Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Power of Grit Part 2

This is the second part in my special series on Grit.  I had to take a break after the first article to read Angela Duckworth's book Grit The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  While Duckworth didn't invent grit, her work is so innovative that she now owns it.  Her book is going to require a separate article to review.  It contains a summary of her past research and the setting for her yet undone future research.

It's hard to apply passion or perseverance to children under the age of 15.   The subset element of grit that is my concern is a child who concentrates really hard on something challenging and finishes it despite mistakes, on his own, without my help, page after page, chapter after chapter, book after book, regardless of A report cards and C report cards.  My end goal is a child who's ready for a strong high school performance on autopilot.  You can give grit measures to kids and they will be strong predictors of behavior, but I would have a hard time using the term "passion" to describe a 10 year old, boy.  12 year olds are even worse.  Similarly, at this age, "perseverance" means "nagging parent" for activities extending past one year.

The Grit Learning Subset
I'm more interested in the learning goals.  I want the child to succeed with really hard, advanced material on their own some day.  Some day could be high school or next week. Really hard, advanced material is a description of test prep, gifted or accelerated programs, AP courses, a top notch college, and graduate school.  This is the target.

Before age 8, the fundamentals of grit training were there, but I'm not sure I was doing any more than preparing the home culture for what would follow.  The work we did at age 4, for example, is consistent with what we did later, but it's possible all I did was raise the bar on what defines challenge instead of preparing the child to tackle it with grit.

Here are the skills from age 8 to 11 that open the door to learning.
  1. Be comfortable working with complex, unknown material even though you're baffled.
  2. Explore the problem at hand for a long period of time.
  3. Continue in the face of mistakes, setbacks, gaps, and your own obvious incompetence.  Instead of causing frustration, these point the way toward next steps.  Try harder, and repeat.
  4. Build working memory.
These are my same boring learning skills.  I was hoping the Grit Learning Subset was something new and exciting, but the first three skills sum it up nicely.  I need a fancy name for these so I can open up the [Insert Fancy Name Here] Learning Centers and revolutionize education in the information age like Kumon or Suzuki did for learning in the industrial age.

Working memory is absolutely essential.  Without high levels of working memory, all subjects are a frustrating waste of time, even for the coach.  I've worked with children who have no working memory and it usually means building working memory for 1-3 months before we're ready to begin making process.

It seemed pretty obvious that my children were not going to pick up these skills working on a mindless spoon-feeding curriculum of short easy memorization problems, so I created the opposite and Test Prep Math was born.

After about a year of this approach, school work took care of itself, quickly and efficiently.  Then the unexpected happened.  The capacity for learning exploded.  It didn't explode just because 2 years of daily be confused, focus on figuring out what is being asked, try again, and not be bothered by it because it's the new normal.  It's that be confused, focus on figuring out, and make mistakes are the primary tool set for learning.

The coaching skills I outline in each book play a really important role.  These skills can't be the new normal if the parent freaks out when mistakes are made or explains everything to their child because the parent can't stand the frustration on the face of the child.

When we studied for the COGAT and the OLSAT, I set a pace of about 5 or 6 problems a day because over time I could see that more problems resulted in less learning.  One problem is optimal, but we had a deadline.  When we got to TPM, we were down to 1 problem a day plus maybe one or 2 bonus questions, which I think is the best pace for learning.  It's also the best pace for progress on really hard material, and hard material makes for a really hard worker.  When you've got a really hard worker at later ages, that 30 minutes a day could easily be 3 hours a day if needed, or 4, or 5 hours.

I'm going to talk about the #2 Grit Child in the country.  Unfortunately, the #1 Grit Child is the daughter of Russian immigrants.  When #2 was spending 4 hours rewriting his science lab sentence by sentence without complaint, he mentioned that this girl is rumored to spend 15 hours each weekend working on her lab and her labs are 40 pages each.  So we're #2.  Or we're just more efficient.

Anyway, Grit Child #2 finished TPM by about Spring of 4th grade.   I was looking for something in the area of pre-algebra, but it seemed rather easy and too mathy (not in a good way), so I gave him an SAT test prep book and asked him to find any easy problem in the first practice test.  After about an hour or so, he completed 5 and I think all 5 were incorrect.

