Where Leah’s donation went

Leah won our “most commenting of 2017″ contest .  That means she got to pick where we donated our previous month’s blog earnings to.  How much did we donate?  We topped it up so that we could give $50.

Where did she pick?  Advancement Project

According to its website:

Advancement Project works in deep partnership with organized communities of color to dismantle and reform the unjust and inequitable policies that undermine the promise of democracy through the development of community-based solutions to racial justice issues.

Here’s their charity navigator page—  looks pretty good.



Link Love

#2 has been stuck in various airports this week.

There’s a hate loving politician in Maine who is no longer running unopposed.  Donate to Eryn Gilchrist, his opponent, here.

Domestic terrorists kill black victims in Austin.

NYTimes Conservative columnists get paid a lot to blather on about the same thing over and over again.  Also, they still don’t understand free speech.  Not that that matters because it’s easier to write something stupid for lots of money than to actually do research and know things.

A whole thread of pictures of teens in Boise, Idaho protesting.

Boston students protest in the snow on a snow day.

This post is 8 years old and still true.

One way white men can help

Health sharing ministries come with a catch

Leightpf is back!

Are career coaches worth it?

The privilege of pretending

Beautiful oops

Coffee cuts suicide risk by 50%

Math learning games

Contraction consternation


Zoos and science museums review species

Ask the grumpies: Math practice and enrichment for different kinds of learners

Natasha asks:

I have a kid who is […] having a tough time with math (3rd/4th grade): he grasps new concepts just fine, does well on tests… and then 2 weeks later he can’t remember any of it! His school math program seems to fly from topic to topic, and even though his teacher assures me that even if he missed something this year, all the same or similar topics will be revisited next year, I worry that he hasn’t had the chance to master the basic concepts. It’s more of an issue with retention of the material than understanding the concepts. I know you love math – do you have any suggestions as to what books or methods may be helpful to practice 3rd-4th grade math? I believe it is so important for kids to get solid foundation at the elementary-school stage.Teachers simply shrug and say it’s the student’s responsibility to practice old material (well, I do agree with that) and point to Khan academy. The school is using the Envision Math program. I am terrible at explaining but love doing math puzzles and fun problems together with kids – and that doesn’t seem to be enough.

On the flip side of the coin – I have a second grader who is doing really well in math and needs more challenge. The teacher gives her additional (optional) higher-level worksheets, but my daughter doesn’t seem to be thrilled about those and prefers to read or draw. We are doing some fun logic and puzzle games at home, but maybe you have additional advice on fun math activities (books, games, workbooks) that provide additional challenge without being too much like homework?

Let’s start with the older child.  There are two potential things that could be going on.

The first is that your kid is a normal kid who is good at cramming for the test and then forgetting after.  This habit is so normal that much of the US math curriculum just assumes it will happen– that repeating topics thing they’ll be doing next year even has an education jargon term.  It’s called “spiraling”.  The best math curriculum for this specific problem is called Saxon Math, which is not the most exciting math program (it can be enervating for gifted students), but does an excellent job of repeating and integrating concepts throughout the year and not doing the standard focus and forget.  There’s a good research base behind Saxon Math working well for average to below-average math students (less well for high ability and gifted).  If you’re attached to a university library, you could probably check out a textbook for 4th grade to see if it is helpful.

The second potential problem is one that I saw highlighted when I did a quick google of the Envision Math program (which I hadn’t heard of before this query).  Apparently Envision Math is  shallow (or at least that’s what people complain about along with it being repetitive) so it is natural not to remember the concepts– there’s not really anything to remember.  If what people say online is true, it’s all surface with no roots.  If you want to grow roots and approach math from a completely different angle, you can’t go wrong with Singapore Math.  That’s exactly the opposite solution of what my initial thought was, but after having read a few of these links of people complaining, I’ve reconsidered.  Another benefit to Singapore Math is that it ISN’T the same as what’s being taught at school.  Being able to do the same math multiple ways is valuable both because it keeps you from getting bored, but also because it gives a much greater context and understanding to how this magical world of numbers and mathematical concepts actually works, how it’s put together.  You start seeing the full 3-d math forest and not just the shadows of the math trees.  Those Aha! moments have always been my favorite part of math tutoring and teaching.  Singapore Math also has a strong research base, although most of this research is done on the full population of students, not any specific group.

Given my morning’s research, I take back my initial recommendation about Saxon and suggest starting with Singapore instead.  They have placement tests he can take to see which books to start with.  You will need two workbooks for each year (ex. 3a/3b) and the textbook is useful.  We didn’t find the home instruction guide or teacher’s guide to be useful– it was essentially a lot more examples and activities for the teacher to demonstrate, but your son is already getting the concepts, so the textbook and workbook should be enough.  It probably does not matter which of the three series (US/Core/CA) you use as long as you’re consistent.  We use the US editions because the other two didn’t exist when DC1 started and we wanted to reuse the textbooks.

If he also needs to know his addition/multiplication facts, we don’t really know any solution for that other than practice.  Flashcards aren’t much fun, but they do cement facts and make later math easier.

