Monday, July 25, 2011

Math Monday Blog Hop #16

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Square Cat

We've been enjoying a new book, Square Cat, that I first learned about through Brimful Curiosities.

Poor Eula. Life is difficult when you're square. Literally. A square cat cannot fit through a mouse hole. If you fall over, you can't get back up. Even clothes don't fit quite right. Eula's round friends, Patsy and Maude, try to help her "feel round," giving her hoop earrings, a beehive hat, and round rouged cheeks. When that fails, Patsy and Maude slip on boxes and try being square. Eula gradually learns that there are advantages to being a truly square cat.

I love the way the book explores the concept of "square" in such a creative way. And who can resist the lure of a book that examines what it means to appreciate the uniqueness in every individual?

If you're a kindergarten teacher, the book provides a bridge to some of the Common Core/National Content Standards in geometry. It would also make a great story to begin the school year, whether at home or at school. Check out Brimful Curiosities for a cute art project she did along with the book.

Disclaimer: I received nothing for this review. If you purchase the book from Amazon, any commissions I make (at no additional cost to you) will be sent to Grace and Hope to provide foster care to orphans in China.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poison Number Game (Great for Road Trips!)

Over at The Teaching Nest, Lauren posted a great game that requires kids to strategize how to take 1 to 2 Unifix cubes away at a time (from a stack of 10) in order to avoid being the person stuck with the last cube...the "poison" cube.

My kids play a similar game, often while riding on long car trips. It's also a great classroom game. Here's how it goes:

Players: 2 or more

Object: Go around the group, counting to 20 by saying either one or two numbers. Avoid being the one to say "20" as 20 is the "poison" number.

So a group of 3 kids might say:

Sue: 1
Bob: 2-3
Joe: 4
Sue 5-6
Bob: 7
Joe: 8-9
Sue: 10-11
Bob: 12
Joe: 13-14
Sue: 15
Bob: 16-17
Joe: 18
Sue: 19
Bob: I'm stuck with 20!

The more you play, the better you get at strategizing how to avoid 20.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Math Monday Blog Hop #15

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Whispering Home...and in Other Subjects, Like MATH

Have you read Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer? I finished it a week ago in preparation for the read along; I promised to write an entry talking about the book as it applies to homeschoolers. My thoughts are still percolating. The more I reflect on the reading, the more I think it applies to much, much more than my intended assignment and includes both homeschoolers and classroom teachers.

Whispering Books at Home or School
First, the book strongly resonates with me because I began teaching in middle school language arts. If I were to boil down Miller's book to its essence, I'd say that she is challenging teachers to make reading more real for kids, moving away from the artificiality of book projects and reports where students read novels in small groups or as an entire class study, focussing instead on kids choosing their own titles and reading, reading, reading. She attests to growth in both student interest in reading and their subsequent rise in test scores as they make their own choices and read...a lot! This paragraph (p. 51) especially speaks to me:
In The Power of Reading, his meta-analysis of research investigating independent reading over the past forty years, Stephen Krashen reveals that no single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students' comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading. By loading the instructional day with traditional drill-and-kill activities such as weekly spelling and vocabulary lists and tests, grammar workbook exercises, and low-level comprehension assignments, all of which have a minimal or, in many cases, negative impact on student achievement, Krashen asserts that we are denying students access to the one activity that has been proven over and over again to increase their language acquisition and competence as communicators: again, free, voluntary reading.
In the homeschool setting, opportunities for "free, voluntary reading" are abundant. Or at least they can be. But so much depends on the teacher, just as it does in the classroom. Some classroom teachers leave students little reading choices; it's no different in the homeschool setting. Some homeschoolers choose curriculum that prescribes what a child is to do from early morning til late in the afternoon. Others give children complete freedom to choose. Even with reading freedom I think Miller's plan hinges on the teacher (whether in the classroom or at home) knowing a wide variety of literature in order to continually recommend new options to the child. I suppose homeschool parents wouldn't need to have this personal knowledge as long as they were aware of the necessity and could find others (such as librarians) to help expose the child to a variety of books that would pique interest.

Whispering Other Math
The more I consider Miller's message, the more I wonder to what extent it should apply to other content areas. She talks about how in-school reading should look more like real-life reading. When you and I read, we select books that interest us. When we're excited about content, we share it with our friends in informal ways. We don't do projects. We're not forced to sit through slow, boring studies with 30 of our closest friends, analyzing for character, setting, plot, etc. as we go.

