Thursday, February 24, 2011

Inchworm, Inchworm...Measuring the Marigolds? Snow?

Today we're mostly measuring SNOW...a first for my little guy, home from China less than two years. But we also took a little time to measure with INCHWORMS.

We began by using the free lesson, "Making Inchworm Rulers" from "D2 Measurement: Length in U.S. Customary Units" found here. The lesson asked us to look at a ruler and identify what we knew about it. We then read a little bit about "inchworms," also included with the lesson. I couldn't resist taking a few moments to watch the classic Sesame Street version of the song, Inchworm. Then we listened and sung along with a class. (Wouldn't it be fun to do a puppet show for that song??)

My guys then made inchworm rulers (see lesson...note that you need to be careful in how your copy machine automatically reduces...I had to increase the % to get the inchworms the right size...a math lesson in and of itself!) We read Inchworm and a Half, which was a good extension for my 8yo who is interested in fractions. Then we read Inch by Inch and measured each animal using our inchworm rulers just as the inchworm in the book measured. Lastly, we are using the "Inchworm Ruler Record Sheet" (pdf included in the free lesson, linked above) to discover things around the house that are shorter than 1 foot, exactly 1 foot, and longer than 1 foot.

At the moment, they're back outside, measuring snow. :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yo, Millard Fillmore!

In honor of President's Day (U.S.), here's a little book that we're having fun with...

Yo, Millard Fillmore! uses a series of cartoons to teach the names of the Presidents (through Clinton, btw) in order. Although we're not taking the memorization part too seriously, it's fun to see just how many we can remember using the comic book mnemonic tricks. Even more, I enjoy the trivia about each President, highlighting interesting facts about each person. [Note: although at first glance the book appears out-of-print and $$$, it looks like there are a lot of used, inexpensive copies.]

What Children Need to Thrive

Are you familiar with the work of Dr. Bruce Perry? He's an incredible resource on so many topics...the human brain and development in children, childhood trauma, the way children develop relationships. This time he discusses "the disconnect between what our children need to thrive and what the modern world has to offer, emphasizing the importance of human connections at early stages in life. He also offers tools for parents to help their children develop healthy minds, nurture friendships, overcome traumatic experiences, and feel cherished. Drawing from his own experience as a parent, Dr. Perry further informs us how parents can evaluate themselves as friends, spouses, workers, etc. to become better role models for their children Living Smart by emphasizing the importance of human connections." WWW.HOUSTONPBS.ORG

A sample quote..."It's probably not good AT ALL for children under the age of 3 to watch television. Anything you think they can benefit on television, they could probably learn better in a relationship." Perry talks a lot about the importance of relationship for children.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Join World Maths Day--classrooms and homeschoolers--FUN!!!

Classrooms and homeschoolers...!!!  Join World Maths Day.

This. IS. SO. MUCH. FUN!!!

A teacher sent me the link...can't believe we never knew about it before...

Register FAST! You can register from now til Feb. 28th. It's free. From now til March 1, you can practice on the site, competing against students from around the world. On March 1, join the big competition.

This morning, my 8yo son was competing against kids from all over the world as he practiced math problems.

What a world we live in!!!! ;)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coupon! Math in the Moment

I love the way Dan Meyer does such a wonderful job of recognizing math problems in the moment. So I tried to catch a moment myself today. During lunch when I was looking through the local grocery ads, ds8 saw a coupon for candy bars, 5 for $2. He remarked, "That's not a good deal! You can get a candy bar for like $.68!" I asked him how much one candy bar would cost if they are 5 for $2 with the coupon. He didn't know. We've only done a tiny bit of basic division, and certainly not division with money, but I decided that he was probably up to this task. So I cut out the ad and told him to use pictures, words, and/or numbers to figure out how much one candy bar would cost.

I knew this would cause a bit of disequilibrium. But I also knew that the right amount of disquilibrium = a great environment for new learning. After thinking a bit, he wrote out a long problem of 10+10 until he'd written 20 tens. He then made 5 boxes and drew curved lines connecting a 10 to each box. In the middle of this he stopped and said, "I know! They cost $.40!" I asked how he knew. He said that there are 20 tens in $2. And 20 divided by 5 equals 40. (Since he seemed to be on the right track and was obviously thinking in decimals, I didn't interrupt.) Then, after a while, he grinned and said, "We should get 4 candy bars for $1.60. Then [brother] and I can each have two so it's fair."

When do you successfully use math in the moment?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: The Skunk Report (+I Spy Art, Measurement + Lit)

I'll get right to the point. It's been an exciting week filled with learning, love, laughter odor...a little less than lovely.

