Thursday, February 28, 2013

In Case You Think Decimals Don't Matter...

Dear Very Large Government Agency,

I received your letter in the mail today. And no, I did not collect $3600 in royalties and therefore do not owe you back taxes. I have not made $3600 in royalties over the course of my entire life.

You referenced my employer's 109X as proof. Thankfully I have my own copy. It clearly states that I collected $36.00 in royalties. It seems that your computer...or your data entry person...or something (!)...misplaced a couple decimal places on the way to the bank.

I appreciate the error as I now have a great story to share with kids who fail to understand why decimals are such a big deal.

Rich in stories but not in royalties,

Clipart by MyCuteGraphics.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How to Make Teacher Docs: Backgrounds

Do you want to create original documents for your students? Feeling bewildered by the technological tools involved? Here's my story:

A year ago I didn't know how to do a screen capture. (Now I use this on an almost daily basis!)

Nine months ago I didn't know how to use Word for anything but typing.

Six months ago I didn't know how to put clipart into a Word document.

Last week I didn't know how to put backgrounds into Word docs.

Two days ago I didn't know how to do a screen recording.

Reading this list, I'm feeling slightly accomplished! (Despite the fact that I'm home writing a blog entry only because I have a kid with a 103+ degree fever sleeping on the couch nearby! Poor kid feels TERRIBLE! But I digress...) 

Even my teenagers, a major source of my technological education, are marginally impressed with my new abilities. Not that they don't roll their eyes occasionally. Just last week they watched me trying to put a circle into a worksheet. "Mom, hold down SHIFT to keep the circle perfectly round." (If only someone had told me that a year ago!)

Although I don't keep a bucket list or make New Year's Resolutions, I've really been wanting to learn how to make the cute teacher handouts that are constantly posted all over the internet--in blogs, on teacher selling sites, on Google Docs...  Little by little, I'm learning. I'm happy to share a couple things that I've recently discovered. Hopefully, this will make your bucket list a little easier!

Note: A TON of credit goes to MyCuteGraphics. That's where I'm getting most of my clipart. And it's where I found a tutorial for how to put a background into a Word Doc. I had to experiment a bit because Word on my Mac doesn't look like her photos. (I assume she has a PC?) But I figured it out. Here tis...

If this sort of tutorial helps you with your bucket list, please leave a comment. I'd be happy to make more if I know that it helps someone!

And if I totally did it wrong, let me know. I can take it. I think. 

For the rest of the series, see Make Teacher Docs.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop #88 (Feb. 25, 2013)

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Teaching Math: What I Wish I'd Known...

Sittin' home this morning. Got a feverish kid whose only two requests are:

1. pickles
2. Brady Bunch

So in between pickle runs and echoes of "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia," I've been contemplating...

If I could give just one gift to new teachers or homeschoolers, I'd share what I wish someone had told me about teaching math.

Teaching Math: What I Wish I'd Known

1. There are many, many ways to solve problems. The "standard algorithm" that we were taught is just one way. (Imagine my surprise to learn that other countries teach other "standard" methods!")

Kids that are only taught to follow one method are at a severe disadvantage. Those who can select from a variety of strategies are able to chose the most efficient. When kids are given opportunities to test out many different strategies, they find those that work best for them. Which leads me to...

2. Trust kids. When my son started working on multi-digit subtraction, he didn't gravitate toward any familiar (to me!) strategies. When he discovered something that worked for him, I had NO. CLUE. what he was doing. He explained it to me OVER. And OVER. And OVER. I couldn't do it his way. But he could. And fast. He found his own path; had I chosen one for him, it's doubtful that my choice would have been such a perfect match.

3. Manipulatives and visual models matter. A lot! When I first saw all the pattern blocks and base ten pieces and tile and...and...and...I wondered if all this STUFF could really be anything more than glorified toys. But manipulatives and visual models have changed my life. Now I can see a multiplication problem in my head and solve it mentally thanks to base ten pieces. I can figure fraction problems after experiencing them in egg cartons, geoboards and pattern blocks. The number line--once on paper, now in my head--makes addition and subtraction fast. It would have been so much easier if I'd been taught this way in the first place.

4. Cool books make concepts come alive. Had I known about all the awesome math-related children's literature, I might have pursued math education a long time ago!

5. Teaching math is about so much more than numbers. For example, the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice emphasize the "doing" parts of math...things that often apply to areas of life beyond math. Who wouldn't want kids to "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them" or "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others." Good math teaching prepares kids for a lot more than math!

What do you wish you'd known about teaching (or learning) math?

Also, a great post for further reading:

From Teaching My Baby to Read - the author talks about teaching math from a constructivist perspective. She begins, "I teach math from a Constructivist perspective, which means enabling children to develop their own meaningful strategies for solving problems, instead of just blindly teaching traditional algorithms. I believe in giving children time, space, and materials to explore mathematical concepts and create their own understanding, before you start imposing your own thinking upon them." Find the entire article here.

Credit for the graphic goes to!

And the problem solving for the many pickles can a kid eat before he starts to pickle? Or how many Brady Bunch episodes can a mom watch before she cries Marcia Uncle?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fraction Fun with Number Lines

Studying fractions?

You won't want to miss the new, free activities from the Math Learning Center. The materials are complex...

...a number line (free pdf)
...a paperclip

I've used the paperclip/number line with students and love, love, love the way students can see and move fractions on a line.

