## Wednesday, September 26, 2012

### An Apple a Day . . . Edible Math

News reports recently have been highlighting how Chinese people have been eating more apples—80% more since 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In years past, apples grown in China would be exported for apple juice sold here in the U.S. (We grow and eat lots of apples in the U.S. but most of our apples for juice are imported from China.) However, the demand for fresh apples is now growing in China so they are exporting less and selling more apples in their own country. As a result, apple juice traders are worried about how the rising costs for apples combined with freezes and droughts around the world will affect the supply of apples and drive up the cost of juice. (Read more about apples and China at The Wall Street Journal online.)

In Excel Math, students learn higher-order thinking skills to help prepare them for high school, college and everyday life beyond the classroom. Help your students understand the impact certain behaviors can have on themselves and their own families in our interconnected world. Talk about the potential shortage of apples for juice. Bring apples (and/or juice—see below) for your class to eat after your discussion. If you have an apple slicer, show how it has metal dividers before you use it to cut an apple. Have a student count the number of spaces in the slicer, and let the class estimate how many slices it will cut. Point out that it will also cut out the apple core. Next, have a student count the number of people in the room (students plus teachers and aides).

Ask the class how they would determine how many apples to cut so everyone has at least one slice. Point out that they would divide the number of people in the room by the number of slices to find out how many apples are needed. If you like, have the students calculate how many apples would be needed for each person to have two slices. (Since there may have been some slices left over after calculating the first equation, the most accurate way to decide how many apples are needed would be to divide the number of people in the room by double the number of slices in your apple slicer. The other way to decide would be to simply multiply by 2 the number of apples needed for one slice.)

If you don't have a slicer, ask the class how many slices you would need to make in each apple to share 4 apples among the whole class so each person gets one slice. Then ask how many apples you would need (to give each person one slice) if you cut 6 slices from each apple.

To help your students understand volume, bring a gallon of apple juice, a measuring cup, and small paper cups for your class. Help your students calculate how many 1/2-cup portions could be served from a gallon of juice. (One gallon = 16 cups so a gallon would contain 32 1/2-cup servings.) Then have the students determine how big each serving would be if you divided the gallon evenly among everyone in the classroom. For younger students, make the total evenly divisible by 16 so if you have a class of 30 plus one teacher, add your principal for a total of 32. (If you have 31 students plus one teacher for 32 total people, each serving would be 1/2 cup. If your total number of people is 24, each serving would be 3/4 cup.)

Let your students check their calculations by pouring the amount of juice they determined into the number of cups they mentioned. (If you have 32 total people, each serving would be 1/2 cup. The student pouring the juice could use a two-cup measurer and pour 1/2 cup of juice into each cup. He could pour 4 cups before needing to refill the measurer.)

Enjoy the juice as you talk with the students about other foods they enjoy that might be more difficult to divide evenly. You may also want to include rising costs and/or menu planning as a lesson topic. Here are the answers to the Excel Math Create A Problem Worksheet shown above:
Visit Excel Math online to see glowing reports from principals and teachers about how Excel Math works in the classroom. New to Excel Math? It's easy to get started. Learn more here.

## Tuesday, September 25, 2012

### Math Storytelling Day Ideas for the Classroom

Today, September 25, is Math Storytelling Day. On this day, those of us who love math can have fun making up and sharing math-related stories. Stories can involve puzzles, logic, brain teasers, human relationships—just about anything, as long as math is involved.

Some of your students may enjoy the short mysteries by Donald J. Sobol. His hero, Encyclopedia Brown, often solves detective problems using math such as in The Case of the Two-Dollar Bill. Sherlock Holmes is another detective who seems to be a whiz at math and uses it in his work. Magic Tree House books often include math as well as science and geography. One of my favorite books as a young student was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Claudia continuously counts her change and then spends it while planning her exploits.

Your students may enjoy creating their own stories involving math and then sharing them with the class. For a more involved project, have them write and illustrate their stories on colored paper. Add a cardboard cover to make a book, complete with the author's bio. Then let your students share their books with younger students at your school, with their families, with local boys and girls' clubs, or with seniors in your neighborhood.

Here's a story problem from Excel Math 4th grade (the answer is given below):
Four girls caught a total of 20 bugs. If they each caught the same number of bugs, how many bugs did each girl catch?
In Excel Math, students tackle word problems in 2nd through 6th grades. In addition to shorter problems similar to the one above, Excel Math has a unique take on story problems, called Create A Problem. With these more complex word problems, students are given a chance to express their own understanding of a story problem. Create A Problem exercises merge math and literacy as they help students develop higher-order thinking skills.