We continued this on and off, but only on the weekends due to the homework load.  When he was totally stuck, the stuckness pointed to a new concept, so we'd spend some more time on it or I would dig up a math book and assign a chapter.  Based on my own advice, I don't help, but I am part of the discussion.   Otherwise, it was just a continuation of the routine we started with TPM.

After completing all 10 practice tests, then getting about a 3rd the way into the second, harder SAT test prep book, it seemed like we were starting to run out of challenge and the only questions left were advanced algebra and he was developing the unfortunate habit of answering the question correctly without using actual algebra techniques.  Not bad for the child who I picked as least likely to succeed in college math.

So we switched to reading comprehension.   With reading comprehension, the core skills are not enough.  There are quite a few readers somewhere in the middle of Test Prep Math Level 3, and you already see one of the missing components.   Reading a TPM question is similar to an SAT reading comprehension question because the foundation of each TPM question is the logic, impreciseness and intentional wordiness that require the same amount of time and brain power required by the SAT.

The other missing component is that with reading comprehension for a 6th grader who is missing high school level technical reading skills is that the "question" is not just the passage and the questions, but also includes an analysis of wrong answers.  When we figured out what is wrong on an incorrect answer, we usually discover some reading skill.  Most of these are not only under the heading of "a passage that needs to be written to comply with modern clarity standards", but also comprises a growing list of skills that we are learning.  I used to think that it would be far preferable to learning reading skills by taking high school level literature courses, but I've seen a huge leap in writing skills.  I guess a skill is a skill whether you do it the hard way or just cheat.

Here we are in the harder SAT book, and there aren't enough mistakes on reading comprehension questions for a lively post-question discussion.  I'm tempted to switch to 2 questions per session.

I've become accustomed to the TPM graduates in this house solving problems that they have no business solving, but what really freaks me out is when they explain the solution strategy and logic and it takes me a while to understand it and verify that the logic is correct.   These skills started gelling about a year after TPM.  I could see a very tiny bit of development each week as they plodded through confusion, long analysis and mistakes, but it still freaks me out.

Plodding along through confusion, long analysis, and mistakes is a pretty good definition of grit, but not a complete definition.  For now, I'll call it the Grit Learning Subset.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Power Bucketing for GAT

A reader shared  this article  recently.  The researchers explore the impact of giving students a preview of course content and motivation in the form of a really bad score on the pre-test.

I have 2 reactions.  My first reaction is that it's a very innovative study.  We need more of this.  I give it a 7 out of 10.

My second reaction is that I invented something that is a 87 out of 10 and have been using it very successfully.  It's called Power Bucketing.  When readers comment that their child is only getting x on a standardized test, or doing poorly in school, I would like to explicitly lay out my formula, but the comment usually comes with the plea that the child needs to get to 98% by the end of the year to qualify for the gifted and talented program so I have to send them down a different path just for that goal. I really want to introduce them to Power Bucketing, especially for math and reading, instead of more short term strategies.  From now on, when I provide the short term strategy, I'm also going to point them to this article.

The basic premise of power bucketing is very similar to the article above.  I think the article adds one very important grit related aspect (failure) that I take for granted because it's core skill #3 on my list of GAT skills.  Here are the steps for any subject except for reading and language.  Reading and language are a bit harder to Power Bucket because you have to gather a really great reading list and you won't get it in 5 minutes on Amazon.  But you can certainly do this for history, geography, math, and science.
  1. Stop work on this year's content.  Resign yourself that the payoff is going to happen next year.
  2. Get math books for the next year or the year after.  In the case of having to get from x to 99 by year end, you can't ignore grades or content for this year's math, so you're stuck with both.
  3. Struggle through the advanced content according to my list of GAT parenting skills described in past articles.  In short, it's going to be a lousy performance and you will be OK with that.

The premise of Power Bucketing is that when the child actually sees the advanced content in school in the next year or two, they will magically go from average to profoundly gifted on day 1.

There are numerous reasons for Power Bucketing and they are all important.

