Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Covert Blog

I'm trying to minimize the SEO on my blog.  SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it means that you put key words in your articles so that it shows up on search engines.  If my editor finds out, then I'm in trouble.

In this article, I'll answer a common question that I get.  Where is this heading?

From the beginning, I've found summarizing my research for the public allows me to scrutinize my evidence and edit out failed experiments so that what's left is reliable advice that you can bank on.  In the first year, when I was competing for a spot in a "special school program" (you know what I mean) I nailed that test for that program.   As I was writing, and reviewing past articles a month or so later, I would see things I missed, obvious things, and the door was opened.

I feel like this special test (you know what I mean) is 100% crushable way beyond the required cutoff score.  The pedagogy to get there is counter cultural and counter intuitive.  I don't see evidence that it can be replicated in a school setting except in a few standout programs led by visionaries.  Most parents will never meet success because they can't let go of 'learning something'.  'Something' always interferes with 'learning'.

I'm turning my attention to that other test that 40,000,000 kids take every year in school.  My research is sneaking into my blog whether I like it or not.  Our target is this year and then again in 3 years.  It is much more competitive than the first test mentioned above, and the approach is almost identical with the exception of shapes being replaced by advanced math and the pictures replaced by unknown vocabulary words.  I refer to this test as the TTWBN (the Test That Won't Be Named test).

Most parents face both the special test and the TTWBN test for entry into a special program. Before 2nd grade, the best way to prepare for the TTWBN is just to be 2 years ahead in school.  Somewhere around 2nd grade, other bright kids catch up, and it's not enough to be ahead.  A child has to master academic skills at a very high level.   I'm going to write more about this test without giving away the most critical competitive element - its name.

The common view of special programs is that that the children of wealthy parents will always have a competitive advantage.   The skill set behind this test is almost always attributed to inherited or genetic intelligence, a myth which has been dispelled.   The genetic link only makes sense to researchers oblivious to the scientific method and who have never met an actual child.  'Intelligence' is not definable let alone measurable, and you can't correlate an unmesaruable variable to anything else no matter how much wishful thinking is passed off as results.  If you sit in a wealthy household, you'll observe educated parents maintain an environment rich in vocabulary, discussion, and reading.  Education is highly correlated to wealth.  Vocabulary is the foundation of the whole enterprise.  Thus wealthier households are much more likely to produce gifted children.  The research on vocabulary as the predictor is strong, compelling, and generally ignored.  If you sit in the house of a poor science teacher, you'll see the same dynamic in action and the results are the same.  If you don't have a stack of data on household discussion and test scores you'll miss the dependent variables.

So my first long term goal is to put vocabulary and reading into the poorest households at the level that my children experienced.   It's unlikely I'll do this, but one of the children who went through my program (thanks to a parent who found out it's possible) will decide on a career in education.

The other long term goals, in order of priority, are for bright thinkers of the next generation to tackle poverty, violence, and the propensity of governments to spend the money of the next generation and bankrupt their educational and social systems.  This makes me a liberal and a hard core conservative at the same time, so I'm throwing in a forth goal that one of our future leaders will get democrats and republicans to work together, something along the lines of 'let's spend money on poverty by doing something effective' subject to 'we can't steal money from the next generation to do it'.  Sounds like a republicrat program to me.

I've been watching young people step up in two areas recently; both areas have been in the news.  They are beginning to touch on the core arguments but are not tackling the lies and fallacy and mislogic and ingrained misthinking that need to be overcome .  They're close and they're hearts are in the right place, but we really need a few young John Locke's to step up and transform the world in these areas. 

I'm too busy to do it myself.   I have too much education research to do.


  1. any feedback on the benefits of chess? wondering if i should introduce chess or piano to a 5 year old as supplemental GAT learning...

    1. One of my mentors child and one of the Power Mom's put their kids in a chess program. It's a great way for dad to have quality time with the kid daily (doesn't have to be dad but dad is usually the one who has to get more involved), they have a team made of geeks, and the step thinking is good for math and for being a mathless CEO and for decision making in life. There is no downside to chess. I don't like the 'or' in your question. It should be 'and'. You can go light on piano. It's not like you need a future conductor just because you read some article from Tiger Mom about concert pianists at Yale. Unfortunately, we don't do chess because we're too busy doing calculus and graduate level statistics, but this is how dad gets involved in Math House. From a COGAT/MAP perspective, chess is gold; you can back off of advanced math entirely through 5th grade if you do chess and still come out ahead.

  2. A few questions and a dilemma.... I have two children and their strengths are in completely opposite areas. How do I level these skills out to be more balanced?

    Child No. 1 is already in the full-time GAT program and his strength is anything verbal. I figure reading comprehension is mostly going to be a no-brainer for this one on the "big test". However, despite being pretty good at math and being in the top math group in his class, he is not great at breaking down the equations. What material do you recommend? He's in 4th grade and the class is working on advancing two years ahead (so working on 5th and even some 6th grade math). He struggles a bit but keeps testing into the higher math group (much to his disappointment, ha ha). Struggle is good because it is learning.... But how do we catch up and also get ahead here in order to prepare for the big test?

    Child No. 2 is a wizard with math and grasps math concepts quickly. Scored 99 percentile in math portion without really trying (this is on you know what test) and just qualified for GAT. However, I was sweating because verbal score was not great (88%) and I was really certain that was not going to be enough for the GAT program. (Not sure what happened because the scores for the screener were plenty high for verbal... must have bombed a section). On the other hand, child No. 2 also has struggled with verbal skills in the past, so it is not super surprising that perhaps something threw the child for a loop during the test. How do I catch this child up (a second grader) and get ahead? There seems to be a real struggle here, and I'm even wondering if there is a slight learning disability. But because of the "high enough compared to everyone else" verbal scores, a teacher would probably laugh at me for even mentioning it....

    1. For child #1, here are 2 secrets. First, my 4th grader is probably in the 99.999 in math and he totally stinks at breaking down equations (BDE). He can do the SAT on his own, even the questions without pick lists, and he can't break down equations to save his life. Frankly, he's not all that smart and the only reason he's so adept at math is that we do it daily. His breaking down equations ineptitude doesn't bother me because I can see what's happening and it's called building advanced number sense. The delay in the BRE skill will show up when he's ready and at that point, he'll be 17 years ahead because he waited to BDE.
      It's very similar to the old (disproven) relationship between intelligence and delay in walking, but it's real in math. On to secret #2. There is no get ahead and stay ahead if you follow the pace of your GAT class. Frankly, I don't think he's all that smart, but we've managed to do 1 or 2 or 10 minutes of math each day, the kind of math that guarantees mistakes and wrong answers, so he's easily 2 years ahead of his older brother at that age.

      For child #2, I'm laughing too. My child #2 also struggled in this area. We would do a single reading comp question together, and it would take him 25 minutes for 50% or less, then we would do the whole thing together, maybe 30 more minutes, maybe the next day. Now I'm getting more wrong then he does (it's wrong for me if I have to think about it) and last night the only one he got wrong had 'dubious validity' in the correct answer. His verbal skills are solely dependent on our level of discussion and my attention, and doing reading comp together or vocab or the Word Board guarantees we have daily adult level intense discussions. Plus, I've learned so much on this topic that I've got about 10 future articles worth to say. But I'll stick with secret #3 - spending an hour on a 10 minute reading comp question has broken him of all of his bad test taking habits and he's now performing at GAT level. It has nothing to do with his verbal skills or future verbal level in college and everything to do with undoing the damage of teach to the test schooling.