Roundup IX

Thanks to a new study, scientists believe they have found the scientific key to what has previously been described as “game intelligence” in top soccer players. With so many players having physical ability and ball sense, why are some players better able to “read” the play, be in the right place at the right time and steal goals? The multi-year study found that game intelligence can be understood scientifically, based on exceptional “executive functions” (creative thinking, finding new solutions to problems, revising behavior based on outcome, flexibility to change tactics). They did extensive cognitive testing on 57 elite soccer players and compared various levels of players with each other and the general population. For details on the study go to

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A study has found that the small change of making specific references to print in books while reading aloud to children can provide a big boost to their reading skills later on. Preschool children whose teachers used print references during storybook reading showed more advanced subsequent reading skills when compared to children whose teachers did not use such references. See the April issue of the journal Child Development for more details.

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Common Sense Media has shifted through the thousands of apps and websites out that claim to be educational, and they rated and reviewed each one based on its learning potential so you can figure out which apps, games and websites will truly help equip kids and teens with the skills they need to thrive in tomorrow’s world. Check it out at

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In Kal Chany’s book, “Paying for College Without Going Broke,” he offers 10 tips for trimming the cost of college:

1. Get the best score possible on the ACT or SAT.
2. Be a smart shopper (comparing schools carefully).
3. Don’t immediately rule out a college because you think it’s too expensive.
4. Apply to “financial aid safety schools.”
5. Consider attending a community college for two years.
6. Be realistic about outside scholarships.
7. Earn college credits while still in high school.
8. Explore whether “cooperative education” (co-op) programs are offered at the colleges on your list.
9. Talk to your parents about maximizing your family’s aid eligibility.
10. Learn as much as you can about how the aid process works.

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As you debate the merits of various camp options or the merits of summer camp in general, there is a terrific article I recommend called “Putting Camp in the Childhood Equation” which you can read at: The thesis of the article is that unstructured play at camp is valuable to today’s kids and the camp counselor-child relationship can provide a very positive role model for your children.

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I am fascinated by research on happiness because providing our kids the best possible education is only half the battle. So who is happiest? Hawaiians (says a recent Gallup poll); biotech workers (says; 70-year-olds (that is when happiness peaks according to Stanford); people who enjoy creative pastimes (says the London School of economics); and people who earn $75,000 a year (above that has no discernible effect on happiness according to Princeton economists).

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According to an article in the New York Times Magazine, recent studies have shown that exercising increases cognitive flexibility and gives your brain a better chance of resisting physical shrinkage. In fact, exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does. Tests on mice found that mice that exercised had far greater cognitive ability than mice that did not.

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There was a terrific and funny essay in the Wall Street Journal about what advice commencement speakers would really give if they were being completely honest ( For example, No. 4: “Marry someone smarter than you,” and No. 2, “Some of your worst days lie ahead of you.” If you have a child in high school or college, or just out of college, you and they might enjoy the perspective.

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A noted group of scientists and educators is proposing a dramatically different way that students in K-12 should be taught science. Their 8+1 concept moves away from memorizing scientific facts and focuses on helping students understand eight fundamental science concepts. The “plus one” is the importance of inquiry, the practice of asking why things happen around us – and a fundamental part of science. The 8+1 concepts were derived from two basic questions: What are things made of and how do systems interact and change? The eight concepts are: atoms, cells, radiation, systems change, forces, energy, conservation of mass and energy and variation. This is a big change from science today in the U.S., which is taught in isolated disciplines such as chemistry, biology and physics without clear connections being made between the subjects. See the study at

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The annual “What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools” report, lists the top 40 books kids in grades 1-12 are reading. For the first time, this year’s report also includes author and educator opinions on what kids should be reading. The report also includes the best Spanish-language books, the top Common Core informational texts and stories and librarians’ picks. You can download a free copy

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California’s state colleges and universities are considering whether to begin asking students about their sexual orientation next year on applications or enrollment forms. The optional questions would be posed because of a state law aimed at gauging the size of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations on campuses. The law encourages UC, Cal State and community colleges to explore whether they are offering enough services, such as counseling, for those students. More schools are sure to follow.

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Next time you’re in a mall, keep your eyes peeled for a new store – Marbles: The Brain Store. I went in one recently and was amazed by the brain teaser-type games they offered that I had never seen before. They are also online

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New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that going to sleep shortly after learning new material is most beneficial for recall.

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In related news, majoring in math- and science-focused subjects gets college graduates higher-paying jobs compared to other majors, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Economics, engineering and accounting graduates make $30 an hour or more on average. And a recent study by jobs site CareerCast found jobs requiring math and science skills were superior in terms of wages, work environment and employment opportunities.

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There is a little-known program that offers discounts at public colleges and universities to students from 15 states, most of them in the West. The Western Undergraduate Exchange is an interstate agreement that sets tuition at no more than 150 percent of in-state rates and saves undergraduates on average $7,700 a year. In all, 150 public colleges – some two-year, some four-year – take part; only 10 are in California. For Californians, the most popular destinations are Northern Arizona University, the University of Nevada, the University of Hawaii, Southern Oregon University and New Mexico State University. In California, 10 of the 23 Cal States have joined, with the Humboldt and Chico campuses attracting the most out-of-staters. Other areas of the country have similar arrangements.

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Princeton, Penn and Michigan have joined Stanford and Berkeley as partners of Coursera, a company founded earlier this year by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. Together, the universities will produce free, online versions of their courses that anyone can take. Go to Meanwhile, Harvard University announced that it is joining MIT in offering free online courses – and that the two institutions will together spend $60 million on a project that will grant certificates of completion to those who finish a Harvard or MIT course online.

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According to a recent British Broadcasting Service story, students who bring water with them into exams score higher than students who do not. Can’t hurt to try it.



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