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Mayday, the International Distress Call Belongs to Parents this Month

The fifth month of the year can feel like being in a dryer tumble, tumble, tumble. Out of the gate, May 1st, May Day, doubles as College Sign-On day for high school seniors depositing $500 or more with the college they commit to attend in August. In a blink we go from Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, College and Prep School finals and graduations to Memorial Day Weekend and the kick-off of summer. It’s a stressful time for parents and kids: the clash of endings and beginnings can be dizzying. After April showers bring May flowers, take a moment to mindfully smell the roses or at least gaze at them. Whether it’s math, pre-college, college or post-graduate challenges that are wrinkling your forehead, get tips in this month’s Guidance-on-the-Go to help you keep your sanity and more peacefully go with the flow.

Getting It:

Rational and Irrational: It’s the Real World

Math is a language that symbolically describes what’s going on in the world. What world am I talking about? For the purposes of a student taking Algebra 1, Geometry and algebra 2 (Critical Core Math subjects), it is the language of the 3D world we experience through time with our 5 senses. An easy way to get where math fits in secondary school learning is pictured below:

Diagram with ovals showing how math fits with science classes

Biology describes living organisms and systems; chemistry describes biology; physics describes chemistry and math describes physics. Since pre-school, we began formally counting the things around us using a 10-digit (BASE 10) counting system due to the number of fingers on human hands: 0,1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. If dogs were counting, they’d use an 8-digit (BASE 8) counting system.

It all seemed so simple then, like Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten, right? Where on earth (or in heaven) did the rationale come from in math to get these real-world numbers grouped into rational and irrational? Some students are losing their minds over this in middle and high school? Blame it on the phenomena of breaking a thing into parts. One earth has two hemispheres, one brain has two halves, one atom has protons, neutrons, and electrons; one vector in physics has magnitude and direction, one large pizza can be cut into 12 equal slices … so, of course, a counting number (whole number) in math can also be broken down into a camp within the REAL number system much like the Eastern idea of yin yang to describe masculine and feminine traits of a singular energy:

Hidden in the word RATIONAL is the root word ratio. All that means is you can write a rational number as a fraction. The “IR” before IRRATIONAL is a fancy way of saying, NOT! Basically, you can’t write these numbers as fractions: they are non-repeating, non-terminating decimals like pi (3.1415…). Some students insist that they got a finite decimal for an irrational solution on their TI-84, but they just hit the window range limit of the calculator: that number has no end.

Furthermore, the entire REAL NUMBER system sits within the IMAGINARY NUMBER system. Why? Well, some operations done in the REAL have nonsense answers that only make sense when they are extracted into another system. It’s like on the original Star Trek episodes when a crew member said “beam me up Scottie” because a planet’s atmosphere didn’t support human life. Another example close to home are the chips (slice of a semiconductor) inside our technological devices. They are assembled in a vacuum chamber just like outer space: all the air is sucked out and technicians work in special suits, gloves, and tools to manipulate the crystalline silicon chips (aka wafers). The vacuum system works great for silicon wafers, but not Nilla wafers. It’s not a great space for organic-based humans either because, at over 60% water content, the tissue and blood would vaporize quickly. So at companies like Intel, even to work in a cleanroom that has vacuum chambers holding wafers, technicians are completely covered up.

Photo of people wearing protective clothing working in a clean room

Algebra 1 not only introduces the beloved variable “x” (the start of letters symbolizing numbers in math and the true meaning of alphabet soup for some), it gets serious representing everyday life in terms of REAL – rational and irrational – and IMAGINARY numbers. Specifically, regarding irrational numbers, the operation of squaring a number then reversing that procedure by “taking the square root” is easy whenever you deal with perfect squares (1, 4, 9, …25, 36, 49… 169…). What if you need the square root of 75? It’s somewhere between the square root of 64 and that of 81. The answer is √(25)(2) or 5√2 when written in simplest radical form. Being anchored with a visual understanding of WHERE these radicals exist as in the representation above and WHY it matters in the REAL world is crucial for a student to grasp. Many students look at their rulers, compasses, or even a measuring cup in Home Economics and scratch their heads—where is 5√2 to be found?

Well, simply put, a life without curve is no life at all. That’s like a yin with no yang or Hanna Barbera’s, Tom without Jerry! Even though according to math, the shortest distance between two points is a line, try telling that to a 9th grader who is trying to get from their locker to the cafeteria. They’ll look at you like you’re a clueless extraterrestrial! Circles, curves, arcs, and everything wavy are how humans experience the day-to-day and that applies whether you’re talking biology, chemistry, physics, or getting a hot lunch fast. Sadly, I’ve watched too many bright students lose their understanding of math and their confidence on the irrational hill, never to regain it again. This May whether your student is on the homeward stretch in Algebra, Geometry, or Algebra 2, help them get a handle on rational and irrational because it is the real world.

