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Posts tagged ‘Math’

Launching PracTutor

What started as a seed of an idea over a coffee table discussion about 16 months ago have taken the shape of a product.  We discussed about the problems the elementary and middle school kids faced in Math and English and how there were so many yet so few effective websites out there to address this problem.

I am so thrilled today to share the first version of PracTutor – www.practutor.com to address some of those problems and give the power back to the parents.  We spent about 16 months discussing, ideating, developing, fine tuning and making sure everything worked and finally seeing it live feels like magic.

Its like becoming a father after 16 months of anxiousness.  However, like all father know, this is just the beginning. I still have to ensure my baby learns to walk, speak the first words and then run and grow.  I would need every single users’ support to ensure this happens. So please call me (502-400-9374), email me (hardik@practutor.com), send me feedback, concerns, questions, likes, comments, tweets whatever to make PracTutor grow.

I would like to thank the entire team who made this happen.

We opened PracTutor to the world on June 2, 19.32 hours and since then we have got 5219 people registering on PracTutor which feels very good.  I would like to have continuous feedback from you to ensure we make it better to suit your needs and make it the perfect solution to help you and the kids.  If you think it can benefit others, please share it with your friends.

I want to ensure that your experience with PracTutor is as awesome as was ours while developing it.

Thank You,
Hardik Parikh
Proud parent of PracTutor

Learning to code: do I need to be good at Math?

Do you regularly use the cool software or play games like ‘Angry birds’ or watch animated movies like ‘Ice age’, ‘Shrek’, ‘Cars’? Do you use Xbox, or Wii or Playstation? Chances are you have done one or more of these things at least once or more times in your life.

All these animated movies, games, consoles have one common thing, Software Code. They all have some kind of programming that runs them. All those cool characters and cars run as they have some geeky code behind them.

Most people fear coding and feel that it is kind of a monster, which needs super intelligent people and excellent Math skills. . Is it really true?

Let’s start with some games. I believe kids learn faster in an entertaining environment.

http://www.ecogiochi.it/giochi-gratis-online/puzzle/magic-pen/

http://www.ebog.com/racing-games/10759/mad-monkey-mike.html

At times, it is actually difficult to explain kids about computer programs or how challenging it is to just make a simple button press work. Expecting huge breakthroughs prior to a particular age is unrealistic. Language like JavaScript is not recommended at a very early stage. Instead, go for Logo. It is simple and powerful educational programming language. It is basically a turtle on a canvas and a command console. You just command the turtle and it follows. It is absolutely attractive to the kids. This would definitely help them get into the language world. Leading to interest in learning other difficult ones.

Scratch is another common programming language downloaded more than a million times. However, I would recommend that for a little older group. As parents, we should understand that every child is different and so is their understand level. Real analytical skills often appear after the age of 11.

Now let us see how important is mathematics in computer programming

Machines do not understand words. Programmers communicate with PCs using numbers. Developing a mathematical understanding of data organization, number sequencing and logic is essential in order to acquire good programming skills.

Recently, I came across a very simple example stating the importance of math in programming. Suppose you go to an ice cream parlor. The owner does not know about the most popular flavors, or if he has in stock your favorite.  He does not understand how many combinations of flavors are possible. You would prefer to try some other outlet. Right!

Now, suppose the owner has a simple computer program that stores all the data. He knows if he has your favorite ice cream in stock. In addition, probably he would order for the same, before the stock finishes. Just to make you happy!! His program can also suggest new combinations for you to try. Doesn’t that sound tempting!! Well, this so very simple thing requires instructions to be given by the programmer. The simplest detail has to be told to the computer, like to count each ice cream order. Permutation and combination are other mathematical concepts that a programmer needs to understand. Calculations are also important in the science of computers. Geometry is used in the development of graphics.

Curious!! We all would like to know how the characters in the movie Cars actually move. Or how do we get to play a video game. Believe me, this is very exciting rather than just sitting and playing such games.

Many such interesting details to follow. Keep an EYE!!!

Psychological impact of grades on a student

“I remember the first time that a grading rubric was attached to a piece of my writing….Suddenly all the joy was taken away.  I was writing for a grade — I was no longer exploring for me.  I want to get that back.  Will I ever get that back?” Claire, a student (in Olson, 2006)

How true is this? Since decades, there has been an ongoing argument whether gradation system should be stopped or continued. Enough has been written and published about it.

