Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Press Here - A Book to Impress!

Have you read Press Here by Herve Tullet? It presses my funny bone!

It's a ridiculously simple concept...  You just do what the book says. For instance:

You see a yellow dot. The text says, "PRESS HERE and turn the page." When you turn the page you see two yellow dots. Now it reads, "Great! Now press the yellow dot again." Next page: "Perfect. Rub the dot on the left... gently."

The book continues to tell you exactly what to do on each page. The picture on the next page changes, just as if the book did what you said. It will tell you to tap a dot five times...and lo and behold there are five dots on the next page. It might say to tip the book to the left. On the next page, all the dots are clustered on one side as if your actions made the dots move.

We have read this book OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER.

My 5-year-old (without prompting) even made his own version of the book. It's a natural, humorous way to teach things like basic counting, direction/position (left and right), colors and more. My 9-year-old enjoyed it every big as much as my 5-year-old. Oh, who am I kidding? I probably liked it the most. (And I'm not telling my age!)

This is a must-read. Use it as a model for kids to write their own books. Or just enjoy it. Over and over again.

P.S. The Amazon page has a lot more information, including 100 customer reviews (impressive!...for a book that came out 6 months ago!!) and a video trailer. See to believe!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Schoolroom Edition!

A while back I asked for some schoolroom advice. I wish I'd taken an even earlier photo, because this room had old carpeting in it, but you can still see the basic change:

We removed the warped, twisted beams that were bolted to the ceiling. Updated the lighting and popcorn ceiling. Painted.

I was stumped over how to handle the brick. I liked it better once the room had been updated, but I still needed shelving and storage in this longish/narrow room. So we added built in bookshelves/cabinets with drawers under what used to be a free standing hearth.

Here's a little room tour...

The wall to the immediate left (behind the recliner) holds the clocks. We have one clock for each of the places in which our kids were born. This is great for calculating elapsed time! We often talk about what's currently happening in Korea and China while looking at the clocks. [Clocks are from Ikea. Labels were ordered through Office Depot.]

Directly beneath the window you'll see a magazine rack that holds some of our library books. [I purchased the rack, used, at a secondhand store that was going out of business.] To the left of the rack is a Large Magic Wall (magnetic) from The Math Learning Center.

Looking straight at the fireplace, you'll see our reading couch on the left with a map above it. We agonized over what to get to hang things on the walls. After painting, my husband insisted, "NO MORE BLUE TACKY STUFF!!!" I couldn't blame him. We had teeny pieces of the stuff stuck all over the walls from years and years of hanging papers. We finally decided on map/tack strips (can't remember the name or where we got them) and the wire for artwork from Ikea. This picture gives you the idea.

The train table is used for rotating toys/projects/themes. I like to swap out Legos, Playmobil, etc.

Now the newest addition...

If you sneak a peek behind the couch, you'll see our schoolwork. I first saw the plan here. We decided to get two of these Expedit Shelves because I could separate them if I ever decide to rearrange. Two Itso Bins from Target (Clear Qtr Bin Itso See-Through) fit perfectly on each shelf. I put a throw rug back there to make a cozy reading corner. It's been there since yesterday and so far it's been the source of constant bickering. I pointed out that it has lines; it can be divided in HALF. They don't seem to be particularly interested in fractions when it comes to sharing space.

On the right wall you'll see all the usual classroom items: 100s grid, pocket charts (mostly garage sale finds!), whiteboard (Costco), more of the map racks and art wire, a DIY cookie sheet/magnetic board, and a Calendar Grid Pocket Chart on the far right. I bought the table/chairs years ago from a preschool that was closing. When I use the space for larger classes, I often clear the area and have kids sit on the floor.

Oh, and btw...  We spend a lot of our day in this room. But it isn't unusual to find us sitting at the kitchen table either. This certainly isn't necessary. But it does make it SO. MUCH. EASIER. TO. FIND. THINGS.  It didn't used to be so hard to lay my hands on what I needed. Life is a bit busier these days. Hopefully this organization will save me some time.

