- Click on the link: http://join.bethematch.org/TeamJanet. Fill out the forms to request a free, do-it-yourself cheek swab kit.
- Tweet about it using #170in7 to be counted! Click the button to send a Tweet to your followers: If you don’t have a Twitter account, send an email to jenn [at] reappropriate [dot] co to be counted!
Monday, September 17, 2012
For Janet Liang and for all our children, be one of #170in7
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Jackie Chan in the Eagle Dad's Shadow
Up until recently, I hadn't put much thought into how Jackie might be as a father. I guess I just assumed he would be Bob Ho from The Spy Next Door.As it turns out, he isn't. According to Channel News Asia, Jackie is donating his entire fortune to charity when he dies. His son, Jaycee, is not getting a dime. His rationale: "If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money."
But it's not this decision that has me wondering about Jackie: The Father (as opposed to Jackie: The Comedian, The Actor, The Kung Fu Star). It's his reaction when his son Jaycee called concerned about his rumored death. I acknowledge that Jaycee may be exaggerating a tad and that Jackie's reaction is not atypical for the older generation of Chinese parents. But still, I imagined Jackie being a little more "progressive" than that. According to Channel News Asia, Jaycee said, "My dad scolded me 'Do you wish I were dead?' That was when I knew it was all false."
I don't think I'll ever get tired of Russell Peters' "Beat Your Children" monologue.
It's brilliant! It's funny because as the child of Asian immigrants, I can totally relate (I laugh now but it was terrible at the time) AND as an Asian parent, I have already caught myself more times than I would like whipping the same criticisms my parents beat me with __ "An 80 is a good score, if that's the best you can do…", "The teacher wrote you are creative and imaginative. Imagine all you can achieve in this world if you stopped daydreaming and focused on acing those tests…" and so on. Chinese parents are masters of the art of the backhanded compliment.
Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, Wolf Dad, Xiao Baiyou, and Eagle Dad, He Liesheng, have been elected the 21st Century ambassadors of modern Chinese parenting by the news media-at-large. Happily, at each instance of this so called " traditional Asian parenting" there have been as large a chorus of Asian outcry as there have been American ones.
It's been half a year since Duo Duo's famous run around the park, dressed in only his underwear, on a cold and snowy winter's morning. His father, the Eagle Dad, had forced him into the cold and then posted his run on YouTube because he wanted "to show that if a child can accept this kind of extreme education when they are young, they can overcome any difficulties the future might hold." He says, "I did it because I want Duo Duo to be strong."
The video of little Duo Duo's wintry run might not have seen any controversy had there been a Golden Harvest or Shaw Brothers logo in front of it. Parents who spent their adolescent years in the 80s will remember a young Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin enduring a battery of imaginative (sometimes fantastical) but harsh training regiments on his path to become a "Shaolin Master Killer".
Chose any Jackie's early films and you will see the same ludicrously rough lessons. But while this form of training makes for great drama and fantastical action sequences, parents need to know that these movies are make believe and you cannot hope to apply the same tough love tactics they depict and expect to garner the same results in reality.
By Kung Fu movie standards, I am spoiling my children. But I like to think that they work as hard as they play. I also like to think that given the advantages I didn't have, they will be more successful than I have been and able to do more good. I don't believe I coddle my children. Instead I think in the amount of time I spend with them, I model positive problem solving strategies and social skills for them, while telling them they are the most cherished and important part of my life. I don't have to be the high paid executive or the biggest star as long as I ensure they can be.
In homage to the movie that inspired the title of this post, here's a trailer for Jackie Chan's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (It includes clips of Jackie's character learning and training in Kung Fu):
Originally posted at Cranial Gunk.
Sunday, July 01, 2012
Vincent Chin, Danny Chen, and Coping with Betrayal
Last weekend marked the 30th Anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin. The week that lead up to it was filled with posts from across the blogosphere about Vincent and the legacy of how little Judge Kaufman valued the life of a Chinese American versus the lives of the two white men murdered who him. He said, "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail." And if he were alive today, I would ask him, "Was Vincent the kind man that deserved to be bludgeoned to death?"
Bao Phi's opinion piece in the Star Tribune has been one of my favorite references when thinking about Vincent. Another favorite reference is Curtis Chin's documentary, Vincent Who? Released several years before, Curtis' film addresses the legacy of Vincent Chin and Judge Kaufman's verdict.
