

Another good problem is to talk about the store owner who buys at the wholesale price and marks up by 100% to get the retail price. The store owner could then have a sale and mark down the goods by 30%. The question still has to be WHAT NUMBER, exactly, does the percent refer to?

Another issue I ran into was that he was thrown a little by things like 125% - percents greater than 100%.

from Joanne Cobasko:

I used many work sheets converting fractions to decimals (by doing the division-since a fraction is just a division problem) and then converting decimals to percents.

The repetition that a fraction is a decimal and a decimal is a fraction, and a percent under 100 is represented by a 2 digit decimal seems to be working well. I did this when I noticed that Saxon was not providing the simple algorithms to solve the fraction of a whole problems (and of course multiplication of decimals and fractions haven't been introduced so I taught that too). I have been teaching ahead of Saxons approach with the actual algorithms. My son hates drawing the pictures- but I have him draw to prove he understands. I taught him to write the equation first and solve the problem then draw the picture.

When Saxon began introducing problems looking for a fraction of a group I taught that the word "of" meant that you had to multiply the fraction (or decimal) by the whole number.

1/2 of 30 = 1/2 * 30/1 = 30/2 = 15
50% of 30 = .5 * 30 = 15.0

Start with the simple fractions 1/2, 1/4, 1/3, then work up to the others.

Memorizing that
1/2 =.5 = 50% or
1/4 = .25 = 25% or
1/3 =.333 = 33.3%

We are now approaching doing percents in our head such as
1/8 which is half of 1/4 so
1/8 =12.5% (1/2 of 25%) and that
2/5 = 40% because 1/5=20% so 2 of the 1/5's would be twice as much, so

I am hoping this familiarity with decimals, fractions and percents combined with memorization and mental math skills (which Saxon introduced in HS version of 5/4 and higher)will help my son to solve more advanced problems such as the ones you are now presenting to Chris.

[from Catherine: we are doing LOTS of these worksheets - and we need to do mental math, but C. isn't quite "up to that" yet...]

more from Steve H:

I see a clear difference in my son between before mastery and after mastery. Before mastery, he may be able to explain and do a problem eventually, but he doesn't fully grasp the subtleties and variations of what he is doing. After mastery, the process and understanding is automatic.

We've been working on combining plus and minus signs when you add, subtract, multiply and divide. Unfortunately, he is always trying to find a simple pattern that solves the problem. The fault with patterns is that they are based on nothing. There are lots of patterns that can be found and many of them are not helpful at all. I always try to explain things using the basic identities.

One thing we ran into the other day was where does the minus sign belong in a fraction. I told him that you can put the negative sign anywhere you want.

I told him to identify terms and always think of a term or number with a sign in front of it. If you don't see a sign, it's a '+'. I also told him that a minus sign is really a factor of -1.

if you have

3 - 1/2

Then the second term is

- 1/2

or it could be






You can put the minus sign in front of the number, like

-.5 or -(1/2)

or you can put it in the numerator or denominator. Since the fraction is just a number, you can think of the minus sign in front of everything, but you can also put it into the numerator or the denominator if you want.

He didn't like that idea.

I gave him this fraction.


I then asked him what


equals. He hesitated and then asked, "One"?

I said OK, now multiply

(-2)/3 by (-1)/(-1)

to see what you get.

He knows how to multiply numbers with different signs, but he had to think about this. You could see the wheels turning.

I told him that whenever I look at a minus sign, I can see all of the different places I can put it or all of the different ways I can use it.

These things can't sink in without a lot of practice. Mastery provides understanding. It can't be rote. Understanding is not possible without mastery. Finally, mastery and understanding have little to do with pattern recognition.

from instructivist:

[We are now approaching doing percents in our head such as
1/8 which is half of 1/4 so
1/8 =12.5% (1/2 of 25%) and that
2/5 = 40% because 1/5=20% so 2 of the 1/5's would be twice as much, so

This is a great way to learn mental math. I have been doing this instinctively.

