Wednesday, August 7, 2013

MESSAGE TO PARENTS about "how to make time a variable"

Here's a revised version

 Proposed Procedures for a school to make "time a variable" and allow students to control what they study, when they study it, the order of their study and how they show their learning

The aim is to create students who are independent.   They know what to do, they know what to bring to class, and they have alternatives when they run out of things to do.

The room has signs like

This is a Newspaper Office
This is a TV studio
This is an advertising agency
Ask the manager how to build your portfolio 


The children are working as if the teacher didn't exist.  Maria Montessori.

Until the students tell us their passion, it's just school.  When students can connect and adjust the school work to their passion, then school becomes interesting.  Dennis Littky

Time is a variable.  J. Font├ín and Abraham S. Fischler.

Make the learning visible.  


Why are we working on 

other projects during math class?

We are asked to work only 25 minutes on math (at the beginning of math class). Then we can work on other subjects. Then we are asked to review the new work in math at the end of math class. Why?

Review in an hour; then in a day 
Forgetting follows a pattern. There are steep drop offs in retention after 60 minutes and after 24 hours. Immediately after learning something, you will be able to retrieve a great deal of information. But then you will forget the information rapidly if you do not review it - first within an hour and then within a day. The best times to review information are right before you go to sleep and right when you wake up. This is so for three reasons. First, in sleep the brain secretes chemicals that cement memories. Second, forgetting happens because information we learn later knocks out information that is already in our heads. Third, most forgetting happens because our heads are already full of information and have trouble packing more in (Waddington 2009).

Procedure in Math Class

Arrive with a lecture in your head.
Your homework usually includes a video lecture found on the Internet. Your prime job for the class is to write the key points of that lecture in your math journal. The math journal stays in the classroom and it becomes your daily record of learning. We make our learning visible in that journal.

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET IN YOUR HOME, tell the teacher and we will arrange alternatives.

IF YOU HAVE INTERNET IN YOUR HOME, you, parents, have an enormous responsibility to make sure your child takes advantage of this opportunity.

1.  Watch the video with a pen and paper.  EVEN BETTER, have a note book that is JUST for the MATH NOTES.
2.  STOP and make a note when there is an important piece.
3.  Review the notes with your child.  Ask your child, "GIVE ME THREE THINGS THAT THE SPEAKER TOLD YOU"
4.  The next morning, ask the same question.  "What three things did the speaker tell you?"

AT HOME -- you have access to hundreds of SAT questions.   EVERY NIGHT ask your child to SHOW YOU the SAT question that your child has selected.   LEARNING IS PERSONAL.  THERE are 47 assigned questions, but your child can decide which one to do first.

Arrive with at least one question.
Bring an SAT question into class. Carry it on your mobile phone or put it on a blog or website that you are using. Or store it on your laptop or in your math journal.

Put the key points on a scrap sheet of paper (do not write directly in your math journal). You make a draft first. (Did Leonardo make a sketch before painting Mona Lisa?)

IN CLASS, your child will write --  Research shows that typing and clicking on a tablet are not the same as physically drawing the number 9 or the number 5.  Your child will be creating a math journal, but we can call it  a design trap, a diary, a notebook for the future.   My Learning Book or I WANT TO REMEMBER THIS.   Whatever your child calls it, the math journal will be a record of learning.  We will make the learning visible.   The journal is kept at school but each piece for the next day is created at home.   YOUR JOB, parents, if you choose to accept this responsibility, is to make sure your child comes to school with a sheet of paper showing an SAT problem that is ready to be entered into the math journal.  

Show your “draft” to a partner.
Did your partner create a more beautiful page? If so, Adapt your drawing and layout

Follow the Elements of Design and the Principles of Design.
You can find these items on and on the walls of the classroom.  Search"jon lovett design"

Create a beautiful demonstration about what you learned from the “lecture of the day.”
Your learning is made visible in your math journal.

PARENTS, I want you to ask your child to put his or her passion into this math journal.  If your child wants to become a nurse, a doctor, lawyer, air force mechanic, pilot, firefighter, teacher, actor, singer, whatever, bring something that inspires them to the school.   Find a poem, an article in the news, something that they want to voice an opinion about.   Research tells us that we remember something when we have emotional connection with that information.   Bring anger, joy, annoyance, enthusiasm to class.   What bothers your child?  What does your child focus on?  There is time, about five minutes in each math class, when that emotion is captured in the math journal.  Then we look at the math behind the situation.

For example, if your child wonders "Why did the world allow hundreds of thousands of people to die in Rwanda in the 1990s?" then get a news article, ask your child to think about that event and then look at the five main ideas of math behind the issue.
geometry (shapes)
algebra (relationships and trends)
number sense (estimating the casualties)
conversions and measurements (how do we measure a genocide?)
and evaluating data (how confident are we about the numbers?  probability and statistics, how likely did experts estimate for another 100,000 to die if the French and the United Nations had not intervened?)


Before you come to class
Bring with you the things you need for your project. Perhaps you are reading a magazine article or you have drawing materials.
Bring notes for your SAT Question of the day and from the lecture on video from the previous night.