  1. Going through this process teaches the core skills and grit. As the article sited above points out, the child learns just how challenging the material is, and is prepared to try harder the second time.
  2. To understand the concepts at a deeper level takes years.  You could name any elementary concept, like a 2nd or 3rd grade concept in math or science, and I could demonstrate all of the advanced mature understanding hiding in this concept.  School, on the other hand, gives the child about a week and a few worksheets on each concept and moves on.  There's no way for a child to gain a GAT type deep understanding in a week.
  3. Most importantly, the child develops partially filled buckets for each concept and vocabulary word ahead of time, and when she sees the material in class, she already has buckets to organize all of the content as it is presented.  The buckets get filled.  This is a huge advantage over the child who doesn't have the buckets first.  This is the main payoff.
  4. With her preliminary familiarity of the topics, the child looks like a genius.  Like a little smarty pants Hermione in potions class with her hand raised on the first day.
  5. Everyone will treat the Power Bucket child like the smartest kid in class, and the child will think he is the smartest kid in class and behave accordingly.  This rubs off on the other subjects, which is why we usually only have to do Power Bucketing in one subject, and then every few years or so.

We've done this repeatedly in math and science, and twice in reading.   Because of Power Bucketing, I'm considering reframing my mission from "helping you get from average to gifted and talented" to "helping you get from average to gifted and talented then to profoundly gifted", but only if you use Power Bucketing.

Test Prep Math is Super Power Bucketing on Steroids.  I finished the first draft of Chapter 4d - Leveraging Test Prep Math (on the top right) and if you read it you'll see why.  It has a surprise ending.

I consider Pre-K Phonics a blatant form of Power Bucketing, it's more like Super Power Bucketing. At the urging of colleagues, I'm putting together videos to explain all of this so that readers don't have to sift through dozens of articles.  The problem is that creating a video is harder than writing.  I'm working on it, but in the latest version, half of my head is cut off and my tiny video partner keeps over acting.

Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm Gaming The System

This has been a very busy week for me.  I set up the answering machine for the Chicago Project, since I don't expect my future clients to have internet connections.  Then all of my book sales completely stopped and I spent all week panicking about how I'm going to pay for the Chicago Project.  At the end of the week, my email was deluged with parents reporting their test scores because apparently tests happened across the country, meaning that test prep season just ended, which is a big relief and I stopped panicking.

It's going to take me a while through all of the emails.  In the mean time, it is true that little girls are behind little boys in visual spacial skills simply because they play less with Legos, and little girls are almost always ahead of boys in verbal skills, and this has a bit to do with brain development and a bit to do with reading preferences.  None of this is going to matter in a year so stop worrying, unless you have to spend another year correcting a score deficit to reach your eventual goals.

I found this website that reviewed in this way:  I think this would be a good example of parents who "game" the system and why it is so important to peruse identification of minority and English language learners...

I couldn't agree with this person more, provide by "game the system" he means properly prepare your children to be strong academic performers at the highest level, which I consider one of the parent's biggest responsibility.  If the author of that website bothered to read any of my articles, he might have discovered a bit more about what gifted and talented really means and my plan for minority students.

Test Prep Math has been on the market for more than a year.  I'm going to start adding subchapters on the right to Chapter 4 - How To Create A Gifted Mathematician.  These sections are going to describe what you can do with a graduate of Test Prep Math, and you will be quite stunned to find out what they are capable of.  I think of Test Prep Math as the First Foundation.   I am alluding to Asimov's foundation series, one and only one winner of the Hugo award for best science fiction series of all time, part of the 4 author reading series I created entitled "Star Wars Doesn't Contain A Single Original Idea". Anyway, there's a Second Foundation hidden in Test Prep Math that I hinted at but didn't fully reveal. You're about to find out what it is.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Pre-K Test Prep List

While I'm waiting for the Secret of Grit Part 2, I'm gearing up for the random selection of future academic stars.

I created a brochure for the Chicago Project. A draft of the brochure is here.  The goals are presented much differently than the way I normally organize the path to cheating your way into a gifted and talented program.  The target audience is going to have no idea what I'm talking about, so I rearranged things into more normal terms.