When we woke up this morning, our house smelled like SKUNK. Now, living in the country, that does occasionally happen. But when I opened the door to the outside porch, the odor was unusually strong. One look at the CAT told me why. 

See the lovely streak of yellow running up her leg? Apparently, skunks spray a yellow oil. That, my dear readers, is the source of the horrendous odor. Let me put it this way...when my 16yo daughter stuck her nose out the back door she said, "It smells so bad that you can't even tell it's a skunk smell anymore."

With outside temperatures currently at freezing, it's not a very opportune time to give an OUTSIDE cat a bath. (For that matter, when is it EVER time to give an outside cat a bath??)

My 8yo son just said, "Don't put that [picture] on there! It's MEAN!" But even meaner? The cat's now adult children, her usual cold-weather snuggling companions, seem to be shunning her. And who'd blame them.

Smelly cats...isn't there an educational opportunity in here somewhere???

When we weren't contemplating skunks this week, we:

*did some I SPY artwork with shapes

*considered how big Mommy's feet are and did some estimating and measuring with her "feet"

*read about giants and estimated and measured with giant feet

*measured with tile and headstrings

*considered whether a candy bar coupon was a good deal

If you'd like to share about your week, or give me smelly outdoor cat advice, please comment! :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Head Strings: Measuring with String & Tile

We continued our lessons on measurement. The boys enjoyed Inch by Inch, in which an inchworm measures a variety of birds (a flamingo's neck, a toucan's beak, a heron's leg...) only to be told by a nightingale, "Measure my song or I'll eat you for breakfast." The inchworm "measures," moving farther and farther away as the bird sings, eventually inching out of sight.

We then continued a little measurement of our own...

Following the free Math Learning Center lesson**, "Head Strings," I measured the circumference of my head with a piece of yard, lay it on the floor, put 5 colored tiles next to it,  and asked my son to estimate how many tiles would be needed for the total length. He guessed 25 by looking at the first group of tile and explaining it would probably take 5 of those to finish the string. I put tile along about half the string and asked if he wanted to revise his estimate. With 11 tile now along the string, he changed his estimate to 22. He measured the string with tile, finding that it took 23.

 I removed the tile and placed a book next to the string, asking him to use what he knew about the string to estimate the length of the book. He estimated and measured, coming within one tile. I gave him a copy of "Head String Record Sheet," (free pdf) and let him estimate and measure various objects around the house using his own head string and tile. Lastly, we'll be considering how many tile are needed to measure the length of a ruler and reflect on what that says about the size of each tile. (Tile are 1" square.)

My 4yo measured for a bit and then made a train and house with his felt shapes.

**To access the free lesson, including blackline pdfs, go here and download "D2 Measurement: Length in U.S. Customary Units."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How Big is a Giant's Foot?

Following our lesson on "How Big is a Foot?" we decided to consider slightly BIGGER feet...

We began by reading Jim and the Beanstalk, a slightly different version of the traditional Jack tale. Both boys enjoyed hearing about how Jim helped the giant by measuring him for new glasses, new teeth (!) and a new wig. We then continued with a little giant measuring of our own.

Using Math Learning Center's free lesson, "Measuring Length in Giant Feet," I constructed a giant foot and asked my son to compare the length of my foot from yesterday's lesson to the new giant foot. He determined that about 3 of my feet equaled one giant foot and told me that the giant foot was then about a yard long. (To access the free lesson, including blackline pdfs, go here and download "D2 Measurement: Length in U.S. Customary Units.") He lay a yardstick on the giant foot to confirm. He estimated, then measured, various things around our house (including his brothers!) in giant feet and recorded it on the record sheet (included in the lessons). Before I set him loose to measure, I asked him, "What kinds of things would be hard to measure with the giant's foot?" He replied, "Anything very small." So he looked for large things to measure.

As big brother was measuring with the giant foot, little brother (4) pulled out paper, traced his flip-flop, cut it out, and began doing measurements of his own. All his idea! So they measured a few things with the small feet as well, considering how different the results could be with different sized feet.

We ended with a reading of a 2-sided book with two points-of-view, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Beanstalk Incident. One side tells the story from the goose's p.o.v. (favoring the giant!) while the other side tells Jack's story in the traditional way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Big is a Foot?

Here's a fun measurement lesson you can easily follow in your own classroom, at home or school...

Using a lesson idea from Marilyn Burns', Math and Literature (K-3), I read aloud the first part of the book, How Big is a Foot? The story tells of a King who wants to give the Queen something special for her birthday. He takes measurements, using his own feet as a guide, and sends a message to the Apprentice saying that the bed should be 6 feet by 3 feet. The Apprentice makes the bed, using his small feet as a reference. When the bed turns out too small, the Apprentice is jailed.

