Yay For College App Test Out Options – But Read The Fine Print

Look at your social media feed today and you may have felt a wee bit of relief that yet another college announced SAT and ACT scores are no longer required for undergraduate admissions. For test-weary students, knowing 800+ colleges offer some type of standardized testing opt-out sounds like good news. But, before you recycle the test prep manuals, be sure to read the fine print.

Beginning August 1, 2015, prospective freshmen interested in applying to George Washington University have the option of skipping the SAT and ACT tests entirely. That is, of course, unless they are homeschoolers – OR – they come from a high school that didn’t issue traditional grades – OR – they’re recruited NCAA Division I athletes – OR – they are applying to a special 7-year accelerated BA/MD program. The Admission’s website explains: “The best indication of whether a student will be successful at GW is their performance in high school – the grades they earn and the rigor of their coursework.”

Excuse me while I scratch my head for a moment. GW will exempt SAT and ACT test scores for a super strong GPA? That new admissions’ policy doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, knowing that inflated high school grades have lead to 30% of college freshmen dropping out of school in their first year.

And let’ not forget about cheating. Not long ago, Education Week reported how one-third to one-half of classroom students have unabashedly admitted to cheating. Whether it’s buying a paper that someone else has written for them or looking up answers on their smart phone during a test, traditional classroom students are literally doing whatever it takes to make the grade.

The good news is, other testing opt-out colleges are trying to be more equitable in their admission process.

Brandeis University in Massachusetts, for example, offers freshmen applicants an opt-out testing choice. Choice A (which is not really much of a choice) allows students to substitute a combination of scores from three SAT-Subject Tests; APs; or IB exams instead of traditional SAT or ACT scores. With Choice B (which is a pretty cool choice), applicants can submit a Portfolio that includes “one graded analytical writing sample from 11th or 12th grade”. That is, of course, unless you’re a homeschooler.

Temple University in Phildelphia took an entirely different tack, offering the Temple Option, where prospective students “submit self-reflective, short-answers to a few specially designed, open-ended questions instead of their SAT or ACT scores”. Unless, you guessed it, you’re a homeschooler.

Having conducted my fair share of end-of-year homeschool compliance reviews, I completely understand the need to assess homeschool students by something more than parent-issued grades when you’re applying for post-secondary schools and jobs. Just as you find in any school choice population, a few unsavory types will try to pull a fast one, in terms of proving accountability. All the same, I think these college testing opt-out policies unfairly target homeschoolers and require a separate and unequal set of admissions standards.

I’m not going to point to studies suggesting that homeschoolers out-perform public school peers on standardized tests and, therefore, should be automatically assumed to be qualified to enter any college of their choice. Frankly, I think those studies are flawed by their self-selection bias and make for a weak argument. But, to automatically assume that mommy grades on a homeschooler’s transcript are automatically inferior or suspect is both offensive and naive.

If colleges suspect the validity of grades for some students, then what about online schools? The National Education Policy Center found online K – 12 students being educated at unacceptably low levels. Yet, these students are still passing classes, in part because they can take an exam over and over again until they pass it. Add to that the fact that some online schools don’t require face-to-face interaction to verify which student is actually completing the work. Still, college admissions officials do not seem to feel cyber students need to be held to a different level of testing opt-out accountability – in the same way as homeschoolers.

I applaud the proactive step some colleges are taking to help end the testing frenzy we find ourselves in as a country. Clearly, alternative methods exist in selecting students who can succeed in college and I look forward to seeing future data that tracks the opt-out testers over time.

My hope, however, is that colleges rethink how they view homeschoolers in this process and create a more equitable testing option process.

What do you think of the double standard testing option policies?
Share your thoughts below!

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Signing Up For Sports

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. We’ve all heard that statement, but how often do we, as parents, let the notion of physical education slide with our kids – especially if our child tends to be a target of bullying or is just generally clumsy?

There’s a lot you can learn from organized sports, beyond developing healthy habits to keep your body fit. Teamwork is an important life skill people need, but that’s not always the goal of signing up for a sport.

Stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing your body to a limit can help a person develop a work ethic and stamina for striving towards goals that will help them long after they’ve cooled down and showered. More importantly, though, getting involved in a sport at an early age encourages the development of positive coping skills for when a person needs an outlet for letting go of stress or finding a way to relax.

Selecting a sport for your child usually involves a balance between time commitment (someone’s got to do the driving) and finances (ice hockey, for example, requires a lot of expensive equipment). A child’s personal preference also plays a big role in picking a sport.

If your idea of a good time does not include watching a bunch of little kids standing idly in a baseball field – while 3 kids try to do something with a small ball (namely the pitcher, the catcher, and the batter), then take a look at these 95 different organized sports your kid can learn.

We’ve taken that list and broken it down into a short list of sport suggestions for 6 different types of kids.

Your child has an incredible amount of energy, try:

  • Swimming or water polo
  • Track and field
  • Speed skating

Your child is a natural risk taker, try:

  • Parkour (yes, there’s a class for that)
  • Diving
  • Kickboxing

Your child takes a logical approach to everything, try:

  • Billiards (think vectors)
  • Juggling (there’s math involved)
  • Orienteering

Your child lacks coordination, try:

  • Kayaking
  • Horseback riding
  • Weightlifting

Your child doesn’t like team sports, try:

  • Wrestling
  • Golf
  • Tennis

Your child doesn’t like competing with others, try:

  • Archery
  • Rock climbing
  • Roller skating

What sports have your kids participated in?
What’s been their favorite?
What’s been dreaded?

Hoagies Gifted June 2015 Free Time Blog Hop. Visit Hoagies Gifted to read more about this topic from other bloggers.

Signing Up For Sports Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop

Discovering Science: Angel Wings and Waterfowl

** The Everyday Learning May 2015 Discovering Science Blog Hop is all about Life Science. **

Our local nature center built a brand new waterfowl exhibit, even though the nearest lake is a mile up the mountain. (Okay, it’s a really steep hill with lots of trees growing on it, but it feels like a mountain somedays.)

Not until fingers started pointing through the wire fence did I slow down to take notice of what was in the pen. Clearly, something was wrong with the geese. At first glance, it looked as though the birds were walking around with their wings sticking out – kind of like there were doing a mating ritual.

On closer look, we saw that the wings were permanently bent in a painfully awkward position away from the bird’s body. Then we saw the sign.

Feeding bread to ducks and geese is a major No-No. In the past, I had heard people say you shouldn’t feed wild animals, but I always thought it was because it made them dependent on humans and they would lose their natural ability to find food for themselves.

Even though we think of bread as a food high in carbohydrates, enriched bread has more protein in it than a baby duck or gosling needs. As biologists from Michigan State explain – when birds eat too much bread, especially when they’re still young, their wings grow too fast for the rest of their body. The young bird’s body cannot support the weight, so the wings become twisted and deformed. Twisted wings can’t fly, which means the birds can’t look for food, migrate, or even escape from predators.

Stumbling on this bird exhibit opened up so many more questions.

Everyday Learning About Angel Wings

  • Birds with Angel Wing cannot fly. Can you name other naturally flightless birds? Think off the top of your head and you’ll guess penguin and ostrich, but did you know there are over 40 types of flightless birds found in the world today? As you read about the birds, study their physical features and make a chart. Do the birds have anything in common that allows them defend themselves against predators? Look at their feet or talons – their beak – their size – other methods for moving – even their behavior pattern. Don’t forget to look at habitats. Do most flightless birds live on a certain continent or are they spread across the world?

    While you’re at comparing and contrasting birds, take a look at their diets. Obviously, bread is not good for birds because it’s high in protein; but what should birds eat? Some birds, like eagles, eat fish – but isn’t that high in protein, also? While a trip to the library or a good keyword search will help you find answers to your questions, you can also reach out and ask an Aviary Expert if you get stumped.

  • Check out this short animation that explains how birds fly with a great analogy using a boat moving down a river. If you want to learn more about how birds fly, here’s some free middle school level lesson plans on bird flight.