Turning to the younger daughter.

Second grade is the perfect year for Math for Smarty Pants.  In another couple of years you can get used copies of Aha! and Gotcha! by Martin Gardner which are super fun.  She may enjoy tessellations coloring books (and creating her own using graph paper!) or folding 3-d geometric shapes.  I am having a really time finding anything on amazon, but somewhere out there, there should be workbooks that show you how to use a compass to create a triangle and then other 3-d geometric shapes from that.  A quick google finds lots of the basics with “compass and straight-edge construction” (and some youtube videos where people put together the already made forms) but with cardstock, tape, and something to score with you can make really elaborate 3d designs.  Origami is another fun math craft– DC1 has been watching youtube videos to make shapes, but there’s also a lot of great books out there.  Tangrams are perfect for this age group.  This classic set from Tangoes is my favorite (mine from childhood was black, my kids’ is blue), but DC1 also really enjoyed a magnetic set that comes with a book that is occasionally available from scholastic.  I found the rubix cube super frustrating, but now there are online videos showing you how to solve it so it’s more fun.  DC1 also really enjoyed maze puzzle balls (and saved up allowance money to buy a second)– but I also find these frustrating.  I think it depends on your agility not just the thinking things through thing.  (And, as we’ve mentioned before, DragonBox is fantastic.)

If your son is willing, there are a number of card games that secretly practice concepts that they might be able to play together.  I tend to like the ones that Scholastic sells off and on– they have a really good one called money madness that was a money addition/subtraction game that we liked a lot.  Our kids recently each won the raffle for the university’s math day and got math games.   The one currently spread all over our dining room table is a simple memory game called rat-a-tat cat, and the one neatly stacked in a tin is 7 ate 9 which is a fast little addition and subtraction game.  They’re probably too simple for your kids.  :/

Our math tag has a bunch more suggestions for enrichment at various stages, including items our readers have recommended in the comments sections.

Best of luck!

What enrichment would the Grumpy Nation recommend for these ages?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , . 22 Comments »

Who is selfish?

Warning:  cattiness below.

So I was waiting at the bus stop with DC1 because you have to be I forget how old to wait without a parent.  This is usually DH’s job, but he was out of town on a business trip.

While we were waiting for the bus, a truck with a kid pulled up and parked at the corner across from the bus stop.

Then a mini-van/suv thing came and parked right where one would expect the bus to you know, pull up.

That meant that when the bus finally came, it had to stop in the middle of the street and the kids all had to walk into the middle of the street to load the bus.  The truck discharged one little girl with her dad.  The van discharged two with their mom.  (The two little girls and their mom, incidentally, live maybe two houses farther than we do from the bus stop, so maybe 5 houses away from the bus stop total.  I don’t know where the truck people live, but the bus does stop every block and a half to two blocks and our cul de sacs aren’t very long, so it can’t be that far.)

Let’s see if I can make a picture of the bus stop area using nothing but keyboard characters.

I feel like this is totally selfish.  That bus really should be able to pull safely up to the curb, which would be easier to do if the truck weren’t there and and is impossible with the van there.  (When the van isn’t there, the bus does pull up.)  The van had to make a U-turn to park where the bus is supposed to go and could have very easily parked across the street (on the side that didn’t make it into my picture), though if they’d done that, it would have only been like 4 house lengths away from their house instead of five.  The truck could have parked back a little further to make it easier for the bus to pull up.

But then, maybe I’m the totally selfish one.  I make my DC2  walk three house lengths to wait for the bus out in the cold.  I mean, sometimes it gets down into the 40s(!), and sometimes the wait is as long as 7 min (if the bus is late).  Maybe if I weren’t so selfish, I’d be keeping hir nice and warm in a heated vehicle while we waited for the bus instead of making hir suffer.

I should note that there’s one other family that takes the bus from this stop– their parents are immigrants and connected to the university somehow.  Their kids walk– I don’t know how far, but it’s longer than 5 houses.  (The dad used to walk with them, but the youngest had a birthday and is now old enough to wait by hirself, so they do.  Both kids are super nice to DC2.)

So that’s my catty parenting rant.  I guess if it really bothered the bus driver, the bus system would send out a reminder not to block the bus stop while waiting for it.  It’s a good thing waiting for the bus is usually DH’s job.  (Which is at least partly selfishness on my part, even though it makes more sense logistically and from a who needs to interact with adults standpoint.)

Networking FTW (part 2)!! Or how to get the job you really wanted in 10 short years

(See Part 1 here)

How to get the job you’ve wanted for 10 years:

Step 1:  Graduate from graduate school.  Be a lecturer for a year and some change because the job market sucks.

Step 2:  Get a faculty position.  Occasionally meet people who work for the place you will want to work because your research overlaps with theirs.  Apply to where they work a couple times when a job looks particularly interesting since your partner still lives in Paradise and you hate being without him.  Hear nothing.

