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Brain Games: Math Square

May 25, 2012


 Brain Game: Math Square #120
by Sandy Wood – April 30, 2012 – 7:30 AM

Today’s Brain Games challenge is a brand-new Monday Math Square. Good luck!

Place the digits 1 through 9 in the white blanks so that the mathematical equations work both across and down. Each digit 1 through 9 should appear only once in the main grid (the red square).

Here is the SOLUTION.


All We Are Saying is Give Math a Chance

May 23, 2012


By Janet Perna
former General Manager, IBM Information Management

When I was a young math teacher fresh out of college in my hometown of Middletown, New York, I tried to make math entertaining and practical for my students. I’d have them learn basic arithmetic by doing things like making change and dividing a sheet cake into equal servings. They learned the basics of geometry by imagining that they were tiling the classroom floor. These exercises made math seem useful especially for those children who were not destined for college, but would become the backbone of the community taking on blue collar jobs in Middletown.

Unfortunately, then and now, most children are turned off to math by the time they enter junior high school. I have found that many elementary school teachers with whom I have spoken are intimidated by math, and aren’t confident enough to make it interesting and useful to their students. If teachers are afraid, the students will fear math, too. That’s why I believe that we need new programs to strengthen math skills and creativity in our university teacher education programs, and, even more broadly, in liberal arts curricula.

At my alma mater, the State University of New York at Oneonta, university President Dr. Nancy Kleniewski has been leading efforts to improve the climate for math and science. She worked with community leaders to establish a STEM Leadership Council that promotes science, technology, engineering and math in the region. She also took the lead in establishing The Fund for Science and Technology, which raised more than $5 million to enhance academic quality and establish scholarships in the university’s math and science programs. I served as co-chair of the campaign, along with Dr. William Pietraface, chairman of the SUNY Oneonta Biology Dept.

I’m particularly interested in encouraging young women to pursue majors and careers in math. I was one of only a handful of female math majors when I studied at Oneonta in the late 1960s. There were few girls in my advanced physics classes, as well. Male professors didn’t make us feel welcome. Still, I completed my studies and returned home to teach in Middletown, leaving a few years later for California, and, eventually, a long and fulfilling career at IBM.

When IBM hired me as a systems programmer, I had little knowledge of programming. I had taken a single college course, in Fortran. But IBM trained me to work in basic assembler language, which was used in mainframe computers.

Ever since the 1970s, with the rise of the computer industry and its impact on business and society, good software programmers have been in short supply. It was something I struggled with as I rose through the ranks as a manager and, ultimately, the executive in charge of IBM’s database and information management software products.

Today, the needs of society for people with math and science skills are even more acute. The explosion of data brought on by the Internet means we need people to design and use systems for gathering, managing and making sense of all of that information. Math algorithms are essential to so much of what we do.

Yet elementary school students are still intimidated by science and math, and, among college students, while about one-third of them major in science, engineering and math, many of those focus on the social sciences. Only about 1% of bachelors degrees are awarded in math and 3% are awarded in computer science, according to the National Science Foundation.

That’s not enough. We need more people with math and computer science skills if our economy is to remain globally competitive.

It’s incumbent on leaders in industry, government and academia to make the case for math. We have to draw direct connections between math skills and the good they can do in the world-by helping us improve health care, transportation, power distribution, energy exploration and many other fields.

I remember an instance when I was teaching math in Middletown and a father came in and told me that his son didn’t need to study math because the family owned a roller-skating rink. They would grow up to be skaters. I don’t know how he figured the kids would be able to keep the books. Clearly, he hadn’t made the connection between math and running a successful business.

We have to make those connections-for the sake of our children and our country.

What the US Can Learn from European Children’s TV

May 20, 2012

From TIME:

We need a new model where American producers can inspire kids to be creative and self-sufficient.
By Lisa Guernsey | @LisaGuernsey | March 13, 2012 | 9
European Children's Television

“Reika Makes Sushi” from a Dutch TV show for preschoolers

The girl on the screen is 5 years old. She’s got chubby cheeks and big eyes, and she’s wielding a long knife, calmly cutting a piece of raw fish. Soon she’s slicing up a huge seaweed-covered roll she’s made by herself. Her little fingers move out of the way expertly with each push of the blade. Smiling and proud, she pops a piece of sushi in her mouth and waves to the camera.