Critical Core Math Summer Packet

Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2

May Milestones

8th – 11th grade: Get teacher references for Honors, AP, IB, online or dual enrollment Math courses. However, DON’T enroll without knowing the pace of the advanced course. Better to get an “A” in an Accelerated Geometry than a “C” in Honors.

Parents: If it’s a “bad” math year, it won’t fundamentally improve with a last-minute math tutor or blow over during the summer without intervention. Meet with their math teacher and get a game-plan going for summer work.

Get your Critical Core Math – Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 –
Summer Math Packet by contacting me at Full Spectra!

Getting In:

College Acceptance Plan “B” For Seniors – Rolling Admissions

For some parents, the May 1st “May Day” hoopla has both a different spelling and meaning. When May 1st comes and goes and Tommy or Lucy doesn’t know where they’re going or worse yet, haven’t even applied, the May Day becomes mayday, the international distress signal for “help!” What do parents or guardians do when faced with zero headway on post-high school plans and a student steeped in senioritis—intentional or not? Roll with it….

There are a substantial number of 4-year bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities that use a rolling admission process to fill their seats for an incoming class. Niche.com is a great site to examine colleges with rolling admission based on type, test scores, selectivity, cost, and admission process. The National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) defines the rolling admission process as “institutions review applications as they are submitted and render decisions throughout the admission cycle.” So, Tommy or Lucy can start now or even in June. It’s a more open-ended laissez-faire approach to college admissions especially for bewildered parents and students of huge high schools or those where less than 50% of graduates go on to 4-year colleges. For the “C” to “B-“ GPA senior, rolling admission works best when college acceptance rates are high. Higher rates mean lower acceptance criteria selectivity. If the SAT or ACT is required, students still have the June 1 or August 23 test dates available, June 8 and July 19 for the ACT. An alternate College Board test called the Accuplacer is sometimes used to access math, reading, and writing skills, but often this is only suitable in the community college admission or online university world – be sure to read the fine print.

What do parents or guardians do when faced with zero headway on post-high school plans and a student steeped in senioritis? Roll with it…. take advantage of Rolling Admissions.Click To Tweet

Unknown to many is another bit of luck found with less-selective rolling admission colleges: they are often more affordable! This brings a sigh of relief for “late to the dance” families regarding cost and has many whistling “summer breeze makes me feel fine…” as their student deposits with a college school in mid-July or August. For a comprehensive no-frills list of colleges with rolling admissions and their acceptance rates, check out Rebecca Safier’s Complete List at PrepScholar. So, even as May milestones like May 1st college sign-on, prom and graduation come and go, popular large schools like Penn State, University of Maine, Pace University (NY), and Towson University (MD) are accepting applications. Smaller very desirable schools that also roll along include such as Quinnipiac (CT), Southern New Hampshire University, Bay Path College, Eckerd College (FL), Emmanuel College (MA), and Norwich University (VT). For more on crafting your senior’s College Admission “Plan B” contact Victoria at Full Spectra.

May Reminders

11th or 12th graders planning PG-year: Ask teachers to write your college recommendations.
10th, 11th graders: May 4th SAT results are back. Happy or not, get a free copy of your answers from collegeboard.org. Next testing dates before Fall are June 1 and August 23rd.
Summer jobs: A great way to save for college expense and learn the meaning of customer service. Remember, the new “odd job” could actually be remote, online and very easy for Gen-Z. You could get better than minimum wage helping Baby Boomers set up and manage social media rather than mowing their lawns! Be sure to check Craigslist.com, Offerup.com, online neighborhood forums, and of course, … the local newspaper because these folks are OLD school.

Getting Through:

May Reminders

Summer Session registration: Especially if you need non-major or elective credits, summer is a great time to do this at your college or from a college near home. First summer session begins after May graduation. A second usually follows in early July.

Getting On:

May Reminders

Graduating Seniors & Recent Alumni: The often-overlooked employment ROI (return-on-investment) is the plethora of alumni from your student’s soon-to-be and YOUR OWN alma maters! Graduating seniors reap big dividends using LinkedIn to investigate potential employers can easily see the names of alumni from their or their parents’ college that work there. Consider the free 30-day premium trial to connect with some middle managers-to-high level alumni. You’d be surprised how quickly they respond to messages when they see their college crest appear!

Create a Personal References folder (hard copies and virtual) and tap as many faculty and staff as you can to write for you even if it is a generic letter. Circle-back to or go to the Career Services Center on campus. Keep those folders up-to-date with letters of recommendation and updated contact information of your recommenders for the next 5 years.

Don’t let academic distress have

you signaling mayday this month.


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