Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alex's Results At The County Spelling Bee



Song:  Gymnopedie

Original Composer:  Erik Satie





The County Spelling Bee took place at the University Of Nevada, Reno.

The building in the background is the student union hall.

The Spelling Bee took place on the upper floor in a large conference room.



The student written test area as they were seating themselves prior to the initial stage
of the Spelling Bee.  It would involve a 75 word verbally delivered test.  
The students would then write down their answers.  From here...
the top 6 from each grade would advance to the oral portion of the Spelling Bee.


At the conclusion of the written portion.
Most everyone left the room afterward to relax in the lounge area
until the written tests were graded (about 1 hour).


Although Alex's forte is math...
he is a naturally good speller...
and so, we know he did well.


Alex challenging me to a game of Scorpion Thumb Wrestling 
(a version of the game of thumb wresting we made up 
on our Las Vegas Math Camp trip) as we await the results.


The view of the mountains from the lounge area of the student union hall.


Alex had made it to the final 6 - the oral portion of the Spelling Bee.
(he is seated on the far right chair - chair #1).

It was single elimination and each child stood up as his turn came.

The three runner ups were in chairs #2, 3, and 6.

Alex ended up in third.

The child in chair number 4 was second...
and the child going to the State finals was in chair number 5
(from the Davidson Academy).




The top 3 got trophies.
Alex resting afterward.
He then ate his lunch...and we took him back to school.

Alex's English teacher was at the competition...
and he was pleased with Alex's performance.


We are leaving the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno...
enroute to Coral Academy of Science so Alex could finish the rest of
the day in his normally scheduled classes.

Tomorrow night we are going to a special regional Mathcounts dinner. 

 The math teams, and individuals throughout the region, will be competing
for a spot in the State Finals the day after tomorrow in Reno
(Alex will be competing for both, the team, and individual spots).

The dinner is for the competitors, and their parents, to meet each other 
on the eve of the actual competition.

We expect Alex to do well...
and to advance to the State Finals...
as he had done last year.

In one week...
the Science Fair occurs.

We will get to see how Alex's Science Project had done at that time.

In less than 3 weeks time...
Alex competes in the AMC 10 math competition
(this will be tougher as his competitors will be 
gifted High School Students up to the 10th grade).

And...
if Alex advances to the State finals in Mathcounts...
the State finals will be sometime in March.

Also...
my wife just told me that Alex wants to take another
actual SAT in March to improve on his last actual SAT score
from last June
(he originally was going to take it once again this June).

A couple of days ago...
Alex showed me an Essay he had completed in his Algebra class.

It was SO funny because the way Alex had gone about showing his initiative.

It made me laugh because it is an instructional paper on Polynomials...
and he had worked on it for a couple of days
during class time because he was bored (Algebra is review for him).

He first had written his essay...
THEN he showed it to his teacher and asked if he could get extra credit for it :)

There was no such assignment originally.
He had made up his own assignment to show his initiative :)

After his teacher read it and checked it to ensure it was factually correct (it was)...
she approved it!  :)

The only caveat was that he had to present it to his class next week.

No problem...
Alex enjoys presenting his work.

As there is the dinner tomorrow...
and the actual Mathcounts competition this Saturday...
I will write about Alex's self initiated extra credit essay this Sunday.

I am still laughing about this.
He must have been like a little salesman...
showing his product to a company and convincing them that they needed it...
even though they hadn't asked for it.
But...sell it he did!  :)





Sunday, January 27, 2013

Alex's Social Studies Assignment: Create A 5 Page Historical Website



Song:  Winds Of Freedom

Composed By:  Brunuh Ville



Last week, Alex's Social Studies class was assigned to make a website...
comprised of anything historical in the realm of Social Studies...
and being 5 pages in length.

Alex decided to do a presentation and a very brief critical analysis of
The Declaration of Independence.

The teacher had set up accounts on a free web construction site.

The students were to determine the subject matter and the layout and design.

Alex had completed this whole project almost entirely without
any input from anyone.

