Inventing the new, new math symbols


Math with Bad Drawings suggests urgently needed math symbols.


Maybe school’s just not our nation’s thing

“After years of watching it struggle to perform academically in nearly every area of study, U.S. education officials told reporters Wednesday they have begun to think maybe school just isn’t the nation’s thing,” reports The Onion.

“When it comes down to it, school isn’t for everyone,” said Education Secretary John King Jr. “Every country learns in its own way,” he continued. “And that’s okay.”

Higher is better

Marketers still trying to reach inner-city child

Nation’s Marketers Only People Still Trying To Reach Inner-City Child, reports The Onion. Marketers hope to understand Derek Crawford of  Kansas City, Missouri, so they can influence his decisions as he grows older.

(They have) demonstrated more interest in Crawford than any teacher, social worker, policymaker, nonprofit organization, or government agency has during his entire life.

. . . marketing firms have reportedly devoted enough resources to know precisely which area of the city he inhabits, his favorite music, how he spends his free time, which athletes he looks up to, his preferred soda flavors, the TV shows he watches, and the websites he visits. Similarly, sources said, the marketers have access to far more data than educators do on where Crawford is and what he is doing on the days when he is absent from school.

TapSource Partners, a small marketing group in Los Angeles representing major soft drink and snack clients, confirmed that it had “spent 10 times as much money as every after-school program, outreach organization, and social service provider in the young teenager’s community.”

Out of step

Via Larry Cuban:



Onion: Serial killers didn’t get toy on store trip

Most serial killers were denied a toy in childhood when visiting a store with their parents, reports The Onion. Even one toy denial may trigger violent impulses, said forensic psychologist Edgar Pruitt. “John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Green River Killer—these were all people who did not get the toys or games they wanted. So as a parent, you have to ask yourself if the $15 you save by not purchasing Legos or a Spider-Man figurine is worth the potentially dozens of innocent lives your child might one day brutally take.”

Young girls who were told they had to eat their dinner before they could have dessert all went on to become mothers who drowned their own children in the bathtub.

Left behind

Just eat the damn marshmallow

In their zeal to produce self-regulating, calm, marshmallow-postponing students, schools are failing non-conformists, writes Elizabeth Weil in The New Republic. Do we want a generation of Stepford Kids?

In the infamous Stanford marshmallow experiment in the late ’60s, nursery school kids were left in a room with a marshmallow and told that if they didn’t eat it they’d get two marshmallows later. One third were able to defer gratification. The tots with self-control went on, “or so the psychologists say, to show the straight-and-narrow qualities required to secure life’s sweeter and more elusive prizes: high SAT scores, money, health,” Weil writes.

Her daughter is not a marshmallow kid. In second grade at a private school, she resisted “the sit-still, raise-your-hand-to-speak-during-circle-time program.” The teacher didn’t discipline her. He recommended occupational therapy.  Teachers don’t punish, Weil writes. They “pathologize.”

She met a Seattle mother whose son was referred for testing because he had trouble sitting crossed-legged. The mother “learned every one of the boys in her son’s class had been referred out for testing.”

Another family, determined to resist such intervention, paid for an outside therapist to provide expert testimony to their son’s Oakland school stating that he did not have a mental health disorder. “We wanted them to hear from the therapist directly: He’s fine,” the mother said. “Being a very strong-willed individual—that’s a powerful gift that’s going to be unbelievably awesome someday.”

Punishing students for misbehavior has been “problematic” for teachers since the 1975 Goss decision, says Jonathan Zimmerman, an education historian at New York University. The Supreme Court found that schoolchildren  have due process rights. “As a result, students can say to teachers with some authority, ‘If you do that, my mom is going to sue you.’ And that changes the score.”

Instead of controlling students through rewards and punishments, teachers are supposed to get students to control themselves. Social and emotional learning (SEL) teaches self-regulation to produce a “good student, citizen, and worker” who won’t use drugs, fight, bully or drop out.

However, there’s no evidence SEL improves academic achievement, Weil writes. Meanwhile, as small children are expected to show more self-control, diagnoses of attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are soaring.

When I asked Zimmerman, the New York University education historian, if schools had found a way to deal with discipline in the wake of the students-rights movement, he said: “Oh we have. It’s called Ritalin.”

The push for self-regulation coincides with a sharp decline in measures of independent thinking, Weil writes.

The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking judge originality, emotional expressiveness, humor, intellectual vitality, open-mindedness, and ability to synthesize and elaborate on ideas. Since 1984, the scores of America’s schoolchildren have dropped by more than one standard deviation; that is to say, 85 percent of kids scored lower in 2008 than their counterparts did in 1984.

Suppressing feelings is mentally draining, according to Stanford Professor James Gross, author of the Handbook of Emotional Regulation.

The federally funded Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is pushing its model for social-emotional learning, pre-empting other ideas, some educators complain.

Self-regulation and “grit” may be “lost in translation” in the classroom, writes Sarah Sparks on Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

Bi-Curious George

From The Onion Store:

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Brought to you by the letters S-T-E-M

Sesame Street will be brought to you by the letters S-T-E-M this season, reports USA Today. The show will focus on scientific inquiry.

Characters build bridges, launch rockets and think through problems that require trial and error, observation and data.

Young children are “natural scientists,” says Rosemarie Truglio, vice president for education and research at Sesame Workshop, which produces the show. “They’re exploring the world around them and trying to figure out how the world works.”

Slapstick will respect the laws of physics, promise the writers, who recalls the Muppet rule of thumb:  “When in doubt, throw a chicken.”

As any slapstick comedian will tell you, physics is a comedy gold mine, and the writers soon discovered — or, more likely, remembered — they could apply it to many earnest setups. In one episode, Elmo engineers an automatic spaghetti server with disastrous results. In another, Grover, pondering inclined planes, helps a cow climb a flight of stairs for a manicure.

Acknowledging Newton’s Laws of Motion, this season anyone who hits a brick wall will bounce back before sliding to the floor. “It’s more scientifically accurate slapstick,” says Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente.

. . . Invoking another Muppet rule of thumb — It’s funny anytime someone is thrown and lands painfully — Parente adds, “Nothing is funnier than gravity. Add some sound effects to gravity, and you’re golden.”

In the opening episode of the show’s 42nd season, characters help Hubert the Human Cannonball figure out how to launch himself from a cannon into a vat of blue gelatin.