Sunday, April 26, 2015

Guest Post on Minds in Bloom

Click to go to post
I'm so excited  - I was given the opportunity to guest post on Rachel Lynette's blog, Minds in Bloom. The post went up on her blog today, if you'd like to check it out:)

Many thanks to Rachel!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How Does Coloring Improve Math Skills?

Today, as my students were working on a color by number in math class (which I thought was a fun, different way to practice math), one of them asked "How does coloring help with math?" The question was asked with a "there's no reason I should have to do this" attitude. I explained that it helped with motor skills and helped one to use the brain in a different way, and that exercising the brain in different ways could help in all things that require thinking (not just math). I don't think he really appreciated my answer:)

Integer Operations Color by Number - freebie
So, I decided to do a little research, to see what I could find. Most of what I found (not a super-long time of searching, because I didn't have that much time!) was mostly related to the benefits of coloring for young children (and did relate to math skills) and for adults. Here are a few things that I found, as coloring relates to adults:

According to the Huffington Post (10/13/14), coloring benefits adults (and I would assume children as well) because it "generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity." In addition, psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala states that when we color, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres. "The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress."

According to PenCentral, coloring benefits adults in helping them to maintain fine motor skills -this requires extra work by your brain to coordinate your actions and muscle control in your hands and arms. Coloring can help delay loss of fine motor skills as people age. Coloring may also help fight cognitive loss, especially if challenging pieces are completed every so often.

I didn't necessarily find research to answer my student's exact question, but what I found was quite interesting! If anyone knows of other articles or published research to support the role of coloring in improving math skills, please let me know!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fantastic Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a great day! I got up early and went out for a walk/run, worked in the garden and had a great dinner with my husband and kids. Among my wonderful gifts were these fantastic "coloring books for adults" from my daughter. They are AMAZING! They were created by Johanna Basford (maybe you've already seen them) and are just incredibly detailed. The picture above is the one I started to's a little hard to see the detail, but I think it's just incredible.

Now all I want to do is color.....:)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Learning to Love Math - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Examples of Differentiated Planning for Achievable Challenge

This is a continuation of Chapter 3, from a couple of weeks ago (I had my notes written, but it has taken me a while to type them!!). In the previous Chapter 3 post, I reviewed a couple of the examples of differentiated planning and activities that the author offered. In each example, students are learning the same basic concepts, but at different levels of challenge, which should lead to maximum success and should minimize their frustration.

This example is called Exploring Number Lines, and the author states that it is a helpful activity for both "explorers" and "map readers." As a preliminary activity, students explore number lines without any specific assignment; the author suggests using large number lines that can be rolled out on the floor. Students meet in groups and create KWL charts. In working with the number line, students will predict where they will end up with certain movements (2 places to the left, 5 places to the right, etc....on the positive side of the number line). As students move to a higher complexity, they will move toward exploring the negatives on the number line.

Another example she gives is related to understanding division, with the goal being the understanding of the concept of division as a way to break larger amounts into specific numbers of parts. The low-complexity group plays games/"sharing activities," in which students are given 10 manipulatives and are asked how they can be shared among their group of 5 members. Next students are given 15 items and asked if they can be shared evenly - if so, how? This activity continues, using different numbers of items and different numbers of group members.

The medium-complexity division
group (of 5 students) is given 100 pennies (or plastic pennies) and is asked to determine how many ten-cent pencils each group member could "buy" (equal number for each member). Students are then asked to determine how many 20-cent or 15-cent items could be purchased for each member.

The higher-complexity group would also work with ten and 20-cent items, would evaluate the worth of the items, and would use newspaper ads to find the unit rates of products.

A whole-class activity related to the division concept is to place students into groups of 3, give each group 7 large blocks, and ask them to determine how the blocks would be divided so that each person gets an equal share - the author states that this leads to the concept of fractions without necessarily calling them fractions.

All examples are very interesting! On to Chapter 4:)


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Winner's Bundle!

I have not been doing a great job keeping up with my blog lately! Too many things going on!
Click here to go to the free bundle!
But, I did need to jump on here and type up a quick post about the Winner's Bundle that went along with March Madness tournament! If you read my "March Mayhem" post last month, you read that my collaborators and I (Tools for Teaching Teens group) put some of our paid products into bundles that went along with the teams in the tournament. Since Duke won, our Duke bundle is now free in our stores!  The bundle includes:

History Gal's Printable Greek Gods
Technology Integration Depot's Ancient Rome Bingo
Colorado Classroom's Parent and Student Communication
Middle School Math Moments' Decimal Division Color by Number
Math Giraffe's Triangle Classification
Leah Cleary's Fall of Rome

That's 6 paid products for FREE! The download will only be available Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday (April 10), the original March Mayhem freebie bundle will be back up for downloading.

To make things even more fun, we are all putting our stores on sale today (April 8) and tomorrow (April 9)! My entire store will be 20% off - including bundles!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Workin' On It Wednesday

What are you working on?
We've been working on surface area in class (post here), and I have been working on a fun "Yahtzee" type game to help students practice converting fractions to decimals....lots of fun!

Link up below to share what you've been working on:)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Exploring Surface Area

We spent a couple of days exploring surface area recently! We haven't done much with surface area in past years, so approaching this was new for me, a well as for the students. We started out with various shaped boxes (rectangular prisms) and I asked the students to visualize and then draw what the boxes would look like if they were taken apart and laid flat (without all the separate flaps and such). Most students took about 5 minutes to complete their drawings, depending on how detailed they chose to be, and for the most part, they did a very good job drawing their nets. They then spent a few minutes comparing their nets with their group members, deciding whether they were correct (even if they were drawn differently), and determining whether anyone appeared to be missing anything (some students did draw only five sides, and their group members were able to help them figure out what was missing).

After drawing their nets, the groups had two tasks - to find the surface area of their particular box and to determine a formula for the surface area of rectangular prisms. We have already studied area, so the only thing we discussed before they set upon their tasks was the actual meaning of the term surface area. So, they set off measuring (asking if they should measure in centimeters or inches - I said it was their choice) and calculating.
Most groups determined their surface area by the end of the class period, but none of the groups were able to decide upon a formula. We continued the next day, and while some groups were able to write a formula that reflected a correct understanding of the concept (though not written correctly "variable-wise"), others were stumped. Even though they were stumped about writing a formula, the "stumped groups" were able to explain to me HOW they had found their surface area. Most of them explained that they found the front and multiplied by 2 because the back is the same, and that they found the top and multiplied by 2 because the bottom was the same, (and the same idea for the sides), and then they added those three sums together. Other groups found the area of all six surfaces and added them all. One group found the area of the 3 different sides, added them and then multiplied by 2.  Based on our conversations, I know that they all had a correct way to find the surface area, but writing a formula was difficult. Some groups were very close with their formulas, but had to be guided toward naming the length, width, and height with different variables.

One group actually finished fairly quickly (correct formula and all!), so they then worked on determining the surface area of a triangular prism (I had a Toblerone box on hand to use)....they found that surface area fairly quickly too!

In the end, several groups wrote good formulas, which were shared and discussed with the class. The students really seemed to enjoy this activity - it was challenging but achievable:)  Giving the students the chance to explore the concept and to construct a formula based upon their understanding of surface area was a great use of class time!


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