Monday, November 27, 2017

Add 20% To Your Child's Score

Here is a thorough paper summarizing early childhood studies.  It's slightly dry if you're not in to this sort of thing, but it's very inspiring how much success has followed investment in at risk children living in poverty.

The general conclusion is that taking kids who live in a home devoid of eduction and putting them in a top notch academic program is going to have a big impact.  Early studies found that when you send a kid back into the original environment, the scores and grades plummet back to where they came from.  It's nice to see later studies address this issue.

These authors ask an open question that I have already answered.  It's a really big question and has a big answer.
...many early child interventions are conducted with at-risk children living in poverty. There are many reasons to suspect that the same results may not occur if the same intervention were conducted with affluent children. 

"Affluent" in this case means a home with education and stability.  I would agree a child from an "affluent" home may not see much benefit from a program designed for an inner city child with a single parent who didn't finish high school, even though some of the at risk kids in these programs saw IQ leaps from IQ = 92 to IQ = 130.   That is one friggin' big leap.

Since I don't have any at risk kids in my home, I asked a different question "What type of radical dramatic change would I need to do around here to go from 110 to 125, or 125 to 135, or to 160 just for the day of the big test?"

Step 1:  I'm going to give myself 18 months.  It turned out that it took 14 months just for me to get my act together as a parent, followed by 2 months for my child to get past radical core skill therapy (in one case barely in time for the test) and then 2 months to ramp up to a new level.  You can get your act together on day 1, and I'd be happy to provide a list of mistakes not to make, but if you've been reading my blog I think you're past that.

Step 2:  I want my kids to experience the same shock that these at risk kids experienced walking out of poverty into an advanced academic program run by a bunch of PhD's and taught by their graduate students. 

Step 3:  We're not going back.  I am on constant watch against video games, surfing, online chatting, and fun of any kind as my kids try their best to have a normal life.  It turns out that we only need about 20 or 30 minutes a day of heads down concentration on something inappropriately hard, but I've made those 20 to 30 minutes a prerequisite of fun.

Step 2 is formalized into Test Prep Math.  I want a single shocking 25 minute problem a day at first.  (Yes, I ramp up slowly because some kids cry and more adept kids can just zoom ahead feeling confident before the 'wham'.)   I want mistakes and confusion.  This is the birth place of problem solving skills.  If you present a child with a doable problem, there is no need for problem solving skills.  How about just easing your child along with some step-by-step and scaffolding?  You're not going to get a leap of 20+ points like these studies have found taking baby steps.

But the work is not done. There are two problems I'm dealing with in my own research. 

On one end, I just got 1 started on Amazon.  The reviewer complained "the book has so many errors".  Those "errors" are alternate solutions.  I stole this directly from the COGAT and love it.  You do a problem, get it wrong, don't understand the solution, and then dig in for 20 minutes to figure out that you assumed adding but the only available solution uses multiplication.  If you don't like confusion, don't by the book, because this is the most important skill and the base of the whole GAT skill pyramid.  I'm always worried about printing issues, so I'm getting a new copy just to check the solutions for the 10th time.  My other copies keep getting 'borrowed' by neighbors.

On the other end of the spectrum are kids who have really great math training and skip right past the confusion and problem solving steps because they already know how to do the problems.  The COGAT is a big stumbling block because it demands problem solving ingenuity.   A child never learns to solve problems if they are formally taught math, and if your child goes to a great math program like Mathasium, Level One, or Singapore, they have completely different academic world view than the COGAT.  It's not a bad thing, and could be a good thing, but it's the opposite of what I want for my children.  I'm laying awake at night wondering how to fix these kids.  It's one thing to lead a horse to water and they refuse to drink.  It's another thing if the horse is drinking gallons of water and is still thirsty. 

I'm thinking of just adding more bonus question to Level 2.  I am the master of giving a child a question that he can't answer without 20 minutes of logic and solution strategies, but it would just make people like the 1 star guy more baffled.  I could spoon feed everything in the solution, but this will just help others avoid the learning process.  I hate solutions.  Too many parents think that the whole purpose of test prep and math is to have your child know something.  It's not.  Think more radically, like 20 points radically, whether this is from 79 to 99 or from 99.1 to 99.7.  Step 0 is big goals.


  1. I have a second grader who will be finishing Test Prep 3 in 2-3 months. She also finished Test Prep 2 a few months ago. Now I feel like I will be running out of "thinking math" materials AGAIN. What's next for us?

    1. I think I'm just going to create a website called for this question since I get it so much. Thanks for warning me. In the meantime, keep handy.