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Using Crossword Puzzles to Study The Christmas Story as Recorded in the Bible

We may consider the Christmas tradition of reading the Nativity story a given, but after hearing others talk, it often gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of opening gifts and preparing a big meal. The Christmas Story helps children discover one of the most important stories of all time. Through this story, children come to understand the events leading up to Jesus' birth and this special miracle. It introduces children to the reason why we celebrate this special day, and shares with them the wonderful gift from God. 

I am aware there are numerous Christmas activities to choose from and many times, it is difficult to separate the "secular" Christmas activities from the Biblical ones. Maybe you are wondering, "What activity can I use to tell the Christmas Story in a different way?" Try using a crossword puzzle! 

I have created two Bible crossword puzzles for Christmas that are specifically designed to review and study the birth of Christ as recorded in the Bible. Both are free form crossword puzzles that feature 25 words with Scripture references. If an answer is unknown, the Bible reference provides a way to find the answer while encouraging the use of the Bible. The words included in both puzzles are Bethlehem, Caesar Augustus, December, east, Egypt, Elizabeth, frankincense, Gabriel, glory, gold, Jesus, Joseph, King Herod, magi, manger, Mary, Merry Christmas, Messiah, myrrh, Nazareth, Quirinius, save, shepherds, star, and terrified.

One crossword includes a word bank which makes it easier to solve while the more challenging one does not. Even though the same words are used for each crossword, each grid is laid out in a different way; so, you have two distinct puzzles. Here are some ways you might use these crosswords.
  1. Pass them out while the children are waiting to open presents. It might change their focus!
  2. Include the adults in the puzzle solving by giving them the crossword without the word bank.
  3. Work with a sibling or cousin or friend to learn the characters of the Christmas story.
  4. Use the crossword with the word bank as a review; then hand out the second puzzle to solve as a way to reflect on what facts about Christmas have been learned.
  5. Offer a small prize to the teams or individuals that get all off the answers correct.
Answers keys for both puzzles are included; so, you don't have to search them out yourself.

A Go Figure Debut for an Italian Math Teacher Who is New!

The first thing you should know about Enrica is that she's Italian. (I was instructed to tell you that.) She's an engineer and has been teaching middle and high school since 2002. Teaching for her is a passion that she didn't realize she had. She did it for the first time because a friend needed help, and immediately she realized that it was all she wanted to do. This year she's teaching math as usual but also physics, and she loves it.

The thing that Enrica likes the most about teaching is when her students are engaged and happy to come to her class. This, and her passion for technology, has led her to study how to implement gamification and to create digital game-like activities. Her classroom is always a little chatty because she likes to see her students’ brains working, coming up with theories and questions.

As pointed out earlier, Enrica is Italian. She claims to be addicted to different TV series, sci-fi mostly. She uses the excuse for watching so much TV that she needs to improve her English. Also, she loves walking, the countryside and reading (sci-fi again). She has one son, age 13, who is starting to drive her crazy! She's not sure she will survive his teenage years. (We who have been there and done that can assure her she will make it!)

Enrica has 465 products in her store, Matemaths, for middle and high school math. Most of her resources are digital, pixel art or escape rooms. In the future, she's planning to add some physics items since she needs them for her classes. Thirty of her resources are free.

It is a fun and engaging way to review LCM and GCF with your sixth graders. This digital activity challenges students to find the hidden message by solving 11 problems on least common multiple and greatest common factor.

Enrica’s highlighted paid resource is an escape room called Order of Operations Around the World Escape Room. It is an exciting way to involve middle schoolers in learning how to solve expressions using the order of operations! In order to travel from one city to another, the students must solve expressions using the order of operations. There are 40 expressions: 10 without parentheses and 30 with parentheses, no exponents. A printable version of the questions is included in this resource appropriate for grades 4-6.

Enrica also has a website/blog where you can read interesting articles and find more middle school math resources that might be perfect for your classroom. Take some time to check it out!

