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Googol Learning

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did you start Googol Learning?

I was looking for a way to share with other parents what I've come up with to make learning part of our family's life. My children have especially enjoyed music from a young age, and math is an area I wanted to focus on in our home, so it was a natural transition to our products. There is a power in music that is both inspirational and educational.

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What is Googol Power™?

Googol Power™ is the name my children chose for our math series. A googol is a very large number — a one followed by a hundred zeros. For me, the name implies the enormous (googol) potential and strength (power) of learning. For my children, it means "googols of fun." The phrase soon came to be used as a group name for all of our singing characters. Googol Power™ is now widely known in Canada as a children's music group.

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Who is the music group, Googol Power?

The "Googols" have arrived on Earth. This group of characters with their magic can sing educational songs in just about every style of music. Behind the scenes is a group of exceptional musicians, songwriters and producers who want to inspire children to learn more about our world and beyond. Googol Power's award winning music inspires families to learn together. Designed to spark curiosity about our world and beyond while practicing basic math, these albums spark the listener's imagination through fun characters, an entertaining story, layered learning and exceptional music.

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Who are the "Googols"?

The Googols are birdlike creatures that have flown in from another galaxy to help children learn about their world and its history, math, outer space and more. With great music and the help of their friends — Great Thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci, Mozart, Cleopatra, Archimedes, Galileo and Benjamin Franklin — they make learning fun! The Googol puppets and animated characters put educational lyrics to just about every style of music. Behind the scenes is a host of exceptional musicians and songwriters who want to inspire children to learn.

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Why did your children name the birds "Googols"?

Children just love the number googol, whose name was originally chosen by a child. A year before we started working on Multiplication Vacation, my daughter started asking me for the names of bigger and bigger numbers. We finally reached a googol and a googolplex. Both Maya and her younger brother, Colin, were fascinated by those two numbers. They had so much fun asking friends and adults if they knew what a googol was, and Maya would demonstrate by printing a one and a hundred zeros on a piece of paper.

When it came time to name the characters in our math show, the kids said the bird puppets we were designing had to be called Googols. Colin said, "It's because there can be googols of learning buddies in the Universe," and Maya decided that they were "googols of fun" — a saying we had started to use at home.

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What is the purpose of the Googol Power™ Math Series?

Our series is meant to inspire children to learn more about mathematics and our world. We use a combination of music, stories, games and worksheets to make learning fun. I want children to understand numbers and master the basics early on. With sufficient exposure, they will absorb arithmetic easily and quickly. They will see that math is exciting, become comfortable with it early on, and avoid becoming afraid or discouraged in their later studies.

A solid foundation in math will open the world to their exploration and give them skills that will be helpful in many areas of their lives. The layered-learning approach sparks their curiosity about new places, people, our world and the universe. Parents and teachers can then demonstrate how math is integral to geography, astronomy, sciences, nature, history and music.

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What is "layered learning"?

Layered learning supplements a main educational goal with related subtopics. In simpler terms, it mimics a child's natural way of absorbing information. When they walk through a forest, they don't just notice the trees; they simultaneously experience the earth, flowers and wildlife. For example, in the CD "Multiplication Vacation," each song takes children to a different location and teaches a secondary topic. In other CDs and books, historical characters combine math with information about history or science.

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What do you hope families will take away from your shows?

I would hope that participating families would foster their children's interest in learning and spark their curiosity in new topics. I hope parents see the positive effect that music can have on their children's education. Most of all, I'd like to see families enjoy learning together.

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How do you inspire children to love math?

Primarily by showing children how math is part of everything we do. They meet historical characters who used math to understand their world and who invented many things that we now take for granted. They will not only gain a better appreciation of mathematics by learning about humankind's attempts to solve problems through it, but they can also extend those attempts to their own thinking. "How does that work?" "How could it be done better?" "Maybe we can find a new solution!"

We try to inspire an interest in math and discovery through our music, our stories, our games, our website and, on a local scale, our math show, workshops and neighborhood math club.

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Why do you use music?

Music is a wonderful communication tool. Because it reaches all ages, families can enjoy it together. Music has been used for centuries as a memorization tool. And it can be played in the background while you are doing other things such as driving, house cleaning and making crafts.

Exposing young children to a variety of musical styles also encourages them to develop an appreciation of music. Music has long been said to help in the learning process. The sequences and rhythms are mathematically based, so I'm sure it also helps subconsciously with math. We know from research as well as from anecdotal evidence that children who are musical also do well in math, so it only makes sense to reinforce that connection.

