Posts Tagged ‘Stanford University’

How Kids Learn Maths

August 18, 2014

 

 

tables

My favourite subject to teach is maths. This is not because I have a personal affinity with the subject, but because I believe that it can be taught in an extremely engaging way. I prefer to dispense with mundane text books and mindless mental math activities and concentrate on games and outdoor maths lessons such as the one I came up with called Mission Impossible.

To me, maths is an everyday skill with real relevance. That relevance must be apparent to the students. If they can’t understand why we need addition or fractions or measurement, how on earth will they be able to apply what they have learned?

That’s why I’m against teaching times tables by heart as an end point. Sure, students may be able to recall 9 x 7 instantly, but if you ask them how many tickets were sold for a sell out concert if there were 9 rows of seat with 7 seats in each row and get a blank response, they just haven”t got it!

I appreciate studies into maths like this one, but ultimately, I think it is about finding an engaging way to show how maths is applied in everyday situations:

Stanford University researchers first peeked into the brains of 28 children as they solved a series of simple addition problems inside a brain-scanning MRI machine.

No scribbling out the answer: The 7- to 9-year-olds saw a calculation — three plus four equals seven, for example — flash on a screen and pushed a button to say if the answer was right or wrong. Scientists recorded how quickly they responded and what regions of their brain became active as they did.

In a separate session, they also tested the kids face to face, watching if they moved their lips or counted on their fingers, for comparison with the brain data.

The children were tested twice, roughly a year apart. As the kids got older, their answers relied more on memory and became faster and more accurate, and it showed in the brain. There was less activity in the prefrontal and parietal regions associated with counting and more in the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, the researchers reported Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.

The hippocampus is sort of like a relay station where new memories come in — short-term working memory — and then can be sent elsewhere for longer-term storage and retrieval. Those hippocampal connections increased with the kids’ math performance.

“The stronger the connections, the greater each individual’s ability to retrieve facts from memory,” said Dr. Vinod Menon, a psychiatry professor at Stanford and the study’s senior author.

But that’s not the whole story.

Next, Menon’s team put 20 adolescents and 20 adults into the MRI machines and gave them the same simple addition problems. It turns out that adults don’t use their memory-crunching hippocampus in the same way. Instead of using a lot of effort, retrieving six plus four equals 10 from long-term storage was almost automatic, Menon said.

In other words, over time the brain became increasingly efficient at retrieving facts. Think of it like a bumpy, grassy field, NIH’s Mann Koepke explained. Walk over the same spot enough and a smooth, grass-free path forms, making it easier to get from start to end.

If your brain doesn’t have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.

“The study provides new evidence that this experience with math actually changes the hippocampal patterns, or the connections. They become more stable with skill development,” she said. “So learning your addition and multiplication tables and having them in rote memory helps.”

Quiz your child in different orders, she advised — nine times three and then 10 times nine — to make sure they really remember and didn’t have to think it through.

While the study focuses on math, Mann Koepke said cognitive development in general probably works the same way. After all, kids who match sounds to letters earlier learn to read faster.

Stanford’s Menon said the next step is to study what goes wrong with this system in children with math learning disabilities, so that scientists might try new strategies to help them learn.

 

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

 

 

The Monster of all Teacher Resources is About to be Unveiled

June 21, 2012

What a brilliant idea! Creating a universal portal for teachers to access information and materials is just what we need. I can’t wait to use it!

The result of that call, to be unveiled Tuesday, is Share My Lesson, an online portal that teachers will be able to access free of charge. It is expected to contain more than 100,000 user-generated materials.

“We’ve been trying to find a way to have teachers be able to access information quickly, actively and share with each other,” Weingarten said. “It felt to me almost too good to be true, that some private entity had created a platform for teachers to be able to share.”

Share My Lesson is expected to be the largest online resource for teachers in the U.S. and comes at a time when cuts to education budgets have led many districts to slash professional development. AFT and TSL have pledged $10 million to develop and maintain the site, which should be ready for teachers by August.

“We must support the incredibly complex work teachers do at every opportunity, including by sharing and promoting best practices through online resources and communities of practice,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

He said the program would benefit teachers everywhere.

The Impact of Social Media on Kids

May 13, 2012

I agree with many of Jim Steyer’s points in regard to the need to educate children about using the personal setting on Facebook, as well as the addiction issues relating to children and social media. I am a big fan of his suggested “erase” button, which would enable children to delete any uploaded information they regretted putting on their pages.

Facebook’s big stock offering on Wall Street must be followed by an intensive debate on Main Street about social media’s powerful impact on children, an expert on the topic says.

Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco think tank focusing on media and families, said the technology that Facebook represents is having “an enormous impact” on youngsters, families and schools worldwide.

“We need to have a big national, if not global conversation about the pros and cons of that,” Steyer, a father of four who is also a civil rights lawyer and Stanford University professor, told AFP in an interview.

While social media such as Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter offer “extraordinary possibilities” in such areas as education, he said, “there are also real downsides in a social, emotional and cogitative development way.”

Steyer was in Washington to promote his just-published book “Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age,” which argues for greater parental involvement in their children’s online lives.

“Whether we like it or not, kids are now spending far more time with media and technology than they are with their families or in school,” – as much as eight hours a day on average in the United States alone, he wrote.

Children face the triple peril of what Steyer calls RAP – relationship issues, attention and addiction problems, and privacy issues – as well as cyberbullying, online pornography and, for girls, body image fears.

“There is an arms race for data, and to build things as fast as possible … but that’s not a great strategy when you’re talking about kids,” he said, accusing tech outfits for “not respecting the concept of privacy.”

Earlier this week, a Consumer Reports survey found nearly 13 million US Facebook users – out of 157 million, and 900 million worldwide – do not use, or are not aware of, the site’s privacy controls.

Girls are especially vulnerable, Steyer said, with studies indicating that many body-conscious teens are photoshopping images of themselves so as to look thinner and score more “likes” among their friends.

On a governmental level, Steyer suggested the United States follow Europe’s lead in privacy regulation and introduce an “eraser button” enabling users to wipe off anything they might have posted in the past.

“We need clear and simple rules (around privacy) for the tech companies, too, because right now they’ve dominated the debate and they’ve set the rules themselves,” he said.

But the immediate responsibility, he said, falls on moms and dads.

“It’s part of parenting 2.0 today, so you have to do your homework,” he said.

“You have to actually learn the rules of the road… and then you have to set clear and simple limits for kids, set clear rules of behaviour – and you have to be a role model.

“If you’re constantly addicted to your cellphone or your ‘CrackBerry’ then that’s not sending a very good message to your kids.”


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