The basic function of grades is to provide information to the parents, peers and others about how the student is performing and quantifying it. A very private thing done very publicly! The grading may happen once a quarter, month or even on a weekly basis. A Continuous and comprehensive evaluation is also gaining popularity to assess and teach the student on a daily continuous basis.

There is one school of thought who feels that gradation contributes in motivating the students for learning more and fosters competition which is necessary in a flat world today.

But the research conducted by some of the eminent psychologists Condry & Koslowski in 1977 and Deci & Ryan in 1987 have revealed that gradation system affects the motivation, diminishes the learning interest and reduces the mental ability to be creative and think of solutions to problems. It produces more robots, mechanical work force rather than thinking human beings.

In a bid to receive high grades, there are many ambitious students who choose tasks that are much below their capacity. This in turn reduces their chances of learning more and sharpening their skills.

When it comes to gaining knowledge, instead of how much you have learnt, it is important to know how better you have understood it so that when it comes to practical applications, the same knowledge can be used effectively. But gradation system creates a division between the higher grade students and lower grade students due to which unknowingly an attitude of superiority or inferiority gets developed in them.

The students with low grades feel that they are not on the right track and are losers whereas those who receive high grades feel that they are going to be super successful. Once such grade-oriented thinking starts seeping in the minds of the students, they feel motivated only to get high grades and not to learn and explore more or to develop something new from what they have learnt. That is the reason why, there are many ‘yes ministers’ around instead of innovators and creators.

 A student asked his Zen master how long it would take to reach enlightenment.  “Ten years,” the master said.  But, the student persisted, what if he studied very hard?  “Then 20 years,” the master responded.  Surprised, the student asked how long it would take if he worked very, very hard and became the most dedicated student in the Ashram.  “In that case, 30 years,” the master replied.  His explanation:  “If you have one eye on how close you are to achieving your goal that leaves only one eye for your task.”

So we could establish the following from research and from opinion of many educators, teachers and learners.

  • Grades are tools to quantify the result but not all results can be quantified, not all learning lead to assessment
  • Grades de-motivates students and creates a division
  • The students getting higher grades also become a lot lax and eventually learning doesn’t happen

We know most of the things above, so what can be done? The first question that comes to everyone’s minds is then how will the students get into colleges/universities.

Well, I have news for you. There are quite a few universities who accept students based on the detailed descriptions of the curriculum, recommendations, essays, and interviews which collectively offer a fuller picture of the applicant than does a grade-point average.

Although these points have been discussed since the past 2-3 decades, the grade system is here to stay, so the following are things I feel that can be done to ensure that the impact of grades do not scar the students.

  • Evaluation cannot and should not be restricted to learners alone, teachers and parents play an equal part in a child’s education and should be evaluated; hence both of them are equally responsible for the child’s failure or success
  • The students rather than getting a quantitative report card should get a qualitative feedback report card and a feedback for improvement on a weekly basis
  • The parents should be involved in those feedback sessions (as far as possible) and onus should be on the parents and teachers for the child’s success.

Having mentioned all this there is a silver lining. Several classes have been de-graded.

Jim Drier, an English teacher at Mundelein High School in Illinois never gives his students “a number or grade on anything they do.  The things that grades make kids do are heartbreaking for an educator”:  arguing with teachers, fighting with parents, cheating, and memorizing facts just for a test and then forgetting them.  “This is not why I became a teacher.” Without grades, “I think my relationships with students are better,” Drier says.  “Their writing improves more quickly and the things they learn stay with them longer.  I’ve had lots of kids tell me it’s changed their attitude about coming to school.” 

It’s a known fact that Albert Einstein was a very poor student and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and several others left their college half-way. Thankfully, these people never let the grades make any impact on their minds. But it cannot be so with every student. There are devastating effects of grades on certain students, several students commit suicide since they cannot handle the pressure of the competition. We do not want our children to be measured quantitatively but qualitatively and completing the curriculum should not be the priority over making them understand and explore the concepts. It is high time to challenge the conventional system and act to improve it!