6 months ago, I was prepared to set up a crowd funding request to pay for all of this, but since then, enough people discovered my awesome books that both the pilot and Phase 2 are going to be paid for. Thanks to all of the readers took the leap with Test Prep Math, Shape Size Color Count, and Pre-K Phonics Conceptual Vocabulary and Thinking.  Your investment will pay off in a much bigger way than you expected.

Here's what I have in mind for my materials list for test prep for the Chicago Project.
  • Pre-K Phonics Conceptual Vocabulary and Thinking
  • Shape Size Color Count
  • Building Thinking Skills Grades 2 and 3
  • A Mercer practice test to practice for the real thing
  • A big poster board, sticky notes and a sharpie
  • A small poster board for the schedule
  • Supplemental materials as needed
Our target might be the OLSAT and not the COGAT.  This isn't going to change the approach, because OLSAT preparation is a stepping stone to the COGAT. The material actually over covers it, which is why we're going to skip right to Grades 2 and 3 of Building Thinking Skills as a follow up. Yes, I'm talking about 4 year old children; maybe the secret of GAT is just to let kids work on more challenging material.  Regardless, the COGAT is a more demanding than the OLSAT and it doesn't hurt to overshoot.

I'm chose to prepare 4 year olds for a test to get into Kindergarten.  It's so much easier than preparing for the 1st grade test because first grade material is well known, and the Pre-K material listed above is not because the primary marketer is currently busy on another project.

I'm uncertain about supplemental materials.   In a slightly above average household that values education, this would be known as 'stuff you are doing anyway'.  There was a great study done by U of C researchers comparing households in the north suburbs with households on the South Side of Chicago that I've sited in my blog (and will find later when I have time) that shows a great disparity in number of books on the shelf, number of vocabulary words used in everyday conversation, and number of positive, encouraging comments versus negative comments.   Friends of mine at a social organization in my neighborhood did a study of getting read for school habits and found families that served soda and Cheetos for breakfast.  Let me point out that my African American friends from Northwestern University that live in my neighborhood are in the study of 'how can I raise my kids like they do', but the Cheeto eating families are what I'm hoping to find for the Chicago Project.

I'm even more uncertain what it's going to take to get a parent in the game, from zero minutes a day to maybe 2 or 3 hours.   It roughly breaks down to 15 to 20 minutes of actual test prep, an hour of Read To, and the rest includes staying organized, going to the library, and talking.  Then there are all the other factors stacked up against this endeavor, like moving, depression, social pressures, and coming to grips with the fact that some white guy just showed up out of the blue with a crazy plan. 

I've been in this situation before, but I always focused on the children.  In each case, there was tremendous progress, but only one parent subsequently continued the work.  She was African American, and her child was the first child I ever coached.  It was exactly 20 years ago.  Now, it's payback time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Gift of Grit Part 1

Grit is the Top Dog of all skills.  If your child has grit, they will pick up all other skills she needs on the way to a successful life.  As a parent and At Home Schooling academic coach, if you teach this, you win, and if you don't teach it, you lose.

Grit is roughly the ability to do hard work for extended periods of time in the face of setbacks and uncertainty.   Duckworth, who now owns this term thanks to her awesome research, calls is 'perseverance and passion for long-term goals'.  I don't agree with this yet.  I put a library hold on Duckworth's book to find out how older her children are because her wiki page doesn't say.  I can't imagine a 4 year old having long term goals.  Checking at ages 8 and 9, no long term goals.  One of my kids just made it to age 12 and I can see some preferences and budding interests but no long term goals.

I will flatly state that my 12 year old is the #2 person in the country ranked in terms of grit, except kids who read all the time.  Readers get their own ranking system.  The #1 person for grit is this girl from Russia in his class.  8 weeks ago we turned our attention to science for the first time in 6 years in preparation for 7th grade and eventually high school.  We were working 4 straight hours on Saturday and Sunday on the technical writing for labs when my son mentioned that the girl spends 15 hours every weekend working on labs and her lab write-ups are at least 30 pages long.  To which I flatly replied, "Are you allowed to choose lab group members?"

