Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Math Game Review: Othello

We bought Othello last week and have played it every day since, usually multiple times a day. It's a game that my 7-year-old is asking to play -AND- a game that I enjoy because I find it every bit as challenging as he does. (A rare combination!)

The game is for two players. The object is to have the most discs on the board with your color turned up (discs are black on one side, white on the other). When you flank the discs of the other player, all the discs in that row are captured and are flipped over to reveal your color. It takes minutes to learn but the strategies involved are complex. I'm only beginning to figure it out. So far, we've learned that capturing corners and edges seems to be particularly important.

We played an app (iTouch/iPad/iPhone) version of the game called Tournament Reversi before we bought the board game. I found it extremely challenging. (If it's easy for you, please don't tell me!) The app helped us learn how the game works; however, I've found the board game to be better for strategizing. The app turns the pieces over so fast that it's hard to fully understand the effects of your move. With Othello, you have to turn the pieces yourself and clearly see the results...whether you like it or not. ;)

You can also try Reversi on-line

Educational ties: problem solving, spatial skills, logic

Disclaimer: I bought my own game and have no contact with the company that produces it. If you use the Amazon link to buy your own, a small commission (at no cost to you) is donated to Grace & Hope. My blog policy, however, is that I don't blog about things that I don't like. Our whole family is enjoying this. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bloggin 'Bout Math-Let's Chat! :)


Yes, YOU!

If you are reading this, I would LOVE to hear from you...

Please give me some feedback as I consider future articles...

1. What kind of information/articles have you most appreciated so far?

2. What's lacking?

3. What questions do you have?

I'd love to hear from YOU! :) Grab a cup of coffee, a piece of chocolate, and chat with me. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Linking Math and Literature Class

Just a reminder for teachers in the Portland/Metro/Salem area. Linking Mathematics and Literature is coming up, first week in August. We will explore a myriad of books and activities. And have tremendous fun! Download the pdf on this page. Optional credit (1 quarter-hour graduate) is available through Western Oregon University.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Math Game Review: Think and Jump

While I do play a lot of math strategy games with my child(ren), I can't do this all the time. It's nice to have some games that can be played Hi-Q, now called Think and Jump. A version of the classic "peg jump," the game allows a player to strategize as he tries to remove as many pegs from the board as possible. This is a great game for "quiet time" at our house as my son can play it independently. He enjoys the challenge of trying to eliminate more pegs than he did the previous day. The puzzle develops skills in logic, spatial thinking, and pattern recognition, among others. And more importantly? At rest time yesterday when I handed him the game, he responded, "Oh, cool!"

Disclaimer: I bought my own Hi-Q game (which I do not see available through Amazon, although the one mentioned here is just a newer version) and have no contact with the company that produces it. If you use the Amazon link to buy your own, I will make a few cents. My blog policy, however, is that I don't blog about things that I don't like. I like this. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Math Transition from Homeschool to Public School

Frankly, the idea freaked me out. Why?

1. I didn't want my child(ren) to suffer unnecessarily.

2. I didn't want to look like a lame teacher.

Those are two of the big concerns that went through my head as I prepared to transition my children from homeschool to public school MATH.

In our case, one child went to public school kindergarten and then was homeschooled from 1st grade until the last couple months of 7th grade. Another child was entirely homeschooled--from kindergarten through the last couple months of 6th grade. So both were entering "middle school"-ish math classes, not having been in public school math for basically all of elementary school.

I didn't doubt that there would be holes in their learning. I think holes are pretty much inevitable when children only have one teacher...even when the teacher is a math genius...which I am not.

Someone recently posted a question on a math forum asking what to do to ensure that a child is at grade level and ready to transition from homeschool to public school. Here's a couple things to consider...

Check Out the Current Curriculum
One of the first things I did was ask to see what curriculum the school was using in my child's grade. However, it was important to also ask "how far have you gotten in the book this year?" It's not unusual for a class to not make it through an entire curriculum (or textbook) in a year. In one of my children's cases, I think the class had only made it a little over halfway through the book. If I would have assumed that the child had to know everything in the book, I might have panicked. (More than I was already!)

It's not a bad idea to ask to borrow a book for the summer prior to the child entering school. Although some schools may be reluctant, I think that most administrators would be happy to see that parents are interested in ensuring that a child is entering at grade level.

