Saturday, May 29, 2010

Math with Children's Books--Class for Homeschool Teachers

Interested in using "Living Math" books--children's literature--to teach math? The content of this class for homeschool teachers is designed to fit in with any curriculum, making math more meaningful (and FUN!) for students in grades K-6.

Since this is the first time offering the class, the course fee will be minimal.

I'd like to get an idea of how many people are interested and the date/time that would best fit your schedule. This is not a commitment. If you have interest, please use the email address at right to let me know whether you'd prefer to take the class in June or Sept and daytime or evening. Location is Portland/Metro/Willamette Valley area.


M.S.Ed., Educational Consultant.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Games That Emphasize Patterns (SET and Blink)

One of the parts of math I most enjoy? The search for patterns. Here are two games that make patterns especially fun:

SET is one of the best games out there. I recommend it when I lead teacher workshops and those who are familiar with it always sing it's praises. Basic concept? Lay out 12 cards and look for "sets"...a set comprises 3 cards in which all the characteristics are either completely the same or completely different. But there are many characteristics and therefore, many possible combinations. Some sets are very simple, others very complex. Kids as young as 6 can play...and sometimes beat!...adults. Any number of people can play. I've used it in homeschool co-ops before, spreading it out on a table so kids can look for sets as other kids are arriving. It works well in a classroom when used under a document camera. It's also an awesome family game.

While scanning the game shelves at Goodwill last week, I came across a cardgame that I was unfamiliar with, Blink. I left it there, not seeing directions or knowing what it was. I should have bought it. I came home, looked it up on Amazon, and ended up buying a new set. 

Blink is a fast, much easier version of SET. My 7yo son is just beginning to understand some of the complex patterns that are possible with SET. In contrast, the patterns in Blink are easy, but it's a game that takes 2 minutes or less. As fast as you can, you're looking to match figure shape, color, or numbers. I backed off my pace to make it a fair match with my 7yo, but even my 4yo was able to place cards in patterns. We just slowed WAAAAYYYYY down. But the game is fun enough to play full-throttle with a big kid or adult. We'll likely take it on trips as it comes in a little tin box, making it easy to pack.

Both games do a great job of encouraging players to search for patterns. You can also play one game of SET each day, on-line.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

School Year Winding Down...

We're winding down as we often do in spring. We like to spend our days outdoors at this pleasant time of year and come inside for lessons during the summer as it gets hot. At the moment I'm fully engaged in preparing to teach summer continuing ed workshops, so the blog may be a little less regular for a time. Please keep visiting! More to come... :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Smart" by Shel Silverstein (math, poetry, drama)

Math, money, and poetry. Inspired by this video, in class today, we combined the three in a little rendition of Shel Silverstein's poem, "Smart."

"Smart" can be found in Shel Silverstein's book, Where the Sidewalk Ends. You can also purchase/download the MP3 of "Smart" for less than $1.

More money lesson ideas.

More poetry/math lesson ideas.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pocket Change: Money Math Lessons

We're continuing to explore money in math this week. We read several children's books and discussed coin amounts, changing coins, adding/subtracting money, etc. Then I thought we'd have a little fun with "Pocket Change."

I cut a pocket from a pair of jeans in the ragbag. We used the pocket for money lessons at a variety of levels...

Five Cents:

I showed my 4yo five coins. I told him that I would hide some of the coins in the pocket while he shut his eyes. When he opened them I asked, "How many pennies are in my pocket?" While I was thrilled that he got the first one right, I quickly realized that it may have been a fluke. He needed more support to understand how many coins were hiding.

I made a little 5-frame. We put all five pennies in the frame and counted them. After I hid some, he used the 5-frame to help him figure out how many coins were missing.

One Dollar:

I told my 7yo that his coins totaled $1. I put some of the money outside and some of the money inside the pocket. He counted the coins he could see and then told me how much money he thought he'd find inside the pocket. He then emptied the pocket and counted the change. I'll upgrade to dollar bills as he needs a bit more of a challenge.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Children's Math Book Reviews: Money

In this category--money--I've noticed that I often underestimate the power of children's literature until sitting down with the book...and the CHILD. The child makes all the difference in the book's power. Perhaps with the concept of "money," it's because I so thoroughly understand it already; not until I take the time to read with a child do I understand how rich the content is when approached as new(er) material.

