New Reading Initiative: STEM Stars Are Readers!

We have noticed through our CA Math & Science Challenge work in underserved communities that even our “STEM Stars” (the top performers in math, engineering design, coding, and problem solving: the students with a true love of the game) often struggle to reach their potential as “STEM Stars” due to poor reading skills.


Success in STEM careers is highly dependent on the ability to become an Expert Reader in your field of study (engineering, physics, medicine, computer science, mathematics, etc.). What holds many children from underserved communities back, as most teachers now realize, are:
  1. the lack of STEM books or the habit of reading STEM books at home or in the classroom
  2. the oral vocabulary gap they bring with them as kindergarteners, which is related to home environment and which limits reading comprehension skills after 2nd grade.

To help our students overcome these two obstacles we have started an independent reading initiative called STEM STARS ARE READERS! to encourage K-8 students to get in the habit of reading  science and math books. These titles will be available for sale at our Math Science Challenge Events and our website and we will work with our sponsors to purchase them and make them available free-of-charge to classroom teachers.
  • One of our first titles is by a local electrical engineering professor Pamela Cosman (UCSD) who wrote a book, The Secret Code Menace: Cold Fusion, to introduce children to binary code used in machine learning code and chip design.

To help our STEM stars close the Vocabulary-Reading gap, we are partnering with Activated Reader: Vocabulary Powered Reading Lab. We will make the Activated Reading Lab available to our STEM Stars through their teachers, and through after-school programs, libraries, and youth centers.

Reading Flight Simulator-iPad Version

  • Activated Reading Lab is a vocabulary-powered reading “flight simulator“ designed to help kids who arrive in kindergarten 3,000 to 4,000 words behind their peers build the word power and get the guided reading practice they need to become Expert Readers. The program is available only through school subscriptions and to select organizations helping at risk youths and fighting the high school drop out crisis.
  • Activated Reader operating principlesWe Make Tools for Teachers • Protect Student Privacy • Believe Less (Tech) is More • Conduct Rigorous Effect-Size Research • Believe in Accessibility &  Affordability  • We Believe Democracy & Freedom Depend on Reading!

Make a Donation to Support All CA Math & Science Reading Initiatives:
  • STEM Stars Are Readers! — Science Reading & Listening Libraries
  • Activate to Graduate! — We close the gap to help you earn your cap.
  • “Open Doors” — Activated Reading Prison Lab/Seminar Program.

What a year for CA Math & Science Challenge!

What a year it’s been for us at CA Math & Science Challenge. Our mission to empower teachers with effective sTEm curriculum has begun in earnest with schools throughout San Diego County.

For instance, Ms. Bolling, the new head of the robotics program at Innovations Academy Charter: using  a curriculum that included our Challenge Trees and Coaching/Assessment Checklists, Ms. Bolling helped every K-8 child  experience some level of robotics programming at Innovations.


We have continued to support the wonderful teachers in our Hoover Cluster as they strengthen their own robotics Robotics programs.

What started out as an after school robotics programs is starting to work its way into the regular classroom schedule as teachers experience student growth in independent problem-solving skills, coding, mathematics, and engineering. The 3rd-5th grade students at this cluster had two opportunities to participate in weekend Challenge Event Tournaments:


Continue reading