This is the difference between an experienced parent and an inexperienced parent.   What I really wanted to ask was "Does the middle school have dances yet?" but the subsequent eye rolling would have had a negative impact on our progress because you can't edit a lab when you're eyes are rolling into the back of your head.

Grit and learning skills are almost the same thing in my world because 41.6% of each 24 hour period is sleeping related, 43.9% is some type of implicit or explicit learning activity, and the balance is  eye rolling responses to my questions.

My secret formula for Grit is exactly the same as my secret formula for learning from age 3 until middle school.  I didn't realize that these were both the same until the weekend we spent 5 straight hours working on a math project one day and 4 straight hours working on a science lab the next, and in both cases, I was the one who asked that we stop.   I am going to explain how we got to this point. It's a logical progression, but somewhat unscientific because of external factors that I'll also include.

Step #1 - No Quitting
The frontal lobe is in charge of decision making, and this isn't fully developed before age 25. Even worse, since teenagers don't have a fully developed frontal lobe, they have to use the amygdala to make decisions, and the amygdala is in charge of emotions and responding to impulses.   Therefore, I told my child that they are not allowed to make decisions, except over a period of months, until age 25.  This takes quitting off the table.

Occasionally, I tell my son that his future self visited me last night and thanked me for making him finish whatever it was we were working on because it was very important to the success of Future Son.   Future Son also wanted to thank Present Son for saving his money instead of wasting it on Pokemon cards or a video game or whatever else he was considering because Future Son needed the money for something really important and awesome.  Future Son is also grateful for the hard work and music practice and other things that made Future Son so successful and got him a free trip to all of the Stanford football away games because he was in the band.  Future Son conveniently visits me as needed.

At some point in the future, the real Future Son will have to choose between one time intensive activity and another or a particular research specialty.  Both Stanford and the band may have to make room for something more suitable to his interests.   I'm just going to have to rely on his tiny amygdala.  Regardless of which decision is made, this is not quitting.

In the meantime, the drudgery of practicing the Trumpet is a pretty important external factor.   I could care less about music mastery, but mastering doing the same thing every day is really great.

The other external factor is the Scouts.  This was formerly known as Boy Scouts, but enough parents think like me that girls are starting to appear in meetings in some places, especially small towns. Some of the meetings can be quite boring.  I was a leader for 2 years, and it's much harder to put something together for the kids to do instead of something to listen to for an hour.   I have a response for this type of situation too.   "This needs fixing.  Why don't you fix it."

I'm disappointed to see kids drop out of band or scouting.   The typical reason is competing activities like theater or sports. Frankly, I think the parents blew it, especially in the case of sports.   I've solved this problem in the future interest of both Present Son and Future Son when he signed up for cross country. "Tell your coach that you'll miss practice or be really late on band day, but you'll make up by running double on days at home when there is no practice.  If you want me to talk to your coach for you I will, but I warn you that I'm going to wear all red and perform a song that I'm going sing instead of talk."  This will almost always guarantee the he takes responsibility, but he when he was 10, I added, "I will talk to the band director and if you miss any part of band, there will be heck to pay."

Step #2 - Don't Be A Hypocrite
Whatever you expect your child to do, because it's so important, why aren't you doing it?  These kids aren't dummies.   For example, you tell your child that practicing the piano or doing math or reading are important.  Watching screens is forbidden, and video games are the worst.

A parent tells their child to read or practice the instrument, and then sits there checking emails  or reading this blog. A child with an IQ above room temperature is going to know that the parent is lying and will determine that what's really important is getting an iPhone and texting.

Fortunately, little kids aren't geniuses either, yet, so this is an easy problem to solve.  Here's how I did it and how I'm still doing it.

First, I'm more than happy to practice the trumpet for as long as I can get away with it.  Totally interested, I'll ask how to play each note.  I proceed to stink so much that any time I try to pick it up to practice, which is as many times as necessary, the instrument is taken away in disgust.   At one point, I actually got pretty good at a 6 year old level on the piano before I was forbidden to play it.