How to Overcome Mathphobia (a hatred of Math) and Be a Success

I HATE Math!
We are almost at the end of the fall semester at the college where I teach. (I teach Mathphobics who aren't always thrilled to be in my math class.) Last week, as the students were entering and finding seats, I was greeted with, “Math is my worst enemy!” I guess this particular student was waiting for an impending Math Attack. But then I began thinking, “Should this student wait to be attacked or learn how to approach and conquer the enemy?” Since winning any battle requires forethought and planning, here is a three step battle plan for Mathphobics.
1) Determine why math is your enemy. Did you have a bad experience? Were you ever made to feel stupid, foolish, or brainless? Did your parents say they didn’t like math, and it was a family heredity issue? (One of the curious characteristics about our society is that it is now socially acceptable to take pride in hating mathematics. It’s like wearing a badge of honor or is that dishonor? Who would ever admit to not being able to read or write?) Math is an essential subject and without math, not much is possible...not even telling time!

2) Be optimistic. Suffering from pessimism when thinking of or doing math problems makes it impossible to enjoy math. Come to class ready to learn. At the end of class, write down one thing you learned or thought was fun. I realize math teachers are a big part of how a student views math. In fact, one of the most important factors in a student’s attitude toward mathematics is the teacher and the classroom environment. Just using lecture, discussion, and seat work does not create much interest in mathematics. You've been in that class. Go over the homework; do samples of the new homework; start the new homework. Hands-on activities, songs, visuals, graphic organizers, and connecting math to real life engage students, create forums for discussion, and make math meaningful and useful.

3) Prove Yourself. Take baby steps, but be consistent. Faithfully do the homework and have someone check it. Don’t miss one math class! You can’t learn if you aren't there. Join in the discussions. Think about and write down your questions and share them with your teacher or with the class. Study for an upcoming test by reviewing 15 minutes each night a week before the test. Get help through tutoring, asking your instructor, or becoming a part of a study group. Keep in mind, no one is destined for defeat!

So don’t just sit there and wait for the dreaded Math Attack. Meet it head on with a three step battle plan in hand!
Math courses are not like other courses. To pass most other subjects, a student must read, understand, and recall the subject matter. However, to pass math, an extra step is required: a student must use the information they have learned to solve math problems correctly. Special math study skills are needed to help the student learn more and to get better grades. To receive 20 beneficial math study tips, just download this free resource.

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Glyphs Are Really A Form of Graphing - Completing a Turkey Glyph

Sometimes I think that teachers believe a glyph is just a fun activity, but in reality glyphs are 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 requires a legend/key to understand the glyph. The creation of glyphs requires problem solving, communication as well as data organization.

Remember Paint by Number where you had to paint in each of the numbers or letters using a key to paint with the right color? How about coloring books that were filled with color-by-number pages? Believe it or not, both of these activities were a type of glyph.

For Thanksgiving, I have created a Turkey Glyph. Not only is it a type of graph, but it is also an excellent activity for reading and following directions.

Students are to 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 they get to school. (ride or walk)
  7. Pumpkins (number of letters in first name)
At the end of the activity is a completed Turkey Glyph which the students are to "read" and answer the questions. Reading the completed glyph and interpreting the information represented is a skill that requires deeper thinking by the student. Students must be able to analyze the information presented in visual form. A glyph such as this one is very appropriate to use in the data management strand of mathematics.  If you are interested, just click under the resource cover page.

Elvis and PEMDAS - A New Way to Introduce the Order of Operations

Any math teacher who teaches the Order of Operations is familiar with the phrase, "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally".  For the life of me, I don't know who Aunt Sally is or what she has done, but apparently we are to excuse her for the offense.  In my math classes, I use "Pale Elvis Meets Dracula After School".  Of course both of these examples are mnemonics or acronyms; so, the first letter of each word stands for something.  P = Parenthesis, E = Exponents, M = Multiplication, D = Division, A = Addition, and S = Subtraction

I have always taught the Order of Operations by just listing which procedures should be done first and in the order they were to be done.  But after viewing a different way on Pinterest, I have changed my approach. Here is a chart with the details and the steps to "success" listed on the right.

