### 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.
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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.

### Linking Literature and Math Using the Book, "Math Curse." It's the Perfect Book for the Beginning of the Year!

I love books that link math and literature, and one of my favorites is Math Curse by Jon Scieszka. Published in 1995 through Viking Press, the book tells the story of a student who is cursed by the way mathematics works in everyday life. It is a tale where everything is a math problem, from tabulating teeth to calculating a bowl of corn flakes. Everything in life becomes a math problem.

First you see the math teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci, (don’t you love that name?) declare, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.” Then you watch as the student turns into a “raving math lunatic” since s/he believes “Mrs. Fibonacci has obviously put a math curse on me.”

From sunrise to sunset, the student anxiously mulls over the answers to countless calculations such as: How much time does it take to get ready and be at the bus stop? (a problem the reader can solve.). Estimate how many M M's you would eat if you had to measure the Mississippi River using M Ms. There is even an English word problem: “If mail + box = mailbox, does lipstick – stick = lip? Does tunafish + tunafish = fournafish?” (silly, but funny.) A class treat of cupcakes becomes a study in fractions, while a trip to the store turns into a problem of money. The story continues until the student is finally free of the math curse, but then again Mr. Newton, the science teacher, regrettably says, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a science experiment.”

Math Curse is full of honest to goodness math problems (and some rather unrelated bonus questions, such as "What does this inkblot look like?"). Readers can try to solve the problems and check their answers located on the back cover of the book. The problems are perfect to get students’ minds working and thinking about how math really does apply to their everyday life.

The illustrations by Lane Smith are one of a kind. They are busy and chaotic to reflect the “math zombie” this student becomes. Many resemble a cut and paste project, with some images touching or overlapping others. Mostly dark colors are used especially when the student begins to dream s/he is trapped in a blackboard room covered with never-ending math problems. (a nightmare for many) Smith’s art work makes Scieszka's words come to life and helps to paint a picture of what is going through the mind of the main character as s/he deals with the dreaded math curse.

John Scieszka does a remarkable job of breaking down the typical school day into math problems while also adding some tongue-in-cheek and light hearted humor which every mathphobic needs. The math is perhaps a little advanced for elementary students, but the problems are perfect for middle school or high school students.

Math Curse also demonstrates how a problem may seem difficult, but if you are persistent, you can find the solution to the problem. The book teaches not to fear or be anxious about math or for that matter, any other subject in school. Despite the fact the main character is completely overwhelmed by mathematics, it allows students who struggle with the identical feeling to know they are not alone. Any student who has ever been distressed over numbers, fractions, word problems and the like will certainly identify with the main character.

As a math teacher, I think this book makes math fun as well as interesting. Although I recognize math is everywhere in everyday life, I never realized just how much until I read the Math Curse and mathematically saw the day of a typical student. I believe what sets Math Curse apart from other books is that it accurately illustrates and explains how math is actually used and applied in day-to-day life. I love the story, the message, and especially the content.

### How Many Classroom Management Rules Does A Teacher Really Need?

Now that most of us are getting geared up for a new school year, it's time to think about what classroom rules need to be established. Maybe the ones you had last year just didn’t work, and you are looking for a change. I could recommend many "Do this or this will happen" or "Please don't do this as it will break my heart" statements, but lists can become very long and mind-numbing. Maybe that is why God only gave Ten Commandments. Fewer rules mean less has to be memorized. So, maybe we need to ask ourselves: “How many classroom rules are really needed?”

I would suggest making a few general rules that are clear and understandable since being too specific often leads to complicated, wordy rules that might cover every possible situation. Most of the time, I post six simple classroom rules (only two words each) in my room which encompass my main areas of concern. I find them to be more than sufficient to govern general behaviors, and because alliteration is used, the rules are easy for all of my students to remember.

1.  Be Prompt – In other words, be on time to school/class/group.

2.  Be Prepared – Bring the items you need to class or to a group. Study for upcoming tests. Have your homework completed and ready to turn in.

3.  Be Polite – This rule focuses on how we treat each other. Show respect for your teacher(s) and your fellow students in the classroom, in the school, and on the playground.

4.  Be Persistent - The final rule spotlights the need to stay on task and complete an assignment even though it might be difficult.

6. Be Positive – Bad days happen! If you are having one of those days, I do understand. Please just inform me before class that you are having a bad day, and I will try to leave you alone during class discussion. This is not to be abused.

I firmly believe that class rules must cover general behaviors, be clear as well as understandable. Being too specific often leads to complicated, wordy rules that might cover every possible situation, but are impossible to remember.  (A good example are the IRS tax rules which I still have difficulty comprehending).
Here are a few things to consider when communicating your classroom rules.
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• Establish clear expectations for behavior from day one.
• Use techniques such as interactive modeling to teach positive behavior.
• Reinforce positive behavior with supportive teacher language.
• Quickly stop misbehavior.
• Restore positive behavior so that children retain their dignity and continue learning.
If you are interested in using these six rules in your classroom, check them out on Teachers Pay Teachers. Each two word rule is written as a one page chart, and is ready to download and laminate to hang in your classroom.