I'm even worse in math.  How could a parent with so much math in graduate school who coaches children like Mace Windu coaches padawans be so dumb?  I can't even add in the presence of a 5 year old, let alone solve polynomials with a middle school child.  But I'm more than happy to jump into the ring at any time before being thrown out.

Next, I get really good books, really boring dry good books.  I'm currently reading a book about the Chippewa Indians. I think it will take me about 11 months to finish this book.  There are 8 pages on how they make dry cherry cakes and why these were important to trade among the tribes, but my kids just tuned me out when I hit the word "cakes". Problem solved.  Reading is important, but even more important is my kids not having to be bored by me sharing what I'm reading.  Having the book on the table is enough.

Any time they stop by to see what I'm up to with the iPad, they'll see a boring paper from a professor of a university on the topic of African American parenting.  I'm preparing for the Chicago Project.   It should come as no surprise to my readers that I rank the academic field of all things African American in the same tier as Cognitive Psychology. I'll talk about that later. All my kids see is more boring boringness. Problem solved.  I've got an even better solution for the computer issue, but it also is going to save you a lot of money, so I'll cover it separately in a few weeks.

#Step 3 - The Secret Formula
This article is long enough, so I'm saving this for Part 2.  Step 1 and Step 2 are just the prerequisites.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Gift of Inventiveness

Inventiveness as a skill is the ability of the child to think on their own.  It is the culmination of other skills in action together.  This skill ranks pretty high as a long term goal for your child.

In short, it means give the child a problem and they figure it out on their own.  This should sound familiar.  It's more popularly called the COGAT.  My version of the skill from the official list is a subheading under #3 Try Again and a dire warning to parents not to answer questions in all.

At age 3, you can try to show kids how to do things, but they naturally figure out things on their own terms.  You just have to wait. I can't think of a good way to teach a 4 year old anything, but I have succeeded in accumulating the right problems for them to think through. Unfortunately, as the child gets older, the material lends itself to parent explanations.  Between 1st and 4th grade, the parent has a duty to tell the child as much as possible. That's an important phase in the classical education. Unfortunately, this usually denigrates to figuring things out on behalf of your child.  Next time you are tempted to answer your child's question, you should wonder if you're teaching them how to not to think.

To resolve the contradiction between the demands of the classical education and the demands of a gifted education, I have decided that it's all Parent Telling in reading until the midway point of 4th grade, but little to no telling in math until pre-algebra.  Then there is a transition period, followed by my retirement as an academic coach right before high school.

The Store of Inventiveness

I don't name names in my articles, but I have to tell this story because a certain child deserves an award. The star is a child from Iraq.  I wouldn't exactly call his family 'refugees', but his parents had to spend the first years of their time in the United States dealing with exams so they could practice medicine again.  I can't imagine what it would be like not being able to work, but that was basically the situation.   What's important for this story is that there probably wasn't a glue gun in the house, with 98.2% certainty.

In our house, on the other hand, my wife carries a glue gun in each holster and wears a bandolier of glue stick refills.  School projects are just target practice for her. In addition, we had to upgrade our craft box to a craft closet to hold all of the material.  This is worse than helping solve the problems. It's solving every conceivable future problem ahead of time.

In Science class last week, the lab involved building hovercraft with motors and propellers.  The propellers kept flying off and breaking.  The lab is equipped with glue guns, and the children made valiant but ultimately counterproductive attempts to solve the problem with something they learned from adults.  The Boy With No Glue Gun simply pushed the propeller on as hard as he could and solved the problem for the other lab teams.  Unencumbered by a pre-determined solution, he looked at the problem on it's own terms and invented the solution.

I'm watching this kid.  I expect big things from him some day.  In the meantime, I'm going back over the last 7 years wondering how many times I gave my child pre-determined solutions.  I'm pretty sure it's just the Glue Gun, but it will be a few more weeks of sleepless nights.

