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13 March 2020

Maths and Science and Bill Bryston A Short History of Nearly Everything Review


A Book Review
A Short History of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson

 - Published  1st June 2004

Bill Bryson, O.B.E, F.R.S, (born December 8, 1951), is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, science and the English language.
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science maths with bill bryson ‘Welcome, and congratulations. I am delighted you could make it’; so begins Bills Bryson’s prize-winning, vibrant prose, A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is a scientific history of the world.  What could make a better read? Your eyes will crawl quickly over the pages, consuming and enjoying all the knowledge, facts and tales it has to offer. This books covers biology , physics with a sprinkle of the history of maths. 

Bryson brings to life a whimsical, wonderful wealth of science, which is often shrouded in mystery and destined not to be deciphered by the non-scientist.  Geology, chemistry, palaeontology and astronomy are imparted in a clear, fun and comprehensible way. Through his expedition of time and space, Bill Bryson surrenders to whimsical questions, which many science text books decline to supply. Subsequently, we travel as if we are on a trip of a lifetime. He does it with such frivolity, clarity and light heartiness so that even those of you who are most fearful of science would enjoy it and chuckle your way through this book. However, do not take his light hearted approach as a lack of concrete knowledge; for Bryson supplies us with a wealth of scientific facts and anecdotes.
This book is produced with the assistance of scientists, and each section of the book had to be rubber stamped with academic authority before its publication. It also won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book in June 2004 and it was one of the best-selling popular science books of 2005 in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies.

A Short History of Nearly Everything tells us of anecdotal events that inform us of how certain developments in science have transpired. For example, how the German chemist Johann Becker in 1685 thought he could extract gold from human urine (given that urine is yellow like gold – of course!).  Becker kept the urine in his cellar for weeks, and mixed it with other substances until it turned into a bright yellow paste! As you would expect, it did not turn into gold, but later a strange thing did happen: when the substance was exposed to light, it would spontaneously combust. This led to the understanding of phosphorous, and later, to the development of matches.

With his humour and clear prose, Bryson surrenders to the questions so many of us would like to ask: Are the bones of the dinosaurs in the Natural History museum real?  How do we know how big Earth is?  Do scientists make mistakes, and if so, do tell? How many bones do we have of dinosaurs? How long do humans have left on Earth?


Although A Short History of Nearly Everything is limited to American and European scientists thus lacking in diversity, it still captures and excites your imagination, and takes you along on a scientific journey that so many science books fail to do.

Some would argue that A Short History of Nearly Everything is unbalanced and there is not enough biology or maths included in the book; others would say that the title does not betray the true nature of the book – it is not actually a history of everything! Nonetheless, although many books like it exist, for example Horrible Histories, I would argue that this book has crossed over.   I recommend you give this book a try.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a fun to read, so much so that I now have an audio copy. For those of you who like to listen, you can ‘read’ a copy and listen at the same time. 

12 March 2020

How To Build Self Esteem In Children int the Academic World!


Building Self Esteem!
Have you ever felt hopeless and inadequate? Well, many of my students after trying and not getting the desired results feel like this. Imagine feeling this weary for most of the day. Not just for an hour but an entire day! It cannot be easy. It's important to encourage activities and thinking that will improve your child's self-esteem. 
Self Esteem in the Academic World 
The fact that they have so many resources on and offline does not make it easy. In fact, it makes it more difficult as they do not know where to start. This can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. For teenagers, this can be even more difficult. The fact that their entire body is going through changes which they have to deal with on a daily basis does not help with their overall well being and self-esteem.

Many students  with low self-esteem will proclaim, 'I am not good at maths' or 'I'm not good at sport'. They do not realise they can improve in maths and sport. These qualities are not fixed at birth, but develop with life and life skills. It is about perseverance and understanding what you are doing incorrect and correcting it. It is about challenging yourself and endeavouring to ignore the negativity or any discouragement from others. It is about not comparing yourself to others but setting your own bench mark and adhering to it. It is about being flexible and knowing that sometimes we are just going to fail, but they must pick themselves up, dust themselves down and try again.

Here is my list on how to encourage children to succeed academically
 1: Never compare your child's academic performance to yours. 'I am good at maths so that is why they are' or 'I am bad at maths that is why they are'.  There is no scientific research to prove this. This will impact on what a child perceives they can do. Give them the space to develop their own skills and to find out what they can do - not what you can or cannot do!  The chances are the reason they are good at the subject you are good at is because you have inadvertently taught them the about the subject and its positive aspects.

2: Listen carefully to what they are saying. Maths for example, cover so many topics. I doubt very much they have an issue with all. Explain to them, that some topics just my take them longer to learn than others. It may mean they need additional help from a tutor, after school club or to increase their independent learning. This will help raise their self-esteem. 

3: Encourage your child to be an independent learner. They do not have to wait for a teacher to cover a subject. If they are in secondary school, they should be able to read around a subject. They may not understand it entirely, but they will have a good head start. This means that when the subject is covered at school it will not be alien to them.

4: Encourage your child to give the subject/ topic a chance! They should not give up. Would they give up trying to get to the next level for a computer game? Probably not! Help them to see the bigger picture. What they are endeavouring to learn is only a small part of their life. If they do not get it the first time around then it is just a matter of being patient and continuing to learn until they do get it! 