The video clip, from a Dutch TV show for preschoolers, is a beautiful example of the confidence that radiates from young children when they recognize what they are capable of. It also looks nothing like what is on American television for young kids. Adults and puppets are nowhere to be seen. There are no cautionary notes about mom supervising the knife work. First released years ago but still attracting buzz among media producers worldwide, the episode would probably never make it into the lineup of American preschool TV — at least not if American lawyers have anything to do with it.

(MORE: Guernsey: Why E-Reading with Your Kid Can Impede Learning)

And that’s a pity. We need more examples like this in the U.S. — shows in which children can see their peers as independent thinkers and doers, able to take on challenges and overcome difficulties. In fact, we don’t just need these shows for our kids. By portraying children as competent, capable human beings, we could also do Americans adults some good. Preschoolers and their parents in the United States have a growing array of educational shows (Super Why!, Sid the Science Kid, Between the Lions), lots of animated fantasy and adventure (Wonder Pets, Little Einsteins, Dora the Explorer), and plenty of song and dance (Yo Gabba Gabba!, Barney & Friends). But capable real kids are hard to find. Sesame Street offers clips of kids on their own once in a while, and Elmo is a loveable stand-in for an independent and curious 3-year-old, but let’s face it, he’s a puppet.

I realize American parents may already feel a little beaten up over what they should be exposing their kids to. First there was The Dangerous Book for Boys by British authors Conn and Hal Iggulden, which reminded parents that children used to climb trees. Then came Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy “Don’t Cut Them Any Slack” Chua. This month we have Bringing Up Bébé, the book about French parenting that examines why French children so rarely have tantrums. As author Pamela Druckerman writes, it’s not that the French simply raise children differently. It’s that they have “a different view of what a child actually is.”

(MOREJudith Warner: Why American Kids Are Brats)

American TV recognizes that young children are capable of soaking up stories and ingesting new concepts, but it doesn’t typically give them a sense of agency, that feeling that they are creators in their own destiny, that you see in TV shows made for kids across the pond. Jan-Willem Bult, the head of creative for KRO Youth, the Dutch company that produced the “Reika Makes Sushi” episode, says his mission is to portray children as independent thinkers who can tell their own stories. Too often, he says, “we always protect them, we always patronize them.”

Programs produced by KRO, which are among the top-rated shows for 3- to 5-year-olds in the Netherlands, show real kids doing real things. The Toolbox Kids, a KRO program that dubs itself the “ultimate preschool tech series,” shows kids working as a group to dismantle an old dishwasher and a recreational vehicle by themselves. Shows with real children also part of the culture in Scandinavia and the U.K. Although I Can Cook, a preschool show in Britain, is led by an adult woman, the camera follows actions of competent young children in the kitchen. “We try not to underestimate them,” says Adrian Mills, chief adviser for children’s learning at the BBC.

To be fair, a sprinkling of American TV shows also portray children — though often older than 5 — doing projects on their own. (Check out Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, which features kids experimenting with code breaking and chemistry.) But in addition to being more risk averse, American producers have to grapple with the much higher cost of producing live-action vs. animated programs. In Europe, Bult and Mills don’t worry much about public broadcasting getting chopped out of the government’s budget. But in the U.S., subsidizing the media is politically charged issue. Government funding is on the wane. We need a new model where American producers can stretch their wings and show off American kids who are creative and self-sufficient.

I would not have left my children alone with a sharp knife when they were 5 years old. But I appreciate this Dutch program for pushing me out of my comfort zone and giving me a different view of what children’s TV — and young children — can do. After being exposed to Reika making sushi, I started showing my daughters, then ages 6 and 8, how to chop tomatoes. Now they don’t need my help.

Guernsey is the director of the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative. The views expressed are solely her own.
Read more:

Read one-on-one with your little ones!

May 17, 2012

Momania: A Blog for Busy Moms

Did your child have 1000 hours of one-on-one reading by first grade?

12:35 am March 22, 2012, by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

I was listening to CNN on the radio recently and they were doing a story about politicians helping out in Washington schools by going in and reading one on one with kids and the difference that lunch hour could make to their education.

The story threw out this incredible statistic that I had never heard before:

A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours.