Inventiveness as a skill shows up higher on the skill pyramid.  The base of the pyramid which I've described before sets the stage.  On the other hand, the Gift of Seeing, which I explained a few days ago, shows up at the very bottom of the pyramid, in the middle, and at the top.  I call both of these 'Gifts' not in the sense of gifted and talented, under the normal but ludicrous premise that they just magically show up in children, but in the sense that the parent can impart these gifts eventually by each potential learning experience with the proper perspective.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Gift Of Seeing

Seeing was the very first skill I identified by it's absence in my own child. There were missing skills to follow, but I knew we had a problem when I would show him something in the work book, and he could obviously "see" it, but he couldn't really match up my explanation with what he was seeing.

The problem with seeing as a skill is that the process of seeing uses a set of different skills depending on the circumstance.  I think this is true of most of the skills defined in the cognitive psychology literature, for example visual-spacial reasoning, verbal fluency, verbal spacial visual fluent skullduggery, blah blah blah.  What a useless list this is.  No wonder this field spent the last 100 years accomplishing nothing.   If they would have just started with an actionable list everyone would have an IQ starting at 120.  (For those of you who think you are good at math, everyone could have an IQ of 120 if you could just let go of standard number theory, but this will be the topic of the next article.)

I've been thinking about the seeing superskill because it keeps cropping up and I'm starting to see two brand new subskillls that I never noticed before.  The key is older kids.  I have no idea what 4 year olds are thinking.  I've worked with little polite girls who are politely staring at the workbook and they could be thinking about dinosaurs for all I know.  Randomly, some totally get it and some totally don't.  I've worked with rambunctious little boys who tell jokes while I talk or stare away but actually heard me, and some who tell jokes and stare away and are ignoring me.

Teaching seeing to 4 year olds is pretty easy.  Give everything a name and explain the differences. The kids have to do a lot more work after that, but at least they know there are things to see.  That pretty much the first principle in Pre-K material I use.  The second principle is that if you name everything that a 2nd grader should know, a Pre-K child is going to start out way ahead.

With older children, I'm watching the exact same skill set play out and it makes much more sense thanks to the facial expressions and verbal skills of older children.   I should add that it's not just the same skill set, it's the same everything, just in an older version.  For example, I tend to give really challenging problems that require a lot of thinking. I've worked with children who are exhausted by this thinking, and after a while, I get the 'I'm exhausted' facial expression.   This is the 12 year old equivalent of crying to get out of work.   The parent of 12 year old equivalent of ignoring crying is to say "Don't give me the exhausted expression.  I invented the exhausted expression.  We need to do more math to toughen you up."

Here's what I found out recently.

I'll assign a problem that takes at least 15 minutes to figure out.  By figure out, I mean the problem not the solution.  The solution will take at least another 15 minutes unless we have to backtrack to cover a new concept.  When the child starts reading the question, I'll witness the child devote a level of concentration to the question.  Then they get to the end and give me the 'I didn't understand it please explain it to me' look, which I respond to with the 'really?' look, and then the child will work much harder on reading the question the next time.  Once the child realizes that they can either expend 100% effort the first time, or 50% effort  time one + 100% effort time two, they get their act together.  Then I get to witness an arsenal of sub-skills at work while they identify things they don't know at all, put relationships together, ask pertinent questions that I will answer, like what a square root symbol means, and start breaking down the problem.  You can't really see this with 4 year olds because they don't verbalize while they work and haven't learned facial expressions, but I think it's the exact same thing.

The door is open on all of the sub-sub-skills with children of all ages when they learn to read the question, and Read The Question #2 on my official skills list.  It's not possible for a parent to teach the sub-skills, because if you do the child won't bother concentrating on the the question and won't learn the sub-skills because the parent just did the work.

I should create the Trade Economy theory of intelligence, where the miserly child wants to spend as little mental effort as possible when negotiating with the mentally wealthy parent.  The top academic coach is like an ruthless autocratic ruler that wants to drain every last mental penny from the serfs. But this won't work, so the tyrant showers the serfs with mental wealth just so he can steal it all away again.  This framework needs a bit more work.   In the meantime, in my next article, I'm going to describe in detail why you can't teach the subskills.

In the next article, I'll cover the Gift of Inventiveness.  I'm not satisfied with the term for this skill, but it's really amazing.