A plead for help about a local issue I was made aware of

Today I Want to Bring Awareness of a Local Issue That Has Been Brought To My Attention
Cory Clabon is a kid that has had a challenging life. Born with sickle cell disease, he has overcome many obstacles and still faces many as of today. When he was three, Cory was diagnosed with the rare nephrotic syndrome that leads to kidney failure. Cory now has a battle that he wages with a failing kidney as his mom takes to social media to promote awareness about his ailment. She was able to find a donor; however this donor fell through and he will be placed on dialysis very soon. My English teacher discovered this story as it was featured on the  local news, and it fits in with our current novel Unwind.
Now around 75 freshmen students at Ocean Lakes Math and Science Academy are seeking ways to promote this cause. Not only do we wish to bring awareness about this topic for future cases that are similar to this one, we also aspire to find a kidney donor for Cory. Therefore, I will give specifications on donors that we are looking for, and then I will give more information to help inform you about medical cases such as these.

Donor Specifications:
Lives in the 757 area
Has type O blood, positive or negative
Willing to donate a kidney
Fills out the following form to help Cory and those like him: https://sentara.donorscreen.org/register/donate-kidney

Information about his health conditions to be used now, and in future cases:
Sickle Cell Disease:
This is a condition that one is born with that causes some red blood cells to be in the formation of a sickle which reduces the amount of oxygen that can flow through the body
Unfortunately, this is a genetic condition that we currently do not know how to cure sickle cell disease

Kidney failure:
Cory was diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder, nephrotic syndrome
Find out more about his condition here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nephrotic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20375608?page=0&citems=10
Treatment can be given to help support a failing kidney, then one must resort to methods such as transplant and or dialysis such as mentioned below

Medically defined as the process of removing waste products and excess fluids from the body, dialysis is used when one’s kidneys cannot filter out waste products and the like.
After the first donor fell through, Cory was placed on dialysis

Link to the original post: https://wtkr.com/2019/03/14/virginia-beach-mother-takes-to-facebook-to-find-kidney-for-son/

Type O Blood:
There are four types of blood:
A – A blood type identified by making B antibiotics that fight B blood types (only accepts A and O blood types)
B – A blood type identified by making A antibiotics that fight A blood types (only accepts B and O blood types)
AB –  The universal receiver as it does not fight any blood types
OO – the universal donor as all blood types can take OO (only accepts OO blood types)
Cory must had a donor with OO blood as he has OO blood

Link to other student’s projects: http://kidneyforcory.glitch.me

Link to more information the topics above:
Sickle Cell Disease: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sickle-cell-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355876
Dialysis: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2980
Blood types: https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/blood-types.html

Thank you for taking your time to read all of this and I hope that you will spread awareness so that Cory and people like him will receive the necessary medical treatment!

Pedagogy of Math Fact Fluency On Performance


The essay that follows explores the need for a pedagogical shift in mathematical instruction to improve the overall performance of the United States on standardized exams. Math fact fluency skills, or the ability to solve basic arithmetic equations, is at the heart of the issue due to the structuring and scaffolding performed by key components of the brain. Shin (n.d.) provided insight into the functionality of functional magnetic resonance imaging. Another source (“Basic skills”, (2013) showcased the correlation between early mathematical ability and performance on standardized tests. Desilver (2017) provided a statistical analysis that showcases the United States performance in the subject of mathematics. “How children’s” (2014) provided insight on how children’s brains develop over time, specifically involving the development of mathematical abilities. DiNapoli (2018) proposed a pedagogical shift that is required to improve the education of mathematics. In addition, the researcher provides key questions that could be utilized in further studies.

Pedagogical Shift Required to Improve Mathematical Performance While Children’s Brains Develop

In order to research the impact of basic arithmetic on long term mathematical performance, the researcher discovered how a child’s brain develops to discover correlations between pedagogical strategies and memory scaffolding of math fact fluency. First of all, to understand why mathematics is a topic of great concern, studies proved that mathematics is a major problem in the United States. Further studies proved that as children’s brains develop, there is a transfer of information that is scaffolded in the hippocampus. Lastly, studies showcased that a shift in current pedagogical methods is required as collaboration is, in many cases, inferior to the collaborative competition. To research this ongoing problem further, the researcher proposes essential questions that could be used for further studies.

