Thursday, January 29, 2015

Common Core Standards for Mathematics

The Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSM) were released in June 2010. Launched by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core Standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge and skills that high school graduates need to master to succeed in college and careers.

State standards had been around since the early 1990's and by the the year 2000, every state had adopted its own standards for what students learn in grades 3 through 8. The Common Core Initiative was intended to to create national standards, with the hope of helping students succeed.

CCSM implementation planning started in 2011. By 2012 schools in various states were providing professional development for teachers. Today, many states are highly focused on implementing these standards.

Most experts agree that the new standards are more challenging than the previous state standards states and that there are important differences in the skills and knowledge expected from students for each of the grades.

For the past few years, math teachers across the country have been struggling to understand and implement the CCSM -- even with profession development and curriculum guides. One of the biggest challenges for them is to create lesson plans that adhere to the CCSM. Moreover, teacher evaluations in many schools are now based on implementing these standards. As a result, some teachers are overwhelmed and confused.

Many parents are concerned that the CCSM have much more emphasis on concepts and less on practice. After all, math has always been a subject that requires practice -- especially in the primary grades.

Hopefully, students will succeed in time, as the CCSM intended. But for now, there is some controversy and confusion. Not everyone is informed about facts versus myths. 

Has your school adopted the Common Core Standards for Mathematics? Take my anonymous poll. It only takes a second, so please vote now.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Communicating Math Effectively

I think we most math educators would agree that students need to communicate math more effectively. In order to achieve this goal, students need to understand the terminology related to the math concepts being taught. IMO, it is very difficult to learn math concepts without the vocabulary and terminology defined for them as they go through a concept. I have several resources to help with this endeavor.

My new crossword and word search puzzles are a great resource for building and honing students' math vocabulary skills. These new puzzles do NOT require any Java applets. All resources are interactive, engaging, and include a timer. Solutions are also provided.

Our online glossary has over 500 terms, each each with a related link to more information. Students can look up terms they are unfamiliar with for homework, or any time.

Of course, my in-depth lessons have always included definitions, In 1998, I was a pioneer of definition windows for math terminology as part of the instruction provided. The idea was to remove peer pressure from the classroom. Students are often afraid to ask questions, and the time to do so is not always available in a 40-minute class period. The unique design of my lessons gives students the option of viewing terms that may be unfamiliar to them. If a student is already familiar with a term, then the definition does not have to be viewed. This, and other elements of self-paced instruction I have designed, has helped students immensely over the years.

One nice way to tie all of this together is use Cooperative Learning Techniques. Instead of a teacher-directed lesson, students can discuss the problem they are working on. Perhaps they can even define unknown terminology for each other. For example, "What the heck is a trinomial, anyway?"

Monday, November 10, 2014

Holiday Math Activities

Students are most motivated to learn in September, at which time I recommend a technique known as front-loading. By introducing a new topic in September, students realize that you intend to challenge them. This sets the tone for the school year. However, as the holiday season approaches, students tend to get distracted and attendance might dip. This is a great time to review and spiral topics. Below are some resources to help you with this endeavor.

  1. My in-depth lessons, worksheets and games are great activities for reviewing and spiraling.
  2. Holiday math activities can also help students stay focused on learning. For example, my Veteran's Day Math and Thanksgiving Math activities.
  3. Shopping is a big holiday activity. You can connect it to math with my article on Shopping Goodies

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.