I often get requests from parents of children of super bright little children wondering what they should do with their geniuses. If your school is teaching arithmetic, and your child is doing pre-algebra, this is a real problem.

I also get helpful advice about how I should have a wider range of interests and broaden my outlook because I write a blog about cognitive skills. Thanks for the advice, but the absence of articles about sports and recreation is due to the fact that I'm not the world's foremost expert on sports and recreation, but I have a heck of a lot to say about cognitive skills that is nowhere in psychology and education literature. There are no articles anywhere that prove that you can teach these skills and demonstrate how they pay off in a big way. A big way. There are many articles of failed attempts because cognitive skills researchers have never met an actual child and wouldn't know a teachable skill if it bit them in the backside. (Hint to researchers: talk to the parents in your next study and you'll have more success.)

On the topic of advanced math, I have a few comments.

If you give your child 20 minutes of super hard thinking a day, like a single question or problem in Test Prep Math, they are exhausted mentally. It turns out that the race to the 99th percentile only takes 20 minutes a day.

With all of this extra time, you can then turn your attention to other skill gaps. For example, with an additional 30 minutes each day you can take out vocabulary or Reading Comp like a Super Advanced Ninja Expert of Reading Comp. Or you can spend a few hours learning about history or science. If your math is so strong, this should buy you plenty of time to do something more useful than a relentless march to calculus (in 20 minutes a day of math because if you stop doing math, your kids won't earn video game or chat time) like art or crafts or projects or science or history or just wiki-ing everything or designing websites or making stop motion lego videos. Or take a 2 mile Minecraft Talk Walks to counteract last summer's Donuts and Math program.

I don't ever say this, and I would never write it, but in the back of my mind I'm always thinking "you probably need to start worrying about your child's social skills or get the child outside playing baseball or something". I categorically deny I just wrote that. But after 6 to 12 months of effective test prep, your child might join a select group of kids who can't have a conversation with the neighborhood children because no one understands him. It's painful to watch as a parent and takes yet another effort to fix.

The most important skill for your child is the one he doesn't have yet, not the next mental algorithm to crush the competition in competitive math. The competition is already 4 algorithms ahead of you anyway and we're working on the 5th.

In the classic education approach, grades 1 through 4 are devoted to memorizing everything. Learning to think starts in grade 5, and having opinions is left for high school. I refined this approach by focusing grades 1 through 4 on cognitive skills (think of this 4 years of COGAT test prep and you've got the idea) in addition to memorizing everything plus plus. If you finish a little early, you can take off math for an entire year and do other things. The only downside of this approach is that the child starts having opinions by 4th grade.

For the last 6 months, we've been working on the clarinet instead of math (with the exception of math competition released tests). It just paid off yesterday when my 4th grader entered intermediate band which is totally against the rules. Here's how I did it. First, I taught him the first 3 basic scales with the instructions to play it as fast as possible squeaks and all, then with quarter notes then a slur. In the beginning, it was 3 or 4 good notes and then 2 minutes of a horrible squeaking noise per scale. Then, I gave him Star Wars, Frozen, etc plus the types of riffs you hear at half time of a college football game, but he mainly had to figure out how to do this on his own. In other words, I followed the 4 core skills of Bafflement, Read the Question, Mistakes, Try Again (a lot), and have fun, darn it.

Clarinet on top of the core skills is like advanced accelerated clarinet on steroids. Not getting any help from me, he learned to sight read music. He can also play 3 notes above high C, which only dogs can hear, and which aren't taught in grade school at all. That was his idea of payback.

As a final step in his training, I dropped him off at a comic book store for 2 hours alone to play whatever they do in there. He was terrified. If you've ever been inside a comic book store, you know that culture shock doesn't cover it. That was preparation to show up for band practice without a parent and without a meltdown. Mission complete.

I think I'm up for another Pettie, which is Competitive Parent Magazine's annual Competitive Parent of the Year Award.

I'm the only voting member for this award, but I think competition is going to be tough this year because of a certain mom who's third grade children are smarter than I am. If they figure out how to vote, I may lose.

## Thursday, September 28, 2017

## Tuesday, September 26, 2017

### Stump The Coach

I think last weekend was the most fun I've ever had as an academic coach. I had bunch of sessions. It was me, the parent, and the child.

There's a lot going on in these sessions.

First, I'm watching and learning from the child. What peculiar mix of cognitive skills does the child have? The broader skills are easy to identify, but various levels of various subskills are unique to each child and it's fun to watch how these skills interact with a problem. I especially like to observer one group of subskills making up for a gap in another group so I can steer the child toward the area of growth.

I have to watch the clock because a child only has 20 minutes concentration and thinking if this child is working through one of my problems. Varies by age and how the child is feeling that day.

I plod along methodically through the problems making sure the child sees major and minor details or oddities and evaluates the problem thoroughly under the heading of '15 minutes evaluating the question and 1 minutes getting it right' instead of '1 minute evaluating the question and 15 minutes getting it wrong.' During this process, the skills emerge that underpin a solid academic performance, not to mention success on an entrance exams. I have yet to meet a parent who can spend as much time as I can on a question.