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What do you mean by "family learning"?

Family learning simply means learning together as a family. You do not have to be home schooling to do it; just work with your children's teachers to complement their learning at school.

You can make learning part of everything you do together. The list of possibilities is endless: playing games that combine math and reading, listening to educational music, watching educational programming, explaining how things work, cooking together, building a fort, helping your children count change, looking up answers to questions together and so much more.

Choose something the whole family will enjoy learning together — history, music, art, a new language — even re-learn the math you forgot! (That's what I have done.) Family learning is rewarding for everyone. Family members spend quality time together, and parents are able to take part in their own children's education. Parents may have more opportunities to identify their children's preferred learning styles, which can then be communicated to their teachers.

Children are learning all the time, not just at school. Learning can, and should, be a fun part of your time spent together. Family learning not only allows children to learn at their own speed, but also within their own interests. For example, parents working with their children to build math skills have an opportunity to follow their children's own natural curiosity and can explore many unforeseen topics.

Today, over the Internet and in local libraries we have access to information and answers easily at our fingertips. State and provincial educational guidelines are posted online, with educational goals and standards. It has never been easier for parents to get involved. Take control of your child's education. Get involved and instill a love for learning that will last a lifetime.

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But this sounds like home schooling; what if I'm not home schooling?

As parents, we are all teaching our children, consciously or unconsciously. We raise them to become informed adults by modeling our own social skills, love of reading, independent thinking, problem solving and organizational skills and even our learning strategies. Schoolwork is just one of the many tools that help them on their journey to adulthood. We parents are there to provide overall guidance and help out where we can. In essence, we are all "home schooling."

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Why are you focusing on math?

I see a big emphasis in formal educational settings on developing early reading skills, which is very important. But there seems to be less focus on math skills these days. Many parents tell me that they do not feel comfortable teaching their children math. It does take creative effort to incorporate "talking math" into our daily activities. And let's face it, when we are tired, it's hard to think about teaching anything, especially math. But I guarantee that once you start "talking math," it will become progressively easier and more natural. You will even find that your kids come up with ideas.

I also focus on early math skills because I see their absence in older children. Recently I heard a teenage girl at the library ask her friend what seven times six was, and watched her friend reach for her calculator to answer. I hear from intermediate and secondary teachers that more and more students arrive in their classes without a grasp of the basics. These children can learn; they just haven't spent enough time early on mastering the basics. Teachers of all grades report that it is a challenge teaching a growing math curriculum to larger classes with deeper budget cuts.

The world is rapidly changing. Our children need to grow up able to think quickly, adapt and solve problems. Strength in math and problem-solving skills are crucial to their future. I'm not gambling on my own children "picking up" math at school. What if they miss an important concept and no one realizes it? I'm making sure they learn well at home first. We are enjoying the process and spending quality time together.

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What do you mean by "talking math"?

We naturally teach our babies a language by talking to them, so young children have nearly mastered their first language by the time they are two. We can also teach the language of math by saying numbers aloud and demonstrating their use. Just think how much math our children could pick up if we used it around them all the time. Most of us "do" math silently every day: comparing prices at the grocery store, weighing produce, calculating change, measuring ingredients for a cake, filling the car with gas. If you simply say aloud the math you are thinking, it will be obvious to your child that math is useful all the time. Employ the vocabulary that they will learn later on in school. Don't be afraid to bring up a concept that may seem too advanced. It will be absorbed after repeated exposure to the terms and numbers. At some point it will click. Talk the math aloud, and your child will excel in math. It's that easy.

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What is the age range for your products?

I always find this question difficult. I generally say age 3 and up. But music reaches all ages, and the secondary curricula can be learned by the oldest among us. Some educators would prefer to teach specific math curricula at certain ages. However, mathematics is an especially difficult subject to tailor to ages, because children absorb its concepts in layers, and everyone absorbs those layers at different times and to different degrees.

I've had parents with 3- and 4-year-olds call me up, excited because their child has learned the times tables... and understands them. There's no reason that you cannot start teaching your baby math: count fingers or kisses, group raisins into different piles. Layered learning takes place with little steps, and the sooner children begin taking them, the better.

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Why do you suggest starting so young?

We know that very young children learn languages easily; why not take advantage of that receptiveness to communicate math as well? Math is a puzzle with many layers. Our book Nena's Math Force illustrates this well. The sooner you start, the stronger the base. The earlier that children put the pieces together, the stronger their core understanding of numbers will be. Also, knowing something really well at a young age builds confidence. Adults are usually very impressed by "precocious" children who know a lot of math early on; their surprise and praise encourages those children to learn more and builds their self-esteem.

