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Big Learning News 5-30-07

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 5:14 May 30, 2007

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Table of Contents

Editor's Notes
Math Moment: Heavy Gold Coin
Activity: Make your own trading cards
Education News: Economic case for preschool
Contest for Kids: Discover Magazine Cover
Web Site: I Will Knot!
Web Site: Animal Bytes

Editor's Notes

Keep up with education news you can use! Our blog, Bigger Learning, is online now at www.biglearning.org. It has the news commentary you get in Big Learning News, plus additional pieces. And you can comment (please do!).

You'll find it at www.biglearning.org/biggerlearning.

Buy a Toymaker's Toolkit - everything your child needs to start making real wood toys with moving parts. With summer coming, you'll want to your kids to have this source of endless fun. Order online today!


Remember, add "Big Learning" <editor@biglearning.org> to your address book. We'll begin sending from that address shortly and don't want to get caught in your spam filter.

-Karen Cole

Math Moment

Heavy gold



Imagine a coin that weighs as much as a tall man. That's the new 220-pound gold coin from Canada, worth a million Canadian dollars. It's 21 inches in diameter and over an inch thick, pure gold.

But the real-world math in this coin is precious, too. You could get a tape measure and trace out a circle with a 10-inch radius, thereby by hitting "radius" and "inches" as concepts. You could use arithmetic to compare it to the world's next largest coin, Australia's 15-inch, 170 pound 100,000 Euro coin.

Older kids might want to look up today's price for an ounce of gold, and decide if the coin is a bargain. That would require converting the price to Canadian dollars, figuring out how many ounces in 200 pounds (multiply 220 by 16 ounces per pound), and then multiplying the price by the number of ounces.

The second link is the official site of the Royal Canadian Mint, which includes photos of the coin.

More Fun Math for Kids


Activity: Make your own trading cards - free!


Here's a fun little photography/writing project. Upload a photo from your computer and type the text you want to appear on the card. Then you can download the finished card and print it on a plain white 3x5 index card.

More Photography Projects for Kids

Online Scrapbooking for Families
Trick photography: Book review
Picture This: Book review


Education News for Adults

Teach Your Children Well: The Economic Case for Preschool


OK, high-quality preschool freely available: Good thing. But Joel Waldfogel of Slate Magazine manages to take this very reasonable message and mangle it into an infuriating mix of stereotypes, misinformation, and bad policy.

Waldfogel's article summarizes a report from two economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research that make a "hardheaded case for investing more in young kids than in older ones." He throws around statistics like "20% of the U.S. workforce is essentially illiterate" (The U.N. estimates a 1% illiteracy rate, and the National Center for Education Statistics estimates about 15%).

After taking shots at single mothers and impoverished families ("families are deteriorating"), he proposes that we must stop "throwing" money at older kids and start investing money in younger ones, in the form of preschool. He really says that: "We throw money at kids when it's too late," meaning kindergarten and beyond.

See, I think poor kids need preschool, and they need it more than rich kids do. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to give up on older poor kids, who Waldfogel alleges are already ruined beyond repair by age 5.

I mean, you take kids in crime-infested neighborhoods, and send them to dilapidated schools with no library, no Internet, outdated textbooks and overcrowded classrooms. And you still spend a fair amount of money for that, because there are big problems to solve and, as Paul Tough explains in his New York Times article, that costs money . It sure seems like a double whammy to put kids through years of substandard education and then say, "Sorry, that money we 'threw' at you didn't work, so we're going to give it to your little brother."

Poverty is an unimaginable disadvantage no matter how you slice it. But the solution can't be to pit poor, young kids against poor, older kids and make them grab for their slice of the meager pie.

The NBER report is going to get a lot of press. After all, who wouldn't prefer to deal with cute, relatively undamaged three-year-olds, rather than angry, 14-year-old victims of an unfair, calcified system? But the report makes such a specious argument, based on the idea that we can't spend any more than we're already spending, so we have to make some hard-headed choices. That's just wrong, and even the most cold-hearted economist concedes a generation at his peril.

Read and comment on our Bigger Learning blog - http://www.biglearning.org/biggerlearning


Contest: Discover Magazine Cover-Design Contest


Discover Magazine has a contest for kids in grades 3-8. Kids have to design an image that "best captures the wonderment and possibilities of science." Entries are due by June 20, 2007.

Web Site

I Will Knot!

(ages 8 and up)


This cleverly-named site has great videos that show in simple terms how to tie 12 classic knots, including stopper knots, hitches, loops, and bends. In addition to the step-by-step video and accompanying written instructions, kids learn how the knot is used.



Web Site

Animalbytes from the San Diego Zoo

Ages 9 and up (5 and up with help)


It's almost like visiting the zoo from the comfort of your computer desk. This site includes fun facts and photos of tons of animals at the San Diego Zoo. You can watch video clips of many of the animals displaying characteristic behavior. The site also includes habitat and conservation information (whether the animal is close to extinction).


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Big Learning News (c) 2007 Karen Cole

All Rights Reserved.

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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