I am determined to not help the child. This is really hard. If I help in some cheaty way, the parent is going to see it, and then the parent is going to turn around and help the child from that point on and the child is never going to learn anything. So I'm staring at a child who is staring at one of my problems and not getting any of it, and the clock is ticking. It's circumstances like these where chain smoking would be appropriate, but I can't start smoking because the long term negative effects on health. Not to mention it would look bad.

The first kid had some issues with double digit addition. No problem. Start with 10 + 10 and go from there. Thanks to Poyla (1945). The next kid had to work with the Blind Academic Coach, and every time he told me what to do, I would draw it (little kids never ask how a blind academic coach can draw so well) and then he would see that I drew was wrong because what he told me but it is wrong, and so is his logic. 4 or 5 attempts later, he totally gets it.

That was easy.

Next I asked an older child to prove to me that a line has 180 degrees. In this case, I tell him all sorts of useful things (like a right angle has 90 degrees) until he can actually put the pieces together himself. Next time he'll get less help. He actually made a valid argument why a line has 180 degrees. I'll have to write this down because it's better than the one I came up with.

Then I think I met my match. A little braniac said that my problems were easy (in the beginning of the book). Nobody tells me my problems are easy. Bring it on. OK, let's do problem #46 (approximately). Both of us were totally stuck. The question made my brain hurt. But the 20 minute time ran out so I was save by the bell. I'm not sure the child was out of thinking time, but I sure was.

Getting to the point where your child can't solve a problem and has to repeat it the next day or next week is fine if you don't have a test deadline looming. It's a huge learning opportunity. Giving up and just telling the child how to do it is no help at all, unless you happen to have a few hundred more problems standing by, problems that just get harder and harder and harder. I will recommend, however, if you have to help, set the problem aside for a few hours or a day, make the child try again, and then help. Better yet, write your own problem that's sort of like the hard one, only much easier.

There's a lot going on in these sessions.

First, I'm watching and learning from the child. What peculiar mix of cognitive skills does the child have? The broader skills are easy to identify, but various levels of various subskills are unique to each child and it's fun to watch how these skills interact with a problem. I especially like to observer one group of subskills making up for a gap in another group so I can steer the child toward the area of growth.

I have to watch the clock because a child only has 20 minutes concentration and thinking if this child is working through one of my problems. Varies by age and how the child is feeling that day.

I plod along methodically through the problems making sure the child sees major and minor details or oddities and evaluates the problem thoroughly under the heading of '15 minutes evaluating the question and 1 minutes getting it right' instead of '1 minute evaluating the question and 15 minutes getting it wrong.' During this process, the skills emerge that underpin a solid academic performance, not to mention success on an entrance exams. I have yet to meet a parent who can spend as much time as I can on a question.

I am determined to not help the child. This is really hard. If I help in some cheaty way, the parent is going to see it, and then the parent is going to turn around and help the child from that point on and the child is never going to learn anything. So I'm staring at a child who is staring at one of my problems and not getting any of it, and the clock is ticking. It's circumstances like these where chain smoking would be appropriate, but I can't start smoking because the long term negative effects on health. Not to mention it would look bad.

The first kid had some issues with double digit addition. No problem. Start with 10 + 10 and go from there. Thanks to Poyla (1945). The next kid had to work with the Blind Academic Coach, and every time he told me what to do, I would draw it (little kids never ask how a blind academic coach can draw so well) and then he would see that I drew was wrong because what he told me but it is wrong, and so is his logic. 4 or 5 attempts later, he totally gets it.

That was easy.

Next I asked an older child to prove to me that a line has 180 degrees. In this case, I tell him all sorts of useful things (like a right angle has 90 degrees) until he can actually put the pieces together himself. Next time he'll get less help. He actually made a valid argument why a line has 180 degrees. I'll have to write this down because it's better than the one I came up with.

Then I think I met my match. A little braniac said that my problems were easy (in the beginning of the book). Nobody tells me my problems are easy. Bring it on. OK, let's do problem #46 (approximately). Both of us were totally stuck. The question made my brain hurt. But the 20 minute time ran out so I was save by the bell. I'm not sure the child was out of thinking time, but I sure was.

Getting to the point where your child can't solve a problem and has to repeat it the next day or next week is fine if you don't have a test deadline looming. It's a huge learning opportunity. Giving up and just telling the child how to do it is no help at all, unless you happen to have a few hundred more problems standing by, problems that just get harder and harder and harder. I will recommend, however, if you have to help, set the problem aside for a few hours or a day, make the child try again, and then help. Better yet, write your own problem that's sort of like the hard one, only much easier.

## Saturday, September 23, 2017

### Every Math Problem Has Three Steps

Here is an experiment for a child between 2nd and 6th grade. I'm assuming this child does a little extra math outside of school, like daily math or math on the weekends to earn computer time.

Ask this child to solve this problem: 8 + 9 = ?

One of two things is going to happen.

Either the child says 17 because the child has memorized his math facts, which you hope happens by 6th grade, or the child will look at this problem trying to remember how they did it so as to do the minimum work possible. For older kids, you can substitute 85 + 78 if you want.