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Aren't you afraid that you are pushing children to learn math at too young of an age?

I once heard someone comment that early math programs are creating math anxiety for parents and kids. But I've never suggested pushing anything on a child who is not interested or ready. That would be counterproductive to creating a love for learning. Young children are naturally keen to learn and will love math if it is presented in a fun way. You just have to keep it fun and let them succeed. My own children and their friends consider our little math explorations to be quality time and look forward to new activities. They can't wait for our biweekly math club. But I always suggest that parents follow the interests of their children. Our products are not intended to be a strict math curriculum. They use music, stories, games and books — everything that young children enjoy and that can bring families closer together.

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Won't they be bored in school if they learn math ahead at home?

Well, I would sooner my child be a little bored in school but grow up confident than fall behind and struggle. You can always solve the boredom problem by working with your child's teacher to pose new challenges. Missing crucial skills is much more worrisome and risky.

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What do you mean by "entertainment with a purpose"?

The entertainment industry is huge; we love to be entertained. Why not choose entertainment for our children that has a purpose, that teaches them life skills, morals, reading or math? The "edutainment" industry is growing, and increasingly good choices are available. I hope that one day all children's entertainment will be educational at some level. For now, as parents, we need to carefully screen what our children are watching on TV and in their video games. They needn't become addicted to a game that teaches them no more than how to shoot things! While our children are young, we can help them choose entertainment that makes the best use of their time.

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Why did you start with multiplication?

Multiplication is one obvious area of math in which repetition is helpful. At some point, you just have to memorize facts if you want to keep up in school. Learning the times tables is often a big hurdle for children. It's a point at which they can lose all interest in math if they have not successfully absorbed the facts, or if the teaching methods are too boring.

Fortunately, music is an ideal memorization medium. I exposed my children to our music early to get them interested in math. I wasn't really planning for them to learn their times tables, because they were only three and five at the time. Yet they soon started practicing their math facts on their own.

I taught them multiplication through discovery, a method I devised in which parent guide their children to discover the patterns in numbers and formulate strategies for calculating the times tables. (See Discovery Multiplication™ for more information.) Many facts come to light naturally this way, and in the process children pick up most of arithmetic and really understand how it works. Of course, some facts take a little longer to learn, and that's when memorization is useful. Music is a fun way to reinforce the facts, and if children like the music, they will want to play it over and over again. I encourage parents to use music in combination with other games and worksheets to teach the facts.

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Why do you teach the 13x table?

I am asked this all the time! My husband was teaching celestial navigation when I was producing Multiplication Vacation, and he asked why we hadn't written a song about the stars. We'd already completed the other songs, so I added it in just for him! It turned out to be my favorite song, because it reminds me of spending time with my own father wondering about the universe. (I also had a European friend who had learned the times tables in kindergarten through the 13s, so I thought, "Why not?").

The greatest thing about including the extra table is that the 13 times tables allow kids to learn patterns that make the multiplication of larger numbers easier. If you know your 3 times tables, you can easily figure out the 13s. This also goes for the 12s, but learning the 13s provides extra practice in that skill. By the end of my Discovery Multiplication™ workshop, children are able to calculate the 14 through 20 times tables as well — a great accomplishment!

Another benefit to learning the 13s is that most kids quickly learn the squared equation 13 x 13 = 169. My son learned this one when he was three! Now I always teach kids 13 x 13 so that they can go home and have fun quizzing their parents. It's a real boost to their confidence to know something that an adult doesn't know. In our Crazy 4 Math Show, we use this math fact to "Dive into Times." All of the children have learned that fact by the show's end. They have had fun with it and discovered that they can learn other facts just as easily.

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Do my children really need to memorize their math facts?

There's a pedagogical argument now over whether too much focus has been placed on memorizing rules, because mere memorization can result in children slipping through the system without truly understanding the basics. You need to make sure your children understand what they are memorizing. You also need to spend some time looking at patterns and talking about problem-solving strategies. It takes a combined approach. The facts do need to be learned "cold" in order to do quick mental computations and estimations. But real understanding is necessary in order to devise strategies for approaching other equations, and simply to keep up with future math lessons.

If your children start using math early and often enough, you may find that they learn the facts on their own. This is obviously ideal.

Additionally, I have found that the time spent on memorizing math facts accustoms children to memorization in general and even to goal- setting strategies that they can then apply to other areas of their life.

