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    parenting, product reviews, revolution math, STEM, technology

    Help Your Kids Fall In Love with Math (And Reading Too!) With Revolution Math

    Disclaimer: This post is brought to you in partnership with Revolution Math, an interactive online math and story-based program for kids in grades 2-5. Get your first month of Revolution Math plus a math learning kit for $1 with the code WEEREAD1!

    Education has always been extremely important to me.  When I was a child I used to always say I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.  Well, when I finally “grew up” I changed my mind and decided on the computer field instead.  Perhaps some day I’ll be a college professor and finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of teaching.  For now, I’ll settle as being my children’s first teacher.

    I knew even before I had children that I didn’t want their learning to be left entirely up to the school system.  I make it a point to supplement whatever they are learning in school at home with my own teachings by making it fun.  One way I supplement education at home is by using an awesome interactive online math and story-based curriculum called Revolution Math.  Have you heard of it before?  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have heard me talk about it in my stories.  Try It Out for 30 Days for JUST $1 (No strings attached – I promise!)

    Math was always my favorite subject in school.  I want my kids to like math or at least do well in it even if they don’t love it as much as I do.  Did you know research suggests that early math skills are a better predictor of academic success than early reading skills?

    What Is Revolution Math?
    Revolution Math is an innovative program designed to help 2nd-5th graders develop their math skills and an overall love of learning. The live, online interface integrates an interactive learning experience with a story-based curriculum and Common Core aligned math games. Students enjoy a small class size of only 4 students, allowing them to build confidence under the instruction of a dedicated teacher.  Check out their brief introductory online videos for more information.

    Our Experience
    My daughter has been using Revolution Math (we pay for this program with our own money) for the past two months.  I can honestly say she is truly enjoying it and most importantly she’s learning advanced math skills for her grade.  While the program is recommended for kids in grades 2-5, they also accept first grade students like my daughter.

    Initially, some of the concepts were a bit difficult for her to grasp (as with learning anything new), but I’ve seen lots of improvement over the past two months.  She is now able to do one, two, three and four digit addition and subtraction problems a lot easier using the concepts learned through the program without any worry or anxiety like she initially had.

    Here are a few of the things my daughter has learned so far:

    • Place value charting to decompose addends for 2-digit + 2-digit addition and 3-digit + 2-digit addition
    • Different ways to represent three-digit numbers
    • Finding patterns
    • “Bundling”, “exchanging” or “carrying” from a lower place value to a higher one

    I’ve loved witnessing the progress and confidence I’ve seen in my daughter over the past two months.  It’s also been great to see her build a relationship with her online teacher (the teacher remains the same each week) and on occasion participate in class with other students.

    Other added benefits are parents receive a weekly update on the math tutoring session which includes cool apps and strategies you can use at home to reinforce learning.  Also, registered subscribers can access additional drills for practice playing the Revolution math game.  Finally, kids earn gems each lesson that can be traded in for kid-friendly prizes from the Revolution Math Rewards store.  Who doesn’t love an incentive?  I know I sure do!  My daughter is currently saving up her gems for a fidget spinner.

    Are you excited yet?  Do you want to help your children fall in LOVE with math (and reading too!)?

    Try It Out for 30 Days for JUST $1 (No strings attached – I promise!)
    You seriously can’t go wrong with this deal – it’s like getting 4 high-quality math classes for just $0.25 cents each if you break it down.  To me, this is a no-brainer to sign up for a 30-day trial especially if you have kids in grades 1-5.  Plus, you get a math learning kit which is yours to keep and doesn’t have to be returned.  Win-win!  I only share brands and products that my family truly uses, values and trusts and Revolution Math has gained our trust over the past two months.

    The learning kit includes several math manipulatives: graph paper, dice, place value number tiles, a protractor and masks to use for the story time portion of the course.  Be sure to use my code ‘WEEREAD1’ to take advantage of this fantastic deal for just $1 and tell them I sent you!