A free "I Have, Who Has" game is also included. For a complete description and links to the free pdf, visit the MLC blog.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Skittles Fractions, Estimation, and Graphing

My new unit, Skittles Fractions, Estimation & Graphing is complete! I developed the activities to give my math club more hands-on, "real-life" experience with fractions, estimation and graphing. The unit, appropriate for about 3rd-6th grade*, includes:

  • Teaching Notes
  • Estimation
  • Data Collecting with options* for either Fractions alone or Fractions & Percents together
  • Bar Graphing
  • Line Plot - I included this as it's such a big emphasis in the Common Core State Standards
  • Pie Chart - two options for differentiation*
  • Problem Solving
*Note: I've included options on several tasks to allow for differentiation or use at multiple grade levels. Some pages will be best suited for younger children, others for older.

If you are interested, the unit may be found at Teachers Notebook or Teachers Pay Teachers. Thank you for your support!

And a HUGE thank you to My Cute Graphics who provided the graphics AND helped me to learn how to integrate them into documents.

A little classroom peek...
As my students collected individual data, they added it to the whiteboard. Although activities are designed for individual use, it's interesting to compile classroom data when the lessons are used in group situations. We were surprised to find that some Skittles bags had very balanced color amounts while others varied immensely. Some kids had as little as 8 of one color (out of ~60) and as many as 18.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mad Minute Math...or How Timed Testing Killed Math

Do you question the use of timed math drills with your students or homeschooling children? Or did you suffer through them as a child?

Don't miss this article from edudemic, "How One Teaching Practice Ruined Math For Students," in which a 16yo shares her thoughts about how "Mad Minute" affected her as a young child...and continues to influence her feelings today.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop #87 (Feb. 18, 2013)

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, Oregon!

Do I have any Oregon readers? If you are from Oregon, I'd love to read your comments!

Don't miss an opportunity to share this video on Oregon Statehood with your students. Celebrate our 154th birthday! Today!

Watch Road to Statehood on PBS. See more from Oregon Experience.
From the site:
About the Program
Oregon celebrates its 150th birthday in 2009. It’s a story filled with mountain men and fur trappers, missionaries and pioneers who brought their hopes and prejudices over the Oregon Trail. For thousands of years, hundreds of Native tribes had thrived in what became known as Oregon Country – a vast and wild land that stretched north into present day British Columbia, south to California and east to the Rockies. Oregon Country’s rich supply of beaver pelts spawned a huge fur-trading network dominated by the British Hudson’s Bay Company at Ft. Vancouver. A joint treaty allowed both the United States and Great Britain to occupy the land. But Oregon Fever would change the landscape forever. Thousands of Euro-Americans lured to the fertile – and free -- agricultural land of the Willamette Valley migrated West. They soon dominated Oregon Country pushing the Native tribes, already decimated by diseases, onto marginal lands. In 1843 a critical vote at the settlement of Champoeg led to the organization of a provisional government in the region –the first American government west of the Mississippi. Road to Statehood explores Oregon’s turbulent path to becoming the 33rd state in the Union.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parallel Lines Poster Freebie (for Valentine's Day)

Saw this little quote online and made a classroom poster for Valentine's Day.  
Happy Valentine's Day! 

P.S. I searched and cannot find the author source. If it is you, please let me know so I can give you credit.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop #86 (Feb. 11, 2013)

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Pink Week... (Pinterest - Math - Valentine'sDay)

It's been quiet around here. With all the red and pink, one might have thought I was prepping for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, no. Instead, I had a red nose. Pink throat. Red eyes. Pink hands (from washing them so much!) And no voice to speak of. Not a great combination for a teacher, or a mother of five!

Thankfully, all MY pink is leaving...just in time to usher in a little pink for the big day. If you're looking for some ideas to integrate math into your Valentine's Day, come visit my brand new Pinterest board. You'll find a lot of fun ideas for your K-5th grade kiddos!

(If you like what you see, check out the rest of my Pinterest boards. How much do I love Pinterest and Math? Go and count the ways... :)

And for more Valentine's Day ideas, check out Tamara's post at Homeschool Chicks

Monday, February 4, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop #85 (Feb. 4, 2013)

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Sale Weekend at Teachers Notebook

Just this week I joined Teachers Notebook and learned firsthand what a gem of guy is behind it. If you're looking for some fresh ideas and would rather peruse lesson plans than watch football, here's a terrific sale to check out. 101 Ways to Make Book Reports Fun is included, 50% off through Sunday!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Photo Week in Review!

I managed to capture a few more photos than normal this week. Here's a little peek into my classes:

Class: Oregon History, Geography, and Writing*
Photo: One student's Oregon salt map with borders, cities, regions

*Note for Oregon teachers and homeschoolers: An extensive unit study on Oregon History, Geography, and Writing is scheduled for publishing later this spring.

Class: Oregon History, Geography, and Writing
Photo: Student working on a tissue painting to go with our Oregon poetry.

Class: Drawing FUNdamentals
Photo: Fourth grader's bird drawings following the E-Z drawing lesson from Roger Kukes' book, Drawing in the Classroom.  (THE greatest book, IMO, for teaching children to draw.)

Class: Kindergarten Math Club
Photo: Love this! :) The calendar shows the new January Calendar Grid for Bridges, Second Edition. We made number trees for each of the button pictures. Since the month was over, I removed all the number trees (on those blue pieces of paper), shuffled them, and had the kids match them to the pictures. This was hard work, but they were up for the challenge! ;)

Class: Math Club, Grades 4 & up
Video: This represents a high and a low...  I had the kids make videos using ScreenChomp on iPads to demonstrate what they know about the numbers in fractions. One group's uploaded fine. The other group's video got eaten by whatever technological monster currently hates me. Both groups worked so, so hard. I'm crushed that their hard work is floating somewhere in technology land...

And, last but not least, my husband brought home a printed copy of 101 Ways to Make Book Reports Fun. So thankful for all the help he gave me on that project!
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