Child Stress: Should You Manage Emotion or Situation?

Child.StressMost humans perform best in a Goldilocks zone of a little but not too much stress. That makes sense: Stress puts some pep in your step, but too much can bury you. You can see this Goldilocks zone in a classic study of Pennsylvania small-business owners in the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Researchers inter­viewed 102 of these small-business owners and found that on the Subjective Stress Scale, which runs from 0 to 100, a level of perceived stress between 40 and 48 pre­dicted the highest performance—business owners in this Goldilocks range of moderate stress got the most done, repairing their stores, dealing with insurance companies, getting back to work.

The question is how to help your kids stay in the productive, manageable, moderate zone of stress, even when school, friends, activities and life make the porridge too hot.

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How the Snooze Button Chooses Brainwaves for Insight or Energy

To snooze or not to snooze? The answer can determine whether you start the day with energy or insight. Flickr/John Fowler cc license

To snooze or not to snooze? The answer can determine whether you start the day with energy or insight. Flickr/John Fowler cc license

There are times you need energy and times you need insight. How you use the snooze button can prime your brain for one or the other. The technique has to do with the science of brain waves…and crickets.

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Study Shows We “Undervalue and Underutilize” Persistence in Creativity

lightbulb-336193_640It’s time to test your creativity: In 2 minutes, generate as many original ideas for things to eat or drink at a Thanksgiving dinner as you can. Now make a prediction: how many more creative ideas do you think you’d be able to come up with in another 2 minutes? Try it: see how many more original ideas you can generate. How did your estimate compare to the actual number? How did the value of persisting compare to your expectations?

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The Science of Developing ‘Math Identity’

Abacus

Recent study shows that more than just being good at math, the development of ‘mathematics identity’ comes from choosing to engage in math and having your ability recognized by others.

The other day I was sitting on a bench in Boulder, Colorado’s Pearl Street Mall and I overheard a young, hipsterish guy laughing about the fact that he kept messing up those subtraction Captchas — you know, the little puzzles that prove your humanity by asking things like 4 – __ = 2. I’ve blown my fair share of math problems. But what caught my ear wasn’t that he struggled with Captchas, it was the fact that he excused it, saying, “Hey, I’m not a numbers person…” Because he wasn’t a numbers person, it was okay to be bad at math. More than that, it was okay to not try to be good at math.

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A.I. Research Mines ‘Minecraft’ to Mimic Human Learning

MinecraftArchimedes said that with a long enough lever he could move the world. Computer scientists have tried a similar approach in artificial intelligence: with enough computing power, a ‘bot can brute-force its way through any problem, evaluating every possible option and then picking the best. Unfortunately, just as Archimedes never quite found a long enough lever (nor a “fulcrum on which to place it”), computer scientists know the limits of brute strength. For example, the first paper about computer chess, written in 1950 by Claude Shannon, showed that just three moves out, brute force already has to evaluate 10^9 positions. To look five moves into the future, a computer able to evaluate a million positions per second would take more than 30 years. Yikes.

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This One Quick Trick Will Transform Your Problem Solving

Though few Shakespeare historians count Juliet a genius, when she gushes from the balcony, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet,” she demonstrates her deep understanding of one of the most profound roadblocks to problem-solving. See, it doesn’t matter what a rose is called or, for that matter, what Romeo is called–the first is still a beautiful, smelly thing with thorns (like my daughter!) and the second is still her star-crossed, soon-to-be lover who happens to be cowering in the foliage.
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In Your 2-Year-Old: A ‘Genuine Decline in Relational Reasoning’

Flickr/Wes Peck cc license

Flickr/Wes Peck cc license

Berkeley psychologist Alison Gopnik showed kids a box that played music. Kids turned it on by placing the right pair of blocks on top. For some kids, any two different blocks would turn on the music box and for other kids, any two same blocks would start the music. Gopnik showed them how it worked, demonstrating a pair of blocks (same or different) that made the box play music and also a pair of blocks that left the box silent. She did it again, placing correct and incorrect pairs of blocks onto the music box, which played or didn’t play music. Then she asked kids to help her activate the box, offering the choice between a pair of “same” and a pair of “different” blocks to turn on the toy.

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Does Following LEGO Instructions Make Kids Less Creative?

Image: Flickr/Do-Hyun Kim cc license

Image: Flickr/Do-Hyun Kim cc license

In a community of LEGO-building parents, it’s only a matter of time before someone bemoans the idea that “when we were little” we all had trunks of loose bricks that we used to build the shapes and ships and castles and constructions of our imaginations (usually after walking home from school, three miles, uphill, and in the snow). Chances are, if you close your eyes, you can hear the distinctive sound of your hand running through a pile of bricks. For many of us, it was the soundtrack of childhood.

Now, increasingly, the soundtrack is the one-time pouring of pieces into a small pile, followed by the riffling of the instruction sheet. How many completed kits are still sitting on a high shelf in your child’s room, months or years after being built?

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How to Test Creativity With a Single Word

Chair

Image: Flickr/Glasseyes View cc license

Get ready to think of a creative verb. Now, what action comes to mind when you look at the picture that heads this article? When you saw this chair, did you say “sit”? A Yale University study shows that you’re probably more creative if you said “stand” – the “distance” between a given noun and the verb you pair with it is a darn good measure of your overall creativity.

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Priming Studies Show Girls Still on Receiving End of Negative Math Stereotypes (and Also How To Help)

Kestrel.Scientist

She likes math. I sure hope it stays that way.

When we hike, my daughter wants to play math quiz. I ask her things like, “If there are eight legs in a family that includes one dog, how many people are in the family?” And this helps take her mind off the miles. She likes math. She thinks she’s good at it. And I’m terrified that as she goes through school, her confidence and eventually her skills will start to erode.

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