Monday, July 28, 2014

6 Great Ways To Learn Multiplication Facts

Third grade has become.... THE YEAR OF MULTIPLICATION. It is all things multiplied. Yet, it has always been a struggle for students to become fluent with their facts. Flashcards are boring and not very effective. We don't have a lot of extra time during the day to work on fact fluency (in fact no extra time at all). Some parents will put in the time at home, some won't. 

So what do we do? 

Here are a few suggestions:

1. It always helps when students are familiar with their multiples first. That way, if they do need to resort to their fingers for skip counting, they can do it quickly and easily until they memorize. Sooner or later, after having to figure out what 3 x 4 is, they will memorize it. 

2. There are many on-line programs (even free programs) that focus on multiplication facts. Sometimes kids are motivated to practice when it is on-line in a game-like format. If you have classroom funds, "First in Math" is a fantastic investment. It runs about $8 a student and runs for a year. 

3. Make fact problems part of every warm-up, every day.

4. Use arrays to help students memorize the square numbers (3x3, 4x4,) In our classroom, we had Crazy Eight, a square with 64 hunting dogs!

5. A school-wide program of recognition, or even a grade-level focus with incentives may put a buzz in the air around learning facts.

6. If you do use flashcards, use Triangle Fact Cards. That way, students have 3 visual numbers to connect with, they are subliminally getting the message of how multiplication and division work together and you can change which missing number you are looking for, which prepares them for those more difficult 6 x __ = 24 type questions. Triangle Fact Cards
Triangle Number Cards



Check for missing product

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Making the Hardest Subtraction Problem Easy! Freebie Included

Just when you think your students have a handle on subtraction......along comes a problem with multiple zeros. Then it becomes a "can you remember which zeros turn into 10's and which zeros turn into 9's? Don't forget the last digit that has to become one less. Here is an easy trick to show students about subtracting when a bunch of zeros rear their ugly heads. 

Hopefully all the leg work of showing students what we are doing to a number when we re-group, using base 10 blocks,  has already been done. If students have difficulty with determining one less than 3,000, then we know we have some place value work to do!

Here is a freebie to practice.

Subtraction Practice

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Freebie to Help Organize Math for a New School Year

With new Common Core standards, new pacing guides, new assessments and new resources, it may be a good idea to keep everything together. That way, when you have to run to a grade level team meeting, you can grab and go. 

My math planner has an overview of the standards, the actual standards for my grade level, planning calendars for the 2014-2015 school year, and all kinds of graphic organizers like team planning page, vertical teaming page, intervention/enrichment plan pages as well as a data organizer for sharing student info. 

Here is a freebie sample for you to try. 

Team Meeting Notes

Happy Organizing!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Elapsed Time is Hard for 3rd Graders!

Even after teaching elapsed time for years, it remains one of the hardest topics for 3rd graders to master. Working with multiples of 5, distinguishing between hours and minutes, a.m and p.m., and suddenly 60 is the new whole. 

Luckily, my old teaching partner and I came up with a new strategy for keeping track of elapsed time. As long as kids can count by 1's and 5's, they can do this!

Each mountain represents 1 hour and each molehill represents 5 minutes. Each single tick mark represents 1 minute. So, students count off hours, then 5-minute intervals, then single minutes. After they've reached the finish time, they can easily go back and count up the hours and minutes. 

Some teachers may be using this but I don't know if everyone knows about this so I made a unit just for this skill called Elapsed Time -Mountains and Molehills on TPT.  Check it out - if you have time:)  Elapsed Time Using a Time Line


Friday, August 9, 2013

Large Numbers and Famous Paintings

I was having an interesting discussion with a few teachers about getting students to understand the value of large numbers. At 3rd grade, any number beyond 4 digits becomes an exercise in abstract art. They have tens, hundreds, and thousands pretty well, but really haven't had a lot of experience with more and unless you can count it, even by 100,000's, you really can't quantify it.