Literature Review

Mathematics, especially math fact fluency is a source of ongoing research on long term performance for the development of the skills, such as in math classes or performance on standardized tests. One such study was conducted by researchers and published in Science Daily, at the University of Western Ontario who utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe any correlations that existed between math fact fluency and performance on the standardized test known as the PSAT. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is a method of observing neural activity by observing the blood flow to different regions of the brain and observing changes in blood flow that indicate more or less activity in the region (Shin, n.d., para. 5). According to Ansari (2013), “There is a clear link between fluency and high level abilities — being fluent at basic math counts.” (Ansari as cited in “Basic math”, para. 5). To further emphasize his point, he explained that students whose scores were higher on the PSAT were observed to have had more activity in the supramarginal gyrus, a region in the left side of the brain that has been previously linked to math fact retrieval. On the other end of the spectrum, students whose scores where lower were observed to have greater concentrations of neural activity in the intraparietal sulcus, which is in the right portion of the brain, that is used to evaluate complicated mathematical problems and heavy arithmetic processing. In order to conclude his research, Ansari mentions that these findings should halt the endless discourse on what mathematical pedagogical strategy is superior as basic repetition of arithmetic is equally important to conceptual learning. Another study conducted on the importance of mathematics instruction has been conducted by Pew Research, although it is more of a statistical analysis. The main question that the author wished to answer was how the performance of the United States in mathematics compared to that of other countries; however, it can be noted that most of the findings are applicable to the topic of mathematical fluency on long term performance. For the first important piece of statistical information in the analysis, the author used an international standard test named the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This test ranks countries in a variety of subjects, one of which is math, by testing 15-year-olds. The United States placed 38th out of the 71 participating countries in the subject of mathematics. For the second piece of statistical analysis, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is used as it showcases the mathematical skills of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders. According to DeSilver (2017), “[In] 2015 NAEP rated 40% of fourth-graders, 33% of eighth-graders and 25% of 12th-graders as “proficient” or “advanced” in math. While far fewer fourth- and eighth-graders now rate at “below basic,” the lowest performance level (18% and 29%, respectively, versus 50% and 48% in 1990)” (para. 6). Overall, the United States needs to focus on its mathematical ability as it underachieves compared to other countries, which can be addressed by improving math fact fluency.

When researching the topic of mathematics, especially math fact fluency, it became evident that further information on how a child’s brain develops to support new mathematical information was necessary. As it turned out, several studies had already been conducted on the development of children’s brains around mathematical performance. For instance, an article published in Science Daily showcased a study conducted by the Stanford University of Medical Care on how a child’s brain acclimates to new mathematical evaluation strategies that are learned over time and are more efficient. The study conducted consisted of children, ages 7-9, adolescents, ages 14-17, and adults, ages 19-22, all of whom received multiple basic mathematical equations of comparable difficulty that required evaluation. Due to the nature of the experiment, those with mathematical deficiencies or those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were excluded from participation, and all participants had average IQs. All of the age groups received brain scans, unfortunately the type of brain scan is not mentioned, and went on normally for another 1.2 years before receiving a second scan. As the children and adolescent age groups were still in school for the duration of the study, these two age groups received mathematical instruction; however, on the other hand, the adults received no instruction. After the 1.2 year break of the study, all subjects of the first brain scan returned to evaluate more equations, similar to those equations to those used in the first scan, while receiving a second scan. Researchers were intrigued by the discoveries made. Based on the first scan, the researchers discovered that the region in which children performed mathematical computation is different than the region that the adults used: children use their prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. When the second scan was performed, one of the preliminary observations of the researchers was the usage of the hippocampus greatly increasing in children’s brains after the 1.2 year time span; however, areas that are known to be used for counting, such as the prefrontal and parietal cortex, were used less often. It was noted that the hippocampus became more attached to regions related to counting, such as the aforementioned prefrontal cortex, anterior temporal cortex and the parietal cortex, which influenced the ability of each individual student’s math fact retrieval. These connections were developed from math fact fluency skills at a young age, which shows the importance of basic skills. Even though this began to show signs of development, the children had not fully developed their brain as the brain scans of the adults indicated the usage of the neocortex instead of the hippocampus. To build onto this information, the researchers realized that the hippocampus was providing a mathematical schema for children’s brains, or a “memory scaffold” (“How children’s”, 2014, para. 11). During the construction of information banks such as the neocortex, the hippocampus acts as a temporary bank of math fact fluency. Even though the adult’s brains used the more sophisticated neocortex as the bank of their math fact retrieval, the researchers noted how the hippocampus appeared to store a backup of math facts.

