kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/21/08 - 12/28/08

Saturday, December 27, 2008

palisadesk on learning sites

Another autism resource for parents and teachers that you might want to check out (don't know if it is suitable for Jimmy, but it might be), is Teach Town. It developes an individualized program for each student in several domains. It was recommended to me by a psychologist for whom I have a lot of respect, and is working well for one of my students. Check out the website at Teach Town website

It's based on ABA principles, has a strong research base, and provides for home, school and therapist interaction (if applicable).
and: sounds like Jimmy isn't the prototypical "visual learner" that children with autism are assumed to be. Neither is my student. His auditory skills are far superior to his visual skills.
He did extremely well with Headsprout Early Reading and had decoding ability at the seventh grade level at the end (his comprehension was of course much more limited -- but prior to that he could not decode or read at all).

Some pluses:
- Kids usually love Headsprout, so he will enjoy doing it;
-You can have him repeat lessons, as needed, and you can stop in the middle of lessons and it will "save" where you stopped
-Headsprout has some knowledgeable people on staff who can provide support for using it with a student with autism, and they have an 800 number
- You get a money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied that it is a good program for your child you can withdraw before 30 days and get your money back.

It's not for everyone but it works quite well for some very challenged kids, and with a money back guarantee, what's to lose?

better late than never, & help desk

I think I mentioned in a Comment that Jimmy always had trouble "seeing." He didn't (seem to) see elephants at the zoo until they moved or pooped.

When we moved to Irvington, we had deer grazing in our back yard & Jimmy didn't see them. The rest of us would point and point, and exclaim, "Deer! Deer, Jimmy! Look!" and he would cooperatively jab his finger in the direction we were pointing and say, "Deer! Deer!"

But he obviously didn't see them.

Then one day, a few weeks later, we were driving down a neighboring road when all of a sudden Jimmy started craning around in his seat, staring at something out the window, a look of amazement on his face: deer!

He'd finally seen the deer, and he was thunderstruck.

I think the deer were moving, but I no longer remember. In any event, it was one of those fun moments with an autistic person where for a moment or two you feel you see the world through their eyes. Jimmy's attitude seemed to be: "Holy cow. I had no idea you were talking about actual deer standing around in people's yards in broad daylight."

The point is: for years I've had a scheme for years to teach Jimmy how to read - or at least how to recognize letters - by putting together a PowerPoint with moving letters.

Which I finally got around to tonight.

So here's a question.

I can get a letter or a word to enter from the right and move slowly across the screen to the left margin, where it stops.

I can also record the sound of the letter of word.

What I can't do are two things:
  • I can't synch the sound to the letter. Instead, the letter moves across the screen, stops, and then, a few seconds later, the letter sound plays.
  • I can't make a word spell itself. I can't get a slide to send first one letter clear across the screen, with synched-up sound, then a second letter, and finally a third. Instead, if I've written a word, then entire word crosses the screen as a whole. (Whole language in PowerPoint! It's everywhere.
Obviously I lack 21st century skills.


I just asked C., who had 3 years of instruction in PowerPoint in the middle school, how to do these things.

He doesn't know.

"I was never very good at PowerPoint."

Linda Darling-Hammond again

Today's "Google Alert" for "Secretary of Education" brought this endorsement of Darling-Hammond, which I'm hoping puts an end to the possibility of Darling-Hammond being appointed head of the Institute for Education Sciences.

Friday, December 26, 2008

a toast

While we were eating dinner, Andrew was raiding the food closet in the family room & disappearing upstairs clutching bottles of wine vinegar.

Turns out this was what he was up to. You can see the two wine glasses over to the right, both filled with vinegar. I suppose if he knew how to use a corkscrew they'd be filled with wine. (U
nless he thinks Ed and I are drinking glasses of balsamic vinegar with our cheese toasties, which I suppose is a possibility.)

Andrew got two new Barneys for Christmas.

learning to read English & Danish takes longer

Recently, there has been a substantial increase in cross-linguistic research on children’s reading acquisition (e.g., Harris & Hatano, 1999; Joshi & Aaron, 2006). The studies converge on the conclusion that the progress of children learning to read in orthographically consistent languages, such as Finnish, German, or Greek, is generally faster than that of children learning to read in orthographically inconsistent languages, such as English or Danish (e.g., Aro & Wimmer, 2003; Ellis et al., 2004; Seymour, Aro, & Erskine, 2003; Wimmer & Goswami, 1994). In an orthographically consistent language, letters or letter clusters map consistently onto sounds. Conversely, in an orthographically inconsistent language, the relation between letters and sounds is often equivocal. If the consistency of the orthography is an important determinant of the rate of reading acquisition, the next question is naturally to what extent reading depends on the same underlying cognitive skills across these languages.

