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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.