Look at NCTM's Focal Points/State Standards/Common Core Standards
National Council of Teacher's of Mathematics published "Focal Points" which specify what math content is to be covered at each grade level. Most states are aligning their standards with these Focal Points. Unfortunately, states aren't all interpreting the Focal Points the same way. So it's worthwhile to check your state standards to see what is expected for students in your state at each grade level. In June 2010, the National "Common Core State Standards" were released. This changes the playing field slightly, as each state considers how to implement. But if you look at the three--Focal Points, State Standards, Common Core Standards--you get a pretty good picture of what a child in a given grade level is expected to know.

The only other advice I have? Relax. I did not and I should have.

Yes, my children had a few holes. But for every hole, they were ahead in another area of math; they've spent more time waiting for the class to learn things that they already know than trying to catch up in things they were never taught. It all worked out.

The kids didn't suffer.

I didn't look too lame.

This time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tri-Ominoes (Addition/Subtraction Game)

Tri-Ominoes, a game played similar to dominoes, provides addition and subtraction practice. When players lay a piece, they must add the three numbers on the triominoe as well as keep track of their total points. Since the game is played until someone reaches 400, it provides a lot of practice in adding and subtracting. (The subtracting comes in when a player must draw a triominoe...a loss of 5 points for each that must be drawn.) Bonus points are awarded for unique configurations of triangles, such as completing a hexagon.

We bought this game this weekend and kids ages 7-14 as well as adults have been playing and enjoying it ever since. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Living Math Booklist--updated today

I updated my Living Math Booklist today. Check it out and let me know of missing books that you love! ;)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Skills Practice Vs. Concept Development


It's where so many things go wrong.

In trying to do one thing well, we overlook something else.

It frequently happens in math education. Whether in homeschool or in public school, math education is often imbalanced.

It seems that we may wish to ask ourselves this question...

"Does my child's math education present a balance between concept development and skills practice?" 
  • Am I so focused on "skills" (math drills, flashcards, pages & pages of traditional story problems or algorithms) that I'm missing the "big picture," not allowing my student the time and opportunity to development mathematical thinking?
  • Am I so worried about NOT doing the "traditional" stuff that I've thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water...never allowing my student time to practice math skills?
I sampled an on-line math curriculum with one of my children a couple years ago. Sadly, the program over-emphasized skills practice and just assumed that students would develop concepts through very brief tutorials. I'm afraid that my child soaked in the concepts long enough to practice the prescribed drills, but failed to further develop mathematical thinking skills.

Yet there is a place for skill practice. Even electronic.

Saturday, on a weekly basis, I'm starting a series of posts on using math apps. While I would never want this to become the staple of a math education, I do see value in allowing kids time to practice skills already learned through fun, unique apps.

What do you think? How do you balance concept development and skills practice for your student(s)?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Polydrons: Math Manipulative for All Ages!

I had the privilege of teaching 4th-6th grade TAG (talented/gifted.)  If students finished the current activity, they were invited to "choice time." Many children chose the polydrons. They were quite fascinated by this math manipulative that can be used to create any number of geometric structures. Age-wise, they are quite versatile; when my son was in public school kindergarten, his class owned a set. So if you're looking for something new to "play" with (and get a little learnin' in on the side), this might be an option to explore. Here's a free user guide.

BTW, I don't make anything from mentioning Polydrons; I just like 'em. ;)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pattern Bugs (Hands-on Math)

Let's explore patterns. With a favorite book!

Begin by reading Pattern Bugs by Trudy Harris. (The activities that follow work with the book, Pattern Fish, as well.) Incredible books.

Book Information:
Pattern Bugs by Trudy Harris. [Brookfield, Connecticut; Millbrook Press, 2001.]

Various insects illustrate simple patterns. Rhyming text demonstrates the same pattern. For example, the bee page shows an AAAB pattern through text, “Buzz-buzz-buzz-sip,” the colors of the striped bees--yellow, yellow, yellow, black--and the colored border--orange, orange, orange, yellow.

Read the book through, leaving time for children to guess how each pattern will end. My 4yo happily anticipates the pattern and shouts out what is to come next (revealed on subsequent page.) 

Have students search for the numerous patterns represented on each page.  Read the book through a second time, making body movements to follow the pattern on each page. For example, the first page, AB AB, could be snap clap, snap clap. Or crouch down, jump up, crouch down, jump up. [Other patterns are: ABC ABC, AAAB AAAB, AABC AABC, ABB ABB, AAB AAB, ABCC ABCC.]

