Tag Archives: math

Don’t Fear the Fractions

Blog Challenge #3: Math! (Ahhhhhhhh!!!!)

NOTE: I’m running about a week behind on the challenge. With a little encouragement hopefully I can get caught up.

There are few things that bring more fear into the mind of a parent than when their child asks them the question…

“Can you help me with my Math?”

Why is it this simple question can cause a grown adult to break out in a cold sweat, frantically check their Blackberry searching for somewhere they need to be, and stammer out a reply like, “Uh…I’d really like to help you right now…but…uh…I’ve got this thing I…uh…really need to get done…you know?”

What is it about math that can turn a peaceful evening at home into a scene from a Halloween horror movie? Instead of yelling, “Don’t open that door!” Parents are yelling, “Don’t open that Math book!” Scarier still is the message being sent to kids. The message that math is something to be feared. Math is hard. Mom & Dad don’t get it. How can I ever be expected to understand it? Why should I even try?

This is a situation that many teachers face. At school kids are quick to give up on their work or not try at all because they’ve been conditioned to think that math is hard, frustrating, and no fun. What can teachers do to change this? Since people on the Internet seem to be fond of lists, here’s a list of ways to help kids (and parents) understand math and maybe even see that it can be fun.

1. Paper Slide Videos – Help kids learn by making them the teacher. All you need is a flip cam, some paper, and markers. Divide kids into small groups and have them make short videos explaining how to solve math problems. Maybe do a new one each week. Eventually you’ll have a library of tutorial videos that you can post online to teach kids (and parents) how to do the homework.

2. Math Explanations from Discovery Education – Don’t have time for kids to make a video? Those with Discovery Streaming can search a library of 10,148 pre-made videos that explain everything from adding and subtracting to graphing quadratic functions. Find a video that goes with your lesson and give kids a link they can watch at home. Just select “Math Explanation” as the media type when you search.

3. Wolfram Alpha – Need help figuring out a problem or want to check your work? Try using Wolfram Alpha.

4. Online Resources from your textbook company – This year we purchased new math curriculum. Along with the book we also got access to an online version of the text along with additional resources for teaching and review. Houghton Mifflin has some resources at their site freely available to everyone. Just select your grade level.

5. NextVista for Learning – this site currently¬† has 112 math videos created by students and teachers for students and teachers. If you make a great Paper Slide video, contact the Next Vista’s founder, Rushton Hurley and he might just add it to the list.

6. WebMath – Yet another site to help you check your work and solve all sorts of math problems.

Got any other great sites to take the FEAR out of math? Add a comment, drop me a line, let me know. I’d love to add it to the list.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast! Ye scurvy scum! September 19th is “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” and while this day has not yet been recognized as a national holiday, it does provide an opportunity for some fun lessons with your class.

Every year I use this day as an excuse to decorate up the computer lab, change the desktop backgrounds to a pirate theme, and put on a pirate hat and talk like a pirate. The kids love it. Some of their teachers even get in the spirit too. I’ve been known to decorate the staff bathroom in a pirate theme as well. (Hopefully that’s not too much information for you.)

Last year I found a fun, free download called Science Pirates. Developed at New Mexico State University through a grant from the USDA, this game is designed to teach middle elementary kids about the scientific method and food safety. All the pirates on the ship are sick with something the game calls “the curse of Brownbeard”. Students must explore the island searching for the cause of the ailment.

Science Pirates Screenshot

Another fun activity you could use is Place Value Pirates. This simple little game has students fighting pirates and identifying place value with 10’s, 1’s, tenths, and hundredths. (Thanks Karen Ditzler for sharing!)

Finally, for lower & middle elementary you can try¬† National Geographic’s Find the Sunken Treasure. Students play the role of underwater archaeologists searching the grid for sunken artifacts. If you like this, they have other map activities at their MAPS: Tools For Adventure site.

Do you have any other fun pirate activities? Please share. And if you want to have a little fun yourself, try going to the language tool on your Facebook or Google page and change it to “Pirate”.

If teaching isn’t fun you’re not doing it right.