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Snowflake Facts and Snowy Words - Get a FREE Crossword About Snow

I love winter. Yes, it's true. I love sweaters, a fire in the fireplace, throwing snowballs, eating snow ice cream and even the cold! As you can see from the photo, my grandchildren and I think snow is glorious.

Speaking of snow, have you ever wondered about snowflakes, how they are formed, how many different kinds there are? Here are a few fun facts about snowflakes that you might not have known.

  1.  The size of a snowflake depends on how many ice crystals connect together.
  2. Snowflakes form in a variety of different shapes.
  3. One of the determining factors in the shape of individual snowflakes is the air temperature around it.
  4. Snowflakes always have six sides.
  5. A single ice crystal is known as a snowflake.
  6. In total, 80 different shapes of snowflakes have been identified so far.
  7. Did you know that the saying that no two snowflakes are alike is actually a myth? It was true until in1988 when a scientist in Wisconsin managed to find two identical snowflakes.
I could go on and on, but since seven is the number of completion, I'll stop. 

While researching snowflakes, I started wondering how many words I could find that began with the word "snow" as I  wanted to make a winter crossword puzzle. I found 25 although there were plenty more; I just didn't want to make the clues to my puzzle overwhelming. 

The title of this new FREE resource is Snowy Words. It includes two winter crossword puzzles; each with 25 words that all begin with “snow.” One crossword includes a word bank which makes it easier to solve while the more challenging one does not. Even though the same vocabulary is used for each crossword, each grid is laid out differently. Answers keys for both puzzles are included. AND don't forget, you can download it for free!

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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 NONE of which are true!

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.

If you would like some different hands-on ways to teach angles, you might look at the resource entitled, Angles: Hands-on Activities.  This resource explains how to construct different kinds of angles (acute, obtuse, right, straight) using items such as coffee filters, plastic plates, and your fingers. Each item or manipulative is inexpensive, easy to make, and simple for students to use. All of the activities are hands-on and work well for kinesthetic, logical, spatial, and/or visual learners.


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Using Glyphs to Gather Information, Interpret Data and Follow Directions

What is a Glyph?
A glyph is a non-standard way of graphing a variety of information to tell a story. It is a flexible data representation tool that uses symbols to represent different data. Glyphs are an innovative instrument that shows several pieces of data at once and necessitates a legend/key to understand the glyph and require problem solving, communication, and data organization.

Remember coloring pages where you had to color in each of the numbers or letters using a key to color certain areas? Or how about coloring books that were filled with color-by-numbers? These color-by-number pages are a type of glyph. Some other activities we can call glyphs would be the paint-by-number kits, the water paints by color coded paint books, and in some cases, even model cars. Some of the model cars had numbers or letters attached to each piece that had to be glued together. These days, this could be considered a type of glyph.

What is the Purpose of a Glyph?

A glyph is a symbol that conveys information nonverbally. Glyphs may be used in many ways to get to know more about students and are extremely useful for students who do not possess the skill to write long, complex explanations. Reading a glyph and interpreting the information represented is a skill that requires deeper thinking. Students must be able to analyze the information presented in visual form. In other words, a glyph is a way to collect, display and analyze data. They are very appropriate to use in the CCSS data management strand (see standards below) of math.  Glyphs actually a type of graph as well as a getting-to- know-you type of activity.

CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.C.4  Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories;
ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another. 

CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.D.10  Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in a bar graph. 

For example, if the number of buttons on a gingerbread man tells how many people are in a family, the student might be asked to “Count how many people are in your family. Draw that many buttons on the gingerbread man." Since each child is different, the glyphs won't all look the same which causes the students to really look at the data contained in them and decide what the glyphs are showing.

Holiday glyphs can be a fun way to gather information about your students. You can find several in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  My newest one is for Thanksgiving and involves reading and following directions while at the same time requiring problem solving, communication and data organization. The students color or put different items on a turkey based on information about themselves. Students finish the turkey glyph using the seven categories listed below. 

1) Draw a hat on the turkey (girl or a boy?)
2) Creating a color pattern for pets or no pets.
3) Coloring the wings based on whether or not they wear glasses.
4) Writing a Thanksgiving greeting based on how many live in their house.
5) Do you like reading or watching TV the best?
6) How do they get to school. (ride or walk?)
7) Pumpkins (number of letters in first name)

THE O-H-I-O State and the Math Polygon - Octagon

An octagon is any eight sided polygon.  We often use a stop sign as an example of an octagon in real life.  But in a actuality, a stop sign is a regular octagon meaning that all of the angles are equal in measure (equiangular) and all of the sides have the same length (equilateral).  For an eight sided shape to be classified as an octagon, it needs to have only eight sides.

