Food For Thought

From Science Friday:

How Much Math Should Everyone Know? (Show Your Work.)

Did you use a polynomial equation today? When was the last time you calculated the volume of a sphere?

While human achievements in mathematics continue to reach new levels of complexity, many of us who aren’t mathematicians at heart (or engineers by trade) may struggle to remember the last time we used calculus.

It’s a fact not lost on American [and Canadian!] educators, who amid rising math failure rates are debating how math can better meet the real-life needs of students. Should we change the way math is taught in schools, or eliminate some courses entirely?

Andrew Hacker, Queens College political science professor and author of “The Math Myth and other STEM Delusions, thinks that advanced algebra and other higher-level math should be cut from curricula in favor of courses with more routine usefulness, like statistics.

“We hear on all sides that we’re not teaching enough mathematics — you know, that the Chinese are running rings around us,” Hacker says. “I’m suggesting we’re teaching too much mathematics to too many people. … I would say everybody doesn’t have to know calculus. If you’re going to become an aeronautical engineer, fine. But most of us aren’t. It’s a bit like saying everybody should learn Arabic because they may need it someday.”

Instead, Hacker is pushing for more courses like the one he teaches at Queens College: Numeracy 101. There, his students of “citizen statistics” learn to analyze public information like the federal budget, corporate reports, and police homicide rates. Such courses, Hacker argues, are an antidote to the numerical illiteracy of adults who have completed high-level math like algebra but are unable to calculate the price of, say, a carpet by area (82 percent failed to do this in a recent survey).

Hacker’s argument that most students don’t need higher-level math has been met with pushback from other math educators who say what’s needed is to help students develop a better relationship with math — earlier — rather than teaching them less math altogether.

Maria Droujkova is a founder of Natural Math, and has taught basic calculus concepts to 5-year-olds. (Hint: if you ask kids to build the Millennium Falcon out of Legos, doors open to all kinds of questions like “How many Legos did it take?” or “How do you build a circle out of squares?”) For Droujkova, high-level math is important, and what it could use in American classrooms is an injection of childlike wonder.

“Make mathematics more available,” Droujkova says. “Redesign it so it’s more accessible to more kinds of people: young children, adults who worry about it, adults who maybe had bad experiences.”

Pamela Weber Harris, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “Building Powerful Numeracy,”has a similar perspective. Harris says that American education is suffering from an epidemic of “fake math” — an emphasis on the rote memorization of formulas and steps, rather than an understanding, instilled early on, of how math can influence the ways in which we see the world.

“My tagline is, ‘Math is figure-out-able,’” Harris says. “If I have six times seven …and a student doesn’t know it, I’d love them to know. But if they don’t, then I might ask them, ‘Do you know three sevens?’ And if a kid knows three sevens is 21 and I need six sevens, then I just need to double 21, which is 42.”

Harris argues that “chunking” like this quickly leads children to higher math by showing that a complicated figure can be built from easier-to-digest composite figures. Students who learn these concepts early on, she says, may get more out of courses like algebra and calculus when they reach them.

“They’re finding the beauty in [math] because we’ve allowed them to construct those relationships,” Harris says.

Andrew Hacker, for the record, remains skeptical.

“I’m going to leave it to those who are in mathematics to work out the ways to make their subject interesting and exciting so students want to take it,” Hacker says. “All that I ask is that alternatives, other options, be offered instead of putting all of us on the road to calculus.”

—Julia Franz (originally published on

M/W Show & Tell Schedule

Please mark your child’s show & tell date on your calendar, and this is a friendly reminder to help your child prepare something educational, please no toys/stuffies.

Wednesday, Jan. 11:  Alister

Wednesday, Jan 18:  Briar

Monday, Jan 23:  Ashlyn

Wednesday, Jan 25:  Declan

Wednesday, February 1:  Luna

Wednesday, Feb. 15: Emily

Monday, Feb 20:  Braeleen

Wednesday, Feb 22:  Calla

Monday, Feb 27:  Asher

Monday, March 6:  Rohan

Field Trip Monday, January 16th

On Monday, January 16, 2017 we will be going to the Port of Vancouver for a guided tour of the Port and its role in Vancouver.  Following the tour, we will be seeing Fly Over Canada followed by Flight of the Dragon – a special limited screening provided for Chinese New Year.  All students are welcome and encouraged to attend as this trip ties into our learning about Communities, British Columbia, and Canada.

The sign-up sheet and forms are at the Parent table.

For those M/W students who wish, we will have Noisy Reading and Read Aloud in class on Monday morning, leaving the school at 10:00 a.m.

For those meeting us at the Field Trip, please meet us in the front foyer of Canada Place – just inside the main front doors and we will proceed to the tour as a group.

We will eat lunch there, so please pack a bag lunch.

I need three adult volunteers for this trip, please contact me if you are able to act as a class volunteer.

Carousel Theatre Field Trip

This is a friendly reminder to families to sign up for our field trip to Carousel Theatre’s production of  A Charlie Brown Christmas  which is happening on Thursday, December 15th at 10:00 a.m.