Since multiplication and division as well as addition and subtraction equally rank in order, they are written side by side. What I like about this chart is that it clearly indicates to the student what they are to do and when.  To sum it up:

When expressions have more than one operation, follow the rules for the Order of Operations:
  1. First do all operations that lie inside parentheses.
  2. Next, do any work with exponents or radicals.
  3. Working from left to right, do all the multiplication and division.
  4. Finally, working from left to right, do all the addition and subtraction.
Failure to use the Order of Operations can result in a wrong answer to a problem.  This happened to me when I taught 3rd grade.  On the Test That Counts, the following problem was given.
The correct answer is 11 because you multiply the 4 x 2 and then add the 3, but can you guess which answer most of my students chose?  That's right - 14!  From that year on, the Order of Operations became a priority in my classroom.  Is it a priority in yours?  Should it be?


I have a product in my store entitled: Order of Operations - PEMDAS, A New Approach. This ten page resource includes a lesson plan outline for introducing PEMDAS, an easy to understand chart for the students, an explanation of PEMDAS for the student as well as ten practice problems. It is aligned with the fifth grade common core standard of 5.OA.1. Just click on the words under the cover page if it is something you might like.

"BOO" to Fractions? Recognizing Equivalent Fractions, Reducing Fractions

Here is a Halloween riddle: Which building does Dracula like to visit in New York City? Give up? It's
the Vampire State Building!! (Ha! Ha!) Here is another riddle. What do ghosts eat for breakfast? Scream of Wheat and Ghost Toasties!

Okay, so what do these riddles have to do with teaching math? I have been attempting to come up with ways for my students to recognize fractional parts in lowest terms. As you know from this blog, I have used Pattern Sticks, the Divisibility Rules, and finding Digital Root. These are all strategies my students like and use, but to be a good mathematician requires practice - something most of my students dread doing. I can find many "drill and kill" activities, but they tend to do just that, drill those who don't need it and kill those who already know how to do it. So to drill and "thrill", I created fractional word puzzles for specific times of the year.

The one for October is Halloween Fraction Riddles. It contains eight riddles that the students must discover by correctly identifying fractional parts of words. For instance, my first clue might be:

The first 2/3's of WILLOW. The word WILLOW contains six letters. It takes two letters to make 1/3; therefore, the first 2/3's would be the word WILL. This causes the students to group the letters (in this case 4/6), and then to reduce the fraction to lowest terms. The letters are a visual aid for those students who are still having difficulty, and I observe many actually drawing lines between the letters to create groups of two. 

At first, I thought my students would breeze through the activities, but to my surprise, they proved to be challenging as well as somewhat tricky - just perfect for a Trick or Treat holiday. Maybe this is an activity you would like to try with your intermediate or middle school students. Just click on this link: Halloween Fraction Riddles.

A Go Figure Debut for A Canadian who is new! Plus she teaches high school science!

Jacqueline is from Alberta, Canada and she has been teaching high school science for six years. Like so many of us, her favorite aspect of teaching is building relationships with her students. Jacqueline says her classroom always had a relaxed vibe because she always wanted her students to feel welcome and at peace. She wanted her classroom to be a place where students felt comfortable coming at lunchtime or after school or to just hangout.

Jacqueline also loves creating resources. She was always interested in graphic design growing up and loved how she could implement that into little things like making her lesson slides and notes. This year she took a break from teaching to go back to school for a one-year graphic design program. So far, she has been loving it and is looking forward to implementing her new knowledge into her future classes and lesson creations.

In her spare time, Jacqueline enjoys kayaking, playing squash, and playing board and card games. Often her family gets together and plays games together. Jacqueline has always loved the logic and strategy element of games and she thinks that is one of the reasons she was so interested in teaching science.

Jacqueline creates notes that she hopes students will find aesthetically pleasing and fun to fill out - things like having bubble letters and diagrams to color in. In addition, she has Google slides in her store that go along with the notes so teachers can project those and have students follow along. One thing that is really important to Jacqueline when teaching is making sure her students are actually understanding the information, and not just memorizing it (which she feels happens all too often in biology). She really tries to emphasize developing understanding with her notes and not merely presenting the information.

