Friday, April 13, 2018

Now Is The Time

Over the next few months I'm going to be unleashing some really powerful test crushing material that I've been working on diligently for the past few years.   All of this fits under the head of 'well, we did that stuff, let's see if it will work elsewhere'.  It does work elsewhere.

I've noticed that interest in GAT material drops off after the test scores are released in the spring.  I suppose this is normal.  Normal as in not the top 1%.  When I was in eighth grade, I read the biography of the world's greatest athlete.  He used to have really intense workouts after the year-end tournament was over.  Like right after.  That night.

Giftedness is going to be born in the next few months.

Have you ever heard the expression 'Fake it until you make it'?  There is a great Ted Talk on this subject from Amy Cuddy.  My idea of giftedness is similar.  My idea of giftedness is to take the skills of the gifted and use them.  It's not profoundly gifted, but with a little practice and change it's enough to get into a gifted program. 

An odd thing happened on the way to giftedness.

The difference between a gifted child and a profoundly gifted child is that the profoundly gifted child has so much practice exercising gifted skills that she does it quickly, so quickly, in fact, that neither she nor her parents can explain how she actually does it.  It's like magic.

It's not magic if you look closely.

Last week I doled out more SAT test prep to my 9 year old.  I've been working a lot and it's good for a few minutes without distraction.  Here's one of the questions I gave him.  Take a minute to solve it.

He asked me what the area of a circle was.  I thought kids learned that by this age, but whatever.  Before I could leave the room, in the space of about 15 seconds, he solved it.  That was freaky.  I asked him how he solved it, and he showed how he subtracted one half circle from the other, etc., and nailed it.

We spent 18 months learning the skills from the ground up with Test Prep Math.  There were 2 types of questions.  The first type required a long discussion and argument.  The second type required 4 or 5 attempts.  A year of weekly math later and the discussions have dissipated.

I maintain a slow pace of a few problems here and there.  I've been worrying a lot about how our slow pace in Math House is going to thwart the SAT.  The MAP test requires a slow pace, and we need a perfect score this year, so I don't want to add risk by practicing timed tests.  Last week, I wondered if we should just switch to Kumon and drill boring useless math facts.  I know that slow, careful, and lots of mistakes produces award winning mathematicians so I'm going to stick with principles.  But I gave a 55 minute practice test to older brother and he only finished 30 questions out of 38.  In 70 minutes.  He'll be lucky to break 1200.  I'm beginning to feel the same way I felt watching them being led away to the COGAT at ages 4 and 5.  It was excruciating.  How am I going to survive 3 1/2 hours of waiting while my baby takes a college entrance exam?  Older brother is only 13 and is the subject in one of my diabolical experiments yet again.

The younger feakazoid learned his visual spatial skills from Shape Size Color Count.  He does an adequate showing on reading comp within the official time limit as well.  That skill set started with Pre K Phonics and Conceptual Vocabulary & Thinking and was fully developed by the Test Prep Math Series.  Those 4 books (there are 2 Test Prep Math books) stand out for two reasons.  There is a 2 foot high stack of test prep material for K and 1st grade.  I have a four foot stack, but only recommend about 2 feet of it.  There is almost nothing for children who aren't in K or 1st grade.  Secondly, these 4 books are the only books on the market that present material at the 99%, at least by the end of the books. What is the secret to doing work at the 99% if you're not actually there yet?  It's slightly different than fake it until you make it, but in the same spirit.  Go slow, do less, and make more mistakes.  Until you make it.

If you want a permanent showing at 99%, step out of the crowd.  Work diligently when the rest are taking a break.  Work differently (think Anti-Kumon instead of Kumon).   K and 1st are extremely competitive years but scores drop off after that because the interest drops off.   If your child hasn't reached the magic age of 4 yet, think about SSCC and phonics.  If K and 1st grade were a struggle, double the effort in 2nd and 3rd grade.  It's worth it in the long run.

In my next article, I'm going to describe how Math House crushes reading comp questions.   It's going to be a let down for my readers.  Math House built math from the ground up with foundational skills and ignoring routine practice and memoriation.  We didn't get around to worrying about reading comp until all the math parts of the practice tests in the SAT book were finished and we were looking for the next challenge.  By this point, foundational skills were used and not discussed.  We ended up with a simple reading comp formula that works.  No wisdom, cleverness, counter cultural pedagogy wars.  Just a simple formula.

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