Rapid naming speed and reading across languages that vary in orthographic consistency
George K. Georgiou, Rauno Parrila, Chen-Huei Liao
Reading & Writing (2008) 21:885–903

Haven't read the article yet - & have yet to tackle the concept of "RAN" - so this will have to do for now.

get human

from palisadesk:

gethuman database Paul English



Ed says he's found that sometimes if you just say "representative," whether prompted or not, the system will connect you to a person.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Adams County School District 50 Eliminates Grades Levels and Grades

Read the news coverage from the Denver Post article.

I've long thought of grade levels as a subtle form of child abuse. Imagine if someone made you wear the wrong size underwear every day for 13 years; not very comfortable and not likely to turn you into a clothes horse.

Like it or not, we've become a highly diverse, mobile, and transient population and this means it's a roll of the dice getting your child in a classroom that is delivering a curriculum they can 'reach'. It's far more likely that your child is either ahead (and bored) or behind (and overwhelmed) their cohort. Kids are grouped by age, behavior, where their last school says they were, and IEP status, but almost never by academic or language need.

Adams County 50 has collaborated with Dr. Robert Marzano to create a pure standards based system where "Mastery of standards is the constant and time is the variable." In this system you get what you need regardless of age or other arbitrary non-academic measures. They're creating 10 mastery levels that students move through in order to graduate from high school and each level has its own measurement to determine whether or not you move on.

Here's the district's description of their Standards Based Education reform.

This has been done before in the Chugach School District with not too shabby results. Standard Achievement Test rankings moved from the 28th to the 71st percentile over a five year period.

The Chugach School District Office is based in Anchorage, Alaska. Chugach's 214 students are scattered throughout 22,000 square miles of mostly isolated and remote areas of South Central Alaska. With 30 faculty and staff, CSD is the smallest organization to ever win a Baldrige Award. CSD delivers instruction in education from preschool up to age 21 in a comprehensive, standards-based system. Education occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Instruction is delivered in the work place, in the community, in the home and in school. Half (50%) of the students in the Chugach School District are minorities (Alaska Natives).

As always the devil is in the details. Chugach is not Brooklyn and Adams County has only just begun, but for my money, this is real reform, not deck chair rearrangement.

I like snow and mountains, hmmmm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"about ktm"

I've just written a post to serve as an "about ktm" page. The picture & text on the sidebar link to it.

lots of problems with stuck Recent Comments

thread is here

kitchen table math, the original

10/19/2012: Steve H's Notice for parents new to kitchen table math

The original Kitchen Table Math was cofounded in April 2005 by Carolyn Johnston,* a mathematician now working for Microsoft, and me, Catherine Johnson.* I'm a mother, a writer, and a former teacher of freshman composition at the University of Iowa. Later on I taught writing to gifted middle school children in the Johns Hopkins CTY program. That's me in the photo. My husband, Ed Berenson, directs the Institute of French Studies at NYU, where he is a Professor of European history.

Here is the original mission statement.

Carolyn stopped writing posts a year or so later, when she and her husband Bernie went to work for Microsoft, but she continues to be with us in spirit. Their new school, outside Seattle, uses Connected Math.

For reasons unknown, the Kitchen Table Math site froze at the end of 2006. It has remained out of commission ever since, its links slowly decaying. The whole thing could be taken down, but I haven't wanted to do that, so there it sits: unwriteable, unreviseable, and uncommentable.

The idea behind the original ktm was to recruit a group of parents, teachers, and volunteers with whom to brainstorm teaching and "afterschooling." We needed to do this because public schools are doing something else altogether. So, when ktm stopped dead in its tracks, I set up a group blog on Blogger, sent invitations to the regulars, and dubbed the new site kitchen table math the sequel. The first post appeared December 30, 2006.

Today ktm-2 has 64 65 members, a number of whom have, of late, begun to spend as much time reading and thinking about how best to teach children reading, writing, vocabulary, and spelling as they do thinking about math. We've branched out: from the math wars to the reading wars.