(I think the opening of the trailer says it all.)
And of course, there is Christina Choy's Who Killed Vincent Chin? It was the first film I saw about the case and (as far as I know) for a very long time the only film made about the case.
I was in high school in '82, the year Vincent was murdered. Billy Idol and Duran Duran, I was dealing with my own issues at the time. But as much taunting and teasing as I got for the clothes I wore and the songs I listened to, race was rarely an issue. I grew up in racially, ethnically, religiously diverse Queens. It wasn't until I meet Curtis several years after college in the '90s that Vincent Chin became an "issue".
But even after meeting Curtis and others since and learning more about Vincent Chin, I don't know that I would have answered any differently if someone were to come up to me and ask me, if I've heard of Vincent Chin?
Judge Kaufman's betrayal of justice ignited a national Asian American movement that positively changed the way I saw myself but Vincent Chin is not part of my daily psyche. I imagine, if approached, I would try to identify someone I might know personally before I would identify someone from modern history.
As a father, it my duty to tell my children that there are people out there who will hate them simply because they "look" Chinese. But my children are young, so I am just as responsible for imparting to them the faith that overall people regardless of race or religion are good. Among my challenges in fatherhood is maintaining the balance between my children having a strong sense of what the "real world" is like with what the "real world" could be. I want them to believe in their neighbors, while at the same time cautious with how quickly they embrace them.
I didn't know Danny Chen but his death has had a lingering effect on me. Danny Chen, 19 years old, enlisted in the US Army (despite the protests of his parents), allegedly committed suicide after enduring months of humiliation and torture at the hands of his Brothers in Arms.
It definitely has something to do with how young he looks in the picture that the news uses whenever they speak about him. I know he's 18 or 19 in the photo but with a little more fat on his face, he could be the same age as my kids (maybe a little older but not much more). His growing up in Chinatown and his parents speaking the same dialect as mine only adds to the sadness I feel and the worry -- the worry that my kids might be the next victims…
As disappointing as it is to have to teach my children that inevitably they will have to endure racist comments, I'm confident I can manage it. But how do I teach my children about betrayal? What makes the Danny Chen case so much more upsetting -- and why it lingers -- is his tormentors were people he was supposed to be able to rely on -- his Brothers in Arms…
Have you ever been cheated on? Have you ever felt betrayed? How do you teach that? How do you teach your children to deal?
I dug around online but the closest I came to "professional" advice was this post at Scholastic.com. It details the stages of friendship but does not offer any advice on coping with betrayal or when "clubs" shift. The author does say the parent should be supportive of the child and if there are problems go to the child's teacher but there is no instruction on talking to your child about betrayal before it happens.
That's why I like Nikki's song so much. In addition to being musically good on its own, its lyrics are offer good advice on coping with betrayal.
And while the chorus is
The one you love might be the one to let you down every time.I don't interpret it to mean "prepare yourself for a life of loneliness and antisocial behavior." I interpret it as a statement on resolve -- Be resolute and confident in who you are. Be yourself. Cultivate yourself. And Live.
That ain't right, no, that ain't right.
So just be sure you can survive without no one by your side.
'Cause in life, the strong survive.
They hurt you, they sliced at the threads of your life but what's tearing
you apart is holding on to being right.
Forgiving is hard, like breaking through prison bars but the healing
wont start til you let go of the scars.
Strong people forgive and get the pain out their system
Weak people relive and they keep playing the victim.
People always told us keep our enemies close, but I'd rather keep my
distance than be phoney to a foe.
Best wisdom to own is knowing when to let go, but that's something u
Sunday, June 24, 2012
An Asian American Summer Book List for Kids
In her own words: Mia Wenjen blogs obsessively on children's books and young adult literature at Pragmatic Mom and creative Asian Americans at JadeLuck Club when she's not chauffering around her three kids.
Additional reading suggestions welcomed! Add them to the Comments below.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Asians in the movies.