Many children are either Solvers or a Memorizers. Memorizers tend to hurry through things and do things fast and accurately, and Solvers are always looking for a way to cheat because they are lazy. Solvers take a long time. If your child is in 7th grade and takes 20 seconds to solve this problem, she is an Concentrator, which is a Solver Plus Plus. With 85 + 78, Memorizers have memorized the 'how to mechanism' complete with carry the one and apply it quickly. Solvers are too lazy to carry the one or and they vaguely recall either 'carry the something' or 'drop the something'.

The correct answer is not 17. This article explains why.

Some day this child will be asked to decompose x

This is why 8 + 9 does not equal 17.

Some time after Kindergarten, after the finger counting and mental counting stage, your child will see 5 + 6 or 7 + 9 and I'm telling you right now, any number that the child announces is wrong, especially one that comes quickly from memory. The answer to 5 + 6 is "both hands plus my invisible finger", or "5 + 5 + 1" and the answer to 7 + 9 is "8 + 1 + 8 - 1", which becomes "8 + 8", but with a few more steps could end up being 4 x 4 which is equivalent to the area of a square 4 on a side, depending on the age of the child.

At the right age, 8 + 9 is a ten minute problem. Step 1: Look at this problem and decide that there's an easier cheaty way to solve it. Step 2: rearrange, decompose, etc. Step 3: Get the wrong answer, like 14, and try again, because you stink.

Solvers have a ton of grit and go much farther and do much harder things than Memorizers. All of the mistakes make for one persistent, durable, cool child.

For the last 6 years, I've been warning readers that a single hard problem that takes 20 minutes is 10 times the learning of a worksheet with 30 easy Kumon style math facts. With that hard one problem your child can acquire the tools to break apart a problem, refactor it, substitute, get it wrong, try something different, and come up with something clever on their own. This is how Solvers earn their name. If this problem happens to be 3 problems in one with some ambiguity and other craziness, and I'm talking about Test Prep Math, then you can get a Solver out of a Memorizer. TPM is a Solver Training Course.

Solvers don't seem to have a problem doing worksheets, but they do it much differently than Memorizers. They score 100% because they check the answers out of habit because they never bothered to memorize anything and are accustomed to getting things wrong. Solvers can take on new topics and thrive on tests like the MAP. Memorizers are stumped by the COGAT.

One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make with the child's education is to teach the child math. A similar mistake is to hire a tutor to teach the child math. It seems like a good idea, and appears to solve the problem by increasing grades and test scores, but you are only solving the short term problem and neglecting the impending long term disaster. The clock is ticking and the disaster approaches. Instead, you need to teach solving, not math. Or, if you really want to get fancy, teach cognitive skills and let the child learn solving on their own, and you will get a Concentrator.

How is a Memorizer made? A child solves a challenging problem for their age, like '5 + 6' at age 4 or early 5, and the parent is totally overwhelmed with pride and praise. So the child determines that 7 + 8 would garner more love and it does, so he just keeps going. Stop it. Instead, ask the child how he solved the problem and then be proud. Even better, ask if there's a better, cheaty way to solve it, don't be impressed with the first few attempts, and you might get a Concentrator.

Ask this child to solve this problem: 8 + 9 = ?

One of two things is going to happen.

Either the child says 17 because the child has memorized his math facts, which you hope happens by 6th grade, or the child will look at this problem trying to remember how they did it so as to do the minimum work possible. For older kids, you can substitute 85 + 78 if you want.

Many children are either Solvers or a Memorizers. Memorizers tend to hurry through things and do things fast and accurately, and Solvers are always looking for a way to cheat because they are lazy. Solvers take a long time. If your child is in 7th grade and takes 20 seconds to solve this problem, she is an Concentrator, which is a Solver Plus Plus. With 85 + 78, Memorizers have memorized the 'how to mechanism' complete with carry the one and apply it quickly. Solvers are too lazy to carry the one or and they vaguely recall either 'carry the something' or 'drop the something'.

The correct answer is not 17. This article explains why.

Some day this child will be asked to decompose x

^{2}+ 7x + 6 into it's component zeros (x+1)(x+6) and back. If the child is new to 2nd order polynomials, I'll ask how this helps us graph this function and what else we need to cheat so we don't have to calculate a bunch of values. The Memorizers do not have the skills to do any of this. Memorizers usually cry when presented with new topics. If I'm involved, it takes Solvers about 30 minutes to crush 2nd order polynomials and be ready to move on to asymptotic functions or the complex plane. Solvers will have forgotten everything we worked on so it will take them 3 weeks for any of it to sink in, but they are way ahead of Memorizers. Concentrators will solve the whole thing on their own and I'll have a hard time explaining why they need algebraic transformations in the first place.This is why 8 + 9 does not equal 17.

Some time after Kindergarten, after the finger counting and mental counting stage, your child will see 5 + 6 or 7 + 9 and I'm telling you right now, any number that the child announces is wrong, especially one that comes quickly from memory. The answer to 5 + 6 is "both hands plus my invisible finger", or "5 + 5 + 1" and the answer to 7 + 9 is "8 + 1 + 8 - 1", which becomes "8 + 8", but with a few more steps could end up being 4 x 4 which is equivalent to the area of a square 4 on a side, depending on the age of the child.