Calculating tips of 15% or 20% (service mus really be good) menally should also be child's play. Ten percent of anything is easy. Add half of that and you get 15%. It's baffling that some kids struggle with this.

[1/3 =.333 = 33.3%]

There is a fancy, six-figure word that goes with repeating decimals (the bar on the repeating number or numbers): vinculum. Converting these repeating decimals to fractions is a nice algebra exercise. The number of numbers covered by the vinculum tells you if you need to multiply by 10x, 100x or whatever.


"Understanding is not possible without mastery."

That's a powerful statement. It should blow the constructivists out of the water who purport to seek "understanding" but disparage mastery with obnoxious phrases like "drill and kill."


It occurred to me that a calculator is of limited use when trying to figure out if certain fractions are repeating decimals when converted. The calculators I am familiar with do automatic rounding.

I tried 5/7 on my TI-30X IIS and get 0.71. No indication that a repeating decimal is involved. My TI-83 Plus gives me more but also rounds without showing the group of repeating numbers.

I see this as another reason why long division is important. How would calculator-dependent students see that the sequence 714285 repeats, I ask NCTM?

[Catherine again: I've informed C. that he will be doing long division worksheets shortly, and he will be doing them to fluency]

from le radical galoisien:

There is a rough method of deriving a fraction from any arbitrary decimal.
For example, 2/7 is 0.285714286 (etc.) 1 divided by that decimal is 3.5. That is 7/2, or the inverted form of 2/7 ...

hyperspecificity in autism
hyperspecificity in autism and animals
hyperspecificty in the rest of my life
hyperspecificity redux: Robert Slavin on transfer of knowledge

Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise
Devlin on Lave
rightwingprof on what college students don't know
percent troubles
what is 10 percent?
birthday and a vacation

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

what is ten percent?

The whole family has gotten into the act on the What is 10% off? issue.

Even Ed is now writing math word problems.

This is serious.

Here are Ed's two from this afternoon:

When you're training for a 10K race, you run a series of 1K laps. Your first lap takes you 4 minutes. Each subsequent lap is 10% slower than the last one.

What is your total time for the 10 laps?

If on average you run 1K in 4 1/2 minutes, how long will it take you to run a 10K race?

I realize these two questions are logically contradictory, but I'm not going to worry about that for now. Ed says sports are a great source of word problems, and he's right.

I decided today to start giving C. the same problem written as a percent & as a fraction.

Then, having fixed on this plan, I decided to throw in a whole-part problem (something he's never done before) to boot:

finding the parts when the whole is given [note: I labeled the problem with these words]

Christopher wants to buy a $50 video game for 20% off.

By what dollar amount is the price reduced? ___________

What will Christopher pay? ___________

Draw and label a bar model of the problem.
Then write the equation and solve it.

finding the parts when the whole is given

Christopher wants to buy a $50 video game for 1/5 off.

By what dollar amount is the price reduced? ___________

What will Christopher pay? ___________

Draw and label a bar model of the problem.
Then write the equation and solve it.

finding the parts when the whole is given

Christopher wants to buy a $50 video game for 1/5 off.

By what dollar amount is the price reduced? ___________

What will Christopher pay? ___________

Draw and label a bar model of the problem.
Then write the equation and solve it.

This is one of those moments where you see exactly how valuable an experienced teacher at the top of his/her game is to kids learning math. Or to kids learning anything.

Because I've worked my way through so much of Saxon, Singapore, & "Russian Math," I have pretty good pedagogical content knowledge. For instance, I now know what "part-whole" versus "whole-part" problems are, a concept I'd never heard of before.

But I still lack "kids-learning-math" knowledge.

I don't have a good sense of the proper use of contrast and comparison in instruction (i.e. having C. do the same problem framed as percent and fraction - good idea or not?); nor do I have a sense of how long it should take for a student C's age to learn these things, which means that when C. doesn't seem to be learning what I'm teaching I can't tell whether he needs more practice or I need to teach differently or both.

I'm making all my mistakes with my own kid.


