I’m reminded again and again of the wide appeal of Rush Hour.  If you haven’t played it, or seen someone else play it, I highly recommend trying it out.  It’s available the old-fashioned way, with moveable three-dimensional pieces, or in app form.  I’ve played both, and while the app looks cool (especially on the ‘Pad) and could be considered more portable, there’s something about physically moving the pieces that seems to contribute to the experience.

Anyway, it’s a puzzle, or a one-person game, in which the player is charged with freeing a designated vehicle from a set of prescribed toy gridlock.  Depending on the difficulty level of the gridlock design you choose, solving the puzzle can require willingness to consider multiple options, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, strategic planning, and much patience and tenacity.  It’s the kind of thing about which I hear young people say “This is hard.  And so much fun.”

Friends with fractions

I know lots of kids who can tell you that the top number in a fraction is called the numerator and the bottom number is called the denominator. But they don’t understand how the two numbers function or relate to each other.  The words numerator and denominator do technically describe the functions of each number, but only if you happen to recognize all the Latin roots.  So in the absence of Latin fluency, this might help. Continue reading


I was walking back from the bus stop and heard two city employees talking about the granite curb they were about to install at the corner.  I was surprised by what I heard, and then annoyed at my surprise.

“The thing I’m concerned about is…”

“Well, the worst that could happen is…”

I can’t finish the sentences, because I don’t know enough about granite-laying to have retained the content of their conversation.  But my surprise came from the fact that I don’t expect to hear city guys in Carhartts negotiating with each other in the course of their work.  Apparently I think they’re just out there doing manual tasks free of thought and interaction.

Of course, I know better, but it reminds me of Matthew Crawford’s book about the dying off of technical training in high schools.  We have a tremendous bias about what constitutes good work, and what’s enough to merit good pay and treatment, even though we need people to do this work, and do it thoughtfully and well. And there are young people who are smart in the right ways for that who get discouraged from doing it.  Crawford reminds us that “work that is straightforwardly useful can also be intellectually absorbing.”  (Not to mention lucrative, a point that, bafflingly, often gets lost in platforms about how kids need college degrees to have good jobs so they can earn a living.)

Next time you’re tempted to say “stop doodling and pay attention”…

Yet another suggestion that things are not always as they seem. This reminds me of how many folks I’ve heard say that they can only focus on what someone’s saying if they don’t make eye contact, though we tend to assume it’s the opposite. Take a look at this summary of a study (published earlier this year in Applied Cognitive Psychology) about the effect of doodling on recall.

Jenifer Fox’s Book on Strengths…

I’m going to get a reputation for the unwise practice of recommending books before I’ve finished reading them, but I can’t help myself.  I have read several pages from the beginning, several from the middle, and a few from the end of Your Child’s Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them, and there is so much in it that can be so useful in so many ways for so many people I cannot wait to start talking about it.  You can read a few pages on Google books…

I’ll post more soon when I come up with the words…

Good Math Match

I was recommending a couple of math books today and realized that Marilyn Burns’* The I Hate Mathematics Book and Math for Smarty Pants make a good team.  The material is similar – offers a wider view of math than many publications and party lines – but the titles invite their readers to adhere to much different attitudes and standpoints about the whole business.  I don’t tend to encourage people to go around saying they hate math, but for those who are already saying it, or things like it, The I Hate Mathematics Book is a good way to find out otherwise.  A pairing with Math for Smarty Pants offers an opportunity to play with the love/hate relationship math can inspire, but also to inspire all kinds of intelligence and brilliance.

* Marilyn Burns is actually one of three authors on The I Hate Mathematics Book (Linda Allison and David Weitzman are the other two); I used her name there not to be disrespectful to the other two but because she’s well-known for other related work.

Math and Science Stuff to Do…

I was reminded today of the Lawrence Hall of Science publications.  I haven’t tried anywhere near all that they offer, but their math and science materials lean in the direction of exploration and adventure.  In the shopping area on their website you’ll find lots of things to actually do, which is always a good sign when it comes to science and math. In particular I recommend looking through the topics available under GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science).