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Reader mail–requests and suggestions

/ 06:49 PM December 17, 2012

ROWENA Matti writes:  You may find this article interesting: “When ZIP Code Isn’t Destiny:  Small Changes Can Offer Big Benefits for Low-Income Students” (from the “Harvard Gazette,” Dec. 9).

Reply:  Doug Lemov, managing director of the nongovernment organization Uncommon Schools and who has a Harvard MBA, does not believe in books and theories on teacher development. He finds them too abstract for real-life classes.

He studied the best practices of the best teachers in disadvantaged schools, who manage to inspire their students to do well on standardized tests.  His findings are in “Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College” (Wiley, 2010).


Among the techniques are “No Opt Out:  How to move students from the blank stare or stubborn shrug to giving the right answer every time,” “Do It Again:  When students fail to successfully complete a basic task, from entering the classroom quietly to passing papers around, doing it again, doing it right, and doing it perfectly, results in the best consequences,” and “No Warnings:  If you’re angry with your students, it usually means you should be angry with yourself.”

Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Thomas Kane said Lemov had “broken down … teaching into discrete ‘moves’ simple enough to be taught and practiced. If [former University of California-Los Angeles basketball coach] John Wooden had simply told his team, ‘Play like Bill Walton,’ [they] would have had one superstar, not a dynasty.  Instead, basketball is a sport with many named behaviors … which are practiced … We need to parse effective teaching behaviors into chunks small enough to be held in one’s working memory and rehearsed.  That’s the only way we’ll transform teaching.”

Read the article at

gazette/story/2012/11/when-zip-code-isnt-destiny/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&  You can order Lemov’s book from Amazon.

Scientists in high schools

Andrea Teran of the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering writes: Thank you for the article “Science Experts May Be Able to Teach in High School” (Nov. 5).  We hope to conduct public hearings [on this] after the Senate finishes with the budget … The current version of the

K to 12 bill (Senate Bill No. 3286 sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara is  in the period of amendments in the Senate) also contains a section about hiring science, technology, engineering, math and other professionals to teach in high schools, especially in Grades 11 and 12.

Reply:  With the K to 12 reform, teachers and students need all the help they can get.  If science professionals are willing to teach, they would be doing the country a big service.


Parabolas and fireworks

Jack Drewes writes:  I am the managing editor of “Fireworks Business,” a monthly publication for members of the international fireworks trade.  I read your “Parabolas and Fireworks” (Nov. 20) and was fascinated by the concept … I would love to reprint the article in an upcoming issue (to enlighten our readers and perhaps encourage an exchange of ideas) … May I reprint the article?

Reply:  Just acknowledge the source (article name, author, newspaper section, date of publication).  Please also send me a copy of the reprinted story.  By the way, the article said

y =  42 meters per second.  Since height is being measured, the answer should be y = 42 meters.  My apologies to my student Florante Belardo.

When math hurts

Elizabeth Mabugay writes:  I want to share with readers the psychology publication “When Math Hurts: Math Anxiety Predicts Pain Network Activation in Anticipation of Doing Math” in the journal “PLos One” (Oct. 31).

Reply:  Psychologists Ian Lyons and Sian Beilock of the University of Chicago and Western University in Ontario, respectively, studied more than a dozen individuals to see if mathematics anxiety is merely in the head or a genuine, concrete sensation.

Participants did word and math tasks, while their brains underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging.  The results?  “When anticipating an upcoming math task, the higher one’s math anxiety, the more one increases activity in regions associated with visceral threat detection, and often the experience of pain itself.”

The psychologists pinpointed the site of the pain in the brain, the so-called bilateral dorso-posterior insula.

But there was no pain while doing math, only when anticipating it.  “It is not that math itself hurts,” say Lyons and Beilock.  Fearing the prospect of math seems worse than doing the math itself.  Read the article at


Grolier warehouse sale

Roselle Masirag writes:  Grolier is selling books at discounted prices, good gifts for kids and relatives this Christmas [or as donations to] your community and school.  Grolier can arrange  [delivery] … Just e-mail Jenny Caingat at for your orders or inquiries.

Reply:  Looking at Grolier’s discounted price list, I believe the books are a steal.  Ten volumes of “One Thousand Things You Need to Know” (for kids 6+), six volumes of “Question of Math” (for kids 6+), 10 volumes of “Science Library” (for kids 12+), or 10 volumes of “Grolier Question and Answer” (for kids 4+) now sell for only P750, from the original P4,050 per set.

The 24-volume “I Wonder Why” (for kids 4+) now sells for only P2,400, instead of P8,100, while the  16-volume “Crafts for Kids” (for kids 6+), originally costing P6,075, is now priced at P1,500.  Harry Potter 7 (for kids 12+), is down to P350, from the original P750.

E-mail the author at

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