Next, walk through your home or classroom and discuss the patterns you see: stripes in a piece of candy (red, white, red, white), piano keys (white, black, white, black, white, white, black, white, black, white, black, repeat), colors on a checkerboard, stripes on an airmail envelope (white, blue, white, blue) or on a flag (red, white, red, white), etc…

Go back through the book (or look at patterns around the house), discussing how to label a pattern with letters. [For example, a red and white striped candy cane would be an AB AB AB pattern.] My 7yo tells us the letter pattern in the book after the 4yo tells us what comes next in the text pattern.

During the next several days, encourage students to make their own patterns. Do one activity each day or set up stations and allow students to make choices.

Pattern Activity #1
Materials: stamp pens or rubber stamps, strips of paper (approx. 1.5” x 8”)
Activity: children use stamp pens to create patterns on strips of paper. They can challenge others to figure out what picture would come next in the pattern. Challenge older children to develop difficult patterns. The best ones can stump adults!

Pattern Activity #2
Materials: unifix cubes, pattern blocks, cuisenaire rods or other colored/patterned math manipulatives or colored paper squares, strips of paper (approx. 1.5” x 8”)
Activity: use colored unifix cubes (ideal because they hook together; could also use other math manipulatives) to create your own patterns. Use crayons or markers to record the pattern on paper strips.

Pattern Activity #3
Materials: musical instruments (homemade bean shakers or rubberband instruments are great), strips of paper (approx. 1.5” x 8”)
Activity: use instruments to create patterns in music. Record the pattern on paper strips by drawing pictures of the instruments used. Children who can read music may search for patterns in songs. They may also decide to create their own note patterns.

Pattern Activity #4
Ask the children to create movements to demonstrate a pattern. [Jump, squat, jump, squat.]

Writing Activity
Write an additional page of text for Pattern Bugs. Type up the new text and provide a copy to each student, allowing him to illustrate the new verse with patterns that follow the same pattern as the text.

Art Activity
The bug eyes on the last page of Pattern Bugs are wonderful. Give children an opportunity to practice drawing these eyes and challenge them to make their own, unique eyes. They may even choose to make a pattern of various bug eyes.

Additional Resource:
You can download a pdf of a pattern coloring page (bug and fish) at the author's website.

My 4-year-old says, "I have a good idea. Red shape, blue shape, red shape, blue shape!" I can hear him in the other room saying, "Yellow, green, yellow, green, yellow, green," and then going "shake, shake" with the bean shaker as I write this. ;)

Please comment with your experience with the lessons! We'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Math Snack (games and videos) FUN!!!

In researching iTouch/iPhone math game apps (blog post soon to come!), I ran across a gem. This site is SO COOL! Check it out...

Math Snacks are short animations and mini–games designed to help learners "get it". Each snack presents a mathematical concept, particularly those addressed in grades 6, 7 and 8. Ideal for use in a classroom or on your own, they can even be placed on mobile devices for "homework". The accompanying print materials can assist learners in applying their conceptual understanding to math problems.

If you visit the website, you'll find both learner and teacher guides to go with the apps.

Pearl Diver
I'm listing this one first because it's so nifty. In this game, available on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (FREE!) the "pearl diver" must swim to the bottom of the sea, while avoiding electronic eels. The "sea" is a number line with increasing levels of difficulty. I played with numberlines that included: 1-10, negative to positive numbers, fractions, etc. Very fun, interesting game for numberline skills practice and development of number sense. [play online or download for iPod]

Other Math Snacks that you can view online or download for iPod include:

Bad Date
This humorous animation visualizes the ratio of words spoken on a series of dates. [movie, view online or download for iPod, pdf learner/teacher guides]

Scale Ella
A crusading superhero clarifies and uses scale factor. [movie, view online or download for iPod]

Atlantean Dodgeball
Ratio errors confuse one of the coaches in an epic dodgeball tournament. [movie, view online or download for iPod, pdf learner/teacher guides]

Number Rights
A passionate activist clarifies equality on a number line. [movie, view online or download for iPod, pdf learner/teacher guides]

Rulers value proper units and proportional details. [movie, view online or download for iPod, pdf learner/teacher guides]

Visit again soon for a lengthy list of free math game apps for iTouch/iPhone.

Edited to add a note from Barbara at Math Snacks:

I'm so pleased you like Math Snacks! Over the next four years, we'll be adding more of them, so it is great knowing we've hit the right content and the right approach.

I love your blog. Thanks so much! I'm not sure how much you know about Math Snacks... currently available are 5 animations and one game. All are available to play and watch online on the website (, and on iTunes for download (for full screen video that could be downloaded, then would not require internet connection to play.) In addition, there are iPod/iPad versions of the game, Pearl Diver, as well as a video player which includes the available animations.

