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Using Metrics - Not Going the Whole Nine Yards!

Did you know that there are only three nations which do not use the metric system: Myanmar, Liberia and the United States? The U.S. uses two systems of measurement, the customary and the metric. Yes, since our country does use the metric system, we have given more than an inch, but we haven't gone the whole nine yards.

Today, when we shop for groceries, soda is sold in liters. Medicine is sold in milligrams, food nutrition labels are metric, and what about a 100-meter sprint or a 5K race? Still, we are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not conduct business in metric weights and measures. To be or not to be a metric nation has been a question of great consternation for our country for many years.

Here are some reasons why I think our nation should go to the metric system.
  1. It's the measurement system 96% of the world uses. 
  2. It is much easier to do conversions since it is based on units of ten. Water freezes at zero, not 32°, and it boils at 100, not 212°. 
  3. Teaching two measurement systems to children is time consuming and confusing. 
  4. It is the "official" language of science and medicine. 
  5. Its use is necessary when you travel outside of the United States. 
  6. Conversion from customary to metric is often fraught with errors. Because the metric system is a decimal system of weights and measures, it is easy to convert between units. 
  7. There are fewer measures to learn. Once you learn the meaning of the prefixes, you can easily convert mass, volume and distance measurements. No further conversion factors need to be memorized except the specific power of 10. For the Customary System you have to remember 5280 feet = 1 mile, 4 quarts = 1 gallon, 3 feet = 1 yard, 16 oz. = 1 pound, etc. 
  8. And just think, I would have less clutter in my kitchen since I wouldn’t need liquid and dry measuring cups or teaspoons and tablespoons! All I would need is a scale and liquid measuring cups!
So, while most nations use the metric system, the United States still clings to pounds, inches, and feet. Why do you think Americans refuse to convert? I’d be interested in your perspective and ideas.

A Go Figure Debut for a Canadian Science Teacher Who Is New!

Mo, of Big Red Science, is heading into her tenth year of teaching. She has taught in Canada, Italy, Micronesia, and on a tall ship while sailing the world!  Like most teachers, she loves the relationships she develops with her students. When a new school year starts, she is always eager to fast forward about two months to a time when she knows that her students and she will have created their own unique environment together full of positivity, comfort and a few ‘class inside jokes’!  Over the years, what she has learned about herself is that she develops these relationships through the learning that takes place. Mo loves the challenge of taking a concept that seems confusing or boring and tackling it in a way that makes students find joy in learning new things. She says that there is something about guiding students in their science and math journeys that really strengthens the relationships that she has with them.
At Mo’s school, each teacher has a desk in their departmental office, and then the teachers float between multiple classrooms each day. (Sounds like what I do on the college level.) This means that her décor is nothing special! (In other words, no bulletin boards to do!)  The vibe of whatever classroom she is in is relaxed because students feel comfortable with her. She also thinks it is important for students to know each other so she encourages numerous group work activities and tries to find ways for her students can talk to each other early and often. 

Bringing variety to her lessons is also a key component of her personal philosophy of education. She believes that if everything is the same day after day, students won’t be able to distinguish one day or topic from the next. Therefore, Mo fills her classes with as many different types of activities as she can find like games, case studies, labs, simulations, models, skits, foldables, watching and making videos and podcasts, debates, ‘speed dating’, question trails, storytelling, typical lectures…all kinds of stuff!  

Mo has lots of interests outside of teaching including singing, playing games, traveling, spending time at her cottage and recently squash. And the one thing that she will always, ALWAYS say yes to is an escape room. She and her partner have probably done thirty of them, and they claim they are pretty good!

FREE Resource
Currently, Mo has 60 resources in her store, Big Red Science, and nine of those items are free. One of her free items Fish and Polar Bear Back to School Inquiry Activity is a great way to get students to work together in a low-pressure situation while at the same time asking questions and using the scientific method intuitively. She uses it as an early ice breaker, but it can be done at any time of the year!

