Print Story what math books should I buy?
By nathan (Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 06:16:57 PM EST) (all tags)
The Boy needs to learn more math. School is, of course, not cutting it.

The Boy is 5. He's been able to count since before he could talk (he pointed to numbers in a book) and he's now doing the following:
  • Addition and subtraction of up to four terms of four digits on paper
  • Mental addition and subtraction of two terms, 0-100
  • Memorized times tables to 10x10 with corresponding whole-number division
  • Multiplication of up to four digits x 1 digit on paper
When I was a little girl, growing up on my farm in Canadia, I kind of daydreamed my way through school math, until I was 9, when I was asked to go to high school for math classes. At 12, I placed in the top 25 in the national math contest for high-school seniors. That year, my math teacher had a heart attack (nothing to do with me... as far as YOU know ) and I didn't take any math classes for a few years because there wasn't really any way for me to take them - my small-town school didn't offer IB or AP classes, and I'd exhausted the curriculum. After that, I kind of drifted into math mediocrity, to such an extent that I became a lawyer; other interests and all that.

I'd like to help The Boy avoid my horrible fate. To that end, I have decided to fire his teacher and take over his math education myself. I think he's smarter than I was, and there's no point in having him spin his wheels for a few years the way I did. It doesn't relax you, it dulls you.

Even though I went to lol school, I still remember some math. But it would be nice to remember/learn a bit more. I'm soliciting recommendations for texts for:
  • Pre-Calc (I still remember the operations and identities and whatnot, but I have no idea how to teach them)
  • Elementary Calc (AP AB and BC level)
  • First couple of years of college math - elementary calc with proofs, linear algebra, vector calc, differential equations
If anyone has opinions on math pedagogy, those would also be really welcome.

< WFC XI: The Council of Judgement | Finished REAMDE >
what math books should I buy? | 46 comments (46 topical, 0 hidden)
Your 3rd paragraph. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 07:00:52 PM EST
I resemble that remark. And I agree with what a handicap not being able to express your abilities is. I'd call it actively harmful.

But I don't have any advice. Apart from

Girl? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 08:04:50 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

it's an inside joke by nathan (2.00 / 0) #18 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:27:39 AM EST
A reference to an old rmg post.

[ Parent ]
Disappointed! by yankeehack (4.00 / 1) #19 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:38:39 AM EST
Ammo was hoping for fresh meat... :-P
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB
[ Parent ]
for a really tough calc... by gzt (4.00 / 2) #3 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 09:37:06 PM EST Spivak. You basically grind out every proof.

For the calculus they teach the hoi polloi (sic), I think James Stewart is the author of a text that I've seen used. I forget what the courses I graded for used, but I used it in high school and thought it was at least okay. I forget whether it gets into vector calc or not. a book they threw at the physics students for it was "div, grad, and curl".

i think boyce and diprima is a standard reference for diff eq or at least it once was (I think it's what I used in my high school diff eq class), but do you really need to learn diff eq? you don't want to turn the kid into (shudder) an engineer.

don't bother actually studying linear algebra, you're supposed to just pick it up and everybody looks down on you if you actually take a course in it.

as for pedagogy, I do have very strong opinions about it. the most important thing is to give clever, mind-bending, and fun problems while teaching with great energy. the exact material, even, is secondary, especially at a young age. okay, i know that sounds terrible and like the "new math", and i'm certainly not downplaying the need to get the basics down utterly cold. there are basic number theory and combinatorics problems you can start throwing at kids if they know basic algebra.

lol @ linear algebra courses by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 11:13:39 PM EST
like, all you need is normal algebra! actually, though, i think it probably is good for most people to have a real course on dicking around with matrices. it seems to me that linear algebra is more fundamental than calculus and that college students should really be taking a stupidly large number of linear algebra courses, not a stupidly large number of calculus courses. the modern world runs on numerical linear algebra, not calculus!

people i know who talk about introductory differential equations books seem to like strogatz. i have no real opinion on the matter though. 

[ Parent ]
it really is by gzt (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 04:28:10 AM EST
"stupid matrix tricks" save the day all the time. i still feel dirty about taking that linear algebra course in high school, but, between that and grading for either linear algebra or courses that included some linear algebra nonsense for three years, i could always come through with some stupid matrix trick when i was dicking around in combinatorics/discrete math that the algebraists and analysts couldn't.

but, yeah, in that stanford machine learning class, it's all linear algebra all the time.

