Challenging Kids in Math and Reading

My first grader (Max) is a wiz at reading and math.  We realized this summer that he was advanced in his mathematical problem solving when we introduced multiplication to him one day in the pool.  He’s a very literal guy so vernacular is very important when teaching him a new skill, rule, or life lesson.  I had made a comment about the probability of an ad campaign I was working on and Max asked what I meant by “times.”  My wife and I began explaining multiplication to him on a very rudimentary level with the simple verbal trick of changing an equation like “three times two” to “three two times.”  He quickly did the numbers in his head and answered “six.”  We tossed him a few more examples and he nailed every one of them.  Then I lobbed him a tough one: 5×1.  He thought for a minuted and then said, “Five one time would just be five.”  Nailed it.  He quickly learned that 1 kept a constant of the other number and 0 equals 0.  Pretty impressive stuff for a 6 year old.

The other thing we found was that Max is a reader.  He began showing huge strides in school so we started giving him level 2 books to read.  He devoured them!  Soon he was reading all the street signs when we drove, reading every word in the house, and tackling words that would tangle up a kid two years older than him.  Last week we took him to the library and he picked out a book that I felt would be an adequate challenge for him at the level he’s at.  The key for me is that he comprehend the story he’s reading, not just decipher the words.  He sat down in the library with his book and started reading right away.  He refused to remove his nose from it as we walked downstairs, parted with it for a second to check it out, read it on the street as he walked, read it on the trolley ride back home, and finished it before we got back to the house.  My wife and I were in awe.

He won student of the week recently for his leadership in his class to help others and we went to his assembly to surprise him.  While we were there we were pulled aside a few times by teachers and administrators telling us how amazing his reading skills are and how advanced he is.  The head of his reading group praised him over, and over saying that he is at a different level than the rest of his class and reading group.  She confirmed what we thought, he was comprehending the stories…not just reading the words.  We are going to be at the library a lot.


At dinner the other night he hit a new milestone that I love, he read the menu and completed the process of being able to see what options there are and order for himself.  Awesome.  He then did a few additions for fun and stated, “I have a really hard time with subtraction.”  I told him I understood, and my wife and I would work with him.  I told him the best way to learn was to play darts with me so it would be fun.  The game 501 requires addition of the points you have acquired and subtraction from the total.  I explained that he simply needed to visualize it like he used to for addition and we started using objects to explain “taking away.”  He did fine and then, like at the pool, we tossed him a curve ball for fun.  “If I have 1 grape and I take 2 away that leaves me…?”  This miffed him.  He started to say something but didn’t trust himself.  My wife encouraged him and he came up with “Negative one.”  He nailed it and quickly began to comprehend negative numbers.  So…I lobbed him another curve ball, “What’s 2.5 + 2.5?”  He looked at me in confusion.  I explained decimals and simple fractions around understanding that 1/2 = .5.  When I rephrased the questions to “What’s 2 and a half plus 2 and a half?”  He replied, “Five.”

Max reading to his younger brother Dodge.

It is evident to my wife and I that there’s something special going on.  He has many signs of being gifted and we need to get him tested.  However, he is 6.  Kids sprout up at different times with different abilities.  I don’t want to push him and make learning a chore.  I also don’t want him to get used to not being challenged.  Most of all, I just want him to be happy and healthy.  No matter what, fractions are the next thing we are going to dive into at our house.  Learning needs to be fun at this age and mixed in with tons of play.  Here is an activity by guest blogger Danielle at

Science Project 

Best Flying Paper Airplane


  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Measuring tape
  • Notebook
  • Scissors


  1. Take three pieces of paper and cut them so that they are all 6 by 6 inch squares.
  2. Fold all of them in half, and then open them flat.
  3. Take one piece of paper and fold two corners to the middle of the paper, forming a triangular head.
  4. Take the wings of the plane and fold it so that it has 3 inch wings. This will be your Model 1.
  5. Take another piece of paper and let it have no head at all.
  6. Take the wings of the plane and fold it so that it has 3 ¾ inch wings. This will be your Model 2.
  7. Take the last piece of paper and fold two corners ½ inch away from the middle of the paper, forming a smaller head with a flat tip.
  8. Take the wings of the plane and fold it so that it has 3 ½ inch wings. This will be your Model 3.
  9. Look at all of your plane models. Which do you think will fly the farthest? Write down your guess, also called a hypothesis, in your notebook.
  10. Take your planes to a wide indoor area with no wind.
  11. Throw each plane model 5 times.
  12. Record each planes farthest distance.
  13. Look over your data. Are the results what you expected?


Model 1 should have flown the farthest distance, and Model 2 should have flown the shortest.


Airplanes work by the laws of aerodynamics, which is a branch of science about the motion of air. Model 1, although having the smallest wings, had the most aerodynamic head. A pointed head, compared to the flat head of Model 3, has less resistance to the air in front of it, allowing the plane to fly longer. Model 2 had the biggest wings, however, without a head; it allowed the most air resistance while it was flying. The four forces on a plane that determine how far it can go are lift, weight, thrust, and drag. Lift is the amount of force air is pushing up on the wings. Weight is the amount of force gravity is pulling the plane down. Thrust is how fast the plane is going forward. Drag is how much resistance is being put onto the plane, slowing it down. The more lift and thrust, the farther it will go. The more weight and drag, the shorter the distance it will travel. Since we were working with the same paper, weight was out of the equation. What if we wanted to test how fast a paper airplane could go? Or which one flew the straightest? There’s a whole world of science out there, you just have to keep experimenting!

Author: Danielle A.
For more fun with science, go to!


I used colored paper for our 3 planes as you can see below.  Green is Model 1, Grey is Model 2, and Yellow is Model 3.  This is a great practice for kids to use a ruler and find 1/2 the fractions in the instructions to accurately get their total wingspan.  i.e., each wing will be 1.5″ to achieve your 3″ wingspan for Model 1.


This exercise is great for teaching conversion through a fun science experiment that gets kids having fun with paper airplanes.  It teaches simple aerodynamics, fractions, and conversions.  If your little one is interested in math and reading (or you want them to be more engaged), check out for more fun activities.

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Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.

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