Link to the larger image: Link
116 of Hollywood’s greatest stars on one stage at one time to celebrate Paramount Studio’s 100th anniversary. It's interesting to see which stars were actually chosen. I guess in some respects you have to be happy to see at least three Asian faces in the group, from left to right: Tommy Chong, George Takei and John Cho. The interesting part to me is the under-representation of Asian females in the group (perhaps Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh were booked that day). Anyway, photographically speaking it quite a feat to have such a large group together and apparently not that much photo-shop trickery involved. For those of you photo geeks out there (like me) here's the set up info, the shot was taken by famous celebrity photographer Art Streiber:
The 40-foot stage, 116-person photo needed flattering, even light all the way across. This setup used no light stands, no C-stands and no medium or high rollers. Instead, Art’s crew of 10 assistants used 57 Profoto heads, and gridded 34 of those heads with Magnum P50 dishes as the key light. Because the stage was so wide, he couldn’t use a big side light. Instead, Art would have to light from above. He decided to mimic the “Broadway” style stage lighting, which is a fairly hard light source, up high above the audience. 63 frames on a Hasselblad H2 camera with the new Phase One IQ-160 back and a 150mm lens, provided by his digital tech, Eric Vlasic at With Technology. He shot the photo in three sections, and his retoucher, Angie Hayes at the Happy Pixel Project, seamed the images together in post. However, it’s important to note that all 116 people were on stage at one time. Nobody was stitched into the photo, nobody was added in post.Thanks to FStoppers for the post.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
How the CDC can help you shop for next winter
If you've ever looked through your kid's file at the pediatrician's office, you will notice that their height, weight and head circumference are all plotted on these same charts. Here's how it works:
- Find your child's height on the y-axis. In this example, the child is 42.5" (107.5cm) tall.
- Find your child's age on the x-axis. In this example, the child is 5 years, 4 months (metric equivalent unknown :).
- Find out where those coordinates meet, and find the closest percentile curve upon which your child's measurement lies. In this example, the child is on the 25th percentile (the line right below the heavy red line which represents the 50th percentile).
- Since the child in this example will be about six years old next winter, trace that age from the x-axis up to where it intersects with the percentile curve your child is on. On the 25th percentile in this case, it appears that the child will be about 44" (111.5cm) tall by this coming winter. That's a growth of about 1 1/2 inches.
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
CD Giveaway! Mista Cookie Jar's Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution
If you're not familiar with the music of Mista Cookie Jar, a.k.a. C.J. Pizarro, he calls it "Urban-Island-Funky-Rock-N-Roll for the Inner Child." His first album, The Love Bubble, has been on repeat in our house for a long time, and it definitely makes children of all ages get up and dance.
Case in point: I just hit "play" on the video below for "Happy Place," off the new album, while writing this and my three-year-old daughter just ran over to the computer for the other room where she was playing with my iPhone.
perform at a reading for Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood.
Enjoy the "Happy Place" video then scroll down for how to enter to win your own signed copy of Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution:
To enter to win one of five signed copies of Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips, send an email with "Mista Cookie Jar" in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org by this Friday, May 11, at midnight PDT. To purchase your own copy now on CD or download, go to cdbaby or iTunes.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
That's someone's child
I’m an avid road cyclist, and my riding buddies fit the stereotype: tough, quiet, spandexed. Before Eliot was born, I liked to soften these guys up by telling them how excited I was about my imminent fatherhood. I remember one of them—one of our team’s tougher, quieter, more spandexed members—telling me that after having his first child he could no longer watch Law & Order or CSI, or any of those procedurals whose drama revolves around the killed and the killing, or the dead and the dying.
“That’s someone’s child,” he said. “I just can’t handle it anymore.”
It’s a simple sentiment, perhaps, but the force of its generalization still moves me. Even if I felt then that it was somewhat overstated, it feels considerably less so now that I’ve made the transition from expectant father to father. At the very least, it’s become far more difficult to handle stories about children dying—and almost impossible to hear about them being killed.
There’s nothing I can say about Trayvon Martin, or his case, that hasn’t already been said. Ta-Nehisi Coates and his Atlantic Monthly colleagues have been our best guides to his story's twists and turns. Bruce Reyes-Chow at Hyphen’s blog has even tried to make sense of the overlap of Asian American privilege and what he calls “white” privilege that he sees lurking beneath the “lack of privilege” that marked Trayvon as a body to be targeted, pursued and shot down. Numerous others have attempted to see themselves through the lens of Trayvon’s death, and to mourn the persistence of racism.