Jacqueline currently has 72 products in her store, four of which are free. Her featured FREE resource is entitled Planets of our Solar System Notes and Crossword. This nine page resource includes student notes, a teacher key, and slides for teaching. It is notes about the planets of our solar system and includes a review crossword puzzle. This resource can be used by students on Google Drive or Google Classroom. It follows the Alberta Science 9 Unit E (Space) Curriculum.

Jacqueline's' paid resource is over electricity. It is called Circuits and Schematics Notes and Practice and includes student notes, a teacher key, and slides for teaching. The notes are about how to draw circuit schematics with a practice at the end. This resource contains 19 pages.  Five are students note pages; five are key pages and nine are Google slides. It follows the Alberta Science 9 Unit D (Electricity) Curriculum.

If you teach junior high or high school science, you will discover some or many of Jacqueline's resources are a perfect supplement to what you are doing. Check out her store, and definitely download her free resource.

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

October has finally arrived.  October means football (Ohio State, of course), cooler weather, and gorgeous leaves. (It is also the month 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 strange 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 23rd.
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 grades K-2. 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
  6. Writing a conclusion based on the data. 
Be"leaf" me, your students will have fun!

Terrible at Factoring Trinomials (Polynomials) in Algebra? Try This Method that NEVER Fails!

I spent the summer months tutoring a high school girl who was getting ready to take Algebra II.  She didn't do very well in Algebra I and with geometry between the two classes, she was lost. Since she is a very concrete, visual person, I knew I needed to come up with different algebraic methods so she could succeed. 

When we got to to factoring trinomials, she really needed help as most of the methods were too abstract for her. For those of you who have forgotten, a trinomial is a polynomial that has three terms. Most likely, students start learning how to factor trinomials written in the form ax2 + bx + c

There are several different methods that can be used to factor trinomials.  The first is guess and check using ac and grouping. Find two numbers that ADD up to b and MULTIPLY to get ac in ax2 + bx + c. The second approach is the box method. You write the equation in a two-by-two box. This method is more thoroughly explained on You Tube. Look up factoring trinomials using the box method.  There is also the method of slide and divide which again you can look up on You Tube to see exactly how that works. Grouping is another method. Students need to choose which method they understand and which one works best for them. With continual practice, they will get better and faster at using it.

My favorite method is the one most students understand and grasp. It builds on the ac method, but takes it takes it one step further. It made sense to my student, and she was easily factoring trinomials after only two tutoring sessions.

Because it worked so well, I developed a new math resource. It is a step-by-step guide that teaches how to factor quadratic equations in a straightforward and uncomplicated way. It includes polynomials with common monomial factors, and trinomials with and without 1 as the leading coefficient. Some answers are prime. This simple method does not treat trinomials when a =1 differently since those problems are incorporated with “when a is greater than 1” problems.

Following each explanation (five total) are a set of six practice problems that replicate the method introduced. You might familiarize the students with the method, then assign the problems to practice, OR you might present all four explanations, and then assign the practice problems to review. Some students will catch on rapidly and will not need to go through all of the steps while others will need more repetition and practice. Differentiate your instruction accordingly. Try working in pairs or small groups since students tend to learn from each other.


Included in this resource are the following:
  • A detailed explanation of this factoring method.
  • Five variations when using this method
  • Five sets of practice problems – 30 in total
  • Two sets of review problems – 12 total
  • Answers Keys with the complete problem-solving process

If your students don't understand FOIL, Try Multiplying Binomials Using the Box Method

I tutored a student this summer who was getting ready to take Algebra II. He is a very visual, concrete person that needs many visuals to help him to succeed in math. We worked quite a bit on multiplying two binomials.

There are three different techniques you can use for multiplying polynomials. You can use the FOIL method, Box Method and the distributive property. The best part about it is that they are all the same, and if done correctly, will render the same answer.!