    Your turn: Are you ready to raise a math whiz?  Have you heard of Revolution Math before?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    adult books, book reviews, STEM, technology

    Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Coding Homework

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

    Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Homework by Frazer Wilson

    Publisher: Sterling Publishing
    Pages: 208
    Format: Paperback

    Synopsis
    Facing the daunting prospect of helping your children with their coding homework?  Coding for Parents teaches you what you need to know . . . so you can teach your kids!

    Unlock the mysteries of coding with this easy-to-follow and well-illustrated guide—and help your kids ace their coding homework! Organized by age and grade, It takes you by the hand and leads you through the basics, building your knowledge of key concepts, terminology, and techniques, and giving you the language you’ll need to explain it all to your child. Instructional diagrams and compelling illustrations appear throughout to enhance your understanding, and the book covers the most popular software, including Scratch, Python, and Java.

    Reflection
    The introduction of the computer has changed the world forever, for better or for worse.  The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science.  President Barack Obama said it best when he said, “In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill.”

    In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill.” – Barack Obama

    And yet, computer science is not part of the required curriculum in many US public schools.  That means it’s up to adults to help their children get more familiar with computers, technology and coding when it’s not offered to them in their school.  With the help of great books like Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Homework adults can cultivate a child’s interest in computing, even if they’ve never written a line of code on their own a day in their life.

    I like that this book is organized by age and grade level for different software like: Java, Scratch and Python.  It’s a compact and comprehensive introduction to all things coding broken down into digestible bites that are easy to comprehend.  There are also helpful diagrams with some added humor to help take a bit of the edge off if you’re new to the world of coding.  The book also contains a helpful glossary and index making it easy to find and reference information throughout.

    Coding is all about learning by doing.  And the more kids feel like they can “do” computers, the more likely they are to pursue technical careers.  An added bonus is having a parent or adult who understands coding and can help a child easily understand it too.  That’s where  Coding for Parents: Everything You Need to Know to Confidently Help With Homework comes into play.  Check it out if you want to be able to confidently help the special kiddo in your life with their coding homework.  Makes a great back to school gift idea for parents!

    Your turn: Is Computer Science a part of the curriculum at your child’s school?  What other books would you recommend for adults to help children with coding homework?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun, STEM, technology

    STEM Saturdays: Osmo Creative Kit Review

    Disclaimer: I received an Osmo Creative Kit directly from Osmo in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    As a Computer Programmer and lover of all things STEM (science, math, engineering and technology), it’s important for me to expose my children to technology in order to help them build foundations for future academic and career success.  I want them to be as computer-savvy as possible from a young age.  Online skills are becoming as important as reading and writing for the younger generations, so why not give them a head start in life?  Since my kids are both still currently under the age of 5, my main goals are making sure they know their way around computers, smartphones and tablets without over exposing them too much.

    What is Osmo?

    I’ve been a huge fan of Osmo since discovering them a couple of years ago.  Simply put, Osmo is a unique gaming accessory for the iPad that comes with games that will change the way your child plays.  To date Osmo has been named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions, is a Parent’s Choice award winner, a winner of the prestigious Oppenheim award, and a 2016 finalist for Toy of The Year.

    What’s Included?

    We received the Osmo Creative Kit which uses interactive art tools in 3 creative apps: Monster, Masterpiece and Newton. With the creative kit you receive: a white board, dry erase markers, a pouch, and a cloth to erase.

    Each of the three apps you download transforms your drawings and instantly brings them to life on the screen right before your eyes! The drawings then become animation to take part in a story, solve a puzzle or they become a one-of-a-kind artwork piece you can frame!

    How Do You Play Osmo?

    All that you need to play Osmo is an iPad with a camera.  Osmo is currently compatible with: iPad 2, iPad (3rd Generation), iPad (4th Generation), iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Osmo does not currently work with Android-based tablets, however they hope to develop for Android in the future. Right now they are just focusing on iOS.

    Setting up your Osmo gaming system is easy.  You simply download the apps from the app store, place your iPad in the white Osmo base, and then clip on the red Reflector.  And once you set up your Osmo account(s), you’re ready to play!  Note:  If you have multiple children or people who will be using your Osmo you can set up different accounts.  I think this great to be able to track the progress each person has made.