By the end of this summer - preferably by the end of tomorrow - he is going to know what 10% off is or I am going to die trying.

hyperspecificity in autism
hyperspecificity in autism and animals
hyperspecificty in the rest of my life
hyperspecificity redux: Robert Slavin on transfer of knowledge

Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise
Devlin on Lave
rightwingprof on what college students don't know
percent troubles
what is 10 percent?
birthday and a vacation

glutton for punishment, part 2

It may be time for me to stop reading the Sun's op-ed page -- either that, or stop reading the Sun's op-ed page until Andrew Wolf gets back from wherever it is he's gone off to.

The Parents Job II
by Diane Ravitch

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article in the Sun titled "Don't Blame the Teachers." My basic argument was that proposals for merit pay, performance pay, and other incentive plans assume that teachers are slackers who need more pay to do their best. [ed.: or, alternatively, proposals for merit pay assume that teachers are normal human beings who respond to incentives like everyone else on the planet] I contended that in many classrooms, teachers confront students who have negative attitudes about academics, are not pushed to succeed by their parents, and are immersed in an anti-intellectual popular culture.

The responses I received to my article were fascinating. One prominent businessman wrote to complain that I was letting incompetent teachers off the hook. A friend who is a member of a New England state board of education said that she had met many lazy teachers. A parent advocate complained that I was blaming parents. [ed.: parent advocate? as in advocate for parents?] A prominent journalist who writes about race and poverty said that I was blaming poor kids for their poverty, even though my article was about all sorts of students, not just poor kids.

Not surprisingly, the letters I received from teachers thanked me for recognizing that what happens to their students outside the classroom and the attitudes they bring to class are even more important than what happens in their classes.

ding! ding! ding!


You shouldn't hold teachers and principals of school districts accountable for things over which they have no control. You should hold them accountable for those things they do have control over. Schools and teachers don't have control over the achievement level when children walk in the door, but they do have control over how much that level is raised during the year.


"The biggest factor affecting student achievement is teacher effectiveness," said Sanders, who emphasizes that class size effects and differences in ethnicity, family income, and urban-suburban location fade into insignificance when compared to teacher effects.

back to Ravitch:

A response from a high school science teacher in Brooklyn, David R., was unusually thoughtful and detailed. He pointed out that he has students in his classes from 70 different nations, speaking almost as many languages, most of whom are lower-middle class or in poverty. Many of his students regularly miss their first or second period classes because they have a two-hour trip to school or they are expected by their parents to baby-sit for a younger sibling in the morning or they just don't care about showing up.

This same teacher said that even when attendance is good, large numbers of his students have poor language skills.... Many were indifferent even when the teachers used videos or PowerPoint or other visuals to try to stir their interest. [ed.: they were indifferent to POWERPOINT?????]

But even among his native-born students, he said, apathy is rampant. Recently he warned a student that if she didn't improve her achievement, she was unlikely to pass her Regents' science exam. "She shrugged her shoulders. That shrug wasn't the shrug of one student: that was a collective shrug of many, many students." Despite field trips and projects and every trick known to the teachers' trade, many of the students "just don't care." [ed.: field trips, projects, AND POWERPOINT - and they still don't care????]

When the teacher reports a high failing rate, the principal naturally wants to know what he did wrong. What could he do differently? [ed.: clueless administrators couldn't be part of the problem, could they?] He knows what should be done for students to have higher levels of achievement. He knows the answers, but they are out of his hands.

Get the students to study instead of watching television or playing on their computers or hanging out with their friends. Get them to sleep at a reasonable hour. Get them to comprehend the connection between what they accomplish in school and their chance to have a decent income and life after school. Get them to see the value of visiting museums and libraries. Get them to spend free time improving themselves instead of sleeping late, partying, or going to the movies.

Almost everything that students need to do differently takes place at home. None of it costs an additional dime. It is all within the control and the choice of students and their parents.

I have an idea.

Maybe I should write an unusually thoughtful and detailed letter to Diane Ravitch.