Learning math facts well, then, is an important stepping stone towards developing confidence about mathematics and using it for thinking and problem solving.

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Why did you make puppets out of historical characters?

I wanted young children to feel connected with the great thinkers who had an impact on our world and to aspire to be like them. We choose Leonardo as our first Great Thinker because he exemplifies greatness in so many disciplines. He is the perfect role model for showing how math can be used in everything we do. I wanted children to know about the many inventions he came up with using mathematical principles. Leonardo makes a great research topic for children because he documented his ideas with illustrations. Our lifesize, two-person Leonardo puppet is the most popular puppet with kids. We decided to add more Great Thinkers (Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Archimedes, Galileo and Cleopatra) for our next album and school show, because both children and adults seem to love the puppets.

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What made you decide to write your first book "Nena's Math Force"?

I wanted a way to convince children of the importance of learning the basics of math early on and to inspire them to take the initiative themselves to achieve their goals.

From the book, children learn to visualize their personal "math force" and add to it in layers. They see that learning the basics will help them understand higher-level mathematics later on.

Other concepts addressed in the book are goal setting, strategies for practicing, and understanding how numbers work together. Parents, too, can glean ideas from the book about helping their children discover patterns and about asking thought-provoking questions.

(I have posted this book online for free, so that parents can read it at home with their children.)

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Why do you mix goal setting and multiplication?

A couple of years ago, my son decided he wanted to learn his times tables by the time Grandma and Grandpa came to visit. We started talking about how to achieve his goal, and I realized that it was the first one he'd set all by himself. I found that the process of learning the times tables was a perfect vehicle for teaching goal-setting skills, because the goals are specific, achievable, can be broken down into subgoals, and can be easily measured.

Using Math Facts to Teach Goal Setting

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What is the Math Facts Goal Setting Challenge?

This was my son's idea. It's a free online resource through which children can set and commit to their own goals. Kids from all over fill in a form and identify their math goal. Their name is listed with other children's from around the world, and they get a certificate on completion. There's also a list of tips for parents and teachers to help make the goal-setting challenges successful.

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What is the Crazy 4 Math Contest?

This annual contest promotes maintaining math skills over the summer school break. Children share ideas on how they use math in an activity they enjoy. Many other organizations and stores sponsor this contest as well, through prizes and promotions. Schools can enter an idea as a whole class, or children can enter independently. Everyone gets a certificate and an inspiring song for participating.

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What is TV-VG FREE?

TV Video Game Free is an ongoing challenge that children, families, students, classes and schools can participate in to help promote creative, active use of their time. Participants can sign up to go without television or video games for a weekend, week, 2 weeks or even a month! Many schools are choosing to promote this over spring break, but the nice thing is it is available anytime. This is a great motivational tool to help children overcome their addiction to time-wasting activities. During this voluntary break, they will realize that they can use their own creative mind to come up with all sorts of activities to do. It really works! Kids learn how to get rid of the Boredom Monster. The challenge helps them take the initiative themselves to control their choices. There's generally a two-three day transition time where it is a real challenge, but soon they forget all about TV and video games if they are put out of sight.

We Googol Dog Dare you to take the challenge and prove to everyone that you can handle a week or more TV-VG FREE!

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What is the Crazy 4 Math Club?

We have posted information online about how to start a local club, which offers ideas from our own neighborhood math club. A separate section in our newsletter also shares ideas and provides inspiration for other clubs.

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What are Googol Learning's own products?

  • Multiplication Vacation (Audio CD and digital download)
  • Multiplication Vacation (DVD)
  • Addition Celebration (Audio CD and digital download)
  • Crazy 4 Math (Audio CD and digital download)
  • Nena's Math Force — (e-Book CD-ROM and digital download)
  • Googol Power™ Arithmetic Worksheets (CD-ROM and digital download)
  • Googol Power™ Online Membership (Licenses for Teachers, Schools and Families)
  • Discovery Multiplication™ Math Program (Family and Teacher Kit)

Our store also carries other great educational music, DVDs and games that we have found beneficial for learning.

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Where can we find Googol Learning products?

You can order everything online, or check out our Dealers for a location or online store near you.

Googol Power™ music is distributed in Canada through Pacific Music and Warner Music Canada, and can also be found in many educational, book and music stores across Canada. Schools and libraries in Canada looking for the Multiplication Vacation DVD with public performance rights can order it through McIntyre Media.

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What is Googol Learning Fundraising?

