Easy Ways to Handle Algebra

Algebra is one of those issues. Students have a stigma about it. They believe the hype presented by their peers. The buildup is that algebra is hard. To kids, that means either painful or impossible, both of which could be untrue. Kids don’t think for two seconds that another kid’s defeat can’t make him an authority when they’re in the same boat. They start discrediting themselves based on someone else’s situation instead of believing in their history of successes. In other words, they made it this far, so how bad could it really be?

Changes Happen to Everyone

They let themselves be stumped by change. Between shifting hormones and peer pressure, they can be misled. Some are easily persuaded. That’s why they all have parents.

Parents are proof that difficulties eventually pass. They’re kids that made it all the way to adulthood. Despite hard lessons, disliked teachers, hateful homework, and useless courses like algebra, they thrived. Clearly, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Look for Clues

They don’t realize the similarities between new subjects and old ones. There is a pattern that they don’t see. Gifted or perceptive kids may identify it. Otherwise, it takes experience or age to reveal it. That means parents are more likely to notice the blueprint. They passed middle school and at least part of high school. They survived. As such, they fit into the scenario with knowledge they didn’t realize they possessed.

The first time a kid sees a percent symbol, what does he or she think of it? It’s a new concept. What about the first time they discover that lower case “x” is also the sign for multiplication? A third example would be how the slash in a fraction also translates to division.

Actually, algebra just looks different from the math they’ve learned up to that point. It’s not even that. In reality, it’s just introduced in an unfamiliar form. Isn’t everything that they haven’t already learned? Fear of the unknown is common in children. School is a large part of their lives.

On the Bright Side…

There is good news. The algebra they fear and magnify on a paranoid pedestal has been in their lives since the first grade. Here are some examples:

1 + __ = 5 __ – 8 = 3 2 + = 6

1. It was algebra then. It’s algebra now. It just wasn’t called algebra. Every math problem with a missing number is algebraic. That’s the truth even when it isn’t mentioned.

2. This pattern continues into third grade when multiplication and division are introduced.

2 x __ = 12

12 ÷ 2 = __

3. In fourth or fifth grade, it’s part of fractions, percents, and decimals when converting from one to another.

50% = ½ = ___

Express as a decimal.

4. “Word problem” means “real life application of algebra principles without using the term ‘algebra’.”

A yard is 37 feet wide and 21 feet long.

How much sod is needed to landscape it?

5. Area, volume, and perimeter use algebra. They are included in geometry, the course after algebra. How many times have students been given such math before middle school?

By the time students take pre-algebra, they have been exposed enough to succeed before taking Algebra I. That’s because they’ve been taking it all along. Now both you and they can relax a bit.

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7 Reasons to Take Assessment Tests

In high school, the pressure to be decided about life looms like a cloud.

  1. “What should I do for a living?”
  2. “What should my major be?”
  3. “What kind of job should I get?”
  4. “Should I have a job, a career, or both?”
  5. “What is the difference between those?”
  6. “What if I don’t want to go to college?”
  7. “What are all of my options?”

Students are tasked with a great deal of testing, usually to determine their readiness and the school’s performance. There is one test that doesn’t get taken. It’s an assessment test.

Assessment testing is widely varied in type and purpose. The short story is that these tests help students decide what they could do for a living. Based on what they like, what they know, or what traits successful employees in a certain industry display, these tests can take the stress out of choosing majors, jobs, and careers. In other words, they test personality and skills.

The ASVAB

One well-known assessment test is the AFQT/ASVAB used for military candidates. It is a fairly thorough examination of a person’s knowledge in a number of areas. It tests for mechanical and mathematical knowledge, among other things. Each section of the test equates to a specific industry. The idea is to be assigned to the area with the best score. It almost ensures good job performance. Even better, this can be used to measure IQ. In an ideal situation, the selected military job will translate to successful civilian employment.

The different areas of the ASVAB test mechanical skill, math, science, and several other subjects. Each of those represents a group of numerous, fairly secure jobs that military members get paid to learn. This can be a boon for those with little or no work history. Career advancement can be easier as well.

Whether contracted for two years or 30, a military veteran has considerable professional knowledge compared to many civilians. The longer they served, the more they know. According to Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development, 45% of all veterans are more inclined toward business ownership.

The Human Metrics Jung Typology Test

For those uninterested in the military, there is the Jung Typology Test http://bit.ly/J4YZCY. It pinpoints the personality type of the test taker. With that, decisions can be made about majors and jobs and careers based on the best fit for the type of person. There are four types, two of them introverted, two of them extroverted. Basically, the other factors are whether or not the person is a thinker, a judger, a sensor, a perceiver, or a feeler. Each possible combination of these aspects creates a different personality and outcome assigned to appropriate industries. Various personality tests are available at http://www.humanmetrics.com.