  • Be a Citizen Scientist with Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. Pick from one of 6 ongoing projects, like Project FeederWatch and Nest Watch, and add your bird data to real research. If you visit the Cornell bird link, be sure to click around their site. You’ll find bird cams and all kinds of free resources to help you build birdhouses and keep learning about birds of all types.
  • It’s commonly believed that most birds lost the ability to fly because they weren’t being chased by predators. Eventually, a special bone in their chest, that is used to hold wing muscles in place, devolved from their skeletons.

    Now, here’s the interesting tidbit. In February 2015, the Smithsonian Magazine reported that scientists have found evidence that evolution can be reversed. Bones found in dinosaur fossil remains (but not found in animals descended from dinos) have been found, again, in the embryos of some modern-day birds.

    Evolutionary biology is an advanced topic. But, if you have a kid who is really into dinosaurs or finds birds kind of cool, then you should first check out the University of California’s What Did T-Rex Taste Like free online learning module. Trust me when I say you’ll be going down a very long and interesting rabbit hole learning about the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds.

If you were going to explore Angel Wings with your kids, what would you study? Share your ideas below!

** The May 2015 Discovering Science Blog Hop is all about Life Science. Read how other families have stumbled upon a learning adventure in their everyday life! **

7 Signs of Perfectionism in Children

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist until I got to college. I grew up hearing many messages about how I didn’t apply myself in school, so I saw myself as more lazy than anything else.

Imagine my surprise when I was sitting around the dorm having 2am pizza with friends when one of them said, “You can be so harsh, but we’ve learned to ignore it because you are always hardest on yourself. Don’t you ever get tired of aiming for perfection all the time?”

Like a bucket of cold water dumped over my head, I was startled by a truth I hadn’t seen in myself before. In psycho-babble, I was a self-oriented perfectionist. I held unattainably high standards for myself. I would avoid failure at all costs. And, I was incredibly self-critical.

So began a lifelong journey struggling with identifying my perfectionist tendencies and trying hard to not let them damage my own children.

Aiming for high standards can actually be a positive trait we’d like to see in people. But when that drive for perfection breeds a fear of failure and avoiding opportunities, then the line has been crossed to the dark side.

Some telltale signs of perfectionism are easy to spot. Others can be mistaken for other personality traits, like obstinacy. Can you spot the hidden signs of perfectionism in your child?

7 Signs You May Have An Unhealthy Perfectionist On Your Hands

  1. Says: “I can’t stop until I get it right”
    Practicing something over and over again until it’s done flawlessly can lead to some pretty amazing accomplishments. It’s important, however, to understand what’s motivating this relentless drive. Is the kiddo afraid of disappointing a parent? Do they fear a teacher getting angry? Or, do they have an unrealistic expectation of themselves? Highly gifted kids can be especially prone to this because their physical abilities do not always keep pace with their mental prowess.
    Unhealthy Sign: Not smiling, high-fiving, or otherwise acknowledging the small improvements that build towards mastery.
  2. Scribbles or heavily erases their paper to cover up a mistake
    Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a part of being human. True, some mistakes can be embarrassing, but a consistent compulsion to hide every slight error usually speaks to an insecurity about a child’s need to be perfect.
    Unhealthy Sign: When that scribbling or erasing is so intense it creates holes in the paper. The mistake is not just hidden. It is obliterated.
  3. Says: “I have to do it this way because it’s the rule”
    Some kids are natural rule followers. To a certain extent, parents and teachers like to see that type of behavior and will go out of their way to encourage such compliance. The problem becomes when kids refuse to trust their own intuition or think outside the box for solving certain problems.
    Unhealthy Sign: Kids who stubbornly believe that following specific rules will always lead them to success often have a fear of failure. It may also point to low self-esteem and faulty thinking that success depends on outside forces more than personal qualities.
  4. Rips up, crumples, and stomps on less than perfect work
    Anyone who has ever used an old-fashioned typewriter knows the frustration of getting to the end of the page and suddenly making a typo. Some reports just can’t have a lick of white-out on them. So, out comes a fresh sheet of paper to start all over, again.
    Unhealthy Sign: Just like the person who scribbles their mistakes into oblivion, tearing into a piece of people is a living metaphor of what that mistake may be doing to their self-esteem – ripping it to shreds.
  5. Overly anxious while waiting for results
    Waiting get be nerve-racking, whether it’s getting a graded test back or hearing who won 1st place at a competition. You’ve worked hard and you want to know if the effort paid off. Listening to a child during that waiting period can clue you in to whether or not their anxiety warrants concern. A little bit of self-criticism is okay because it can help a person recognize what areas they may still need to work on.
    Unhealthy Sign: Unrelenting negative self talk streams like, “I knew I was going to mess up. I can’t believe I didn’t do better. Do you think I failed? I should have studied/practiced more!” suggest an unhealthy level of worry over perfectionism.
  6. Hides work if it has a grade of less than 100%
    I used to tell students: 95% on a test is just as much an “A” as a 100%. At the end of the year, you’re only going to see a letter grade and no one will know if it was perfect or not except for you and the teacher. For most kids, hearing that is an epiphany.
    Unhealthy Sign: Being disappointed that you may have lost a couple of points is understandable, but beating yourself up or being ashamed over answering one question wrong is a concern.
  7. Says: “No, no, no. I’m not going to try it!”
    Have you seen the Nailed It meme, where people post pictures of their failed attempts at recreating Pinterest projects? It’s safe to say that those people are unlikely suffering from perfectionism. Instead, they’re willing to try something outside their comfort zone and then laugh about it when it goes hilariously wrong. Unfortunately, not everyone is as confident in taking such chances in life. Perfectionists, in particular, will often avoid new things because they’re afraid of not nailing it on their first take.
    Unhealthy Sign: Look at the degree, intensity, and frequency of refusals to try new things that involve a level of personal ability. Everybody has the right to prefer certain activities over others, but consistently refusing to try a wide variety of new experiences may speak to an extreme fear of failure.

