Issue #2

June 3, 2018 In the final weeks of grade school spring testing. Last minute tweaks to cramming and summer planning begins.
Issue #2
This issue is a wrap up of the spring testing season. Gaps are appearing and need to be addressed quickly. Planning some heavy duty math and over the top writing for summer.
From the Editor
Welcome to Competitive Parent Magazine.

The first issue of Competitive Parent Magazine appeared as an article in  That website featured articles from my first parenting initiative - to get my children into a decent GAT program.   It started with a 3 year old whose older brother some how ended up in a really top notch program, mainly by luck and cheating.   After thousands of hours of research and 100's of experiments on volunteers (almost all who ended up in a GAT program), the easiest and surest way to meet this goal is to train the skills that entrance tests like the COGAT, OLSAT, and WISC4/5 measure. 

Older brother afforded me the opportunity to experiment with the 4th through 7th grade experience.  He's on track to go to the high school of his choice.  Little brother is picking a high school with much more stringent entrance requirements and only accepts geeks.  More on that later.

In the meantime, the goal of Competitive Parent Magazine begins where leaves off, pursing high school with intention and planning, 20 minutes a day of work under the heading 'No Math, No Computer'.  The eventual goal is a child breezing through rigorous college level work in high school, fully loaded with AP courses, and still going to be at 9 pm after an hour or two of homework.

When I started I asked the question, can we get into one of the country's top GAT programs and succeed?  This proved the rule, "You will make progress in that area where you apply effort."  I have modest expectations...

I was a bit disappointed that someone recently missed out on a few extra points on a certain math section of a certain math test.   It seems the question wanted to know which theorem applied to the diagram.  Was it the ASA Theorem?  The SAS Theorem?

I immediately knew that we had been thwarted.  I failed as a parent.  It never occurred to me that something as simple and as solvable as calculating the remaining sides and angles of a triangle could be formalized into a theorem and students would be expected to remember the name of the theorem and regurgitate it on a test.  No wonder why kids hate math and the US education system is failing them.

My goal is to cover the deficit in gifted education by covering one concept, proof, theorem, technique at a time between 4th or 5th grade and high school so that my child will know math before it happens.  The big problem in high school math and science is that kids are expected to solve a proof or know a concept in one night of homework that dozens of brilliant scientists took hundreds of years to conceive.   Even worse, the scientists or mathematicians were highly motivated to solve the unsolvable, but students are usually highly demotivated just to resolve a problem in homework in order to go to bed.  Tossing out one nuget a month to a younger child resolves this issue.  I present the material, we struggle, and the challenge grows while the child takes as long as needed to really learn the material.  There is a disclaimer, of course, that gifted education does the same thing, but do they do it at the 99.9% level?  I think not.

Back to the drawing board.  Today, my 9 year old, the prime beneficiary of mistakes with Mr. Oldest Child, will be presented with and solve these theorems.

For starters, we use our #1 GoTo Geometry Solution Protocol:  Solve everything you can solve before you read the question.   With trig, it's pretty straightforward:
  • a + b + c = 180
  • Law of sine:  A/sin(a) = B/sin(b) = C/sin(c)
  • Law of cosines, aka Pythagoras' Theorem when c is not 90o:  A2 + B2 - 1/2ABcos(c) = C2
That's pretty much it.  That and a little algebra.  Also, A is a side and 'a' is the opposite angle.  We always re-label the diagram in this way.  C is the longest side.  It helps at this age.
If I only had 20 minutes to teach trig, I would spend 19 of it teaching the 4 rules of algebra, 30 seconds showing 2 similar triangles and yada yada yada let's use the 3 things above and just solve what's missing.  Of course, I'll go into much more detail in future issues.

Once you've solved everything that can be solved, you can look at the question and see what's missing.  This won't work, of course, for a high school junior taking the SAT, or maybe it will, but it certainly works when there are no time limits on the test.

I always have to look up congruent versus similar.  I don't have the luxury of a photographic memory from 3 years at the Word Board.   I was standing there for 3 years asking questions not giving answers.  So I looked up congruent triangle and the first hit was that #$%@*#!!!! ASA theorem.  Apparently it's harder than I thought.  Our experiment today is to use 3 three bullets above and put this theorem out of its misery.

The MAP is not the SAT.  I thought the MAP was a subset of the SAT, and that studying for the SAT and actually taking it would make the MAP a breeze, but I was wrong.

First of all, the MAP asks about the ASA and SAS theorem, and I'm still mad about that.

Secondly, there's something about the MAP reading section that I don't understand yet that makes it harder than the SAT.   I've got 3 more years to figure this out.  My current working theory is that it has something to do with specifying what an author is implying by choice of wording and how topics are covered in the essay.  This is the key to an 800 on the reading section of the SAT, of course, but there is enough other question types that a 13 year old with an implication = result deficit can make a decent showing by answering other questions, like what does 'concillitoritudtion' mean in line 33.

I was late to the implication = result game.  In fact, I couldn't figure out that most books were about something else until I was 39 years old.  You'd think that if an author wrotte an entire book on a topic, the book was on that topic, but it turns out that the book is actually on a completely different topic, like politics, that appears no where in the book.  Personally, I'm sticking with nonfiction, where the autobiography I recently read on McKinley was in fact about McKindley and not Trump.  Or was it?

For years on getyourchildintogat, readers asked about writing.  Isn't writing a skill just like anything else that would benefit from a concerted intentional effort?  Yes it is.  But my specialty is identifying and training advanced cognitive skills so that I can teach my children trig when they are 9 years old.

