Do your students have trouble with elapsed time? It can be a tricky skill, but I have learned a few things that help my students to be successful!

1.) Read the problem once and then discuss or think about the story. Is it in order? What does the story tell you?

2.) Read the story a second time and think about SEE … S=Start time, E=Elapsed time, and E=End time. What does the story tell you and what does the question ask you?

3.) Make a number line that shows what you know.

4.) Use the number line to find what is missing. I use “mountains and hills”. The mountains are hours and the hills are minutes.

5.) For initial lessons, consider color coding. Try using green for start, red for end and any other color for elapsed. Eventually switch out to pencil, but refer back to the color coding for students who need that support.

Seriously, how did it go so fast? Here we are almost to the end of the year, enjoying the Spring weather and looking forward to lazy days of Summer … BUT … we have to get through end of year testing first!

Here are a few tips to make test prep successful:

Tip 1:Prioritize areas of need – I don’t know where you are, but here in Texas we have SO MUCH to teach in a school year! When it comes time to review and get ready for testing it can be overwhelming trying to review it all! So take some time to sit down and reflect on what skills your students need to review the most. It is often different every year with each group of students. Spend extra time on the skills your students need the most.

Tip 2: Use student strengths to build confidence. So after you reflect on which key objectives and skills you need to review the most, spend some time reflecting on what your students are really good at! Review these skills (less than priority skills, but still review) to keep them fresh in your student’s minds and also to build confidence! If the students can see what they are good at, they will not be as stressed about what they still need to practice. I like to encourage my students by pointing out skills they found difficult at the beginning of the year and have now mastered! I say things like “Wow! Remember how hard ___ was at the beginning of the year and look how great you are with it now!” or “You have learned so much! You are so ready to ACE this on your test!.”

Tip 3: Make it fun!Realistically you can’t make every second of every day fun, but do what you can when you can. When students are having fun they are more engaged in learning! Play games, set up scavenger hunts, play music or decorate your classroom like the circus! Anything to keep your class from feeling so bogged down by the stress of “The Test”.

Tip 4: Smile!This might not sound like a test taking tip, but trust me on this one! When your students see you all super stressed out, they feel it! Smiling will help everyone relax! Maybe some yoga? Or a funny cat video on YouTube?

Tip 5: Add movement!Take some breaks to move around! If kids are in their seats too long they get sleepy and bored! Play multiplication games with a beach ball, take a walk around your hallway, do jumping jacks … have a 3 minute “dance party” as a break between lessons. You could even use a Math Song to dance to! I love this Eight Times Tables Song!

So, we all have had that one kid that just hates math, or that one kid who is bored because they don’t see the meaning to learning math. Okay, if we are really being honest, we know quite a few of these kids … quite a few each year!Flash back to my beginning years teaching. I naïvely thought if I was a positive upbeat teacher I could get 100% of my kids involved and excited! And, boy did I try hard! And it worked … 100% all the time! Just kidding! I did get some students engaged,but I still had kids that just didn’t like math or see the relevance in math no matter what I did!

Somewhere along the way I had a sort of “aha” moment. I was making a quilt for my friend’s soon to be born baby girl. I was measuring, cutting, moving shapes around and organizing patterns. I realized that I was having FUN and using MATH!I started thinking about how I could help my students use their own hobbies and interests to understand and see the meaning in learning Math.

To get everyone involved, I spent time showing my students my hobby, sewing, and explained how I used Math skills to successfully make quilts, clothing, etc… Then I asked my students about their interests and hobbies and we discussed Math involved.Afterwards I brought in as much Math “stuff” as I could to make connections!For example, I went to a few Houston Rockets basketball games with my husband and I would bring the program to school so my basketball loving kids could use them to see the Math in the stats, etc. I found project books and books with records, graphs, charts, etc… related to kids hobbies/interests. As the years went on we got internet friendly computers in the classroom and I was able to find a lot of meaningful websites with statistics on Sports, travel, sewing, music, you name it!

There is Math everywhere … crafts, sports, party planning, cars, traveling, weather, current events, cooking, taking care of pets, video games, building, planting a garden, and so much more! I make it a point to get to know my students’ interests and hobbies so I can relate their interests to Math as often as possible! Sometimes this means pulling up a website and giving them a task or assignment, but sometimes it is as simple as just asking questions and being such as “How do you think decimals relate to basketball?” or “What kind of Math skills do you need to know to raise and take care of a horse?”

Keeping up with my students interests is important for establishing good relationships and also for finding connections in Math! I can use their knowledge in their areas of interest to help them build confidence in Math!

It is that time of year again! Time for jelly beans, eggs, bunnies and baskets! There are so many ways to use Easter excitement to keep your students engaged in classroom lessons.Here are some of my favorites from around the web:

Math:

One of my favorite activities this time of year is a Math Egg Hunt!Buy a bunch of plastic eggs and stick problems inside the eggs. Hide the eggs around the room. Give your students a record sheet or a piece of notebook paper and let them hunt and solve math problems.Print your own problems or get mine FREE here.

Task Cards Save Paper: Using task cards can cut down on the number of copies and paper used because you don’t need to make a set for each student and if laminated or kept in protective sleeves, they can be used for years without printing new copies.

Task Cards Increase Engagement: They add to student engagement because they add novelty. Paper and pencil practice is certainly useful, but can become dull and routine.Using dry erase markers on a task card can mix things up a bit.Also, task cards can be printed with fun colors and clip art to add interest for the students.

How?

Centers and or Work Stations– Print cards and keep in small containers or baggies.Have students work in pairs or groups solving problems on task cards and recording on a record sheet. I like using record sheets for two reasons. One, the students are more likely to stay on task if they know they will have to turn something in at the end of the center. And, the other reason, I like to look over the record sheets to see if students need re-teaching or extra help with the skill/concept worked on in the center.If you do not have a lot of copy paper you can always have students use notebook paper to create a record sheet.Have them write the name of the center on the paper and then number or letter their answers.

Whole Class Cooperative Groups– My suggestions for whole class would be the same as for work stations & centers except you would need one set of task cards for each table group.After learning or reviewing a concept with whole class, the students could work on the cards with their table groups.After the group work you could have a class discussion about the task cards as a way to wrap up. Another whole class activity which would require only one set of task cards is a “Scoot” or circuit.To set up a Scoot you have a different task card on each desk and have the students work in pairs rotating around the set of task cards in numerical or alphabetical offer.Some teachers will set a timer for scoot and others will let students move as they finish.For a FREE“Scoot Record Sheet” that can be used with any set of task cards, click here.

So, the fun and games of learning how to make arrays, skip counting on number lines and using models to solve multiplication problems has lead to the equally exciting task of solving division problems. Everyone seems to be making great progress and making meaning of multiplication and division in real world problems, UNTIL … wait for it … wait for it … We mix the two together!

And here the real “fun” begins … A few students usually have an intuition about the structure of the problems and just “get it” with out much help, but the majority of students need direct, systematic instruction paired with hands on or pictorial examples to really, truly, deeply, understand the difference between multiplication and division in word problems. But where can we start? Continue reading →