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A Go Figure Debut for an Illinoisan who is new!

My latest Go Figure Debut is an elementary teacher from Illinois. Jenny believes in making math fun for all students by building their confidence through math center games and small group lessons because confident students are successful students!

Jenny is in her 9th year of teaching. She currently teaches first and second grade math, science and social studies. What she loves most about teaching is sharing her love of math with her students. She loves seeing their light bulbs go off as well as seeing her students enjoy math more as they become confident in their math abilities. Her classroom is a safe place where students know that it is okay to make mistakes or to not know how to do something, but it is not okay to ever give up. Her students learn math through centers, games and small guided math groups. Learning is a team effort in her classroom, and she enjoys hearing her students help each other.

In addition, Jenny likes playing games with her family. She spends lots of time with her girls, ages three and two, playing Candy Land and Soggy Doggy. She also loves traveling anywhere and everywhere. In June, her girls will be surprised with a trip to Disney, and Jenny cannot wait to see their faces when they meet their favorite princesses in real life.

Jenny currently has 102 products in her store called Foreman Fun. Twelve of the resources are free. Most of her resources are for 1st, 2nd and 4th grade math and are aligned to the CCSS.

Only $5.00
One of her resources is called Dice Math Center Games! ~ NO PREP! ~ Add, Subtract, Place Value, and Time. The games are for Kindergarten, first or second grade, and there is NO CUTTING! Just print, laminate, and play! All you need is dice! The games are perfect for centers on addition, subtraction, place value and telling time. You could also use them for independent work or as a fun assessment! Want to challenge your students? Just give them more than a six sided die!
FREE

Jenny’s free item is a quick, half page, no prep geometry assessments on 2-D and 3-D shapes and fractions. They are ideal for exit slips, as pre/post tests before and after a unit, or to use as evidence in a portfolio for standards based report cards. Each assessment is aligned to one specific common core standard making it easy to assess each individual standard.

I believe students will enjoy Jenny's center activities and games because she takes the time to make them simple for you to use.  Take a few moments to check out her store and use the custom categories on the left of her store's home page to make your search easier.

FOIL - It Doesn't Always Work!

Using FOIL
In more advanced math classes, many instructors happen to hate "FOIL" (including me) because it only provides confusion for the students. Unfortunately, FOIL (an acronym for first, outer, inner and last) tends to be taught as THE way to multiply all polynomials, which is certainly not true. As soon as either one of the polynomials has more than a "first" and "last" term in its parentheses, the students are puzzled as well as off course if they attempt to use FOIL. If students want to use FOIL, they need to be forewarned: You can ONLY use it for the specific case of multiplying two binomials. You can NOT use it at ANY other time!

When multiplying larger polynomials, most students switch
to vertical multiplication, because it is much easier to use, but there is another way. It is called the clam method. (An instructor at the college where I teach says that each set of arcs reminds her of a clam. She’s even named the clam Clarence; so, at our college, this is the Clarence the Clam method.)

Let’s say we have the following problem:

(x + 2) (2x + 3x – 4)

Simply multiply each term in the second parenthesis by the first term in the first parenthesis. Then multiply each term in the second parenthesis by the second term in the first parenthesis.

I have my students draw arcs as they multiply. Notice below that the arcs are drawn so they connect to one another to designate that this is a continuous process. Begin with the first term and times each term in the second parenthesis by that first term until each term has been multiplied.
When they are ready to work with the second term, I have the students use a different color.  This time they multiply each term in the second parenthesis by the second term in the first while drawing an arc below each term just as they did before.  The different colors help to distinguish which terms have been multiplied, and they serve as a check point to make sure no term has been missed in the process.

As they multiply, I have my students write the answers horizontally, lining up the like terms and placing them one under the other as seen below. This makes it so much easier for them to add the like terms:

This "clam" method works every time a student multiplies polynomials, no matter how many terms are involved.

Let me restate what I said at the start of this post: "FOIL" only works for the special case of a two-term polynomial multiplied by another two-term polynomial. It does NOT apply to in ANY other case; therefore, students should not depend on FOIL for general multiplication. In addition, they should never assume it will "work" for every multiplication of polynomials or even for most multiplications. If math students only know FOIL, they have not learned all they need to know, and this will cause them great difficulties and heartaches as they move up in math.

Personally, I have observed too many students who are greatly hindered in mathematics by an over reliance on the FOIL method. Often their instructors have been guilty of never teaching or introducing any other method other than FOIL for multiplying polynomials. Take the time to show your students how to multiply polynomials properly, avoid FOIL, if possible, and consider Clarence the Clam as one of the methods to teach. 


Sock It Away! What To Do With Those Annoying Cell Phones in the Classroom

Most of us can't live without our cell phones.  Unfortunately, neither can our students.  I teach on the college level, and my syllabus states that all cell phones are to be put on "silent", "vibrate", or turned off when class is in session.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  Yet, one of the most common sounds in today's classrooms is the ringing of a cell phone, often accompanied by some ridiculous tune or sound effect that broadcasts to everyone a call is coming in.  It’s like “technological terror" has entered the classroom uninvited.  Inevitably, this happens during an important part of a lesson or discussion, just when a significant point is being made, and suddenly that "teachable moment" is gone forever.