But after that MAP disaster and a less than stellar 550 on the SAT, we're going to do some writing on the way to solving the implication = result issue. 
Once again, I'm in uncharted territory, but I think the following problem is highly solvable:
  • A good story is based on one of a handful of fundamentally human themes
  • These themes are already covered in classic literature of all types
  • I don't know anything about Hindu or Buddhist literature
  • Latin American literature is really cool, as I vaguely recall from college, but it makes no sense
  • That leaves Greek literature and Hebrew scriptures
  • The Jewish people formally declared that all Jewish children should read, approximately in the first century.  (I read this in The Source, a semi-fictional book, but it's plausible)
  • Look at the Jewish impact in western culture over the last 500 years in finance, physics, media, Hollywood, Nobel Prize winning, etc.
  • My son loves to talk about movies.  He can see a 30 second trailer for a movie that hasn't started production yet and spend 45 minutes explaining the as of yet unwritten plot.
  • A good movie plot is nothing more than one of the classical themes in literature
  • We're kind of religious.
A little problem solving later, and we are going to read Jewish scriptures.  It's the new daily math.  We'll read something, probably in order because being Irish and American Indian doesn't qualify me as a Jewish scholar, and then I'll give him a topic to write about along the lines of 'What are they saying, and what are they really saying?'  It will be a three part essay, with the final part being 'Which theme's were applied in Star Wars A New Hope or some other movie'.  Spoiler alert - the main theme of both Jewish and Christian scripture is 'Who is Your Father'.  Now you know.  I think using scripture to cover movie themes disqualifies me as a Christian blogger, but I will at least have an opportunity to work in something of values on the side.  

We'll throw in some Christian Scriptures, which I know a bit more about, and I will unleash a child for high school ready to blow away AP English, unless he decides to become a monk like his uncle.

From the description of this website, you might surmise that we have a unique approach to most math subjects.   It's almost a parenting philosophy.  I know many children excelling in after school math programs, year after year.   It's a lot of work, a lot of practice, and might play a role in the child's success.  The problem I have with these programs is that it is math training.  A little at a time, lots of help, and again, lots of practice.

I don't see a direct correlation between after school training and my goal of having a child sitting in a high school AP course with a lot of new material thrown at him every day, with no help, and little time to work once concept before the next 5 concepts need attention.

With algebra, I have a 5 minute introductory course and then I start firing off the questions.  We'll address any pre-algebra that we missed at this time.   I can't imagine how boring pre-algebra would be for its own sake, so we skip it.

Here is my introductory talk on algebra.  If you picture me addressing a new class of recruits with shaved heads who are about to undergo a rigorous 6 week boot camp, it's more fun to read.
  • Look at this equation.  What is wrong with it?  x(5x-4)-2x=7x + 1/2x2
  • The problem is that this equation is broken.  The equation we want looks like x = 7, with x on the left, equals in the middle, and a number on the right.  That is an easy to solve, not broken equation.  What is the value of x in the equation x = 7?  It is 7.  What is the value of x in the first equation?  We don't know.  It's broken.
  • Let's fix it.  There are only 4 things you can do in algebra*.  You can add the same thing to both sides, divide each side by the same thing, multiple both sides of the equation by the same thing, or subtract the same thing from each side of the equation.
  • Since you've never held a live algebra equation in your hand during algebra combat, you will not know which one to do.  So you will try one operation and ask 'did this equation just get more like x = 7, or did it get more complicated?'  If it got more complicated, you will start over and pick the next operation.  There are only 4 operations to try.  Have some extra paper handy.
  • Before you begin, you must get rid of parentheses.  You stink at parentheses.  You also stink at double negatives.
  • Therefore, we will write out each step, and if you screw up the parentheses, if you screw up the negatives, if you do an operation only on one side of the equation, and you will, or do an operation on only part of one side of the equation, and you will, we will find the error and fix it.
  • Am I clear!
  • Yes Sir!
Here are my 4th grade recruits at Navy Seal Team Six training holding an 800 pound log on which I wrote an algebra problem for them to solve.

And here's what the solution might look like after a week and 93 attempts:
  • x(5x-4)-2x=7x + 1/2x2
  • 5x2 - 4x - 2x = 7x + 1/2x2
  • 5x2 - 6x  = 7x  + 1/2x2
  • 5x2  = 13x  + 1/2x2
  • (4 1/2)x2  = 13x 
  • Divide by x - not obvious to raw recruits that this can be done
  • (4 1/2) x  = 13
  • x = 13/ (9 /2)
Here we have to take a break to invent the Flippy Property of Fraction Division, which will result in
  • x = 13 * 2/9
  • x = 26/9
High school Algebra I tests available online have sections with plenty of example problems. Khan Academy has much easier ones, which we never use for that reason.  I need grit as well as algebra dexterity to meet our goals.  Algebra will follow naturally from really complicated problems, but grit won't.  One 15 minutes problem is gold.  15 one minute problems play a role when you're getting nowhere.  You'll also need to backtrack with parentheses problems and double negative problems.

From start to finish, this takes about 4 months if you stick with it.  We never stick with it.  There's also geometry, trig, and obscure competitive math problems to work through.  If we did Algebra I start to finish, it would be too easy.

I think we're going to concentrate on Algebra I this summer.  I'm still mad about the SAS and ASA theorems.  The MAP is not going to get me again.

* There are a few more things to do in algebra, like multiple by 1 (aka 3x/3x) and find roots, but they'll find out later.

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