No Faking Necessary

Anyone can don a façade and say he plans to go to USC or become a doctor or engineer. Why USC, one of the more expensive universities, which is private, by the way? Most people don’t have the longevity or persistence to become doctors. What kind of doctor? What type of engineer? The vague answers to those questions—along the lines of “I don’t know yet”– reveal the truth, which is that it was simply talk.

Assessment tests can identify the true interests of students. People settle for good pay on jobs they hate everyday. What’s more, they are stuck in them if they have families. Despite that, why refuse to explore other possibilities? That doesn’t require quitting or taking on the lifestyle of a starving artist.

The best thing about assessments is that they can help the test taker narrow down the many choices they have. They are necessary. How else is a student supposed to be motivated enough to do what it takes to succeed?

Some people just want to get a job. A career is a better choice because at some point, advancement or ambition is expected or required to stay valuable to an organization. Assessment tests help by addressing both situations at a foundational level.

The Official Site of the ASVAB Testing Program. http://official-asvab.com/eligibility_res.htm

The Human Metrics Jung Typology Test, http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

Human Metrics, http://www.humanmetrics.com

Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans’ Business Development.

Albert R. Renteria, Founder and CEO at Albert R. Renteria Corporation and Southwest Veterans’ Business Resource Center.

What We Should Teach Our Kids About Failure

Some of the best-known people weren’t great students, including Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison. That’s common knowledge. They are known for their fantastic level of achievement despite their pasts labeling them traditional failures.

It takes a lot to persevere in situations like those.

What did their parents think of them before their successes?

Did they hold out for the best? Maybe they encouraged them no matter what. Perhaps they chimed in with the teachers that thought they were hopeless or wastes of time.

You don’t know that your kid won’t make you proud. Some people are too unique for the system or for status quo. They don’t “fit” because they’re different.

Not fitting in isn’t a crime. Trying to force a good fit should be. It certainly hurts everyone involved.

Every person mentioned here is

School isn’t adulthood. It’s a regimented framework of habit. Adults can pretty much do what they please. They have more freedom and power. Some debate that.

We don’t teach our kids to keep thinking about their futures in spite of scholastic stumbling blocks.

We lean toward teaching them tradition as opposed to success. We also model it in how we live. Telling them they won’t make it in life because they fail a school system’s measurement is wrong.

The key may lie in finding them a subject in which to excel.

  1. Encourage them to develop their hobbies for their self-esteem.
  2. Buy them magazines and books about their interests.
  3. Take them to local and major events for those activities.
  4. Introduce them to people who have succeeded with that hobby or skill.
  5. Join clubs so they can interact with others pursuing the same.
  6. Enroll them in classes where they can hone those talents or interests.

It makes their achievement real to them.

They’re just people who happen to be our kids.

10 Reasons for the Arts

Education budgets are usually low because they reflect the same ranking society gives it. Once again, this is about the rule, not the exception. That being said, the arts are being cut from school programs to save funds.

That’s a massive blunder. Vices abound. Kids are warned against alcoholism and addiction. Then they are deprived of some of the most constructive uses of their time and energy.

Supposedly, kids are sent to school in the best country in the world until they graduate. Then they are expected to attend colleges and universities to make them workplace ready. Someone somewhere thinks those 12 to 16 years or more of education can be achieved without healthy outlets for students’ emotions.

Those conduits would be the arts.

Great feelings are inspired by the artistic endeavors of others. In other words, someone creative must be involved. It’s how we get:

  1. Music
  2. Games
  3. Dance
  4. Paintings
  5. Photography
  6. Sculptures
  7. Plays
  8. Books
  9. Films
  10. Architecture

Uninformed people think that only gifted artists and performers do those things. That’s true. Places like performing arts high schools, music schools, and art institutes are where they learn and develop those talents.

20 Benefits of Creative Writing

This post focuses on creative writing and what it does for students. For a start, it:

  1. Allows them to express themselves without judgement or criticism. Surrounded by so many rules and limitations, kids need this.
  2. Sharpens their use of proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This is always good for grades and job skills.
  3. Makes them think. Once they start doing this, anything can happen.
  4. Allows them to dream. They begin to imagine their future lives, among other things.
  5. Helps them plan. The adults in their lives have expectations. Children learn to expect from themselves as well.
  6. Grows their self-esteem. Fearless, confident kids are always a plus.
  7. Encourages their creativity. This is used in play and problem-solving.
  8. Gives them liberty. Their final draft of a successful upbringing is an independent, self-sufficient adult.
  9. Gives them courage. Those who are afraid yet still move forward into a positive outcome is just one possibility of this scenario.
  10. Develops a useful skill. Practice improves execution.
  11. Gives them access to like-minded peers. Writers’ groups are another possibility. If nothing else, they can socialize with others who write and form their own.
  12. Empowers them. This speaks for itself.
  13. Makes them leaders. Most people are followers.
  14. Produces innovators. Expanding on a current process or product is a large part of business.
  15. Generates inventors. Without the new, what would people anticipate?
  16. Forms authors and writers. Many new books were released this year. Like the number of first-time novelists, it grows exponentially. The same can be said for new magazines and other print media, online and offline.
  17. Crafts poets. Communicating in a brief, written form is an underappreciated art. It will put them in touch with their emotions and other people.
  18. Builds playwrights. Who writes all of those great Broadway shows and visual feasts? Actually, a lot of people do.
  19. Constructs storytellers. This is a skill used in every aspect of life. It may begin with an idea and culminate in the review of a full life.
  20. Hones them into teachers. This is a synonym for parent, elder, older sibling, etc.