But the voices that have affected me the most aren’t the angry ones, or the historical ones, or the legal or political ones, though each of these have played a crucial part in how I’ve come to understand Trayvon’s death. The most affecting voices have been the ones that see their own children in Trayvon, or even their own hypothetical children. I’m not in the habit of being moved by the emotional ploys of politicians, but I really did believe in the pain Obama was trying to convey when he said that if he had had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon.
Trayvon’s death hurts in many ways, not least of them historically, so of course the old divisions have been busy policing the authenticity of pain and identification. Black commentators have criticized white commentators’ claims that Trayvon reminds them of their own children, and confessionals of white guilt have flooded the airwaves and blogosphere. These discussions certainly have their place and I think we owe it to Trayvon to think through them as carefully as possible, in all their uncomfortable complexity. But the reason I’m writing this post is not to add to any of that.
The reason is because… well, it’s because I thought I'd ask us to pause for a moment and look at Trayvon's face. I think most of us have already done this, but there's something important in that pause. There's a feeling I get that I think most of you get as well, and I'd venture to say it's the powerful feeling of the general and specific coinciding. He belongs to us—and that matters tremendously.
Just look at him.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Rice Reader: Ed Yau and Sage
Responding to a call for personal stories about school at my K2twelve blog, Ed Yau wrote me about the challenges he faced getting his son into a Pre-K in New York City. Sage, the app that resulted from his tackling the difficult process of placing his son in a public Pre-K program is the running for NYC Big Apps 3.0. Click Here to vote for it.
Guest Post: “Sage” by Edward Yau
It still blows my mind that my 3-yr old son is ready for Pre-K in the Fall, but the reality was even more stark when it came time to figure out how to actually get him into a school. I started this research process with nothing more than a few vague notions from friends and family. The fact was I knew absolutely nothing!
I hit a wall as soon as I started. The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) website is jammed pack with information and I didn't even know where to begin. Since I wasn't familiar with the terminology, it took me awhile to even figure out how to find the school I was 'zoned' for. After reading up on eligibility and following the recommendation that we visit at least several schools, I came up with a list of schools that are geographically convenient to our apartment. However, it was clear that we couldn't just tour every single one of them. So I painstakingly started downloading school progress reports and putting together spreadsheets in order to somehow narrow the list down. Once it was time to tour some schools, I found myself printing out the school information I had compiled before visiting, just to remind myself what I had thought and to come up with questions to ask.
I got tired of the cumbersome process and decided to use my geek powers to build a mobile website called Sage (See: http://bit.ly/zOe9Sc). I figured I couldn't be the only one suffering through this research process, so I designed and built Sage as a tool to help parents quickly find the schools that they are zoned for or close to. School performance data is neatly presented. Sage could be used by parents searching for schools as well as those looking to monitor their school.
Even though Sage helps you find a school's performance easily, it's important to remember that the letter grades given by the NYCDOE need to be taken with a grain of salt. The worst part is that these letter grades are highly political and no one seems to want to talk about them. I had to grill at least three educators before I could get a straight answer about what they mean. Statistics can be massaged until you get the answer you want and the NYCDOE includes many subjective factors when they come up with the letter grades. Whether or not it's fair, schools that improve year over year are given a lot of credit, which means their overall grade may not reflect how the students are actually doing. I found that the best thing to do is to compare the letter grades against the actual state test results, that way you can gain a little more insight on what's behind them.
Letter grades and test scores offer useful information about school, but there is no replacement for attending a tour and getting to know the people that run it. There is much more to a school than its test score.
More about Sage:
Sage (http://nysage.com): Check out http://bit.ly/zOe9Sc for a brief video and description. It’s been submitted into the 2012 NYC Big Apps competition, so please check it out and cast a vote starting on before March 9th! There are very few apps for parents on the competition, so it's important that the tech community knows that we have a voice. You can use it on your Android or iPhone device, but it will also work on Chrome and Safari on your desktop.
Here the resources that I found myself using the most:
NYC Department of Education: Obviously you’ve got to start at the source of it all!
Inside Schools: The best resource guide for schools. Provides reviews, parent comments and more. A must see.
