# Category: Education

## High School Math in Middle School

In September, my granddaughter Rhiannon (then 13) made an aggressive and courageous mathematical decision. Coming off acing ninth-grade Algebra 1 the previous year, she convinced her middle school to let her double up in math: her eighth grade schedule would include both Algebra 2 and Geometry.

Her mother (my daughter Emily) was concerned about the workload; her father was convinced it was foolhardy. To complicate the decision, scheduling conflicts made it impossible for her to take Geometry in her middle school; it had to be an online course. I volunteered to be her mentor. (Full disclosure: my last Geometry course was 1958-59.)
Continue reading “High School Math in Middle School”

## Innumeracy and Chicanery

I am no fan of standardized testing, but New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof appears to be. And his 4/25 column (“Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?”), which uses such measuring tools to make a point, is distressingly misleading.

In order to demonstrate our country’s incompetence in mathematics, he presents three questions from a 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test administered worldwide to eighth graders.

The first question:

What is the sum of the three consecutive whole numbers with 2n as the middle number?

6n+3
6n
6n-1
6n-3

Only 37% of USA kids got it right (the correct answers are at the bottom of this post). Continue reading “Innumeracy and Chicanery”

## In Praise of Children’s Librarians

When I was a boy, elementary schools did not have libraries. We didn’t know what we were missing because our town had a Carnegie Library.

Beginning in 1889, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie built homes for books. Eventually his philanthropy erected 2,509 public libraries, two-thirds of which were in the United States. The one in my little California farming community was by far the grandest structure in our town. The stairway on the left led up to the adult library. I was not permitted to pass through those doors. But there was a entry Continue reading “In Praise of Children’s Librarians”

## Admitting Writers and Artists to Harvard

The following essay is taken without alteration from Harvard Magazine’s current issue. I reprint it without comment because its clarity and persuasiveness require none.

## *     *     *     *     *

Porter University Professor Helen Vendler, a  preeminent poetry critic, has served on Harvard College’s undergraduate admissions committee. Given contemporary admissions processes and pressures, she recalls “wondering how well T.S. Eliot (who had to do a preparatory year at Milton Academy before he could risk admittance, and whose mother was in consultation with Harvard and Milton officials before deciding what to do with him after he finished high school in St. Louis) would have fared, or Wallace Stevens (admitted as a special student to do only three years’ study), or E.E. Cummings (admittedly, a faculty child).” Accordingly, she proposed that alumni interviewers receive some guidance on how to understand, attract, and evaluate applicants whose creative talents might otherwise be overlooked, and wrote this essay, subsequently posted on Harvard’s Office of Admissions website.

Anyone who has seen application folders knows the talents of our potential undergraduates, as well as the difficulties overcome by many of them. And anyone who teaches our undergraduates, as I have done for over 30 years, knows the delight of encountering them. Each of us has responded warmly to many sorts of undergraduates: I’ve encountered the top Eagle Scout in the country, a violinist who Continue reading “Admitting Writers and Artists to Harvard”

## Cheesie Mack in “Publishers Weekly”

My first book, Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything, was released by Random House Children’s Books almost exactly one year ago. Since then I have visited over 80 schools across the country…in Massachusetts (Cheesie lives in Gloucester), New York, California, Oklahoma, Nevada, Florida, Washington, Idaho, and I can’t remember where else.

Kids love the book (witness this comment on Cheesie’s website today from a girl in Florida: “This book is so great i finished reading it in 2 days!!!!!i just don’t want to stop reading it!!!!!!). Even better, teachers have told me the stealth educational content I slipped into the laugh-out-loud story ties right in with middle-grades lesson plans.

Laughing and learning…the perfect combo!

The paperback will be released in May, and the second book in the series, Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, comes out in June. Publishers Weekly noted all this in today’s issue and included the terrific photo above from a visit I made this month to Calusa Elementary School in Miami.

This is great fun. I am having a ball!

`photo credit: Maggie Diaz`

## School Breakfast Sugar

At a school I recently visited on my Cheesie Mack book tour, I arrived as breakfast was being served. It was a sugary, carbo feast, consisting of a paper carton of chocolate milk, a plastic container of sweetened applesauce and a hard boiled egg in a twist-tied plastic bag, and a cinnamon bun in cellophane. All four items were packaged in a plastic container. Of the forty children (ages 7-11) whom I witnessed, a few paid their \$1.50, but most of the breakfasts were subsidized by government funds. Since I had 15 minutes until my first group of students would arrive for their hour with an author, I observed the breakfast.

Most striking was the gusto the cinnamon buns engendered. Every child consumed every crumb and icing drizzle. Continue reading “School Breakfast Sugar”