Create A Problem lessons start with simple stories and give students a chance to observe what is happening in the story. They then use those observations to have the students solve problems. Later in the curriculum, we ask students to create a problem or two, and make up a CheckAnswer. (Read about the CheckAnswer system in our previous blog post.) Finally, students are able to finish a story in their own words and write several problems about their story ending. This demonstrates mastery AND integration. The format of the page allows longer answers, along with charts, graphs and other expressions of the students' solutions.

Here's a sample of a 3rd grade Create A Problem exercise:
 Excel Math 3rd Grade Create A Problem

In Excel Math, we include Create A Problem exercises so students have a chance to create and write their own math stories and learn to solve and write word problems. Here's a Create A Problem page from 4th grade:
If you enjoy solving story problems, visit our Excel Math Blog each week for a short problem. Answers are posted the following week. This is the problem from last week:
You can also have your students visit our blog for these weekly story problems and complete them during bell work time or as math warm-ups. A new story problem is posted near the top of the blog each week. Scroll down the left side for the answer to the previous week's problem. Need more ideas for celebrating math storytelling day? Read some math rhymes and poems from our previous post about "Poem in Your Pocket Day."

The answer to our fourth grade story problem is 5 bugs per girl. Your students can check their answers by multiplying the number of girls times the number of bugs they got for their answer (4 x 5 = 20). However you choose to celebrate the day, enjoy some math stories, compliments of Excel Math!

## Wednesday, September 19, 2012

### Seasonal Bulletin Board Ideas for the Math Classroom

Now that school is back in session, bulletin boards can help display information and add a touch of creativity to your math classroom. Even if you start with a basic board or just a wall, you can easily modify it every month or two to reflect the changing seasons and holidays. You may want to place one of the the bulletin board displays on your classroom door or in the hallway just outside your room so it will catch the children's interest as they enter. If you don't actually have a bulletin board in your classroom, use part of a wall or the side of a filing cabinet. You can even hang decorations from your ceiling.

For additional math bulletin board ideas, read our previous post, "Bulletin Board Ideas for the Math Classroom" and our newer post, New Year Bulletin Board Ideas for the Math Classroom  (including ideas for January, February and March).

Some simple seasonal bulletin board ideas include the following. Click on the links to download patterns for each bulletin board. Use foam or small pieces of folded cardboard to give a 3-D effect to the displays. For a tactile board, use cotton balls for clouds, fabric for the backdrop, and textured borders.

September:
 Math Stars Bulletin Board from Excel Math
Create a star-studded bulletin board to encourage your students to learn or review their math facts. Cut stars from yellow cardboard so you have plenty of stars for the math problems plus one star for each student in your class. Leave some stars blank (as shown) so the students can tell you those answers or can write them down during your math warm-up time. Students who answer a certain number of problems correctly can place a star with their name on the board. If you laminate the stars, you can print the numbers on them and then wipe them off and reuse them over and over again. Problems can change daily or weekly to alternate between multiplication, division, fact families, multiplication with decimals, addition with fractions,etc. For additional equations to include on your boards, use some of the problems from the Basic Math Facts portion of the Excel Math Student Lesson Sheets.

October:
 Pumpkin Patch Bulletin Board from Excel Math
Change your bulletin board into a pumpkin patch of math problems for October. Print out the pumpkin patterns below. On each pumpkin write math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, fractions) or whatever concepts you're studying. Leave some pumpkins blank. Laminate the blank ones so students can write their answers on the blanks and then wipe them off and start again the next day.

November:
 Turkey Talk Bulletin Board from Excel Math
Highlight positive character traits with this turkey bulletin board. Back the Turkey Pattern with a colorful paper plate. Also print a turkey for each student. Print the Feather Patterns and write a positive trait on each feather. Make some math feathers such as, "addition whiz," "multiplication genius," "subtraction superstar," etc.  Place egg patterns with numbers or problems on them around the turkey.  You can also glue pieces of fringed paper, straw, sandpaper, or hay at the bottom of the board for added texture.

Give each student a turkey pattern to cut out. (Have them cut off the feathers and give them back to you or just leave them on and add more feathers as they learn math facts.) Let the students glue their turkeys to paper plates. Make extra feathers so you'll have enough for each student to have several. Watch for a student who exhibits any of these traits and award that child with a feather to glue onto his turkey. Try to make sure each student gets one or two feathers each week during the month. Students who can recite math facts can earn multiple math feathers.

