Study Shows Surprising Skill That Underlies Math and Reading

BirdsDo you remember second grade reading groups? They had nifty names like redbirds, bluebirds, and goldfinches to keep us from discovering who was in a “high” group and who was in a “low” group. But it took about four seconds to realize that the redbirds in reading were the same kids as the redbirds in math, solving the easy mystery of the bird groups. And this points to a great, unfair truth in education: Smart kids tend to be smart across the board, whereas kids who struggle in reading tend to also struggle in math. Why is that? These skills seem so distinct! Is it general intelligence that boosts both? Study skills? Tiger parenting?

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Census Bureau Paper: Immigration Boosts Wages

Diversity

Image: flickr/Jon Rawlinson cc license

As we have all seen recently, immigration threatens the dark part of the human brain that evolved to protect our ancestors from other groups. Though we no longer beat our chests and use stone-tipped spears to threaten away strangers (or maybe we still do…), the conversation about immigration influences the psychological underpinnings of our culture, society and government. Do immigrants steal jobs? Does immigration clog businesses and schools? Does it dilute the United State’s intellectual advantage over the rest of the world?

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Persistence and Flexibility: A Dual Path to Creativity

Flickr/Gerwin Sturm cc license

Flickr/Gerwin Sturm cc license

My kids are the north and south poles of creative problem-solving: Kestrel, my 7-year-old, will squeeze a problem until she wrings blood from it; Leif, my 9-year-old, tends to apply ideas flexibly and when one doesn’t work, he will move on to the next. There are pitfalls to both approaches: Kestrel may fixate on beating a strategy into submission that turns out not to work, whereas Leif may move on too quickly from a strategy that would have worked with a minute’s more futzing. Which is best? When the going gets tough, should the tough get going or should the tough try something new? More broadly, when searching for creative solutions, should you open or close your mind?

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When is Stressful Competition Too Much for Kids?

Leif choosing to reach. Photo: Samantha Kosanovich

Leif choosing to reach. Photo: Samantha Kosanovich

This weekend my nine-year-old, Leif, competed in the Divisional round of the “bouldering” portion of the youth rock climbing championships in Ogden, Utah. These competitions put kids as young as 8 years old in high-stress situations that demand high performance. At this weekend’s competition, at least a third of youth competitors were crying as they exited the event through what my wife aptly named the “Tunnel of Tears” where parents met to console and clean up their young athletes. After a few years, some kids choose to never climb again. And into this mix, my wife and I willingly send our humble, kind, and easy-going 9-year-old son. What the hell are we thinking?

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Paper Details Gaps in Santa Workplace Safety

Stressed.SantaDuring the holiday season, we imagine the joy that Santa Claus will bring to our families. Some households suggest an attempt to step outside self-centered viewpoints to consider the holiday from a Santa-centric paradigm of enjoyment by offering a cup of brandy, cookies and milk, or even carrots for his reindeer. However, as a society we systematically fail to take into account issues of workplace safety that affect or have the potential to affect Santa Claus and his ungulate co-workers every Christmas Eve. A commentary by University of Alberta medical researcher Sebastian Straube, published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, hopes to shed light on these chronic and acute safety concerns while examining the research landscape of the field of Santa Safety Studies.

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Does Religion Protect Against Christmas Blues?

Image: Flickr/Sadie Hart cc license

Image: Flickr/Sadie Hart cc license

Somehow this holiday season, amid the confusion of trying to explain to my kids that for some reason it’s okay to make up silly words to Away in a Manger but not to Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, I stumbled across a recent research paper by Michael Mutz, sociology professor at the University of Gottingen, Germany, published in the journal Applied Research Quality of Life. In the paper he asks whether life is better or worse during the holiday season and if there’s a holiday shift, why?

Here’s the gist: “The Christmas period is related to a decrease in life satisfaction and emotional well-being,” he writes.

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Online Games Show (and may Change) Personality

Image: Flickr/Katherine McAdoo cc license

Image: Flickr/Katherine McAdoo cc license

There are over 27 million registered usernames for the massive online battle arena (MOBA) game League of Legends. While online, the people behind these usernames pat other players on the back by sending “honor” and chastise other players by sending “reports”. What can we learn from millions of people who have chosen new names for themselves, acting socially or antisocially in an online world? According to a paper scheduled for publication in the February 2016 issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, lots.

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Is Intrinsic Motivation Essential to School Success?

Flickr/ r. nial bradshaw cc license

Flickr/ r. nial bradshaw cc license

Studies have proven the power of intrinsic motivation: With it, kids are more likely to be creative, set goals, and much, much more. It makes sense that intrinsic motivation should also help children do better in the school subjects that interest them. If you like writing, you’ll be a better writer and if you like math, you’ll be better at math…right? This is part of the justification for programs that encourage kids to study the things they’re drawn to (and let me admit right now that I’m one of these parents — I want my 9- and 7-year-olds to explore their passions!).

We’re so certain that intrinsic motivation increases achievement that it almost seems like a waste of time to study it. But that’s what a team of researchers from Quebec did. Their study of 1,478 Canadian kids is now on early view at the journal Child Development.

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What Creates the Human Idea of Fairness?

Image: Wikipedia cc license

Image: Wikipedia cc license

Imagine you have to split a plate of cookies. Does the person who baked the cookies get the most or do you split them evenly? Most very young children would split them evenly — that’s fair, right? But as kids get older, they start to take into account who did the work. MIT researchers working with the Tsimane’ People near San Borja, Bolivia wondered what makes kids switch from “egalitarian” to “merit-based” opinions of fairness. Is it something natural in growing older? Is it socialization? Or is it…something else?

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Surprise Winner In Study Of Old vs. Young Brains

Image: Flickr/Steven Pisano

Image: Flickr/Steven Pisano

By now you know that as your brain ages, it looks more and more like Swiss cheese. Things you’d like to keep in slip out through the holes and it gets harder and harder to pack new things into your cheese-head. You know it. I know it. But is it really true?

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