Education Gladfly celebrates April Fool’s Day with rollicking ed reform jokes. My favorite was P. Edantic’s analysis of “Writing Implements Matter: A Meta-analysis of Research into the Cognitive Effects of Graphite Density.”
The Suburban Institute is the source of this careful study by metallurgists Randy Dixon and Shirlee Ticonderoga, which re-analyzes decades of research into the impact of #2 versus #3 pencils on the quality of pupil penmanship. Despite the spread of newer technologies in U.S. English classes, it seems that many children still learn hand-writing, and it appears that there is a slight but statistically significant relationship between their pencil lead and the clarity of their written expression. That correlation does not, however, work in the direction one might suppose. Common sense would suggest that softer graphite compounds, being easier to write with, would boost fluency and accuracy of expression. To the contrary. Insofar as any effects can be discerned (and these seem to be strongest in third grade), the harder pencil leads, perhaps because of the sheer difficulty of getting them to make any mark at all on the paper, are associated with precision and economy of student expression.
I guess you had to be there.