I could tell her how I have a kid who studies, makes the connection between what he accomplishes at school and his chance to have a decent income and life after school, sees the value of visiting museums and libraries, and spends at least a little of his free time improving himself (he's taken to running with his dad & last week he read two books after being shamed into it by his friend M., who has read 5 this summer).

He does all of these "free" things that don't "cost an additional dime," and yet he still can't take 10% off a price and come up with the dollar amount he'll have to pay!

Maybe he's not getting enough PowerPoint.

what is to be done?

[E]ven the best teachers cannot be held responsible if students don't show up for school, don't understand English, don't see the point of learning, and care more about what's on television or what their friends are doing than what they do with the rest of their lives.

Even the best teachers can't compete with a powerful pop culture that makes heroes of dumb entertainers while failing to put before our young any heroes worthy of emulation.

....powerful pop culture....

....heroes of dumb entertainers...

....heroes worthy of emulation....

....our young....

Until we as a society begin to recognize that students and parents must take responsibility for the part of their lives under their direct control, we will continue to be dissatisfied with our schools. Scapegoating the teachers won't solve our problems.

hokey-dokey, then

Good advice!

I am going to take responsibility for the part of my life that is under my direct control.


So.....I'm wondering whether the part of my life that is under my direct control includes my turning-13 year old son.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

more annoying op eddery

I love the Sun.

I do.

But their op eddery on the subject of parents is wretched.


We Are All Lindsays Now

Last week, after Lindsay Lohan was booked on misdemeanor charges of suspicion of driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license, and felony charges of possession of cocaine and transport of a narcotic — which could earn her jail time — Nicole Richie received her own sentence of 90 hours in jail and three years of probation for driving under the influence of drugs.


Who or what's to blame?


[T]heir breakdowns ... point to larger problems with a culture that, in varied ways, hurries young people through childhood and adolescence. Ms. Lohan missed having a normal childhood because she has lousy parents and because she is an actress.

But many young women, and young men, rush over stages of development for other reasons: Their lives are overbooked with extra-curricular activities, homework, and SAT tutoring, and their and their parents' attention is focused on how to get into the right college, rather than how to become the kind of grounded person who can really benefit from college, and then go on to lead a productive and fulfilling life.

In the scramble for external rewards, like top grades or sports championships, neither children nor their parents make enough time for the small things that contribute to a centered identity, for which no trophies are given. Reading for pleasure, experiences in nature, and family conversation come to mind. The number of children and adolescents being medicated for hyperactivity, anxiety, or depression are evidence of the psychological distortions that our society's mixed messages and mixed-up values produce.


So..... here we have an exercise in analogy.

Lindsay Lohan's mom is to Lindsay Lohan as helicopter parent is to high-achieving adolescent.

question: Does Lindsay Lohan's mom bear any conceivable resemblance to your basic grade-grubbling, SAT-fearing suburban parent?

answer: No. She does not.

Lindsay Lohan's mom (photo)
"Meanwhile, while the elder Lohan also reveals that she led a couple of interventions for Lindsay in the past and tried to convince her daughter to go to rehab, she says - in a nationally circulated publication - that such knowledge isn’t for the public to know.
“Like if your child’s in high school and they have a bulimia problem or they’re ADD, you’re not going to stand on the stage and go, Oh, my kid’s screwed up. I’m sorry, that’s disgusting.” " Diabolical Dina Lohan: We're a Normal Family

helicopter mom (photo)
"She has been my best friend through many obstacles, and I want to live near her (or near enough to visit her). I would like to be the parent that she has been to me, to watch my children grow up with the comfort of having an attentive parent at all times, what my mom used to call the “helicopter syndrome,” as an attentive parent hovers over her brood to make sure their needs are met. One of the first pictures I took with my digital camera was of her."
source: daughter's essay



bonus find: The Role of Prior Knowledge in Analogy Use (pdf file)

oceans away

[During the campaign, Ségolène Royal] said that if teachers in the national school system (overwhelmingly Socialist voters) could find the time within their allocated hours to give paid private lessons to students they should be required first to give individual lessons to their own students who were having difficulties.

