kitchen table math, the sequel: 8/8/10 - 8/15/10

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alternatives to Lucy Caulkins?

Everywhere I look, the elementary schools around me use Writer's Workshop. Schools that are adopting Singapore Math are still using Writer's Workshop.

When did it become standard to teach young children writing?

Are there any school program alternatives to Writer's Workshop for grades k-3? Are there any well known schools that haven't felt the need to teach writing per se?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Royal Coach Lines

email to the Parents Forum:

Hi everyone -

Our son Andrew is autistic. He is entitled by law to a summer program.

He is also entitled by law to bus transportation to the program.

However, as I write, it is 9:16 and Andrew is not at his program.

The reason?

According to the woman at ROYAL COACH LINES: “The driver sat in your driveway for 10 minutes and no one came out. So he called the dispatcher, and the dispatcher told him to leave.”

Note: the driver did not honk.

The reason the driver did not honk: it is illegal. We had no idea. We’ve been sending developmentally disabled kids to school on the bus for decades and the drivers have always honked. In fact, they’ve honked too much. This summer’s driver, whose arrival times have been unpredictable, honks.

BUT honking is illegal, and today’s driver –a sub – did not honk.

Nor did the driver simply step outside his bus and knock on our door. (Is that illegal?)

And the dispatcher did not call us once he’d heard from the driver.

In short, no one associated with ROYAL COACH LINES took initiative; no one went beyond the call of duty. No one took responsibility for actually doing the job we hire ROYAL COACH LINES to do.

And no one expressed the slightest regret that the job was not done. I spoke at some length with the lady who answered the phone at ROYAL COACH LINES. She appeared untroubled by the fact that ROYAL COACH LINES did not deliver Andrew to his program; in fact, she did not appear to think that failing to deliver a child to his program reflected poorly upon ROYAL COACH LINES in any way at all. ROYAL COACH LINES employees complied with the applicable rules and regulations, and they are entitled to collect their fee.

American taxpayers fund so much for kids, for seniors, for those with disabilities and hard luck: we deserve better than this. We deserve services that actually do the job we hire them to do.

Next summer, I think the district should find a different bus company. Surely we can do better than ROYAL COACH LINES.


Monday, August 9, 2010

gone fishing

I'm off to Illinois for the next week - probably won't take my laptop.

See you in a week!

Peter Meyer at Flypaper

Good News!

inside the other black box

Street-Fighting Mathematics

Freakonomics interview with Sanjay Mahajan:

I work on the 7th floor. How many additional calories will I expend if, for the next four years, I take the stairs instead of the elevator? – Jordan

Time to estimate! The energy required to raise an object—pretend it is me—to a height is the object’s mass times the earth’s gravitational strength (“g”) times the height.


Because the human “engine” is only about 25% efficient (internal-combustion engines are also about 25% efficient), the total energy required is a factor of 4 greater: 48,000 Joules. Each Calorie (with a capital C) is about 4,000 Joules, so the energy required to walk up the stairs is 12 Calories. I could use this value to answer the question, but it would give me just a very large number of Calories, and I would not immediately know whether that number is large or small.

To make this energy more meaningful, I compare it against another relevant energy. A useful estimation fact: a moderate-sized jelly doughnut provides 1 million Joules or about 250 Calories. That would be enough to climb the stairs 20 times. Thus, one jelly doughnut provides enough energy to climb the stairs (every weekday) for a month. Equivalently, climbing the stairs for a month will burn off the Calories from one jelly donut.

Calories with a capital C
The distinction between calories (1 calorie is roughly 4 Joules) and Calories (1 Calorie is roughly 4,000 Joules) is sometimes ignored.

The entire manuscript is available for download at MIT Press, & here's the Amazon link:
Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving

Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving