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December 21, 2009



For much of the last century, educators and many scientists believed that children could not learn math at all before the age of five, that their brains simply were not ready.

People really believed that?

If so, then what is the definition of "math" they were working with?


Actually I know a few folks who couldn't ever learn math no matter how it was defined.


I thought geometry began with the whole square peg/round hole toys we used to have. Triangles, Pyramids, building blocks etc were most kids introduction to spatial relationships.

Then again, most of those toys are illegal these days. A kid might swallow a Lincoln Log, after all, and God forbid they jab themselves on an erector set.


I'm not sure it is math but today Amy's youngest told me that when she was 3 she didn't know how to share, but now that she is 4 she has got it down to a science.

Dorothy Jane

I wish someone would have taught me math while my brain was malleable. It was all over by the time I was six. Total loss. Maybe I would have done better on the SAT...


Actually I know a few folks who couldn't ever learn math no matter how it was defined.

Oh come one. You dont really know me. Do you? ::grin::


Y'all should have heard my 4 year old granddaughter explain to her 2 year old brother the definition of "but". Even coming up with an example of when to use "but" in a sentence.


This is a factually inaccurate story.

Shock! It's the NYT and the timing is highly suspect as well. Again the Times never acts as a policy conduit.

Spent part of yesterday listening to the 90 minute presentation of the new national Common Core Standards that the states and participating districts must commit to adopting 100% sight unseen to have a competitive chance at part of the $ 4 billion to be awarded. Apps are due January 21 and reviews of the math and Language Arts drafts so far are not good.

There's plenty of research on what is effective in education. We've had it for decades. It's just that ed schools do not like to teach or do what works so they want new evidence to support more hands on activities to learn math and science. Accessible to all. Works with LD or ESOL kids. No deductive logic or literacy demands of a lecture and notes.

This story makes me all the more concerned about what the new CCCSI curricula that will
allow excellence for all and the new, more authentic, national assessments will look like.

It's very worrisome when officials spouting nonsense all start to parrot the same nonsense.


Very adorable story,Jane.


excellence for all ...

And every child above average too.

Sara (Pal2Pal)

Well, my 2 1/2 year old Granddaughter had no problem determining what was half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and insist that it was exactly even or "it wouldn't be half, Grandma."


This reminds me of a certain incident when I was in 8th grade and I tried to teach the kindergartners fractions.

It was not pretty...


I find working with money helps speed the process. (Sam Nunn's mom told me she taught the kids arithmetic by playing poker with them.)


Education, like global warming and other science stories, are areas where most author write up what they are told.

Once it gets into print though it can be cited as the support for specious arguments. Think of the various school board members around the country, parents. and even teachers whose common sense radar will buzz with concern at the changes in K-12 to be implemented in the name of CCCSI.

Now one of the proofs that will be provided to show the radar's buzzing in error will be this article. "You're just not familiar with the latest cognitive research. These changes reflect that new research. Here's an article so you'll understand better in the future".


And every child above average too.

Reminds me of how Jimmy Carter wanted to raise the percentage of wage-earners making above the median income.


Fractions are easy for kids. Teach them triangles, rectangles and squares - no circles allowed. Take 1 sandwich(peanut butter usually) and ask them how they would like it cut. They can be amazingly creative. My mother-in-law was a bit surprised to be asked for 2 triangles, a square and a rectangle. For multiplication yatzee helped a lot.


OT but important

Clarice and everybody

I'm sure a lot of you watched the Fox news special last night on Climate Change. It was the best MSM treatment of climategate and global warming I have seen, very well researched and presented. Here is a link to the Climate Audit thread with links to youtube if you haven't seen it.

If you read the comments you will see me ask Steve McIntyre what kind of laptop he uses. He answers "a 3 year old garden variety Acer" So I'm thinking, this guy is taking on the billion dollar funded AGW alarmists who have Cray supercomputers and he has an Acer that probably cost 500 bucks.

Anyway, I'd like to help Steve out, the guy has taken years of his life to pursue this, put his regular career on hold, and I think he could use some help with fundraising, FOIA requests and legal advise.

Some ideas I have:

Hook him up with Judicial Watch or some other foundation that might be willing to offer support.

Throw a simultaneous blogosphere fundraiser, I am sure Ace, Allah, Instapundit and many others would be willing to help.

Steve has a tip jar, but never blegs for money. I am sure he knows and is known by a lot of people, he's testified before Congress, written peer reviewed articles etc.

I don't think he is very political and would probably be very careful about any associations, but he is open to good ideas.

A while back I emailed solar scientist Lief Svaalgard and said "hey, why don't you email McIntyre and do some solar posts on his blog" and sure enough, Lief started writing on CA.

Anyway, I think we should give McIntyre some help, without his auditing and statistical skills Mann and Jones might have pulled off the scam of the century, and they still might.



I didn't see the show. I stopped watching tv a few years ago and since then even the occasional good program is hard for me to endure.

A blogosphere fundraiser is something I'd contribute to and I'd ask AT if they'd let me blog about it. I do think you might ask Steve what his wish list would be..what he'd like.

Heck, maybe judicial watch or an accountant or lawyer would help set up a 501(c)(3) for him from which he could run an AGW watch dog association.


Wow, Windansea and Clarice, fantastic!


Agree with your skepticism and concern, rse. Besides, it has nothing to do with the brain, that bunch of shock-absorber mush between the ears, for goodness' sake. It's the aware being that thinks and learns.

Anyway, the Indians would probably laugh their heads off reading this. Imagine a being who's been through school for how many lifetimes!


The opening paragraph of the article comes as a shock to this Montessorian, whose son (at age 3) asked, "what is 12 times 16?"

"Why do you ask?" I queried.

"Because I want to know how many screws are in our stairs. We have 16 stairs and they have 12 screws in each one. I don't want to count all of them. If you don't know, can I ask the calculator?"


okay, I will email Steve and see what he thinks would help


w3bgrrl, Great story!

Mathwise a couple things.

Have always been amazed at stories of the sort of Savant Math geniuses who could do amazing mental calculations in their heads. In one of my math history books which I can't link today, it mentions how a few of these folks who had that amazing power as kids, lost it as they aged. That I thought fascinating.

I also loved how math genius Gauss was correcting his dad's accounting by age 3, and ,this">http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Knew-Infinity-Ramanujan/dp/0671750615/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261461244&sr=8-1">this Bio of great Hindu Math Genius Ramanujan, is an excellent read, and it's fascinating how he says the Goddess Nermala would come to him in his dreams at night and give him his theorems to try out the next day. Ramanujan is the guy of whom his contemporaries said "Every positive integer is one of Ramanujan's personal friends."

As for my kids, we had them doing KUMON Math courses daily from age 3. They aren't geniuses, but they are very good at math, have no fear whatever of it, and by starting them off so early, they simply accept doing Kumon math each morning before breakfast as part of life, and never realized they were allowed to hate it so they don't.

Charlie (Colorado)

Have always been amazed at stories of the sort of Savant Math geniuses who could do amazing mental calculations in their heads. In one of my math history books which I can't link today, it mentions how a few of these folks who had that amazing power as kids, lost it as they aged. That I thought fascinating.

One of the odd things that came out of graduate school was the discovery that I'm fairly severely dyscalculic. The upshot of dyscalculia is that there are some things that are very difficult — basic arithmetic things, telling right from left, and so forth — even though my mathematical reasoning was just fine thanks. This had manifested over the years in people saying "but you understand the concepts, if you just wouldn't make these dumb mistakes!"

Of course, once it had a name and all, then I could get treatment for it. The treatment comes down to using different calculation algorithms so you have more choices in how to approach a problem; the best source of those is by reading books like Mathemagics, which say they'll teach you to be a lightning calculator.

The strangest part of all, though, was that as I worked through these different algorithms, I found that I was getting better at using the standard techniques too. Somehow, just using the different algorithms reorganized some parts of my brain.

Charlie (Colorado)

Oh crap.


LOL, Charlie! I fear you have a touch of italicization too. :)


Charlie, Thats fascinating.

Another crazy math thing I've always found interesting is ">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia"> Synesthesia.

This isn't a great link and unfortunately I have to leave ASAP before I find the one I'm looking for, but aparently some humans with this rare condition see numbers as having colors. The example that shocked me was an experiement where hundreds of the letter S were printed upside down and sideways all over all over a square card, among which was buried a single number 5. The particular guy with this condition simply looked at the hundreds of S's, and immediately the 5 popped up because it had a color, like red, so to him it stood out like a sore thumb, among all the black S's.

Fascinating what our brains are capable of coming up with.


I'll have to give this article to my math challenged daughter who is studying to become an early childhood teacher (pre-K to 2nd grade). She volunteers after her own college classes at the after-school program where she went to grade school. One day she came home after a session and stated, "Dad, 6th grade math is hard."


And yet ... Leftists know just when to start indoctrinating.


Believe me, if it comes from MA, it is bad news for the children. Here in MA, the schools, for the sake of the child's self-esteem, promote them from grade to grade without the child having achieved competency IN that grade. The finished product is not a pretty sight. I live in a small, fairly affluent community south of Boston. Even people with modest incomes hire tutors to teach their children what our schools are incapable of (reading, writing and arithmetic), those with more money send them to private schools.



Your story makes perfect sense to me.

I only filled the holes in my math understanding when I taught the Singapore math word problems to my own children. Visualizing the quantity relationships and proportions with bars clicked something that had been missing.

We put too much emphasis and time on seeing fractions in terms of pizza and not enough on the useful info about the relationships among the numbers each fraction tells you. That misunderstanding just worsens in algebra but it goes back to inadequate explanations or practice in arithmetic.

The fuzzy, hands on math and science curricula being pushed (sorry Dr J but it's the EHR division) by NSF makes this even worse now.


One of the major education blogs has picked up this story as well. So far the commenters seem to be having my reaction.

This NYT story indicates a lack of familiarity with decades of research as to what works in education.



what is the goal of the increased domestication of children? the government educators want to literally change childrens' neurological development ("schools in about a dozen states have begun to use a program intended to accelerate the development of young students’ frontal lobes"). to what ends?


charlie, I think I have that problem, too--though never formally diagnosed . When I was young my mom had to put nail polish on the toe of my left foot and inside that shoe so I knew left from right.
Working with columns of numbers is a nightmare. I regularly invert them. Even taking down phone numbers over the phone is a disaster. Even though I repeat each number as I write it down, I regularly do it wrong.

Now words are another story--


Clarice, I think you recognize leftists from the right pretty well now.


Daddy, regarding synesthesia, when I was a five my parents obtained an old piano. I distinctly associated different colors when I heard different notes. A was golden, E blue, C red, D yellow, G white, etc. Not that uncommon among musicians (I am strictly an amateur) at least according to a forum for piano lovers on which I lurk.



Jane, The front page of the WaPo reports how the govt of Ireland has put itself on a fiscal diet now that they are broke--Even the pm has taken a 20% cut in salary--Think what a good radio host could do with this and the lavish Congressional and WH personal spending!!!!!


math, schmath. Have always hated it. Thank God everyday for calculators.


And , Jane. Queen Elizabeth traveled to her vacation on a regular passenger train and Prince William slept on the streets of London to see how the destitite live--surely Pelosi can give up her private plane and the MO staff cut, and the czars sent home and the Congress and its staff along with the president can take 20% pay cuts..Oh, serve cheese doodles at the Wed soirees and stop erecting fancy glass tents for state dinners. Everyone else had a smaller guest list and managed to struggle thru with the inside state dining rooms.

Thomas Collins

Wow, with these sophisticated neuroeducrats and their methods, we will soon have breakthroughs in quantum theory. We will have microchips with tremendous storage capacity. We'll have great dialogues about philosophy, a great text about the ancient Hebrew people, another text about an uppity carpenter who might have had quite of a following, vehicles that can travel in outer space, wonderful artwork in chapels, breakthroughs in drug therapy for infectious diseases, and a wordwide integrated information network. Oh, we already have this stuff from folks educated without the benefit of the neuroeducrats? Never mind.



I swear Obama is only in it for the bennies - as is most of Congress. We will have to pry it from their cold dead hands.


Jane--think of how angry people are already and how much angrier they will be to reminded of how many bennies these thugs are awarding themselves even as the heads of fellow govts are cutting back on their own privileges and perks..


I know, the anger is just building and building.

I don't know if we can wait until April to march on Washington.




I tried.

Carol Herman

Add music! And, today, add computing skills. Without school, kids not only learn how to 'text,' they do so using abbreviations. And, what not. That they learn by SHARING.

Peer group management was never better than at building skills between friends.

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