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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mathnasium offers a new way to get kids to understand math

Towhid Islam came into his new career by chance. He was looking for a place to get his daughter some help with math when during an internet search up popped Mathnasium.

The business, which offers instruction in math for schoolchildren, helped his child, then a third –grader, from struggling to comprehend the subject into a straight-A sixth-grader. That impressed him so much he wanted to open his own Mathnasium.

Mathnasium of Dexter is owned and operated by Towhid Islam who is seen here with tutors Wendy Russell of Dexter and Karen Uhlenbrauck of Grass Lake. The business opened in mid-November in the Dexter Crossing shopping center.
Photo: Heritage Newspapers 

Islam had been in the IT field for many years, but the industry was turning south in the region and he began to look for other opportunities. From seeing the success he had with Mathnasium, he looked into joining the company.

He achieved that goal last month when the Ann Arbor man opened his business at 7061 Dexter-Ann Arbor Road in the Dexter Crossing Shopping Center. The business is now looking to help area children from grades 4 through 12 with their math issues.

Mathnasium is the outgrowth of California resident Larry Martinek’s work with his own son and helping him understand math better. Martinek, himself a high school math teacher began taking notes on what approaches worked with his son.

Those notes became a training manual for parents and eventually Mathnasium. Martinek partnered with two other businessmen and began to franchise the stores. The company has more than 500 stores worldwide, but mostly in the United States.

Islam described Mathnasium as a gymnasium for the mind. The centers, as the store is called, hires tutors who work with children using systems Martinek developed.

The system shows students how to use different approaches to solve math problems. There are tests and games that help the kids succeed at math and learning. As the children complete the various levels, they earn rewards for their efforts.

“They play math games,” Islam said. “They do warm-up and wind down activities.”

Islam’s daughter was hesitant at first, but soon turned around due the fun she had at the Ann Arbor location.

Students are assessed to see where the problem is and then a program is developed to correct the situation. Most of the problems students have are they did not comprehend math lessons given when they were younger.

Read more... 

Additional resources

Photo: Mathnasium: Math Tutoring & Learning Centers

Mathnasium: Math Tutoring & Learning Centers
Mathnasium (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Source: Heritage Newspapers

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Peterborough entrepreneurs launch Unlock Math online tutoring service

Follow on Twitter as @KawarthaSarah

"First 100 Peterborough residents to sign up for tutoring service to recieve first month for free." reports Sarah Frank.

A new online service based out of Peterborough is aiming to take anxiety out of the equation for students who need help with math. 

Alesia and Matthew Blackwood.
Photo: Kawartha Media Group

As a former teacher, Alesia Blackwood knows math is a tricky subject for many students to handle. Factor in the pressures that can distract students in a classroom setting and the time constraints teachers face, and it's no wonder some people end up with gaps in their math skills when they're older, Mrs. Blackwood says. That's why she and her husband Matthew Blackwood have spent the last two years building Unlock Math, which officially launched on Wednesday (Dec. 18).

To help kick-off their new business, the Blackwood's are offering Peterborough residents a chance to try out the tutoring program for free. They're giving the first 100 people one free month, as well as a coupon code for 30 per cent off in the following months. 

Currently, the service is offering a pre-algebra program, with algebra I and algebra II courses in the works to launch in August or September of next year. 

Mrs. Blackwood says she loves teaching algebra, but that's not why it's the starting point for the services, which is based mostly around a Grade 7 curriculum. Algebra is a stream most students struggle with. 

"So many students have trouble," she says. "And I was finding I spent most of my time re-teaching what students should have already known." 

Unlock Math uses fun videos to teach the lessons before giving students a chance to practice the material and eventually complete quizzes and tests. The problems are always presented one at a time, which Mr. Blackwood says helps students to focus without becoming overwhelmed.

The program doesn't use multiple-choice math problems.

"That just leads to students guessing," Mr. Blackwood says.

