Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Roman Numeral FOUR and the Clock

Last week in our homeschool we introduced Roman Numerals.  I expected it to be a little difficult to teach/learn but Addie grasped it quickly just as she has everything else to date.  She in fact loved it.  Later that day we were shopping wall hangings at Target to hang in Daddy's office and as we were checking out the clocks Addie noticed one that looked like this,

And then she decides that we must have been wrong about the Roman numeral four because of how it was notated on the clock.  I checked every clock there and they consistently had four I's for four rather than IV.  So I had to know why it was different that what we all know to be correct.  The following theories are a few theories about why this occurs.  Generally they related to the preference of ancient monarchs, the similarity of IV to the name of the God of Jupiter and symmetry both visual and weight balance.

 "There is a story that a famous clockmaker had constructed a clock for Louis XIV, king of France. The clockmaker had naturally used IV for four. When the clock was shown to the king, he remarked that IIII should have been used instead of IV. When it was explained to him that IV was correct, he still insisted, so that there was nothing to do but change the clock dial. This introduced the custom of using IIII for four. This is probably only a story, however, as IIII occurs long before the time of Louis XIV. And this same story is also told in connection with other monarchs. There is one reason why IIII is preferable to IV, and it may have caused the change. On the other side of the clock dial the VIII is the heaviest number, consisting of four heavy strokes and one light one, as it is usually made. It would destroy the symmetry to have the IV with only two heavy strokes on the other side. Thus IIII with four heavy strokes is much to be preferred. The change may therefore have been made for reasons of symmetry."

"Classicists who have studied old Roman inscription of marble monuments etc. say that IIII was very often, perhaps predominantly, the form that was used in classical times. In a book picturing hundreds of tower clock dials, I found that about 95+% of them were in the IIII form. Interestingly, though, the most famous tower clock in the world, Big Ben, uses the IV form. There is also a hypothesis that the first clocks to use the IV form were clocks which had the rare feature of "Roman Striking." This used two bells, a higher pitch bell representing a one and a lower pitch bell representing a five. Thus four o'clock would be struck by one stroke of the small bell followed by one stroke of the big bell; six would be struck by one stroke of the big bell followed by one stroke of the small bell. This is a very efficient system, but died out almost entirely in the early 18th c.. "

Using four I's instead of IV for the "four" is due to the casting process of the numerals. Since some numerals were cast out of metal, or carved out of wood or bone, you need 20 I's, 4 V's, and 4 X's, even numbers of each, if you use four I's for "four". The molds would produce a long centre rod, with 10 I's, 2 V's, and 2 X's on each side.

This is apparently because "IV" is an abbreviation for "Jupiter" in Roman times. So they decided to use "IIII" so that their public clocks didn't have "1 2 3 GOD 5..." written on them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

MATHCOUNTS, October 6th with The Spurs

It is that time off year again.  We are in the planning/organizing stages of our 9th Annual MATHCOUNTS/ SPURS Mathletes in Action competition on October 6th at the AT&T center.  I'm a little stressed because my task list for this is long.  Each task is not entirely difficult, but some of it should be timed well, some of it involves decision making, some of it cost money and I have to be careful with the MATHCOUNTS finances to be sure we can still host our official competition on February 9th.  And then there is the matter of writing the tests for the competition.    Many of these task take little time but the test writing is definitely a time commitment. 

You probably have heard me mention MATHCOUNTS before.  I bet you could draw the conclusion that it is something that somehow relates to MATH.  And furthermore you might have an idea that there is an engineering link since I was in Engineering.  I am currently one of only a few Domestic Engineers with a Professional Engineering license.

MATHCOUNTS is not new. I participated in 1989 under my MATHCOUNTS coach at Galvez Elementary, Rhonda Harvey.  Gary Agena and Brandon Beck were on my team and if you know Todd Pevey, Eric Johnson and Eric Robinson, they were all on the team for Prairieville in the same year.  I was surprised when I recently started volunteering with MATHCOUNTS that when I competed, it was still relatively new. Our team won fourth place that year.  the trophies haven't changed. 

MATHCOUNTS is a national enrichment, club and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement through grassroots involvement.  MATHCOUNTS was founded in 1983 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and CNA Foundation. Each year, more than 250,000 students are exposed to MATHCOUNTS materials and activities in their schools. Approximately 40,000 students from  more than 6,000 schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and State Department and Department of Defense schools worldwide. Since MATHCOUNTS began in 1983, over 6 million students have participated.

