Monday, December 30, 2013

The Top 10 Posts of 2013

It's fascinating to look back over the past year and find the most frequently read posts. Here they are, in reverse order, for 2013...

Oh, but wait!

Do me a favor? Sometimes I'm at a loss to know what my readers are interested in, despite the "top posts." I'd like to know you better. Are you a classroom teacher? Homeschooler? Teaching elementary school? Math class? Please take a sec to complete this survey. It's painless. And I won't sell it to a corporation in a faraway land. I just want to know a bit more about YOU. Thank you. And thank you for being a blog reader.

Now, drumroll please...

The Top Ten Posts for 2013 are...

10. Skittles Fractions, Estimation, and Graphing

9. Descriptive Poetry & Tissue Painting: 5-Sense Your Poetry Lessons!

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

7. Kids Create Subitizing Cards

6. Book Review: The Boy Who Loved Math

5. Finding Area of Parallelograms with the Geoboard (free online & App)

4. Vacation Workstation...a Brain Playground

3. How to Make Teacher Docs: Backgrounds

2. 101 Ways to Make Book Reports Fun

1. Rethinking Multiplication Fact Memorization

And the top post of the year (yeah, I can't count) is...


Happy New Year, all!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kids Learn to Type Before They Drive These Days??!

I remember learning to type. Because my daytime course schedule was packed, my parents drove me to a nearby high school to take evening classes. On an electric typewriter...

FFF (space) JJJ (space)

I learned to type about the same time I learned to drive. Driving and typing. Doorways to adulthood.

Not so today.

At least with typing.

I've been perusing the Common Core Standards for Writing and noticed something interesting:

Grade 3 (my bold)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.6 With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

Grade 4 (my bold)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.

Grade 5 (my bold)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.

Grade 6 (my bold)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

When I read that 5th graders are supposed to type two pages in one sitting, I distinctly heard a character speaking from the movie, The Princess Bride. "INCONCEIVABLE!!!!!!"

Soooooo,..... methinks my 5th grader might do a bit more typing in the new year. We'll return to a favorite standby, Dance Mat Typing (free), from the BBC. Maybe we'll see you on the dance floor??

And not on the freeway! ;)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fractions and Ratios - Online Game & Activity

My 5th grade group has been using ratios and ratio tables to better understand fractions and their equivalents. Here are two online activities (one game and one lesson) that support ratios & fractions. I hope my students--and yours--will try them out! :)

Ratio Blaster - In this free online game, view a ratio (example: 3 to 6) and click to shoot at the invading spaceship that shows an equivalent ratio, written as a fraction (example: 1/2).

Cheesy Goldfish - Determine which goldfish cracker package is the better deal, using a ratio table to find price/ounce.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Celebrating Our "Me Books!" (autobiographies)

First, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I haven't been posting in the last week...  Too busy with a daughter home from college and all 5 kids (ages 7-23!), plus relatives, gathered here yesterday.

But I want to take time to share photos from the final project we completed before the holidays. This fall, my class studied biographies and autobiographies and wrote their own "Me Books." Here are photos from their hard work!

The lesson for the cover art came from Create Art with Me.

Some cover shots...

More cover shots...

Photos from some of the inside pages. Poetry, biographical sketches, artwork, and more...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop: Time & Money

Time and money...what a fabulous topic to discuss in mid-December when we have very little of either! ;)

I do hope you'll take a moment to share your ideas below (no ads, please...items from TPT or TN must be FREE.) Thank you!

If you want to share this collection on your blog, just grab this link:

get the InLinkz code

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Factors & Multiples: Flap Books & Online Games

Although factors and multiples are a 4th grade focus*, they are definitely something that we fifth grade teachers like LOVE to review.

To keep my students' skills sharp during holiday break, I created factor and multiple flap books. These little "presents" require students to write the definition of "factor" and "multiple" and list 5 multiples for 2-10 and all the factors for 6,7,8,9,10,12,18, 24, 36. Blank versions are also included for teachers or students who want to use their own numbers. When these little homework assignments return from break (!), they will be added to our math notebooks.

You'll find Presenting Multiples & Factors at:

Teachers Notebook
Teachers Pay Teachers

*factors & multiples are in CCSS.Math.Content.4.OA.B.4

Looking for more factor and multiple practice over break? Below, you'll find links to some of my favorite related games:

Table Numbers - Choose a factor from 2-9, then click on one of three numbers that represents a multiple of the chosen factor.

Times Square - find factors as you race to get four products in a row.
Factor Dazzle- Click on the factors of target numbers set by an opponent. Use Guest Pass or register to play against students online.

Factor Game - Click on the factors of target numbers set by an opponent. Play against the computer or a friend.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Smart PAL Giveaway...Teach Smarter with this Cool Tool!

A couple years ago I discovered Smart PAL, a tool that helps me teach "smarter." A SmartPAL is a transparent sleeve into which you can easily insert your own materials. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to review it, as it's something that I use on a routine basis. How?
  1. Document camera or overhead projector - At first, I only owned one SmartPAL. I would slip a piece of blank paper into it and have students build models with manipulatives (like tile or base ten pieces) on top of the plastic sleeve, thereby allowing me to record notations about their work around the model without wasting paper. I could also insert any worksheet or gameboard (whether a paper copy on the doc camera or a transparent copy on the overhead) into the sleeve and have multiple students write and then erase, all using just one piece of paper.
  2. Math Stations - After I received a few more SmartPALs, I changed the way paper was copied for Math Stations. Rather than copying games and activities for the entire class, I only copied the number needed for use at any one time. So, for example, if a station needed a math game board, I made just 4 copies for 4 student pairs to use in that Math Station. Since many game boards are written on--one per student--this has saved a ton of copying!
  3. Scratch Paper - With an entire class set of SmartPALS, I now ask students to use them to show their work during times that I might have otherwise used scratch paper. Yesterday, I asked each student to write down one fraction addition problem and solve it using a clock, money, or number line model. Each student then followed along with me--recording their own work--as we also used a ratio table. Every student was accountable for the work, with zero use of paper. I could quickly walk around the room, peering over shoulders for a quick assessment, then have them erase and try another problem.
Using as scratch paper...with the manila Math Station folder in place.
The Jr. version does not have the nameplate.
Additional Tips:

Math Stations
I put a manila folder inside each SmartPAL and put the current game on top of the folder. Although the SmartPAL is fairly stiff, this gives it additional stability. Then, I place game rules inside the folder. When students pick up a SmartPAL in a Math Station, they are set to go with the game, the rules, and a wipe-off playing surface.

Save Worksheets Year to Year
I save worksheets when we're finished using them on the doc camera or in a Math Station. They go into folders, by unit and module, where I can reuse them in the future.

Bottom Line?
This product regularly saves me scads of paper. It's invaluable for student sharing. And it's a helpful tool during Math Stations. My classroom would be a lot more inefficient without them.


EAI Education has graciously offered one set of SmartPAL Jr. Sleeves for a giveaway. Note that the winning mailing address must be in the contiguous 48 states. 

Giveaway has ended. Congratulations to the winner, Hillary M! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is a video telling more about SmartPALs:

Disclosure: I was provided a set of SmartPAL Jr. Sleeves in exchange for an unbiased review. I've actually thought about featuring SmartPALs for a long time, because they are one of my favorite classroom products.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Value of Math Mistakes

One of my big goals this year? To help kids see the value in math mistakes.

I've made enough of my own to know that a mistake doesn't feel like a whole lot of fun. How about...

Substituting baking powder for baking soda.

Not quite shutting the (full!) freezer door tight.

Mopping up the suds when someone (not me!) put liquid dish detergent in the dishwasher.

But mistakes have their advantages. Especially math mistakes!

Recently, my students used a number line to add and subtract fractions. In a subtraction problem, they had to subtract double-digits in order to find the numerator. Most of my class arrived at the same answer, but a couple arrived at different number...though the same number as one another, indicating that they probably made the same mistake.

Suddenly, one of the kids exclaimed, "I know what happened! I subtracted instead of added!" He went on to explain that in the problem 75-20, he took 20 from 70, but then subtracted the "leftover" 5 instead of adding it back on.

I congratulated him for identifying the misstep, affirming how much we can learn from mistakes. He grinned and said, "That was pretty smart!"

Yes. That was pretty smart!

For more thoughts on math mistakes, read "The Power of a Good Mistake" by NCTM President, Linda Gojak.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop: Multiplication & Division

The way Multiplication & Division is taught has changed immensely since I was in elementary school. We now encourage kids to consider different think mathematically, rather than simply memorizing a few facts or steps in an algorithm.

At this time of year, I know you're trying to DIVIDE your time with all the holiday activities going on! I hope you'll take the time to MULTIPLY our knowledge of multiplication & division by sharing your ideas below (no ads, please...items from TPT or TN must be FREE. Thank you!)

If you want to share this collection on your blog, just grab this link:

get the InLinkz code

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Egg Carton Fractions = EGGcellent Visual Model!

Have you discovered the power of egg carton fractions? Like the clock model, egg carton fractions provide students with a visual model for exploring fractions with denominators: 2, 3, 4, 6, & 12.

One of the most powerful elements of the egg carton model is its ability to focus on numerator or denominator. How?

The denominator--the number of parts in the whole--is modeled by string or a pen line.

The numerator--the parts you have--is modeled by "eggs," shown by pen on paper or by tile, plastic eggs, or whatever you have handy.

Yesterday, my students looked at fraction addition using egg cartons. We used a Work Mat to demonstrate each fraction being added, as well as the total. By simply moving the string, we could consider all the possible common denominators.




This makes adding fractions a piece of cake!

My new product, Egg Carton Fraction Addition Task Cards, provides opportunities to practice adding fractions with unlike denominators, using an egg carton model for support. Check it out (introductory sale!) at:


Friday, December 6, 2013

Online Holiday Math Activity Calendar

Don't miss this year's online holiday math calendar from the NRICH site. Each day from now til Dec. 24 features a problem-solving opportunity.

Primary Calendar (British Stages 1-2*)
Secondary Calendar (British Stages 3-4)

Stage 1 is equivalent to Grades 1-2 in the U.S.; Stage 2 is U.S. 3rd-4th. The Secondary Calendar is designed for grades 5 & up.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Math Monday Blog Hop: Real Life Math

Think about the last 24 hours. When have you used math?
  • driving?
  • grocery store?
  • checkbook balancing?
  • weighing fruits or vegetables?
  • cooking?
  • sewing?
  • construction?
  • cleaning? do you take those real life experiences and integrate them into math lessons? Post ideas below (no ads, please.)

If you want to share this collection on your blog, just grab this link:

get the InLinkz code

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