Following the lesson idea, we stopped reading the book in the middle and I asked ds8 to write a letter to the Apprentice, giving him some advice. My son wrote,

"Dear Apprentice,

The King used his big feet and you did it with your small feet. Tell the King to stand in front of you so you can use his big feet to measure."

After the letter, we read the rest of the book. Then we followed a lesson from the Math Learning Center, "Measuring Length in Teacher Feet." (To access the free lesson, including blackline pdfs, go here and download "D2 Measurement: Length in U.S. Customary Units." You'll find many fun lessons in that set.)

My son estimated how many steps it would take him to cross the living room. He then carefully measured with heel-to-toe steps and compared his estimate to the actual. He also estimated how many steps it would take me to cross the same space and compared estimate/actual. Then I gave him a paper foot I'd prepared by tracing one of my shoes. He used the "foot" and the record sheet (free pdf), estimating and then measuring things around our house.

More measuring fun to follow!....

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Spy Shapes in Art (Math + Art = Fun!)

I recently picked up a delightful book, I Spy Shapes in Art. Each left page says, "I spy with my little eye" and names a particular shape: a square, a circle, a rectangle, a triangle, etc. Toward the end of the book, shapes are 3-D: cylinder, cube, cone, etc. Each right page then shows a major work of art (think Matisse, O'Keeffe, Warhol, Escher, etc) in which the named shape can be found. Some are rather obvious, while others need a little searching. Interestingly enough, sometimes my 4yo found the shapes before my 8yo.

We used the book to begin an art/math lesson. As the boys located each shape, I asked my 8yo to identify properties of that particular shape. "Why is that a rectangle?" (sides are parallel, angles are 90 degrees, etc.) For my 8yo, this was review. For my 4yo, some of the concepts were new for the first time. He was delighted to tell me that a shape was a triangle because it "has three sides." My 8yo first said that the sides of a triangle had to be equal, then changed his response, as he remembered that sides could be of different lengths.

We then modified an activity from another helpful resource, Using Color in Your Art!: Choosing Colors for Impact and Pizzazz. The original activity (p. 17) calls for children to create primary color abstract paintings using tools. This is what we did instead:

1. The children collected 3-4 shapes from around the room that they could trace onto their paper. They traced lids to make circles, boxes for rectangles, and they drew their own triangles by connecting three dots with a ruler. My 4yo even found an oval shaped garmet tag to use. When they were finished, they'd successfully drawn 3-4 shapes on their papers; it was fine to overlap.

2. Next, they drew two lines across their paper, left to right. These lines could be anywhere, as long as they went left to right, off the paper.

3. They drew three lines from top to bottom of their paper. Again, anywhere as long as it reached top to bottom.

4. Now the tricky part...coloring. We talked about primary colors and I explained how it might be easiest to start with yellow since lighter-colored mistakes could be more easily covered. I also explained how they needed to avoid having the same color share a line; the same color can share a corner/angle/vertice, but not a line. My 8yo caught onto this easily and started with yellow on his picture, working from one corner to the next diagonal corner. Since I knew this wasn't developmentally appropriate for my 4yo (who still wanted to do it exactly like his brother!) I told him which places to color. He liked this method. After they finished with yellow, they used both red and blue, making sure that the same color never shared a line.

5. We took a coloring break and read Little Blue and Little Yellow, a book my son suggested when he noticed that sometimes green was being formed where blue and yellow touched.

6. When we finished, I posted the pictures on the wall so the boys could do their own "I Spy Shapes."

Note: The top left picture is mine, done the night before with tempera paint. I wanted to see how difficult it was to paint. After trying it, I had my boys use crayons. It was nice to have my sample, however, because we did "I Spy Shapes" with my pictures before the boys got started on their own. My 4yo's picture is on the bottom left, my 8yo's on the right.

P.S. Almost Unschoolers wrote about another experience with art/math last week, also using the book I Spy Shapes in Art. I'd planned my lesson before seeing her blog entry, so it might be interesting for you to see two different approaches using the same book.

P.P.S. Here is an on-line preschool activity for finding shapes in pictures:

Storyplace Shapes Online Activity

Link up or see other ideas at A Mommy's Adventures.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Penguin Poetry & More (Penguins #6)

I'd promised a loyal reader that I'd continue to post what we're doing with our penguin unit. We're still plugging away. Here are the highlights:

* We watched a National Geographic video, Antarctic Wildlife Adventure. The video depicts the true story of a family with three young boys who travel the coast of Antarctica, studying penguin colonies. The purpose of the movie isn't so much to learn facts about penguins, but to experience what it would be like to travel Antarctica, seeing wildlife up close. I couldn't believe it when the boys were able to wander about the ice near the sea, hang from the ship mast, and gaze out from the freezing deck in their underwear. :) It shows a very adventurous lifestyle, filled with daily learning. A second story on the video tells about a group of men who dare to scale one of the dangerous peaks in Antarctica.

