Flash cards prevail over repetition in memorizing multiplication tables

Young students around the world struggle to memorize multiplication tables, but the effort pays off. Cognitive scientists say that learning 6 x 7 and 8 x 9 by heart frees up the brain’s working memory so that students can focus on the more demanding aspects of problem solving.
Math teachers debate the best way to make multiplication automatic. Some educators argue against drills and say fluency will develop with everyday usage. Others insist that schools should devote time to helping children memorize times tables.
Even among proponents of memorization, it’s unclear which methods are the most effective. Should kids draw their own color-coded tables and study them, or copy their multiplication facts out dozens of times? Should they play multiplication songs and videos? Should they learn mnemonic tricks, like how the digits of the multiples of nine add up to nine (1+8, 2+7, 3+6, etc.)? My daughter’s gym teacher used to make students shout “7 x 5 is 35” and “6 x 8 is 48” as they did j..

Mental health tools that can help middle schoolers get a better perspective

Excerpted from “MIDDLE SCHOOL SUPERPOWERS: Raising Resilient Tweens in Turbulent Times by Phyllis L. Fagell.” Copyright © 2023. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Challenge distorted thinking Tweens think they wouldn’t lie to themselves, but they do. They can catastrophize, think in all-or-nothing terms, jump to conclusions, overgeneralize, discount the positive, or blame themselves or others when something goes wrong, to name a few common thinking errors. For instance, if ten people tell a kid that they love their haircut, but one person says, “I see you got a haircut,” they might spend the rest of the day trying to decipher the one ambiguous comment. If a teacher changes a kid’s seat because they’re disruptive, the kid might conclude that the relationship is irreparably damaged. Or if they bomb a history test, they might think, “I suck at history and the teacher clearly hates me, so what’s the point?” That kind of defeatist, unproductive thinking ser..

How two teachers spark a love of history with their wardrobes

On a February morning in 2012, Jazzi Goode, an elementary and middle school STEM educator in North Carolina, was having a hard time getting ready for work. With a closet that seemed devoid of suitable school attire, she surveyed her options: sweatshirts, button downs and lots of jeans. Rather than resigning herself to the ordinary, Goode was struck by an idea that would transform her approach to teaching. “I should dress up as Rosa Parks today,” she thought.
Goode put on a button down white shirt, a gray skirt and even a makeshift “prison tag” number to step into the persona of the iconic civil rights activist. After seeing how her spontaneous decision delighted her students, who listened attentively as they read books and learned about Parks’ role in history, Goode started to dress up as prominent figures more often. “It became an everyday thing,” said Goode, who transitioned out of the classroom to work at an education nonprofit this year. “I started to put more energy into it the ..

How parents can recognize and help a child with anxiety

This post was originally published by Parenting Translator. Sign up for the newsletter and follow Parenting Translator on Instagram.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in children. The rates of children with anxiety have been growing dramatically. In 2021, a meta-analysis (translation: a study that combines data from all previous studies) found that 20.5% of children worldwide have symptoms of anxiety.
This post will help parents address many of your common questions on anxiety, including:
How do you know if your child has anxiety? What are the common anxiety disorders in children? Is your child’s anxiety your “fault” as a parent? What can you do to help your child? When and how should you seek professional help for your child? How do you know if your child has anxiety? It is very normal for children to have fears that seem irrational or out of proportion to the danger actually posed, such as being afraid of the dark or worried about their parents leaving. H..

Little kids need outdoor play — but not when it’s 110 degrees

This opinion column about outdoor play temperature guidelines was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.
Dora Ramos is a family child care provider in Stamford, Connecticut, where the temperature climbed above 90 degrees for a few days in July. She takes care of children in her home, which has a large backyard, and was able to adapt, still getting the children outside, even on the hottest days.
“Our parents bring the children at 7:10 a.m., so we bring them outside very early — first thing,” she said. “We have sprinklers; they use the hose to fill up pots with water and ‘cook.’”
But in Dallas, where the high hit 110 degrees on August 18, it wasn’t safe or possible to play outside for weeks-long stretches this summer, said Cori Berg, the director of Hope Day School, a preschool there. “It was cranky weather for sure,” she said. “What most people don’t really t..