Math Snacks Video Player for iPad/iPod

Pearl Diver Game for iPhone

Pearl Diver Game for iPad

All animations (to download to iTunes)

We'll keep working, and hope to please you in the future, as well. Keep up the good work in identifying new learning approaches, and sharing them on your blog.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Math Blog Entries--a Few Creative Favorites!

Several creative posts from fellow bloggers on teaching math...

From Jimmie's Collage, Living Math with Positive and Negative Numbers

The Snails Trail, Non-Standard Measurement with Inch Worms

Joyful Learner's "Math Monday" series

(I don't want to lose track of these, so I'll post them here for you, too!)

Coming INCREDIBLE math site with free game and movie apps!!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Incan Quipu Math (place value, history)

During the Inca empire, a system of knots was used for adding numbers. We've been reading about it in a fascinating math/activity/history book,  The Secret Life of Math; discover how (and why) numbers have survived from the cave dwellers to us!

We did a little quipu activity and quickly figured out why this math method--though effective--didn't last to the present day. At least not if everyone was as bad at knot tying as we are! ;) It is, however, a fun activity to explore history and reinforce knowledge of place value.

Inca Quipu Math activity

Materials needed:

a thin dowel or chopstick
thin cord
colored markers
paper/pencil (optional)


1. Tie four long cords onto the dowel. If the cord is too short, you won't be able to tie many knots, so leave yourself plenty of room. The three cords to your right are the addends, the cord on the left is the summation.

2. Though the Incas didn't do this, we added colored marks on the cord so we could easily see the divisions between each place value grouping. As you tie knots the cords won't continue to line up evenly, but it will help you be able to see that the hundreds are between the orange and purple marks, etc.

3. Decide on three numbers you'd like to add. Tie knots on your cord to represent the numbers. For example, on the cord on the far right (below) we chose the number 2,133. This is represented by two knots in the very top section, one knot in the next section, three knots in the third section, and three knots in the bottom section. We made number cards just to help us remember what we were doing. (Later it was fun to mix and match the cards with the cords!)

4. Add the knots in all the ones sections on all three cords. Record the total number of ones on the summation cord. For us, the ones totaled 11; therefore, we put 1 knot in the ones section and 1 knot on the tens section on the summation cord. Continue through each subsequent place value section.

We did this activity during a study of Inca history. My student, age 7, found it difficult to tie the knots, so I did most of the tying. He did the adding and writing. When we finished he said, "That was FUN!"

Another place value game that my children enjoy from time to time...Learning Resources Dino Math Tracks Place Value Game. Here's the Amazon product description:

"Prehistoric pals make this award-winning math game a blast. Roll the dice and move the dinosaurs around a delightfully illustrated game board. Learn all about numbers - from counting, addition and subtraction to place value skills. Includes game board, 16 dinosaurs, cards, number die and instructions for various levels of play. For 2 to 4 players."

I also found a little online activity to practice identifying place value in a number.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Addition Fact Games--Make Ten

We've been working on materials from Bridges, Grade 3, of The Math Learning Center. I want to share some fun activities, designed to promote fluency with addition facts.

One card game, "Make the Sum," comes with the MLC materials. Prior to receiving the materials, we played "Make Ten," a variation based on the MLC game using a deck of regular cards.

Materials Needed:

deck of cards, A = 1, then 2-9 cards (remove all other face cards)

To collect combinations of cards that make 10. Player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

To play:
Shuffle the deck and lay face down on the table. Draw top card and lay face up on the playing field. Player #1 looks at the card and says which card he would like to draw in order to make 10. He draws a card. If he can make 10, he tells the other player which cards add up to 10 and takes those cards. If not, he adds his card to the field.

Player #2 then says which cards he would like to draw in order to make 10 using the cards already on the field. He draws and then either makes 10 or, if not, lays his card on the field and play goes back to Player #1. Combinations of more than two cards are desirable as the players with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

Here's a video demonstrating how to play the MLC game.

My student gained more skills practice in "Make 10" by using an on-line game (also recommended by MLC) called "Math Lines." This game is unbelievably addictive. It's embarrassing to admit, but I made my little student stand next to me and watch while I played because I wanted to see how many levels I could master. ;) He loves the game as well.

Farm addition is another game that provides practice in addition facts. We found it just as we finished My Little Farm.
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