Both stories were fascinating. My son wrote about the adventures in his travel journal.

*We read a delightful penguin poetry book, Antarctica Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems. My son is writing some acrostic poems using names of several different penguins. This on-line tool takes students through the steps of brainstorming an acrostic poem.

* We've studied several more penguins and added them to our height chart and our comparison/contrast chart. (To see more complete information, view our past penguin entries.)

* With each penguin we study, my son writes an entry in his travel journal, describing what he "sees" as he visits each penguin.

*On a world map, my son color codes each type of penguin we "visit," showing where it lives.

* The Bridges curriculum (from which many of our lessons come) includes some worksheet fact cards whereby students are asked to decided which fact cards go with which penguin. I like to have my son take ownership in as much of the process as possible, so this week he made his own fact cards about two penguins to "quiz Mommy"...I had to sort them into envelope pockets. After I was done, he asked me to make him some fact cards. Then he sorted mine. He thought mine were easy! ;)

We'll wrap up a few final lessons and then post our PENGUIN PORTFOLDERS! :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Using Children's Books to Teach Math

I'm preparing to teach another session on "Linking Math and Literature." If you're up for a little discussion, I'm curious to know your thoughts. Feel free to answer as much or as little as you choose! :)

1. How do you go about choosing children's books to teach math concepts? What, to you, makes a good book for teaching math?

2. How do you use children's books with math?

3. Do you think there are "good ways" and "bad ways" (probably not PC, but you get the point) to use children's books in teaching math?

4. What do you wish you knew about using children's books to teach math?

P.S. I realize my posting has been lax this past week. My work schedule has increased AND I'm taking an on-line class--on math, what else?--so I've been a little lacking in time. But I managed a stop at the used bookstore today to buy another pile of children's books for teaching math! :) Getting excited about this class.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Children's Book Review: Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach

I randomly picked up Martina the Beautiful Cockroach at the library and immediately fell in love with the book. And since this story is all about finding true love, I thought I'd mention it before Valentine's Day.

Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, the beautiful cockroach, is now 21 days old; old enough to "give her leg in marriage." (The book is filled with many humorous puns.) Her grandmother, Abuela, tells her to spill coffee on the shoes of each suitor. Why? The suitor will become angry and Martina will know what happens when he loses his temper. As she waits for the first suitor, she crosses her legs and crosses her legs and crosses her legs. (It's this kind of stuff that makes the story hilarious. I laughed out loud repeatedly as I read the book to my kids.) Martina is courted by a rooster (he's too "cocky" for her), a pig (who is too "boorish"), and a lizard (too cold-blooded.)

When Martina catches a glimpse of a mouse, she thinks he's the right one for her...only to be confirmed when he splashes coffee on her shoes FIRST. Why? He, too, has a Cuban grandmother.

Love, love, LOVE this book! I've read it over and over with my 8 and 4yo. It would also make a great dramatic reading (fun text, interspersed with Spanish phrases) or little play for some older kiddos.  :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Addictive New Math Game

NCTM's Calculation Nation has a new game, neXtu, that can only be considered addictive! My 8yo and I took turns playing it yesterday. We're still learning all the strategies involved. You can play directly from the link below:

Play neXtu »

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Are You Neurotic?

If so, it appears you're in good company. My 16yo daughter picked up the book, I Am Neurotic, upon a librarian's recommendation. When she kept giggling, I leaned over her shoulder to check it out...and quickly "borrowed" it.

[Note: this is a book for mature readers. Perhaps mature, neurotic readers? :) ]

The book comes from the author, Lianna Kong's, work on her website,, where folks come to privately tell of their neurosis. Each page contains a photo illustration and someone's anonymous contribution, describing their issue. We could relate to a few of them, laughed at more, and shook our heads at the remainder. As a math educator, I especially enjoyed a couple...

"When I eat colored sweets (Skittles, Smarties, etc.) I have to arrange them by color, then pull out enough of them to create a Fibonacci triangle before I can eat them (in ascending numerical order). Any excess sweets that do not fit the pattern have to be eaten in one go before I can start on the patterned sweets." (I'm sure you can picture the photo illustration!)

"When I buy dinner at a restaurant I always leave a tip so that the total is a palindrome." (like $34.43)

I read the book in about 30 minutes. And felt quite relieved that my neurosis are not nearly as bad as I might have thought. ;) If you want a fun, fast read--with lots of photos--look for this book.
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