Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Kiss My Math - Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss book cover

Kiss My Math - Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss

I was browsing my local LIBRARY (you know, the place where you can borrow books, movies, musics, etc. for FREE) and I came across Danica McKellar’s book, Kiss My Math – Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss. This book is written to help math-phobic teens understand variable, exponents, negative numbers, graphing and other pre-algebra related math.

I flipped through the book and ended up checking it out, not because I need the math help, but to spend a little more time reading Danica’s personal ADVENTURES in, and her inviting approaching to learning math. Danica became famous as an actress in one of my favorite TV shows as a child, The Wonder Years. Growing up as an actress it made sense that she would start college with the intention of studying film. However, she soon found out that she had more fun studying math and ended up graduating with a degree in the subject and even has a BONA FIDE math theorem named after her.

Danica still acts but her LOVE of math hasn’t faded one bit. And she is sharing her love of math with a new generation of girls through this and other math books she has written. While the main audience for Kiss My Math (KMM) may be girls, the stories and techniques for solving math problems will appeal to boys as well. What sets KMM apart from regular pre-algebra text books are the annotations that provide further insights to the math instructions. They are done in a conversational and sometimes WHIMSICAL fashion that makes you want to understand the problem solving methods, which are beautifully supplemented by the anecdotal stories that go along with the examples.

Peppered in between the math instructions are profiles of an actress, a singer, a laywer, a T.V. director among others, which includes how they USE math in their professions. KMM also includes little sections entitled Danica’s Diary in which she tells her own personal STORIES, not all of which are math related. She talks about struggling with personal issues like self-esteem, boys, school and her thoughts on how to DEAL with them. The book also has a couple of personality quizzes written with the help of a professional psychologist on stress and picking supportive FRIENDS and ideas on what to do if you score “low.”

If you are struggling with pre-algebra or know of someone who is, consider getting them Kiss My Math as a present or check out a local library to see if they have a copy. The book is a pleasure to read through and at times you may forget you are learning math.


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Here is how.

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This is the QUESTION you may be asking yourself after you heard the news. The next generation of spacecrafts being built to take astronauts into space, to the moon and BEYOND, otherwise known as the Constellation Program has been canceled.

Traveling into space.

Traveling into space. Credit: NASA

When I first heard the possibility of this happening, I was disappointed and saddened. As a young boy, I had dreamed of becoming an astronaut one day. I am sure that is still the case with many young boys and GIRLS who are in school today but hope to go into SPACE someday. What does this bit of news mean to them and YOU, if you are a young girl or boy?

What the news media is not reporting as widely is the fact that NASA has been issued a new directive by President Obama to work more closely with the private sector, companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and others to take astronauts into space. This means there will be MORE spots for astronauts on spaceships than exist today.

If you DREAM of someday going into space, do not give up that dream. Your chances of becoming an astronaut just went up. Of course, you will still need a good education to secure your place on a spaceship.

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Kodu programming interface.

Kodu programming interface.

A new week, a new TWIST.

Do you Kodu?

I have talked about the joys of graphical programming before. This week there is a NEW entry in easy and fun to use graphical programming language designed to get kids into programming. Microsoft has release the technical preview download for KODU, which “a visual programming language made specifically for creating GAMES. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.” While this has been available for the Xbox 360 for sometime, now anyone with a decent PC can jump in and start making games EASILY. Kodu’s website has all that you will need to get started and the program comes with samples of what can be accomplished with it. The cool thing is you can edit those samples and add your own flavor to them. If you make a game that you wanna show-off, feel free to post a link to it in the comments.

Quantum computer makes quantum leap.

In science, quantum is the SMALLEST piece of an object. Therefore, it is weird to me when people say that they have made a “quantum leap” to indicate a giant progress.