So how does this thinking apply to other subjects? Why should we complete dozens of math problems when there are real-life math opportunities--dozens of them--encountered by students on a daily basis? Why should we read science texts if we can experience science in the real world? How do we authenticate "school" whether the location is at home or in a public building? What if we take the following sentences from Miller's book and replace the bold (mine) with other subjects/content (in parentheses) such as math?
My students' self-concept as readers (mathematicians) must extend beyond the classroom...(at home or at school)...or they have gained nothing lasting from me. If teachers (or homeschoolers) control reading (mathematics), we never give ownership of it to students. Students will not walk out of our classrooms (homes) with internal motivation to read (do math) if they see reading (math) as an act that takes place only in school under the control of their teachers. Reading (math, science, etc) ultimately belongs to readers (learners), not schools, and not schoolteachers (whether at home or at school.) p. 171
I have no answers, but I'm interested in the discussion. Have you read Miller's book? What are your thoughts? How does it apply to homeschooling? What about other content areas during the school day?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Foster Care in China (Amazon Commissions)

A momentary interruption from usual postings...  I saw this video and wanted to make it available to anyone who is interested in knowing more about my "Amazon commission cause."

If you don't already know, commissions from Amazon purchases through this site (at no additional cost to you) are used to help place children in foster care in China. Please take a moment to see the amazing results:

My youngest son's life was also changed through Grace and Hope's foster care program. (Though my son is not the boy in the video, he is equally smart and handsome! :) ) THANK YOU for your help!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BIG QUESTION for YOU & Update: Children's Math & Literature List

What did I do today?

1. Went book shopping. That resulted in a need to update my "Math Books for Kids" list. Yes, I know I recently did it. Now it's significantly longer.

2. I added links to the list. If I've mentioned the book(s) on my blog in either the form of lesson or review, they are now linked.

3. On reader request, I put an * beside some of my favorite titles. This was hard. I like a lot of books but wanted to really limit the # of *. Too many * and they'd be meaningless. What do you think? Too few? Too many?

Here's my BIG QUESTION...

How can I make the list more helpful to you? As a teacher? As a homeschooler?

Also, specifically for teachers...  If you are using the Common Core (National) Standards in Math, would it be helpful to have some sort of links to which standards the books help to address by grade level? Or are my categories good enough?

Please leave me feedback if you have suggestions on how I might improve the list!

Thanks, bunches!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where is the SMath?

Where is the SMath is an incredible site to help kids of all ages consider science and math in the everyday world. With each post you'll find a photo and are invited to consider where the science/math (hence, SMath) is in that picture. Readers can see contributions from other students as they attempt to figure out the photo. For example, a recent photo shows a pile of Lego guys. Questions invite you to think about:

How many lego guys do you think there are in this box.  Explain your thinking.

How are the lego guys different and alike?

What are the attributes that make them that way?

This would be a great site to begin your day with students...whether you are in a regular classroom or teaching at home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Math Monday Blog Hop #14

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What if all the Numbers Vanished????

Have you ever stopped to think about what our world would be like without numbers? No value on money. No time. No dates. No ages. No recipe amounts. No mph or mpg. No weights. No # of Google Friends or Feedburner Readers or Facebook Friends. (Now that would indeed be tragic!!!)

Loreen Leedy has considered just this scenario (well, okay, maybe not the last couple) in her book, Missing Math: A Number Mystery. When all the numbers go missing, the town's detective must solve the case. Spoiler alert! (In the amusing ending, the number thief is punished; he has to return all numbers back to all phone books. Yikes!)

Use this book to invite children to reflect on the importance of numbers in daily life. Then, children can write their own creative pieces on "a day in my life" (or an hour, a lunchtime, a music lesson, etc.) without numbers.  This would be particularly useful as a back-to-school activity as kids start thinking about the importance of learning concepts related to numbers.

If you can get your hands on them, two other books (now out-of-print) explore the same concept: Neil's Numberless World and A Day With No Math. If you own them, you're lucky. If you don't, keep your eyes open! And order Missing Math before it's OOP! :)

Disclaimer: If you're interested in purchasing any of these books through Amazon, all commissions go toward foster care through Grace and Hope at no additional cost to you. I keep no money. I received nothing for this book review. If you have one of these OOP books and are looking for a new owner, my birthday is coming up! LOL. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Huge Children's Math Book List...Lots of New Additions

I just added many, many new titles to my bibliography of math-related children's books. You'll find some great summer reading!

Disclaimer: If you're interested in purchasing any of these books through Amazon, all commissions go toward foster care through Grace and Hope at no additional cost to you. I keep no money.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Math Monday Blog Hop #13

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 4th Math and Logic Puzzle

Need a mid-summer math and logic puzzle to challenge kiddos of all ages? Try Cross the River, Patriot!, a "history-inspired math and logic puzzle" that looks like a great game to try anywhere...including the backyard patio table. (The game board is a free pdf available from the site.)

P.S. Hope you're enjoying the summer! About all I've done so far this summer is teach continuing education math classes for teachers. :) I have all kinds of new ideas to share as the workshops wind down and the school year gets started. Keep tuning in. ;)
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