Archive for December, 2007

How to Improve Math Scores? Get them playing!

Friday, December 7th, 2007

There is a local produce stand in Union County I frequent.  Every time I make my purchases  the clerk moves her pencil  down the price notations she has written on the paper bag she has filled with my vegetables.   After a few seconds she has a total  amount owed from that long column of numbers.
Then she adds the column up bottom to top to check her addition.  No calculator!  No electronic register!
When I hand her my cash to pay she gives me the correct change!  Imagine that!
Last week I asked her how she developed the skill of “adding in her head!”
She replied, “I play cards with my family and chess with my brother and Dad.”

The clerk is 16 years old.

That special skill is one that is seldom seen anymore.  No wonder math scores are down. 
How can your afterschool program build on math skills?
Perhaps to get kids learning, afterschool programs need to get them playing .

The Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County sponsored a Chess Tournament last year.
The response was amazing!

So what can your program do these dark cold afternoons?
-Is there a chess set that sits in the cupboard-pull it out! 
-Those  packs of unopened playing cards-pull them out!  Play CANASTA and MICHIGAN RUMMY,why not BRIDGE?
– What card games do your staff know and love to play?
Have them teach the children.  Perfect thing for a volunteer to do-play chess or cards.

Keep NJSACC posted on games your program has introduced to youth this winter.
 Read this article from the Star Tribune:

Fourth-graders at Forest Lake Elementary are learning math skills and more from chess and cribbage.

By Ben Goessling, Star Tribune

Last update: November 26, 2007 – 3:44 PM

It’s shortly after noon on a Tuesday at Forest Lake Elementary School, and a crowd is forming around fourth-grader Jessica Palomino.

She stares across at Christian Forster, anticipating his next moves as he tries an attack that could knock her out of the game. She counters, steadying herself while glancing at the players on either side as classmates wait to see what will happen next.

“You need vision to see how other people are going to think,” she says. “There’s a lot of strategy to this game.”

This isn’t on a playground at recess. It’s in front of a chess board during math class.

The fourth-graders at Forest Lake Elementary are learning chess and cribbage — and the computation and strategic thinking skills that go with them — as part of a new program teachers hope will put lessons into practice and give students more constructive entertainment options at home.

“It’s amazing how many of these kids never played Yahtzee or chess or cribbage,” fourth-grade teacher Julie Larson said. “This is so much better than a video game. This is something they can do with their grandparents.”

Larson and fellow fourth-grade teacher Jill Atchison started the program this year, bringing in parent volunteers every Friday to teach students chess and cribbage.

Now that the kids know how to play, they pull the games out whenever they have some free time at the end of their math session.

They’re inadvertently practicing addition and multiplication when scoring a cribbage game. Chess brings a study of risk and reward strategies, especially in the four-way game that’s become the class favorite.

But the benefits have gone beyond even what Larson expected.

She’s been continually surprised by what her students say they get out of the games, like when Forster talks about learning how to predict outcomes and other students say they learn sports strategy from chess.

And the social interaction they get from the games, Larson said, is invaluable — especially with video games such a strong presence at home and federal No Child Left Behind laws necessitating a greater focus on basic skills in the classroom.

“These games teach give and take. It’s not that video games are bad, but they’re not interacting when they play them,” she said. “You’re encouraged to make instruction geared toward those strands in tests where you have deficiencies. But kids have issues. You’ve got to be creative.”

That’s paying off outside the classroom, where some students are asking their parents for chess sets and teaching them how to play.

Larson, who doesn’t know how to play chess herself, marvels at how quickly the kids are ready to share the game with adults.

She’s even more impressed at what they’re getting from each other.

“They’re engaged,” she said. “That’s where learning takes place.”



Thursday, December 6th, 2007

With all the information in the media on lead in toys-families find it very confusing what to select for gifts at holiday time. This is a wonderful resource with current facts on lead levels.  The site is easy to navigate.