At the conclusion of his project...
I had merely corrected a few minor mistakes in his usage of some tenses...
and I had one minor suggestion which made the layout easier to read.

I was very impressed with Alex's ability to not only use his computer
in such a useful fashion...but in his understanding of his material...
and in his ability to convey his understanding in such a concise manner
(as Alex was limited to just 5 pages...he had a lot of material to cover 
in such a short amount of space).

This is page one of Alex's website:  The Declaration of Independence.




Alex's reading comprehension has so greatly improved in the last few months.

He also properly used quotation marks or italicized letter to indicate verbatim passages.





Alex had separated all of the important facts and had categorized them without any input
from anyone else.  This project, including the layout, was all his doing.




Alex did a very good job in the brevity of his explanations.



Page 4 of his website is original text from the Declaration of Independence
(Alex's teacher wanted him to include the actual text of the document).












The fifth (and final) page is of Alex's brief analysis of 
The Declaration of Independence.

What Alex had done was to break up the Declaration of independence into
its major components...and then to briefly give his analysis of that particular passage.















Alex had completed this assignment in a few days time...
from conception to completed website...
all the while completing his normal studies...
as well as his extra studies for next week's
upcoming County Spelling Bee...
and the Regional MathCounts competition.

Alex loves these types of assignments.

It allows him to be creative.

It was just last year at about this time
when I was first teaching Alex the basics of Essay writing.

One of Alex's great strengths is that 
he learns, and applies, with great enthusiasm.


This type of assignment is what makes learning fun to children.

An assignment where the goal is to have the child demonstrate
his knowledge of the concept...instead of mere regurgitation of factoids...
allows the child to strive for understanding.

That is why the essay format is far superior to the learning process.

Multiple choice is all about mere recall...pure memorization.

Essay answers is about the ability to understand the concepts...
and to be able to apply them...
just as in real life.






Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alex's School's Mock SATs



Song:  After The Rain

Artist:  Ramsey Lewis



Today, Alex went to a special SAT mock test.

It was put together by the Coral Academy of Science High School.

Alex's Geometry teacher invited Alex to this event because Alex 
did very well on his real SAT last June...
and because he knows Alex's Mathematical capabilities.

I dropped him off at the center that the testing was held in at around 8:30 AM...
and I went to the lunch they had prepared for the students and parents at 1:30 PM.


The gyro meat was in the last pans.


Alex sitting with some of the High Schoolers who had taken the mock SATs
(Alex is sitting in the far right corner of the room).

Alex's Geometry teacher is sitting in front of the center screen...
correcting the mock SATs.

Alex did very well on this mock SAT.

He had improved dramatically in all areas.

We used this as a measuring stick as to his progress.

He should do even better on this June's real SAT.

We plan for him to take the (real) SATs every year to...
not only have his results on official records...
but to measure his rate of intellectual growth
(as he is only in 7th grade...he has much time to greatly improve).

His largest area of growth occurred in Reading Comprehension.

In Math, although he had only missed 2 questions (giving him a 760 out of 800)...
and it was an improvement over 7 months ago...
I know he made rushed miscalculations on those two he had missed
(he knows the concepts already).

Alex is still rushing his calculations...
he tends to want to do them in his head as quickly as possible.

Still...
he did well by improving in all of his areas.

In my next article...
hopefully later tonight...
I will write about Alex's Social Studies Web Site assignment.

It is a brief presentation and critical analysis 
of The Declaration Of Independence.

Alex's Spelling Bee Practice Session



Song:  The Storm

From:  Yanni



Alex has the County Spelling Bee in less than one week.

I have been working with him after his normal studies are done
(we usually start at around 7 PM).

His English teacher gave out some study sheets
 giving common foreign words by language 
(Greek / Italian / Spanish / Latin / Arabic / Asian / French / German 
 Slavic / Dutch / New World / Old English).

Each language included the most common 100 - 200 or so words for Alex to practice with.

He has been doing very well with this exercise.

I have been spending an hour or so drilling him on these words every night
(he also practices on line with his spelling program).