We have made items from our store available to schools or organizations wishing to use them for an educational fundraiser. It is a simple order-taking fundraiser, in which families purchase titles from an order sheet. Schools can also earn a commission for online orders placed by families and friends of their students. In addition, we help schools initiate a math-a-thon to increase their earnings. This program is available throughout North America. Local schools can also book a show or presentation as part of a fundraising effort.

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Can you do a book reading or a family presentation in my area?

This is my very favorite activity! I visit schools, libraries, conferences and even bookstores to inspire math and family learning. My presentations, now fully animated using PowerPoint, can be adapted to any size of group.

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What is Discovery Multiplication™?

Discovery Multiplication™ teaches the times tables from 0 through 13, stressing understanding, pattern recognition, strategic thinking, memorization techniques and goal setting. The program features great visuals and music to reinforce the learning strategies. The "Think It Out" process helps students learn thinking skills and develop strong mental math skills. I created this program to make certain that my own children had a good understanding of multiplication and mental math skills. It began with my local math club, and then I went on to teach it throughout the community. We now offer it as a teacher's kit and an independent family kit.

This is a great program... and not just because I created it! I have researched hundreds of ways of teaching the times tables, and truly find this to be a wonderful way to learn multiplication facts. Discovery Multiplication™ nicely complements our Audio CD "Multiplication Vacation," our layered-learning worksheets, printable games and DVD.

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What are your workshops about?

I offer a variety of workshops to teachers, parent groups and students to inspire math and family learning, usually at conferences or through PACs, libraries or community centers in the local area. I also offer families and schools my Discovery Multiplication™ workshop, designed to inspire children to learn their times tables by developing number sense, mental math skills, goal setting and confidence building.

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What is the Crazy 4 Math school show?

This new school show combines music, skits and puppetry in an entertaining trip through time that makes math exciting. We are now booking shows in British Columbia, and I am starting to put together a list for other areas we may travel to. Contact us if you are interested.

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Are there any other projects in the works?

Discovery Multiplication™ will soon be available as an online program. There are also several new children's books in the works, and of course I'm always working on the website to provide more free content that supports family learning. Division Collision and Mission Subtraction (which kids are always asking me for) have both been story boarded. Flip and Flop are anxious to get started on those!

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Do you ever sleep?

This is actually the question I get asked most often! Yes, I do sleep. I have a very supportive (and mathematical) husband who is quietly behind the scenes trying to keep me focused and helping me get everything done. Most of my research involves my children, their friends and our math club. Then the amazing Googol Power™ team helps turn my ideas into reality.

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What have been your biggest challenges?

I've had two big challenges. On a business level, the challenge has been trying to compete with the production quality and distribution of the large companies who have million-dollar budgets. Especially when we prepared the DVD, it was very difficult to match the quality of the big movie producers with a budget based on mortgaging our home! It would have been great to use 3D animation, but families (and especially young children) have been very happy with our product regardless. The most important thing, as I need to remind myself, is that children enjoy it and are learning something. Multiplication Vacation was my first DVD, and it taught me a lot. I certainly appreciate now what goes into producing a show!

On a personal level, my other big challenge has been finding a balance between my work and my family. I felt extremely guilty during busy production times when I didn't have as much time for my family. We tried to involve the children as much as possible in the process so that they could learn from it. As they get older, I hope they'll have a bigger part in the business.

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What are your thoughts on the future for our children?

Our world has changed dramatically in the last decade, in terms not only of technology but also of the skills required of future generations: rapid learning, adaptivity and problem solving. This means we must ensure that our children have solid math skills, be quick at computations, read and comprehend quickly, overcome obstacles, look outside the box and think on their feet. In essence, they need to learn how to learn. It's an exciting time, really. We now have the resources at our fingertips to learn anything. It's just a matter of keeping up. As I always say, "There's googols to learn, and it can be googols of fun!"

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How can parents instill a desire to learn in their children?

I suggest they start by finding an hour each week to spend together learning something (for my family, it's math, music, songwriting, astronomy and Spanish). And make it fun! Show your children that we are always learning, not just at school. Try to be a role model of lifelong learning.

Encourage your children to spend their time productively, on educational entertainment and activities rather than exclusively on TV and video games. Suggest ways to be creative and invent their own games.

I could go on and on with suggestions: play educational music, watch educational shows, go to the library, read together, talk your math in daily activities.

Encourage questions, and ask them, too, to promote thinking skills. Most importantly, provide support, encouragement and guidance so that your children can discover the world.

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