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Date: 7/29/2014 2:08 PM UTC

Beginning in the Spring of 2016, the SAT will be shifting to a new format. Why the change? The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, would say it's to help college admissions offices get a better sense of how prepared students are for college coursework. That's definitely one possible reason. It could also have something to do with the fact that every college in the U.S. now accepts both the SAT and the ACT, and that in 2012, for the first time, more students nationwide opted for the ACT. The SAT is getting beaten at its own game, and as the adage goes, “if you can't beat 'em...”

Over the past few months the College Board has announced a slew of changes to the SAT, many of which look very similar to what's already on the ACT. One example is that the new SAT Reading section will include questions based on charts and graphs. The current ACT Science test is just a reading test with charts and graphs. The SAT will also use reading passages that focus on subjects students cover in school, such as science and social studies, just like the ACT does now. Those notorious SAT words? They're being replaced with more common words presented in the context of a whole passage. Can you guess which test already does that? Students taking the current SAT agonize over whether or not to guess, since they get penalized more for incorrect answers than they do for leaving questions blank. The new SAT will base scores only on the number of questions students get right, like the ACT does.

The new SAT will be far from identical to the ACT. It will still have its own flavor, and many students will prefer it. The good news is that there's no reason to fret over what the new SAT might look like: spending a little time with the current ACT will give you a pretty good idea. And for students who don't like the SAT's new look? Just remember, there is another option.

Posted by Geoffrey Bass | Post a Comment

Date: 7/17/2014 8:11 PM UTC

"The more you read,
The more things you will know.
The more that you learn, 
The more places you'll go."

Dr. Seuss


With summer vacation underway, encourage your child to take a vacation through reading.  Visit unknown places, take an adventure through time, meet some interesting characters or simply just find a way to laugh!  You can do all these things in your backyard, on the beach, or at the pool.  Take a break and let your imagination lead the way! Think of visiting the bookstore or library like a visit to a candy store.  It is filled with a brightly colored assortment of different flavored candy just waiting to be unwrapped.  There is always something for everyone.  Enjoy your adventure!

Not sure where to get started?  Here are some resources to help you and your child pick out the perfect book:



Posted by Geoffrey Bass | Post a Comment

Date: 5/31/2014 3:11 PM UTC

The short answer is never. That's not a typo: you will almost certainly never use the Pythagorean Theorem or the Quadratic Formula or SOH CAH TOA ever again once you're finished with school. These things just don't come up in everyday life, nor in at least 99% of the jobs out there. Unless you go on to become a mathematician or a teacher, you can probably forget these specific bits of knowledge, as well as how to use them, on the day you graduate, and you won't ever suffer a bit for it.

Here's the longer answer: it depends on what you mean by “this.” If you're talking about the particular things you're studying right now in math class, or almost any other class for that matter, you can stick with the answer above. You're probably never going to use it. What you are going to use though, no matter what you do with the rest of your life, is your brain. Your brain is an incredibly complex machine that allows you to do one thing far better than any other animal in the world: solve problems. You aren't born knowing how to do this though. It takes practice! When you work through a math problem from start to finish, what you are really doing is training your brain to solve problems logically. This creates powerful, lasting connections between your brain cells that allow you to apply this type of reasoning to all sorts of problems, whether they involve numbers or not! Math isn't really teaching you how to calculate the circumference of a circle. It's actually training you to find the answers to the many questions you face daily.

Think about an athlete who stretches every day. She might think to herself one morning, “When will I ever need to bend down and touch my toes?” She won't, of course! There's no Toe-Touching event in the Olympics! So why does she do this day after day? It's because she will use the flexibility she gains from doing this to perform a lot of the actions she needs to as part of her sport.

Think about that the next time you're in class and somebody asks, “When am I ever going to use this?” Now you can say, “Your brain? Every day for the rest of your life!”

Posted by Geoffrey Bass | Post a Comment

Date: 2/27/2014 7:04 PM UTC

" So please, oh Please, we beg and pray,
   Go throw your tv set away,
   And in its place you can install,
   A lovely bookshelf on the wall"

Roald Dahl  

So with the cold weather here to stay indoor activities fill relaxation time. So instead of watching endless tv  or having the kids play extended time playing video games, let's try something different!  Let's read!  Make some hot chocolate and find a cozy spot and make reading a fun time!  Children model after their parents, if they see you enjoying a good book they will want to join the fun!  Start a dialogue!  Ask them to tell you about what they are reading, with older kids find a book you both can read and discuss it.  Start a friends and family mini book club!  So what are some great reads you can suggest?

Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

Date: 7/25/2013 1:22 AM UTC

Wouldn't it be nice if you knew exactly how much college was going to cost you and whether or not you could pay for it when you were done? New Jersey just may provide that. Think of it kind of like a "truth in lending" for college.

The bill (A-3216) would require four-year public and independent institutions of higher education to provide a financial aid "shopping sheet" to each prospective student as part of the school's financial aid offer. Ideally, the sheet would give families details on costs, loans offered, and most importantly, debt repayment.

For more information about the bill check out http://openstates.org/nj/bills/215/A3216/.

Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

Date: 7/11/2013 1:19 AM UTC

Adulate...laud...extol...panegyrize...approbate...encomium. Do you talk that way around your kids? I sure hope so! Kudos to you if you know that all those words mean praise or approval of some kind and additional plaudits (more praise!) if you use that kind of language around your children.
Parents often ask how they can help their children do better on the SAT exam. One of the easiest ways is to use savvy (smart) words around them and encourage the child to use them as well. It's best if you participate yourself, make it fun, and start early; now is a great time too! When starting with younger children you have time to add a word or two each week. For older students who are closer to test-day, add a word or two each day. For all learners, continue to review past words and use them regularly. Using the words fully integrates them into your knowledge base.
This doesn't have to be soporific (sleep-inducing). Make it fun and it's more likely to be done and to stick. Here are some suggested books for making new vocabulary learning a little more entertaining.
500 Key Words for the SAT, and How to Remember Them Forever by Charles Gulotta: This entertaining book is full of fun pictures and quick stories that really help words stick. Many parents and students report that this book has made all the difference in their willingness to study.
Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power by by Sam Burchers: Another fun way to learn new words, this book has the additional benefit of activities to practice using the words.
The preceding two books really make it fun to learn new words, but our experience has shown that an alphabetical list is a tough way to learn words. Excoriate, exculpate, exemplify, extoll, extrapolate. Try holding on to all of those and their definitions for more than a few days! There are several books available that group the words for you in a way that will help you learn more words, more quickly. We suggest a combined approach. Use the following books to get a list of grouped words and then use the fun books above to really master the words.
Hot Words for the SAT by Linda Carnevale: Packed with 37 lessons, a variety of activities, and memory tips, this manual is very useful for improving vocabulary. A new edition of this book comes out this summer with lessons geared towards helping with the ACT.
McGraw-Hill's 400 Essential SAT Words by Denise Pivarnik-Nova: The lists in this book are a little longer, combining two sides of a concept. Make it easier by only doing one side at a time. A variety of exercises are included which help reinforce the words.
Gruber's SAT Word Master: A positive aspect of this book is the section on prefixes, suffixes, and roots. If you learn well this way, then Gruber's is a great option. Beware though this type of breaking up of words does not always work. Consider "receive" and you'll see what we mean. The prefix re- would leave ceive as the remaining part. Not really helpful. Activities are included with this book.
Obviously with the number of words in the English language, no book will have every word that will be on the SAT test that you take. However, knowing more words will help your score. Sometimes it comes down to knowing four of the answer choices are wrong and picking a word you don't know or have never seen before (which is the correct answer) simply because it's not one of the choices you know to be wrong!
Whatever you choose to do to prepare, we hope your vocabulary becomes prolific and your score becomes prodigious!

Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

Date: 7/3/2013 1:16 AM UTC

Texting is a wonderful tool. I use it all the time. It's a quick and easy way to communicate with other people in situations where a face-to-face meeting or even a phone call simply isn't practical. In the span of just a few years we have developed an entire lexicon of texting shorthand that makes the process even less time-consuming. But imagine for a moment that you had been handed a cell phone as a toddler and grown up with texting as your primary, or perhaps only, medium of communication. The shorthand would no longer be a symbolic representation of words and phrases you already know, but the make-up of the language itself. Face-to-face conversations would be clumsy and awkward as you struggled to remember how to move your mouth to make the sounds that go with abstract strings of letters like "thx" and "ttyl." I'm certainly glad that I wasn't exposed to this new world before I'd had the chance to gain a firm grasp on the English language in its many forms, and I think most people would agree.

Now consider that this is almost exactly the way in which many young children have been exposed to the world of numbers and math: through the technology of calculators and computers. You can make all the same arguments for having these tools available as you could for cell phones; they are convenient and efficient, and who in today's busy world really has time for long division anymore? The use of calculators only becomes an issue when it completely replaces the processes performed in your head or on paper. As with texting, it is important to know the meaning of what you are plugging into the machine, and there is real value in learning to do it "the old-fashioned way" first.