                 Watch this video it gives insight into harmful attempts 
to boost self - esteem !
5: Many parent state that their child will not listen to them. Well you must stop talking and listen to your child. Ask them how they are going to fix the problem. Ask them how you can help. Give them some tips. Let them take control of the situation and get themselves to a place where they are not only independent learners, but independent thinkers. You may need to assist with in this journey to independence, but it can be done in time. 

6: Get them into the habit of forming a routine. Encourage them to set a time each week to dedicate to the subject they are having issues with. Tell them that little and often is the best way to learn. Encourage them to stick to this time for two months and then show them how much they have done in that time. Little and often is the key to success. Trying to remember all of a topic in two weeks is impossible for most of us. Little and often will help children to retain the information as it will be sent to their long-term memory. 

7: If your child is under 14 teen there is a great book by  Matthew Syed  called ' You Are Awesome'. There are activities in here that help with a child's self-esteem and will get them thinking about situations and themselves. This book inspires young people to dream big. It uses examples of personalities that have struggled and made it.

I am not an advocate of our celebrity driven culture but the book does a good job of endeavouring to give young people hope by siting some celebrities as models of what can be achieved.  It advocates with hard work and determination anything is possible. I would state it is not always about working hard, but working smart that brings success.  The book advocates a growth mindset - whereby children look beyond what they know and try to think how they can achieve things they did not feel possible.  

8: Teach your child to learn from their mistakes. There is no point in making a mistake and continually doing it. Children need to be able to reflect on what they have done incorrect and set a plan or at least have an idea of how they are going to change it. Teach them that mistakes are part of life and the true test of learning and developing is how we come back from our errors. By doing this they are taking a positive outlook on life and this in turn will help you raise your child's self-esteem. 

9: Teach children that asking for help is not a negative quality. It is a great quality. Look at how many successful businesses have become rich from asking for help! It is obviously  right thing to do!  They recruit people to help with jobs which in turn makes them money. Yes, the relationship between a business owner and staff is one of the staff helping the boss - many people fail to realise this. Yes, the boss helps them by paying but it has to work both ways in order to benefit both parties. Henry Ford could not have made all the cars he produced without help. Teach your child that asking for help is a way to empower themselves by getting solutions and guidance to issues or problems they may have. 


10: Explain to your child that time  to relax and de-stress is an important part of their life. They should spend time with their friends, chatting, laughing and doing extra curriculum activities that they enjoy. Life is about living for all age groups. They should experience the rich and wonderful life we have and how beautiful life can be if you just take control of it. This will lead to a greater sense of sell being and self-esteem. 

To conclude:
Not all things are equal. Teach children to prioritise what is important and what is less important. If they can see this then, they will not be under so much stress and they will endeavour to take the advice you give them. If everything seems so important and overwhelming then this will have a negative impact on their self-esteem and their academic success.

8 March 2020 United Kingdom

The Abacus Can Help Your Child See Maths

What is an abacus?
An abacus is used to help children with maths. It normally has beads that can be moved up and down and sometimes around. It is normally brightly coloured and made of wood. It is a very ancient ma thematic tool. The abacus is not like an electronic calculator, it is a tool to help visually see what has been counted and to remember how much has been counted. 
How to help your child with maths abacus

Why use an Abacus?
Using an abacus is a different way to teach maths to children. Maths should be taught using a variety of resources from: songs, videos, worksheets and games. There is not one way to teach maths to younger children, so it is important to give them an opportunity to experience a variety of resources and ways to learn. Abacuses are  great for children that like to learn via the kinesthetic method of learning - touching and feeling. 

Who uses an abacus?
The abacus are used by many teachers and parents. However, it is not used in school as much as I think it should be.  It is a great way to have hands on fun with maths. As the beads are brightly coloured they attracts young children and can get them interested in maths from an early age.  

The history of the abacus
The abacus is an ancient tool that has been around for centuries. It was used in Africa and Asia by merchants selling in the market and by clerks. This was their form of an electric calculator! Some of the traders in the market wold have it attached to their side with string and use it  to add, multiply and subtract. Nowadays, we no longer use the abacus in the workplace, but it is great way for children to learn adding , subtraction, multiplication and even fractions!



How to use an abacus with your child
You can use the abacus it as a simple adding and subtraction tool. You can count numbers to 20 forwards and backwards. You can portion beads and add on or subtract.  Here is an abacus being used with a preschool child  to count in twos and to 20.


What age group should use and abacus
You can use an abacus with a child from age of 4 to 6. That is when a child is just about to enter school or has entered school. The earlier you start a child with maths the better they will be when they have to enter secondary school at the age of 11 years old. Read about why early years maths is so important here.  A firm grounding in maths is essential and an abacus is a great resource alongside other methods. 


To Conclude: 
Maths is important to learn from an early age. An abacus is a resource that comes in handy for young children. Children love the bright colours and moving the beads around. This is definitely something that you should have in your tool box of resources to use for children. My youngest son always enjoyed playing with an abacus. He used it to add and subtract and even do fractions. He is now seventeen and taking A'level maths! I am not saying that your child will take A'level maths, but a good start helps with a good understanding and grounding in maths. 
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