I couldn’t find a link to the story on CNN’s website, but I did find the statistic and the source for it on a library’s website.

“A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours, such differences in the availability of book resources may have unintended and pernicious consequences for low-income children’ long term success in schooling. M. Adams, Beginning to read. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990).”

That early one-on-one reading time and having books in the home has been heavily linked to children becoming learners and their success later as students.

Here are more surprising (maybe stunning is a better word) stats from the library’s website:

“Literacy Facts and Statistics

Compiled by Jeanine Asche
Youth, Family and Literacy Services Manager
San Mateo County Library

“Most of the reading problems faced by today’s adolescents and adults are the result of problems that might have been avoided or resolved in their early childhood years (National Research Council, 2000.  “Reading is typically acquired relatively predictably by children who… have had experiences in early childhood that fostered motivation and provided exposure to literacy in use. National Research Council, 2000″

“The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.” National Commission on Reading, 1985

“The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. An analysis of a national data set of nearly 100,000 United States school children found that access to printed materials–and not poverty–is the “critical variable affecting reading acquisition.” Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998. Children who have not already developed some basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.  National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993″

“Great disparities exist among middle-and low income communities in resources available in homes or child-care sites.  Feitelson, and Goldstain for example found that 60 percent of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book.  D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein,  The patterns of book ownership;. Reading Teacher 89, 924-30 (1986).”

“61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. While low-income children have–on average–roughly four children’s books in their homes, a team of researchers recently concluded that nearly two thirds of the low-income families they studied owned no books for their children. Reading Literacy in the United States, 1996.”

“60% of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book.  The Patterns of Book Ownership and Reading, D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein, 1986″

“A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours, such differences in the availability of book resources may have unintended and pernicious consequences for low-income children’ long term success in schooling. M. Adams, Beginning to read. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990).”

“Children in low-income families lack essential one-on-one reading time. A recent report by the Packard and MacArthur Foundations found that the average child growing up in a middle class family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child growing up in a low-income family, in contrast, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading. Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998.”

“The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Communities ranking high in achievement tests have several factors in common: an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large and a large number of textbooks per student.  Newman, Sanford, et all. “American’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy”; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000. …”

She has more great statistics about how a lack of reading and books affects a child long after they eave school but I was worried it was getting too long and you wouldn’t read it. Check the link for more information.

Bad at Math?

May 1, 2012

From Change the Equation:

Why is it acceptable in this country to say, “I’m bad at math”? Do you know many people who would admit to being semi-literate? For Jonathan Wai at Duke, the question is central to school reform. “The first step we need to take as a society,” he writes, “is to make it socially unacceptable to be bad at math just like it’s socially unacceptable to be bad at reading.” (It’s only fair to note that we don’t exactly knock it out of the park on reading, either–but Wai still has a point.)

Wai’s remarks remind me of a little meditation we posted about a year and a half ago. It’s worth re-posting here:


Imagine you’re at a nice restaurant with some friends. Not long after the waiter hands out the menus, your neighbor gives his menu to you. “Could you read this to me?” he asks. “I can’t read very well.”

You would probably be shocked if your friend were older than, say, ten. People aren’t in the habit of admitting illiteracy. So why is it any less shocking when, at the end of the meal, so many of the diners fall all over themselves to say they’re “too bad at math” to figure out the tip? (We’ve all seen it happen.)

The fact is that our society is a whole lot more accepting of mathematical illiteracy than it is of the other kind. In a recent Change the Equation poll, three in ten Americans said they were bad at math. Among 18 to 24 year olds, that ratio rose to almost four in ten. More than half of Americans aged 18 to 34 admitted that they often say they can’t do math. Nearly a third said they would rather clean the bathroom than solve a math problem. That’s a big problem for our country.

It’s a problem Change the Equation hopes to confront head on. A truly literate nation must do more than just read. We must compute, investigate and innovate. We should be curious about how things work, driven to understand the causes of our biggest challenges, and inspired by the promise of science and technology to address those challenges. Our future depends on it.

So many of our most daunting problems are at base science problems, technology problems, engineering problems and–yes–math problems. We face threats to national security, threats to the natural world, and daunting economic challenges. We face stiff international competition for good jobs that demand a background in science, technology, education and math (STEM). And in our daily lives we face ever tougher choices about our health care, our finances, our mortgages, even whom to vote for. It just won’t do to say we’re bad at math or science, or that we don’t understand technology.