At the right age, 8 + 9 is a ten minute problem. Step 1: Look at this problem and decide that there's an easier cheaty way to solve it. Step 2: rearrange, decompose, etc. Step 3: Get the wrong answer, like 14, and try again, because you stink.

Solvers have a ton of grit and go much farther and do much harder things than Memorizers. All of the mistakes make for one persistent, durable, cool child.

For the last 6 years, I've been warning readers that a single hard problem that takes 20 minutes is 10 times the learning of a worksheet with 30 easy Kumon style math facts. With that hard one problem your child can acquire the tools to break apart a problem, refactor it, substitute, get it wrong, try something different, and come up with something clever on their own. This is how Solvers earn their name. If this problem happens to be 3 problems in one with some ambiguity and other craziness, and I'm talking about Test Prep Math, then you can get a Solver out of a Memorizer. TPM is a Solver Training Course.

Solvers don't seem to have a problem doing worksheets, but they do it much differently than Memorizers. They score 100% because they check the answers out of habit because they never bothered to memorize anything and are accustomed to getting things wrong. Solvers can take on new topics and thrive on tests like the MAP. Memorizers are stumped by the COGAT.

One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make with the child's education is to teach the child math. A similar mistake is to hire a tutor to teach the child math. It seems like a good idea, and appears to solve the problem by increasing grades and test scores, but you are only solving the short term problem and neglecting the impending long term disaster. The clock is ticking and the disaster approaches. Instead, you need to teach solving, not math. Or, if you really want to get fancy, teach cognitive skills and let the child learn solving on their own, and you will get a Concentrator.

How is a Memorizer made? A child solves a challenging problem for their age, like '5 + 6' at age 4 or early 5, and the parent is totally overwhelmed with pride and praise. So the child determines that 7 + 8 would garner more love and it does, so he just keeps going. Stop it. Instead, ask the child how he solved the problem and then be proud. Even better, ask if there's a better, cheaty way to solve it, don't be impressed with the first few attempts, and you might get a Concentrator.

## Saturday, September 16, 2017

### Tales From The Front

I began my day with an awesome 6 year old and her 4 year old brother, and ended with a Freshman in high school.

I can't decide which age group I like better. First graders haven't had their cognitive skills beaten out of them yet by grade school math, and kids in Pre-K are just a bundle of silliness. On the other hand, older kids who join my ongoing research project must pass the requirement of watching all 8 Star Wars movies, even the 3 really bad ones, so I can say things like 'Dude, we are going to learn to master the force here, and I'm the Jedi Master Yoda of math.'

Needless to say, I get a lot of eye rolling after 5th grade.

After the morning session, I created this video to help parents past Question #21. This morning was a flash back to my own child at an early 4, and we spent about 2 or 3 weeks on this simple concept. I've also included my solutions to the first 40 or so problems in Shape Size Color Count. It's not just my advantage of not being the parent (in other words, I can skip the 1st six weeks of whining and crying), but I've watched kids do thousands of questions and know how to eek out every last drop of cognitive challenge out of a question. I think I'll take random test questions from random test prep books and demonstrate in future videos.

I'm pretty excited about my research project for first grade. My Question Research Department demanded that I include 'chicken beans' in a question. Having known the members of my Question Research Department from birth, I added the following bonus questions:

(Answer: According to older kids who are much more savvy than I, the only 2 answers that are correct are a) "Chicken beans are cool", and b) you can answer 'chicken beans' to any adult questions.

(Answer: Chicken Beans, but no one gets it so I have to actually provide a real answer.)

I've decided that at a high level, reading comprehension skills and math skills overlap so much that they are almost the same in a properly prepared context. This is not at all intuitive if you think learning '5 + 4 = 9" is math, but I've never met a child who didn't learn that on their own and it doesn't help the kid crush algebra, which is what math is all about. If you think about 'evening' and 'sunset', there is a surprising amount of math in there.

I'll have more to say on this topic in about 3 months.

I can't decide which age group I like better. First graders haven't had their cognitive skills beaten out of them yet by grade school math, and kids in Pre-K are just a bundle of silliness. On the other hand, older kids who join my ongoing research project must pass the requirement of watching all 8 Star Wars movies, even the 3 really bad ones, so I can say things like 'Dude, we are going to learn to master the force here, and I'm the Jedi Master Yoda of math.'

Needless to say, I get a lot of eye rolling after 5th grade.

After the morning session, I created this video to help parents past Question #21. This morning was a flash back to my own child at an early 4, and we spent about 2 or 3 weeks on this simple concept. I've also included my solutions to the first 40 or so problems in Shape Size Color Count. It's not just my advantage of not being the parent (in other words, I can skip the 1st six weeks of whining and crying), but I've watched kids do thousands of questions and know how to eek out every last drop of cognitive challenge out of a question. I think I'll take random test questions from random test prep books and demonstrate in future videos.

I'm pretty excited about my research project for first grade. My Question Research Department demanded that I include 'chicken beans' in a question. Having known the members of my Question Research Department from birth, I added the following bonus questions:

**Bonus Question:**Use 'chicken beans' in a sentence.(Answer: According to older kids who are much more savvy than I, the only 2 answers that are correct are a) "Chicken beans are cool", and b) you can answer 'chicken beans' to any adult questions.

