Intelligence = Unstupidity?

Geneticists have been working for years to identify the genes that account for intelligence, but have so far been able to account for only 1% of IQ differences among people. In a New York Times article called, ‘If Smart Is the Norm, Stupidity Gets More Interesting’, David Dobbs suggests genetics researchers may have been looking for the wrong thing. Instead of intelligence reflecting more or better genes for intelligence, high intelligence might instead be a lack of stupidity.

Dobbs cites Kevin Mitchell, a developmental neurogeneticist at Trinity College Dublin, who has proposed that instead of thinking about the genetics of intelligence, we should be trying to parse “the genetics of stupidity.” His argument is based on the premise that the genes for intelligence are fixed, and that what actually varies is individuals’ ‘mutational load’–the number of mutations each person carries, which varies widely. The fewer the mutations, and the higher the developmental stability (the accuracy with which the genetic blueprint is built), the better an individual person’s intelligence is able to develop.

From this standpoint, the genetics of intelligence are better stated this way: the less unstupid a person, the smarter she is.

David Dobb’s New York Times article:

Kevin Mitchell’s blog, ‘Wiring the Brain’:

Thank you to Rebecca McMillan and The Brain Cafe for posting David Dobbs’ article!

Grit + Social Support = Success

The idea of ‘grit’ is being talked about a lot these days, inspired in big part by Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Power of Character. I agree that grit is too often ignored and that it’s hugely important–but it’s also important to remember that grit rarely leads to success unless it’s accompanied by some help and support along the way.

In this article, ‘Success comes from grit–and plenty of helping hands along the way’, Emily Hanford talks about the importance of social success in overcoming the challenges of poverty. Studying graduates of the YES Prep charter school network in Houston (founded in order to help poor and minority kids graduate from college), she wrote, ‘YES data shows that the students most likely to complete college go to schools where there are good support services and often a concerted effort to encourage and retain poor and minority students.’

Thank you to Annie Murphy Paul for posting this article on her blog.

Blocks and books better than electronic games for your toddler?

New research compares mothers playing with their toddlers in two different situations–one with traditional toys (a board book, a shape-and-sort toy, and a farm set), the other with electronic versions of the same toys. The researchers (Michael Wooldridge and Jen Shapka) found that the mothers playing with the electronic toys were less responsive, less educational in their play (less likely to label what was happening, for example, and less likely to expand on the child’s words), and slightly less encouraging.

They think one reason that moms might play differently with electronic toys is because they are noisy.

They speculated that the findings might be different if mothers were trained to be more creative in their use of electronic toys, and also suggested it would be interesting to see what would happen if fathers were observed in the same comparison study.

Test Smarts Aren’t the Only Smarts

A good analysis by Scott Barry Kaufman of why science and engineering majors might have a higher IQ than business, social sciences, and arts majors — SATs and IQs are measuring the kind of intelligence that’s needed in scientific fields, and don’t begin to measure the kinds of intelligences needed in other fields–social, emotional, musical, creative, for some examples

Kaufman concludes by saying, ‘It’s time to stop equating “smarts” with standardized test performance. When we do that, we create the artificial and misleading picture that we really can rank fields based on how brainy they are. When in reality, all we’re really doing is ranking fields based on how important tests scores are to becoming an expert in that field.’

Home is more important than school to academic achievement

In a study of academic achievement in more than 10,000 students, plus parents, teachers and school admin people, researchers compared what they called ‘family social capital’ and ‘school social capital’.  Family social capital included trust, communication, and engagement in academic life. School social capital included learning environment, extracurricular activities, teacher morale, and teachers’ ability to meet the needs of individual children.

They concluded that both home and school matter, but the role of the home is stronger. It’s better to have a good home environment and a poor school than the opposite.

This is very encouraging for parents who worry about sending their children to expensive private schools, or think they have to move into a higher priced neighbourhood for better public schools. School quality matters, but not as much as family support and connection.–+Child+Development%29


thank you for this, Rebecca McMillan and The Brain Cafe!



