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I’ve been spending a lot of time on Reading Bear with my youngest son.  I always touted Startfall as the single best site to teach young readers.   I think Reading Bear is the next “learn to read” vehicle after you have finished up Starfall.

Reading Bear is a wonderful tool for young readers

Reading Bear is a wonderful tool for young readers

While Starfall does have more advanced stories as readers progress, they are not nearly as much fun or as well done as the original stories with Zach the Rat, Gus the Duck, and their colleagues on Startfall that I have learned to love so much. Starfall’s more advanced stories are hard for “young but advanced readers” because they are dry and don’t maintain interest.  My son is easily bored by these.  Also a factor: you have to pay to get these stories from Starfall.  I still recommend buying the upgraded Starfall because there are good counting and math games we like to use.  But the extra reading is just not fun like the characters in original (and free) stories.

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I look so hard for these on-line. Annoying, North Carolina has some that you can’t print out. So you can put them on line but you take off the print function. I would love to see the meeting where that was decided.

Anyway, I discovered today that the great state of Maine really saves the day. Here are a ton of tests that they have that go back to 2005.

They value in these tests, in my opinion, is that they mimic the kind of testing that these kids are going to see for the rest of their lives.  People eschew standardized tests because they do not represent what they want the world to be.  Fair enough.  I agree.  But the biggest tests our kids are ever going to take is the SAT and any graduate school entry tests (MCAT, LSAT, GMAT) they need to take. These standardized tests are just a ramp up to these tests.  It certainly is the not the most fair system.  But it the system we have and we have to have a children ready to face the challenges these tests bring.

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I’m a big fan of standardized tests. I’m probably the only one. But I think it is helpful to have a measuring stick that cuts down on variables. It also allows you to get a clean handle on what you child needs to work on to get better.

This webpage from Hamblen County, Tennessee (I’ve never heard of it either) has a great collection of different standardized tests administered in different states. I’m a big fan of the California Achievement Test which is on there. I remember the fateful day it replace the Iowa tests when I was in the 5th grade. Or something like that.

A lot of the links are down on this page but most of them work and there a just a lot of good tests here.

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Splash Math Makes a Splash

There are a lot – a lot – of iPad math apps for kids. They are multiplying like rabbits in the App Store. The problem is that most are just a replica of the last one.

I’ve used hundreds – literally – of math apps with my kids. The math iPad app I believe in the most is Splash Math. That’s a big statement. Not surprisingly, it is also the most expensive math app we have in our arsenal.

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There has been a lot of debate of late about whether college is for everyone. Robert Samuelson, a noted economist, wrote a editorial in the Washington Post a few weeks ago arguing that the ” college-for-all crusade” is one of those utopia dreams that should come to an end for the good of the U.S. economy.

I agree with this premise: there is little economic utility in trying to get every student to go to college. But I think Samuelson fails to fully appreciate that there is more to life than economics. If a student tries two years of college and fails, he is likely to make less money over the course of his life than if he had gone to, let’s say, trade school. Okay. But is he a better and happier person for the experience? In 2012, we seem to funnel everything through economics. Isn’t there more to life than just money? Couldn’t we at least talk about it?

Anyway, MSN Money put out today a list of the 11 worst public universities by graduation rate. In spite of my little speech above, schools have to give students some chance of success. If kids are just taking out loans and not being properly supported in the path to graduation, that is no opportunity at all.

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Flow Math Is an App Worth Trying

FlowMath is a really good iPad math app that helps your child take the leap from memorizing math facts to making use of that knowledge. It is a great bridge from facts to a real math application.

FlowMath gives you an answer. Let’s say it is 11 like the picture here. How do you get to 11? Your child might know that 5+6=11. But, can they figure that out given a bunch of numbers from which to choose? You can choose the numbers and the type of operation – start out with just addition if you child is doing something like this for the first time – and see how fast you can make your way through this twist on arithmetic tables.

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  • Maryland and Howard accused of putting profits over education. These complaints are attracting the interest of our Governor and even the U.S. Senate. One defense: everyone is doing it.
  • Some are excited and some are concerned about the new head honcho at Baltimore County Public Schools.
  • Cheating in Baltimore school.
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If you read the popular books on success, almost all of the authors refer back to Carol Dweck’s work. She is clearly a titan researcher so when I found out she had written her own book, “Mindset“, I was giddy. Why not get it straight from the horse’s mouth?

Her premise is that intelligence is not fixed but eminently teachable. If you don’t believe this, if you have the wrong “mindset”, it creates a self fulfilling prophecy and, worse, it makes you stop challenging yourself because you don’t think effort helps. Moreover, a limiting mindset causes lack of fulfillment, depression and a host of other aliments. It all makes a ton of sense.

Unfortunately, for buyers of the book, I’ve told you virtually everything you need to know. She never really takes the book anywhere else beyond repeat the premise 1,000 different ways. Worse still, Dweck weaves in a bunch of silly anecdotes and contrived narratives:

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PBS KIDS today announced that its new “augmented reality app” is available for the iPhone and iPod. The new Apple app is call “Fetch! Lunch Rush”.

I have generally not been that excited about the PBS children apps which the singular exception of the fantastic “Monster at the End of the Book” which deserves its own post. But “Fetch! Lunch Rush is worth a shot if for no other reason than it is PBS and it is free.

To play Lunch Rush, you need to print out a PDF of game pieces from your computer which means you have to give up your email. Really, an i-Pad app should be self-contained and I’m not real impressed with this one. But if you are looking for a free simple math app you can give this one a try.