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Big Learning News 10-18-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:35 October 18, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: U.S. Population tops 300 million
Activity: Pumpkin muffins
News to share: Giant yellow jacket nests
Education news: Streak of wild
Web Site : Toon Beat

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Math Moment

U.S. Population tops 300 million



On Tuesday, October 17, 2006, the estimated U.S. population hit 300 million. So much good math in this bit of news, I can only scratch the surface. But here goes:

1. Interesting to note that news reports have been saying things like, "The 300 millionth baby was born today." But 300 million is just an estimate, created by starting with the 2000 U.S. Census and adding one person every 11 seconds. This estimate factors in births, deaths, and immigration. So this is a good time to teach your child that estimates are useful in real life, and that there are other ways to get a good idea about the population than actually going out and counting everyone.

2. Your child can see the U.S. population estimate in real time by visiting the U.S. Census population clock. The population clock provides good practice in reading nine-digit numbers. For more population math, see this Big Learning article. To compare the U.S. population growth to the world population growth, see this Big Learning article.

3. This article has some great graphs that explore population changes around the world. In some European countries, the population is actually shrinking. Encourage your children to express what the graphs tell them - for example, is the population rising, falling, or level? Is the population rising faster as time goes on, or more slowly?

If you discover more good math related to this topic, please share it by clicking here and writing a comment.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Bake Pumpkin Muffins

It's pumpkin season, so get your kids to help make these healthy, yummy pumpkin muffins.This is my children's absolute favorite muffin recipe. It's also a very forgiving recipe - it comes out great even if the measurements aren't exactly accurate.

You can find the recipe online at http://www.biglearning.org/article-pumpkin-muffin-recipe.htm.

Whenever kids bake, it's a good time to practice using units of measurement and fractions as they measure ingredients. Also, this is a "quickbread," which rises due to a chemical reaction between acids and bases. If your children have ever mixed vinegar and baking soda, they've seen this same reaction. You can read more about it here:



Also try this recipe...

Whole grain pancakes

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Want to learn more about educating your child? Try these books from Amazon.com

Educating Your Child


Current Events to Share

Giant Yellow Jacket Nests


Scientists have recently discovered unusually large yellow jacket nests. According to this article, yellow jacket nests are usually smaller than a basketball. But this summer a scientist observed nests the size of a small car. The nests house dozens of queens and hundreds of thousands of drones.

Show your kids the photos, so they know to run away from the real thing. It's also a good opportunity to talk about the idea that changes in habitat can change the behavior of insects and other animals.


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Education News for Adults

Raise Children with a Wild Streak


Much of what I write in Big Learning News concerns the Big Learning point of view about how we learn: that we are wired to learn best from activities that mean something to us.

But Big Learning is also about why we learn: we shouldn't forget that, educationally speaking, the world is our oyster, and we learn because it is our right, our nature, and our joy.

As Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver write in their book, Guerrilla Learning,

"Learning belongs to you , not to schools and government administrators. It's a function of human wonder and curiosity and love for the world."

Here's a lovely commentary from a college professor, that supports this point of view. He says that amidst the relentless flow of high-achieving, team-captain-type applicants he interviews, he wishes for a wild one. Someone who didn't grow up with every moment scripted, every accomplishment dictated by the expectations of others. Someone who is comfortable alone, who knows when it's OK to break a few rules.

I believe many parents struggle with this. We are told the world is more and more competitive and unforgiving, a place where every "B" and every detention chips away at our child's prospects for a successful future. Although most of us know deep down that the world does forgive, it takes considerable fortitude to say, "No. I'm going to let my child be a little wild when I can, even though I can't completely control the consequences. My child will be allowed to fail, and learn from failure. My child will be encouraged to create, to explore things that make him curious, to learn about things that excite him, and sometimes to do nothing at all. I believe that as a result, my child will be strong, centered, creative, knowledgeable, accomplished, spirited and comfortable in his skin. And I believe that will make him a rare and valued asset, no matter what future he pursues."

I don't always have that fortitude, but I try.

Recent Education News Commentaries

Must we teach to the test?
Homework again

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Web Site

Toon Beats


This is so much fun. You choose up to three "instruments," which include a clown that sings "Blat Blat," tweeting birds, breaking glass, piano keys, and other stuff. You play each instrument, piano-style, using a different row of the computer keyboard for each instrument. In this way, you can make up a funny little composition, record it, and even save it.

More creative music activities

Web site: Let them sing it for you
Web site: Classical music for kids
Web Site: Make music with math
Book review: Kids Make Music

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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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