In Sarkoland
by William Pfaff
New York Review of Books
Volume 54, Number 10, June 14, 2007

sauce for the goose

Back from my daily trip to eduwonk, where Sara Mead (The Truth About Boys and Girls) is guestblogging.

Mead's "major study" (NYTIMES, 7-3-2007) of boys and girls in schools annoyed me enough to goad me into canceling my subscription to Ed Sector.

Ed Sector is entitled to its take on the data.

But a "take" is all it is, as far as I can see. The more time I spend thinking about data mining, the more broadly skeptical I am of white papers issued by advocacy think tanks.

I like advocacy think tanks; that's not the problem. The problem is: advocacy think tanks are advocacy think tanks. Maybe when I finally take a course in data mining (it's on the list) I'll find out I'm wrong, but for now my perception is that 5 intelligent people who have taken courses in data mining can look at the same set of complicated data and see 5 different things. When those people are employed by advocacy think tanks you're going to get the take you expect.

So.... Ed Sector is entitled to its reading of the data, and they could be right. But logical consistency in argument isn't so tricky, and there's not enough of it here:
Von Drehle gets two really important things right: One is that the variety of indicators brought into this debate is so diverse and messy that they can support an array of competing storylines about boys.... It's worth noting that while gender obviously plays a role in such anxieties, the core anxieties people are expressing about the boy crisis--fears that we're pushing children to grow up too quickly, that the world is increasingly risky and leaves little room for mistakes or youthful experimenting, that we're not preparing boys to compete economically--are less about gender or families than broader social and economic anxieties. But I'm glad to see Von Drehle's optimism because, like him, I don't think we do our boys any favors by casting them as victims.
Number one: if I had my druthers I would never again, ever, read a pundit making what Arnold Kling calls Type M arguments.

Parents object to fuzzy math because they want their kids to sit in rows and memorize math facts the way they did; the public worries about a boy crisis because of "core anxieties" about "broader social and economic anxieties."


I hate that stuff.

I'm living in a school district where, in the middle of a Team Meeting on the subject of my own struggling middle school boy, the middle school principal looks my husband and me straight in the eye and says, "Everyone knows boys do worse than girls in middle school."

A district where, in 9 years of schooling, my son has had exactly two male teachers, both of them in "specials" (art & music) not core subjects, a gender arrangement that is good for girls and bad for boys.

But my core anxiety is less about boys, my own boy in particular, and more about 
broader social and economic anxieties.

Well, thank God I have Sara Mead to tell me why I do the boneheaded things I do.

Number two: arguably, one of the main rhetorical purposes of The Truth about Boys and Girls was to enforce the Washington consensus. (See! Two can play the Type M game! Although, in my defense, I can support my argument with evidence from Mead's text.)

The Washington consensus holds that there is one "allowable" victim of U.S. public schools and one victim only, and that victim is a black or Hispanic child.

Well and good, but if that's your position it's not kosher to maintain black and Hispanic children as public school victims while simultaneously arguing that we "do our boys no favors by casting them as victims." [our?]

At a minimum the question whether we do "our" black and Hispanic children a favor by casting them as victims needs to be asked and answered.

Why is it good for an entire set of children, by virtue of the intrinsic properties of race or ethnicity, to be defined as victims when it is not good for another set of children to be so defined by virtue of their intrinsic properties?

My answer would be that it's important to define victims as victims. When black and Hispanic kids are victims of U.S. public schools, they should be defined as victims, and their educational deficits should be remediated.

But that principle applies equally to middle class white victims of U.S. public schools.

The schools are the problem.

Not "black schools" and "Hispanic schools."


The gender gaps in achievement as students finish high school are far from trivial. In reading, 17-year-old boys score 31 percent of a standard deviation below 17-year-old girls, a deficit equal to about one grade level. This is nearly half the size of the black-white test-score gap in reading. In science and math, meanwhile, girls of that age score 22 percent and 10 percent of a standard deviation lower, respectively, also a difference worthy of concern.