**Super Bonus Question:**What is the difference between evening and sunset?(Answer: Chicken Beans, but no one gets it so I have to actually provide a real answer.)

I've decided that at a high level, reading comprehension skills and math skills overlap so much that they are almost the same in a properly prepared context. This is not at all intuitive if you think learning '5 + 4 = 9" is math, but I've never met a child who didn't learn that on their own and it doesn't help the kid crush algebra, which is what math is all about. If you think about 'evening' and 'sunset', there is a surprising amount of math in there.

I'll have more to say on this topic in about 3 months.

## Thursday, September 14, 2017

### Experiments in Thinking Skills

This is the 2nd part to my previous article on what is hard and what is not hard in the context of cognitive skills and GAT tests.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting down with a wee one to do the first problem in Test Prep Math 2. This book is for for 2nd to mid 3rd grade children. It should be called SAT and MAP Test Reading Comprehension Prep Disguised As Math because the cognitive skill set is so similar.

I'm also getting the play-by-play from a tester who helps too much (stop it!) and want to clarify something that I put in my video on verbal matrices that is really important to keep in mind. According to the purpose and nature of a GAT test, academic potential is measured by:

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting down with a wee one to do the first problem in Test Prep Math 2. This book is for for 2nd to mid 3rd grade children. It should be called SAT and MAP Test Reading Comprehension Prep Disguised As Math because the cognitive skill set is so similar.

I'm also getting the play-by-play from a tester who helps too much (stop it!) and want to clarify something that I put in my video on verbal matrices that is really important to keep in mind. According to the purpose and nature of a GAT test, academic potential is measured by:

- Surprising and confusing questions
- That are new and different
**The parent is not in the room to answer questions**- That have multiple parts and multiple steps
- Where the probability of wrong on the first try is built in to the test
- Other things mentioned in the presentation.
**And the parent is not allowed in the room to answer questions**

The math and logic of the test are not advanced. There are no decimals or long division. It's all about finding kids who could do well in an accelerated learning environment with little help, not kids who are already one or two years ahead due to training.

Let me walk you through an example.

Here is the first word problem from Test Prep Math Level 2. I'm going to describe what I'm looking for when a child works through this and why it is critical

**not**to worry about whether or not the child actually gets to 11 on the first, second, fifth or any try until later in the book. (For those of you who think this problem is easy, the questions get harder. This is problem #1.)*Hannah just turned 3. Hannah’s mom made a birthday cake for Hannah, and Hannah’s older brother Oliver put enough candles on the birthday cake for his age plus 4 extra candles that he found in the box. How many candles did Hannah’s mom have to take off of the cake if Oliver is 10 years old?*

I invite the child to read the problem a few times. I'll read it outloud if necessary later if that helps the child put the pieces together. After a few attempts, or if the child is frustrated because he is asked to think, I'll invite the child to draw a picture, explain the problem to me one sentence at a time, providing an executive presentation to the world's dumbest parent.

Getting to 10 + 4 = 14 and 14 - 3 = 11 is not easy because the problem is not in the spoon-feeding order of 2nd and 3rd grade math books, and this problem has two equations, not one. The goal isn't "There were 4 candles and 10 more. How many were there altogether?". I don't care if the child can add and subtract because this takes care of itself, and when we get there, we'll have a formidable skill set way beyond arithmetic. Plus, the book is preparing to sneak in a 3rd equation or maybe some multiplication.

Two important goals are working memory and logic skills. These go hand in hand.

The 'memory' part is exercised and built up while the kid tries to keep all of the partial equations in memory while blanks are filled in on the way to solving. For this reason, I'm hoping the problem takes 25 minutes and multiple attempts, and I don't explain it because the longer the better as far as memory is concerned. I'll be rewarded later in the book when the questions get a lot harder.

The working part is finding the 3 and the 10, which are out of place, and trying to solve the equations one step at a time. (I find that numbers keep dropping out of memory during this process early in the book). Multiple subskills will emerge from this process if you don't help. All kids won't make it on the first try for at least some (if not many or most) of the problems that follow. That's the whole point.

When I have to go the picture route, the working memory demands decrease, so I increase demands on verbal presentation skills by making the child compare the picture to the problem step-by-step because I'm still confused. This is also great for working memory. That's why we hold off on the picture until at least a few readings and maybe a few attempts.

I wanted to hammer away at core cognitive skills. Confusing? The child has to fix this question, at least the order of presentation. Get it wrong, shrug it off, and try again? Solving 2 or 3 easy math problems at once works wonders for this. The likelihood of error is high.

Later in the book I'll start asking the child to prove their answer instead of reading the solutions. Checking the answer is also vital for tests and homework.

When child gets to problems that are more challenging, it's really hard to do 6 + 7 = 13 and 16 - 5 = 11 and 13 - 11 = 2 in just one try, especially if arithmetic skills are still developing and the wording is vague or tricky. If I'm really lucky it will take 5 tries (which might take 30 solved equations, not just 15) so on top of all of the really great skills the child is picking up, I just out Kumoned Kumon on repetition. I expect flawless school work to follow Test Prep Math without having to do a boring worksheet or even correct 6 + 7 = 14 because eventually the child corrects it herself later.