Anyhoo, things at the quantum level do not behave like everyday objects. Strange things can and do happen. One STRANGE thing is an object can be in two states at the same. It would be like you being asleep and awake at the same time. Scientists have been for a long time trying to use this strange behavior to build POWERFUL computers. The basic idea is what with a quantum computer it would be possible to try out all the solutions to a problem at once and extract the correct answer instantaneously. You can easily imagine how hard that is. For example, consider a simple math problem, which only has one answer. Well, there are an INFINITY of numbers to pick from, how do you create something that can hold an infinity of anything?

But, just because something may seem hard does not mean we should not try. After all, that is what makes science fun!

It was reported this week, that scientists have built a quantum computer to model the hydrogen atom. Hydrogen is the simplest of the elements consisting only of one proton and one electron so it was a great way to demonstrate the computer since it can be easily checked against other methods. The question is, once they can build a quantum computer that can solve ANY mathematical problem, will we still have do to homework? 🙂


How quantum computers work.
A tale of two qubits: how quantum computers work – A more technical look at how quantum computers work.

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One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an international program with a mission “To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.”

One Laptop Per Child

One Laptop Per Child

In October of 2009, Uruguay became the first country to provide all students in 1st through 6th grade with a laptop with plans to expand it to other grades. If you have been looking for a reason to CONVINCE your parents to get you a computer (not the OLPC version, which is not available in retail stores), I cannot see a more compelling reason than this. They have become very affordable, some models costing less than popular game machines out there.

Computers are EVERYWHERE these days. The can be fun to use, and more and more they are becoming a necessary part of our daily lives. The sooner one starts learning to use computers, they better ADVANTAGE they will have going forward.

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Evil Scientist
Evil Scientist.
Copyright AE0538T

I was watching a sci-fi, superhero movie the other day and it occurred to me how evil scientists are always trying to take over the world or something similar, at least in the movies. It is perhaps because of this or, still, the most recognizable scientist that ever existed, Albert Einstein, that when children are asked to draw scientists, they draw them with spiky hair, lab coat and an evil GRIN, although Einstein is rarely pictured with a lab coat and NEVER with an evil grin.

The point is that some children, and, unfortunately, quite a few adults, always imagine scientists as evil. And, because scientists do science, somehow science is evil too. Well, it is NOT. The reason that scientists are depicted as evil GENIUSES in movies is because they have to stand in contrast to the hero or heroine of the movies. The hero/heroine is usually the underdog who has to overcome great odds (in this case the evil scientist and his evil, scientific gadgets) to save the day. If the hero/heroine was as, or more, powerful than the evil scientist, he/she defeat the villain quite easily and then there would not be much a movie to show.

While the villains are clearly marked as evil scientists in movies, the heroes of many of those movies also tend to be scientists, although that fact is often overlooked. Below are listing of some movie scientist heroes.

  • Indiana Jones – Archaeologist, a person who studies history and historic creatures, including humans, through analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other remains that may have been excavated (dug up).
  • Mr. Fantastic (leader of the Fantastic Four) – Physicist.
  • Robert Neville (played by Will Smith in the movie, I Am Legend) – Virologist, someone who studies viruses and the diseases caused by them.

I have not listed more only because these are, after all, fictional characters.

There are a lot of REAL hard-working scientists, who, every day, work to find a CURE for cancer and other diseases, make alternative energy solutions more AFFORDABLE and easier to implement, help us understand the universe in which we live, and push the limits of technology to make BETTER computers, which can aid in all these areas. These scientists DESERVE better than to be looked upon as mad, evil geniuses.

Online resources about scientists in popular media.

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Girls make great scientists!

Girls make great scientists!

I am sorry that it took me so long to write about this topic. Contrary to what you may have seen (I am talking about pictures and movies where most scientists are guys), girls make GREAT scientists. I consider myself a fairly smart person, placing in top 10 in my elementary and high school classes but I was always, ALWAYS “out-smarted” by girls. Even in college, while studying physics, a girl was the smartest person in our class.