Please meet me outside the front entrance by 9:40 a.m. as they only admit us as a group.  Ticket price is $11.00 per person.

Time Change for Wednesday’s Dress Rehearsal

Hello Everyone,

The dress rehearsal on Wednesday morning will be a proper rehearsal according to the concert schedule, so we need everyone here at school with their instruments by 9:30 a.m.  For T/Th students, expect to pick them up at 10:30 a.m.

As for student dress for the performance – everyone is welcome to wear what they would like for the concert, something perhaps party-ish and/or festive.

Cafe Noel starts at 6:00 p.m. so  starting at 6:00 I will have the classroom open for students to come in, start getting ready, etc. so parents can get their seats in the gym.

Snow Event Notification

Snow Event Notification

Vancouver School Board has procedures that are followed in situations where heavy snowfall might be affecting schools.

All schools in the Vancouver School Board will remain open if at all possible during snow events. Any district-wide closure will be decided by 7:00 a.m. at the latest. Details of district-wide or individual school closures will be announced through the media and the district website:

Please note that no announcement will be made stating that schools are open. Only closures and delayed openings will be announced.

Information about school closures will be sent to Metro Vancouver radio and television stations. Please check the following stations for school closure information (but do not call them):



CBC AM 690 radio, 88.1 FM

Global BC

CKNW AM 980 radio


News AM 1130 radio


Fairchild AM 1470 radio

City TV

Student safety is the first priority of the Vancouver School Board. Schools will be kept open except under extreme circumstances to provide the option of attendance for all, but the decision to attend is the responsibility of each family.

Parents/guardians are responsible for their children’s safe travel to and from school. If, for any reason, a parent/guardian feels that a child cannot travel safely to school, then they should make other arrangements.

During extreme weather conditions it is also common for police and other authorities to advise citizens to avoid unnecessary travel. Parents should take this advice as well. Students will not be penalized for lack of attendance under such poor weather conditions. Students are reminded to wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. When sidewalks and roads are slippery students walking to school should take extra care.

We encourage you to review your own preparations for severe weather conditions and ensure that you are familiar with the city’s response procedures for those conditions. We request that you strictly adhere to parking restrictions in and around all Vancouver schools. Your child’s school will contact you about any changes to driving routes that may be put into effect on streets adjacent to the school.

Last Week Before Winter Break

We have another busy – and exciting week ahead!

The Winter Concert is this Wednesday evening, so we are in full practice mode! (I will send a separate post regarding what time to be here on Wed. evening, etc.)  The students are doing a wonderful job with their music pieces and starting to come together as an ensemble!  I feel that I am in such a privileged position being able to practice with them and watch them play and progress.  It really is a delight.  I do hope everyone attending will be able to video their performance,or find someone who will send them a copy of their recording –  their personalities really shine through in both pieces!

I am asking that ALL students attend on Monday AND Wednesday morning for full rehearsals. Monday morning, please be at school for 9:30 a.m. and for T/TH students, plan on having your child stay until 10:30  Please do not be late as we will be the first group on stage in the morning, and we cannot hold all the other classes up.  Wednesday morning, T/TH students please be here following recess, at 10:50 and plan on  having your child stay until noon.

On Wednesday afternoon we will have our Winter Party for the M/W group from 1-3.  I have gingerbread people and will make little graham cracker houses, so please bring icing and candy to decorate them with.  Snacks and drinks to share will be much appreciated.

On Thursday afternoon we will have our Winter Party for the T/Th group and will be watching the other classes winter concert performance.  I have gingerbread people and will make little graham cracker houses, so please bring icing and candy to decorate them with.  Shacks and drinks to share will be much appreciated.

Vancouver Home Learner Shirts and Hoodies

With a HUGE Thank You to Yuriko and Noel,  Rei’s parents,  we now have sample size T-shirts and hoodies in the class, and have the logo for our Vancouver Home Learner shirts on display.

I have a price list and sign-up form for our trend-setting apparel in the classroom, so please pop in, try on the samples and sign up for yours!  We need to have the total order before we submit it.

December 5-8

True to December and Holiday Season time, we have a couple of busy weeks ahead of us.  There is lots of information to share, so please make sure you click on your email and get the full post!

Monday, December 5th:  There is no school for students as it is a Professional Day.

Tuesday, December 6th:  Intermediate students please make sure you bring your instruments.

Wednesday, December 7th:  Primary Students:  please make sure you bring your instruments for the morning.  All Primary students will be dismissed at 11:30 a.m. to proceed to our Vancouver Opera field trip. Any students not picked up on time will be brought to the office to await pick-up as I must be early to the theatre to distribute tickets and make sure all students are accounted for.

All Students:  Please meet me outside the box office of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre by 12:15 p.m. Traditionally in Opera, latecomers will not be seated, but that is up to the theatre.  The opera is two hours in length, so I will wait for parents to pick up their children at the same location after 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 8th:  Ice Skating field trip for Intermediate students.  Field trip forms are in the file folders for those students.  Please note that students cannot skate unless I have a completed field trip form.  The cost is $5 which I require in cash and cannot be paid from allotments.  Please drop students off at Trout Lake ice rink in the morning before 9:30.  I will be walking back to school with all the students, so parents may want to drop instruments off outside our classroom before proceeding to Trout Lake, or after dropping children off at Trout Lake.  They will be safe in the hall.