Only $3.00
Her featured paid item, YouTube Alternative Bell Ringer Assignment, is an engaging way to start a class. This assignment has students sift though You Tube to find a video that relates their science class to the real world. Mo has used this assignment in various classes for years, and notices that students always find incredibly interesting and engaging content.

Mo also has a blog called Big Red Science. (Can you guess how she got that name?) I found her articles to be engaging as well as practical. Take some time to check it out as well as her Teachers Pay Teachers store. There are products for general science, biology, chemistry and math. In addition, she has games, diagrams, movie guides, question trails, some décor, and video and podcast assignments. You will discover her products reflect the variety that she values in her classroom. 

The Left Angle Mystery - Does Such an Angle Exist?

Geometry is probably my favorite part of math to teach because it is so visual; plus the subject lends itself to doing many hands-on activities, even with my college students.  When our unit on points, lines and angles is finished, it is time for the unit test.  Almost every year I ask the following question:  What is a left angle?   Much to my chagrin, here are some of the responses I have received over the years.

1)   A left angle is the opposite of a right angle.

2)  On a clock, 3:00 o'clock is a right angle, but 9:00 o'clock is a left angle.

3)  A left angle is when the base ray is pointing left instead of right.

    4)      A left angle is 1/2 of a straight angle, like when it is cut into two pieces, only it is the part on the left, not the part on the right.
5)      A left angle is 1/4 of a circle, but just certain parts. Here is what I mean.

Now you know why math teachers, at times, want to pull their hair out!  Just to set the record straight, in case any of my students are reading this, there is no such thing as a left angle!  No matter which way the base ray is pointing, any angle that contains 90is called a right angle.

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If you would like some different hands-on ways to teach angles, you might look at the resource entitled, Angles: Hands-on Activities.
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Skip Counting and Learning How to Multiply

Most elementary teachers use a Hundreds Board in their classroom.  It can be used for introducing number patterns, sequencing, place value and more. Students can look for counting-by (multiplication) patterns. Colored disks, pinto beans or just coloring the squares with crayons or colored pencils will work for this. Mark the numbers you land on when you count by two. What pattern do they make? Mark the counting-by-3 pattern, or mark the 7's, etc. You may need to print several charts so your students can color in the patterns and compare them. I usually start with the 2's, 5's and 10's since most children have these memorized.

On the other hand, the Hundreds Board can also be confusing when skip counting because there are so many others numbers listed which easily create a distraction.  I have found that Pattern Sticks work much better because the number pattern the student is skip counting by can be isolated. Pattern Sticks are a visual way of showing students the many patterns that occur on a multiplication table.  Illustrated below is the pattern stick for three. As the student skip counts by three, s/he simply goes from one number to the next (left to right).

Martian Fingers
For fun, I purchase those scary, wearable fingers at Halloween time. (buy them in bulk from The Oriental Trading Company - click under the fingers for the link.) Each of my students wears one for skip counting activities. I call them the Awesome Fingers of Math! For some reason, when wearing the fingers, students tend to actually point and follow along when skip counting.

Most students enjoy skip counting when music is played. I have found several CD's on Amazon that lend themselves nicely to this activity.  I especially like Hap Palmer's Multiplication Mountain.  My grandchildren think his songs are catchy, maybe too catchy as sometimes I can't get the songs out of my mind!

Only $3.00
Think about this.  As teachers, if we would take the time to skip count daily, our students would know more than just the 2's, 5's and 10's.  They would know all of their multiplication facts by the end of third grade. And wouldn't the fourth grade teacher love you?!?

IMPORTANT:  If you like this finger idea, be sure that each student uses the same finger every time to avoid the spreading of germs. Keeping it in a zip lock bag with the child’s name on the bag works best. (Believe it or not, when I taught fourth grade, the students would paint and decorate the fingernails!)

To help your students learn their multiplication facts, you might like the resource entitled Pattern Sticks. It is a visual way of showing students the many patterns on a multiplication table.