More is more!

Update 2/16/2013: For the past two years I've been teaching freshman composition at my local college.  Last summer I attended Morningside Academy's Summer School Institute, and I'm now working with Ed on a writing supplement for his Oxford European history textbook and with Katie Beals on a grammar and writing textbook based in linguistics and precision teaching.

Math in the Blood 4.30.2005 18:25
Now That We're Both Here 4.30.2005 20:30

wit and wisdom of Kitchen Table Math

book-style index ktm-1 (not complete)
search ktm-1 posts
search ktm-1 comments
search ktm-1 by category

archives by month: April 2005 - September 2006
math books (and other) we liked then
other books, curricula, & online resources we liked

A Gift from France, to France

Shadow Syndromes

Animals in Translation

Animals Make Us Human

* You may have to hit refresh a few times to bring up pages from the original Kitchen Table Math website. And, yes, Carolyn Johnston and Catherine Johnson are two different people.



I don't know what my RSS or Atom info is, or how to find out.

Yes, I could figure out how to find out, but I'd rather somebody who already knows the answer just tell me what it is.

This is my problem with 21st century skills (one of my problems): I see no reason to spend my time inquiring about things everyone else already knows.

I especially see no reason for 5 year olds to inquire into the nature of the alphabetic code, (pdf file) as 21st century 5 year olds are currently doing in their 21st century Kindergartens.

In conclusion: I don't know what my RSS or Atom info is, and if somebody out there does know, please tell me.

Thank you.


I've been chatting with a couple of Contributors about visibility, influence, readership, etc., and it seems to me the time has come to raise the profile of ktm, if possible. Hence: the posting of the Studio City photo along with a thumbnail description of the blog & contact info for me. Performancing (thank you, Mathew) says one needs photos and emails on the front page, which I've always felt was true. A blog needs a real author or authors & a mailing address.

Do we need contact info for Contributors, too?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah

source: This 'n That

while I was sleeping

It seems I can deal with only one child at a time.

Over the past 4 years, I've lost track of autism and autism research, a subject I used to know by heart.

It's not as if I've been completely out of touch. I did manage to figure out Andrew needed a clicker & a linguist-created program to teach him grammar. (Good results with both thus far.)

But Jimmy has had to fend for himself, just about. (Am currently scheming to teach him how to read after all. He so wanted to learn, back when he was 14. He used to bring me the LeapPad reader and sit beside me on the sofa so I could run the LeapPen over the LeapStories. And for years we tried to teach him sight words, not one of which he learned, not even his name. Now that I know what I know about whole language, I realize that was a hopeless undertaking from the get-go. Jimmy doesn't appear to "see" well; when he was tiny, he couldn't see the elephants at the zoo until they moved or, better yet, pooped. If he couldn't see elephants, how was he going to see laminated words for "salt" and "juice"?)

Anyway, today, taking a stab at clearing off the paper cliffs soaring above my desktop,* I unearthed an Autism Speaks brochure and decided to check out their web site.

I found this:

Final Emerging Theme from the 2008 SFN [Society for Neuroscience] Meeting

Altogether these research advances demonstrate the ostensible "treatability" of the component features of autism despite varying etiologies proposed (genetic, immunologic, endocrinologic, perceptional). Such results, which have emerged only in the last two years, are rapidly redirecting researchers to an entire new field of research that is energizing the movement for autism treatment. The results also suggest that the complexity of autism will not require one "cure-all" strategy but an arsenal of therapies that is adaptable to the underlying biology of the presenting symptoms in each individual.

Right again!

Treatment-versus-prevention was a debate within NAAR (National Alliance for Autism Research), where I served on the board. NAAR was the first nonprofit devoted to researching "treatment, prevention, and cure" for autism, but most folks there were thinking prevention.

That seemed wrong to me, logically speaking.** One of the geneticists I'd interviewed had told me that as many as 90 to 100% of the population may carry "autism risk genes." I have no idea whether he would say the same thing today, but that's what he said then.

Well, if 100% of the population carries autism risk genes, good luck getting a test you can do with an amnio.

At least, that's the way it seemed to me.

Treatments and functional cures ought to show up before preventions.

Let's hope they do!

* gross exaggeration
** I'm also uncomfortable with prevention if it means what it has meant for children with Down syndrome. I'm a little uncomfortable with prevention and cure both, as a matter of fact. See: Harvey