The first two selections are simple books using coin amounts under $1.

Bruce McMillan's Jelly Beans for Sale first establishes that one jellybean costs one cent. Text and color photographs then demonstrate a variety of coin combinations that equal amounts up to 25 cents. We practiced counting by fives and tens as well as counting coin amounts for numbers up to 25. Both children followed along, the 4yo counting jellybeans and the 7yo counting coins. A natural extension would be to follow this by "playing store." While it appears that this book is out-of-print (OOP), this link seems to have much cheaper copies.

The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams brings coin counting to a slightly more advanced level. Coin combinations total amounts up to $1. A few rhymes encourage kids to guess what's coming: "One penny, two opennies, three pennies, four. What will we get when we add just one more?" Children can think in terms of many nickels or dimes equal a quarter? A fifty cent piece? A dollar? My kids did a lot of counting by 5s and 10s. The last page pictures a wide assortment of coins. What total do you get? (We counted $3.)

The next two books provide practice with adding and subtracting money/decimals:

In Arthur's Funny Money by Lillian Hoban, Arthur decides to wash bikes to try to earn the remaining money he needs to buy a shirt and hat for his frisbee team. He learns that you must "spend money to make money" as he forks out cash for soap and other washing supplies. The text provides opportunities to add and subtract amounts under $5.

How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty tells of humorous, fictitious, class fundraising. Readers can keep track of expenses (such as $2 to "pay five younger brothers and sisters to borrow their wagons which had been our wagons in the first place") and profits ("no dollars and no cents" when the cat falls in the lemonade bucket) right along with the second grade. The tale takes a wild spin when a runaway vehicle from a class car wash inadvertently stops a bank robbery in progress. The reward money, or the promise of it, sends the class on a trip to New York.

Once Upon a Dime: A Math Adventure by Nancy Kelly Allen is one of our favorites. Farmer Worth grows a very strange tree. Each year, with different types of fertilizer, the tree grows different types of money: 100 pennies, 100 nickels, 100 dimes, 100 quarters, etc. ...even sprouting Chinese Yuan the year the tree is fertilized with Chinese panda patties from the zoo. It's fun to keep track of the value of each year's crops. After reading this book, my son later referred to one of his discoveries, "Remember, 100 nickels is $5!" Get a reader's theatre version of the book free on the author's website.

Later this week, I hope to report on some of the "Hello Math Readers" that we've read during our money lessons. I must confess...I think I've underestimated the value of these little books. We've really enjoyed them.

Tomorrow I'll post a simple, fun way to practice counting coins.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Table TOP Math - make tops, learn math, have fun!

I don't think we're supposed to have this much fun...or do this much math...when sick. ;)

We made "table tops"...tops that, you guessed it, spin on the table. As I led my 7yo student through the lesson, I asked him to help me identify mathematical vocabulary as we constructed the tops. We then experimented with all kinds of designs, trying to guess what each would look like when spinning. Here's a short video showing some of our table tops in action...


I made a pdf document showing the steps to make a table top and the mathematical vocabulary/math extensions that can be discussed during the process. It's appropriate for ages 7-12 or so. Adjust mathematical vocabulary accordingly. If you would like a free copy of the pdf, send me your contact information using my gmail address (on the right side) or post your contact info in the comments below. (I won't do anything with your contact info except send you the pdf.)

Coincidentally, I just picked up If You Were a Quadrilateral by Molly Blaisdell (2010 publication) that uses the majority of the vocabulary we reviewed today. It's a perfect go-along. We also recalled the Lell Dragons ("Pair of Lells!" = parallel lines), the "'cute" steeply angled rooftops (acute angles) and the Mountains of Obtuse (obtuse angles) from Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland. Not to mention parallelograms as described in Sir Cumference and the First Round Table.
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