[ Parent ]
When I read this... by anonimouse (2.00 / 0) #26 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 02:31:04 PM EST
...I looked on my bookshelf and noticed that I had a copy of Calculus from my University course about *cough* years ago.

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
hm. by the mariner (4.00 / 2) #4 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 10:41:26 PM EST
so the books are for you to refresh your memory about math? i think standard textbooks like the ones gzt mentions should be fine. if you're looking for rigorous calculus, spivak is definitely the standard, as he says. i've heard good things about apostol too.

if you want to give a kid a good mathematical education, i'm not sure going through the usual approach of trying to get as far through the typical undergraduate course as possible is the right idea (it's not a bad one, though). i think it was thurston who had some comment on this tendency. he said the usual high school approach of building quickly toward the goal of calculus and differential equations is like building a tall building on a narrow foundation and that it would be better to build a wider foundation.

things i recommend would include much more classical geometry than is standard -- can't really recommend any books on that off the top of my head though. also, stuff like graph theory, combinatorics, and probability are good. elementary number theory and abstract algebra are good too. i suspect a high school student with some knowledge of number theory and pretty basic abstract algebra would do very well in these high school math nerd competitions. 

one thing that i think is good but that isn't really your classic style math education is developing the mind's eye through use of visualization. not just mundane stuff like graphing calculators (which are good, but not that good), but more exotic stuff like visualizing functions of two or three variables, complex valued functions, embeddings of graphs (the combinatorial objects), solutions of differential and difference equations, etc. using computer graphics. only danger is that the kid could become too interested in computers.

agreed about calc by gzt (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 04:33:58 AM EST
kids end up being taught stupid algebra tricks instead of real calculus.

and geometry. that stuff is wicked useful. hungarians need to write more books about combinatorics/geometry/linear algebra, the erdos-taught ones are full of fun little problems and tricks that can even be solved by kids (main barrier to solution is pure cleverness) and other little problems that require wicked obscure knowledge of fundamental math we should've learned in high school.

[ Parent ]
like this one by gzt (4.00 / 2) #12 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 04:35:19 AM EST
i notice gzt and the mariner.. by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 11:12:06 PM EST
Both avoid the core of new math, set theory. But sets are great! And logic. Logic + sets are good lead ins to the rest of the stuff both of them mention.

Also, re: visualization - why not an intro to topology?

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

sets suck. by the mariner (4.00 / 3) #7 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 11:16:57 PM EST
you'll have plenty of time for sets and logic when you're teaching at a community college and living in a van down by the river.

also, topology is for weirdos. 

[ Parent ]
I use both here at $megacorp by infinitera (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 11:21:21 PM EST
It makes me partial to them.

But I'll give you topology.

[…] a professional layabout. Which I aspire to be, but am not yet. — CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
Set theory is one of the bases for programming. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #13 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:46:28 AM EST
Database geeks use it all the time.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
So by Herring (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 10:26:19 AM EST
is set theory included in the set of "useful stuff" or not?

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Absolutely. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #22 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 02:03:44 PM EST
That, and stats, are the only math I've used since school.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
I think that's definitely a good thing to do by gzt (4.00 / 2) #9 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 04:18:36 AM EST
with kids. it's where a lot of the fun exercises can come in. you can get a third grader to start thinking about very basic algebra (the real kind) with some fun and interesting stuff. despite my "hate-hate" relationship with a lot of the "new math" stuff, i think some of it can be a good supplement to the "traditional" math education i think everybody should have.

[ Parent ]
In grade school? Stats before calc. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #14 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:49:32 AM EST
And then, after stats, or concurrent with it, probability. Probability is fun, because it's often taught with dice and cards. My college probability class did an unofficial field trip to a casino to check theory against the real world.

They matched.

Statistics is one of the most useful post-algebra courses out there. Both stats and probability are good for teaching algebra.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

probability before stats by gzt (4.00 / 1) #15 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 09:14:59 AM EST
a second grader can understand the rudiments of coin flips and dice rolls, but stats requires a little bit of sophistication and are a little hard to do with just gamey fun teaching methods. and really, one should know how to do integrals to do stats. ideally, one should know measure theory. neither of those are strictly necessary, of course.