Step 3:  Decide to quit your tenured faculty position.  Decide you really want to work for this other place, but it is several states away.   Apply along with a bunch of other places in Paradise.  Fail to hear back.

Step 4:  Move to Paradise, where the place you want to work is located.

Step 5:  Apply again and again as jobs come up and never hear back.

Step 6:  Get a different job where you regularly meet with people who work at the place you want to work because that is part of your job (one of the parts you like best, solidifying your desire to work there).

Step 7:  Find out that your applications for the other place never made it through the hiring screening system for reasons that nobody understands or can tell you, but the screening is automatic and very bureaucratic.

Step 8:  Do a great job at your current job, learn new skills and research areas (including writing under review papers!) that make you more attractive at the place you’ve wanted to work for several years, and as time passes, be more convincing that you’re ok with not being tenure track just by dint of not being tenure track.

Step 9:  Realize that while you value the flexibility and academic freedom aspects of your current job, you dislike the personal assistant parts of your job and you kind of wish you were still working more in your research area as part of the job that you get paid for.

Step 10:  Apply for jobs broadly.  Get a couple interviews for places that you would have enjoyed working at probably (or at least would have enjoyed the higher salaries at), but you weren’t a slam dunk fit for.  Fail to get those jobs.

Step 11:  Get an email from someone at the place you’ve wanted to work at for 10 years asking if you or your boss have any students who might be interested in a position that has opened up that looks like an even better match for you than the jobs you’ve applied for there previously.

Step 12:  Respond, “YES!  ME!!!!”  Have a conversation with the person.  Then apply, but this position also doesn’t require the full system for various bureaucratic reasons not detailed here.  Your application does not get lost.  Ace the interview which is more like a conversation because you’ve been working directly with this person off and on for the past few years and had met her even before that.   Hear from a friend that your references have been checked.  Have your boss tell you that he’s sad to lose you.  Hear the person you interviewed with tell your boss that she now owes him.  Get the job offer.  Note the salary and benefits are both better than what you have now.  Accept.  Get paperwork.  Get a start date.  Tell your boss your last day.

Step 13:  Get a terrible terrible cold because you always get sick after deciding to quit a job.  This time it better not turn into pneumonia.

Step 14:  Document and organize everything because you want to leave your previous position in a much better place than you found it!

Congratulate #1 in the comments below!

Link love

Links are light this week for reasons that may become apparent in Monday’s post!  (If you note less variety and an even stronger economic slant than usual this week, that’s because #2 hasn’t had time or brain power to do much internet surfing this week.)

How to buy a gun in 15 countries

The myth of the male bumbler

Beautiful post from a gai shan life on moving forward after no longer financially supporting a father who stole over ten thousand dollars from her

Becoming accustomed to wealth

Here’s a post criticizing Bruno Mars.  The thing is, most white people (probably) think Bruno Mars is black and haven’t read the Wikipedia page that talks about his ancestry (Filipino, Puerto Riqueno, Ashkenazi Jewish)… if race is a construct, what is important, perception or reality? Probably a bit of both.  (And there’s also colorism no doubt at play.)  Like this author, I love Bruno Mars’ recent stuff because it’s an over the top throwback to the upbeat 1990s R&B I remember from growing up. (#2 is less nostalgic, but we both wish Salt and Pepa were played on the radio more)  He should definitely be more proactive about giving credit and royalties before the song becomes a hit (Taylor Swift is very good about doing this), but once the similarities are noticed, the original artists get a cut without fuss, probably a bigger one than they would have gotten a priori (which is probably why Taylor Swift is so good about buying rights beforehand!).

h/t delagar for this one– the payoff is at the end

A sweet throwback comment thread on what our readers call their grandparents

Volunteers thread together clues to uncover CSU collection’s mystery handkerchief owner

Ask the grumpies: How to teach a kid to code?

Sandy L asks:

How to teach a kid to code when you don’t know how? (And I don’t live in a big city and I also don’t want to spend $1000 on coding camp. There has got to be a better way.)

We don’t know the answer to this question.  Here’s what we had tried on this subject back in 2015.  DC2 did really enjoy the Python for Kids book and enjoyed modifying the programs in the book, but hasn’t really come up with any programs of hir own.  We did not try Teach your kids to code.

Last summer DC1 did a week long video game design daycamp.  That used a program called Unity.  Zie fiddled around on it for about a month after the camp and then accidentally deleted or broke hir game in a way that locked it and lost interest.  Next year there’s a middle-school class that *might* teach programming but it also might not.  If it’s taught by the same teacher as the gifted-only version of the class we’re definitely not interested [update:  because DC1 is gifted, zie is only allowed to take the gifted-only version].  But there will be programming classes once zie gets to high school which is pretty exciting.  (We don’t live in a big city either, but having the university here adds a lot.)

DC1 and DC2 have both done Hour of Code in school and have links to practicing outside of school.  There’s also Khan Academy.

I dunno, does your local community college offer an intro programming class?  If so, it will probably be in Java or Python.

Any better suggestions for Sandy L?