Monthly Archives: June 2012

Instilling Persistence in Your Child(ren)

Source: ABC News, Jun 2012

A new study published in the Journal of Early Adolescence found that dads are in a unique position to instill persistence and hope in their children, particularly in the pre-teen and teen years.

Researchers from Brigham Young University analyzed 325 families over a four-year period, when fathers responded to questionnaires regarding their parenting style, and children ages 11 to 14 responded to questions about school performance and attaining goals. 

Fathers who practiced authoritative parenting, defined as providing feelings of love, granting autonomy and emphasizing accountability to a child, were more likely to have kids who developed the art of persistence, which led to better outcomes in school and lower instances of misbehavior.

Dads who ruled with an iron fist and an authoritarian style (harsher and more punishment-based parenting) had less persistent children.

Why UK Students Explore US Universities

Source: BBC News, Dec 2011

Jason Parisi, from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, has started this term at Yale and talks enthusiastically about his experiences.

He says he was drawn by the quality of the course on offer, and the belief that the international experience would give him an advantage in the jobs market when he returned, marking him out from the rest of the graduates.

The idea of an international education – gaining a more global perspective – appealed to him and he says that the “insular culture” which sees UK students stay at home is beginning to change.

He is studying Mandarin, economics, English and physics. “There is nowhere in the UK where I could have had that combination. You can build your own education here,” he says.

Wealthy colleges

Major US universities are extremely wealthy institutions – Yale’s endowment rose to $19.4bn (£12.3bn) this year – and he says he was “very surprised by the amount of resources”.

Yale and Harvard football game
Yale versus Harvard: Will the competition be for the brightest UK students?

“Whatever you want to do, as long as you provide the motivation, you’ll get the funding,” he says.

Perhaps more surprising is that the four years in Yale won’t cost him anything, as the financial aid package is covering all his fees and costs, including travel. It’s support worth about $250,000 (£158,000).

Helping Pre-School Children to Read Better

Source: KQED, Jun 2012

The first step to becoming a better reader to children is to understand where our young audience is looking when we read. … preschool children are focusing on print only five to six percent of the time.  Instead, they’re mostly looking at the pictures, or looking up at our faces. 

studies have shown that it’s “print knowledge,” and not just general experience with books, that advances children’s reading ability.

“Print knowledge” is an awareness of the mechanics of the reading process, like the fact that English is read from left to right and that written words map on to spoken ones. Adults often take this knowledge for granted, but research demonstrates that children benefit when these aspects of print are explicitly pointed out. In a study published in the May-June issue of the journal Child Development, for example, Ohio State professor Shayne Piasta and her coauthors report that when preschool teachers drew students’ attention to print while reading to them, the children’s skills in reading, spelling and comprehension improved. These positive results were long-lasting, too, still showing up a full two years later.

This accentuation can be non-verbal—pointing to letters or words on the page—or it can be spoken. Left to their own devices, research finds, adults rarely generate questions or comments about print, but it’s a practice that’s easy to adopt. Ask, “Where should I begin reading on this page?”, and “Do you know this word?” Say, “I spot three capital letters on this page—see if you can find them,” or “This dot here is a period, and it tells me I’ve reached the end of the sentence.” Point out, “This is the title of the book—it’s on the cover and also on the inside,” and “This is the name of the author—she wrote all the words that you see.”

Piasta proposes that such interventions encourage children’s emerging reading abilities in two ways. First, they directly increase the amount of time kids spend attending to print. And second, they provide explicit information about the forms and functions of print, helping children to learn in the moment and remember in the future.

Interestingly, Piasta notes, books that highlight particular words—by using different fonts, for example, or by putting characters’ speech in bubbles above their heads—don’t do much to enhance kids’ print knowledge. What matters is that the grownups who read to children take the time to show them how it’s done.

Success and Needs

Source: MIT Admissions Blog, Mar 2012

One definition of success

What’s Actually Needed!

When students write that they received an A in Engish instead of English.

Source: MIT admissions blog, Oct 2011

Our favoirte applicaiton spellnig errers

The correct spelling is chemistry, not chemsitry.

History, not histry or histroy.

Subjects that start with “p” and contain “h”, “s”, and “y” seem to give a lot of people trouble – it’s physics, not pyhsicsphysiology, not phisiology, phisyology, or physyology; psychology, not psycology, pyschology, psychlogy, or physcology. We’ve seen it all…

An applicant might play a varsity sport, but not a varisty or varisity sport; she might even be the captain of the team, but not the captian.

Someone might be on the school’s robotics team, but not robotoics. Some have even served aspresidentvice-presidenttreasurer, or secretary of a club, but not presdientvice-presdienttresurer, or secretery/secertary/secratary.

Perhaps one of the funniest misspellings is when students write that they received an A in Engish instead ofEnglish.

AND MOST IMPORTANT, it’s calculus*, not claculus, calculous, calcoulus, calcoulous, caluculus, caluculs, caluculous, calculscalclus

*This goes for pre-calculus, too.

MIT Students Can Sing!