Have you seen hidden signs of perfectionism in your kids?
How do you help them overcome it?

Stop by next week and we’ll talk about helping children overcome the negative effects of perfectionism.

** Read what other bloggers have to say about Perfectionism and other Gifted 2E Quirks in the May 2015 Gifted Homeschoolers’ Blog Hop. **

#DearMrPresident About that 20

A year ago, I blogged about a group of homeschool kids in New England that started a petition to have Andrew Jackson’s picture taken off the $20 bill. (You can find a bunch of Everyday Learning ideas about Andrew Jackson at the original blog post.) Sure, Jackson was the — President of the United States, but he really wasn’t all that great of a decent human being.

The push to have Jackson’s portrait taken off the twenty has been around for some time. But, with the power of social media and the Women on 20s website, this campaign has reached a whole new level.


Agree or disagree, you can harness this hot topic into a fascinating learning journey.

Everyday Learning With a $20 Bill:

  • No record reportedly exists for why certain individuals were selected to be on different denominations, but see if you can make an educated guess after reading the White House’s presidential biographies. You can also talk about why Ben Franklin – who was not a president – was honored with a portrait.

    Check out the Federal Reserve’s free downloadable lesson plan that explores this exact question, if you want to save some planning time.

    • $1: George Washington
    • $2: Thomas Jefferson
    • $5: Abraham Lincoln
    • $10: Alexander Hamilton
    • $20: Andrew Jackson
    • $50: Ulysses S. Grant
    • $100: Benjamin Franklin
  • Read about how the U.S. Treasury Department designs paper currency. Enlarge a photocopy of the front and backsides of a dollar bill. Have your kids identify each of the symbols with a 1 or 2 sentence explanation of what they mean.
  • Take a look at the list of nominated women. Pick 3 names that are unfamiliar. Research them and create a poster that lists 5 interesting facts about each woman.
    • Harriet Tubman*
    • Wilma Mankiller*
    • Rosa Parks*
    • Eleanor Roosevelt*
    • Susan B. Anthony
    • Clara Barton
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    • Rachel Carson
    • Shirley Chisholm
    • Betty Friedan
    • Barbara Jordan
    • Patsy Mink
    • Alice Paul
    • Frances Perkins
    • Margaret Sanger
    • Sojourner Truth
      * – Voted as one of 4 finalists on the Womens on 20 national poll
  • What about paper currency in other countries? Do they only feature past presidents and kings? Do any of them have a woman featured on their money? How often have other countries changed the portrait of who has been featured on their money? You can start with the Bank of England and compare their banknotes to American dollars. You can make a chart that compares and contrasts the answers to these questions across the different countries that you research.
  • Discuss or debate which criteria is more important in determining who should be featured on paper currency. For example: Should only elected officials be honored? How do you measure patriotism across different centuries? If you’re basing your criteria on humanitarian good, how many people should have benefited from a person’s achievements?