I got to thinking about this since fall is just around the corner, and our family are BIG Ohio State football fans.  Being raised in Ohio and having relatives who taught at Ohio State have fueled this obsession, but so has doing graduate work there.  If you aren't familiar with the Ohio State Buckeyes, here is your opportunity to learn something new.

On the right you will see one of the many symbols for THE Ohio State University.  The red "O" is geometric because it is an octagon (just count the sides). Even the beginning of the word Ohio is an octagon. (I just adore mathematics in real life!)

The Ohio Stadium, a unique double-deck horseshoe design, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of college athletics. It has a seating capacity of 102,780 and is the third largest on-campus facility in the nation. Attending football games in the Ohio Stadium or watching the game on television is a Saturday afternoon ritual for most Ohio State fans.  The stadium is even listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Anyone (and we have) who has been to a game in the giant horseshoe understands why. There are few experiences more fun or exciting!  In the middle of the football field is the octagonal O as seen in the picture below. (Another example of math in real life!)

Before I continue this posting, I must answer the age old question, "What is a buckeye?"  Since I grew up in Ohio, this question is easy for me to answer, but for everyone else, a buckeye is a nut. (I bet many of you thought it was candy.) Buckeye trees grow in many places in Ohio. The trees drop a "fruit" that comes in a spiked ball with a seam that runs around it. If you crack the seeds open, you can remove the "buckeye." When the nut dries, it is mostly brown in color but it has a light color similar to an over-sized black-eyed pea on one end. This coloration bears a vague resemblance to an eye hence the name, buckeye. 

Then there is Brutus Buckeye, (a student dressed in a costume) the official mascot of THE Ohio State University; so, you might say, since I was born and raised in Ohio, I am a nut!  Brutus (as seen on the left) wears a headpiece resembling a buckeye nut, a block O hat, (another octagon), a scarlet and gray shirt inscribed with the word "Brutus" on the front and the numbers "00" on the back.  Brutus also wears red pants with an Ohio State towel hanging over the front, and high white socks with black shoes. Both male and female students may carry out the duties of Brutus Buckeye as long as they are a committed Ohio State fan.

Finally, if you ever are lucky enough to see four people with their hands in the air, forming letters of the alphabet, it is most likely four Ohio state fans spelling out O-H-I-O!  That's how our grandchildren learned how to spell it! (The picture on the right is of our youngest son with his four groomsmen on the day of his wedding.)

And it is so-o-o easy to remember.  Just use this riddle:  What is round on the ends and high in the middle?  You guessed it - OHIO!

Happy Pumpkin Day!

I just love math cartoons, and Fox Trot seems to use math in quite a few. (Maybe the author is actually a mathematician!) Here is one of my favorites and just in time for Halloween.

Hey! A little math humor, even on Halloween,
can be "ghoul"!

Making Parent Teacher Conferences Meaningful

Are You….....
  • Tired of always talking about grades at parent/teacher conferences? 
  • Tired of feeling like nothing is ever accomplished during the allotted time? 
  • Are you having problems with a student, but don’t know how to tell the parents? 
  • Do you want to be specific and to-the-point? 
When I taught middle school and/or high school, these were the items that really discouraged me. I knew I had to come up with a better plan if I wanted parent/teacher conferences to be worthwhile and effective for both the student and the parents. I created a a checklist that I could follow, use during conferences, and then give a copy to the parents at the end of the conference.  It contained nine, brief, succinct checklists which were written as a guide so that during conferences I could have specific items to talk about besides grades. I found it easy to complete and straight forward plus it provided me with a simple outline to use as I talked and shared with parents.

Since other teachers were able to use it successfully, I took that checklist and turned it into a resource called Parent/Teacher Conference Checklist, Based on Student Characteristics and Not Grades. Nine different categories are listed for discussion.  They include:
  1. Study Skills and Organization 
  2. Response to Assignments 
  3. In Class Discussion 
  4. Class Attitude 
  5. Reaction to Setbacks 
  6. Accountability 
  7. Written Work 
  8. Inquiry Skills 
  9. Evidence of Intellectual Ability 
To get ready for conferences, all you have to do is place a check mark by each item within the category that applies to the student. Then circle the word that best describes the student in that category such as "always, usually, seldom". (See example above.)