Because most math teachers start with FOIL, I started there. The letters FOIL stand for First, Outer, Inner, Last. First means multiply the terms which occur first in each binomial. Then Outer means multiply the outermost terms in the product. Inner is for "inside" so those two terms are multiplied—second term of the first binomial and first term of the second). Last is multiplying the last terms of each binomial.
My student could keep FOIL in his head, but couldn't quite remember what the letters represented, let alone which numbers to multiply; so, that method was quickly laid aside. 

I next tried the Box Method. Immediately, it made sense to him, and we were off to the races, so to speak. He continually got the right answer, and his confidence level continued to increase. Here is how the Box Method works.

First, you draw a 2 x 2 box. Second, write the binomials, one along the top of the box, and one binomial down the left hand side of the box. Let's assume the binomials are 2x + 4 and x + 3.

          (2x + 4) (x + 3)

Now multiply the top row by x; that is x times 2x and x times +4., writing the answers in the top row of the box, each in its own square.  After that, multiply  everything in the top row by +3, and write those answers in the second row of the box, each in its own square.

Looking at the box, circle the coefficients that have an x. They are located on the diagonal of the box.
To find the answer, write the term in the first square on the top row, add the terms on the diagonal, and write the number in the last square on the bottom row. Voila! You have your answer!

A Go Figure Debut for a Special Ed Math Teacher Who's New!

Meet Brooks Jones. This is Brooks’ ninth year teaching; however, education is her second career. Currently she is a middle school special education teacher, co-teaching in math and English/Language Arts classrooms in grades 6, 7 and 8. She was drawn to the classroom after working in the corporate world, doing graphic design, marketing, public relations and writing. She wanted to do something more meaningful with her days and teaching has certainly provided purpose to her life.

She is licensed in elementary education, special education, reading specialist and high school math, but most of her years in the classroom have been spent as a special education math teacher, providing mostly inclusion services for students needing that extra boost to reach grade level standards. Many of the resources in her store are designed to help middle and high school students understand pre-algebra and algebra concepts. She uses a lot of visuals and color-coding, which helps them remember math basics. In addition, she tries to teach the underlying concepts, not just the algorithms, because she wants students to know why we rely on certain algorithms to solve math problems.

Brooks loves seeing students engaged and interested in math. She believes math can open doors for people, and so she tries to connect the content in the classroom with realities of daily life in order to make learning relevant for students. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing that glow of new understanding unfold on the face of a smiling student. Teaching is truly a miraculous career, and she wouldn't trade it for anything.

Last but not least, Brooks is married with three children: one is grown with two kids of his own; one just started college this fall, and one is still at home enjoying her senior year of high school. They have two cats and a dog. In addition, Brooks likes reading, knitting, playing the ukulele and singing when she isn’t working on new teaching resources!

Brooks store contains 55 products; two of them are free. Most of her resources are math related. Her free item is entitled “Laws and Exponents Poster/Anchor Chart.” Since working with exponents can be confusing, help your students master the properties and laws of exponents with this jam-packed one-page resource, which can be used as a cheat sheet, anchor chart, or classroom poster. Concepts included are the properties of multiplication, division, zero and negative exponents, as well as rational (fractional) exponents. Properties are color-coded, shown with variable symbols and explained in clear language.

Brooks featured paid resource is a math bundle of two resources about quadratic equations. It is an introduction to quadratic functions and the relationship between their equations and graphs using guided notes and practice activities. It is great for beginning a unit on quadratic functions as part of an Algebra I class, or for reviewing concepts before moving to more advanced content in higher-level classes (Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus). By purchasing the bundle, you save 15% vs. buying these resources individually!

Brooks also has a blog called The Educator's Lifeline. I highly recommend that you read the May 26, 2023 post on Math Education and AI.

As many of you know, I work with remedial math students on the college level. This year, we have more students than ever. Brooks’ resources are perfect for these struggling students in that she gives them more than just an abstract way of learning algebra. She uses visuals, color coding, etc. to help them learn and memorize. As a math teacher, I believe that is what we all should be doing; so, take time to check out Brooks’ store, and while you are there, download one of her two freebies.

