ZigTwinsSiegfried “Zig” Engelmann began his investigation into education when he was in advertising. He needed information on how many exposures it took for children to recognize or remember slogans presented on TV. Finding very little research, Zig set out on his own to get the answers to his questions.

As Zig writes in his book Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward System, he wanted to get a job in education, so he decided to create a film of his sons Kurt and Owen (four-year-old fraternal twins) “working math problems–areas of rectangles, simple algebra, and other skills that were not generally mastered until children were in fourth grade. To show I was not 'cheating,' there was only one camera and no cuts in the action.”

He showed the film to 17 organizations and companies concerned with educating children, and “although they had never seen 4-year-olds perform like the boys did in the film, they did not seem even slightly impressed. One of the last presentations I made was to four people from SRA (Science Research Associates), the publisher that would later publish over thirty instructional programs my colleagues and I developed.”

Ultimately, the eighteenth and last entry on Zig’s list of places to contact was the prestigious Institute for Research on Exceptional Children at the University of Illinois. Zig presented to James Gallagher and Carl Berieter, who, after viewing the film, were very intrigued. They hired Zig as a research associate, and the rest is history.

Click here to watch the film that started it all.

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