Connecting Math to Student’s Interest

 

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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.

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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!

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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?” 

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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! 

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Awesome Math & Science Easter Activities

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:

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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.

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Top 5 Tips for Decomposing Fractions

As I have mentioned in previous posts about fractions, starting with hands on and pictorial activities is vital for helping primary intermediate level students understand fractions. Today I would like to share my top 5 tips for decomposing fractions. These are mainly focused on 3rd – 5th grade, but may be helpful for some older and younger students as well.

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1.)  I love using my pizza game for hands on fractions!  If you don’t have a pizza game, you can use plastic fraction circles or make pizza fractions from paper plates. Show your students a fraction of a pizza such as 5/6. After guided them to name the fraction, show them one way to decompose it by giving 2/6 to one student and 3/6 to another student. Point out that 2/6 + 3/6 is a way to decompose 5/6 and ask if they can name any other ways.  Act out other representations such as 2/6 + 1/6 + 2/6 by giving those slices to other students.  Try this with several different students.

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2.)  Give students color tiles or unifix cubes. Give specific directions such as make a rectangle with 3 red, 2 blue and 7 yellow.  What fraction of your tiles are not yellow? (5/12)  Move the red and blue apart a little to show how 5/12 can also be represented as 3/12 + 2/12.  Do this with a few other fractions as well.

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3.) Give students pictures of fractions and have them cut them up to show ways to decompose the fraction.

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4.) Coloring Practice – Give students pictures of fractions with nothing shaded.  Give them directions on what color to color different parts.  Then guide them to write number sentences to decompose the fractions.

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5.) Play Games!  Make your own games to practice decomposing fractions or try one of the games I have available on my TpT page.

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Place Value Relationships

Understanding place value is an important Math skill for elementary students.  One of the objectives is for students to describe the relationship between places in a base ten system.  Although this may seem difficult at first, starting with concrete manipulatives can really help students gain a deeper understanding.

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I like to start by letting students “play” with the blocks for a few minutes.  Then I will ask specific questions and have them use the blocks to work out answers.  One such example is “How many ones do you need to equal a ten?” or “How many tens can you use to make one hundred?”  Give students time to work together or independently with the blocks to answer the question, then discuss.  I also like to write the questions/answers on the board or have a record sheet for them to work along with. Continue reading

Understanding Place Value

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Have you ever had a student who seemed to understand place value  initially, but then when questions were asked just a little differently couldn’t really answer correctly? Younger students need a lot of hands on practice and a lot of discussions before moving on to pictorial and abstract. What about middle and upper elementary?  As  the learning targets get higher and the numbers get bigger, most students need to revisit basic place value concepts with hands on experiences and discussions to build or review understanding before moving on to bigger numbers. Continue reading