Algebra - Using Two-Sided Colored Beans to Add and Subtract Positive and Negative Numbers

When it comes to adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers, many students have great difficulty. In reality, it is a very confusing and abstract idea; so, it is important to give the students a concrete visual to assist them in seeing the solution. This idea is based on the Conceptual Development Model which is important to use when introducing new math concepts. (See the July 26, 2023 for more details about this learning model.) As a result, when teaching the concept of adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers, what would fall into each category?

When using the two-sided colored beans, the concrete stage of the Model would be where two-sided colored beans are used as an actual manipulative that can be moved around or manipulated by the students. There are a few rules to remember when using the beans.
  1. The RED beans represent negative numbers.
  2. The WHITE beans represent positive numbers. 
  3. One RED bean can eliminate one WHITE bean, and one WHITE bean can cancel out one RED bean. 
  4. All problems must be rewritten so that there is only one sign (+ or -) in front of each number.
Sample Problem

1) The student is given the problem - 5 + 2.

2) Since -5 is negative, the student gets out five red beans, and then two white beans because the 2 is positive.

3) Since some of the beans are red and two are white, the student must match one red bean with one white bean. (I tell my students that this is barbaric because the red beans eat the white beans. They love it!)

4) Because three red beans have no partner (they're left over) the answer to – 5 + 2 = - 3. (See example above.)

After mastering the concrete stage of the Conceptual Development Model, the students would move on to the pictorial stage. Sketching a picture of the beans would be considered pictorial. Have students draw circles to represent the beans, leaving the circles that denote positive numbers white and coloring the circles that represent negative numbers red.

As an example, let’s do the problem 3 - +5. First, rewrite the problem as 3 - 5. Now draw three white beans. Draw five more beans and color them red to represent -5. Match one white bean to one red bean. Two red beans are left over; therefore, the answer to 3 - +5 is -2.

3 - +5 = 3 – 5 = -2 

When students understand the pictorial stage, then abstract problems such as the ones in textbooks can be presented. (Notice, the textbook is the last place we go for an introduction.) I have found that most of my remedial college students move straight from the concrete stage (beans) to the abstract stage without any problem. Many put away the beans after two or three lessons. What works best for your students as they master this algebraic concept is something you will have to determine.

If you would like a resource that gradually goes through these lessons, you can purchase it on Teachers Pay Teachers. It introduces the algebraic concept of adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers and contains several integrated hands-on activities. They include short math lessons with step-by-step instructions on how to use the beans, visual aids and illustrations, four separate and different practice student worksheets with complete answers in addition to detailed explanations for the instructor.

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Skip Counting and Learning How to Multiply Using Pattern Sticks

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 other 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!

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 a visual way of showing students the many patterns on a multiplication table. It also teaches how you to use the pattern sticks to recognize equivalent fractions, reduce fractions, and to change improper fractions to mixed numbers.

You're Teaching Fractions All Wrong! Don't Flip When You Divide!

My college students in remedial math just finished the chapter on fractions. Talk about mathphobia. Dividing fractions was the most confusing for them because it requires finding the reciprocal of the second fraction, changing the division sign to a multiplication sign, and then multiplying the numerator times the numerator and the denominator times the denominator.

Let me introduce a new method entitled "Just Cross".

First and foremost, you must understand what division is. The statement 8 ÷ 4 means 8 divided into 4 equal sets, OR how many fours are in eight, OR how many times can we subtract 4 from 8? (Yes, division is repeated subtraction.)

Let me explain this using a hands-on visual. Let’s assume the fraction problem is:
The question being asked is, “How many ¼’s are in ½?” 
First, fold a piece of paper in half. The figure on the left represents ½. Next, fold the same sheet of paper in half again to make fourths as seen in the illustration on the right. When you unfold the paper, you will notice a total of four sections. So answering the original question: “How many ¼’s are in ½”, you can see that the half sheet of paper contains two parts; therefore:
Using the same example, to work the problem, the fraction 1/4 would have to be flipped to 4/1 nd then 1/2 would have to multiplied by 4/1 to get the correct answer of 2. That is why the division of fractions requires that the second fraction be inverted and the division sign be changed to a multiplication sign.