December:
Print the Math Gift Tags from the pattern and write a math problem on each tag. For younger students, the problems might be simple addition or subtraction equations. Middle elementary students might have problems involving carrying (such as those on some of the tags). Upper elementary and middle school students might have problems with decimals, fractions, percentages, etc. Tape the tags around the top and sides of the bulletin board. You may want to add colorful ribbon to the tags for a festive feel. Collect small gift boxes and bags of all shapes and colors. Print a number on each box or bag (each number will be an answer to one or more of the problems on the gift tags).
 Gifts of the Season Bulletin Board from Excel Math

Staple the gift boxes and bags to your bulletin board. Allow the lids to be opened (wrap the lid separately from the box) or cut a slit in the boxes. Leave the bags open. Give each student several blank gift tags or index cards. Let the students print their names on the back of each of tag (card). Have them print the first problem on one gift tag and then place the tag in the box or bag with the correct answer. Encourage students to solve as many problems as they can. This can be an extra credit activity or just a fun way to review math facts. Review the correct answers with the students before adding new problems to the board.

Do you have some creative bulletin board ideas you've used in your own classroom? Leave a comment below and we'll do our best to include them in a future blog. Learn more about Excel Math on our website: excelmath.com.

## Monday, September 17, 2012

### Overcoming Math Anxiety in the Classroom

A University of Chicago science researcher has discovered that high-achieving first- and second-graders may experience math anxiety more often than their classmates. The study involved 88 first-graders and 66 second-graders in a large-city school system. The team found about half of high-achieving students suffer from math anxiety. The researchers suggest some ways of dealing with math anxiety, including having students write about it before they have to actually begin doing math. Read more at upi.com/ScienceNews.

Dr. Sian L. Beilock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago and author of Choke, a book describing the brain’s response to performance pressure, discovered that high math anxiety in first and second grade teachers negatively effects the performance of their students. Read more in Learning Math Without the Anxiety by Dr. Fred Jones.

With Excel Math lessons, anxiety is reduced as teachers are given a systematic way to teach math that minimizes stress for students as well as for the teacher. Students are given tools to build confidence while they learn math concepts. Mastery is not expected to happen on the same day a new concept is introduced. Instead, concepts are introduced and then reviewed several times during Guided Practice before those concepts are included on homework or tests. The proprietary Excel Math Spiraling process involves systematic spaced repetition. Students have a chance to see a concept over and over before they are asked to recall it during homework. Repetition helps put the concepts into long-term memory so students are prepared for tests. Anxiety is minimized, and students begin to be confident that math is doable and achievable (and even fun). Read more in our previous blog post, "Giving Math Students the Opportunity to Make Mistakes."

According to Judy Willis M.D., a neurologist and author of Learning to Love Math, anxiety can literally cut off the working memory needed to learn and solve problems. So how does Excel Math work to reduce anxiety? It's simple. The teacher teaches the lesson (provided in the Teacher Edition) to the students. Using optional Projectable Lesson slides displayed on a whiteboard or screen, the teacher can explain to the students how to solve the problems and then have a student show the rest of the class how it's done. During this time, the teacher slowly walks students through the practice problems one step at a time. Initial questions and any confusion can be addressed here.

After this brief period of teaching, the students begin the Guided Practice portion of the class. During Guided Practice, students work on math problems that reinforce the concepts just taught. The teacher is free to move around the classroom, helping those students who get stuck. Having the Projectable Lesson on the screen gives students a visual reminder of how to solve the problems. Plus, students are given a natural feedback loop with the Excel Math CheckAnswer system. This system allows students to check their own work and gives them a chance to actually get the answer correct!

The CheckAnswer is a special part of Excel Math lessons because it gives students a chance to make mistakes and fix them on their own. It is used throughout Excel Math for Grades 2-6. This CheckAnswer system enables students to check their own work and verify for themselves that they understand the concepts in the day's Guided Practice and Homework.

With Excel Math, students are encouraged to solve the problems, show their work, check their answers, and then go back and fix any errors they've made. At the same time, students are given an immediate feedback loop so they don't have wait until the next day to find out which problems they've missed. Read more in our previous post.

During Guided Practice, the teacher is available to help students who need it, while allowing them to progress independently through problems they understand. In this way, the teacher can catch and correct any errors before they are repeated. Instead of simply pointing out errors, it's more helpful to students when we give them the tools to continue the problem-solving process independently. Building on that success, the student begins to relax. We've eliminated any reason for the student to be defensive. Instead, the student gains confidence and realizes "I can do it!" and "it's not that hard."

Effective teachers realize that Guided Practice makes up a large portion of the lesson. There is plenty of time for practice, and it is unhurried. As Fred Jones puts it, "The message from the teacher is, 'We will all get this. It is only a matter of time.'" However, Excel Math lessons do not expect mastery the first time a concept is introduced. As concepts spiral back into the Homework and Guided Practice, they begin to become part of longterm memory. Students who struggled previously find they can be successful with Excel Math. High-achieving students can move quickly through the lessons, proceeding at their own pace and spending more time on stretches (brain teasers), activities, and Create A Problem exercises.