This is not a new thing either. Women scientists have EXISTED as long as men scientists. That link only lists the women scientists we know about. There are probably many more women scientists that we do not know about because either they did not get published, or they were shy, or whatever reason.

Although their contributions to science and humanity are important, this post is about you. If you are a girl who LIKES science, and thinking about a career in science, I am here to say, “YOU GO, GIRL!”

Being a scientist is a WONDERFUL job. You get PAID to figure out how things work. You know, stuff you are curious about anyway. How much better can it get?

How to become a famous women scientist.

How do you keep on track to becoming a SUCCESSFUL women scientist? Besides the regular stuff, like doing well in school here are some other pointers:

1. Declare your intentions of becoming a women scientist.

Letting others know of your intentions, does a couple of things. First, now that you have said you are going to so something, it acts as MOTIVATOR for you to actually do it (like keeping a promise). Don’t worry, you can still change your mind later. Second, if you let others know what it is that you want to do, they will be able to better help you with your interest.

2. Ask questions.

So, you like science. Great! What kind of science exactly? Do you like astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, cosmology, etc. It’s OK if you do not know the difference between all those words. That is WHY you have to ask questions.

3. Find other girls with similar interests.

You would be lucky if you know of many other girls in your class who share your interest for science. Having good friends that SUPPORT you in what you want to do is important. If you can’t find other girls in your classes, or neighborhood who are interested in science or you cannot get your friends to get interested in science, the internet is a great place for you to find other girls your age who share your interests. I have listed some websites where you get find such friends.

4. Don’t give up.

BECOMING a famous woman scientist takes hard work. That is why it is also fun. Imagine playing a game where you always won. I doubt it would be fun for very long as there would not be any challenge in it. On your road to becoming a famous woman scientist, you will encounter problems, problems like lots of homework, math problems, and, unfortunately, people who will doubt your abilities, discourage or make fun of what it is you are trying to accomplish. Sometimes, these things will want to you stop chasing your GOALS. Anytime, I ran into something like this, it made me even more determined to succeed. You may encounter set backs but never EVER let anything or anyone from reaching your dreams.

5. Become a famous women scientist.

If you do all the other things, this part will be the easiest. Let me talk about what it means to be a famous scientist. A scientist is someone who works to discover new things, or create them. Things that no one before her or him knew about. Things that will change how people do things. Things that CHANGE the world. So, you may not become someone who has their name mentioned on TV all the time, you will become someone who will go down in history as a person who discovered or created something that changed our understanding of the universe and how we interact with it.


If I have missed something, please share it with me and my readers by making a comment below.

Here are some websites and organizations that budding, young women scientists like yourself will find useful.

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If you do not believe that robots will eliminate most future jobs or that the President gives good advice about the need for a good education, here is something else to consider about education.

A good education gives you OPTIONS! It exposes you to the POSSIBILITIES of the world.


Suppose you had never heard about or played a video game. You might not realize just how much fun they can be. (If you do not like playing video games, pretend for a while that you do.) In order to realize for yourself whether you might or might not enjoy video games, you have to be exposed to it, either by playing a video game yourself or, at the very least, watching someone else play one.

How does this relate to education? Consider the diagram below. Each concentric circle represents the amount of OPPORTUNITIES available to depending your level of education.

The possibilities available depending on level of education.Options available based on education.


If a person is a high school dropout (the inner-most or red circle), the number of options of what that person can do in life is limited to a very few things. If he or she graduates high school, they have a few more options available. It they go to a junior college yet more options are available to them and getting a college degree (outer-most, green circle) brings even MORE opportunities.

People who are in the outer-most circle can do everything in the largest circle as well as any smaller circle. The same is not true for those who are in the smaller circles. They cannot (easily) do what exists in the larger circles.

What if there is something that you really like to do in the smaller circles? Well, how do you know if there isn’t something in the bigger circle that you would not LOVE even more?

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