Monday, April 21, 2014

Metric System of Measurement

The Metric System is a decimal system of measurement that was first devised in the late 1700s as a means of standardizing and simplifying the many weights and measures that existed at that time. It was introduced by France in 1799 as an International System of Units, known by the abbreviation SI, from the French "Système International" Although the Metric System is the International System of Measurement, the United States is one of the only countries (along with Liberia and Burma) that has not adopted the metric system officially. In fact, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that uses Customary Units. 

People use customary units in daily life, while science, medicine, government, and many sectors of industry use metric units. This leads to a huge disconnect between society and science in the U.S. It underscores the need for metrication more than ever.

Many questions come to mind about this disparity of units between society and the scientific world.
  • Is it possible that people are turned off by science and technology because they don’t understand the metric system?
  • Could this make us less scientifically literate as a country?
  • Wouldn’t it make sense for scientists and non-scientists to speak the same language?
  • As a nation competing in a global market, is the US at a disadvantage by not using the International System of Measurement?
According to Scientific American, "Perhaps the most ironic fact about use of our of U.S. customary units is that since 1893, we have been defining our system of units in terms of the meter and kilogram. We have essentially given ourselves the additional burden of converting from the international standard to our own system and then back again." IMO, it is time for the United States to get on board with the metric system. Metrication is essential to our future. I hope to create some metric goodies in the near future. For more information about the metric system, subscribe to my newsletter or take my anonymous poll.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Celebrating Pi Day on March 14

Pi Day is probably my favorite math holiday. Each year, Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 by math enthusiasts around the world. (The notion of a math holiday is actually quite exciting, not just for math enthusiasts, but for the general population.) There are plenty of real-world connections to Pi Day, too. This makes Pi much more than just a math constant. Apart from Einstein's birthday, students can learn about the history and meaning of Pi, and how computers are used to calculate many of its digits. You are invited to celebrate Pi Day with our Irrational WebQuest. Try our in-depth lesson on Circumference of a Circle. We will also have plenty of fun on Facebook, too. Come and celebrate with us!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Spiral and Review

Students are most motivated to learn in September, at which time I recommend a technique known as front-loading. With this technique, a new topic is introduced that students have never seen before, such as Integers. However, as the holiday season approaches, students tend to get distracted and attendance might dip. This is a great time to review and spiral. Accordingly, I have included some resources below. You can differentiate the review by activity.

  1. To review all the basics, try my in-depth lessons on Fractions, Decimals and Percentages. You will also find other topics here.
  2. For students that just need a little extra practice, try my worksheets, games and puzzles.
  3. For those who need a challenge, try my WebQuests.

For more teaching tips and ideas, see this page.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Open Number Lines

One day a colleague sent me some links to open number line resources. An open number line is number line with no numbers or tick marks. At first glance, the open number line was being used to solve simple addition problems with jumps to the right on the number line, or simple subtraction problems with jumps to the left. Students first needed to decompose the numbers being added or subtracted. For example, to add the number 37, one might jump 30 to the right, then 7 to the right. To subtract the number 21, one might jump 10 to the left, another 10 to the left, then 1 to the left.

After researching this topic further, I discovered that open number lines allow students to use many different mental math strategies to solve the same problem. Students could jump to the left, right, or in both directions to solve a simple addition problem. (The same was true for subtraction.) Thus, each student could solve the same problem in different ways. For example, a student could jump 40 to the right, then 3 to the left in order to add the number 37.

I am now smitten by open number lines! This open-ended model is a ground-breaking way to approach addition and subtraction for students of all abilities and students with special needs! It also makes use of place value skills. There is no longer only one way to add and one way to subtract. Open number lines provide unlimited opportunities for learning!

The use of open number lines facilitates number sense development and fluency in computational skills. Students learn to think flexibly about numbers and the strategies they use to solve problems. I hope to design an interactive open number line game in the near future.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Mathgiving

Has anyone ever told you "Happy Mathgiving"? It might capture the attention of your class around Thanksgiving. Kids are usually quite distracted as the long, holiday weekend approaches. Thanksgiving math activities are a fun way to keep kids interested in math. Here are some resources to help you celebrate. Most of these resources connect math with Thanksgiving. However, my personal favorite is the Spiked Math Comic, since it gives thanks for career connections to mathematics. Learn more.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Veteran's Day Math

Veterans Day is an official United States holiday which honors people who have served in armed service. It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11. I wanted to give tribute to the service of all U.S. military veterans by creating a Veteran's Day Math page. So I began to search for math-related activities. To my surprise, I had trouble finding them.

This holiday seems to lends itself nicely to history, literacy and social studies. But math was a real challenge. My persistence paid off as I was able to find a few sites that offered real math activities related to Veteran's Day. You can view them at this page.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Halloween Math

Halloween is an exciting holiday for kids of all ages. Of course, they get very distracted in school. There was a Halloween parade each year at my son's elementary school. Each teacher led their class outside in their costumes around a huge rotary. There was always a big turn out of parents to watch!

Over the years, teachers have found some creative math activities to keep students focused on learning. For example, sorting and graphing of M&M candies by color in the middle school. The same can be done with an assortment of candies: Students can sort candies into groups based on specific similarities, such as chocolates, gum, hard candies, red candies, etc. Older students may want to create their own categories. The important thing is to engage students in math activities related to Halloween.

I have put together some Halloween Math Activities to help you celebrate. Let me know what you think on Facebook or Google+.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Math Calculators

The debate over use of calculators in the math classroom has gone on for decades. I believe that calculators are handy tools for checking one's work. Many would argue that calculators cannot replace basic arithmetic skills. I agree with this notion as well. For example, when teaching students how to find factors and greatest common factors of composite numbers, these whole number operations are the object of instruction. In this case, it would not be appropriate to use a calculator except to check one's work (which can be done manually if necessary for this task).

However, there are many time when calculators can be used as effective problem-solving tool. For example, when teaching students how to factor large whole numbers such as 621, the problem solving is the object of instruction, not the calculations. In this case, using a calculator can help students to find all factors quickly, and to determine if such a number is prime or composite.

I have created some interactive calculators, solvers and generators, including:

Math Calculators Description
Arithmetic Operations This calculator allows you to perform simple arithmetic operations with whole numbers and decimals.
Circle Solver Our circle solver lets you enter the area, diameter or circumference of a circle and then solves for the other two.
Circumference Calculator Find the circumference of a circle by entering it's radius.
Loan Payment Compute your monthly loan payment after entering the principal, interest rate and number of years of your loan. Works for car loans and mortgages.
Quadratic Equations Solver Find the roots of a quadratic equation with this interactive solver. This tool is great for checking your work on complicated problems.
Random Number Generator Generate a random number between one and a number of your choice instantly.
Custom Random Number Generator
Generate a random number between two numbers of your choice instantly.
Roman Numeral Converter Convert a whole number into a Roman Numeral with this handy tool.
Square Root Calculator Find the square root of a number you enter with this interactive calculator.
Triangular Numbers Find any triangular number interactively.

 Check them out and let me know if you have any to add. You can find me on Facebook.