This one snuck up on me, but it’s been a great way to pass time in the car and sneak in some math skills. Like most moms, much of my day is devoted to drop-offs, pick-ups, practices, lessons, etc., so we are in the car more than I care to admit. A few weeks ago on the way to gymnastics we decided to keep track of traffic lights. This wasn’t a planned activity. It was actually Ramona who pointed out we hit 2 green lights in a row, and from that point on we tracked traffic light colors all the way to the gym.

Would you believe there are 17 traffic lights between our house and gymnastics class?! Sheesh! On that first trip we counted 9 reds, 8 greens, and 0 yellows. On a subsequent trip we counted 7 reds, 9 greens and 1 yellow. We now know there are 11 lights between Preschool and Target, and 10 lights between home and Kindergarten. Boringly, there’s only one light between our home and the local elementary school (and it’s always red when we get there!).

There’s so much to love about this light-counting game… where to start ?!

1.      Counting light gets everyone engaged in the same activity. This just feels way more positive than the bickering that tends to erupt in the back seats when we aren’t working together.

2.      Light counting gets your kids actively involved in data collection. It’s not trivial to remember the number of greens, reds, and yellows while you’re on the road (try it!). It may be easier to assign a color to each passenger. For a longer trip you might need to keep a tally with pen and paper (preferably not the driver). You could even keep a log in the car to compare results after making the same trip several times.

3.      Within a few trips your kids will have memorized the total number of lights between your home and all your common destinations. Not that this is important to know these things, but I find many kids enjoy this sort of trivial information.

4.      Counting lights provides a nice segue into the world of data analysis and statistics. Once you have counted reds, greens, and yellows for the same trip several times, your kids will develop expectations about how many reds, greens, and yellows are typical. Help them determine the average number of red (or green) lights you encounter for each trip to soccer practice. Then ask questions like “What do you think are the chances we’ll get all greens today?” Or all reds, or only 1 green, or 3 yellows, etc.? Watch your children transform into budding statisticians!  

Now that we’ve become a traffic-light-counting crew, the kids actually get upset when we forget to count. They get excited when we go to a new place and can track lights on a different route. They cheer for the color they’re in charge of counting. Have you ever felt relieved to get a red light? This game can make you feel that way! And of course, the thrill of hitting the rare yellow light can be so exhilarating.

Best of all, traffic light counting is for all ages. Even if you don’t have kids, or your kids are in high school, just try it on your next few trips. You may be surprised how easy it is to get caught up in this simple diversion. π 

Hi my friends. So sorry to leave you alone for so long. The preschool newsletter is done. I can move on with my life! Here's a little post that has to do with big numbers:

Seven Billion
I found this poster inside a National Geographic magazine on our coffee table:
We don’t subscribe to National Geographic so I don’t even know where it came from, but anyway this fascinating picture is called “The Face Of Seven Billion”. It is actually a sort of chart. The face you see is made up of tiny human figures, 7000 of them to be exact. Can you see it better here?:
How about now?:
Each human figure represents 1 million people. 7,000 of them together represent the 7 billion people in the world. Yikes! So many people! Let me tell you, the kids actually “got” this. Well, I take that back. I don't believe they grasp the magnitude of 7 billion, but they "got" how the chart works and they know that there are A LOT of people in the world. I explained the poster to my 7-year-old one time and he understood it well enough to repeat the meaning behind the chart to his little sister who also “got” it for the most part. The 3-year-old, not so much….

I commend National Geographic for creating this interesting, informative, and artistic presentation of our world population, in a way that is impactful even to a child. I must tell you that the back of this poster contained so many more intriguing facts and charts. You really should check out the interactive version on the National Geographic website.

By the way, the arrangement of these 7,000 tiny people creates an image of the most “typical” person on the planet who happens to be a 28-year-old Chinese male. When my kids stepped back and saw this face for the first time they exclaimed “It’s Daddy!” OK, it kind of looks like him, but in fact he’s much older than this “typical” guy. And for those who know “Daddy” I think you’ll agree with me he’s anything but typical! π
It’s the end of an era. We finally finished reading the Harry Potter series. The adventure began almost two years ago when we chose The Sorcerer’s Stone as bedtime reading material, which evolved into a Harry Potter obsession like I’m sure many of you have experienced as well. Except I’m willing to bet few or none of you read the whole series out loud so I think I earned some mom points there (notice I didn’t claim cool mom points, but I’ll take whatever points I can get, even those I award to myself).

As we are in the habit of celebrating our accomplishments, here was an opportunity to summarize our HP experience from an analytical standpoint. First off, let’s just look at all those books, all 7 minus 1 of them (The Chamber of Secrets was on loan to Nana so didn’t make it to the photo-shoot):
These are long books, so it’s fun to figure out just how much we actually read. We also wondered which one has the most pages? Which one has the most chapters? Which one was the best?

In order to keep track of our data I pulled out the laptop. I had not introduced the wonder of Excel to my kids until now, and as soon as Bart started entering data my mind raced with all the cool stuff I can show him and his sisters some day. Anyway, we set up a simple spreadsheet and I recited numbers as Bart entered them in a table.  We then set up some graphs and observed the following HP facts:

Longest Book: Order of The Phoenix

Shortest Book: Sorcerer’s Stone

Most Chapters: Order of the Phoenix

Least Chapters: Sorcerer’s Stone

We also ranked the books in order of our personal preference and added comments where appropriate.
Favorite book: The Sorcerer’s Stone (of course, that’s what got us hooked).
Least favorite: The Prisoner of Azkaban. Reason: because Voldemort isn’t in it.

Here’s our analysis summary:

To celebrate, we watched The Deathly Hallows (Part 1) which was released on DVD just as we finished the book – how convenient! We snuggled on the couch, ate popcorn, and critiqued ways in which the book was better than the movie.  We can hardly wait for part 2 later this summer! I sure will miss Harry Potter but I know he’ll continue to be part of our lives for many years to come. π