Finally, make a copy of the checklist so that the parent(s) or the guardian(s) will have something to review with their student when they return home.

Now you are ready for a meaningful and significant conference.

Be-Leaf Me! Fall is Great! Using Leaves in Science Investigations

When my husband's Aunt Sue moved to Florida, she would send home some strange requests.  One year, she wanted us to send her a box of fall leaves.  Since Florida lacks deciduous trees, her students were unaware of the gorgeous colors produced by the trees up north.  The only problem with her request was that the leaves we sent would be dry and crumbling by the time she received them. What to do?

I solved the problem by ironing the leaves between two sheets of wax paper.  It was something I had learned in elementary school many, many years ago (back when the earth was cooling).  My granddaughters still collect leaves so we can do the activity together.  Here is how you do it.
  1. Find different sizes and colors of leaves.
  2. Tear off two sheets of waxed paper - about the same size.
  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!
On the right, you will see what ours looked like when we were finished.

Only $5.25
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), and two he doesn't recognize because they are some kind of ornamentals. So my suggestion is to get out there and start gathering leaves because your students, children and grandchildren will love me!

Do you want your students to have fun with leaves? Check out  a six lesson science performance demonstration for the primary grades which utilizes leaves. This inquiry guides the primary student through the scientific method of 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. A preview of the investigation is available. Just click on the title. After all you might have an unbe-leaf-able time!

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!


Need more ideas for helping with those annoying classroom irritations? Here is  resource that offers a number of practical and realistic ideas about classroom management and how to eliminate those day-after-day aggravating and annoying student problems that keep resurfacing in your classroom. It is perfect for novice teachers, beginning teachers or for student teachers. It is also a good review for those who have been teaching for a number of years.

Getting to Know You - A Back to School Activity

School will soon be beginning for most of us.  I teach on the college level, but I still feel the most important thing I can do is to make the students feel connected to one another so that they at least know one other person in the class.  I always start each new class by playing a true/false game.  I start off the first class by listing four items about myself, three that are true and one that is false.  The students try to discover the false one.  On a 3” × 5” card, I then have the students write four things about themselves, three true and one false from which we, as a class, try to find the false one.  I then collect and save the cards.
At the next class meeting, I will choose 3-4 cards from which to read the true statements. As a class, we try to match the student to the card.  It really helps the students to relax and have fun at the same time plus they get to know each other. I usually do this activity for a couple of weeks until I sense that the students are comfortable being in the group.
By the way, here are my four statements.  Can you choose the false one?
  1. I have 12 grandchildren, six of whom are adopted.
  2. My husband asked me to marry me on our first date.
  3. I am a big Jayhawk (Kansas University) fan.  (We live in Kansas.)
  4. I have been teaching for over 40 years.
Give up?  You can find the answer on the page entitled Answers to Questions

You might be interested in this back to school item, a glyph entitled Back to School Glyph for grades K-3. The students color or put different items in a school yard based on information about themselves. This glyph is an excellent activity for reading and following directions, and requires problem solving, communication, and data organization.

A Review for A MUST Read Book: "Setting Limits in the Classroom"

Available on Amazon
Setting Limits in the Classroom by Robert J. MacKenzie
How to Move Beyond the Dance of Discipline in Today's Classrooms

Recommended for: All Staff

The theory of education is something we were all required to study in college. It sounded good in the book; it was great for discussion, and it made us feel smart! But that same theory tended to fall apart when you became the teacher of actual students. In addition to theory, what we really needed were practical suggestions for classroom management, effective ideas for dealing with children, and management methods that were classroom proven. Well, look no further; this is it!

In his introduction, MacKenzie states that, “Teachers can’t teach their academic subjects effectively until they can establish an effective environment for learning. Classroom management is simply too important to be neglected or handled ineffectively.” The book discusses effective classroom structure, your approach to teaching rules, how children learn your rules, and establishing consistent rules. Throughout the book, the author wants you to recognize the discipline you might be using that just doesn’t work. He concludes the book with how to develop a school wide guidance plan.

