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 lack of opportunity in pre-school and which limits reading comprehension skills after 2nd grade.
    [Note: recently questions have been raised about the size or causes of a pre-school oral vocabulary gap, specifically about such findings as  the” 30,000,000 word gap”:  is it  the  result of bad methodology? (difficult to count word-interactions in home settings, etc.) That research may be flawed but this empirical gap in first grade students is based on robust research and is very real. The pre-school causes of this “opportunity gap” are not something an elementary school teacher can do anything about; but once children arrive in school, if this gap is not addressed reading comprehension cannot be improved.

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.
  • Students in Math & Science Challenge will get free log-ins for the vocabulary-powered Activated Reading Lab (see more below);
  • STEM 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.

Students Who Completed 5 Programming Challenges earned copies of Dr Cosman’s book.

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 Research • Believe in Accessibility &  Affordability  • Believe That 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.


ST Math Blog: Engagement Thrives When Students Own Their Learning

Excerpt: “Creating a Classroom Environment That Fosters Engagement…

As someone who has been designing visual goal setting and feedback systems for years, the  CA Math & Science Challenge! designer thought that “the unifying goal of always working to help JiJi the penguin cross the screen in ST Math, no matter what the math concept, was brilliant,” and that ST Math’s visual feedback system was first rate. “The students always have a sense of progress and momentum. That goes a long way toward explaining why ST Math is so successful across many different schools and districts.”

Although ST Math was a game-changer, he  knew that for the program to truly be effective, there is still a large role for administrators and teachers to play.

Schools often need help with two areas. The first is figuring out how to embed ST Math into school culture and goal setting systems to increase student engagement in school and at home. The second is discovering how to motivate teachers to play and understand every ST Math topic, and each game’s math learning goals for the grade they teach. This prepares them to integrate ST Math into their math instruction and to apply the concepts that students are mastering to other subjects.”

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