I have encountered countless students whose very first instinct when presented with a math problem, no matter the difficulty, is to reach for the calculator. I admit I am often guilty of this myself. It can be a bit jarring, or even a little humorous, the first time you find yourself punching something like "11 + 6" into a machine designed to graph complex functions. As we continue to outsource our mathematical operations indiscriminately to calculators, however, we are allowing our own skills, along with our intuitive understanding of numbers, to erode. It is far from uncommon today for people to need the aid of a machine to do anything at all involving negative numbers, and multiplication tables are fast becoming an ancient relic.

Of course there are perfectly legitimate uses for calculators. Just as texting now holds an important place in communication, computers are an indispensable tool in today's math classes. The trick is to know how, and more importantly, when, to use them. So keep your calculator handy the next time you sit down to do some math, but before you turn it on try to give your brain a little exercise. Attempt the problem in your head, or at least come up with a rough estimate. Ask yourself if the answer on the screen makes sense. Don't be afraid of your calculator, but make sure its job is as your brain's partner, not its replacement. Lol!





Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

Date: 6/13/2013 1:12 AM UTC

Texas billionaire D. Andrew Beal wants you to do math. So much so that he's offering a million dollars to solve what has been dubbed Beal's Conjecture. It's similar to Fermat's Last Theroem and is very interesting. Just be careful you don't go crazy trying to solve Beal's problem like so many did for Fermat's.

See the TIME NewsFeed article here:
http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/06/11/solve-this-math-problem-win-a-million-bucks/#ixzz2W0x2ej4A

And P.S. When you find the solution, be sure to remember who told you about the prize! Happy learning!

Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

Date: 5/22/2013 1:09 AM UTC


A recent New York Times article delves into the popular question - what should I write about? Specifically - what should I use as a topic for my college essay? Find the article here: NYT

The Times posts four full-length college essays and talks about the different ideas used. It's neat to see actual essays written by students who are seeking admission. Some of the content is really striking. If you are writing your college essay, take a peak. Maybe you'll get some ideas!

If you are looking for great guidance on your college essay, talk with us.  Our Literacy Specialist, Joan Hukle, has been helping kids perfect their prose and more for years.

Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

Date: 5/9/2013 12:20 AM UTC


The Regents Are Coming!

The Regents are coming! The Regents are coming!

So, there's probably no one running through the streets shouting about New York State Regents exams, but for high school students across the state the Regents are indeed coming. June is just around the corner. It's a great idea to start preparing for this inevitability now. Here are some ways to ease the burden and prevent unsuccessful, end-of-year cramming:
  1. Start early: Planning for finals and Regents should actually be happening all year long. Continuous review of concepts is a great way to make the end of the year easier.
  2. Start now: Okay, so maybe you haven't been planning for Regents all year. The past is over; now is all we have. So get started now.
  3. Make a plan: Whether you've been reviewing all year or you are just getting started, the question is: Now what? Get your calendar out and write down the dates of your finals and Regents. If you are planning to take SATs, SAT Subject Tests, ACTs, or APs, write those down too. Include any other important dates that might make a difference in your studies such as sporting events, holidays, proms, concerts, and any other event that is important to you. Count the number of weeks before each exam. Use the number of weeks to divide up what you review each week, making sure to cover each test you are preparing for.
  4. What to cover: Hopefully you've kept your notebook current and made sure to keep your notes from the year. If you do have notes, begin by reviewing the topics you were not sure of the first time. These will need a little more attention. Now is the time to get clear on what you weren't sure of in the first place. If you don't have your notes or if your notes were lacking to begin with, you still have other resources.
  5. Other resources: To get some extra practice answering Regents questions, go to jmap.com and regentsprep.org. Both are great sites for Regents exam preparation. Regentsprep has more explanations than jmap, however, jmap has more practice problems. Keep in mind, the closer we get to exam day, the more likely it will be that these sites are overwhelmed and slow. For books, the Barron's “Let's Review” series also provides explanations and practice problems. The blue books are explanatory, while the red books have past exams. The past exams are available free of charge from nysedregents.org, so get the blue book. If video review is more your speed, check out regentsreviewlive.net where you'll find videos to help prepare for Regents.
Remember to choose a plan that works for you. Whatever you choose for your preparations, we wish you the best!

Posted by Tess Fisher | Post a Comment

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