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October - Is It "Fall" or "Autumn"? Doing Science Investigations with Leaves

October is just around the corner.  October means football (Ohio State, of course), cooler weather and gorgeous leaves. (It is also when my husband and I were married.) In October, we see the leaves turning colors, and the deciduous trees shedding their leaves.

Another name for fall is autumn, a rather odd name to me.  Through research, I discovered that the word autumn is from the Old French autumpne, automne, which came from the Latin autumnus. Autumn has been in general use since the 1960's and means the season that follows summer and comes before winter.
Fall is the most common usage among those in the United States; however, the word autumn is often interchanged with fall in many countries including the U.S.A. It marks the transition from summer into winter, in September if you live in the Northern Hemisphere or in March if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.  It also denotes when the days are noticeably shorter and the temperatures finally start to cool off. In North America, autumn is considered to officially start with the September equinox. This year it was on September 22nd.
With all of that said, the leaves in our neighbor's yard have already begun to fall into ours which aggravates my husband because he is the one who gets to rake them. Maybe focusing on some activities using leaves will divert his attention away from the thought of raking leaves to science investigations.  
Remember ironing leaves between wax paper?  We did that in school when I was a little girl (eons and eons ago).  Here is how to do it.
  1. Find different sizes and colors of leaves.
  2. Tear off two sheets about the same size of waxed paper.
  3. Set the iron on "dry".  No water or steam here!
  4. The heat level of the iron should be medium.
  5. Place leaves on one piece of the waxed paper.
  6. Lay the other piece on top.
  7. Iron away!
You can also use this activity to identify leaves.  According to my husband who knows trees, leaves and birds from his college studies, we "waxed" a maple leaf, sweet gum leaf, elm leaf, cottonwood leaf (the state tree of Kansas - they are everywhere), and two he doesn't recognize because they come from some unknown ornamental shrubs.

Maybe you would like to use leaves as a science investigation in your classroom.  I have one in my Teacher Pay Teachers store that is a six lesson science performance demonstration for the primary grades. The inquiry guides the primary student through the scientific method and includes 1) exploration time, 2) writing a good investigative question, 3) making a prediction, 4) designing a plan, 5) gathering the data, and 6) writing a conclusion based on the data. Be-leaf me, your students will have fun!

(A preview of the investigation is available. Just click on the resource cover on your right.) 

A Go Figure Debut for an Australian Who is New!

Cece is from New South Wales and has been teaching between grades 1-5 for almost six years. For two years, she was a substitute/relief teacher. Her favorite thing about teaching is being able to have a positive impact on students and seeing their excitement when learning new things about the world around them. 

Her classroom is a safe space and well-organized. She believes there is a place for everything, and everything has a place. (Personally, so do I.) She believes in nurturing curiosity and providing students with the opportunity to actively seek answers to questions. This is achieved by providing a mixture of activities to support different learning styles.

In her spare time, Cece likes to paint. She also enjoys expressing her creativity by designing resources for Teachers Pay Teachers! In addition, she takes yoga classes every weekend to keep in shape and also as a way to unwind and relax (something every teacher needs).

Currently, her store, Teach Super, contains 56 products, 49 paid and seven free. Her resources are designed to promote student participation, provide educationally rich learning experiences, and encourage students to learn. All her resources are tried and tested in her classroom to make sure they are useful and helpful to other teachers.


One of her free resources is called Synonym Path Activities. This is a perfect literature center activity that involves students connecting similes to make a path down the page. Students may color the path or draw a line. This activity can be used as a whole-class activity or as a literature center. You can also have students make and write sentences words from the included grid.


Cece's featured paid item is The Ultimate Relief Casual Substitute Teaching Resource Book (250+ activities!) This 53 page book contains a huge collection of activities and resources ideal for all the casual/ relief/ supply/ substitute teachers out there. It is so important to have fun, no-prep ideas/activities up your sleeve when a substitute is taking over the day. The book contains a 250+ collection of go-to activities for all KLA's (Key Learning Areas of a curriculum or the subjects) and year levels. They require very little to no resources or preparation. This “all you need” resource will ensure you feel more confident coming in each day, ready for anything.

Take some time to check out her store and resources. You will find it well worth your time.

Let's Go Fly A Kite - Using the Correct Geometry Term for Diamond!

This was a comment I received from a fourth grade teacher, "Would you believe on the state 4th grade math test this year, they would not accept "diamond" as an acceptable answer for a rhombus, but they did accept "kite"!!!!!  Can you believe this? Since when is kite a shape name? Crazy."

First of all, there are NO diamonds in mathematics, but believe it or not, a kite is a geometric shape! The figure on the right is a kite. In fact, since it has four sides, it is classified as a quadrilateral. It has two pairs of adjacent sides that are congruent (the same length). The dashes on the sides of the diagram show which side is equal to which side. The sides with one dash are equal to each other, and the sides with two dashes are equal to each other.

A kite has just one pair of equal angles. These congruent angles are a light orange on the illustration on the left. A kite also has one line of symmetry which is represented by the dotted line. (A line of symmetry is an imaginary line that divides a shape in half so that both sides are exactly the same. In other words, when you fold it in half, the sides match.) It is like a reflection in a mirror.