MATHCOUNTS is one of the country's largest and most successful education partnerships involving volunteers, educators, industry sponsors and students. President Barack Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald W. Reagan have all recognized MATHCOUNTS in White House ceremonies. The MATHCOUNTS program has also received two White House citations as an outstanding private sector initiative. Particularly exciting for our Mathletes® were the hour-long ESPN programs on each of the National Competitions from 2003-2005. In 2011 the National Competition returned to ESPN with a live broadcast on ESPN3.

MATHCOUNTS competitions are designed to be completed in approximately three hours. Each competition consists of four parts: the Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Rounds. The Sprint Round has 30 questions, and students have 40 minutes to complete them. The Target Round consists of 8 questions, which are distributed to the students two at a time. Students have 6 minutes to complete each pair of problems. The Team Round has 10 problems for the team to work together within the 20 minute time limit. The top 25% of individuals, up to a maximum of 10, proceed to the Countdown Round, an oral round in which students compete head-to-head.

 The countdown round is always one of the most fun parts of the competition.  The intensity as the two mathletes face off head-to-head to race to place is great and the intelligence of these competitors is astounding.  When we do this at the AT&T center the competition takes place on the court.  100 6-foot tables and 400 chairs where Tim Duncan works all for these mathletes.  We use the game clock for time keeping and when time is up you better cover your ears!!! It goes from pretty much complete silence to a deafening blow of the horn.  No doubt! TIME IS UP!!!!

The SPURS Coyote makes a guest appearance to help us hand out awards and every mathlete and their coach gets a ticket to the game that evening. 

I am excited, just also a little overwhelmed.  We have a good homeschool day here, but at the end of the day I still have so much to do.  It will all be fine.  I have such an awesome team. And thankfully one of our previous leaders is back from service in the Peace Corps so this year will be the best ever for the Bexar Chapter. I am so thankful that the committee that  puts this competition on together is so awesome, loyal and trustworthy that I don't have to worry about their tasks.  The committee is comprised of primarily engineers who have a heart for service and for cultivating an interest in mathematics and engineering in the minds of the talented middle schoolers that we host this for. 

A few years ago we brilliantly added Mary. 
 Mary is not and engineer.  She is super woman.  Her role in her full time job is administrative but her ability has so much depth that she can do the administrative work of 9 in a jiffy.  Jiffy meaning fast but she is also efficient and diligent.  And when I call her to add something to her list she only ever says one of two things, "Yes" or "I already did".  It is nice to not have to worry if our scoring software is up to date, if the  coaches have been up to date, if the volunteer list is being compiled, if we have a place to meet with our committee, and the biggest one Mary rules is if the test will be graded and scores ranked so we can hand out awards and get outta there before the Basket Ball team needs their court back.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Got Financial Peace!

Lemme tell you a little story about a young Texas couple, we will call them Kevin and Laura, and their financial peace.  It certainly didn't start that way. And if I am being honest, I don't really want to talk about it. It certainly didn't start out peacefully. 

Before they...I can't continue to refer to myself in third person so SURPRISE!!! It is about us.... Before we took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class when it was offered through Pape-Dawson Engineers when I still worked there, I couldn't imagine the words "financial" and "peace" in the same sentence.  The thought of talking about finances or money made me ill, defensive and sometimes terrified.  We were a mostly one income family and our priorities about how we spent our money were not in line.  To discuss it usually led to a not so civil debate about the value of poker night, NFL network and extra tech compared with dinners out, nice cars and nice clothes.  This might scare you, but it turns our we didn't need any of those things and decided that until we could pay for everything with cash, we needed to stop spoiling ourselves. 

We didn't deserve that break.  What we did deserve was four walls and a roof over our head (with utilities), food to feed our family, clothing (not necessarily fashion) and transportation(not necessarily a car).  When we took the class we were at the end of an era where we were paying for everything on our credit card to collect reward points and "paying off the balance" at the end of every month.  But that plan wasn't really a plan.  It was a way to not address the problem.  We had credit, so the card ALWAYS worked even if the check at the end of the month didn't cover it. Little by little our debt racked up and in the meantime WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!! Yay us! right?!