All HL students are invited to attend a whole-group practice of our two Winter Concert pieces on Thursday afternoon, December 8th.  For M/W students, if your child is able to attend, please drop them off at 1:30 p.m. Everyone will be dismissed together at 3:00 p.m.

Busy and fun!



File Folders

There have been a number of issues surrounding the children going into the parent folders over the past while.  Both the Intermediate and the Primary children are involved.  Some children are just curious what is in the files, and some are taking things out and putting them back in other peoples files. Items are also falling out of the files, as the children wade through the files, with notices and forms ending up lost under the table.  I know that this may not appear to be much of a deal, but important notices, sign-ups, tickets, materials and resources have all gone missing now, a problem that has never happened previously in this program.  I know that one family did not get the notice about the Winter Concert, and therefore won’t know about the ticket situation, but I have no idea which family, because I found the notice under the table – and I put one notice in each folder.

For my part, I am also concerned about privacy issues, as some private communication is transferred through the files, and each file is private to each family.

Please talk to your child(ren) about this and ask them to not go into the files at all.

I appreciate that some parents have asked their children to get the file contents for them, but I ask that parents please pop up and check your own files instead – they really aren’t for the children to be going through.

Thank you,


Field trips and workshop

This Wednesday, November 23rd is our field trip to Axis Theatre’s Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.  Please pick all students up at noon.  As this is a M/W class field trip, there will be no class at the school in the afternoon.  As I need to get there on time as well, if you are not able to pick up at noon, I will bring your child to the office to await pick-up.  For any T/Th students attending the play, please meet us outside the building by the parking lot and we will enter as a group.

On Thursday afternoon, November 24th from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Vancouver Opera is coming to our class to do a workshop about Hansel and Gretel.  Any M/W students who are attending the opera are welcome to join in on the workshop.

For the Primary Students only, next Monday, November 28th at 9:30 a.m. is our field trip to go skating at Trout Lake.  Please drop your child(ren) off directly at the ice rink on Monday morning.  The field trip fee is $5.00 which covers the cost of skate rentals and helmet.  Please bring cash as your allotment cannot be used for this particular field trip.  I will be walking back to school with all the students following skating.  The Intermediate students will also have a skating field trip in the next couple of weeks.  Details to follow.


Winter Concert Practice

Our first Winter Concert practices this week went very well.  Thanks to all the parents for working with your children at home to learn the version of Jingle Bells we are using!

Please remember next week (and following weeks) that we need all students to bring in their instruments for our group practices:  Mondays for Primaries and Tuesdays for Intermediates.

Thank you!

Vancouver Opera’s Hansel and Gretel

We have a field to this production booked for Wednesday, December 7th at 12:30 p.m.  It is being performed at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre at 600 Hamilton Street (adjacent to the QE Theatre).  Tickets are $19.00 per person.

Vancouver Opera is also coming to our class to host a workshop about the opera on Thursday, November 24th from 1:30 – 3:00 for all students attending!

The sign up sheet and consent forms are at the parent table.

Canada Post Letters to Santa Program for Classrooms

Canada Post provides a program for schools every year in which students write individual letters to Santa in class and teachers then send the letters free of charge.  All letters are replied to individually and sent back to the school.  This is a fun writing activity for the class.  I will be doing this with the primary students in the next week and promise to photocopy the letters for parents and put them in your files!

Photo Re-Takes

If anyone missed individual photo day, or would like to re-take their photos, the photographer will be here on Wednesday, November 16th at 1:00 p.m.  For M/W students, please let me know and I will send your student to the photographer.  For T/Th students, please check in at the office and they will direct you.

Portfolio Week, Next Field Trip & Winter Concert

Thank you to all HL families for signing up for your portfolio times.  I will see everyone back in their classes on either Wednesday, November 16th or Thursday, November 17th.


Our next field trip will be to Axis Theatre’s Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny on Wednesday, November 23rd at 1:00 p.m. at the Norman Rothstein Theatre at 41st and Oak St.    The sign-up and consent forms are at the Parent Table.

Winter Concert

In consultation with the Intermediate students, we are going to change our program for the Winter Concert.  So many of our HL students are involved in music lessons, that we are going to perform Jingle Bells using our various instruments as one of our pieces.  To that end, I am sending home the sheet music for Jingle Bells for students to practice at home, and after the portfolio meetings will be asking students to bring their instruments once a week to practice as a group.   I will accompany students on my guitar and I also have a ukulele I can loan out if any student would like to practice and use that in the concert.  Just let me know.

Students who do not study an instrument will be provided with bells, tamborines, drums, etc., that I have here so that everyone is included.    We will also be performing a  Winter-themed second piece that the children will sing.


Portfolio Meetings

Portfolio Meeting week is fast approaching, November 7,8,9 and 14, 15.  Everyone needs to sign up for a meeting on one of those 5 days.

Please send me an email with your first and second choice of dates and times and I will do my best to accommodate everyone.

Thank you