Admitting MIT applicants

Excerpts from MIT admissions folks about how they experience applicants lives …

In March I go into committee with my colleagues, having narrowed down my top picks to a few hundred people. My colleagues have all done the same. Then the numbers come in: this year’s admit rate will be 13%. For every student you admit, you need to let go of seven others.

What? But I have so many who… But…

And then the committee does its work, however brutal. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s fair. (And by fair I mean fair in the context of the applicant pool; of course it’s not fair that there are so few spots for so many qualified applicants.)

When it’s all over, about 13% of my top picks are offered admission. I beg, I plead, I make ridiculous promises (just ask the senior staff) but at the end of the day, a committee decision is a committee decision.

Of my many favorites this year, there were a few who really got to me, and when they didn’t get in, the tears came. Some would call me foolish for getting this wrapped up in the job, but honestly, I couldn’t do this job if I disconnected myself from the human component of it. It’s my job to present you to the committee; if your dream of being at MIT didn’t become my dream on some small level, then really, why am I doing this at all? Others would disagree, but then, others aren’t me.

To the 87% of you who have shared your lives with us and trusted us with your stories over the last four months, please know that they meant something to me, and I won’t forget you. When I say that I share the pain of these decisions with you, I’m not lying. I’m really not lying.

To the person up there who said “while it’s supposed to be comforting, obviously, I just find it really insincere” – you have it backwards. I don’t expect it (or anything else) to be comforting at this moment. But insincere? No. Not that.

It’s who you are that really matters. It’s how you embrace life. It’s how you treat other people. It’s passion. And yes, that stuff really does drip off the page in the best of our applications. It’s not anything I can explain – you just know when you read an application and a “perfect match” is there.

Please don’t argue about stats, about race, about gender. Katharine got some static along these lines a few threads back. Read her response – in particular the part about what’s important in life. If you don’t see that Katharine belongs here, then you obviously don’t know what MIT is about. (And for the record, Katharine’s application could hold its own against that of any boy.)

Here’s an equally important message: I saw the “perfect match” in a bunch of apps that we deferred. Please remember that we deferred a LOT of people who wholly deserve to be at MIT – folks who are passionate, who love life and the discovery thereof, who genuinely care about the people around them. The absolute worst part of this job is the fact that there are so few spots for so many qualified people, which means we can’t take everyone, even if they belong here.

The best we can do is try to build a perfect class. Not the perfect class, but a perfect class. As Andrew mentioned in a different thread, we could build 2, maybe even 3 perfect classes out of our applicant pool, without question. If you’ve been deferred, there is nothing I can say here to make this fact easier to digest. But trying to pin it on anything else – race, gender, whatever – is just deluding yourself. So please stop harassing Matt; you’re not going to get the answer you’re looking for. I wish we could just give you a perfect black-and-white response, but the real world is never that simple.

If you take nothing else from this post, just know that getting deferred is not a personal reflection on you. At all.

Accepted, deferred, or otherwise – you are all amazing people. As I said previously, you’ll make the world better whether you come to MIT or not. I know it’s not a consolation, but it’s still the truth.

I tell this story not out of angst or in hopes of pity; I tell it to share my personal feelings, and to let you know that the decisions we make are never easy nor flippant; saying “no” is never fun. That said, this doesn’t change the news you received. I can’t (and don’t) expect any of this to change how you feel about it. But I do hope it gives you some insight into what it’s like for us on the other side.

Whether you were admitted or not, or still on the waitlist, I just want to say thank you. You’ve allowed us to read about you, care about you, and get to know you – almost as if I’ve been able to sit with you in your home and hear a snapshot of your life story. Many times, my friends, family (and even I myself) ask why I do this job – the long hours, the nonstop reading, the endless heartache – and I tell them that in the end, it’s worth it and I love it. I love getting to read every story, learn about every person, and feel as though I’ve traveled around the world without having left the comfort of my own home.

So many of you have poured so much of yourselves, your time, and your energy into the application and the process, and I want you to know that regardless of the outcome, none of that goes to waste. We are all better for having read and heard your stories. So again, I thank you and applaud you all.

An MIT Student’s cell biology notes

Source: MIT admissions blog, Apr 2012

Also, I’m taking 7.06 (Cell BIology) this term, which is kind of great because it gives me a legitimate reason to use my crayons. Otherwise I just use my crayons for blogging, making cards for people, and other less acceptable reasons. Why yes, I am indeed an adult! Thank you for asking!

Getting a Zero on an MIT Exam


Salman Khan at D10 conference

Source: WSJ, Jun 2012
(watch video-clip at the source)

MR. KHAN: Our mission statement is a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. We’re most known for videos, but it isn’t just videos. It’s also interactive software, plus data feedback. Our goal is to really use data, to keep pushing the envelope of what is possible virtually.


MR. MOSSBERG: A lot of people think of virtual education as a professor standing in front of a camera and just talking. What more do you do beyond that? Do you offer some interactivity where you have to show that you’re participating?

MR. KHAN: Most of our resources are going on the interactive side. So there’s these kind of problem generators that will generate as many multiplying polynomial questions as you need until you show proficiency. It’s tracking everything, it’s logging everything. We can start to say proficiency isn’t an A, B or C. It’s, what is the probability of you being able to do this type of problem at some future date?