In addition to providing feedback to students, the program provides a detailed assessment that breaks down students' strengths and weaknesses. 

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Affordable Colleges Online Ranks Southern Miss in its Top 20

Photo: David Tisdale
"Affordable Colleges Foundation (ACF), a resource for online learning and college affordability information, has included The University of Southern Mississippi in the top 20 of its new ranking of 2015's Best Online Colleges." according to David Tisdale, senior writer with the Office of University Communications.

The University of Southern Mississippi

Southern Miss is ranked 18th on the list, which cited schools that offer students affordable, high-quality programs combined with the flexibility of distance learning.

"When it comes to online learning, these schools are the best of the best," said Dan Schuessler, founder and CEO of ACF. "They appeal to prospective students and working professionals because they provide the same academic excellence in their online programs as their campus courses.”

According to ACF, the number of schools offering fully online degree programs has nearly doubled over the last decade, and online enrollments continue to make up an increasing proportion—nearly 50 percent—of all enrollments in higher education.

"As the demand for distance learning continues to rise, we're seeing more and more institutions incorporate online learning into their curricula,” said Schuessler. "We want to recognize these schools for their drive for innovation in higher education and their success in expanding their high-quality programs to the online learning environment."

Southern Miss currently leads the state as the top online learning provider based on the number of students enrolled in its online classes and degree programs, which is expected to increase with the launch of Mississippi's first fully online Undergraduate General Business degree. Students from more than 40 states and countries around the globe are enrolled online at the University, which is rated among Best Value Schools' Top 30 Best Online Colleges for 2014 (

“We're honored to be recognized by ACS in this ranking as we enjoy steady growth in the number of students choosing our online programs,” said Sheri Rawls, director of the Southern Miss Learning Enhancement Center. “Online learning is ideal for those with busy work schedules, family obligations, the place-bound or those who live far from our campuses. It's another way to get a quality degree from an accredited institution and improve their career prospects.”

Highlights of the university's online enrollment growth include:
  • Approximately 17 percent growth from fall 2013 to fall 2014 in student credit hours generated from online enrollment
  • The summer 2014 semester consisted of 32 percent of total student credit hours generated from online enrollment.
  • The University's e-learning initiative began in spring 2009. Since then the growth of online learning has increased by 120 percent in student credit hours. The initiative was focused on developing additional fully online degree programs and courses to improve student satisfaction, raise retention and graduation rates, and increase enrollment at Southern Miss.

Source: The University of Southern Mississippi - News

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Developing Personal Learning by Stephen Downes

Take a closer look at this Keynote presentation delivered by Stephen Downes to the 6th IEEE International Conference on Technology for Education, Amrita University, Kerala, India, online via A-View below.

Stephen Downes writes, "In this online presentation I discuss the evolution of personal learning technology and then itemize in more detail the elements of the NRC Learning and Performance Support Systems program, including the personal learning record, personal cloud, resource repository network, competency detection and recognition, and personal learning assistant."

Developing Personal Learning 

Additional resources

The 6th IEEE International Conference on Technology for Education

Source: Stephen Downes and Stephen Downes Channel (YouTube)

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Book series addresses tough-to-teach mathematics

"A top-selling 16-book series that addresses mathematics and statistics topics that are challenging to teach yet crucial to student development will release the final book in the series this month." reports Samantha Schwartz.

Photo: Rose Mary Zbiek

Each book in the series “Essential Understanding,” edited by Rose Mary Zbiek, professor of education, and published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, draws on research and links the findings directly with classroom practice. They address an area of mathematics that is critical to students’ continued academic progress but challenging for students to learn well.

Zbiek says this series will help teachers in a number of ways.

Essential Understanding

“The books help teachers enrich their understanding of mathematics and statistics content regardless of whether they are 30-year classroom veterans or prospective teachers waiting to student-teach, and regardless of whether they have little preparation or have advanced degrees in the two areas,” Zbiek sad.

The series is intended for individual teachers, professional learning communities and pre-service and graduate courses. They are designed to be engaging and readable within a teacher’s challenging daily schedules.

The series connects mathematics and statistics content directly to school math curricula, assessment strategies and student learning tactics. Authors use the mathematics and statistics that students are expected to learn to identify the mathematics and statistics that teachers need to know.

“Knowing more mathematics isn’t enough,” Zbiek said. “Teachers and instructors at all levels need to know the mathematics and statistics they teach and where that content fits both in the bigger picture of their school curriculum and in the broader mathematical sciences.

Source: Penn State News

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An open letter to America from a public school teacher

Follow on Twitter as @MauNotMao
Michael Mau, writer and teaches at Bluegrass Writers Studio in central Kentucky writes 

Photo: Quartz

Dear America,

I’m sorry. You entrusted me with your children, and I have failed them. Please know that I had the best of intentions. I didn’t want to leave a child behind. I wanted to help them win this race to the top.

You asked me to test them, and I tested them. I gave them choices: A, B, C, D, and sometimes even E. I didn’t just test them though; I spent hours showing them how to test, and I prepared them for that by quizzing them. My quizzes and tests were rigorous, too, just like you asked.

I have to be honest with you, though: my heart wasn’t in it at first. I had this ridiculous idea that art and music and drama and activity breaks would help my students grow. Maybe it was all those years of allowing my students to be creative. To think, I once had my English class produce a full-length play with original music and student-designed sets. I wasted weeks and weeks on that frivolous project. Sure, my students enjoyed it then, and okay, many of them still e-mail me and tell me that was the highlight of their high school experience, but I know now that if I had only had them sit in rows and practice for the ACT, if I had only given them short passages and had them tell me which of the five choices best described the author’s tone, they’d be so much more fulfilled in their lives.
After all, what did they really learn? How to access their imaginations? Developing original thoughts? Teamwork? I may as well have taught them how to file for unemployment.

Last year, our school district did away with our arts education classes. I was stunned along with the other misguided “professionals” with whom I taught. That was before I came to the stark realization that painting and sculpting and drawing might be nice hobbies to have, but they’re certainly not going to help adolescents as they compete for the jobs of the future. Do we really want a bunch of flaky artist-types distracting us? The art teacher is a barista at Starbucks now, which at least allows her to use valuable skills and restore middle-class security. And she makes a great latte.

Some people want to blame parents for the failure of American students to achieve. If parents would only spend more time engaged in enrichment activities with their kids like reading to them or taking them to museums or on nature hikes. Parents are busy though; I don’t think I really took time to consider how busy they are. We must also remember that it’s not a parent’s job to teach their children. That’s why they pay us.

Source: Quartz

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10 Questions About Getting Kids Started Playing Music

"There’s no argument about how good playing music is for kids. Playing an instrument, any instrument, is good for their brains, good for their bodies, good for having fun, good for discipline, good for individual achievement, and good for teamwork. But when is the right time to put an instrument in a child’s hands, and how do you know which instrument to give them? " according to , Baristanet.

Photo: “The Estey” orchestra club, via Wikimedia Commons.

Parents have a lot of questions about getting their kids started playing music, so we picked 10 of them and got answers from some local experts.
1. At what age is my child ready to start learning to play an instrument?
Matt Sandoski, the executive director at the School of Rock in Montclair, says that 5 is the earliest age to go in for formal musical training, generally with piano or voice lessons. “By age 7, pretty much any instrument is an option,” he says, but notes that “there are always exceptions to these rules; each parent has to assess their child’s ability to focus and their interest in learning an instrument. There is nothing worse for a child’s musical development than being forced into lessons before they are ready.”