In the first five minutes
Grab a draft sheet of paper. Sketch the design of your notes for the “lecture of the day.”

5 - 9 minutes
Show your sketch to a partner. Decide if you want to collaborate (and design the notes together) and then copy your joint work. Or you can create a beautiful and elegant page in your math journal by yourself.

10 - 15 minutes
Finish the notes from the “lecture of the day.”

16 to 25 or ?? minutes (Time is a varible)
Work on the SAT Question of the day that you brought with you. If you can't find an answer with your partner, at least show your work in your math journal. Write a reflection (at least three sentences) answering these questions:
What is the exercise about?
What information are they not telling me?
What do I need to do to find the answer?
What prior information do I need?

If you find the answer, what helped you get there?

25 to 85 minutes: DELIVERY HOUR
After your notes for the “lecture of the day” and your SAT question are in your math journal, then you can work on anything you want. This is the “Delivery in One Hour” procedure: You have to get something done in the next 60 minutes.

“I finished the magazine article and I put notes about the main ideas and two key quotes that I'm going to use in my report.” Record your achievement in your math journal.

“I found two images that I need for my civics project.”

“I was bored so I looked at a National Geographic magazine and I found this cool photo.”(Paste the photo in your journal).

“I didn't have anything work on, so I read page 73 in A Whole New Mind. Now I know what's in the FedEx Logo and I promise not to show it to anyone. I know why it's important to exercise the right side of the brain.”

Write at least two sentences in the section of your journal called “I delivered this today.”
Answer: What did you work on today? What did you accomplish?

A bell rings at Minute 85 to remind you to review your notes about the “lecture of the day.”
You have about 10 minutes to talk with a partner about the coming homework. What lecture will you be watching tonight? (Or can you find someone who has made video notes about the procedure? Perhaps someone has created a post of screenshots on the blog called Math For Artists?

95 minutes
A bell or music starts at 95 minutes. For the next five minutes, you can recite one of your favorite monologues from movies or plays. Example: Patton's speech, Al Pacino's monologue in Godfather 3 or in that football movie Any Given Sunday. Recite it quietly.

Or review one of the lyrics in your “I want to remember this” list.

Or recite the lyrics of at least one of the musicals that are on the wall. Mr. Mac prefers Sound of Music, 1776, Up With People, but he is flexible. You can suggest an inspiring lyric to add to the Book of Inspiring Lyrics, Monologues and Poems

The class ends at minute 100.
Push in chairs...  

PARENTS, I'm asking you to expect excellence from your child.   I'm asking your help in preparing your child for each morning when your child has math class.   You are my partner.  Since I see your child two or three times each week, You can be sure that your child does at least one SAT exercise each day, seven of them each week.  30 each month, over 300 exercises in the year.   we have great work ahead of us and you are part of the support team for your child.

I look forward to meeting you and building with you the learning capacity in your child.   As James Zull writes in the Art of Changing the Brain, the fact is that learning changes the brain.   When we learn something, we are altering the structure of the brain.   

Let's look at some expected questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work on any project?
It will be nice if the project is related to school work. Designing a nuclear bomb to support the overthrow of the mayor's office is not allowed. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Why do we work on other projects? This is math class!
Read the Cornelius article. It is clear that math is best learned as part of something you are already doing. The goal is to find math in your project. Show me your project and tell me how you think math can be inside and how math can support your work.

If I want to work JUST ON MATH, is that okay?
Sure. Keep notes in the section of your journal called “I delivered this today.”
For example, you could do two or three more SAT questions during the DELIVERY HOUR or you can do some additional examples from previous math in your journal.

(1) In sleep the brain secretes chemicals that cement memories.

(2) Forgetting happens because information we learn later knocks out information that is already in our heads.

  1. Most forgetting happens because our heads are already full of information and have trouble packing more in
(Waddington 2009).


Waddington, T. (2009) “Smarts: It's Not How Much You Learn That Matters. It's How Much You Remember.” Psychology Today. Retrieved on August 1, 2013 at

As a closing reminder, please ask your child to take an online course to get his or her typing speed up to 30 words per minute with 90% accuracy.

there are plenty of free courses under  the search words  "ten finger typing course free"

I will close with the guiding words of Richard E Clark, a professor of cognitive technology at USC in California

1.  Give a clear and concrete goal

2.  Show when and how to do what you are teaching, step by step

3.  Let them practice on another engaging problem or task

4.  give them corrective feedback during the practice and ask them to explain why they learned the task.

there are 17 of these recommendations but this is the summary.  

here's how I apply them … and i hope you will suggest other goals that I can help with your child.   call me   954 646 8246   between 6 am and 7 am   or  between 4 pm and 5:30 pm  when I'm stuck in traffic

prepare students for Mr Torres 
prepare students for the SAT
introduce them to Daniel Pink's books to prepare students for the global economy
ask them to practice their favorite second language with Mr. Steve.  Help their monolingual teacher grow.   I close with the lyrics of louis armstrongs' song


[Verse 2]



[Verse 3]

Write to Steve McCrea
Mr. Steve
Mr. Mac
+1 954 646 8246

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