In the meantime, a child learns to deal with confusion, figure out and explain without the help of a parent, get the answer wrong, try again, build working memory, and eventually learns to add and subtract slowly and carefully because eventually the child tires of having to do things over because of speed and sloppiness.

When it takes 25 minutes, I've got a child who is on the steep part of the learning curve and the 25 minutes are worth it. When it takes only 10 minutes because the impatient and perfectionist coach can't stand it that the child is struggling and making mistakes, the child is short changed on 15 minutes of learning and working memory growth. When it takes 10 minutes because the child happens to be ahead already, we'll just move forward until things get harder.

To repeat what I said above, you're not allowed in the room for the ITBS, MAP, COGAT, NNAT, Raven, PARC, SAT, or any other test. So stop helping. Your child is not going to think unless they are allowed to think. Getting the correct answer or even gaining a full understanding of the question is not our goal until all of the pieces are in place. The goal is for the child to do it. At the 15 minute mark, I jump in and start helping, preferably with lots of questions.

Then I'll ask what Oliver's mom said to Oliver.

## Friday, September 8, 2017

### Little Kids and The Big Leap

I've been working with little kids lately. I like this group the best because each child is much more likely to have zero GAT skills at the onset and thus it's the most rewarding place to spend my time. Getting a 7th grader from 97 to 99 is frankly not much because of all that new teen attitude. I need a break from my overly technical analysis of Verbal questions anyway, so lets talk about the Big Leap from not at all GAT to GAT Powerhouse of Awesomeness.

When I put together Shape Size Color Count for age 4, I removed the solutions before publishing because publishing costs are so high and who needs a solution to 5 blob fish minus 3 blog fish? In response to a complaint on Amazon, I started typing up the solutions which are found here. I just started, and probably don't need to cover all the questions because once you get it, you get it. I think the mean reviewer was right on the benefit of solutions. While the first 20 questions are easy for an adult, and they are a gold mine of 'cognitive stuff' going on that the parent is not going to fully appreciate until months or years later when she sees a COGAT or NNAT practice test.

Question 21 begins a quantitative section. This approach seems downright insane. It's the same level of insanity of doing Every Day Math Grade 2 well before grade 2. It requires the leap in most cases because most people do what I did when my child was age 3, which is nothing.

Depending on the age of the child, this leap could take a few days or 3 weeks.

It took 3 weeks the very first time, despite the fact that SSCC is intentionally slow to ramp up. The problems start on the easy end of working memory visual number sense whole language math with a lot going on, and work up to working memory visual number sense whole language math with more going on. No parents have reported as bad experience as I had with the Test Prep Kid (expect the usual crying when the child is having a bad day). When I work with other kids, I'm left wondering if my kids weren't the dimmest kids in the GAT nebula. Maybe we're the Bad News Bears of GAT.

But I do know that watching the struggle in the first few weeks of any of the major projects we started, including SSCC and Test Prep Math paid off in such a big way after the initial start up sluggishness. Unfortunately, this start up period is mandatory. You can't spoon feed your way to GAT. It's about thinking at a higher level where things are new and confusing, not step-by-step being trained to do work at a higher level to avoid the 'new' and the 'confusing'.

What if a parent watches their child struggle for 2 or 3 weeks and decides that the kid just can't do it? I can tell you from experience, over and over again with a variety of children, in every single case the child will end up doing an adequate job of really advanced accelerated material if you just stick with it. Complain or challenge me if this doesn't happen. Is that the secret to GAT? I personally think the secret is vocabulary + working memory + not answering the child's questions (after the age of 4), and surviving the initial start up period is unlocking the GAT gate. What I mean by an adequate job is that a child of 5 mostly teaches themselves Every Day Math Grade 2 and mostly gets correct answer (after yet another startup period). SSCC blatantly gears up for a cognitive skills test, but in my house the day after the first test is the day I present a clean copy of EDM so I built that in as well.

In the solutions to SSCC, I'm 'going deep'. This is an education strategy where every child gets something challenging to work through or a question that they are nearly but not quite ready to answer without help or hints. It's built into every question. Is it enough just to get the child through 3 + 3? Or, did they get 3 + 3 but not notice that there is something slightly wrong with the diagram or the question? Can they group? Then ask them to regroup. I'm also going deep with coaching tips because I can't imagine someone investing in an expensive color book without planning a future of academic success at a high level for their child.

When I put together Shape Size Color Count for age 4, I removed the solutions before publishing because publishing costs are so high and who needs a solution to 5 blob fish minus 3 blog fish? In response to a complaint on Amazon, I started typing up the solutions which are found here. I just started, and probably don't need to cover all the questions because once you get it, you get it. I think the mean reviewer was right on the benefit of solutions. While the first 20 questions are easy for an adult, and they are a gold mine of 'cognitive stuff' going on that the parent is not going to fully appreciate until months or years later when she sees a COGAT or NNAT practice test.

Question 21 begins a quantitative section. This approach seems downright insane. It's the same level of insanity of doing Every Day Math Grade 2 well before grade 2. It requires the leap in most cases because most people do what I did when my child was age 3, which is nothing.

Depending on the age of the child, this leap could take a few days or 3 weeks.