Source: Baristanet

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Analysis, criticisms and solutions: OEB 2014 keynote highlights

The plenary sessions from ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2014 gave us a glimpse into the future, questioned how we are changing learning to meet new demands, and gave a frank assessment of the education sector as it stands today.
Providing varied and upfront insights; see what industry experts had to say in our roundup of memorable keynote quotes. 

Photo: OEB Newsportal

Chaired by Special Advisor to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Aida Opoku-Mensah, the opening plenary brought three experts from diverse fields to the stage. Under the overall theme of “changing learning”, the speakers addressed topics ranging from co-learning, ‘peerogogy’, big data and learning sciences, as well as taking a look into an uncertain future through the eyes of a futurologist.

Dr Opoku-Mensah highlighted the role that ICT-enhanced learning will play in the expansion of access to education globally, calling on the audience to look for transformative “options, opportunities and potential” in their industry, and noted that the worldwide e-learning market will grow to $51.5 billion by 2016, with an annual growth rate of 7.9%.

Source: OEB Newsportal

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Thomas Edison State College seeks university status for 2015

Follow on Twitter as @JennaPizzi

"The Thomas Edison State College board of trustees has authorized the college to take the necessary steps to gain university status." summarizes Jenna Pizzi | Times of Trenton.

The Thomas Edison State College board of trustees has authorized the college to take the necessary steps to gain university status. A sign outside the construction area of the college's new Nursing Education Center next door to the administrative offices of Thomas Edison State College at Kuser Mansion on West State Street

The resolution approved by the board Dec. 12 requests approval from the state Secretary of Higher Education to change its name to Thomas Edison State University in 2015.

“So much has changed both in higher education and here at Thomas Edison State College since our school was established more than 40 years ago," TESC President George Pruitt said.

Pruitt said TESC has been considering making a formal application for several years. The institution, which offers college degrees for adults, already offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, which are required to obtain the designation. 

"We fit that bill now and that is why we thought we should have a name that reflected that," Pruitt said.

The college serves more than 21,000 students from all 50 states and internationally, through online and distance learning and on their Trenton campus, according to information provided by TESC. The institution also offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in more than 100 areas of study, including 10 master's degree programs and 12 graduate certificates. TESC has built a large nursing program, which will be housed in a new building that is being constructed on its campus in downtown Trenton.


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Research Shows Web-Based Tutoring Means Better Math Scores

"Online tutorials can make math easier and more fun." continues North American Precis Syndicate

Photo: North American Precis Syndicate

Ideally, all students would have access to one-on-one tutoring when they need it. In most cases, this ideal is neither feasible nor affordable, but advanced technology can give students a one-on-one experience through software- and Web-based learning tools.

“Technology has transformed the way students learn, especially when it comes to math. The emphasis has shifted from solving abstract problems to actively engaging in math through activities that increase understanding of concepts and apply math to the real world,” explained Dr. Steve Ritter. Software like Carnegie Learning’s Cognitive Tutor provides real-time feedback on how successful students are at solving problems targeted at particular mathematics topics and will not let students proceed to the next topic until they fully grasp each concept. Dr. Ritter notes that such “software programs recognize sticking points for students, the same as a personal tutor would, and provide problems and guidance until the student shows that he or she has mastered the skills being taught.” This process provides students with benefits similar to those achieved in one-on-one experiences, which are known to drive improved learning outcomes.

The success of this approach to learning was demonstrated in a major experimental study conducted by the RAND Corporation. The two-year study was conducted with over 18,000 students across seven states, explained Dr. Ritter, who is the chief product architect for Carnegie Learning, Inc., a publisher of research-based mathematics software and textbooks for middle and high school students. Comparing students taught using Carnegie Learning’s blended curriculum for Algebra I, which includes a combination of consumable textbooks and software, with those taught by traditional methods using only the textbooks that were already in use, students using the blended curriculum significantly outperformed students using traditional textbooks, nearly doubling the growth in knowledge of the textbook group.
Read more... 

Additional resources

Carnegie Learning

Source: North American Precis Syndicate

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