    Why We Love Osmo

    Although we haven’t quite figured out how to play the Newton game yet, we truly love our Osmo gaming system! The kids enjoy playing Monster the best – they love Mo (and so do I)!  It’s so cool to see all of the things the kids draw being pulled onto the screen.  I’m still amazed at the technology and how it all works.  I want to see the code behind, but that’s just the techie in me I guess!

    I personally love the Masterpiece game since I am not the best at drawing.  My drawings always turn out looking amazing!  Now if only I could actually draw that well on my own – ha!  The Masterpiece app has several pictures in the library that you can choose from to sketch. I also like the fact that you can take photos of different objects in your home and draw them as well.  Initially getting used to looking at the iPad screen instead of looking at the paper takes some time and practice.  We love watching our drawings in fast play once we’re done creating them.

    My favorite thing about our Creative Kit is all of the games encourage creativity and lots of imagination.  In addition, they encourage children to work on their fine motor skills in a simple way that’s really easy to understand.  You’re learning while having fun and strengthening muscles in your body including your brain.  How cool is that?

    Osmo games teach children a wide variety of things like:

    • logic and problem solving skills

    • spatial relational skills

    • spelling and critical thinking skills

    • drawing and creative confidence

    • counting, addition and multiplication

    • math, money, fractions and nonverbal communication

    Osmo is recommended for children ages 5 – 12, but my children are able to use it just fine with very little adult supervision required.

    To learn more about the affordable Osmo gaming system kits and games visit their website.

    Your turn: Do your children have an Osmo gaming system?  How do you teach your children about STEM and/or technology?  Feel free to share in the comments.

     

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    family fun, subscription boxes, technology

    Bitsbox: How I’m Teaching My Kids to Code Before Middle School

    Photo courtesy of Bitsbox

    Are you curious about how you can teach your kids to code before middle school?

    A couple of months ago I introduced you to a new subscription box called Bitsbox.  Bitsbox is a subscription box (designed for kids ages 6 – 14) that sends coding exercises to kids each month in order to help them learn coding. It includes app cards and coding themed toys to keep the kids interested in learning more month after month.  Kids can see the exact code and the results of their changes in real time!

    As a Computer Programmer and lover of all things STEM, it’s important for me to expose my children to technology in order to help them build foundations for future academic and career success.  That’s why I’m a huge fan of Bitsbox!

    Here are a few reasons why I absolutely LOVE Bitsbox:

    • It sends a clear reminder to parents that “coding is the new literacy.”
    • Coding experience is NOT required!  Remember, this is simple and it’s designed for kids.
    • You receive a cute “Apper Keeper” to store and organize all of the coding exercises.  Remember the old Trapper Keepers from the 1980’s?
    • Through repeated repetition, kids have the chance to play around and see how basic coding and functions work before they graduate to more complex learning.
    • It encourages children to learn design while fostering their problem solving abilities. Kids can change colors, add different backgrounds, songs and sounds to their creations.
    • It is specially designed for young children (ages 6-14) to give them a developmentally appropriate understanding of how coding works.
    • It helps teach children how to type and become more familiar with a keyboard.
    • Once you become a Bitsbox user you have access to the website for free, and can continue to use the cards and online apps for as long as the website is available for continued teaching and learning.
    • They offer different resources for parents AND classroom teachers.
    • It’s fun: My kids LOVE doing it – honestly! (And they are currently only 3.5 and 4.5 years old!)

    The first box (Animal House) focused on the coding skill of coordinates.  The second box (Robo Boogie) taught the kids all about variables and action commands.  We learned how to make objects move, how to change them to a random size and position them on the screen.  Future boxes you receive after the first and second one feature more advanced concepts like working with variables and if/else statements.  Sound too complex?  Don’t worry, Bitsbox made this super simple to understand by including a handy explanation guide for kids (and grownups) with each box.

    My kids and I have enjoyed creating these apps on our own for the past few months.  Since they are still both under age 6, I still assist them quite a bit with typing in some of the lines of code.  This is especially true for some of the longer and slightly more complex apps.  The kids are definitely becoming more comfortable with typing on the computer keyboard and memorizing where certain letters, numbers and symbols are which is great!