Toy-Safety Data Released On Web Site
BYLINE:  Annys Shin: Washington Post
Parents worried about toy safety after a record year of recalls can now look through a list of more than 1,200 items that a coalition of public interest groups has tested for lead and other harmful chemicals, though toy industry officials say the list may cause unnecessary alarm.
The coalition, led by the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., found more than 200 items that contained unsafe levels of lead, as well as hundreds of others that had little or no lead. The results are scheduled to be released today in an online database at
“We are trying to help people make good decisions for products they might want to avoid and show them what are some products that test clean,” Ecology Center campaign director Jeff Gearhart said.
Type in “Dora,” and several varieties of toys appear. Click on a specific toy, and up pop product ratings based on test results for lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic and mercury. The ratings range from low- to high-risk. A primer on the hazards of each substance and a breakdown of which components were tested lets consumers evaluate the risk. Chlorine, for example, was sometimes found only in the packaging and not in the toy itself.
The highest concentrations of lead, which has been linked to behavioral problems and decreased IQ, were found in jewelry. More then 33 percent of the 504 pieces of jewelry tested contained lead at levels greater than 600 parts per million, an amount that would trigger further testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Products made of soft plastic also dominated the list of lead-laced toys. Lead is sometimes added to vinyl as a stabilizer.
The groups alerted the CPSC to violations of federal paint standards, and 26 items have been recalled since the groups gathered their samples, Gearhart said.
CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said that more lead-related recalls were expected this week and that the groups’ findings will be reviewed. “We will take seriously reports and findings that come into us from state agencies and outside consumer groups,” he said.
Some items the groups said contained high levels of lead included the eyeballs on a robot-shaped toothbrush holder from Colori USA, the sole of a Circo shoe, and the lining of several Tyrell Katz vinyl backpacks.
Colori spokesman Rene Pimentel said that the Concord, Calif., company would stop distributing the toothbrush holder and that it was unaware the product had lead in it because company tests had indicated otherwise.
Amy von Walter, a spokeswoman for Target, which distributes the Circo shoes, said she had not had a chance to review the findings and was not able to comment.
Nicky Garretty, a director of Tyrell Katz, said that while the vinyl in the backpacks her London company makes contains lead, the products met safety standards because the lead isn’t accessible. “A consumer may just see ‘lead’ and ‘high’ and be concerned, and it’s unfair when . . . we’ve proven with our tests that it’s 100 percent safe,” she said.
The CPSC has said that lead in vinyl lunchboxes poses little danger to children for the same reason. Based on tests of more than 60 lunchboxes, the agency concluded that children would only absorb lead from a lunchbox if they rubbed it and then licked their hands more than 600 times a day for 15 to 30 days. However, the agency has also recommended that manufacturers look for non-toxic alternatives, Wolfson said.

Youth Councils

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

New Publication Available on Building Effective Youth Councils

In collaboration with the YEF Institute and the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Forum for Youth Investment has published a new resource as part of a Youth Engagement Series for Municipal and State Leaders. Building Effective Youth Councils: A Practical Guide for Engaging Youth in Policy Making highlights six key tasks for laying the foundation for an effective youth council and supporting youth action. The new publication also highlights the strong youth councils that have been developed in Boston, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Mich., Hampton, Va., Nashville, and San Francisco, as well as sample city ordinances creating youth councils, application forms, and links to youth council bylaws, membership agreements, release forms, research, and other resources.

This may take a while to download! Be patient!



The Black Alliance for Educational Options

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) recently released the results of a year-long independent study of the opinions of low-income and working-class Black parents regarding the quality and importance of public school- and community-based afterschool programs. The study, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, compiled data from 46 focus groups in Detroit, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

The study found that parents articulated a deep understanding of the need for afterschool programs and an unyielding hope that these programs will improve their child’s life chances.

Parents indicated that they look to the afterschool program for outcomes that include better grades in school, better attitude by learning discipline, greater maturity, broader exposure to diverse peers and experiences, and increased exposure to male role models



Family Math Nights

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Family Math Nights allow family and community to attend a variety of events and have fun exploring content, activities, and games that support mathematical learning. Participants play and learn with students and instructors as they circulate among centers, stations, or between events. Math Nights provide parents the opportunity to develop mathematical thinking along with their children, while at the same time learning strategies, games, and activities they can use at home to support their child.