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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Safety in Home Experiments

Kids love and enjoy science activities. The wonders of nature are all new and exciting to them. That is why there are simple and safe experiments intended for preschool and elementary students working at home with their parents.

We might all agree that some experiments can be dangerous. Perhaps some parents worry that encouraging kids to experiment may lead them to do things which will harm them or burn the house down when the parents are absent. This article will attempt to somehow offer guidance on this problem.

Science was always one of my most favorite subjects. We were always doing fascinating things in class. Some of the experiments could even be done at home. As loving parents concerned about the safety of your kids, the following guidelines might be of great help:

• Do not ingest or allow another person to ingest the chemical(s) or any inedible materials you will be using in the experiment.

• Wear eye protection at all times especially when handling or working with chemical(s). Goggles must cover the eyes, not serve as adornment for the forehead.

• Wear gloves to protect the hands. The gloves will give an extra measure of protection against common acids and caustics. If you are working with heat, wear thick canvas or leather gloves. Take care to select the appropriate glove material depending on what you're handling.

• Work in a well-ventilated area so as not to inhale the fumes or vapors evolved from a reaction or a container of reagent. Odorless does not mean harmless. Carbon monoxide from auto exhaust is a good example of odorless yet harmless material.

• Read the label(s) carefully on all reagents you work with.

• Make sure you are within a short distance of an eye wash station when handling chemicals.

• Do not allow your work area to become cluttered with papers, etc.

• The toxicologist's saying is true: "The dose makes the poison". Even "harmless" chemicals such as water, salt, vinegar, or baking soda are toxic in large enough amounts. When working with a particular reagent, know its comparative level of toxicity. Know how to minimize your exposure where necessary.

If you are looking for a science experiment with your child, you can find things that are appropriate for their age and learning level. Though many of them are simple, they can learn a lot from them. Just remember to practice safety above all when you are doing an experiment together. There are a lot of fascinating experiments safe enough for you to work with your children at home. One of these that I would like to share is the one entitled, Layered Liquids.

In this experiment you will need the following materials:

• ¼ cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup or honey
• ¼ cup (60 ml) dishwashing liquid
• ¼ cup (60 ml) water
• ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
• ¼ cup (60 ml) rubbing alcohol
• a tall glass or clear plastic cup or jar
• two other cups for mixing
• food coloring
• funnel

First get permission to use kitchen equipment and ingredients

1. Take the tall glass or jar. Pour the syrup or honey into the glass or jar. Try not to let it dribble down the sides. Pour enough syrup to fill the glass about 1/6 of the way.

2. After you have added the syrup or honey, tip the glass slightly or you may use the funnel to pour the dishwashing liquid down the inside of the glass. Pour carefully to avoid disturbing the bottom layer.

3. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to the water. Add drops of red to the rubbing alcohol. Do this in separate cups.

4. Repeat step 2, first adding the blue water, then the oil, then the red rubbing alcohol, washing the funnel between steps. The liquids will stay in separate layers if you are careful not to shake the glass.

5. Make a sketch of the glass and its liquids, labeling the position of each liquid in your glass.

Each liquid has its own density. You added liquids in order from highest to lowest density. The rubbing alcohol stays on top because it is least dense.

Young children are bubbling with curiosity and few things in life can bring the joy and satisfaction of sharing learning activities with them. Being with you and learning from you is your child's greatest joy. You will treasure these hours spent together for a lifetime. Just make sure that above anything else, prioritize safety.



Saturday, May 3, 2008

Raising a Number to the Power of x

Are you tired of adding
too many numbers with the same value? Do you find it boring and monotonous? Are you sick of that long method which consumes most of your time? Well, mathematics has ways of dealing with such problems in a short and simple manner.

What does it me
an to raise a number to the power of x?

The operation of raising a number to a power is a special case of multiplication in which the factors
(or, the numbers to be multiplied) are all equal.

[Note: In the succeeding texts, remember that the multiplication operation is denoted by an “x”; However, when used to denote power or exponent, the “x” is italicized; and these are two different things.]

For instance, in the following examples,

the number 9 is the second power of 3, and the number 8 is the third power of 2.

So, the expression 53 (read as: “five raised to the power of 3” or “five to the third power” or “five cubed”) means that three 5’s are to be multiplied successively, meaning 5 x 5 x 5. Similarly, 42 (read as: “four raised to the power of 2” or “four raised to the second power or “four squared”) means 4 x 4.

Therefore, we can say that

Anyway, those things are basic.

The previous statements are information about raising a number to a certain power. However, raising a number to x is a special case. In the language of mathematics, this is called an EXPONENTIAL FUNCTION and can be written as:

with the base a which could be any positive real number. I mean, exponential functions always have some positive number other than 1 as the base. It has many implications, however, this function is easy to evaluate. A positive exponent means that the function is increasing while a negative exponent makes the said function decrease.

Given the exact relationship, when x is increased by 1 over what it had been, f(x) is increased to twice of what it had been.

One of the most used examples of exponential function is the
exponential growth. When somebody says that the population growth is doubled every year, they are talking about exponential growth. We end at this conclusion because we already know the fact that there is a consistent fixed time interval during which the function will double, triple and so on.

Perhaps, you’ve heard of the expression “starting slow, but then growing faster and faster all the time". That's exponential function!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Professional Online Tutoring

Academic Coaching or Tutoring has evolved with the advent of the internet. Whereas physical presence is a requirement in traditional forms of tutoring, whether center-based or home service, Online Tutoring only requires virtual presence. By virtual presence we mean, tutees and tutors may engage in tutorials no matter where they are. Though they may be miles or oceans apart, provided they have access to the world-wide-web, tutoring may commence.

Nowadays, students are not limited to the intellectual resources available within close proximity to their home or school. The resources (talents, skills, physical and intellectual) available elsewhere can now be tapped by students who are seeking assistance with their schooling requirements and individual scholastic struggles.

However, owing to the versatility of the computers, one may find himself actually engaged in a pre-programmed tutorial instead of a LIVE interactive lesson. Similarly, when one seeks educational support or tutoring through an internet portal with nothing more than a virtual address, one may realize that the supposed tutoring company is but a junction or a connection terminal (or a commision-based collection agent, if you wish) where students' requirements are serviced by whoever is the next available freelance tutor or work-at-home individual. Not to undermine the capabilities of work-at-home part-timers and freelance tutors, the issue really is the concept of security and quality control.

The challenge for students and their parents nowadays is to find an Online Tutoring Company whose primary purpose is to provide Professional Tutoring or Academic Assistance to students by Qualified Tutors who are constantly trained, monitored for every session, and whose quality of service is periodically validated, versus those whose primary goal is ease of operations and service fee collection.

If one surfs through the web for these Online Tutoring companies, one may be overwhelmed by just how many of them are out there. Enterprising individuals from different key cities in different countries have their own portals. To own a webspace or find a host to carry these internet-based service is quite easy. A hosted domain name for a tutoring business is not hard to establish, and this is basically what connecting portals do. They simply provide a channel for tutors to meet with paying clients and their management extends only as far as managing tutee and tutor accounts.

In the Philippines, an archipelagic country in SouthEast Asia whose populace are naturally bilingual with a good number of "near-native" English speakers and whose majority of students are known internationally to be very diligent with their studies, a group of young professionals (mostly parents, themselves) started a company called Studybites Inc. to help students around the world achieve scholastic success. Now, Manila-based teachers and qualified tutors meet daily at Studybites Educational Services' center along United Nations Avenue in Manila. From here and through their portal www.tutors.ph, Certified Teachers and Qualified Tutors are able to provide Academic guidance and support to school-children and young adults (from Kindergarteners to 12th graders). The tutors here are professionalized through continuous developmental training. Each of them prepare for tutoring sessions by developing learning modules and contributing to their pool of academic resources. Since all sessions are conducted in-center, managers are able to closely monitor every session daily. Tutors.ph is the 1st child born from the marriage of center-based tutoring and home-service one-on-one tutorials, the very essence of Professional Online Tutoring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

cramming part 2

...it's time to view “cramming with numbers” on the lighter side!

I've always loved numbers and formulas! And I really thank God because since I started schooling, passing my Math exams never became a problem. I cannot remember a single test in my Math subject that is not marked with an A or is graded lower than 95%. In fact, I can confidently take my sit-in midterms and finals fresh from a 5-minute review at most 10 minutes before the test – in short, cramming with math was so cool! Others call it innate, some say it's magic. I say it's passion.”

-a Mathematics lover's point of view

It might be possible for many to pass a Humanities test cramming the night before the exam but it becomes much more difficult to do this for math, or physical science, or an engineering course. Crammers also retain much less of anything from cramming (things which will be remembered later on when they are no longer needed).”

-a specialist

“On Mathematics... Well, for a decade of studying from kinder to high school, plus four years of taking my college math specialization, I noticed that the probability of passing an exam by studying the night before I take it is relatively higher for my math subjects than for 'philosophy' or other 'foundations of education' subjects. Is it because I'm one of those whose inclination is in Math?

On cramming? ...hmmm.. I still believe that once in a while, there is a class you can get away with doing that. Because mostly, it is the skill of memorizing which is enhanced in answering fill-in-the-blank items and questions asking for definitions by the book... Just wish that you won't be needing that knowledge again, because you'll forget it as fast as you learned it.”

-Tutor Rizza

On Cramming and Mathematics

Based on studies, cramming (or “massing”) for tests or exams reduces long-term retention. Trying to learn everything in a single session does little good, they say. A single session devoted to the study of some material should continue only long enough to ensure that mastery is achieved, as mentioned in the paper of Doug Rohrer and Hal Pashler entitled “Increasing Retention Without Increasing Study Time”.

Moreover, immediate further study of the same topic (for a particular grade level) is an inefficient use of time, if understanding of fundamental concepts was not achieved in the first place. Much worse, an attempt to “over-learn”, in the long run, will be categorized as “just a waste of time” because knowledge being read or heard but not fully-understood will just add up to the pile of misconceptions for the student. In the end, this will cause more trouble because it's like adding a new storey to a weak foundation – bound to collapse anytime --- a tragedy due to skill-gaps.

The sad part is, “most mathematics textbooks encourage over-learning and massing”. This is as reported by the Association for Psychological Science in its September 3, 2007 issue of Science Daily entitled Back To School: Cramming Doesn't Work In The Long Term.” Students are forced to do numerous problems and to answer routinary questions of the same type in a short period of time – then abruptly moving on to something else without their efforts being processed and evaluated correctly.

What if you actually encounter challenging questions that require thinking or problem solving? And all you have reviewed are concepts and definitions memorized word for word...? Come to think of it...you're really going to be in trouble if you cram! Aside from not being able to learn the necessary concepts and skills in-depth as needed to pass the current exam, you run the risk of succumbing to skill-gaps --- the absence of required skills to handle progressive tasks, which impedes learning.

Based on experiments reported in a paper published in Instructional Science, Rohrer and Kelli Taylor recommend that practice problems in textbooks be systematically shuffled so that each practice set includes a variety of problems drawn from previous lessons.

Nonetheless, if cramming remains to be your last option, here are a few tips that may just make it work, in the short-run.

Emergency Cramming Tips for Mathematics Exams:

1. Preview the topics to be covered. Be aware of the scope of your examination.

2. Be selective: skim definitions for key words only.

3. Don't read information you won't have time to review.

4. Spend the majority of your time concentrating on the example problems and take note of the pattern on how the problem was solved.

As a Mathematics educator, I always put emphasis on the fact that Mathematics is a science of patterns. It is not true that a particular drill exercise needs a unique approach which is not in any way parallel to the illustrative example being presented for the same topic. The fourth tip mentioned above is very effective in a way that it hones your computational skills and provides avenue for practice. In this manner, you will be familiar with the face and phase of the problem and, during the actual test, you'll be surprised to find out that the items “seemed to have appeared in your dreams”. Déjà vu, huh! And since you have really encountered and dealt with such questions, solving it will be as easy as 1-2-3!

Above all, Mathematics makes sense to students if they are to see it as having value to them. So take note of this more relaxed approach: attend class regularly and do what is required of you to grasp the content and right attack. Or, you can learn your lessons just the hard way... but, why prefer to acquire it the harder way?




Monday, March 31, 2008

Science Study Tips


You may probably find that reading and studying for science courses seems a lot different than preparing for non-science courses. In this field, you have a lot of things to read on and understand. Science deals with theories and computations combined therefore, a lot of effort and discipline are needed. Different strategies work well for different students and in different approaches. Often heard, "I don't get it," is nearly a statement of inadequacy and lack of effort rather than the excuse it is meant to be. Like anything else, acquiring good study habits requires time and practice to develop. Below are some tips that you can use in reading and studying science materials. With these, many of your learning challenges and problems will be easier to recognize and deal with. If doing all of these seems too much for you, choose at least some of them to start and work on.

  • Study until you have mastered (not memorized) the materials. Do not limit yourself to study in a specific range of time. Remember that your goal is to study your lessons effectively and not to study it only for a specific time allotment. The number of hours you will spend studying may vary from your classmate and there is no problem with that.

  • Study in an active way. Meaning, be awake and energetic while studying. You can be active by doing something physically in addition to reading like repeating important information aloud as if you are explaining it to another person or by writing it down or drawing it.

  • Find a GOOD PLACE and a GOOD TIME for studying. This may vary with different personalities. Some may prefer to stay in a quiet place like the library while others prefer to study in a less quiet place, where music can be played, or where people can talk freely and discuss amongst themselves. Be sure that whatever place you choose, you will be free from time-consuming distractions such as telephone and visitors. Regarding the study time, personally, I study best very late at night, but I can also do well first thing in the morning. My worst times for studying are the afternoons, when I just can't seem to focus as well. Pick your studying time so that you will be most successful.

  • It is important to review your notes later in the day when the lecture was given. Even if the review is brief, a quick review on the same day promotes the movement of material into long-term memory. However, it should be followed with more reviews for mastery. Studying should be an ongoing process.

  • Studying with others may be your best bet to learning science. You will find that you learn so much more when you meet with other students or tutors and ask them questions or answer their questions. Often, people think that they understand a science material, but when they discuss it with someone else, they find little holes in their seemingly perfect patch of scientific knowledge. Intellectual discussions pave the way for better understanding. You will find these techniques to be really helpful.

  • Always do your own work. It doesn't hurt to discuss class concepts with others, in fact it's a great idea, but everything that goes on paper should come from you. Completing your assigned tasks yourself will help you learn.

  • Always ask QUESTIONS and CLARIFY hanging ideas. Asking doesn’t make you stupid; not asking, when you should have, does. That may even prove detrimental come examination time.

Remember that a rough start is not the lack of ability, it is generally caused by poor study habits and time management. Don’t get discouraged; be persistent in your efforts.