In order to discover if something could be done to improve the math fact fluency of students and children, the researcher searched for an improved pedagogical method for mathematical instruction. Joseph DiNapoli is a geometry teacher that sought a way to engage his students and promote mathematical discourse amongst his students. After attempting a pedagogical strategy of collaboration, DiNapoli made a shift to collaborative competition. According to DiNapoli (2018),

Thus, collaborative competition, or collaborating students competing against other collaborating students, might be just as effective as collaborative learning in some contexts. Groups of students are still working together toward a common goal, but they are also enticed to persevere amidst challenge to outperform opposing groups. Further, the concern of disengagement from students on losing teams is less pertinent because the entire team shares the burden of defeat, not an individual. Yet, the idea of using competition in any capacity to motivate student engagement seems to have lost favour in education research, and collaborative learning alone has become widely recognised as a pedagogical practice that can promote learning. (para. 3)

He also explained how class attendance and overall engagement of students improved when implementing a collaborative competitive approach to teaching. In addition to this, an anonymous survey that he conducted of his students stated that most of the students were not discouraged for losing, instead they looked forward to the next competition day.


Further research can still be conducted on the topic of mathematics to compound more information on the effectiveness of various strategies to influence math fact fluency development. The research could include multiple age groups to see which strategies become more or less useful over time, potentially with further information transfer in the brain. Additionally, comparing the results from ‘normal’ brain scans to those with disabilities and or deficiencies can help further research in that field similar to the proposition of the brain development researchers (“How children’s”, 2014, para. 11). In addition to the aforementioned propositions, additional research could be done on mathematical ability throughout older age groups as an experiment to see if the brain shifts its storage of math facts later on it life. Lastly, more research could be done to see if math fact fluency will help prevent dementia and other degenerative mental diseases. References

Basic math skills linked to PSAT math success. (2013, January 4). Retrieved from


DeSilver, D. (2017, February 15). U.S. academic achievement lags that of many other countries.

Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/

DiNapoli, J. (2018). Leveraging collaborative competition in mathematics classrooms. Australian

Mathematics Teacher, 74(2), 10+. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A546025209/SUIC?u=va_s_128_9999&sid=SUIC&xid=e8a3306c

How children’s brains memorize math facts. (2014, August 17). Retrieved from


Shin, David What is fMRI? (n.d.). Retrieved from


In Honor Earth Day

First off, I wanted to apologize for not having posted a blog in a while. I have been very busy this year. In fact, being in 8th grade at my school means that I have to do a large project named a “Capstone” project. While this may seem like a normal project, this project is special in the regard that the project must have a positive influence on the lives of the community and the environment. Truthfully, I really like the opportunity to work on something like this.

Also, I had an accident where I fractured my wrist and was on limited activities for a while. Luckily, I am happy to report that it is healing well and I am going to recover soon! It was really hard on me when I couldn’t play the piano or my saxophone.

Yesterday, being Earth Day, reminded me of Capstone project, making me think of some possible ideas on how to impact not only my local community, but also those around the world. Here locally, my group has decided to help build artificial reefs to provide habitats for fish to flourish in the Chesapeake Bay, but I figured that we could go beyond that. While pondering on what could be done, I began to realize that I had a great resource into a larger community with Acalympics. There are teams that compete all around the world! What a wonderful opportunity to spread some environmental awareness!

So here we are, what are some threats to water ways/aquatic habitats?

    Large corporation fishing
    Predator/prey population decline
  • Why can this be so harmful towards the waterways?
    • Fish populations decline which affect more than one fish because of predator/prey relations
      Population decline of fish means less food/economy for humans
      Once fish species start to decline, the tend to migrate meaning local fishermen may suffer
  • What are some ways you can help your local waterways? You can
    • Drive less
    • Use rain barrels to collect rain water
    • Use pervious pavement
    • Join local cleanup foundations
    • Reduce energy usage
    • Check your septic tank
    • Buy locally
    • Stop using synthetic fertilizer
    • Plant seagrass/trees
    • Visit parks to learn about local issues

    How can these help?