Afterward, he enjoyed his free hour before we headed off 
to our favorite Sushi restaurant...
The Atlantis Casino Sky Terrace Sushi Bar.

As our spelling study session ran a little long...
we arrived at the Sky Terrace Sushi Bar a little after 10 PM 
(It stays open until midnight on Fri / Sat).



Alex holding his iPad.
He was using it during the 15 min drive to the Atlantis
(Alex simply LOVES his iPad...it goes with him everywhere).



Alex enjoying his iPad while eating his Sushi.
He is playing his favorite app at the moment...
The Grading Game (an earlier article).

Tomorrow morning, Alex is going to a special
SAT mock test put together by the Coral Academy of Science High School.

It is for the High School students...
however, his teachers know how well he did on his real SAT last June...
so his Geometry teacher invited Alex to participate with the High School Students.

He will start it at 9 AM at a special hall...
and I will pick him up at 1:30 PM...
whereupon they will serve lunch (Gyros)
to child and parent alike.

Alex is also finishing up a Social Studies assignment.

He started it a few days ago...and he will finish it up tomorrow night.
The students were assigned to design a 5 page web site.
It could be on anything, so long as it has something to do
 with History or Social Studies.

Alex is making a presentation on the Declaration of Independence.

He showed me his partially completed web site last night.

I was very impressed.
Alex had done very well in not only the content of his subject matter...
but in the layout and design of the web pages...
all without any help from me.

I hope to be able to write about it tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alex's Basic PC Game Designer: Gamestar Mechanic



Song:  Edgar and Sabin's Theme

From:  FF III (US)


Alex competes in the County Spelling Bee in one week.

A couple of days after that he will compete in the Regional MathCounts competition.
He will be competing for the team and individual spots to advance to the State level.

The following week is the Science Fair
(where his Science Project will be in competition with the others at his school).

The week after...
he will be competing in the AMC 10 math competition
(the AMC 10 and above competitions are very important
as Universities keep track of competitors as a scouting method).

He has been studying his Spelling and his MathCounts competition
material with extra effort lately.  After the MathCounts competition...
he will be able to concentrate on the AMC10 math competition almost exclusively
(AMC 10 is for mathematically gifted High Schoolers up to the 10th grade. 
 As Alex is only in the 7th grade...this will be good practice for the future). 

As he is working so diligently...
we had to cut way back on some of his other activities.

However...
as it is important that he also be able to relax for at least one hour a day...
he has been working just as hard on his new hobby.

Alex likes making video games 
(Very simple ones for now.  Should he really get into it...
we shall get him a program which makes far more complicated
games for the iPad and for the PC).





We bought Alex a very basic game design program.
It is perfect for children as it uses very basic game design mechanics
with no programing involved.

You just pick the type of game to make...
either a platform game or a top down view game.
You may also add a Role Playing experience by adding a story line
to various points in the game.

It is called Gamestar Mechanic...
it sells for $19.99 online
(direct online access).

It is perfect for elementary game making...
and it is simple enough for young children.

It also allows submission to a site where others may play and critique the game
that was made by the child.


Alex added a story line to his game (the game is still under construction).



You simply input the attributes and location of the various game components
and the resulting character appears on the screen.  It then performs according to 
the directions given to it by the child.


Alex is making a top down game.

He loves designing his simple game so much...
it won't be long before he will need a much more professional game designer.


The pictures below are from their website.






If you have young children who just love video games...
this is the perfect introduction to game designing.

From here they may then get the more complicated professional designer programs.

As a start...
this is perfect for Elementary through Middle School children...
and at only $19.99...
you will get more than your money's worth just watching your child get fully 
involved in something that is creative.

You will then be able to play the games that he designs.

When you see his eyes glitter with pride as you experience his creation...
well, you know the old saying...

Price of the program....$19.99

Seeing his proud face...Priceless.