The literal meaning is fine, too.

What would you add to this list?

20 Benefits of Pleasure Reading

Lots of people only read when they must. That’s conditioning. Almost all our reading begins, ends, and is associated with basic schooling. After high school graduation, reading is completely optional. Many adults choose not to do it. It’s no surprise when their kids don’t, either.

Reading is the backbone of the book report. In it, a story is reviewed. The chosen book is usually from a recommended reading list or of the student’s own choice. The skills learned by writing these is so important that the SAT includes them.

Magazines are satisfactory as well.

Many simple things we take for granted are taught by reading. Despite lessons and tests on language arts, books demonstrate knowledge students may or may not have applied.

  1. Storytelling. Since reading starts at a minimal point at an early age, it advances to more complex dramas as they grow and mature.
  2. Different dialects and accents from other regions or countries. This is typically how someone discovers that an Irish brogue, Southern drawl, or Cockney accent refers to just that.
  3. How people from other cultures think. A story of Mexican life told from the native viewpoint gives an insight that is missed by vacationing there.
  4. Their values and morals. Anyone who reads novels that investigate the minds of criminals, e.g., sociopaths, psychopaths, etc., will learn quite a lesson.
  5. How the various classes of people sound and behave. This would reflect education, the lack thereof, and the work ethics of the lower, middle, and upper-class.
  6. The less obvious differences in romance or between genders. It could be here that a young man discovers why the object of his affection doesn’t return his calls or is constantly too busy to talk.
  7. Writing skills. A well-written book is a great example of how to write correctly.
  8. Proper grammar. What sense would it make to teach kids language arts without having it displayed somewhere?
  9. Spelling. See #8.
  10. Punctuation. See #9.
  11. Capitalization. Newspaper articles, book titles, names, proper nouns, and names—among many others—are shown as they should read in print.
  12. Consequences or a lack thereof
  13. How to write dialogue. Many children and adults wonder where exactly quotation marks go. When they start writing stories, they really need to know.
  14. Paragraph usage. The average book avoids long block paragraphs except as a style. That’s because they drive readers nuts. General advice says to divide them based on topics and responses. Books and articles show how it’s done.
  15. Importance of the serial or Oxford comma. Enemies form over this little detail. Not using it is fine until the meaning of the series is misunderstood. It was standard. Times change. Classics still include them.
  16. Vocabulary. They research a word because it’s new to them. Maybe they never knew the meaning of a term heard millions of times. With reading, their word knowledge will grow.
  17. Word definitions by context. This is one of the best things about reading. Noticing how the word is used can reveal the definition of it.
  18. History. Historical novels and stories teach. The details are rich and vivid, right down to the speech, era, and landscape descriptions. It’s like going on a brief trip. Such books are preferable to history lessons any day.
  19. Industry. Reading about the adventures of race car drivers, stunt pilots, business moguls, or other celebrities is a rush. Being too young to drive or vote can draw a kid to those accounts.
  20. How to experience the good and the bad indirectly. One method of weighing options is the see the pros and cons on paper. Mentally watching someone else do the dirty work saves experimenting in real life. Sometimes theory is enough.

Another bonus of reading is exposure to books that are potentially (or actually) great films.

The Truth About Higher Math and Basic Math

Before a student leaves elementary school, he or she has been introduced to all of the math that will be needed to learn pre-algebra, a relatively new course. Yes, in grades one through six, students will have dabbled in the math that drives them insane from middle school through college.

Algebra is disguised as solving for unknown quantities displayed as blank lines or spaces in simple math problems, e.g., 1 + 2 = __ or 5 – ? = 2.

Geometry covers shapes, figures, their characteristics, and possibilities. Many ways to say square, rectangle, or four-sided are learned, and perimeter, area, and volume appear.

Trigonometry is everything you could want to know about triangles, including finding missing sides, values, and angles.

Statistics is simply stated as an average, mean, median, mode, or range. The infamous phrase “grading on a curve” is derived from it.

As a society, math is our weakest subject. Yet technology, engineering, and sciences are math-based. Isn’t it funny how the “money jobs” require math knowledge? In addition, technological advances are the pet of younger generations. Maybe they are better at math than previously thought.

Using the true names of the math taught in elementary school—while it’s being learned–will lead to less faltering and low self-esteem as students progress in math.