Thomas Dee

And let us not forget this classic list of "stereotyped images to avoid." (source: Banned Words, Images, and Topics)

ask and ye shall receive

Mead has a terrific link to the LATimes that does exactly what I'm complaining she didn't do in "The Truth."

boy trouble, part 6
gene expression on the boy problem

problem solving

more buried treasure --

The Cognitive Science Millenium Project
The one hundred most influential works in cognitive science from the 20th century

6. Human Problem Solving
by A. Newall and H. A. Simon

The book describes Newell and Simon's attempt to build a computerized "General Problem Solver" which actually failed. They discovered that human problem soving requires more domain knowledge than a computer can implement. The book documents the efforts they made in programming the computer to solve problems such as the "tower of hanoi" and what they found about the nature of the human problem solving process. They introduce the concept of problem solving as a search in the problem space and the use of heuristics such as means-ends analysis. The studies reported in the book pave the way for using computers as a tool and an analogy to study human cognition.

If not the most cited paper in Cognitive Science, it is surely very near the top. A critical source for many developments in the field of problem solving.

Domain knowledge is knowledge stored in long-term memory, not on the internet.

How Knowledge Helps by Daniel Willingham

from le radical galoisien - spiraling in Singapore

It is in part due to the flexible module system, isn't it? Sometimes the prerequisites aren't really cohesive ...

My current American high school generally has it to take one science subject per year, and thereby acquire the entire credit for that subject in one year. The next year, another science subject is taken, and so on. [Catherine: true of all high schools in NY state, I would imagine]

I assume this is standard for most American schools. At first, I thought it rather interesting compared to my old schools in Singapore, but now I am questioning their effectiveness. After all, I have not done any real biology for so long, none of the material is fresh in my head, even though I am very highly interested in oncology and so forth. The same applies to mathematics in terms of matrices, which were taught to me three years ago and were only re-introduced recently in calculus class following the AP exams.

It is this that makes me miss the Singaporean system and especially since I worry that I am falling behind my Singaporean friends.

Perhaps the whole problem is the credit-based system. Credit units should not be used until university. Having to accommodate classes to the nature of credits at a secondary level can make the interaction of knowledge between those classes ineffective.


I had never made the connection between credits and a "flexible module" system of curriculum, although I've skimmed a couple of accounts of the Carnegie unit & how it came to be.

So much of U.S. public education seems to be just a series of random "reforms that stuck"*... some Committee of 10, or 9, or whatever number it happened to be at the time, and somehow managed to power its ideas into effect.

Of course, the Committee of 10 isn't the best example, seeing as how the Committee of 10 seems to be the last such committee to promote "traditional academic study."

a boy's will is the wind's will

* Of course, random reforms that stuck may simply be what historians call contingencies, in which case the history of U.S. public schools is no different from the history of anything else... (One of these days I'll learn something about history, possibly after I learn high school math, earth science, chemistry & physics.)

Expanding NCLB Assessments

Very interesting words yesterday on the NCLB reauthorization front. If you missed it, check out the full posting today on Eduflack:

To sum up, House Education Committee Chairman George Miller focused a good portion of his remarks on concerns regarding the testing requirements under NCLB. Hoping to appease the vocal critics of the law, he called for expanding some of the tools we use to measure student achievement, singling out high school graduation rates and AP exam scores.

In doing so, Miller has declared that his version of NCLB will bring high schools into the fold. For the past five years, the NCLB debate has been focused on elementary reading and reading, math, and science tests for 4th through 8th graders. By adding high school-based assessments to the law, Miller is making a strong statement about the need for reauthorization, the ability to improve the law, and the desire to ensure that learning occurs well after the 8th grade.

spiraling in the Ukraine - from Exo

In Soviet schools the content with building-on spiraling was set across a number of years. Lets say, biology would start in grade 5 and it will be Botany (2 times a week), then Zoology (grades 6-7, twice a week), then Human Anatomy and Physiology (grade 8, twice a week), then General Biology (grades 9-10, twice a week). Of course, topics were studied in logical order according to evolution theory, and concepts of cells, tissues, organs, functions were coming up again and again. It was allowing for understanding of complexity and patterns in living things and processes.

