Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Youth and Math

Youth and math: an interview with Linda M. Gojak, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. A fuller version of this interview (conducted by Pam) is at

Q: How would you sum up math knowledge among kids in North America today?
A: International studies show that we’re not competitive with the top countries in the world, but you have to be really careful when you look at international comparisons, because we strive to educate all our students, while other countries that competitively do well are much more selective. For example, in China, at the eighth-grade level kids are given a very high-stakes test and only a select number get to go on to high school; others go to vocational schools or don’t go on to school at all.

Q: Is online learning particularly suited to math and science learning?
A: To me, both math and science education offer opportunities to communicate and discuss and reason with others. There’s a lot of good material online that can help enhance their mathematics achievement, but it’s really important for kids to have an opportunity to share their thinking in real time with one another, and online learning does not always give them that opportunity.

Q: What can parents do to help their children engage with math?
A: First, let kids know that mathematics is as important as reading and writing. It really is a critical factor in a child’s future options. Second, talk to the teacher. If your child is struggling, work with the teacher to provide opportunities so your child can do better in math. Sometimes parents think that they’re the teacher when their kid gets home. But math education looks different today than when parents were in school, so it’s more important to communicate with the teacher than to become the at-home teacher. Third, our children are very overbooked these days. They come home from school while both parents are working, or they come home and have to go to soccer or baseball or music practice. It’s real important for parents to realize that they need to set up a place for kids to do homework—a quiet place, and a time when the television and maybe computer are turned off. That homework is an important part of reinforcing what the kids learned in school that day.

Q: Is math competency more important today than it was in previous generations?
A: Absolutely. Career options aside, in today’s economy, society, and political environment, we need to know when we’re reading or hearing legitimate information. We need to be able to look at the numbers and say, “This just doesn’t make sense.” There is a wonderful book called How to Lie with Statistics. If there are a lot of people lying with statistics, we’re going to be a very misinformed population unless we develop that ability to reason and see through the lies.

Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Need inspiration to write your novel?

A close friend who needed writing inspiration took this course and is now feeling inspired and organized to write her first novel. She absolutely swears by this class so I thought I would pass it on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Coming soon: Bungee-jump novel!

This is your early-bird notice. My next book is a middle-grade (ages 8-12) "hi-lo" (reluctant reader) novel for Orca Currents (like my books Camp Wild and Daredevil Club, see below) and it's now scheduled to come out the fall of 2016. And yes, it's on bungee jumping! You'll know more close to publication date. Sorry but no, you cannot pre-order it yet. You can, of course, view other Orca Currents books:

Camp Wild:
Daredevil Club:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Interview: Kids and Science

Dr. Gerald Wheeler is the interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association (, the world’s largest professional organization representing science educators of all grade levels. A fuller version of this interview (conducted by Pam) is at
Q: How would you sum up the state of science knowledge among youth in North America today?
Gerald WheelerA: We’re definitely not in line with satisfying what we need for a workforce in the next ten to fifteen years.

Q: Your thoughts on how to improve that?
A: Parents don’t need to have a strong background in science to help their children learn and appreciate science. Doing science with your child can be as simple as helping him or her measure the ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Don’t let science become a weak part of your child’s education. Get involved.

Q: Do problems with reading and writing affect science learning?
A: It turns out that science is actually a gift in this case. Science and technology can get struggling readers engaged, and actually improve their math and literacy scores. It’s a door opening to get them engaged in their schooling. If they really like the hands-on, real-world problems, as soon as they do these, they get immersed in mathematics and reading.

Q: Is online learning suited or unsuited to science education?
A: It works pretty well, but is a challenge because a lot of science is hands-on.

Q: What can parents do to help kindle or grow their children’s interest in science?
A: I think it starts long before high school. It’s about engaging them by answering questions and exploring things. Dinnertime is a great opportunity for your family to have discussions about science-based news stories (space shuttle missions, severe weather storms, etc.). Movies and TV shows that feature science-related themes are also good topics for discussions.
Too many parents say, “Well, that’s the job of the schools, and don’t give our kids homework because it interrupts our quality time.” Also, too many families come home and eat at different times or head off to their separate computers or televisions. They need to get engaged in what’s happening in the schools, and find ways to be supportive of the teachers and the school program. For example, parents can participate in their child’s school science program by locating scientists and others to be guest speakers, or can accompany their child on a field trip to a science-related place.
It’s a struggle with the disenchanted child; he is really destroying his future if he doesn’t get engaged. We have to make sure we get them engaged.

Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Positive parenting blog

I'm currently visiting my older, better-looking, smarter, bossier sister Cynthia, pictured here. She, of course, is my co-author on Jump-Starting Boys. Like me, she does presentations on getting boys to read. She also writes a blog on jump-starting boys and on positive parenting. So with sisterly pride, I'd like to refer people to her blog: