Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem/HBCUs Slow Response

We keep hearing about Silicon Valley’s diversity problem: According to the Washington Post Facebook is 3% Black, 7% Hispanic. Google is 2% Black, 3% Hispanic.

A USA Today study noted that universities graduate Black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering graduates at twice the rate that technology companies hire them.


Because Silicon Valley recruits from places like Stanford (7.8% Black) and MIT (10% Black).

HBCUs have computer science and engineering programs, yet Silicon Valley doesn’t recruit at them.

A recent BuzzFeed article blames Silicon Valley for failing to recruit at a broader range of schools.

But it also blames HBCUs for teaching a 20th century curriculum that doesn’t match Silicon Valley’s 21st century needs.

Let’s fix this now. Google has started by embedding Googler in Residence engineers to teach at Howard, Hampton, Fisk, Spelman and Morehouse. On campus Googlers are beginning to expose HBCU students to Silicon Valley.

According to Buzzfeed, Aaron Saunders, an entrepreneur and adjunct faculty member at Howard contacted Apple, before he designed his computer science course, to see what Apple would need from his students as they entered the work force.

African Americans need the best and most current curriculum, to have access to tech networking opportunities, to create top notch academic records and know how to navigate the tech employment field.

We need to be nimble, responsive and proactive to ensure our scholars get to the front of the line in the 21st Century.

We Need MATH Travel Teams!

Parents, we want the best for our children. We sing to them, read to them and take them to museums. They play sports; learn ballet, practice the piano and master the violin. We cook nutritious meals, get them braces and send them to college. Well done. Yay us!

So. Why am I writing this blog post when our children are being given the best of everything?

There are two things that we could do for our kids that we might not do:

A. Tell them the truth. Math is sometimes hard; our whole country needs to get better at math, and it might not be fun at first.

B. Help them handle that truth. Prioritize their math education; tell them that hard work will result in higher math ability, that the reward for the hard work will be worth it and that they can do it!

We American parents, as a whole, do not take math as seriously as parents in other countries. In a global, knowledge based economy, our children, and our country, will suffer for it. When our children are adults, the economy will increasingly be

“… one in which the generation and exploitation of knowledge has come to play the predominant part in the creation of wealth. It is not simply about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge; it is also about the most effective use and exploitation of all types of knowledge in all manner of economic activity” (DTI Competitiveness White Paper 1998)

This shift to using knowledge to create wealth has been taking place for a few generations. The pace of change is accelerating so quickly that we must act today to prepare our children for the jobs that will be available to them in their lifetime.

Of course there are American parents who help their children to excel in math. But as a country, Americans have bought into the idea that math involves innate talent. You are either born with math ability or you are not.

However, research study after study has shown that math ability is not inborn. Math skill is like a muscle, if you use that muscle it will get stronger. If you ignore the muscle it will atrophy.

So many of us put our 3 year olds on a soccer team, travel with our high school lacrosse players out of state on holiday weekends for a tournament, and spend time in the driveway practicing free throws with our sons and daughters. Most of us are familiar with one sport or another, so we are comfortable coaching our children in these areas and enjoy spending time helping them to excel.

Many of us are not comfortable with math though, so we might not feel as competent coaching our kids in this area. But if we take the same approach to math that we take to sports, we, as a country, could within a few years see the same excellence in math that we see in sports. It will take hard work, drills and practice, on our part and on our children’s’ part, but we can do this; and we won’t blow out a knee helping them!

Dr. Greg Duncan at the University of California in Irvine states that,

“Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement, and it does so just as reliably as early literacy mastery of vocabulary, letters and phonetics predicts later reading success.”
(Early Academic Skills, Not Behavior, Best Predict School Success, Wendy Leopold, Science Daily, November 19, 2007)

Mounting evidence suggest that the mathematical understandings children develop before entering elementary school are highly predictive of later academic achievement, not just in mathematics, but in other subjects as well. Moreover, children who begin school with poor math skills typically do not catch up. Those least prepared are disproportionately underrepresented minorities and from low-income families.
(Math Matters: Children’s Mathematical Journeys Start Early, Executive Summary, Schoenfeld and Stipek, November 2011)

In a great, easy to read article “How to turn every child into a “math person” Miles Kimball argues that everyone can be a math person:

spend more time thinking about and working on math. Best of all: spend time doing math in the kinds of ways people who love math spend time doing math. Think of math like reading. Not everyone loves reading. But all kids are encouraged to spend time reading, not just for school assignments, but on their own. Just so, not everyone loves math, but everyone should be encouraged to spend time doing math on their own, not just for school assignments. If a kid has a bad experience with trying to learn to read in school, or is bored with the particular books the teacher assigned, few parents would say “Well, maybe you just aren’t a reader.” Instead, they would try hard to find some other way to help their kid with reading and to find books that would be exciting for their particular kid. Similarly, if a kid has a bad experience trying to learn math in school, or is bored with some bits of math, the answer isn’t to say “Well maybe you just aren’t a math person.” Instead, it is to find some other way to help that kid with math and to find other bits of math that would be exciting for their particular kid to help build her or his interest and confidence.

In another article, There’s one key difference between kids who excel at math and those who don’t Miles Kimball and Noah Smith state

Convincing students that they could make themselves smarter by hard work led them to work harder and get higher grades . . .. But improving grades was not the most dramatic effect, “Dweck reported that some of her tough junior high school boys were reduced to tears by the news that their intelligence was substantially under their control.” It is no picnic going through life believing you were born dumb—and are doomed to stay that way.

While hard work and self-confidence is key, the one area where Americans excel is creativity and we don’t want to drill that out of our children. As their math competency rises, the kids will be able to play around with math and have fun learning new skills. As Miles Kimball states, kids should:

dig in and wrap their heads around what is going on in the math, without feeling judged for not understanding instantly.

Manil Suri wrote a great article in the New York Times about The Importance of Recreational Math

recreational math can be used to awaken mathematics-related “joy,” “satisfaction,” “excitement” and “curiosity” in students, which the educational policies of several countries (including China, India, Finland, Sweden, England, Singapore and Japan) call for in writing.

So there you have it. Hard work and self-confidence will raise math ability in the United States. In addition, American parents can keep joy and creativity alive by helping our children play with math too. No matter where we are starting out, lets all commit to the following:

A. Loving our children enough to believe they are capable of hard work

B. Coaching, drilling and encouraging them to work hard in math

C. Helping them to believe that they can make themselves smarter, in life and math, through hard work.

Math in A Minute!

Lifelong Math in A Minute!

1st-3rd Graders: Do your ‪#‎MathMinute‬‬ EVERY DAY until you can add, subtract, multiply & divide, up to 12, by heart.

Parents: putting a lot of effort into your children’s math skills helps prepare them for 21st Century expectations.

The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is one of the best high schools in the country. In order to apply, an applicant has to have finished Algebra 1 in 8th grade. In reality, MOST applicants completed Algebra I in 7th grade and Geometry in 8th.

These children then take Algebra II or Algebra II/Trigonometry in 9th grade. They then take Calculus AB and BC or AP Calculus before or by 12th grade. Most successful College Engineering candidates have followed this track.

In order to be on this math track you have to make sure that your child has the math skills to handle the highest-level math class as early as 4th or 5th grade.

Don’t worry, this isn’t hard. When my kids were babies and toddlers we did a lot of fun math, counting the stairs going up and down, singing Inchworm, reading storybooks with numbers, so that they thought of math as fun. I also made sure they could count to 100 before they started preschool. We counted in the car on the way to the grocery store, we counted Legos, and we counted birds. It was fun!

The school my kids attended ensured that every child was reading by kindergarten and had memorized all of the math facts, addition, subtraction, multiplication & division, up to 12, by heart by the end of 3rd grade.

The children drilled every, single day on something called Math in A Minute or Mad Minute. You start with the 1 tables, in random order, and finish as much as you can in a minute. You don’t move on to the 2 tables until you can answer every question correctly in under a minute. When you finish addition you move to subtraction and so on. There are tons of workbooks on the Internet that you can use to drill your kids if your school doesn’t do it.

I also ensured that they attended their teachers’ after school help hours to ask questions, and get tutoring in difficult subjects. Over time, they came to see themselves as capable math students who knew how to ask questions and solve problems.

Start creating your own math scholar today; it’s never too early or too late!

College Applications and Demonstrated Interest

College Applications and Demonstrated Interest: Twitter, Facebook & Instagram: A Whole New World!

High school seniors, you are in the midst of college application season. You are requesting recommendation letters, finishing personal statements and sending in early applications. Bravo. This is a tough process and you are to be commended for being starting early.

Just add one more thing to your to do list this fall: to ensure that your target schools remain interested in you, you might need to demonstrate interest in those schools.

The Common Application has made it easy for many colleges to get more applicants than they can reasonably handle or admit. To winnow down the applicant pool, some schools track how often and how well students interact with the college. This interaction is known as demonstrated interest. Those colleges then focus their attention on those applicants who have expressed the most sincere interest in their school.

You may argue over whether this is fair to students, but schools are using demonstrated interest as an admissions tool and you should be aware that they are doing so.

There are many old school ways to demonstrate interest: call or go to the website and ask the admissions office to mail their materials to you; visit the school’s table at a high school college fair and scan their QR Code with your cell phone or fill out the school’s information; visit campus for a tour or interview and be sure to sign in with the admissions office; write a handwritten thank you note after meeting an admissions officer, student tour guide or professor. If you attend any event, be sure to sign in with the admissions office or fill out an information card for the school.

There are also “optional” ways to demonstrate interest. In this case, optional really means: “if you care enough about our school, this step is required”. If a school says certain test scores, recommendations or personal statements are optional, translate the word “optional” to mean required. Just do it.

Technology makes it easy to express interest while getting up to date information: follow the admissions office on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Scan the school’s QR Code with your cell phone. Give the Admissions Office your email and cell phone number. In addition to demonstrating interest, you will be able to see, in real time, when the admissions office opens applications, visits high schools and sends out decisions. The school will be able to email and text you directly. You will be instantly reachable and the school will put this information to use right away on your application.

Some schools are very clear that they do not want calls, letters or extra demonstrations of interest. Read each college’s materials and website carefully and comply with their wishes. Do not send extra information that they explicitly state that they do not want.

Some schools track your interest, but state that it has no effect on admissions decisions, normally.

Other schools want to see demonstrated interest: Rhodes College, in an interview in Inside Higher Ed described writing to students who had applied, without showing any other interest and telling them that if they did a Skype interview or visited the campus, they would be admitted on the spot. In 2013, 17 of approximately 400 students responded, enabling Rhodes to focus on the 17 students who were interested.

According to Jodi Walder-Biesanz, founder of Portland, Oregon-based College Admission Coach LLC “One way to look up whether or not a college considers demonstrated interest: go to Type the name of the school in the search bar. Click on the school name in the results. Click on the “Admission” tab. Scroll down to the heading “Selection of Students”. Look at the line “Level of Applicant’s Interest” in order to understand whether or not demonstrated interest is a factor at that school.”

Don’t spend too much time worrying about demonstrating interest; just pay attention to details and you will be right on target. Follow all application instructions to a T. Write a polished personal statement. Write thank you notes after interviews, follow admissions offices on social media and visit schools that you really want to attend. Above all, if you are genuinely intersected, keep in mind that a well written, proofread application, submitted early, is the best expression of interest.

Interesting Links:

Out into Nature!

Let’s get our Scholars out into Nature!

Raising our scholars is not just about abc’s and 123’s. We want them to have sound minds and sound bodies. They need to get outside to play, explore and expand their horizons. If they play well, they will learn well. First Lady, Michelle Obama is leading the way with her Let’s Move! Initiative

President Obama has joined her with the “Every Kid in a Park” program. Through this program, all 4th graders and their families get free admission to National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year through August 2016.

Visit Acadia National Park in Maine, Virgin Islands National Park, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or the Grand Canyon.

Take your scholar to visit African American Historical sites such as the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, or Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

There is so much to explore, let’s go!

Oratorical Contest

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Oratorical Contest, Grades 1-12

The National Park Service is once again hosting its annual Frederick Douglass Oratorical Contest for students in 1st through 12th grade.

The application is simple: select a Frederick Douglas speech to memorize and send the application form to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site by 4:00 pm on Friday, November 6, 2015. The speeches will be delivered at the Historic Site in December.