[ Parent ]
Heh, my school offered by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #23 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 02:05:29 PM EST
Calculus based probability, and algebra based stats. Since I'd already taken calc before stats I did well in that course.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
you really need calc... by gzt (4.00 / 1) #25 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 02:11:43 PM EST do both well. I guess I'm betraying my biased background in discrete mathematics and combinatorics (and real analysis) - probability is mostly about finite stuff. or it involves measure theory. no middle ground for people who just know calculus.

[ Parent ]
One nice thing about a small school. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #32 Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 08:02:19 AM EST
There were 4 of us in the probability course, taught by the same professor who taught us all stats.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
since there are lots of responses... by nathan (2.00 / 0) #17 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:16:28 AM EST
I'm just going to respond to everyone at once. Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. 4's for all!

To be clear, I need standard texts for me, and interesting pedagogical ideas for The Boy. I need to comprehensively review math myself because I last took a math class in 1998. I took it at a lame university, and that was 13 years ago, so I have no idea what the "standard texts" even are. Some clarification on that would be helpful. Anyway, they're for me, not my 5-year-old. (We mostly do math orally, while walking around; at his age, it would be child abuse to make him grind out pencil and paper exercises.)

I agree that I don't want to waste The Boy's time on stupid Calc BC tricks, etc. There's be plenty of time for him to learn that stuff the night before he takes the exam. The uselessness of stupid calc tricks was really brought home to me by my experiences teaching GMAT and GRE. Evidently, lots of mid-career engineers only learned stupid calc tricks in their 6 years of engineering. It's a strange feeling explaining to a guy who engineers things for a living that, for instance, a four-digit number ABCD = 1000A + 100B + 10C + D, or some such.

So, I agree that I want to teach The Boy through games, tricks, visualization, and whatnot. Any concrete suggestions of how to do so would be helpful. Khan Academy is cool, but that's more for when he needs to drill for the SAT's, or as punishment for not eating his beets.

a lot of people shit on it... by gzt (4.00 / 1) #20 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 01:11:17 PM EST
...but I kind of like what I've seen of the UCSMP ( As a supplement to some traditional math, not a replacement. I saw it in experimental forms in Saturday and summer programs for kids. they got not particularly mathematically literate 7th grade kids to grasp the idea of proofs by induction (formally) and limits (informally), which will really serve them well in the future. But I haven't reviewed the materials extensively or seen them in a typical classroom setting.

[ Parent ]
i was under the impression that that series by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #27 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 05:22:21 PM EST
is widely used in public high schools and middle schools. perhaps i'm totally wrong about that.

i actually had some courses out of that series as a young 'un. i'm inclined to think it isn't much different from other courses. while they claim they want to provide more than just a cookbook for doing certain math type things, in reality, that is the way the books are generally used in my experience. this probably reflects the reality that most primary and secondary school teachers are just hacks and can't handle teaching a room full of students anything more complicated than a muffin recipe. anyway, i wouldn't expect them to advertise the product line as just another calculator-as-slow-cooker if yan can differentiate so can you kind of thing. 

they have nice asides and projects between chapters. an interested student can definitely find some good stuff to ponder during class. 

[ Parent ]
it's apparently used by about 3million by gzt (2.00 / 0) #28 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 05:56:16 PM EST
so, quite common. i suppose two things might be true:
  1. in the hands of brilliant math professors who developed it (and their underlings), it's pretty cool stuff
  2. they weren't doing stuff out of the books in the saturday and summer programs, but rather different stuff developed just for that purpose and the books might be different.
i agree about hacks teaching. they sometimes can't get muffin recipes right. they end up stirring too much and the muffin ends up with damn peaks and valleys rather than a nice, domed top.

[ Parent ]
o.0 by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #29 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 07:25:34 PM EST
you always respond to my comments with, like, numbers and data and stuff. probably numbers and data from pages you linked to that i only read one sentence from. feelin' pretty sloppy here...

[ Parent ]
I'm just really bored. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #30 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 07:35:36 PM EST
but, c'mon, you had actual experience with the real curriculum as it is taught, I didn't.

