Music Monday: Same As It Ever Was


Once upon a time there was a math teacher in Japan named Toru Kumon. Back in 1954, his son did badly on a math test in grade school. A conversation with Mrs. Kumon ensued that boiled down to “Well, what are you going to do about this?” So he opened up the son’s textbook. Dismayed by what he found, he decided that the best solution was a step by step approach that should fill in missing skills, solidify the basics, and eventually prepare his son (and other students) for the sort of math he was teaching in high school. He emphasized speed and accuracy. It worked so well that parents are willing to pay for his method to this very day.

A decade later, an American teacher named Seigfried Englemann — Zig for short — landed a position working with Head Start. He found that the best solution for teaching kids basic academic skills was a step by step approach that makes sure there are no missing skills, the basics are solid, grouping by ability, and speed. He was convinced that a failing classroom was caused by bad curriculum (or bad implementation of curriculum), not bad kids. Here’s video of kindergarteners doing math (and basic algebra!). Notice that the children are minorities, the caption says they are “at risk” students as well. Notice too that this video was filmed just a year after Lehrer sang “New Math.”

It seems like every decade some group of educators decide there’s a better way to teach math (and reading) and some other educator re-discovers that you can’t teach complicated things unless students understand the simpler things underneath them. The latest reform math movement has resulted in hilarious problems being posted online and lampooned on television. And that brings me to the latest salvo in the math education pissing contest, nicely summarized by Joanne Jacobs: one educator says reform math doesn’t work here in the states because teachers are poorly trained, and the proof is that Japanese kids are doing fine; some other educator points out that Japanese kids are learning actual math skills in classes outside of school (including using the methods of Kumon-Sensei).

A common criticism of the Old Ways That Worked is that “drill and kill bores kids.” Do the kids in Zig’s video look bored? No, I didn’t think so either. Maybe they mean “drill and kill bores teachers.”

In Closing: Another place where they’re changing the rules just about the time you think you understand them; mission creep; unintended consequences; on mostly not getting by in America these days; Amen; on American politics; the Middle East; Reality; on privacy, the Internet, and the hilarious new thing the NSA wants; and Cat Tricks.

Music Monday: Happy Hanukkah

Comrade Misfit already posted the Adam Sandler Hanukkah song, so here is something different….


In Closing: staying in shape while traveling; what?; duh; it never was the union’s fault; backfired; surprise, most doctors are bad a math; and 10 things you probably didn’t know about Christmas.

The Shorties in Black

In Plane Sight: I have a soft spot for Boeing. Here’s the latest version of the 747.

True: About the 2012 Elections.

On the Economy: global growth; more than 3 people for every available job in June despite the highest number of job openings in 4 years.

Math: “With regard to mathematics, the problem is not that we are teaching too much of it—but that we are teaching math ineffectively.  The expectations and architecture of the new Common Core State Standards in Mathematics can help to remedy this.  Faithful implementation of those standards will support districts that want to adopt curricula that unfurl mathematics in a rational, coherent program and that jettison approaches that are illogically sequenced and that overuse and abuse manipulatives.”

Perhaps there’s a logical explanation: Kids who eat good food turn out smarter than kids that eat junk food. Is it that good food contributes to intelligence, or that smarter parents feed their kids better stuff? I fail to see that this study accounted for the IQ, educational level, or socio-economic level of the parents.

People stand with the Nuns: and they appreciate it.

Today I learned: apparently, a psychic’s word is enough to get a warrant to search somebody’s property for a mass grave. Local governments are strapped for cash, but somehow they’ve got money for psychics? I do hope the locals find a way to get rid of the sheriff and judge that signed off on this.

The truth about corporate income tax: Many companies don’t pay that much.

Killer Kats: Turns out that outdoor cats kill a lot more than anybody knew. Funny thing about them being predators.

Funny, I have yet to kill anybody: “People without Facebook accounts are suspicious“? Seriously? I don’t have a Facebook account. There are millions of people who don’t. I’d say that relatively few of us are planning violence. Except maybe against idiots who think it means anything that I choose not to participate.

One heck of a life

Sad news today. Andy Griffith has passed away. Maybe you knew him from television? The man only had two monstrous TV hits and 6 decades of acting credits! What I didn’t realize is that he had a degree in music.