    There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. What you’re looking for, however, is the ability to back up your criteria picks with good reasons – not just emotions or opinions – and to be consistent with your reasoning across the selection of every person featured on paper currency.

Do you think Andrew Jackson should be replaced on the $20 bill? How else are you exploring this topic with your kids?

Got Gamer Girls?

Stunningly beautiful only begins to describe the brand-new Never Alone video game. Developed by a subsidiary of the Alaskan Cook Inlet Tribal Council, in collaboration with almost 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members, Never Alone introduces a new genre of “World Video Games”. Already a debut award winner, Never Alone taps into the rich Iñupiaq culture, to create an atmospheric puzzle platform.

Playing as an Iñupiat girl, gamers explore everywhere from the tundra to underwater ice caverns in order to save the girl’s village from an eternal blizzard. Take a look for yourself!

Now, I’m not the biggest proponent of video games, but there are certain elements about Never Alone that make me want to pick up the controller myself.

  • Non-Sexualized Female Protagonist
    In the gaming world, finding strong female characters who aren’t falling out of their scant or form-fitting clothes is tough. Never Alone’s Nuna is no less the hero for making it through all her challenges while wearing sensible shoes and warm clothes.
  • Cooperative Game Play
    Just as in real life, one person can’t be expected to do everything. It usually takes teamwork to accomplish a big goal. In order to navigate through the game, players must switch between playing as Nuna and playing as her fox companion. Alternatively, two players can tag-team the game.
  • Exploration of Spiritual Connection to the Natural World
    Yes, the goal of the game is to overcome the blizzard, but that’s not accomplished through conquering and destruction. As a Wired game reviewer pointed out, players wind up learning about “respect for nature, one another, and one’s elders . . . cultivating a spiritual connection with the land. In short, community-informed selflessness.”
  • Learn Something New
    Unlocking challenges is rewarded with short educational videos that share elements of the Iñupiat culture.

  • I think PC Gamer described playing the game best:

    [W]hat you’re doing is reclaiming, rescuing the fragments of a way of life that’s melting away into the ocean, in order to shore up the sense of fellowship that’s boldly insisted upon by the game’s title.

    The Never Alone video game is available for PC download, as well as for various gaming systems.

    Have your kids played Never Alone, yet?
    Tell us what you think of the game!

Double Or Add Multiplication Math Hack

Some kids just can’t remember their basic multiplication facts. They seem to understand the math concept – and given long enough, they can successfully complete a worksheet – but, for whatever reason, they just don’t have fact families past 5 memorized.

If you have a kiddo who is a whiz with addition but struggles with multiplication, try showing them this simple trick that will help speed up multiplying any 2 numbers – no matter the size.

Begin by drawing 3 columns on a sheet of paper. Down the center column, write the number for the multiplication fact family you will be working with. We’re going to practice multiplying by 7, in this example.

In the first row of the left column write “1”. Say, “Any number times itself equals that number. So, what does 7 times 1 equal?” Write the number seven in the right column.

Move your attention to the second row of the left column. Say, “If we double the number one, what number do we get?” Write the number two in that left column spot.

Now say, “When we’re working on completing this chart we have to remember that whatever we do to one side, we have to do to the other side. So, if we doubled the one on the left side, we have to double the 7 on the right side. What number do we get?” Write the number fourteen in the second row of the right column.

Easy Trick to Multiply Any 2 Numbers

For the next row, ask your child to add together 1 plus 2. Write “3” in the left column. Next, say, “If we added 1 and 2 together on the left side, we have to add 7 and 14 together on the right side. What number do we get?”