We have science, technology, engineering and math to thank for much of the prosperity we’ve enjoyed for the past half century or more. And these fields can fuel our prosperity and security through the rest of this century.

But first we have to excite our young people about STEM, fire their imaginations with all they could accomplish if they have a strong foundation in the STEM fields. Many of Change the Equation’s corporate members are at the cutting edge of revolutionary, transformative work in science, technology, engineering and math. Many have made it their goal to show U.S. students just how vital, relevant, fascinating, and life-changing this work can be.

Young people should know that, if they’re bad at math, then they’re missing out.

The stakes are very high. Not long before he died in 1996, Carl Sagan offered a pessimistic view of where our nation stands in science and technology. “We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology,” he said. “We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.”

So rather than proclaiming our ignorance of the world we live in, it’s time to embrace and master the tools that will help all Americans understand and improve that world.

How Dr. Seuss Got His Start

April 26, 2012

From NPR:

January 24, 2012

Seventy-five years ago, before Theodor Geisel rocked the culinary world with green eggs and ham or put a red-and-white striped top hat on a talking cat, Geisel (whom you probably know better as Dr. Seuss) was stuck on a boat, returning from a trip to Europe.

For eight days, he listened to the ship’s engine chug away. The sound got stuck in his head, and he started writing to the rhythm. Eventually, those rhythmic lines in his head turned into his first children’s book: It was called And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

The story, which turns 75 this year, is about a boy named Marco who wants to tell his father an interesting story about what he saw that day on his walk home from school — but the only thing Marco has seen (other than his own feet) is a boring old horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.

Horse And Cart on Mulberry Street

Courtesy Random House Children’s Books

Marco laments:

That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do of course …
Just a broke-down wagon
That’s drawn by a horse.

That can’t be my story. That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a ZEBRA was pulling that cart!
And that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Soon Marco’s imagination is running wild — the zebra morphs into a reindeer, and the wagon becomes a golden chariot and then a fancy sleigh.

Sleigh pulled by reindeer

Courtesy Random House Children’s Books

But why have a simple sleigh pulled by a reindeer, when the sleigh could be a brass band, and the reindeer could be an elephant? The little boy imagines the elephant he’ll describe to his father:

I’ll pick one with plenty of power and size,
A blue one with plenty of fun in his eyes.
And then just to give him a little more tone,
Have a Rajah, with rubies, perched high on a throne.

Elephant pulling a brass band

Courtesy Random House Children’s Books

On and on it goes; two giraffes help the elephant pull the brass band, as a squadron of policemen on motorcycles escort the parade past the mayor and the alderman as an airplane showers confetti from above.

More On Dr. Seuss

The young duck McKluck and his friend the cat discuss what to do with their magical wish-granting Bippolo Seed in Dr. Seuss's story, The Bippolo Seed.

‘Bippolo Seed’ Uncovers Lost Stories Of Dr. Seuss

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories reintroduces some of Theodor Geisel’s more obscure tales.

In this illustration from a story called "Steak for Supper," a crew of creatures follow a boy home in hopes of getting a steak dinner. The story is one of seven rediscovered Dr. Seuss shorts from The Bippolo Seed.

‘The Bippolo Seed’: The ‘Lost’ Dr. Seuss Stories

Lynn Neary reports on the origins of a new collection of Dr. Seuss stories, due out this fall.

cat in the hat

Fifty Years of ‘The Cat in the Hat’

The 1957 classic by Dr. Seuss is still captivating to children and the adults who read to them.

In the end, Marco knows his father won’t tolerate a made-up story, so when Dad asks about the sights Marco saw on the way home from school, the dejected little boy just tells the boring truth:

“Nothing,” I said, growing red as a beet
“But a plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.”

Dr. Seuss didn’t have an easy time selling the bittersweet story to publishers. “It was rejected 27 times,” says Guy McLain, who works at the Springfield Museum in Geisel’s Massachusetts hometown.

McLain has become a local expert on Dr. Seuss. He says Mulberry Street might have never been published — if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter Geisel had one day as he was walking home in New York City.