Rest in Peace.

In Closing: it’s more than a “sex” scandal; the bad idea of a national ID card is back; common sense on diet selection; hmm; let’s not confuse the issues with a bunch of facts; free ebooks; the very idea of stranger danger is dangerous; turns out drivers have to pay attention when driving a stick shift; I’d like to see this poster hanging in every high school in America; Reagan; racism and food stamps; they needed a study to say “gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy”; sounds like a neat place; what’s illegal in Vegas stays in Macau; not a bad idea; and I thought I’d seen a bunch of these around town (just think if the dealership weren’t so teeny and there weren’t construction out front for most of the last year).


Well, I had no idea that my lunchbox could impact the taste of my lunch. Any readers want a taste that doesn’t make sense? Anybody?

This Japanese food transport system was found in my local Asian grocer. I have no idea what the original brand name was, since Japanese doesn’t have an L sound. Gurit and Burirria? Sounds awkward.

In Closing: turns out Anderson knows that the CBO is something called “non-partisan”; let’s confuse everybody some more!; War on Drugs turns into War on Perfectly Legal Pain Medications that Some People Desperately Need; I think I’d rather have the stack of iPads; fat kids can’t do math?; duh; related; I wish I thought he was right; and part of me wishes this were a real audiobook.

Paint It Black

Since most of your favorite sites may be down tomorrow, here’s some things to keep you busy.

Why I Won’t Hire You.

Be Grateful to Your Wall Street Overlords.

Cop or Soldier? Take the quiz. I didn’t do very well.

35 Tips in One Infographic.

The Truth About Math.

About Paula Deen.

Dog Shames Shelter into Accepting Dogs.

And Modern Neanderthals Victorians Puritans Witch-Burning Hypocrites Slut-Shaming.

Make Me Mad

This morning I read a little item called “It’s time to stop blaming the lenders.” The essence can be told in less than one paragraph:

It’s okay that people made the mistake of borrowing more than they could afford. But is it really the lenders’ fault? Really? Maybe the banks didn’t deserve to be bailed out for their own poor judgment, but do the rest of us really deserve to bailed out for our own?

So let me make sure I’ve got this right. It’s our fault?

It’s Harry Homeowner’s fault that when he went to talk to Mary Mortgage-Broker, he actually believed her when she told him he could afford up to a $300,000 mortgage? It’s his fault that she lied to him, or pressured him into a pick-a-payment or adjustable rate mortgage he didn’t completely understand?

It’s Nicolle Bradbury‘s fault that she lost her job and — like so many other people — hasn’t been able to find another job that would allow her to continue making a modest $474 monthly payment?

It’s Joe Average’s fault that “everybody ought to own a house” propaganda combined with shoddy underwriting to create a housing bubble, even when the people who should have known it was a bubble said everything was fine?

It’s my fault that mortgage company executives were making insider trades?

It’s Darrell‘s fault that the mortgage company lost his paperwork not once, but five times?

It’s your fault that banks sold one another worthless securities based on your neighbors’ mortgages, and now sometimes can’t even figure out who owns what?

It’s our fault that banks hired scores of people with dubious qualifications to sign legal documents equivalent to swearing in a court of law, attesting that they knew things they couldn’t possibly know about our mortgages?

Is it also Nancy Jacobini‘s fault that her home didn’t look “lived in” enough for the goons hired by her mortgage company to change the locks? Is it her fault that he couldn’t be bothered to look in a window or knock on the door?

It’s Patrick Jeffs‘s fault that a mortgage company tried to take his home when he didn’t even have a mortgage with them?

This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at victim blaming. It’s right up there with “she wore a short skirt so she deserved to be raped” and “he was walking at night; he should have known better.” The author should be ashamed of himself, but he honestly believes that it’s as simple as “no pay, no stay.”

In Closing: they want to build a steam powered computer; obesity is a threat to national security; venture capitalists are spending less money on new companies, which bodes ill for future job creation; average teen sends 3,339 text messages per month; girls can so do math; bad boys, bad boys, whacha gonna do?; health insurance reform isn’t over yet; overworked; and let me make sure I understand, the kids throw a wild party that got out of hand, and so you arrest the parents, leaving the kids to throw another party? Egads.

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