Keep working your way down the chart. Eventually, your child should notice that you alternate between doubling or adding two numbers together to get the next product answer in the list. Once you finish the chart, go back and check your work with a calculator to make sure the numbers added up correctly.

Easy Trick to Multiply Any 2 Numbers

The cool thing about this trick is that it can work for any multi-digit fact family. This can be really useful when you’re dividing by 2- or 3-digit numbers without a calculator. Just make a quick double-or-add chart along the edge of your paper and viola, solving multiplication facts will no longer be a problem.

Why Does It Work?

The Distributive Property for Multiplication allows us to either multiply one number by another number – OR – to multiply one number with smaller numbers that add up to a larger number. You can see the Double-Or-Add Math Hack in action with larger numbers.

Easy Trick to Multiply Any 2 Numbers

Understanding how the Distributive Property works is pretty important to algebra. But, I’d save the longer explanation for after they’ve memorized their facts. For right now, your 3rd or 4th grader can stick with building their math confidence as they successfully multiply big numbers.

Do you have a math hack for remembering multiplication facts? Share what’s worked for your kids below!

Convergence Insufficiency and Reading Problems

Convergence Insufficiency

In the professional work I do, I see a number of families who have spent a great deal of money on educational testing, in an attempt to understand why their very bright child is not reading at a higher grade level. So very often, the test reports I read make the same recommendation: Follow up with a pediatric optometrist for Convergence Insufficiency. The families are looking for a second opinion because they’re not convinced expensive vision therapy is the best answer.

Convergence Insufficiency is a medical condition where a person’s eyes do not work together to focus on something close up, such as a book or a computer screen. To understand how CI works, think of what it feels like to look through a pair of binoculars. The binoculars force both of your eyes to center in on the same magnified spot at the end of your nose so you can look at an object in detail. For someone with CI, their binocular vision does not work correctly. One eye will wander off in a different direction when they try to read something up close. This inability to stay focused may cause double vision, headaches, or squinting.

The medical and vision fields know that CI exists and that it can effect a person’s ability to learn. Unfortunately, the expensive vision therapy that is so often recommended to treat CI does not always deliver the results that parents hope for.

Basic Facts About Convergence Insufficiency:

So, how do you know if vision therapy is going to help your underachieving kiddo? Well, the first step is to figure out if your child has a reading disability (they can’t seem to remember how to sound out words) – or if they have a problem with reading (they get distracted when they try to read)?

Reading disabilities are neurological in nature. For some reason, the person’s brain just does not remember the phonics skills they have been taught. Sometimes the breakdown is in remembering the individual sounds that letter combinations make up. Other times, the dyslexic child has learned those phonics skills but they just can’t seem to pick up the speed in piecing it all together.

Having a problem staying focused on a reading task, on the other hand, can actually have multiple causes. For some children, ADHD may cause their inattention or distractibility and a pediatrician could prescribe medication to help. For other children, they may have an undiagnosed learning disability so what looks like distraction may actually be avoidance so they don’t feel bad when they fail at their lesson. In this case, specialized instruction would be the best treatment option.

For children who actually have Convergence Insufficiency, the distractible behavior is linked to the visual system. Trying to read the words that they know is literally a tiring and painful task for these kids. CI can result in headaches when a person tries to read for a long time – which may cause some people to avoid reading altogether.

An easy way to screen your own child for CI is to go to prepare an informal reading test on your computer. Cut and paste some age-appropriate text into a word processor. Set the font size to 14 or 16 point. Print the sheet and tape it to a blank wall or an uncluttered refrigerator door. Ideally, the text should be at least 50 words long. Have your child sit or stand eye-level with the text at least 5 feet away and have them read it out loud. Do they stumble over words? Do they have to sound out most of the words? Do they take a long time to read everything? If so, there’s a good possibility that CI is not the cause of the underachievement and vision therapy will not help.

If, on the other hand, they have no problems reading the text from a distance, then try reading normally from a book. Ask your child how it feels to read something up close. If they complain about blurriness or or even that words are jumping around, it may be time to make an appointment with a developmental optometrist to discuss convergence insufficiency treatment.