What are teachers to do?  Some instructors stare at the offender while others try to use humor to diffuse the tension. Some collect the phone, returning it to the student later.  A few have gone so far as to ask the student to leave class.

In my opinion the use of cell phones during class time is rude and a serious interruption to the learning environment. What is worse is the use of the cell phone as a cheating device.  The college where I teach has seen students take a picture of the test to send to their friends, use the Internet on the phone to look up answers, or have answers on the phone just-in-case.  At our college, this is cause for immediate expulsion without a second chance.  To avoid this problem, I used to have my students turn their cell phones off and place them in a specific spot in the classroom before the test was passed out.  Unfortunately, the students’ major concern during the test was that someone would walk off with their phone.  Not exactly what I had planned!

It's a CUTE sock and perfect for a cell phone!
A couple of years ago, a few of us in our department tried something new.  Each of us has purchased those long, brightly colored socks that seem to be the current fashion statement.  (I purchased mine at the Dollar Tree for $1.00 a pair.)  Before the test, each student had to turn off their cell phone, place it in the sock, tie the sock into a knot and place the sock in front of them. This way, the student still had control over their cell phone and could concentrate on doing well on the test, and I did not have to constantly monitor for cheating.

At the end of the semester, we compared notes.  Overall, we found that the students LOVED this idea.  Many said their students were laughing and comparing their stylish sock with their neighbor's.  I was surprised that a few of the students even wanted to take their sock home with the matching one – of course.  So here is a possible side benefit....maybe socking that cell phone away caused my students to TOE the line and study!
Just $2.00

If you want some additional help with other irritations that might "drive you up the wall", try the resource Seven Greatest Irritations for Teachers with Possible Solutions. You can find it in my store for only $2.00.



Fibonacci Numbers and The Golden Ratio

Fibonacci
Even if you were taught about the Fibonacci number sequence in school, you probably don’t remember much about it. As with other higher levels of math, many aren’t sure how Fibonacci could possibly be relevant to their real lives; so, why should they even attempt to remember him or his sequence? In reality, Fibonacci numbers are something you come across practically every day. Even so, let’s go back and start at the beginning.

The Fibonacci number sequence is named after Leonardo of Pisa (1175-1240), who was known as Fibonacci. (I love to say that name because it sounds like I know a foreign language.) In mathematics, Fibonacci numbers are this sequence of numbers:
As you can see, it is a pattern, (all math is based on patterns). Can you figure out the number that follows 89? Okay, let's pretend I waited for at least 60 seconds before giving you the answer….144. By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. For those who are still having difficulty (like my daughter who is sitting here), it is like this.
  

The next number is found by adding up the two numbers that precede it.
  • The 8 is found by adding the two numbers before it (3 + 5)
  • Similarly, 13 is found by adding the two numbers before it (5 + 8),
  • And the 21 is (8 + 13), and so on!
It is that simple! For those who just love patterns, here is a longer list:

 

Can you figure out the next few numbers?


The Fibonacci sequence can be written as a "Rule “which is:   xn = xn-1 + xn-2   The terms are numbered from 0 forwards as seen in the chart below.   xn is the term number n.   xn-1 is the previous term (n-1) and xn-2 is the term before that (n-2)

Sometimes scientists and mathematicians enjoy studying patterns and relationships because they are interesting, but frequently it's because they help to solve practical problems. Number patterns are regularly studied in connection to the world we live in so we can better understand it. As mathematical connections are uncovered, math ideas are developed to help us be aware of the relationship between math and the natural world. 

As stated previously, we come across Fibonacci numbers almost every day in real life. For instance, my husband and I were at the Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri. (If you haven't been, you should go because it is spectacular.) He was noticing how the herrings were swimming counter clockwise and discussing the Coriolis effect with the guide. When we got to the lower levels, where the sharks were, they were all swimming in a counterclockwise direction as well. I asked my rocket scientist husband why this was and again he said, with a straight face, "The Coriolis Effect."

Inside of a Nautilus Shell
I then spied seashells and started talking about Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio. (I know the visitors around us were wondering just who we were!) On the right, you will see a picture of the inside of a Nautilus Shell taken by me! It clearly shows the Golden Ratio. (The Golden Ratio is a special number equal to about 1.6180339887498948482. The Greek letter Phi is used to refer to this ratio. Like Pi, the digits of the Golden Ratio go on forever without repeating.) Many shells, including snail shells and nautilus shells, are perfect examples of the Golden spiral.

Are you still not sure what I am talking about? Have you ever watched the Disney movie entitled Donald in Mathmagic Land? (It's an old one that
The Golden Ratio
you can find on You Tube.) Well, in the movie they talk about the Golden ratio. This is a proportion that is found in nature and in architecture. The proportion creates beauty. And that proportion is the Fibonacci sequence! If you divide consecutive Fibonacci numbers you will always get the Golden ratio. Try it! Start with the big numbers. If you divide 89 by 55, you get 1.61. If you divide 55 by 34, you get 1.61. If you divide 34 by 21, you get 1.61, and so on. You can look up the Golden Ratio and explore it more. It’s fun!

As I close, here are four questions to think about:
  1. How might knowing this number pattern be useful? 
  2. What kinds of things can the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence represent?
  3. Where is the Golden Ratio found in the human body?
  4. Why is the golden rectangle important in architecture and art?