It took 3 weeks the very first time, despite the fact that SSCC is intentionally slow to ramp up. The problems start on the easy end of working memory visual number sense whole language math with a lot going on, and work up to working memory visual number sense whole language math with more going on. No parents have reported as bad experience as I had with the Test Prep Kid (expect the usual crying when the child is having a bad day). When I work with other kids, I'm left wondering if my kids weren't the dimmest kids in the GAT nebula. Maybe we're the Bad News Bears of GAT.

But I do know that watching the struggle in the first few weeks of any of the major projects we started, including SSCC and Test Prep Math paid off in such a big way after the initial start up sluggishness. Unfortunately, this start up period is mandatory. You can't spoon feed your way to GAT. It's about thinking at a higher level where things are new and confusing, not step-by-step being trained to do work at a higher level to avoid the 'new' and the 'confusing'.

What if a parent watches their child struggle for 2 or 3 weeks and decides that the kid just can't do it? I can tell you from experience, over and over again with a variety of children, in every single case the child will end up doing an adequate job of really advanced accelerated material if you just stick with it. Complain or challenge me if this doesn't happen. Is that the secret to GAT? I personally think the secret is vocabulary + working memory + not answering the child's questions (after the age of 4), and surviving the initial start up period is unlocking the GAT gate. What I mean by an adequate job is that a child of 5 mostly teaches themselves Every Day Math Grade 2 and mostly gets correct answer (after yet another startup period). SSCC blatantly gears up for a cognitive skills test, but in my house the day after the first test is the day I present a clean copy of EDM so I built that in as well.

In the solutions to SSCC, I'm 'going deep'. This is an education strategy where every child gets something challenging to work through or a question that they are nearly but not quite ready to answer without help or hints. It's built into every question. Is it enough just to get the child through 3 + 3? Or, did they get 3 + 3 but not notice that there is something slightly wrong with the diagram or the question? Can they group? Then ask them to regroup. I'm also going deep with coaching tips because I can't imagine someone investing in an expensive color book without planning a future of academic success at a high level for their child.

## Tuesday, September 5, 2017

### Test Prep 202 - Verbal

I've been dragging my feet on addressing the verbal section of cognitive skills tests because there is so much material to organize. Unlike figure matrices, it's not as easy to write artificial intelligence software that groups words by their properties like you can do for shapes. Is this possible?

Well, that's exactly what I did for Pre-K Phonics Conceptual Vocabulary and Thinking, and no, it was not as easy.

Here is the result on youtube.

I don't spend a lot of time writing about verbal topics in general because the problem has been solved. The math curriculum in the United States is so bad that studying math before 6th grade in a US school can actually make a child dumber (aka decrease cognitive skills), whereas there has been an explosion of amazing literature for all grade levels in the last 15 years, and lots of outstanding works like The Read Aloud Handbook, Every Book is a Mystery, and the first 30 pages of The Well Trained Mind just to name a few.

In Math House we spend about 15 to 30 minutes on math each day and 100% of the rest of the time engaged in reading, vocabulary, and critical thinking activities that are all verbal in nature like arguing who's Minecraft Command Block is more lame. Math House will most likely produce lawyers who like to write books, and I will someday likely conclude my blog in failure by announcing that I produced children who could win a Fields Medal if they would just bother to study graduate math but refuse to.

The parents who are most in need of help on the verbal section are in three groups - those who's kids perform well on the other sections but don't on verbal for no apparent reason, those who are behind in either reading or the English language or both, and really strong readers who should be at 99% but just can't seem to translate all of that reading to a cognitive skills test. That's a pretty broad range, but the basic approach is the same regardless of level.

The videos don't answer two important questions that I didn't see until after I was finished: How hard is this test? Does your child really need calculus and Medieval European Literature in 1st grade? Of course not. Secondly, how do you deal with alternative answers that both appear to be correct? These are pretty exciting questions to me and I'll delve into them next.

Here is a summary of what to expect.

First, everything I said about figure matrices applies to verbal analogies, sentence completion, and classification. To increase the score in the short term, simply take a verbal question and do what I did in the video with the figure matrix. I think I'll start by doing exactly this.

Unfortunately, if that's all we had, I wouldn't count on a score above 75 on verbal. The fact is that test prep on the quantitative and non-verbal sections adequately builds cognitive skills not only in the topical area, improves academic performance in general, but also greatly increases test scores, whereas explicit test prep on the verbal section is almost impossible. Helpful but hard to do. In the past I've recommended a strategy of focusing on the quantitative and non-verbal sections to improve scores because point-for-point, it's the most effective use of limited time. I have a solution to this problem.

The quality of verbal test prep questions is generally lower than the other sections and less fruitful. The raw material and latitude of the test makers is much wider. A shape has a limited number of attributes - the arrangement of angles and sides, dimension, and color (thus the title Shape Size Color Count). A word has many, many more. Spelling, usage, physical dimensions, context, number of characters, multiple meanings, opposites, synonyms and on and on.

But didn't I mention before that I'm in one of those 99% cutoff school districts? Didn't I state that we spend the majority of our time working on verbal? Aren't all of my rivals families of really strong readers. Yes, all true. Brace yourself, the Math House is about to reveal it's true identity.