I hope you've enjoyed this little tour. I LOVE peeking in on other learning spaces! :)

Homeschool room, Homeschool classroom

Monday, March 26, 2012

Math Monday Blog Hop #50 (March 26, 2012)

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Teaching Fractions Through Music

While probably not a surprise to any of you, you'll likely appreciate this article from Science Daily: Getting in Rhythm Helps Children Grasp Fractions, Study Finds.

In his piano lesson this week my son is learning a clapping pattern emphasizing note values. Even as we were doing it, he reflected on the connection to fractions.

I love the idea of equating fraction bars to musical notes. (See the article for a picture.) Fraction bars are a pretty common tool...but this is a innovative way to think about them. This article says:
"Academic Music: Music Instruction to Engage Third Grade Students in Learning Basic Fraction Concepts" has been accepted for press in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics and will be published online next week.
Looking forward to it! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One is a Snail Ten is a Crab

If you're feeling a little sluggish about teaching odd and even numbers, consider using the book One is a Snail Ten is a Crab. It's a "counting by feet" book in which even numbers are counted using creatures with even numbers of feet: humans, dogs, insects, spiders, etc...  Odd numbers are counted with an even-footed creature, plus a snail. So...

1 is a snail.
2 is a person.
3 is a person and a snail.
4 is a dog.
5 is a dog and a snail. Etc.

The book continues in that fashion up to 10. After that, the text starts counting by 10s using a variety of animal feet.

P.S. Yes, that is my foot. It's the price for making this a "pin-able" post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Math in Children's Literature List - Updated!

Latest Update: March 21, 2012

I try to update my list of Math Books on a regular basis. You can always access it from the link at the top of the home page.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Math Monday Blog Hop #49 (March 19, 2012)

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Math Myth: Borrowing is the Only Way

Subtitle: How I "Borrowed" Trouble and Have "Carried" It With Me...

I recently wrote an entry that included a link to a piece of research on "The Harmful Effects of Carrying and Borrowing." This has been on my mind a lot this past year. Here's why...

The math curriculum I use, Bridges in Mathematics, does a tremendous job at having kids explore various ways to solve problems. The way the lessons are set up, kids develop their own strategies, share their thinking with others, and refine their ideas as they become and more and more efficient at math. I was NOT taught this way and it's been amazing to watch my students develop strategies that are far superior (meaningful, more efficient, etc) than the algorithms I was forced to memorize.

This year I've been working with a 9-year-old. He's been able to use a variety of strategies to solve multi-digit addition and subtraction problems. Here's an example of one way that he solved a multi-digit subtraction problem. (Taken from a Bridges Grade 3 assessment.)


1300-600 = 700
700+49 = 749
749-75 = 674

I asked him how he did the last step. He said:

750-75 = 675
675-1 = 674

The strategy shows number sense and comfort with place value. As a child I was told that the correct way to do this problem was by borrowing. It made no sense. No one bothered to familiarize me with place value and number sense to give the problem any context. I had no options except to follow the rules. So why, then, would I mess up this child's system by giving him rules?

I did, you know. Here's what happened...

After being exposed to a wide variety of strategies and showing marvelous strength in his own knowledge, I introduced the standard algorithm. Why? Standards specify that kids must know how to do the standard algorithm along with other strategies. So we did it.

It seriously messed him up. The harder I tried to teach him the standard algorithm, the less he maintained a grasp on the meaning he'd constructed for himself. I taught the standard algorithm using both manipulatives and numbers, so it wasn't like I taught it completely out of context. We looked at how the numbers had to be broken apart (carrying/borrowing) with the manipulatives.

But it made no sense to him.

So I abandoned the standard algorithm. Actually abandoned all multi-digit addition and subtraction for awhile because he seemed so defeated. I seriously thought I'd ruined the kid. When we came back to it, we did a lot of work with manipulatives and I let him do it HIS WAY. Lo and behold, it came back to him. Stronger now than before.