I began to think about my own experiences with this. My family played a lot of board games when we were youngsters and one I remember vividly was called "Masterpiece". It was a game that involved selling and buying famous paintings. There would be auctions where you could purchase paintings, hoping to secure the one worth $1,000,000. Some were worth as little as $150,000, some more. The money came in denominations of $50,000/$100,000/$500,00 and $1,000,000. We had to make change and I think this is where I became familiar with 5 and 6-digit numbers-easily, without thinking about it.

Many fond memories of buying and selling famous paintings

It was that great juxtaposition where math meets necessity. It is what we try to give children in the classroom. Effortlessly using math to do, to create, to solve, to communicate, to advance.

Not only did I gain experience with large numbers, but who can forget Edward Hopper's Night Hawks, Edgar Degas' The Dance Class, or Grant Wood's American Gothic?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The "What is and What Isn't" Game

I recently chatted with a college math professor. He mentioned that there was one thing elementary teachers could do that would help secondary teachers out tremendously. My ears perked up and I waited in anticipation to what we could do better, faster, higher, or harder  to help our students prepare for college.

It turns out, that in a standardized math test given to secondary students, one question that many students "bombed" was a quite simple question about pentagons. When shown many different examples of pentagons, students were asked to identify which ones were, indeed, pentagons. So many students answered incorrectly that it came to the attention of college professors.

It would seem that somewhere along the line, students learned that a pentagon has five sides and looks like a house. Relying on a past visual experience, students began to correlate a pentagon to a familiar shape instead of using the properties of a pentagon to identify it.

A 3rd grade activity I use to make sure students are focusing on the properties of shapes and not just the memorizing the visual picture.

Obviously we need to spend more time and bring out more examples while focusing on the properties of these shapes, but it got me to think about other instances in which students need more exposure to concepts and properties so they can reason more effectively.

This was the beginning of the "What is and What Isn't" game we do in the classroom. I have extended it beyond geometric shapes. Here are some areas that students have to identify and explain their thinking:

"What is and What Isn't" an improper fraction?
"What is and What Isn't" a mixed number?
"What is and What Isn't" an obtuse/acute/right angle?
"What is and What Isn't" a ruler?
"What is and What Isn't" a quadrilateral?
"What is and What Isn't" a 2-D and 3-D shape?
"What is and What Isn't" subtraction and multiplications strategies that work?
"What is and What Isn't" an equivalent fraction?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Rich Problem For Third Graders

8 pieces
8 pieces
4 pieces

Last week I wrote a story problem on the board for morning work. I am always looking for ways to stretch my students' thinking, to develop their conceptual knowledge and to get them actively problem solving as much as possible.

The problem read like this: Henry had 4 pizzas. They were all the same size. He cut each one into eight pieces. He ate 20 pieces. How much of the four pizzas did he eat?

Students dutifully drew the pizzas out and divided them into eighths. They carefully shaded in 2 pizzas (16 pieces) and 4 pieces of the next pizza.

Here is where is got interesting. When asked how much of the four pizzas Henry ate, a student answered: 2 1/2. Another student answered 20/32.

Students began to look at me with the "O.K. so what is the right answer?" look. This was tricky, since the question wasn't how much pizza did Henry eat (2 1/2) but how much of the total pizza did he eat?

I wanted students to do the math thinking and to really use everything they knew about fractions to help them understand the different answers and the difference between the two questions.

We made some assumptions "Yes, there are 2 1/2 pizzas shaded in. Yes, Henry started with 4 pizzas, or 32 pieces. Yes, the question is asking how much of the all four pizzas did he eat."

I began asking questions. When we want to show the fraction of something shaded in, what does the denominator represent?  Lets do that. I also stopped at this point and drew 4 rectangles side by side, divided into eighths. I shaded in 20 parts. We formulated a fraction for this picture. We went back to the pizza problem.
Suddenly a light bulb went on: A student raised her hand. "OHHHHHHH, when we said 2 1/2, we were only looking at the pizzas shaded in. We didn't count the unshaded pizza.

We went on to have a great discussion about what the question was really asking. These opportunities for rich discussions don't come up every day, but I love it when they happen!
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