Not including the house, we had over $30,000 in debt.  Ours wasn't the highest in the class and the class total debt to begin was over $1,000,000 for 40 families.  It was a good place to start, with a real interest to improve a real problem with a room full of other financial delinquents. After just one class I knew our life would be different forever.  After two classes we had money in a savings account, you know for emergencies.  It was the first time we had any plan for an emergency rather than to just put it in with all the other debt on our credit card.  Are you surprised?  Did you have us pegged, as people who are good at math, to be people who should have been better about balancing outcome vs. income?  Well we are human and chances are so are you.  THINGS are so tempting.  And also STUFF.  We liked stuff and we like to go out to eat more than we liked to eat at home. 

Things changed.  Again I don't know what really turned it around the most.  Was it the fear that we would never start a college fund for our kids, or never be able to stop working to death or were we just ready to finally grow up.  The Dave Ramsey baby steps are simple.  His presentation is both intelligent and hilarious!  His fame is not because he is smart.  In fact I bet you already know 80% of the things he teaches that pertain to getting out of debt.  He is a riot of a speaker.  I still laugh every time I listen to him at FPU or entreleadership and I have heard both spiels multiple times.
If you practice what he teaches it take the average family between 2-3 years to get out of debt everything but the house.  Can you imagine that? Kevin and I are exceptional so it took us 5 years.

We facilitate the class together at Journey Fellowship.  It is a volunteer position.  No Dave Ramsey does not pay us nor have I been paid to write this or fill the class.  This is just my personal testimony.  The class changed my life and perhaps saved our marriage and I highly recommend it even to people who aren't in debt.  You can register for the class by clicking here and following the directions there.  We have had many great friends go through our class and have made more great friends as facilitators.

So now my (not necessarily) The Top 6 reasons you should sign up for the Force led FPU class at Journey Fellowship this Fall:
6. If you and your spouse ever fight about money,
5. If you regularly pay for things with Visa, Mastercard or American Express,
4. If watching an episode of Hoarders prompt some frightening self reflection,
3. If the word "budget" terrifies you,
2. If you want to understand why and how to invest for your retirement and lastly,
1. If you are ready to live like no one else so later you can LIVE like no one else and also GIVE like no one else.

And finally, as a somewhat related aside.  I never gave up my desire to get nice things.  I just really redirected my expectations and now I find what I want on a regular basis at Texas Thrift Store on 99 cent Mondays with a 30% off coupon.  If I buy items that are the color of the Monday which is generally blue I get them for 99 cents.  If they aren't blue I get them for 30% off of the thrift store price and then kids books are buy 4 and get 1 free and the 30% off coupon works for them too (regular price is 69 cents).  Look what I scored today.  These are just a couple of photos I thought I would share.  I also got gymnastics leotards for both girls and a few small plates because I liked them.  I still like stuff.  This purse was less than $5
And then I got all of these books, 15 of them for $5.76

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hey, Are You Still With Me?

Well, I have taken an almost two year break from publishing on this blog.  Honestly I thought it was longer.  I just looked at photos from my last blog post and Oh my goodness! my cute kiddos have grown so much since then.  We have lost teeth, learned to ride bikes, excelled in soccer, tried dance, started school a couple of times too among other things.  So there, that is kinda the last two years in a nutshell.  Well, my readership is very quaint, so I know you all know that so much more has transpired during that time, but let's talk about now. 

Raise your hand if you thought I was crazy when I said that Kevin and I had made the choice to homeschool our children.  OK, our choice was well thought out, deliberated and finally sort of encouraged by our oldes,t who was just having repeated heartbreak on a daily basis at school.  Her heartbreak wasn't the only factor, just the deciding one. 

I spent a bit of time during Spring and Summer reading about homeschooling, unschooling, rules and regulations. I went to the FEAST (Family Education alliance of South Texas) homeschool curriculum book fair in May and was flooded with information that made me feel underwater. Were we going to be traditional, classical, unit study or living books homeschoolers?  Which curriculum would we use?  Would we choose one company for all or spread it around?  Or use none of the above and totally wing it with what life threw at us. Well one thing for sure that I did know was that I always want learning to be a joy. And I want our homeschool to be so much more than public school at home. So I guess that is two things then...