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

100% Nevada High School Proficiency Exam - Math



Song:  Stars

Artist:  Helen Jane Long



In one of Alex's advanced Math classes at school...
he, along with the 10th graders in his Geometry class...
(Alex had pointed out my mistake today...Alex is in 7th grade.
As Alex takes 3 math classes a day...I had mistakenly put 7th graders
when the class that had taken the practice test was his Geometry class.
For Geometry...Alex gets sent to the High School portion of his school
where most of the students in his Geometry class are 10th graders)...
had taken a Nevada High School Proficiency Practice Exam (Math portion)
(a mandatory exit exam for High Schoolers.
They must show proficiency in the subjects before they can graduate).

His teacher thought it would be fun...
as well as revealing...
for the students.

Alex had scored 100%.

Although we know Alex is much more advanced in his math...
we were glad that he hasn't forgotten the basics
(he was advanced enough that he could have passed it in the 4th grade.
Alex had completed pre-Algebra in the 3rd grade...
and he finished Algebra I in the 4th grade).

Although Alex is studying higher math (Calculus)...
my wife has been careful to constantly review his lower math
(Algebra and Geometry).

He will sometimes make some careless mistakes...
and with a quick review of the problems...
he will get them right
(He still has a tendency to rush his problems.
He still values speed too much).

I constantly stress that accuracy is the most important attribute.

In the real world (apart from math competitions)...
a miscalculation can be costly in time and money...
and in many fields...
it can be disastrous...potentially life threatening.


Speed is a natural result of the ease of quality.

If you stress speed...quality will suffer.
If you stress quality...speed will manifest itself naturally.




Alex in his bedroom with his notation white board.
He is demonstrating some problems to his mother.



Alex got A+s in all of his classes this last quarter.


His self drive and his study habits are the key.

His self drive is a manifestation of his love of learning...
and a goal for his future.

His study habits were established when he was still very young.

With Positive Reinforcement, and frequent play breaks evenly interspersed...
he enjoyed his study time.

He was guided by conceptual understanding...
and constant parental involvement.

His mistakes were identified...
the underlying concept reviewed...
alternate problems were given to re-test for correct concept application...
and his accomplishments were heavily praised.

His true pride grew with each completed objective.


I think parenting can be summed up in five words:

Constant and Consistent Loving Structure


I know this is common sense to most.

It is, however, in the application that results come about.

The Loving Structure is the correct path up the mountain.

The constant and consistent portions are the actual treading of that correct path.

If you don't walk that path...
the goal cannot be reached.



A natural transfer from exemplary study habits
to exemplary work ethics occurs.

With exemplary study habits...
his preparations for his chosen field will be exemplary.

With exemplary work ethics...
his performance in his chosen field will be exemplary.


With exemplary performance comes the external and internal rewards.
The external rewards allow increasing freedom from worry about ones future.
The internal rewards provide the passion for the job...as well as passion for life.


We have but one life to live...
to live it with passion is the only way to live it well.
















Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alex's New Favorite iPad App: The Grading Game




Song:  North Star

Artist:  Helen Jane Long



The Grading Game...
Alex's new favorite iPad game.



In it... 
one must spot, and correct, various Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation...
and Capitalization errors.

The papers to correct get more complex as one advances.






Alex loves spotting and correcting things in his daily life...
so this game is a natural one for him.

He also wishes to, one day, become a University Professor.
To love correcting papers will be a big advantage...
for he shall be doing much of it, should he become one.




The value of this game lies in its strengthening of error recognition.
Once a child may spot the errors here...
he may spot them in his own usage.

Just as in other video games...
it is in its use of Positive Reinforcement 
which provides the addictive factor.

Alex loves learning through various means.

While much of his learning still comes from on-line programs
(supplementary and advanced studies at home)...
the iPad has useful apps (such as this one)...
where learning is not only fully portable...
but thoroughly enjoyable.

Having a learning program which the child finds fun and interesting...
while he learns important fundamentals in various subjects...
is a smart buy for the parents...
and a smart use of time for the child.


While the partial app is free...
for the full function game...
it still only costs a couple of dollars.

It is well worth the cost.
















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