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The price of gas keeps going up.  In California, most gas stations now charge over $4 even for the lowest octane gasoline.  Hybrid cars cost more, but are more energy efficient than most standard gasoline-only cars.  Hybrid cars are also better for the environment.  Are they better for your wallet as well?  Let’s figure out the break-even time for a hybrid car, and how much money you could save over the lifetime of a hybrid car.

Find out how to do this problem!

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Spring break came and went so quickly.  School is back in full swing now. Students in high school are starting to prepare for the AP and SAT tests.  This is the first time I see my daughter studying seriously for a test. While testing is one way to judge a student’s knowledge and skills, it is not always so good at evaluating a student’s problem-solving methods, or the student’s ability to do things.  I begin to really appreciate the project-based method of teaching and learning.  Can math be taught using a project-based system?

Did you know that students can earn points on our site?  Once they earn enough points, they can get fun prizes, selected through our website.  I want to congratulate two students from Tennessee who claimed prizes in the past month!  Check out the prizes we offer at Points and Prizes.

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March is the month that most schools in California have their spring breaks.  My kids’ spring break is the last week of March.  If you plan to travel somewhere for the break, take the opportunity to get connected with your kids by playing some games that are creative and stimulating. We often play 20 questions on our road trips.  One person thinks of an object and the rest of the family will guess.  You can ask a total of 20 questions, to which the answers can only be yes or no.  Why don’t you give this a try the next time when you are on the road with your family? Here are ten objects you can start with (our family rule is that only single-word objects are allowed):

  1. Pocketknife
  2. Screwdriver
  3. Orange, or apple, or tangerine
  4. Panda
  5. Disneyland
  6. Skyscraper
  7. Wet suit
  8. French fries
  9. Tiramisu
  10. Laptop

I am sure everyone has their own strategy.  The strategy we use is the following:

  1. Figure out if the object is gas, solid or liquid
  2. Figure out what the approximate size of the object is, e.g., is it bigger than me?  Is it bigger than my hand?
  3. Figure out if the object is alive
  4. When you figure out the above 3, it is amazing how much you can narrow down the choices.  Our success rate is about 90%.

We like this simple and yet creative game because it is fun, it engages the entire family, and it trains our children one way to solve problems.

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Sally wants to do a home improvement project.  Her kitchen floor is in bad shape and she wants to retile the floor.  She needs to figure out how many tiles to buy.  Her kitchen measures 15’ by 20’.  She will use tiles that measure 13” by 13”.  The tile costs $3.50 per square feet.  How many tiles does she need to buy and how much will the tiles cost?

Find out how to do this problem!

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Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese use the lunar calendar in addition to the solar calendar. According to the lunar calendar, the new year this year was on Feb. 3, which is the Year of the Rabbit. The twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac cycle every 12 years. Because every month in the lunar calendar has 30 days, and there are no months with 31 days, every 4 years the lunar calendar is corrected by repeating a month.

The Chinese keep track of their birthdays using both the solar and the lunar calendar; the older generations tend to celebrate such events according to the lunar calendar. In China, people get a week off for Chinese New Year. This is like Thanksgiving and Christmas combined, as most people in China get together with their family and extended family, to give presents and red packets with freshly printed money in them. New Year’s Eve is filled with the sound of firecrackers, which people set off until dawn on New Year’s Day. I remember years when I would open the door on New Year’s Day to see the ground covered by “snow” from the small pieces of paper from the firecrackers. On New Year’s day, people will pay visits to their friends and relatives and wish them a Happy New Year, which we call “Bai Nian” in Mandarin Chinese (the dominant dialect in mainland China). I want to wish all the members of goldstudent a Happy Chinese New Year.

I recently read an article from the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale. It was an excerpt from a book she wrote recently. When I read the article, I was very intrigued. Being a Chinese mother myself, I am very aware of the Chinese and American culture and value differences. I don’t think Chinese mothers are superior, but they are certainly different.

In my opinion, Chua seems to do things to an extreme. She would not allow her daughters to have sleepovers or to perform in school plays (which I certainly allow and encourage). She set high expectations for her daughters, requiring that they play either piano or violin (there I admit that I have similar views). I also share in other expectations; I expect my children to get straight As. About 25% of the students graduating from my daughter’s junior high were straight A students. This means to me that even a straight A student is not at the very top, just in the top quartile. I want my children to play a music instrument, because I think it is good to appreciate music, and to have a way to express oneself musically in times of happiness, loneliness, or sadness. Both my children have been playing piano for more than five years. I use various techniques to get them to do things I think are good for them, ranging from rewards (such as offering cell phones and game consoles) to making them feel bad for not doing things (e.g. telling them that if they are not good in math, how would they be able to manage their own finances, or get a job with good pay).

Where I differ from Chua the most is that I think academic excellence is only one aspect of a child’s development, however important. I think emotional intelligence, interpersonal, social, and communication skills, the ability to work well in a group, to learn to lead and to learn to resolve conflicts, are just as important, if not more important, in terms of life skills. As a result, I encourage my children to play team sports. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to raise children. We are different as people, as parents, and there is no single story, nor should there be.

If you want to read the entire article by Chua, follow the link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

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Compounding interest is a very powerful concept. It can really hurt you, such as when you don’t pay off your credit card bill and the interest payment keeps getting bigger and bigger. It can also help you if you save money and manage it well enough to earn a steady return over many years.

If you start with $1000.00, how much will this become after 10 years if the rate of return is 5%?

Find out how to do this problem!.

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Happy New Year! The holiday break came and went so quickly. But it did allow time for me to be with my family, to catch up on year-end cleaning and organization, and to reflect and think about my goals for 2011. As my children get closer to college (2.5 years away), I am thinking more about how to plan, prepare and help guide the kids. There are many aspects to this process, including of course financial planning. Saving and investing are important lifetime skills. Children are not typically taught these skills in school. How are you preparing your children for this?

I always try to find opportunities to tell my children the importance of saving, how the daily Starbucks hot chocolate can add up to a large sum of money over a year. I also tell them the power of compound interest, both in terms of its negative aspects, relating to unpaid credit card bills, and in terms of its positive aspect with regard to saving and investing money. While I don’t think my children really understand the importance of this yet, I hope that later in life it will make sense and help them plan for themselves. The ability to calculate compound interest is a skill for life. Interested in sharing your thoughts with me on this topic? Email me at contactus@goldstudent.com.

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