[ Parent ]
and if you balk at $100/book... by gzt (4.00 / 1) #21 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 01:54:31 PM EST
...there are a bunch of Dover books that are probably quite good. One of my favorite math books is Kolmogorov and Fomin's real analysis book which is like $10. If you go to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore on the south side, since you're in town and should travel down there (as it's one of the best bookstores in the country - they have everything), they have a lot of them, so you can browse them yourself and see if any strike your fancy.

[ Parent ]
i'm actually interested to hear what happens. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #31 Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 12:57:53 AM EST
i can't claim to know anything about what a talented child would benefit most from. i do know that just having an enthusiastic parent devoted to feeding a kid's own curiosity makes a big difference. i hope years from now to hear what worked, since i'm not too far from being in the same situation (unless i have dullards for children).

the stuff everyone will tell you would be toys designed for building things. blocks, legos, erector sets, tinker toys, etc. also games involving shapes and numbers like dominoes and tangrams (personally i like carcassonne). memory games, card games where it's important to remember in what order cards were dealt, etc. but it sounds like you're more interested in producing the next john stuart mill than just a run of the mill math nerd. not sure what to recommend. i think you need to find out what he likes to do other than arithmetic before making specific plans.

[ Parent ]
if i produce the next JSM, by nathan (2.00 / 0) #33 Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 10:44:33 AM EST
I think I'll get banned from this site.

Seriously though, my problem is that my kid is really athletic and extroverted, so I'm afraid that he won't fully develop his talents. I don't want him to be the kind of guy who sleeps through HS, goes to Dartmouth, majors in something lazy, and winds up in front-office banking or biglaw or something.

At the same time, he's really intellectually engaged right now, like I'm reading him The Phantom Tollbooth and he kind of wanted to be the Dodecahedron for Hallowe'en. I'd hate to see that come to an end. I'm with Amy Chua (only) to the extent that I think a strong intellectual foundation is necessary to cultivate meaningful, rather than idle, curiosity. It's hard to be curious about something you just don't understand at all; it's more likely that you'll accept a cheap blow-off explanation.

With really bright kids, there just aren't enough of them anywhere for a coherent pedagogical method to have come into being. So if you're +2 sd, you're in the top 50 of your 1000-kid HS; they have some idea how to teach you. But if you're +3 sd, you're in the top 3, and no one has any idea how to teach you, and your interests are probably really idiosyncratic anyway. If The Boy turns out to be +2, I can kind of chill out and just use standard materials and procedures. But if he turns out to be >= +3, I'm going to have to be on my A-game every day.

[ Parent ]
i see. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #36 Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 01:41:03 AM EST
well, i think you have the right idea trying to brush up on some math that would be of interest to a precocious high school student. having a parent with the knowledge and interest to help makes a huge difference. if you do get the +3 situation, i think you'll need to play it by ear, because as you say the interests that develop are not ultimately under your control, but you have to respond to them. 

one thing i will say though, is that being extroverted and athletic definitely isn't bad. i knew a kid growing up whose parents seemed to really encourage him to play with computers and electronics. looking back, it was pretty impressive the things he was doing at like 10 years old and i envied him for having his own computer and being able to wire his own circuit boards and stuff -- i didn't have 20 bucks a year to spend on my own interests and consequently none really developed until i was in high school. but this kid was nothing special intellectually, he just had unusual parents. by the time high school rolled around he wasn't in advanced math classes or doing anything unusual academically and ended up going to the local state university. on the other hand, he paid a heavy price socially for all the stuff he'd talk about. kids don't want to hear about transistors. he was an angry kid because of that and i wonder how much that frustration and alienation followed him into adulthood. i'm sure you've thought about all of this and again i don't have any answers about where the right balance is, but you know, there is still something to be said for the jock with brains.

[ Parent ]
can't be a rhodes scholar... by gzt (2.00 / 0) #38 Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 10:36:14 AM EST
...without sports accomplishments. one of the ones i know even had his essay be about running.

and, of course, bannister (of the first four minute mile) was more proud of his seminal tome on brain surgery.

[ Parent ]
I'm no math whiz by LoppEar (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 02:10:04 PM EST
stopped when Calc 2 / Set theory satisfied my degree requirements, although I'm trying to get back into it after feeling like a lot of my interests now would be easier if I knew more...