    • Every action counts!
    • Take any two fish species, one a predator and the other a prey to this predator and examine their populations. Most of the time, these are correlated. This shows how the water way is affected by even small changes
    • They inspire others to join in the fun!
  • What are some potential projects you could help fund/start?
    • Make artificial reefs/habitats
      Promote sustainability at a catch and release fishing tournament
      Participate in a trash clean up
      Spread awareness to others
  • In order to make the most of Earth day and all environmental efforts, spread some of these ideas around with your friends and family! Additionally, you can try and beat the quiz on this topic on Acalympics!
  • Brickell Talk

    I am so grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to speak to the staff. A lot of people have asked for a copy of my speech. Here it is. However, since I wanted to emphasize certain parts of words, the format is kinda goofy. 😂

    ODS Talk

    “What good is an idea, if it remains an idea?

    Good morning! My name is Karstan Bock, I am a upcoming 8th grader, on the Ospreys Team. When I was given the opportunity to come and speak to you today, I was very excited for 2 reasons. First of all, it is fun to talk about one of my passions. Secondly, I get to thank a huge source of support for me and my idea. This source particularly has helped me promote and sustain excitement about my idea, usually right at times that I am not feeling very excited about my idea. Dr. Hedrick I want to really thank you for all that you do for me. Also, Ms. Denny, Ms. Smallwood, Ms. Pinner, Ms. Theisfield , Ms. Newman, Ms. Foshay, Mr. Vogel, Ms. Scott, Ms. Troxell, Mr. Laney, and Dr. Hatzopoulos, a huge “thank you” goes out to you as well, for always supporting me and acalympics.com!

    I told you that I am excited to speak to you today about a passion of mine. I have a lot of passions, my pets, music, learning, and helping people. The later two passion are what motivated me to become a website designer and CEO for my company acalympics.com. This is what I am going to talk to you about today.

    Just in case you don’t know my family, I have to give you a little background information . I have a brother Kaden, he is an 11th grader at Ocean Lakes Math Science Academy. Kaden came here when he was in middle school, always participated in the Stem Robotics Challenge, with a great deal of success. When he was in 8th grade he won the middle school Robotics challenge and earned the “big trophy”. Seriously it was taller than he was, and he was (and still is) 6’4. Being his younger brother, I decided I wanted to earn a huge trophy too. So, in 6th grade I joined the Cyber team, to compete in the Cyber Stem Challenge, in hopes of winning the big trophy.

    When I started the Cyber Competition Club, I found out for the Cyber Competition, we had to create a program to meet an unmet or undermet need in education. It seemed like I hear that the US didn’t not perform very well in math so, I decided to research that. I have to be honest, the results I found horrified me! According to Pew Research ( http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/ ) the United States performed over the average in both Science and Reading, however we performed well under the average in mathematics.

    Personally, I love Math. I started looking for a reason for why students would perform so badly in math. Now, I am going to give you a bunch of information, and I am going to move quickly through it. I have brochures, that you can pick up and take with you, if you would like to check out the sources or the studies that I refer too. In my research, I came across 2 very powerful thought provoking statements. 1st statement ALGEBRA IS KNOWN AS THE GATEKEEPER SUBJECT. Higher paying professions all require Algebra. I did a quick search and found 42 professions from boiler maker, and welder to chemist that require Algebra, daily. All 4 year university and college programs require Algebra. Now, are you ready for the 2nd powerful statement? Guess what the most failed course in both high school and college is??? Algebra.

    It seemed to me that there was a huge breakdown where Algebra was concerned. I found a site that referenced a study conducted by John Hopkins, stating that a huge reason for kids not doing well in math could be contributed to poor math fact fluency skills. They went on to explain how students would get bogged down by trying to figure out math facts and that would hinder their ability to solve complex equations.

    I decided this was not math specific. In almost every aspect of life, you need basic skills in order to complete a task at a higher level. For example, in music if you are spending a whole lot of time trying to determine what the note is, and how to play it on your instrument, you are not going to play very smoothly. In my mind, this was like having too many computer tabs open. Having too many tabs open, causes your whole computer to slow down, plus you forget what exactly you are doing and get distracted with other open tabs. I decided fact fluency was a problem I could address.