“He bumped into a friend … who had just become an editor at a publishing house in the children’s section,” McLain explains. Geisel told the friend that he’d simply given up and planned to destroy the book, but the editor asked to take a look.

He said if he had been walking down the other side of the street, he probably would never have become a children’s author.

– Guy McLain on Dr. Seuss

It was a moment that changed Geisel’s life.

“He said if he had been walking down the other side of the street, he probably would never have become a children’s author,” McLain says.

The book was published in 1937. It got great reviews, and the rest is history.

But why Mulberry Street? Turns out, it’s a real-life street in Geisel’s hometown.

“It was a street very close to his grandparents’ bakery,” McLain says. “And I think also … it was the rhythm, the sound of the word that was very important with Dr. Seuss. Because there’s nothing special about the street, really.”

Except for the fact that the ordinary little street launched one extraordinary career.

George Weber, author of controversial 1971 education study, dies at 86

April 21, 2012

From WashPost:

By Bart Barnes, Published: December 4

George Weber, 86, an education researcher who asserted in a controversial 1971 study that the low reading skills of disadvantaged children in inner-city schools were the fault of the schools themselves, not the children or their backgrounds, died Nov. 14 at his home in Alexandria.

He had complications from lung cancer, according to his son, Donald Weber.

(Family photo/FAMILY PHOTO) – George Weber, who wrote an important paper on education in the 1970s, died Nov. 14. He was 86 years old.

Mr. Weber, a former associate director of the nonprofit Council for Basic Education, was the author of the publication “Inner-City Children Can Be Taught to Read: Four Successful Schools,” which caused a flurry of attention at the time.

The study came at a time of burgeoning controversy over the perceived failures of urban public school systems to educate the children of urban poverty — a controversy that remains unresolved and still simmering 40 years later.

Many educators tended to blame the adverse social conditions from which their students came, and they still do. Parents tended to blame the schools, and they still do.

Mr. Weber found that, despite poverty and social chaos in their neighborhoods and in many of their homes, children could become proficient readers if their public schools offered encouragement.

To support these findings, he offered as examples four public elementary schools, two in Manhattan, one in Los Angeles and one in Kansas City, Mo. All four schools had predominantly minority enrollments, two mainly black, one Puerto Rican and one Mexican American.

Most of the students were from low-income families, and the vast majority qualified for free-lunch programs. Yet third-graders in all four of the schools were reading at or above grade level, according to tests designed by Mr. Weber.

In such schools, he wrote in his report, most people, including school officials, tended to believe that “low achievement is all that can be expected.”

But Mr. Weber argued that the success of the four schools in his study “shows that the failure in beginning reading typical of inner-city schools is the fault not of the children or their backgrounds, but of the schools.”

There were eight factors contributing to the success of the four schools he studied, Mr. Weber said. They were strong leadership, high expectations, a good atmosphere, strong emphasis on reading, additional personnel, use of phonics, individualization and careful evaluation of pupil progress.

Writing in The Washington Post, columnist William Raspberry observed in 1971 that “the trouble with Weber’s analysis is that it may be too general to be used as a blueprint. Countless principals of unsuccessful schools will insist they are already employing Weber’s eight ‘success factors.’ ”

In 2000, the Baltimore Sun took a second look at the four schools that Mr. Weber had chosen for his study.

“None was able to sustain excellence through the 30 years,” the newspaper reported.

As for Mr. Weber’s eight success factors of 1971, “You could say the same things today and hardly miss a beat,” Christopher Cross, the former president of the Maryland Board of Education, told the Sun.

George Henry Weber was born May 25, 1925, in Cincinnati. He was a 1947 graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where he also received a master’s degree in economics in 1948. He then served two years in the Army before moving to the Washington area in 1951 to join the staff of the National Security Council.

From 1963 until his retirement in 1978, he was associate director of the Council for Basic Education, an organization formed in 1956 as a counter force to what was then perceived as a shift in educational emphasis from intellectual development to social development.

He was a past board president of Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Alexandria. In retirement he was a volunteer with Goodwill Industries and Friends of the Duncan branch of the Alexandria Public Library.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Isabelle Pearson Weber of Alexandria; a son, Donald Weber of Arlington; and two grandchildren.