The videos focus a lot on coaching and targeting the skills that the tests measure, but I don't go into a long list of sample questions. I never do this with parents or with kids and never needed to. I'm more than happy to respond to any question on any question from any book. Just send an email to getyourchildintogat.com with a picture of the question and we'll play Stump the Academic Coach.

Let's do some verbal!

Well, that's exactly what I did for Pre-K Phonics Conceptual Vocabulary and Thinking, and no, it was not as easy.

Here is the result on youtube.

I don't spend a lot of time writing about verbal topics in general because the problem has been solved. The math curriculum in the United States is so bad that studying math before 6th grade in a US school can actually make a child dumber (aka decrease cognitive skills), whereas there has been an explosion of amazing literature for all grade levels in the last 15 years, and lots of outstanding works like The Read Aloud Handbook, Every Book is a Mystery, and the first 30 pages of The Well Trained Mind just to name a few.

In Math House we spend about 15 to 30 minutes on math each day and 100% of the rest of the time engaged in reading, vocabulary, and critical thinking activities that are all verbal in nature like arguing who's Minecraft Command Block is more lame. Math House will most likely produce lawyers who like to write books, and I will someday likely conclude my blog in failure by announcing that I produced children who could win a Fields Medal if they would just bother to study graduate math but refuse to.

The parents who are most in need of help on the verbal section are in three groups - those who's kids perform well on the other sections but don't on verbal for no apparent reason, those who are behind in either reading or the English language or both, and really strong readers who should be at 99% but just can't seem to translate all of that reading to a cognitive skills test. That's a pretty broad range, but the basic approach is the same regardless of level.

The videos don't answer two important questions that I didn't see until after I was finished: How hard is this test? Does your child really need calculus and Medieval European Literature in 1st grade? Of course not. Secondly, how do you deal with alternative answers that both appear to be correct? These are pretty exciting questions to me and I'll delve into them next.

Here is a summary of what to expect.

First, everything I said about figure matrices applies to verbal analogies, sentence completion, and classification. To increase the score in the short term, simply take a verbal question and do what I did in the video with the figure matrix. I think I'll start by doing exactly this.

Unfortunately, if that's all we had, I wouldn't count on a score above 75 on verbal. The fact is that test prep on the quantitative and non-verbal sections adequately builds cognitive skills not only in the topical area, improves academic performance in general, but also greatly increases test scores, whereas explicit test prep on the verbal section is almost impossible. Helpful but hard to do. In the past I've recommended a strategy of focusing on the quantitative and non-verbal sections to improve scores because point-for-point, it's the most effective use of limited time. I have a solution to this problem.

The quality of verbal test prep questions is generally lower than the other sections and less fruitful. The raw material and latitude of the test makers is much wider. A shape has a limited number of attributes - the arrangement of angles and sides, dimension, and color (thus the title Shape Size Color Count). A word has many, many more. Spelling, usage, physical dimensions, context, number of characters, multiple meanings, opposites, synonyms and on and on.

But didn't I mention before that I'm in one of those 99% cutoff school districts? Didn't I state that we spend the majority of our time working on verbal? Aren't all of my rivals families of really strong readers. Yes, all true. Brace yourself, the Math House is about to reveal it's true identity.

The videos focus a lot on coaching and targeting the skills that the tests measure, but I don't go into a long list of sample questions. I never do this with parents or with kids and never needed to. I'm more than happy to respond to any question on any question from any book. Just send an email to getyourchildintogat.com with a picture of the question and we'll play Stump the Academic Coach.

Let's do some verbal!

## Saturday, September 2, 2017

### Test Prep 201 - Figure Matrices

The non-verbal section comprises 4 of 9 sections on the COGAT if you include number analogies, which I do because throwing number analogies on top of other types of shape transformations raises the bar on practice. I think this area is probably our strongest area.

In fact, here is one strategy to the 3

I have been getting lots of requests for help on figure analogies lately, probably because of the over the top section I added to edition 3 of Test Prep Math. Here is a training video for parents on Figure Matrices. I typed up a very long dry technical narrative and switched to video. It looks a lot like how I coach, only super fast and I do all of the talking. The bad news is that I really need some editing software and I sound like I grew up in Indiana and I'm a geek.

I'm also getting lots of questions on the verbal section, especially by a few Tiger Readers. In their honor, I'm going to follow up 201 with 202 - Verbal. Figure matrices and verbal are very similar in all things but content.

In fact, here is one strategy to the 3

*verbal*sections: over prepare on the non-verbal and quantitative sections and hope for the best. This strategy may not get you to 99%, but it might get you close and I'll explain that next week. Regardless, there is more coming on the verbal section.I have been getting lots of requests for help on figure analogies lately, probably because of the over the top section I added to edition 3 of Test Prep Math. Here is a training video for parents on Figure Matrices. I typed up a very long dry technical narrative and switched to video. It looks a lot like how I coach, only super fast and I do all of the talking. The bad news is that I really need some editing software and I sound like I grew up in Indiana and I'm a geek.

I'm also getting lots of questions on the verbal section, especially by a few Tiger Readers. In their honor, I'm going to follow up 201 with 202 - Verbal. Figure matrices and verbal are very similar in all things but content.

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