All I wanted to say on the pedagogy bit is that as a kid I loved these games that my dad (a philosophy phd who mostly taught logic to undergrads) played with my younger brother and I: wff n'proof and on-sets - I think we started the basic versions at about your son's age.

so if you're ok with him on the computer by garlic (2.00 / 0) #34 Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 07:33:28 PM EST
the kahn academy has some interesting stuff in math.

i looked at it by nathan (2.00 / 0) #35 Wed Oct 26, 2011 at 10:11:23 PM EST
Seems pretty good for drill. I'll get him an account.

[ Parent ]
my initial thought by garlic (2.00 / 0) #40 Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 02:11:33 PM EST
was that perhaps you should work on fractions prior to hitting calculus. It's also the sort of exercise that will make it clear what areas a)interest him, and b) he could use help with.

[ Parent ]
NO! CALCULUS NOW!!!! by nathan (2.00 / 0) #41 Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 02:52:14 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Answering from a different angle by stevew (4.00 / 3) #37 Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 10:05:52 AM EST
I am not actually answering the question of what you can learn from (which has been answered pretty well) but offering some alternatives to you having to develop your own syllabus.

Both Stanford ( and JHU ( have online (and later online/textbook) based replacements for standard school mathematics (and most other subjects) which allow self paced progression to first year university level and beypnd. From experience, the early year tutors at Epgy were fantastic and actually involved with each student. Some of the later ones were comparatively more distant which did not help my son who was disengaging for other reasons in the year where he started that stage. (Sorry JB!)

Art of Problem Solving ( has online math courses starting at junior high level. Their courses and textbooks are brilliant. That is where all the AMC up to Olympiad nerds hang out and you just can't fault them for rigour. Hang out in one of their free math jams to get a feel for it.

If he does turn out to be 3sd+, there are a ton of real resources and support available. is a good start.

I don't really think you need to take on the job of designing a syllabus from scratch. AOPS and TAG above will respectively give you access to kids who are on the Olympiad teams and kids who have several degrees under their belt by 16. Very few of them have developed material, most have used a selection of existing resources. Ask the question of what resources you can use in those places.

Also: Assuming reasonable ability and the availability of appropriate course material in the early years, the most important qualities your boy needs to develop are confidence, perseverance, problem solving and self directed learning skills leading to a joy of learning and a drive to master whatever he is learning. If he develops those qualities, the particulars of any texts or syllabus you use will be much less relevant. Without those qualities any resources, no matter how perfect, are useless.

And, umm .. beware of becoming vicariously over invested in your son's potential accelerated academic progress. It can be extremely damaging to both parent and child and it is very easy to do (says the person who changed their whole career and lifestyle so their 9 year old could start University).

Good Luck!

i have but one "4" to give this post by nathan (4.00 / 1) #39 Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 11:27:23 AM EST
I hope you understand.

[ Parent ]
I had a thought about +3SD by gzt (2.00 / 0) #42 Fri Oct 28, 2011 at 11:01:50 AM EST
Honestly, a school is going to have ideas about +3SD, especially if you go to any sort of mildly selective school, especially in a major metropolitan area. By the way, +3SD is 1.3/1000 because we're looking at one-tailed, not 2-tailed (ie, we're looking at the top, not top-and-bottom). A selective high school has classes of 500, say, and the selection effect means they'll probably have at least 5-10 +3SD. They have ideas about how to engage them because they have 20-40 or more in the school all the time and the selective schools just eat that up.

By the way, the next best thing to living in a major metropolitan area for this sort of thing, in my opinion, is university towns, since they will also have a good density of bright kids and a reasonable set of resources available for them. Worst is, of course, the middle of nowhere. University towns give the kid the option of skipping high school to go straight to college, get a degree at 17, a PhD at 23, and start teaching at Princeton and Yale that year, like this one kid who was a year ahead of me in my high school (except he skipped high school). Probably +4SD, at least, also rather outgoing and athletic, though certainly graduating from college at 17 shouldn't be every boy genius's goal. a guy who was a few years ahead of me in college - I think he graduated the year I entered - but was in my house and had a bunch of mutual friends with me was described by the director of undergrad studies as one of the best guys to come through in the past 20 years or so, was a churchill scholar, but IIRC didn't even place out of honors calc on his way in. he was from a college town, by the way.

[ Parent ]
that's what i get for sloppy thinking by nathan (2.00 / 0) #43 Fri Oct 28, 2011 at 11:51:42 AM EST
LOL at me botching the math in my own diary.