School Book: By the New York Times. Another awesome resource for finding school information. Lots of stats, charts, graphs, articles etc. Another must see. http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook
Demystifying Pre-K Enrollment in NYC: An insightful look into one mom’s experience getting her child into Pre-K.
I wrote up my search in bloody detail here:
Thursday, February 23, 2012
HOW HEARTS BREAK, LITTLE BY LITTLE
El: Why would I?
Me: Well, he's Chinese American and you're Chinese American.
El: I don't like Chinese.
Monday, February 13, 2012
APDA: Asian Parental Displays of Affection
Am I the only one who thinks about the infamous battle between Kirk and Spock in “Amok time” (Star Trek Season Two Episode One) when it comes to Asians and public displays of affection?
It’s OK. You don’t have to admit to anything. I’m not trying to out anyone. Let me take the brunt of the ridicule and taunting. But at minimum admit that the rigid ritualistic act of dating in traditional Asian cultures is very… Vulcan.
Wandering Apricot has a funny post about it. (You might say, it’ll “bowl” you over – read her post, you’ll see what I mean.) And I’ve written about how the older generation of Asians aren’t a particularly touchy-feely crowd. I cited a 2009 BBC article called “No Kissing Please, We are Indians.”
There’s a lighthearted post on the Mom N-Stinks blog pondering why her children get “grossed out” every time “me and Adam hug and/or kiss.” The Nickelodeon Parents Connect blog says “the fact that your kids have begun to see your displays of affection as "gross" is probably all the more reason to keep it up.”
They go on to say appropriate relationship behavior is one of the life skills parents teach. Julie Hanahan at the Chicago Parent offers a glossary of romantic gestures parents might consciously model for their children. They include holding hands, hugging, kissing, and flirting.
I can safely say my parents never “gestured” (at least not in my presence – I mean they had me and my sister, so they had to have at some point.)
I can also safely say, I’m not going to win any awards for having healthy relationships.
But I’m hesitant to say that the two correlate. I just can’t with a clear conscience blame my bad relationships on the lack of “gesturing” between my parents.
Instead I’m going to copy and paste a chunk of text from a 2003 commentary by Jonathan Le:
Americans associate affection with compassion and openness. American affection happens instantaneously -- you hug your sister, she hugs you back, everybody is happy. Asians associate affection with keeping appearances and being loyal. Asian affection is more patient. It could take as long as a whole lifetime to manifest itself. It's more implied than shown outright…
These parents assume that because they have taken care of their children since birth, it should be obvious that they care about them, that they love them. And there isn't really any need for them to smother each other with hugs every day. Though, they tend to forget that, "not every day" does not mean "never again."
I think his closing lines say it all: "not every day" does not mean "never again."
He’s talking about displays of affection between his parents and him, but the conversation can be broadened to include “gestures” between husbands and wives, partners.
While he admits to being jealous of his American friends hanging on their parents like monkeys, I don’t think Jonathan is proclaiming the Kirk-style full on hug superior to the Spock-style “Con, Good Job.” I think he appreciates the uniqueness of the expressions and wonders every now and then what the fruit tastes like on the other side of the orchard.
Sunday, February 05, 2012
Daytripper: Recommended Reading for Dads
If I were to put together a “Recommended Reading” list for dads, Fàbio Moon and Gabriel Bà’s Daytripper would definitely be on it.
It’s tough for me to talk about it without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet. I suck at being coy with the details – especially when it comes to a story like Daytripper -- where I’ve been so eager to tell to anyone who’ll listen about it.
So let me warn you now: POSSIBLE SPOILERS.
If you are the type that gets put off when an ending is prematurely revealed, STOP HERE. I’m more of a “process guy”. I’m more interested in how the story got to where ever it ends up than the ending itself (though in this case, it is the ending that makes sense of everything on the “trip”).
Daytripper is a surreal journey that might immediately be mistaken as one man’s life flashing before his eyes but after the second chapter it might be that the man being shown alternate lives so he can pass in peace. Providing an itinerary for the “trip”, each chapter is named after the man’s age as it relates to that part of the story.
The story begins with the grown (32 year old) son of a famous father waiting across the street from the auditorium where his father is to receive an award. He is in an empty bar killing some time before the start of the event. He starts out just wanting a pack of cigarettes, but the bar is empty and the bartender seems friendly (Conducive for “just one drink”).