I do still occasionally show him the standard algorithm. But only after extensive time with the exploration of other strategies. And only after he seems very, very comfortable in his own methods. I have abandoned telling him to "do it this way." 

Cause "this way" may not be "his way." And "this way" may actually do more harm than good.

I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Math Education: Some Must-Read Blog Posts!

If you're involved in Math Education (or perhaps even if you're not!) you have probably read about the controversies surrounding Khan Academy. Even if you could care less about Khan, I strongly recommend this series at the Generation YES Blog, Khan Academy Posts: Implications for Math Education.

If you teach math--whether in the classroom or as a homeschooler--this series will challenge you to examine your own beliefs about teaching and learning. If you don't have time to read it now, bookmark and come back later. I'm sure glad I did. :)

I especially recommend part 1, Khan Academy and the Mythical Math Cure, which talks about "how we believe certain things about math that are not true, but we keep doing them anyway." A major myth: "Learning math is about acquiring a sequential set of skills (and we know the sequence.)"

This myth resonated with me because I recently heard something similar while attending a math conference where Jo Boaler spoke. (Highly recommend her book, What's Math Got to Do With It? How Parents and Teachers Can Help Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject.) She talked about how low achievers do very different math than those who excel. One hurdle? Low achievers see math as a series of rules...rules that are equally important. Kids who struggle in math are less flexible in their mathematical thinking...which makes them emphasize rules even more. And what happens when kids struggle? They are likely to be exposed (by the teacher) to more drill/skill, which leads them to a stronger belief (misconception) that procedure is what counts in learning mathematics.

And think about math education. If kids are ever encouraged to think flexibly about math, it's when they're young. (Unfortunately, for some, the drill/skill emphasis begins immediately.) But the older they get, the more the emphasis is on procedures, mostly through memorization. As Alfie Kohn writes, it's no wonder that U.S. kids do worse and worse on internationally normed tests as they get older.

Thoughts? Love to hear them!

P.S. While you're at it, read a fascinating piece of research: "The Harmful Effects of 'Carrying' and 'Borrowing' in Grades 1-4" by Constance Kamii and Ann Dominick. The research is from 1998. And what are we still doing in most schools (and homes?) Teaching carrying and borrowing!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kitty, Nine Lives, Ordinal Numbers, Bookmaking, and More...

Post flea-bath photo.

We're sad. Our kitty passed her ninth life last week. It might actually have been her thirteenth. Or thirtieth. This cat gave me gray hairs. If we cracked the outside door, she'd streak in (sometimes so fast I didn't notice) and go hide in the house. Somewhere. A couple of us are allergic, so we'd begin an all-hands-on-deck call to find her. Usually under the bed.

She made me the craziest when I'd try to leave home. She'd zip into the garage door just as it was about to close. I sometimes pushed the button repeatedly as she waltzed in, then out, then in, then out. We recently came home after being gone for hours to find the garage door standing open. She must have done that in-out thing one time after I quit looking.

But the ultimate curious cat moments came when she'd run into the garage as I was backing out, jump on the hood, leap to the van roof, and take a final hop to the backside of the garage door. Yep. Up. Way up. While in the open position. If I continued backing out, she was stuck up there and I couldn't leave because the garage door was open; if I shut the door she'd be squashed. But when I pulled back into the garage, she'd go further onto the garage door where it was impossible to reach her.

Only a year ago I wrote about her when she got sprayed by a skunk. She was CURIOUS.

She made me crazy.

But we loved her.

So in tribute, we're making cat books. While learning math. And doing a little art. Go figure.

We started by reading picture books about the nine lives of cats:

My Nine Lives by Clio, by Marjorie Priceman
Comet's Nine Lives, by Jan Brett

We also read Cookie's Week. The cat, Cookie, encounters one misadventure each day of the week ("On Monday...Cookie fell in the toilet.") until she finally rests on Sunday. It's a great book to look at the days of the week in sequence.