Setting Limits in the Classroom gives answers to your most testing behaviors that you may experience in the classroom. It is solid advice for fixing the way you interact and deal with students. It is also practical in that it gives various real life scenarios to reenact to practice classroom management and apply in your classroom. It offers firm, down-to-earth, and sensible solutions that effectively cut off students' attempts at negotiating, bargaining, and being belligerent towards the teacher. It offers many options to the unsuccessful extremes of permissiveness and rigid authority and all points in between. MacKenzie outlines no-nonsense methods for setting clear, firm limits supported by words and actions. The book is really a step-by-step manual that shows you how to create structure and methods that work, stop power struggles, motivate students, and even solve homework dilemmas. It is a must read, and I highly recommend it for middle school and high school teachers.

To peak your interest, here are a few quotes I especially liked from the book.

1) Your consequences will have their greatest impact when they are immediate, consistent, logically related, proportional, respectful, and followed by a clean slate.

2) Much of what we consider to be misbehavior in the classroom is actually limit testing or children’s attempts to clarify what we really expect.

3) When our words are consistent with our actions, we don’t need a lot of words or harsh consequences to get our message across.

4) When we ignore misbehavior, we are really saying, “It’s okay to do that. Go ahead. You don’t have to stop.”

This is an ideal book for a whole school study or new teacher development training! In the appendix is a study group guide that lists the objectives for each week as well as study-group discussion questions for each chapter. I have successfully used this book with many student teachers who have in turn used it as a discipline and classroom management guide.


If you are looking for a set of simple rules, try Six Classroom Rules - That's all You Need available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

20 Study Tips You Won't Forget! Tips on How to Be Successful in School

Students struggle with many difficulties and setbacks in their lives, and because of all of the competing things vying for their attention, it is hard for them to concentrate on studying. And yet, if you are a student, you have to do at least a little bit of studying in order to progress from year to year.

Effective studying may not seem like the most exciting topic for anyone, but think of the big picture. The better a student's study skills are, the better the student will do in school, plus mastering effective study habits will make it easier to learn. Also effective studying can lead to better grades (in high school and college) and doing better on standardized tests.  Because I teach on the college level, I encounter many students who lack effective study skills or even habits, but no matter what study skills a student presently has, I know they can learn new strategies that can assist them in the future. 

For example, better time management and note-taking skills are important for many jobs. Being able to break down tasks into more manageable steps can help a student get things done in less time; thus, having more free time for themselves. Being able to handle test anxiety may help a student deal with other stressful situations such as an interview, a speech or oral exam.

One of my freshmen classes I teach is called "Conquering College" where we discuss useful strategies for effective studying. For this class, I developed a list of 20 study skills or tips that can help students succeed in school. Since the key to effective studying is studying smarter, not longer, have your students begin studying smarter with these 20 helpful and effective Study Tips You Won't Forget!  It is a free resource in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Summer Fun - Cleaning Lawn Furniture with Shaving Cream

Again, I am going to deviate from the subject of math and offer a fun summer activity I do with my grandchildren. It involves a can of shaving cream, cleaning rags and lawn furniture that has set out all winter.

Were you aware that there are many unusual ways to use shaving cream besides using it for shaving? Did you know that you could...

1) Clean jewelry with it? Spray it on your jewelry and use a soft “old” toothbrush to get off the grime. Rinse with water.

2) Give chrome faucets a brilliant shine? Apply the shaving cream to a sponge and rub it on the faucet. Then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

3) Easily remove paint from your hands? Rub the shaving cream onto your hands; then rinse it off with soap and water.

4) Remove carpet stains? Blot the soiled area with a damp sponge and then spray on the shaving cream. Wipe clean with a damp sponge and let the area dry. It will also work on various clothes stains.

5) Clean vinyl lawn furniture? Spray the lawn furniture with the shaving cream and wipe the grubby areas with a damp rag. Rinse when finished.

Item #5 is what I do each summer. Our lawn furniture sets out over the winter on our patio and even though it is covered, it is filthy when summer comes. I always go to the store and purchase the cheapest shaving cream I can find. (Here, Barbasol sells for about $.89 a can. Depending on the number of grandchildren coming over, determines how many cans I purchase. This year, it was three.) No matter their age, this is one activity that they all look forward to because it is messy!

I write the child’s name on their can of shaving cream and then assign them a piece of furniture to clean. When everyone is done scrubbing and wiping, we get out the garden hose to spray off the remaining shaving cream, and frequently we end up spraying each other.

But what happens to the leftover shaving cream? I think the picture says it all!