    It was funny, because once I decided what to work on, I remembered my idea notebook. A doctor once told me that I should keep a notebook of any ideas that I had, one time I had an idea, to make learning like video games. You could play for a team, and earn points for you team. In my idea, you would earn different medals for your team, like in the Olympics, regardless of skill level, everyone could contribute something. Originally, I thought I could make a game and call it Math Olympics. I talked to my parents, and some of my teachers about this idea, and everyone I told thought it was a good idea. In fact many teachers said “I wish I had something like that for “music theory, science, English”. I realized I could add different subjects in later, so instead of being Math Olympics, I could call my idea Acalympics (Academics Olympic Style). But, for this competition I would just focus on math, as I had a short period of time to get this working.

    I was really excited about this. I spent a ton of time looking through the Virginia Dept of Education to make sure I had the topics and the orders that they listed for each standards in education. I made brochures, I made a trifold, I put in a whole lot of time trying to code this on the Raspberry Pi for the competition. Finally, the big Cyber Competition day came. I could not wait to present my idea to the judges! During the day, I had the opportunity to tell Dr. Spence about my idea. He said “Karstan I love it! How do I get it working in my schools?” I wasn’t really sure, because the way I had to format it for the competition was not in his best interest. The Raspberry Pi that I had to use, was expensive, and finicky. You could accidentally delete your code pretty easily. True story! I told Dr. Spence I wasn’t exactly sure, but I would think about it. I presented my idea to the judges, they liked it. I just knew I was going to be awarded that big trophy just like Kaden had.

    But, I took 3rd place and got the smallest trophy ever. Honestly, take a look!

    Bock, J (2017) Karstan With Trophy (digital image) CC BY-NC

    So, I was pretty disappointed and was in the middle of feeling kinda sorry for myself, when my brain started replaying a couple of conversations. I started remembering Dr. Spence and his remark, “Karstan I love your idea! How do I get it working in my schools?” I also started remembering all of the conversations I had with teachers, where they liked my idea and all wished that they had something like that. I decided I still thought I had a good idea, and that i could still help people. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would try to develop a website. I did not have any idea about how one built a website. But I just knew I could learn! I worked on Acalympics every day during the summer between my 6th and 7th grade year. I wish I could say it was easy, but the truth of the matter is, it was and still can be difficult. (Sometimes, I think I can fix a question really quick, and it ends up taking me 3 hours.) On, November 24, 2017 I was able to publish Acalympics. I was so excited when 100 games were played. It was probably just my mom and grandma playing them, but I was excited! I kept working on subject of math, in Acalympics until I had well over 20,000 questions written. Then, I decided to start on some of the other subjects. Personally I take a music theory test at ODU every year. There is really nothing out there to help kids study for it, other than boring practice tests. However, I knew I could address this subject with Acalympics. Also, Ms. Barnes Mamaril asked me if could put something together for Spanish, and I was happy to create a Spanish category! Then, in order to help myself study French, I made a French vocabulary section.

    As of today, I have over 40 teams using Acalympics, and not just in Virginia Beach. I have teams located in Michigan, Arizona, New Hampshire, California, and even Haiti and London! Over 27,000 games have been played, and over 500,000 questions answered. So, even though I didn’t win that big trophy, I did win something just as incredible as that big trophy. I won, just in a different way. A lot of people have given me great ideas that I am trying to implement. I am still working on Acalympics everyday, coding one question at a time. 😉

    I once heard a quote. Simon Sinek said “What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Iterate. Fail. Try again. Change the world.” I like what he is saying, but that sentence got a little wordy for me, and Kaden always adds in funny parts like, “pet your dog, eat some dinner, procrastinate a little bit”, so I always get a little bit confused. However, I paraphrased his saying to something that motivates me, inspires me and challenges me. “What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Make a plan, change the world.” You have been given a notebook today. Write your ideas down in there. That way you can make a plan to change the world!

    Thank you so so much for listening to me speak, today! If you have any questions for me, just feel free to ask me. Also, you can always send me an email. I would love for everyone of you to have a team that is using Acalympics. But, please please listen to what I am about to say!! The single most important thing I need to say today is, “THANK YOU” . Thank you for all that you do to help us students experience success. We don’t tell you often enough how much we appreciate you! Thanks for listening to me today!