The diagonals of the kite are perpendicular because they meet and form four right angles. In other words, one of the diagonals bisects or cuts the other diagonal exactly in half. This is shown on the diagram on the right. The diagonals are green, and one of the right angles is represented by the small square where the diagonals intersect.
Clip Art by My
Cute Graphics

There you have it! Don't you think a geometric kite is very similar to the kites we use to fly as children? Well, maybe you didn't fly kites as a kid, but I do remember reading about Ben Franklin flying one! Anyway, as usual, the wind is blowing strong here in Kansas, 
so I think I will go fly that kite!


This set of two polygon crossword puzzles features 16 geometric shapes with an emphasis on quadrilaterals and triangles. The words showcased in both puzzles are: congruent, equilateral, isosceles, parallelogram, pentagon, polygon, quadrilateral, rectangle, rhombus, right, scalene, square, trapezoid and triangle.  The purpose of these puzzles is to have students practice, review, recognize and use correct geometric vocabulary. Answer keys are included.

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There's A Place For Us! Teaching Place Value

When my college students (remedial math students) finish the first chapter in Fractions, Decimals, and Percents, we focus on place value. Over the years, I have come to the realization how vital it is to provide a careful development of the basic grouping and positional ideas involved in place value. An understanding of these ideas is important to the future success of gaining insight into the relative size of large numbers and in computing.  A firm grasp of this concept is needed before a student can be introduced to more than one digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. It is important to stay with the concept until the students have mastered it. Often when students have difficulty with computation, the source of the problem can be traced back to a poor understanding of place value.

It was not surprising when I discovered that many of my students had never used base ten blocks to visually see the pattern of cube, tower, flat, cube, tower, flat.  When I built the thousands tower using ten one hundred cubes, they were amazed at how tall it was.  Comparing the tens tower to the thousands tower demonstrated how numbers grew exponentially.  Another pattern emerged when we moved to the left; each previous number was being multiplied by 10 to get to the next number.  We also discussed how the names of the places were also based on the pattern of:  name, tens, hundreds, name (thousands), ten thousands, hundred thousands, etc. 

I asked the question, "Why is our number system called base ten?"  I got the usual response, "Because we have ten fingers?"  Few were aware that our system uses only ten digits (0-9) to make every number in the base ten system.

We proceeded to look at decimals and discovered that as we moved to the right of the decimal point, each number was being divided by 10 to get to the next number. We looked at the ones cube and tried to imagine it being divided into ten pieces, then 100, then 1,000. The class decided we would need a powerful microscope to view the tiny pieces.  Again, we saw a pattern in the names of each place:  tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths, hundred thousandths, millionths, etc.

I then got out the Decimal Show Me Boards.  (See illustration on the left.)  These are very simple to make. Take a whole piece of cardstock (8.5" x 11") and cut off .5 inches. Now cut the cardstock into fourths (2.75 inches).  Fold each fourth from top to bottom. Measure and mark the cardstock every two inches to create four equal pieces. Label the sections from left to right - tenths, hundredths, thousandths, ten thousandths. You can type up the names of the places which then can be cut out and glued onto the place value board.

Here are some examples of how I use the boards.  I might write the decimal number in words.  Then the students make the decimal using their show me boards by putting the correct numbers into the right place.  Pairs of students may create two different decimals, and then compare them deciding which one is greater.  Several students may make unlike decimals, and then order the decimals from least to greatest.  What I really like is when I say, "Show me", I can readily see who is having difficulty which allows me to spend some one-on-one time with that student.

Show Me Boards can also be made for the ones, tens, hundreds and thousands place.  Include as many places as you are teaching. I've made them up to the hundred thousands place by using legal sized paper. As you can see in the photo above, my two granddaughters love using them, and it is a good way for them to work on place value.

A good way to practice any math skill is by playing a game. Your students might enjoy the No Prep place value game entitled: Big Number.  Seven game boards are included in this eleven page resource packet. The game boards vary in difficulty beginning with only two places, the ones and the tens.  Game Board #5 goes to the hundred thousands place and requires the learner to decide where to place six different numbers.  All the games have been developed to practice place value using problem solving strategies, reasoning, and intelligent practice.

Securing Calculators in Your Classroom so they don't walk off!

I teach at a community college which I love. I also spend three hours a week in the Math Lab which is a place where our students can come for math tutoring, to study or just to work in a group. It is staffed by math instructors. We try to have the supplies available that our students might need like a stapler, hole punch, white boards, pencils, scrap paper etc. We also have a set of scientific calculators which our students may borrow while in the Math Lab. 

Most of our items tend to remain in the Math Lab. Of course, a few pencils disappear now and then, but generally, most supplies seem to stay put EXCEPT for the calculators. Now I must say, students who take these home do so unintentionally. They just pick it up, slip it in their backpack and head out the door. Fortunately, most students are honest and eventually return the calculators to us. The dilemma is we only have so many calculators; so, we want to make sure that if a student needs one, it is on hand. We needed to find a way to make sure the calculators didn’t walk off.

One of our team members came up with an innovative but simple solution.
She purchased small clip boards and attached the calculator to it by using Gorilla tape. The calculators are still accessible, but much too big or bulky to accidentally stick into a backpack. In addition, since they are on a clip board, they are easy to stand and display in the white board trays. At the end of the day, it is simple to count them to make sure none are missing. This idea has worked so well, that some of our math instructors are now using this method in their classrooms.

So if you teach math, and have a set of classroom calculators, why not give this idea a try?