Here's a Recipe for a Homemade Frozen Treat for Those Hot Summer Days

June always brings the first day of summer. This year it was on June 21st. I'm not sure where you live, but I live in Kansas, and each day, it gets hotter and hotter! On a hot day, when you have been outside, there is nothing better than an ice cold treat. For years, I have made homemade Popsicles, first for my children and now for my grandchildren. I thought I would share the quick and easy recipe with you. (I know this might be considered the "far side" of math, but recipes do contain measurement and sometimes, even fractions!)

Popsicle Recipe - Will make 18

1 small package of Jello (any flavor)  
Berry Blue is our favorite!
As you can see, four my grandchildren like the Berry Blue.

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water

Boil the water. Add the boiling water to the sugar and the small package of Jello. Stir until all the Jello is dissolved. This takes about two minutes. Add the cold water and stir again.

Pour into three sets of Tupperware Popsicle Makers. If you don't have these (I'm not sure they are available anymore), use Popsicle molds found in stores. or use ice cube trays.

Place in the freezer until hardened. Eat and enjoy just like my grandchildren do!

Using the Periodic Table to Create Science Bulletin Boards

Only $4.00
As many of you know, my husband teaches middle school science. He has never been one to do bulletin boards, never has been and never will be. My daughter (also a teacher) and I usually construct them for him. For many months now, I have been looking for individual tiles of the periodic table.  I saw a bulletin board on Pinterest (one of my favorite places to gather ideas) that I wanted to recreate for my husband's science lab. I finally turned to Teachers Pay Teachers (where I should have gone in the first place) and asked in the Forum if anyone had such an item. I found that The Triple Point had just what I was looking for. It was a set containing 118 images of Periodic Table tiles, one for each of the 118 elements. Since the resource was only $4.00, I purchased and downloaded it immediately.

After copying the individual tiles onto card stock and laminating them for durability, I laid out the bulletin board (see below). To be honest, my husband did staple everything onto the board as well as arrange the other items. Didn't he do a great job?

In case you can't read the meme in the middle, it says, "That will be $5.00 for the Electrons; the Neutrons are Free of Charge." After all, every classroom needs a little bit of humor!

A Dinner Dilemma - Using Math to Solve How Many Bites a Child Must Eat at Dinner

Using Math to Solve
How Many Bites a
Child Must Eat
Being a grandparent lets you try some new discipline methods that you never thought of as a parent. My grandchildren don't always like what I serve for dinner (Unbelievable, isn't it?); so, many times some food is left on their plates. My children want their children to at least take a bite of everything on their plate which often times feels like a monumental task for our grandchildren. The solution? I have an oversized sponge die on hand for such occasions. The child who doesn't want to eat something rolls the die, and the number that comes up is how many bites they must take before dessert is served. Now, the child must argue with the die and not the parent or me! (It's difficult to argue with an inanimate object.)

Besides taking care of a dinner dilemma, my grandchildren are learning to subitize sets. (Oh, there's the math part of this article!) Since there are no numbers on the die, only dots, the child must count the dots to find out the number. Surprisingly, even the youngest are learning to recognize the dot patterns and can state the number of dots without counting. This indicates they are learning to subitize sets, a necessary prerequisite to memorizing the math facts, especially the multiplication tables. If you aren't sure what subitizing sets means, go back and read my blog posting entitled Can't Memorize Those Dreaded Math Facts. In the meantime, enjoy a new way to enjoy dinner because it is pretty dicey!


You might like a math game that uses dice. It is called Bug Ya and can be purchased at my TPT store. Three games are included in the four page math resource packet. One is for addition and subtraction; the second is for multiplication, and the third game involves the use of money. The second and third games may involve subtraction with renaming and addition with regrouping based on the numbers that are used. All the games have been developed to extend the recall of facts through playful and intelligent practice. Be sure and download the preview.

Making Falcon Hoods - A Hands-On Activity for the Book, "My Side of the Mountain"

Each year, my husband's science students read My Side of the Mountain. The main character in the book is Sam Gribley, a boy in his early teens. For a year, Sam lives in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. One day Sam spies a peregrine falcon pursuing its prey. Sam determines he wants a falcon as a hunting bird; so, he goes to the nearby town of Delhi to learn about falconry (hunting small game by using a trained bird of prey) by searching books at the local library. For several days, he camps near a cliff hoping to find the location of a peregrine falcon nest. While the mother bird attacks him, Sam steals a female chick from the nest. He names the bird Frightful, and it becomes one of Sam's closest companions. 