Just as a person may go to the gym for strength training in their legs to help build up stamina for a long hike, treatment for CI involves training the eye muscles to work together to stay focused. Vision therapy cannot cure CI, but it help make reading an easier task. Generally speaking, if your child is not experiencing improvements after 4 weeks of vision therapy, then there’s a good possibility it is not the correct treatment for your child’s reading problem.

HoagiesGifted May 2015 Blog Hop About Gifted Friendships

This blog post is part of the HoagiesGifted May 2015 Blog Hop. Visit Hoagies’ Blog Hop home page to read more about twice exceptional children, written by other professionals and parents of gifted kids.

Read More

Has your child been diagnosed with Convergence Insufficiency?
Has vision therapy improved their academic achievement?

Books Your Child Should Read, According to Neil deGrasse Tyson

13 Books Your Child Should Read Recommended by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Science nerds know Neil deGrasse Tyson for his passionate pursuit of all things outer space and of objective knowledge grounded in well-born facts.

For those of you less familiar, Dr. deGrasse Tyson is a Harvard-educated physicist who headed presidential commissions charged with charting a new American course for space exploration. He’s written numerous books and been on television shows featured around the world. And, he’s funny, too. He created StarTalk, a comedy-based podcast for people who don’t really dig science.

Over the years, deGrasse Tyson has recommended books that all children and adults should should read. We’ve compiled a list of those books for you.

On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier
In 2013, deGrasse Tyson told the New York Times that he’ll probably never write a children’s science book because he does not think he could ever top Frasier’s science writing.
There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System by Tish Rabe
It might be Dr. Seuss, but the publishers sure were on the ball updating the book back when Pluto got demoted from its planet status.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
It’s an all-time favorite novel for deGrasse Tyson – especially the misguided scientists who spent too much time looking for answers to all the wrong questions about life.
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Pinocchio was a read-aloud book in the deGrasse Tyson house for its strong message on what bad behavior looks like and why making better choices is important. Spoiler alert: Jiminy Cricket doesn’t last long in the original story.
Mathematics and the Imagination by Edward Kasner and James Newman
Filled full of stories and puzzles, this oldie but goodie takes topics from pi to logarithms and boils them down to an understandable level that even young teens can grasp. As deGrasse Tyson said, this was one of the books that helped him understand “the general power of mathematics to decode the universe”.
One, Two, Three . . . Infinity by George Gamow
Considered to be one of the most influential books he’s ever read, One, Two, Three is an easy-to-read, albeit a bit meandering, conversation-style book about math, science, its origins, and all kinds of curious questions physicists were grappling with 50 years ago.

In a well known Reddit Ask Me Anything session, deGrasse Tyson shared another list of books – this one for every single intelligent person on the planet. In sharing this list, he said, “If you read all of the works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

The Bible
“To learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”
The System of the World by Isaac Newton
“To learn that the universe is a knowable place.”
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
“To learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
To learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
“To learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
“To learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”
The Prince by Niccolo’ Machiavelli
“To learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

Have you read any of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recommended books with your kids? Tell us how it went!

See You Later Alligator

A Making It Work Guest Blog

I have seen alligators, fish, movable Popsicle sticks, and more as ways to teach the math idea of greater than or less than to young children. Even though these are a good visual tools, to be honest, there are no alligators or even fish in mathematics.

Because many students still fail to understand this concept, here is a different approach which you might want to try. Since all kids know how to connect dots, let’s use that approach.

Suppose we have two numbers 8 and 3. Ask the students, “Which number is greater?” Yes, 8 is greater. Let’s put two dots beside that number.”


Now ask, “Which number is smaller or represents the least amount? Yes, three is smaller. Let’s put one dot beside (in front of) that number.”


Now have the students connect the dots.


It will work every time! When two numbers are equal, put two dots beside each number and connect the dots to make an equal sign.

What makes this method a little different is that the students can visually see which number is greater because it has the most dots beside it; so when reading the number sentence, it is usually read correctly.

This Everyday Learning guest post was written by Scipi, an educator from Kansas who currently teaches math at the local community college. Read more of her easy-to-use math ideas at gofigurewithscipi.blogspot.com.

How are you exploring elementary math concepts today?
Share your ideas below!