I guess I don't have enough experience with private schools in major metropolitan areas. Are there any that are truly selective? My impression from going through an application cycle was that all of them are stone broke now and struggling to maintain their enrollments. (One in particular called us several times, waived fees, etc.) This suggests that, in the end, they take whoever can pay the fee. I guess you could argue that wealthy parents are likely to be smart themselves, but assuming that's true, you'd expect regression to the mean among the kids, and it doesn't strike me anyway that wealthy people are all that smart. Obviously you can't be a dunce and get rich without inheriting/winning the lottery/having dirty contracts with the city, etc., but you know whta I mean.

If you're talking about selective public schools, again, my impression was that Chicago's selective schools are more a lottery than anything else. The threshold to test in is fairly low, and once you test in, it's a matter of luck. But perhaps I was misinformed about that.

+4 sd is massively prestigious, no matter how you slice it. Sadly, I'm probably +4 sd only in unprestigious areas, like staring out the window mindlessly or sinning or something.

[ Parent ]
yes, mostly a lotto by gzt (2.00 / 0) #44 Fri Oct 28, 2011 at 12:18:31 PM EST
I was thinking mostly about high schools, all I know is that all the smart ones are in particular high schools. I don't think it's terribly important what school you go to as a third grader as long as it's not full of losers and you do a lot of exploration on your own. I don't think private schools can be particularly choosy at the K-3 level as there isn't too much to grade on. Yeah, there's the kid who read The Hobbit in first grade and the "slow" kid, but, really, while on average it might not work out that the guy who's in the 60th percentile on the test you gave him at age 5 ends up in the 90th at age 18, the individual cases are too complicated and I think it's silly to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, anyway, yeah, a private school taking a 5 year old won't care as much as long as they get paid.

[ Parent ]
well, i'm not obsessing over selectivity at 5, but by nathan (2.00 / 0) #45 Fri Oct 28, 2011 at 12:36:09 PM EST
The problem is that schools want your kids for most of their best hours, 8:30 to 3:30 let's say, and most kids are too tired to do much thinking after school. And The Boy doesn't handle boredom well, so if he's bored at school, he just pesters the teacher until he gets punished. Fortunately, we managed to punt on this by getting him into a French school, where he's got to do work to pick up the language, but that won't last forever. As it is, they have absolutely nothing to offer him in English or math, and at that they're still pushier than a public school would be.

I don't even care if the school is selective, I just want him to work. I mean, I did some volunteer work yesterday with kids from a CPS 3rd grade class, and I just know that if The Boy were in their class, he'd have a fine old time joking and showing off but would get absolutely no learning done. (He already reads better than they do.) If it weren't for concerns about making him a weirdo, we'd probably just pull him out completely, because academically, what is an elementary school supposed to offer a kid who's 3+ grade levels ahead at everything? Even if they really wanted to help, all they'd be able to do is give him bigger, harder books to read and more advanced math work to do with pencil and paper, and while that has its place, it isn't exactly the "talk to your kids about number theory and topolgy" approach that's been advocated in this thread.

[ Parent ]
but also wealth and smarts: by gzt (2.00 / 0) #46 Fri Oct 28, 2011 at 02:04:32 PM EST
wealthy people aren't smart, but SES is an incredibly strong factor in test scores. It's a Maslow thing, maybe. A lot of this stuff is about opportunity.

from my college coursework with teh GSS (general social survey) and NELS (national educational longitunidal survey), here are a few facts.

  1. the biggest predictor of your highest level degree is your parents' highest level degree. second biggest is parents' SES. (from GSS) the effects of either persist after controlling for the other.
  2. biggest predictor of test scores are parents' SES and parents' highest level degree - forget which order. (NELS) also powerful, after those two are taken care of, is race (note: even after controlling for urban/rural). again, effects persist after controlling for the other.
so, all things considered, having rich parents makes you do better in school and on standardized tests even after controlling for parental education (and race, urbanvsrural, public vs private, etc). granted, this is, like, the difference between, say, 70 and 80 or 80 and 90, not 95 and 99.85, but it's relevant to the environment of the school.

[ Parent ]
what math books should I buy? | 46 comments (46 topical, 0 hidden)