Here I have to teach general bio (Living environment) to students who have no idea of plants stuctures, animals, or human's anatomy and functions; I have to mix it all together with emphasis on molecular biology (that requires knowlege of chemistry) and genetics, that heavily connects with evolution. Many of my honor students don't know that insects pollinate the plants!

When I was in school, by the time we had general bio, we knew evolution of plants, organization of animal kingdom, anatomy of humans, and were up to organic chemistry in chemistry class and nuclear physics in physics class that was well alligned with molecular bio and gene engineering. Oh boy... And when in vet school, we took the entrance exam in bio (covering everything in curriculum from Botany to General bio) and didn't have a general bio class ever again.

BTW, from my trip to Ukraine: the school curriculum is still in place the way I had it - still logically built, but spread over 12 years now. However, there is no school that would have students sitting 8 periods per day. The maximum number of periods students can have is 6 in grades 6-12, and 5 in grades 1-5. A period is 45 minutes. The school year starts September 1st, and ends May 25th, with final exams in higher grades scheduled from May 28-to June 12.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Increased time on math and reading

The Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, reports that schools are spending more time on math and reading instruction since NCLB was passed.

I don't think this is a bad thing, per se. It's probably a good thing, in fact.

The survey reports that about 30 more minutes a day (on average) are spent on math and reading than before. Less time is spent on social studies, science, music, art, and gym.

My only question is, why aren't they cutting character ed time for math and reading so they can preserve science, art, history, music, etc?

I'd gladly see elementary schools slash character ed in favor of math and reading, and keep the other subjects in tact.

Why isn't anyone cutting the bogus classes? How many parents would rather see time cut in science than in character ed?

I know my "high performing" school district wastes far more than 30 minutes per day in a variety of character ed kinds of things -- don't even get me started on the all school assemblies to sing and dance about "respect" and "friendship." This is where the time for math and reading instruction should come from. There is plenty of time available in the day to teach the academic subjects to mastery.

We don't need to cut one academic course in favor of another. We need to get rid of the silly stuff. Then our children will have plenty of time available for math, reading, science, history, gym, music, and art. It also wouldn't hurt to lengthen the school day in low performing schools if they really need to have more time for math and science.

The Executive Brain

Research has shown that the capacity for generalization in problem solving is limited even in neurologically healthy people....People tend to learn by acquiring situation-specific mental templates.

The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind
by Elkhonon Goldberg

For me, The Executive Brain was a page-turner.


I'm repeating myself! (you may need to hit refresh a couple of times to make the page appear)

Animals in Translation

on hyper-specificity:

Animals and autistic people are splitters. They see the differences between things more than the similarities. In practice this means animals don’t generalize very well. You have to be really careful about the way you teach animals because of this. I had an interesting talk recently with a lady who keeps wolf hybrids for pets (something I don’t recommend). She said if you’re going to have a wolf hybrid as a pet, you have to socialize it between 4 to 13 weeks of age that all men are OK, not just the owner. Otherwise they’ll think the owner is OK, all other men are the enemy. You have to do the same thing with women, children, toddlers and babies, and you have to socialize the animal to different members of each category separately. It’s not just children who are OK, it’s toddlers, and it’s not just toddlers, it’s babies. And it’s not just the neighbor’s toddler who’s OK; it’s all toddlers, and so on and so on.

You have to do the same thing service dogs’ behavior when they’re learning to take a blind person across the street. The dogs don’t generalize from one intersection to another, so you can’t just train them on a couple of intersections and expect them to apply what they’ve learned to a brand new intersection. You have to train him on dozens of different kinds of intersections: corners where there’s a light hanging in the middle of the intersection and crosswalk lines painted on the pavement, corners where there’s a light hanging in the middle of the intersection and no crosswalk lines, corners where the traffic lights are on poles, and so on. And you can’t just train him in one city. You have to train him in different cities.