Let’s use the same fraction problem, but let’s utilize a different method entitled Just Cross. 
  • Cross your arms as a hands-on way of remembering the process.
  • Now multiply the denominator of 4 by 1 the denominator of 2 by1 as seen below. (We do nothing with the denominators.) Notice we always start on the right side and then we go to the left side. If it is done the opposite way, the answer will be incorrect. The answer of our first "cross" is the numerator (4 x 1); the answer to our second "cross" (2x1) is the denominator.
  • Now simply divide 4 by 2 to get the answer of 2.
No flipping; no reciprocal, no changing the division sign to a multiplication sign. Just Cross and divide. Amazingly, it works every time. 

Although fractions are something every student should learn, often times numerous students are left behind in the mathematical dust when a math textbook is followed page by page. I have a resource that features different ways to teach fractions using hands-on strategies similar to the one above. The unconventional techniques described in this math resource will always work.  Just go to Unlocking Fractions for the Confused and Bewildered.

A Go Figure Debut for A Texan Who Isn't New (to Teaching 5th Grade)

 Meet Ben Reincke. He is heading into his 16th year of teaching 5th grade. He spent his first six years teaching year-round school in Raleigh, NC before moving to Austin, Texas where he has been teaching for the last nine years. He has taught all subjects, but this year, he will focus on science and social studies. For him, it doesn't matter what subject or subjects he teaches; it's about providing the students with an environment that promotes learning and collaboration.

Ben’s favorite part of teaching is the growth he sees in his students throughout the school year. At the beginning of the school, he always worries about how he’s going to get them to where they need to be because it seems almost impossible, However, every year, by March or April, he observes a tremendous amount of growth, maturity, and hard work in his students. It makes the long hours of teaching and the constant stress worth it.

Ben loves teaching the various ability levels as well as seeing struggling students begin to master concepts. The moment when the light bulb goes off in a student’s head, and the student grasps a concept they've struggled with is priceless.

Ben’s classroom is a place where students feel safe and empowered to be creative and free to make mistakes. His students love to complete hands-on activities, interactive games, and have fun while learning. He encourages and rewards hard work and collaboration. Ben is passionate about giving every student the opportunity to grow and learn as they progress through the school year.

Outside of school, he enjoys spending time with his fiancé (a 6th grade science teacher). They love wake surfing, taking their dog, Tech, out for a walk and to swim, traveling, reading, playing in addition to watching sports, and running. Last summer, they did a big European trip to France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and England. This summer, they spent time in Vail, Colorado and Tillamook, Oregon along the coast. Ben loves spending as much time outdoors as he can, even in the 100+ degree Austin heat.

Reincke's Education Store features 1,165 products (1,145 paid and 20 free). There is a heavy emphasis on math and science content. The science content has a large amount of material specific to the Texas science curriculum. The math content has a growing number of products outside of the fifth grade content. These math resources range from grades 3-7. Ben’s favorite things to create are digital escape rooms and digital review games that are based on his dog called Tech Time. (Look carefully at his resource covers, and you’ll spot this very photogenic dog!)

Ben’s featured FREE resource is Decimal Place Value Tech Time. Looking for a new, exciting, and engaging product to review decimal place value? This can be used for test prep (STAAR), small-groups, extra practice, sub plans, review, math centers, etc. Enrich your decimal place value unit/lesson with an exciting game called Tech Time base4d on his dog named "Tech".

This PowerPoint (which can be uploaded and used in Google Slides) will motivate your students by allowing them to compete with each other to earn points and win the game! Tech Time will leave your students wanting to play more!

Ben’s Paid resource is an escape room called Comparing and Ordering Decimals Escape Room. Escape rooms are a fun way to review math standards while encouraging collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking. Students can work together or alone to escape being locked in the school. This escape room contains eight stations (4 comparing and 4 ordering). Students must answer the questions and follow the directions to decipher the code. They type the codes into a Google Form to move onto the next station. The final page gives them a verification code to complete their escape.

Ben also has a Shopify Store where you can find his resources. Shop there or go to his TPT store. With over 1,000 products, you are sure to find one that you can use in your classroom.