Revisiting an Exciting Approach to Teaching

Revisiting the Mobius Response Model: A Fresh Twist for Differentiated Learning for All Children

By: Joanne Foster, EdD

First Published by TeachHub January, 2010

Revised October 2012, and now geared for parents, too!

Say goodbye to cookie-cutter curriculum and its conventional approach for all learners.

Say hello to the Mobius Response Model that lets children’s learning needs point the way for differentiation—in support of high-level development

The Mobius Response Model (MRM) represents a creative structure for responding to individual learning needs. It offers a user-friendly metaphor for effective education by focusing on and connecting four critical foundational points for appropriately differentiated learning: (A) planning, (B) assessment, (C) activities, and (D) learning environment.

What is the Mobius Response Model?

The model’s name comes from the Mobius strip, a two dimensional surface with only one perceptible side, discovered by mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius in 1958. If you give a simple strip of paper a twist and connect the ends, it changes form entirely!

No matter how you cut it lengthwise, it unravels into an array of linked strands. As you continue to work with it, it becomes something surprisingly new and different with every additional lengthwise cut, even though it always remains connected. The Mobius strip has curious properties—a twisted cylinder with no distinct inner or outer sides, giving it a kind of never-endingness, and a double track edge toward excitement and unpredictability.

Try it!

To create a Mobius strip, start with a long ribbon or paper rectangle with points ABCD. Give the rectangle a half twist. Join the ends so A is matched with D and B is matched with C.*

The MRM provides parents and teachers with an innovative way to think about education, and about creating and applying a seamless range of educational opportunities for all learners.
You can write what matters most on each the strip and it will stay uppermost. Thought and action? Challenge and creativity? Effort and resilience? You choose. From a Mobius perspective, meeting a child’s learning needs, and encouraging high-level development, is a transformative process. The impetus begins with planning, and then moves forward from there, twisting and turning flexibly in Mobius fashion as required, paying close attention to three other important points—assessment, activities, and learning environment. (The A, B, C, D of the Mobius strip.)
Using the Mobius Response Model: “Design & Build” Elements for Differentiated Learning


In order to respond effectively to children’s diverse learning needs, interests, and academic levels, planning is paramount. This means looking at short, medium, and long term objectives for each area of study. It involves cultivating and using administrative, consultative, technical, and other kinds of supports as needed, and developing and sharing an array of resources. It also means becoming familiar with school policies and practices concerning Individual Education Plans for those who have special needs. Most importantly, parents and teachers can help children become better planners themselves.


Good planners know that ongoing and meaningful assessment should be woven into children’s learning experiences, thereby ensuring steady increases in challenge levels. A variety of assessment formats enable teachers to be diagnostic—that is, able to identify students’ areas of strength and weakness, and becoming better prepared to respond suitably. Parents can encourage children to think carefully about what they have to learn and why, to pause and self-evaluate works-in-progress, to ask questions along the way, and to be accepting of setbacks, using them as stepping stones for further learning.


The ultimate goal of activities is to provide a means of facilitating a meaningful learner-learning match. The best approach is flexible, continues to work for the child, and offers a wide range of options. By pre-assessing a child’s level of understanding in a given area, it’s possible to design activities that are well-suited to the individual’s knowledge, preferences, and interests. Learning should be scaffolded as it happens, with assessment occurring regularly. Parents and teachers can find and create many opportunities to work with one another, and with children, to set and reach planned learning objectives.

Learning Environment

A motivating and robust learning environment can foster high-level development in all children. In such an environment, the teacher diagnoses student ability on an ongoing basis and builds from there, using multiple teaching strategies, changing group formations, and clear criteria for learning outcomes. Parents, teachers, and children work proactively and collegially with others, are attuned to and celebrate individual diversity, and tap into technological advances. Adults can help children plan and monitor their own goals. Parents can support children’s learning by becoming informed about high-level development, and advocating for more and better educational resources, effective policies, and appropriately targeted professional development opportunities for teachers.

So, what’s new about the Mobius Response Model?

It provides a conceptual framework for identifying, encouraging, and supporting children’s optimal development. Its innovation and potency lie in the seamless coming together of all four elements.