The bar is named “Genaro”, so it is natural for, Bràs, the son of the famous father to ask the bartender: “So, are you Genaro?” The bartender responds: “That’s what most people think. But, Genaro, was my father’s name… He named it after himself. I just inherited the place.”
“You could have changed the name of the bar,” Bràs says.
The bartender, Genarinho, responds, “It would still be his bar and I would still be his son.”
Bràs: “We’re all somebody’s son, right?”
Genarinho: “Right. We just don't get to choose our family.”
Genarinho’s nephew enters the bar. This is where the introduction ends and story begins.
Bràs is a writer like his father. But unlike his father, no one recognizes him as a “cultural icon”. He writes obituaries, which either Jorge, Bràs’ best friend, or his girlfriend (I can’t remember) tell him is as equally important because of the sense of closure they offer to the surviving families of the deceased.
I wouldn’t say Bràs is jealous of his father (at least not in the poisonous way that drives soap opera plots). I would say Bràs wants to be a peer to his father. In the events leading up to the start of the story, you are told that Bràs’ father has forgotten his birthday and has forgotten to invite him to the ceremony being held in his honor. It is his mother, who urges him to go and it is Bràs who leads you to believe father has done this before and that Bràs does not interpret it as a personal slight but as a slightly painful part of his father’s personality. So of course he is going to the gala honoring his father, direct invite or not.
Among the many themes possible in Daytripper is the one of “action”. Bràs struggles with his inertness. The example that comes to mind is how, when you were a young child, you were told to stay where you were, if you were ever separated from your parent and lost.
Bràs is lost. He is not unhappy about his job as a obituary writer but he is uninspired by it. He wants more. Bràs is lost and doing what that lost child was told to do – staying right where he was when he realized he was lost and waiting for a parent to find him and set him back on his way.
His friends – Lemanja (goddess of the sea and protector of children) – even his parents – all tell him to take action – to decide – and be on his way. But he has many reasons – both real and invented -- for hesitating. In the context of the story, you are never told whether the events that happen to him after the bar are real or imagined.
Another possible theme in the story directly addresses the relationship between father and son – legacy?
There is no doubt about the influence Bràs’ father has on his life, though it is not an intentional or direct influence. Bràs’ father is not depicted as being overbearing or domineering. It is more a condition of how Bràs empowers the image of his father in his life. I say “image” because his father probably has no clue about the weight of his actions on his son.
As a father of sons, it is the ending of Daytripper that makes it a must read for fathers. I wish I was smart enough to properly convey the sense of its profundity I felt when I read it. I can say though that it is a lost letter from his deceased father found within the pages of Bràs’ first book. And add that the way the letter was found and who found the letter is very symbolic of the relationship between fathers and sons.
As a father to son(s) and/or daughter(s), what books or movies would you recommend to new dads? In addition, to Daytripper, I think all Rice Daddies should watch Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid and I Not Stupid Too.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
As a parent and a former elementary school teacher, I cringe every time a parent tells me his or her child’s teacher “can’t teach” or “doesn’t teach right” – And when that teacher is a math teacher I drop to the floor, curl up, and squeeze my eyes shut real tight -- I wrap my arms around myself and rock myself and tell myself that everything’s going to be alright –
You see, my mother -- my Tiger Mother – “taught” me math because my American elementary teacher didn’t do math “right.”
The “right” way to learn math was to memorize the “rules” and complete page after page of timed workbook drills. If I failed, I stood in the corner of the dining room, faced the wall, and recited the times tables from zero to 12 until I was asked to stop (and not before).
I spent hours quietly tracing the faint lines and mottled designs in the wood paneling on our dining room wall. Sometimes I’d imagine microscopic race cars speeding around and around the wavy tracks. Sometimes it would be a train – a steam engine – chugging along a dangerous mountain passage with its treacherous curves.
Now, mid way through my 40s, I still stumble on my times tables and I need a pad and pencil to write the numbers down -- so you see why I get a little twitchy whenever a parent tells me his or her child’s math teacher isn’t teaching math “right.”
BUT I’m an adult.