‘Curlfriends: New In Town’ reminds us that there can be positives of middle school

Middle school. For teens, tweens, and their parents, the two words can evoke heavy doses of anxiety, fear, even horror.
Kids are, all of sudden, really growing up. Their bodies are changing in unexpected ways; they’re shedding some of their childhood interests and styles, and trying on new ones, for better and — sometimes — for worse. Friendships form, are torn apart, recalibrate. Crushes abound. In the classroom, academic expectations amplify.
But some books — like the new graphic novel, Curlfriends: New In Town, the first volume in a debut young adult series written and drawn by author and artist Sharee Miller — remind us of the many possibilities and excitements interwoven within those challenging years.
The book follows 12-year-old Charlie Harper, beginning around her first day of middle school, which she transfers into three weeks after the year has started. Charlie has spent most of her young life abroad, moving from school to school as her family followed her father’s job in ..

Schools keep buying online drop-in tutoring. Research doesn’t support it.

Ever since schools reopened and resumed in-person instruction, districts have been trying to help students catch up from pandemic learning losses. The Biden Administration has urged schools to use tutoring. Many schools have purchased an online version that gives students 24/7 access to tutors. Typically, communication is through text chat, similar to communicating with customer service on a website. Students never see their tutors or hear their voices.
Researchers estimate that billions have been spent on these online tutoring services, but so far, there’s no good evidence that they are helping many students catch up. And many students need extra help. According to the most recent test scores from spring 2023, 50% more students are below grade level than before the pandemic; even higher achieving students remain months behind where they should be.
Low uptake
The main problem is that on-demand tutoring relies on students to seek extra help. Very few do. Some school systems have rep..

School ed tech money mostly gets wasted. Utah has a solution. 

Last year, Brandi Pitts’ kindergarten students were struggling with a software program meant to help them with math. The tool was supposed to enable teachers to tailor their instruction to individual students’ learning needs, but even the kids with strong math skills weren’t doing well.
At a training session this summer, Pitts, a teacher at Oakdale Elementary in Sandy, Utah, learned why: The program works best when teachers supervise kids rather than sending them off to do exercises on their own. Her school had received free software licenses through a state-funded project, but she’d initially missed the formal instruction on how to use the program because she was out sick.
“A lot of times with education, we have to figure things out on our own,” she said. “But having that training, I’m so much more encouraged that I can improve my teaching.”
School systems spend tens of billions of dollars each year on ed tech products, but much of that money is wasted. Educators, who are rarely ..

How kids are making sense of climate change and extreme weather

When three fifth-graders in Washington state sat down to make a podcast, they didn’t have to look far to find a good topic.
“Wildfires are a problem and they’re dangerous,” they say in their podcast from Chautauqua Elementary School, on Vashon Island. “But there’s ways to prevent them, so respect wildfire safety precautions and do your best to prevent these fires.”
This entry from Roz Hinds, Jia Khurana and Sadie Pritsky was among more than 100 podcasts this year in NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge that touched on a topic that’s increasingly important to young people: climate change. Over and over again, student journalists tried making sense of extreme weather events that are becoming more common or more intense: flash floods, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires.
Here are four student podcasts that offer a glimpse into the minds of students and what they have to say about climate-related news in their communities — and what they hope to do about it.
Behind the Scenes of the Mosquito Fi..

Meet the high school sport that builds robots — and the next generation of engineers

On a Thursday night inside a NASA hangar in Mountain View, Calif., a group of teenage girls cluster around two large tables strewn with wires, hex wrenches and laptops. As they work, a machine rises in their midst — a black aluminum frame loaded with advanced tech like high-powered brushless motors and 3D vision systems. Say hello to the Space Cookies, aka FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1868, a Girl Scout troop that builds tournament robots.
Right now, over 3,300 high school and community teams like the Space Cookies are assembling around the world in anticipation of the upcoming season of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition. This giant non-profit/sport league started in 1989 as a local program to inspire New Hampshire teens in engineering and technology fields. It has grown to encompass more than 83,000 high schoolers in 31 countries.
Through the fall, students meet outside the school day to develop skills in areas like compone..