We wrote stories--and included ordinal numbers--about the misadventures of a cat. Each tale was unique and written at the child's developmental level. Here are pages from the 6-year-old's:
On the first day, Cuddles fell into the toilet.
On the second day, Cuddles fell into a pot of mud.
On the third day, Cuddles got into the washing machine and it spun him around.
On the fourth day, Cuddles knocked the clothes off the clothesline. They got all dirty again.

And a few pages from the 9-year-old's:
On Tiger's first life at the farm he chased a bird to the top of the barn and fell off. Oops, life number one flying away.

On Tiger's seventh life he went down to the pond and tried to catch a duck. He pounced, but fell in, KER-SPLASH. Life number seven flying away.

On Tiger's eighth life he snuck up on the dog he saw through a thorn bush. He attacked and got stuck in the bush. Life number eight bounding away with tufts of fur missing.

We made books, pop-up style.

The 9-year-old will also add page numbers using Roman Numerals after reading Fun With Roman Numerals and Roman Numerals I to MM. Although Roman Numerals seem to be on the way out, standards-wise, it's something I want my students to learn. Roman Numerals aren't uncommon in dates (think movies!) and chapter titles. Just today we read A Giraffe Goes to Paris which included information about King Charles X of France.

It's been very healing for all of us to remember kitty's antics. I hope she made you smile. 

Disclosure: If you purchase books through my Amazon links, all commissions go toward foster care through Grace and Hope at no additional cost to you. I do not keep any money myself; I am hoping to be able to sponsor an additional child in foster care through commissions on this site. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Video: How to Make Math Meaningful

Interesting video from UC Berkeley professor about "how to increase students' understanding of math."

Happy Pi Day, all! :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Math Monday Blog Hop #48 (March 12, 2012)

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ordinal Numbers in Children's Literature & Technology!

Always felt a bit third-rate at teaching ordinal numbers? Share these books and activities and you're sure to come in first!


On the Stairs - mice count their way up the stairs with ordinal numbers.

Ten Little Caterpillars - count caterpillars with ordinal numbers in this gorgeous new book by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert.

Online Games & Activities:

Wash Line 1 - hang shirts on the line using the correct ordinal number order. (Scroll down for the activity.)

Alien Competition - put aliens in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place using different characteristics: most eyes, most legs, most arms, etc. Also try Alien Racing and Alien Teleport. Designed for whole group instruction with a projector or IWB. Also see Alien Flower Show for ordinals to 5th place. 

For more books, resources and activities, see the Bridges Kindergarten Resource Links.

Clip Art courtesy of Phillip Martin. The work by Phillip Martin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Thank you!

Disclosure: If you purchase books through my Amazon links, all commissions go toward foster care through Grace and Hope at no additional cost to you. I do not keep any money myself; I am hoping to be able to sponsor an additional child in foster care through commissions on this site. Thank you!  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Math Monday Blog Hop #47 (March 5, 2012)

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

I have a new favorite book. (Not that I don't have many favorites, but this certainly makes my list.) Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids explains how each of us carries an invisible bucket. We fill our bucket with good feelings...when people say something nice to us, smile at us, or help us. If we are kind, we can help to fill the buckets of others. Some people are bucket dippers and take the goodness from other people's buckets.

I first read about this book on a teacher's blog (have no idea where!); the book was being used to help kids practice kindness.

In our family we read the book and started talking about what fills our buckets and what empties them. This is a book that should be read at least weekly around here. :) I'm thinking about making physical buckets for my two youngest. I'd like to have them put something in the other person's bucket so they notice times that they're being kind.

My bucket filler for you are an awesome group of educators. I'm learning so much from visiting your blogs and reading your comments. Thank you for what you do!!!

Now go and fill a bucket!
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