    To get started coding with Bitsbox all you need is a computer with a keyboard (desktop or laptop) and a web browser. (It’s currently not available to use on a tablet or smartphone.)  You then go to the Bitsbox website and login using either a grownup account or a kids account.  (All of your work will be saved to your account so you can refer back to it later.)  Next, your child starts building  their own customized apps which can be downloaded to a phone or tablet just like any other app!

    Ready to try Bitsbox for yourself?
    Save 20% on a subscription with my discount code: WEEREAD20.  Here’s to hoping your family becomes a Bitsbox-loving family like ours!

    Disclaimer:  We received free subscription boxes from Bitsbox in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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    children's books, diverse books, interviews, technology

    Teaching Young Girls to Love Coding: Sasha Savvy Loves to Code + An Author Interview!

    Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    Publisher: Gold Fern Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 44
    Age Range: 7 – 10
    Grade Level: 2- 5

    Synopsis
    Are you looking for a book to help teach young girls about coding?  Look no further than Sasha Savvy Loves to Code!

    Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is an early reader chapter book (ages 7-10). The main character, Sasha Savvy, is a super smart 10-year old African-American girl, who lives in Washington, DC. Sasha must choose which class to take for summer camp. Her mom discovers that the camp is offering a new class for girls on how to code. Sasha thinks this will be boring and doesn’t believe that she is good at computer stuff. Despite this, she decides to give it a chance and convinces her best friends Gabby Reyes and Ashley Webster, to attend the coding camp with her. Sasha’s mom, a Software Developer, gives her a unique formula to help her remember how to code but will it be enough to get her through a challenging first day of camp with bugs everywhere, computing errors, that is.

    Author Interview with Sasha Ariel Alston!

    Tell me a little about yourself and how you came up with the idea to write the book.
    My name is Sasha Ariel Alston and I am from Washington, DC.  I’m currently a 19 year-old student attending Pace University in New York City.  My major is Information Systems with a minor in Marketing.  In Washington, DC I attended a STEM focused high school and my track was Technology.  That’s how I initially became interested in STEM in general.  I had my first internship when I was in the 11th grade at Microsoft which provided me with a real world experience.  At Microsoft, I was a Marketing Manager for my team which consisted of two game developers and a project manager.  That’s where I saw there was a correlation between business and technology.

    About a year after my internship, my mom (who is also an author) and I came up with the idea for me to write my book. My mother’s name is Tracy Chiles McGhee.  This came a result of people constantly asking me what coding and STEM was all about.  About a month before I was getting ready to graduate from high school I started writing the book Sasha Savvy Loves to Code.  Shortly after the book was finished we launched a Kickstarter page with an initial goal to raise $5,000.  We reached (and surpassed) the goal in just 4 days.  That showed me just how much this book was needed and how there is a lack of diversity in STEM.

    When will you graduate and what kind of career would you like to have?
    I will graduate in 2019.  Depending on how far my book goes, I really would like to focus on building this brand.  I would love for my book to turn into a series and have products to go along with it.  I also envision a Sasha Savvy animated show similar to Doc McStuffins.  If that doesn’t go as planned then I would like to have a career in Education Technology.

    What motivates you?  Do you have any particular role models you look up to?
    My mom is my ultimate role model.  She raised me as a single mother.  I am also attracted to very positive role models for African-American girls.

    What is your hope for little girls who read your book?
    My book is geared towards girls ages 7 – 10.  I hope to raise awareness of what coding and STEM is for girls.  I want them to be able to see themselves in this profession if that’s what they’re going to be interested in.  As I’m sure you know, there is a huge lack of diversity in both gender and race in the Information Technology field.  I’m hoping kids and teens who read my book will be able to relate to it and to me since I’m also a teenager.  Lastly, I want to dispel the stigma that coding is nerdy and it isn’t cool.  My book gives a different perspective of it.

    What advice would you give to kids who may be interested in getting involved in coding?
    Coding requires a lot of hard work.  You have to be very disciplined, focused and determined.  My advice would be to learn as much as you can and study hard.

    Connect with Sasha Ariel Alston!

    Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    Your turn: Have you and your little readers read this book yet?  Feel free to share your comments.

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