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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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Our flash cards were just launched. We believe the flash cards provide another tool to help students polish their math skills. We are starting with four subjects (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), each with three levels of difficulty (easy, medium and hard). You can customize the flash cards to set how many problems per set, and whether or not you want a timer running during the practice. At the end, you will get a score and you can review problem by problem how you have done. To check it out, give it a try: GoldStudent Math Flash Cards.

GoldStudent Flash Cards - Options Screen

GoldStudent Flash Cards - Question and Answer

GoldStudent Flash Cards - Score and Review

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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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We heard feedback from several of our members that it can be intimidating to see the timer on the tests and worksheets. It would be great to make that feature an option set by the users. We are taking that feedback seriously, and are working on allowing the students to turn the timer off or on, for all worksheets or tests. We are in the final testing stage of that feature, and will deploy it soon.

If you have any other suggestions for how we can make the site easier to use, please email us at feedback@goldstudent.com.

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We are well into the new school year by now. In my family, we have settled into a routine of driving to schools and then driving to sports after school. With three kids in three different schools and three different schedules, driving has been really hectic (no school bus system where we live). However, we believe it is important for our kids to have a balanced set of activities, that combines academics with sports and other things.

In my spare time, I have managed to squeeze in time to read a few really good books (mostly on planes when traveling for work). One that is worth sharing is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, the author tries to share his observations of what he believes are the key elements that make people succeed. He highlights the importance of environment, talent, effort, and being at the right place at the right time. He points out that it may not be just coincidence that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Eric Smith (CEO of Google) were all born within a year of each other, signifying that the timing of the information technology revolution likely is a contributor to these super-successful innovators.

There are two things mentioned in this book that resonate strongly with me. The first is the 10,000 hours rule: He researched the experts in many fields, from computer programmers, to musicians, to mathematicians, and concludes that to truly become a master of something, one needs to not only have talent, but must also to put in about 10,000 hours to sufficiently master a subject, be it math or playing the violin.

The other is Gladwell’s observation as to why Asian children seem to be good at math. He points out two factors:

1) The Asian culture is such that parents and society believe that everyone can do math, and be good at elementary and high school-level math.

2) The Asian educational systems make students practice far more hours of math than what is expected in the U.S.. He believes that the cultural expectations (the environment) combined with the additional hours of practice drive the success of math education in China and other Asian countries.

Having grown up in China and gone through the Chinese education system, I cannot agree with him more. As far back as I can remember, adults around me, be it my parents, grandmother, or the neighbors’ children, who were just a few years older than me, would all ask me math problems as a daily routine and part of the daily play. When an entire community embraces math or education in this way, and in addition the schools assign significant homework assignments, it works: Children learn math extremely well. When a child in China was behind on his or her basic math skills, parents would find weekend tutors, or would tutor the kids at home themselves, to make sure their kids could keep up.

Will American culture evolve to the point where we will also expect all kids to be able to master basic math skills as do other cultures?

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This summer just flew by. My family made a trip to China and visited our relatives. My kids also had a chance to interact with Chinese students of the same age as them, 13-18 years old. My daughter had a chance to share some American culture with the Chinese students, such as our major holidays, famous places in the US, and popular foods as well as American sports.

It is fascinating to see how the commercial companies have transferred US culture to other countries. All the Chinese students know McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks. They are amazed by the different types of breakfast cereals we have. You would be surprised to know which two holidays the junior high and high school students in China want to know about: Halloween and April Fool’s Day! We found that the Chinese students have much more homework and much more pressure to perform academically. All the students we met (about 80 in total) are taking extra classes to catch up from last year’s studies. Many will take just two to three weeks off during the summer, and will then start more supplemental classes to get a head start on next year’s classes, such as math, physics, and chemistry. For junior high and high school students, their typical school day goes from 8 am to 5 pm, and their homework will keep them busy until 11 pm every night.

I had a chance to look at the math textbooks for the 9th grade students. They are covering very similar topics to what is covered in the US. However, Chinese textbooks are much thinner, about 1” thick compared to the more than one inch thick books we use here. As a result, the textbooks are much lighter. Do our textbooks need to be so thick and heavy? I don’t know. I know that thicker does not mean better.

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