And as an adult, I’ve come to accept math as a necessary evil like heavy drinking at the end of a particularly hard day. I have a truce with math. It accepts that I will always stumble when it comes to doing even the simplest bit of arithmetic in my head and I accept that I will need to do simple bits of arithmetic in my head when I count out scoops of coffee or measure cups of rice to water or figure out the appropriate tip after dinner out.
As a parent and an educator -- a former elementary school teacher, now a curriculum developer – I want more from math for my children. I want them to LOVE math (not just tolerate it like I do). I want them to see as much value in the challenge of solving a particularly complex equation as they do getting to the next level on a videogame. I don’t need them to become mathematicians or engineers but I would like them to have the same enthusiasm for puzzles and disciplined approaches to solutions.
Currently,I am familiar with three classroom math curricula: TERC, Everyday Math, and Singapore Math. The former is well intentioned but often too repetitive and laborious. The latter is my favorite because it acknowledges the need for memorization, appeals to the visual learner, and incorporates Language Arts in its answers. The challenge to the latter is helping students like myself build rote memorization skills.
Unfortunately, I don’t think too highly of the middle. I want to believe it is well intended but where TERC does not provide enough direction, Everyday Math is overly prescriptive. Students spend a lot of time doing math but very little time thinking about it. Their so-called Journal is a repackaging of the traditional workbook instead of a place for students to write about math and construct a deeper understanding of it.
BUT as a result of its over-prescription, Everyday Math is able to offer a well organized site for parents that is correlated to the its classroom textbooks. This is an accessible and easy to use resource for parents wishing to work collaboratively with their children’s teacher to support math learning outside of the classroom. Neither TERC or Singapore Math provide this level of teacher-parent collaboration.
I like Singapore Math because, based on the way it was presented to me several years ago at a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference, students are allowed to draw out a problem. They are literally able to draw pictures to represent the information given within a word problem. Also, a solution is not complete until they write out their answer in a full sentence (meaning the answer to a word problem is not just a digit like “4” but a written statement like “There were 4...”)
And while I like the drawing and solutions written out in a proper sentences, I am burdened by the painful truth that the success of Singapore Math relies on its expectation that students will memorize and quickly access core math facts like multiplication tables.
I draw a distinction here between the teaching multiplication tables and the automatic recall of them. Stumbling on the later does not mean failure of the former. Stumbling on recall might mean devoting attention to teaching and modeling methods of memorization instead of additional teaching of the content itself.
I am a fan of musical mnemonic strategies. Schoolhouse Rock taught me English and Math (as well as American History and Science) --
I should clarify – School taught me English and Math and American History and Science but it was Schoolhouse Rock that helped me remember what I was told.
There are several “Tiger Endangering” mnemonic methods in addition to song. Another favorite is having students create their own flash cards or better yet they create their own matching games where the equation must be matched with the solution.
For example, making the set from index cards and markers, one card might have “4x4” on it and another “16.” With all the cards face down, the goal would be to match “4x4” to “16.” Students would play the same way they would play a store bought matching game with pictures. The exercise builds memory skills and creates associations between equations and solutions.
The Math Department at Kutztown University has posted some familiar math rhymes and anagrams to help students remember their math facts – Including the lyrics to the Schoolhouse Rock “Multiplication Rock” songs. The Mathematics Learning blog has a post on “math mnemonics” that includes an informative comment thread. And the Math Forum @Drexel provides a list of suggested mnemonic techniques from teachers around the world.
I am pleased to say that none of the materials I came across suggested standing in a corner for hours, repeating the times tables.
The YouTube clips at the top are from Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid Too. It and the movie that came before it, I Not Stupid, deeply impacted my parenting. Schoolhouse Rock’s My Hero, Zero seemed appropriate for a surviving victim of Tiger Math.
Originally, posted at k2twelve.com.
Monday, January 02, 2012
Economics of Fatherhood from Active Dad UK
I stumbled across this video from Active Dad UK while searching for links to free ebooks for kids (their aunts and uncles got them Kindles for Christmas). In addition to providing descriptions to free ebook sites, Active Dad also included this video regarding the impact of parental (namely fathers) literacy on their children.
It had some interesting statistics (though I didn’t see a source so am not sure if they refer to literacy solely in the UK or globally) so I thought I would share.