Like the Mobius strip, the impetus is to have a smooth approach, reflecting never-ending possibilities for children’s growth. Planning, assessment, programming, and environment are the cornerstones, distinct, yet equally essential. And, with whatever matters to each parent and teacher still tracked uppermost—be it an emphasis on thought and action, or something else entirely in support of children’s heightened development—there are no limits to strengthening differentiated learning experiences at home or school.

The MRM is a creative conceptualization that both amplifies the value of a differentiated approach, and leads to vitality and engagement in learning. Like what inevitably happens when working with a Mobius strip, there will be increased excitement as learning unfolds in many surprising, positive, and infinitely interconnected directions! For more information about learning go to:

*Instructions retrieved from

Encouraging a Child’s Creativity

Real creativity starts with passion, with a keen interest in learning something, and then taking it farther. So the starting place for parents who want to encourage creativity in a child is to expose her to as many different kinds of experience as possible—scientific, musical, visual, physical, etc., —so she has enough knowledge to figure out what really interests her.

From there, it’s about giving her what she needs to take her interests as far as she can. If it’s painting, see if she’d like art classes, and try to make that happen. Get an easel if that’s helpful, and enough paints or crayons or pencils, and paper so she can explore and develop her skills. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You and your child can exercise your creativity in solving the problem of getting the right kinds of supplies. What you need to do is provide as much support and encouragement as you can.

Give her the opportunities, challenges, and support she needs to work hard at what interests her, and discover if she wants to take it farther. Your belief in her ability to go forward is what’s important in the early stages. Do what you can to help her learn as much as she can possibly learn about her area of interest. The more a person knows, the more they have with which to be creative.

As your child gets farther along in her mastery, she’ll discover conflicts and ambiguities, the way that ‘truths’ appear to contradict other ‘truths’. It’s good to start by understanding the rules in the domain—e.g., musical scales, or grammatical standards—but then it’s good to break those rules. This is confusing and difficult until she’s learned to tolerate ambiguity, and can let it be okay that apparently opposing ideas are both valid.

Although knowledge is essential to creativity, it is also a double-edged sword—too much knowledge can limit creativity. So help your child keep growing, keep moving forward in her learning, thinking, exploring, and developing. That means generating lots of ideas, reframing problems as they’re encountered, and it also means learning to critically analyze her ideas. Nobody has good ideas all the time. Some are worth pursuing. Some aren’t. Help her learn to think about her ideas, and ask herself and others if they’re worth developing before she proceeds.

Once she’s far enough along to have a reasonable level of proficiency, help her learn to share her creative work with others. Communicating her work with others—whether it’s dance, writing, or math problem-solving—allows her to take it to the next stage, and opens up further possibilities for growth and learning. When others start reacting to what she produces—her ideas, her songs, her inventions—she’ll learn more about where it might need more work, and where she wants to invest more effort.

Every innovator encounters opposition, so as she moves farther along in her creativity, your child also needs to learn how to believe in her ideas, take sensible risks, surmount obstacles, and stay strong in the face of opposition.

The very best thing you can do to encourage your child’s creativity is to apply all these recommendations to yourself. Find your passion, and pursue it as far as you can. Learn more about it, develop skills and expertise, decide what rules you want to break, and share your ideas and products with others. Challenge yourself to keep growing. Find ways to believe in yourself, to surmount the inevitable obstacles, to look for ways to sell your ideas. By engaging in creative activity yourself, you’ll be a great role model for your child. She’ll see how good it feels to engage in creativity.

If you’re a parent or a teacher, you’ve got chances every day to encourage the creativity of the children in your life. There’s no more exciting or important work you can do!

For more on these ideas, go to

Sources: book in progress with Joanne Foster on raising smarter kids; Dan Keating’s work on defining creativity, specifically his article entitled ‘The Four Faces of Creativity’;  Bob Sternberg’s work on deciding for creativity, especially his article called ‘Identifying and Developing Creative Giftedness.’

Kids Are Natural Scientists

When they’re allowed to discover for themselves and aren’t over-programmed or over-instructed, kids play the way scientists work–they observe, develop hypotheses, then test their hypotheses. Free play is essential to the development of curiosity and discovery