If you are acquainted with falconry, you know that peregrine falcons will wear a hood to keep them calm and to make certain they are alert for the falconer. The falcons are also trained to go into hunting mode once the hood is removed. A good falcon hood does not bother the falcon. If it fits well, it does not damage the bird’s feathers or hamper its breathing. Under no circumstances does the hood come in contact with the falcon’s eyes. Out of all the falconer's aids, the hood is the most important piece of equipment. In the book, Sam makes jesses (leg straps), leashes and a hood out of deer skin for Frightful. My husband figured if Sam could construct a falcon hood, then maybe his students could as well.

Using the Internet, (Hood Patterns) my husband found several hood patterns. (Most hoods are custom made by hand and can cost $150 or more!) He purchased faux leather from the fabric store as well as special needles and thread. The students practiced sewing on scraps of the material before cutting out their own patterns and sewing them together. Below is a summary of the process in pictures.

What makes every hood unique is that each falconer decorates the hood in an extraordinary way. They may use elaborate feathers, pieces of colored leather, ornaments, etc. Sometimes, they are even hand painted, dyed or uniquely tooled. Here is what a few of the handmade hoods looked like after the students decorated and embellished them.

Overall, this was a successful book assignment which was not only creative and imaginative, but it gave the artistic students a chance to shine. As a result, you might want to try this project in your classroom as well. So I wish you good luck, good reading and good hood making.

If your class is reading this book, here are three supplementary resources for My Side of the Mountain that you might be interested in.
Two Word Searches - This resource contains two different word search puzzles about the survival materials used by Sam, the main character in the book, My Side of the Mountain. Both puzzles include
the solutions.

A Crossword Puzzle about Birds - This is a free form crossword puzzle that highlights 16 different birds which appear in the book My Side of the Mountain. The 16 clues are based on the bird’s unique characteristics, color, and song.  A solution key to the puzzle is included.

Crossword Puzzle about Plants - This is a free form crossword puzzle that highlights 18 different plants which appear in the book My Side of the Mountain. The 18 clues are based on the plant’s distinctive characteristics, color, size and physical appearance.  A solution key to the puzzle is included.

Unlocking Fractions for the Confused and Bewildered - A New Approach to Teaching Fractions

I wish I understood this!
I teach remedial math on the college level, and I find that numerous students are left behind in the mathematical dust if only one strategy is used or introduced when learning fractions. Finding the lowest common denominator, changing denominators, not changing denominators, finding a reciprocal, and reducing to lowest terms are complex issues and often very difficult for many of my students.

I classify my students as mathphobics whose mathematical anxiety is hard to hide. One of my classes entitled, Fractions, Decimals and Percents, is geared for these undergraduates who have never grasped fractions. This article encompasses how I use a different method to teach adding fractions so these students can be successful. Specifically, let's look at adding fractions using the Cross Over Method.

Below is a typical fraction addition problem.  After writing the problem on the board, rewrite it with the common denominator of 6.

1) Ask the students if they see any way to multiply and make a 3 using only the numbers in this problem.

2) Now ask if there is a way to multiply and make 2 using just the numbers in the problem.

3) Finally, ask them to find a way to multiply the numbers in the problem to make 6 the denominator.

4) Instruct the students to cross their arms. This is the cross of cross over and means we do this by cross multiplying in the problem.

5) Multiply the 3 and 1, then write the answer in the numerator.  *Note: Always start with the right denominator or subtraction will not work.

6) Next multiply the 2 and 1 and write the answer in the numerator. Don’t forget to write the + sign. *Note: One line is drawn under both numbers. This is to prevent the students from adding the denominators (a very common mistake).

7) Now have the students uncross their arms and point to the right using their right hand. This is the over part of cross over. It means to multiply the two denominators and write the product as the new denominator.

8) Add the numerators only to find the correct answer.

9) Reduce to lowest terms when necessary.

It is important that students know the divisibility rules for 2, 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10. In this way, they can readily reduce any problem. In addition, it is extremely important that the students physically do the motions while they learn. This not only targets the kinesthetic learner but also gives the students something physical that makes the process easier to remember. The pictures or illustrations for each technique also benefit the visual/spatial learner. Of course, the auditory student listens and learns as you teach each method. 

I have found these unconventional techniques are very effective for most of my students.  If you find this strategy something you might want to use in your classroom, a resource on how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions is available by clicking the link under the resource cover. A video lesson is included to help you.