The most fun thing I found at FEAST was SimplyFun. I started my little play as a SimplyFun playologist. SimplyFun's call is to build smarter kids and stronger families through play. I saw these games and knew I had to have them for our family. Who doesn't love some family play time that can also be educational?
  I was drawn to the game, Sumology, first because I love math (if you didn't know) and to Let's Drive second because I love road trips, but feel fairly deficient in geographic knowledge of the northern USA.  I signed up to start sharing these games with friends and family that I thought might like to play to learn like us. Now I am hosting parties for friends who get to earn free games and I am making new friends. The kids and I got to go to the SimplyFun convention for playologists in Las Vegas where the kids all got a Tibbar rabbit for playing so well while mommy learned more about new games and sharing. So that's new.
And here we are in the second week of actual planned and scheduled homeschool.  Ultimately we chose to start somewhat with a traditional textbook approach for math using the A Beka curriculum.  Addie is moving along swiftly in her math so far.  Many mornings she is up and at 'em by 6:30 cracking her math book and trying to work ahead.  She is moving through these lessons at almost double speed.  We chose A Beka for math pretty much because I knew it didn't suck and I found it for $5 at a book swap.  AND eventually a friend passed more A Beka along for language arts and then another for reading.  So we are doing some traditional homeschooling using A Beka.  We have not chosen a curriculum for science, but we are currently studying the ocean and specifically sea turtles.  We have many books by scholastic that we found at our friendly neighborhood thrift store to support this endeavor along with a great book from the library and a movie on netflix.  Addie and I drew sea turtles together yesterday.
That was SUCH a learning experience for both of us. Did you know that Addie is not perfect?  She sometimes forgets.  We got started by tracing a circle, but when the next step called for a free hand leaf shape for the body that was pretty much symmetrical, she lost it.  I mean she had a total meltdown and my patience was being challenged too.  This was supposed to be a fun artsy break for my artsy girl that also tied into what we had been studying. When she couldn't get that body perfect in her eyes, it was like the world was going to end.  We tried to keep moving forward, but it was as if she were possessed.  This joyful fun girl was being brought down by an imperfect leafy sketch. REALLY!!!
Eventually, she threw herself down on her bed in her room and mourned her shortcomings. Next she came back to get her paper and pencil and brought it back to her room as if I were the reason she couldn't draw a perfect turtle. And then like magic, 15 minutes later, she re-appeared and was smiling. She gave me a hug and told me she loved me and finished her turtle.  What a struggle!  This is going to continue to be a learning challenge I know.  We navigated it for the first time and I expect not the last, but ultimately she was pretty pleased and easy on herself when it didn't look exactly like the example we were following steps from.  I told her it was perfect and she is now proud because she did it all by herself.  She did identify things she wishes she did differently and wants to draw another one to send to her Grandma Prewitt.
Emaleigh is also homeschooling with us. She is working primarily on writing. We have write-on place mats for her to practice writing letters and numbers and she has also learned to write her name.
 She can spell the names of everyone in our family.  Her daddy was so impressed with her at bed time last night that she kept asking for more tasks to show him her brilliance.  At bed time...I was exhausted but she was so cute giggling as she ran out of the room to go do something to impress her daddy. 
The girls started gymnastics last Friday which I honestly think if you ask them, it is better than candy and probably the only thing we now have take away power with for Emaleigh :)

So what about Red? maybe you are asking yourself.  Well that lucky duck got a homeschool pass because he is at James Masters Elementary in first grade with the best teacher EVER, Mrs. Gallegos-Perez.  She is amazing and we love her.  She was Addie's teacher for both kinder and first grade.  We love her because she obviously has a heart for the job she is doing.  She loves her students but even when it was just Addie in her class she started a relationship with Lucas and Emaleigh and has always been encouraging to all of our kids.  She teaches the kids to their level and challenges them appropriately rather than choosing a class pace based on the weakest link.  I just always loved that if Addie could do what Mrs. Perez was asking, then she changed it to something a little more difficult.  For me, she actually promoted growth rather than "good enough"  So Lucas is still in public school.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Here they are on the first day of school.  I love how Addie wore the tie dye.  That would never go at her public school.
Well Kevin just got home about an hour ago and told the kids they needed to eat dinner and take a nap or there would be no circus this evening.  I just noticed that there are empty plates and all three kids and one dad are napping so I am going to go grab a moment of peace.  Maybe I will read a book I like.  Have a Happy weekend.