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Big Learning News 8-30-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:28 August 30, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Measuring homework
Activity: Make Pancakes
Book Review: Hoaxes
Current events for kids : Bank robber gets stuck
Education news: Everything is starting earlier
Web sites World Atlas

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Math Moment

Measuring homework

Ages 8-12


Time Magazine says homework is increasing:

"An academic study found that whereas students ages 6 to 8 did an average of 52 min. of homework a week in 1981, they were toiling 128 min. weekly by 1997. And that's before No Child Left Behind kicked in. An admittedly less scientific poll of parents conducted this year for AOL and the Associated Press found that elementary school students were averaging 78 min. a night."

Oooh, a lot of great math packed into that fascinating-in-its-own-right paragraph. Here are some ideas for sharing these stats with your kids:

1. Let your kids time their homework and see how their load stacks up. Good practice reading clocks for the little ones. Good practice subtracting minutes for older ones.

2. With kids who know basic numbers and can add and subtract: If you have an analog clock, take it off the wall and use it to talk about the times in the article. Let your child move the hands 60 minutes, then 18 more to make 78. Using the clock, talk about what time you would start and finish if you had 78 minutes of homework.

3. Still using the clock, figure out: How much is 128 minutes? Well, dividing by 60 minutes, it's 2 hours and 8 minutes per week.

4. So how much per night is 128 minutes/week? Well, dividing 128 by 4 (our kids get homework Monday-Thursday), that's 32 minutes per night. Ask your kids if it's easier to divide 128 minutes by 4, or divide 2 hours and 8 minutes by 4. And, now much per week is 78 minutes per night? Easier to multiply one hour by 4, then 18 minutes by 4 and add them together.

And don't forget to read the Time Magazine article yourself - it's really enlightening.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Make Pancakes (or just watch)


Share this very catchy video of someone making pancakes, start to finish. Warning, it will take you days to get the song out of your head.

Then get the kids and go make some pancakes together! If you use a mix, there's measuring to be done along with all the other Big Learning that comes with cooking. And if you want to make healthier pancakes from scratch, here's my own secret recipe. Try it out with your kids and let me know what you think.

If your kids like to cook, try this cook book.

Comment on this article


Book Review

Hoaxes by Judith Herbst (Lerner Publications, 2004)

Ages 9 and up

If you're busy raising little skeptics, this book will be of interest. The 48 pages tell stories of five classic hoaxes, including the photographs of fairies and gnomes from 1917, and the fake rain forest tribe that got themselves into National Geographic.

Richly illustrated with photos of the hoaxes, the stories provide insights into the motivations of the perpetrators and the methods they used. This book is a good way to help kids improve their media literacy, helping that realize that outlandish stories, even accompanied by photographs, might not be true.

More Information

More Media Literacy Resources

Web site: Inconspicuous consumption
Book Review: Made You Look

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Current events to share with kids

Bank Robber Stuck in Chimney


The title says it all, but it's always fun to read about hapless criminals.

Comment on this article


Education News for Adults

Everything is starting earlier


Oh, what a world. This article features expensive tutoring places defending the idea that learning to read is the best use of a two-year-old child's time. It even uses one of my pet peeve, all-time fingernails-on-the-blackboard phrases:

"We're teaching them that learning can be fun."

Take my word for it. When someone uses that phrase, what they're really saying is, "We're teaching them that learning meaningless, age-inappropriate, abstract drivel can be fun, IF you make it meaningful by dangling material rewards, adult praise, points, or high status in front of them."

KIDS ALREADY KNOW LEARNING IS FUN. They do it all day long, every day, especially when they're little. Nothing is more fun (in the sense of satisfying and engaging) for kids than learning.

But what they aren't born knowing, but can be taught, is that displaying academic knowledge is a good way to get adults to notice and exclaim over them. And that a tot with a lot of academic knowledge is seen as smarter. And that this adult-praise, high-status candy is sweet enough to make a kid forget the rewards of learning to swing or finger-paint.

I have my issues with Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori School movement. But I think she was spot-on in her technique of offering academics. The idea, as I understand it, is you offer a child a new task. If they seem interested, you help them get started. If not, you put it away - without pleading or judgment. Always, you offer new tasks based on your direct observation of the child. You don't apply pressure based on what you think children ought to be learning at that age.

See this article to learn more, or read Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori.

Recent Education News Commentaries

Should you pay kids for good grades?
The Nature-or-Nurture IQ debate
Learning 24/7?

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Web Site

World Atlas


Ages 6 and up with help, 9 and up independently

If you've got a young geography buff, this site's sure to please. Lots of great maps and information about countries, including flags, time zone, climate, and even current weather.

More geography resources for kids

Book review: Armadillo from Amarillo
Book review: The Earth from Above
Book Review: If the World Were a Village

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Big Learning News (c) 2006 Karen Cole

Content meant for adults and provided for informational purposes only - readers are responsible for previewing all materials and activities for suitability and safety before sharing them with children.
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