This is why dog trainers always make people train their own dogs. You can’t send a puppy away to obedience school, because he’ll only learn to obey the trainer, not you. Dogs also need some training from every member of the household, because if only one person trains the dog, that’s the only person the dog is going to obey. And you have to be careful not to fall into “pattern training.” Pattern training happens when you always train the dog in the same place at the same time using the same commands in the same order. If you pattern train a dog, he’ll learn the commands beautifully, but he won’t be able to perform them any place other than the spot you trained him in, or in any sequence other than the one you use during training. He’s learned the pattern, and he can’t generalize the individual commands to other times, settings or people.

People who teach autistic children deal with exactly the same challenge. A behaviorist told me a story about an autistic boy he’d been teaching to butter toast. The behaviorist and the parents had been working really hard with the boy, and finally he got it. He could butter toast. Everyone was thrilled, but the joy didn’t last too long, because when somebody gave the boy some peanut butter to spread on his toast, he didn’t have a clue! His brand new bread-buttering skill was specific to butter, and it didn’t generalize to peanut butter. They had to start all over again and teach him how to spread peanut butter on toast. This happens all the time with autistic people, and with animals, too.

That animals and autistic people are hyper-specific was a pretty good insight if I do say so myself.

The problem is that neither Temple nor I understood, while we were writing the book, how difficult it is for non-autistic people to generalize what they've learned from one setting to another.

Transfer of learning.

The $64,000 question.

and see:
Animals fear details that people do not notice


Apparently there is a lumpers versus splitters situation unfolding in the world of ornithology.


help desk

How do I get rid of knicksgrl?

help desk - medical

This is way, way off-topic, but I'm posting in case anyone has experience in this area.

We've had a medication snafu with Jimmy.

I was trying to boil the med snafu down to one sentence, but now that I've surfed some web sites I see that boiling it down isn't working.

As briefly as I can put it:

  • Depakote is an anticonvulsant Jimmy takes to control a very mild seizure disorder.
  • To work, Depakote has to be maintained at a certain level in the blood.
  • Jimmy takes one dose of Depakote a day, always at bedtime.

The snafu:

  • Last night Ed discovered he had probably given Jimmy his nighttime dose of Depakote that morning by mistake (we were out of town, pill box was turned upside down in suitcase, etc.)
  • At that point we decided to skip his bedtime meds because he'd already taken them that morning.

So here's the question.

What should we have done?

And what should we do now?

I just picked Jimmy up from school, where he fell asleep during speech therapy and couldn't be aroused. Then, in the nurse's office, he woke up, "fell asleep," woke up again, fell asleep again, etc. His behavior was pretty close to what you'd call passing out, not falling asleep.

He's acting fine now.

The nurse says her intuition is that, in the case of Depakote, it's probably better to overshoot than to undershoot, but she doesn't know.

Does anyone have experience with this?

We've emailed his doctor, so we'll have professional advice shortly. But if anyone has experience or knowledge I'd like to get it.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

CMT Scores Slip

The local Connecticut newspaper, the Hartford Courant, is reporting on the most recent CMT test score data, which shows little improvement across the board. The gap between rich and poor, black and white, suburb and innercity persists. Scores are flat or declining, small gains in math statewide.

They made the test easier and gave it later in the year, so why are scores lagging?

Could it be the curriculum? Could it be the instruction? Or should we blame the parents?

If you read to the end to the reader's comments section, you'll notice that teachers seem to be blaming the parents. "If parents don't teach their kids to read, there's nothing we teachers can do about it," is a fair generalization.

But the article has this to say about teacher prep:

"It was the reading scores that drew much of the attention and that could lead to pressure to change the way new teachers are trained. Under state rules, new teachers are required to take only two courses in reading instruction before being licensed, but some educators believe that is not enough."

One superintendent claims that teachers are unprepared to teach literacy and calls it "disgraceful."

It is disgraceful. It's almost as bad as administrators that continue to purchase poorly designed reading instruction programs and force them upon teachers and students alike. Teacher quality is really important, but the choice of curriculum is equally important and we are still struggling with whole language materials in many, many school districts.