Some naysayers call this practice time "drill and kill." However, as Dr. Jones points out, "you have to practice something a lot before you get good at it." Mixing up the pencil and paper practice with Online Basic Fact Practice, stretches, activities and manipulatives (all included in the Teacher Edition) can help keep the student's interest and prevent boredom. But the sense of accomplishment as the student finishes the lesson sheet is often its own motivator.

This principal from Robbinsville, North Carolina called to thank us for the excellent results his school had using Excel Math:
“We wanted to let you know that Robbinsville Elementary school was awarded the title School of Distinction during the 2011-2012 school year. We were recognized, in large part, as a result of high math scores—96 percent of 4th graders passed the state end of grade exam! Thanks to Excel Math for helping our students succeed in math."
Read more glowing reports from principals and teachers about how Excel Math can reduce students' math anxiety on the Excel Math website. New to Excel Math? It's easy to get started. Learn more here.

How do you reduce your students' anxiety in the classroom? Share your suggestions in our comments section below.

## Monday, September 10, 2012

### Top 10 Reasons to Use Excel Math as a Companion to Technology

Here are the top 10 reasons to use Excel Math as a powerful companion to the technology in your math classroom.

## TOP 10 REASONS  YOUR STUDENTS WILL THANK YOU FOR USING EXCEL MATH

### 10. You’ll save money! Excel Math Student Classroom Sets cost just \$11.00 per student (Individual Padded Student Sets are only \$19.00 each). Excel Math is a proven approach to teaching elementary math! Learn more.

For ideas on using technology in your math classroom plus links to a variety of websites and blogs, visit our previous post: http://excelmathmike.blogspot.com/2012/07/math-20the-intersection-of-math.html.

 Excel Math's Unique Spiraling Strategy Click here to see the full chart.

#### Here's what teachers are saying about Excel Math:

"I just had to call you! We used your curriculum for the last two years and our scores were phenomenal. Would you believe, this year both 4th and 5th grade got 100%! The parents love it because it's consistent. It's just an awesome program and very teacher friendly. So, hip . . . hip . . . hooray!"
— Marilyn, 4th Grade Teacher in Utopia, Texas

"We are using Excel Math in the primary grades. We love it! By using it across grade levels, it allows us to differentiate by grouping out students according to their ability, not just their grade. It also allows us to keep the higher students challenged and grade level students right on track while allowing plenty of review for the lower students. Excel Math is an excellent program for any school."
— Risa, 2nd Grade Teacher in Aptos, California

Excel Math is extremely teacher friendly and is fully correlated to Common Core (CCS) and State StandardsRead more from teachers here. We love teachers and we love serving you! Any time you call, we’re happy to hear from you. We’re willing to do whatever we can to make your experience with Excel Math a pleasure. Visit our Excel Math website at excelmath.com for lots of math resources including a Quick Start Guide to help you start using Excel Math in your classroom today.

## Tuesday, September 4, 2012

### Creating Electronic Math Flashcards

Math flashcards have been around for years as a teaching tool to help students remember math facts. We've searched teacher sites and recommendations to find websites and free or low-cost resources that let your students create electronic and printable flashcards.

You can show your students how to make their own electronic flashcards using Powerpoint or Keynote on their computers and then bring the flashcards up on their desktop for review each day. If you have computers in your room, let your students create slides in Powerpoint or Keynote so the first slide has the problem and the next one shows the solution. Continue until they have covered the facts you'd like your students to practice. Then have them use the slides as electronic flashcards.

Divide the students into pairs, with each pair on a computer or tablet. Have them scroll through the slides. Let one student in each pair read the problem when it appears. Have the other student try to solve the problem before showing the next slide. Show the slide. If the student got it wrong, they go back to the first slide and each student reads the problem with the answer five times before they move on to the next slide. Let the students take turns asking and solving the problems until they have the slides memorized. (This electronic flashcard technique works well for learning math terms and vocabulary, too.)

If you prefer to use flashcards that are already computer-ready, Tim Bedley, math teacher from Lake Elsinore, California, has created Video Flash Kards for his students and now offers them as an inexpensive tool for other teachers. These 8 short videos cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You can choose the fast (students have 2 seconds to respond) or slow version (4 seconds). Students respond to the math fact on the screen by shouting out their answers or simply saying them aloud. If you have student responders or a clicker system in your classroom, you can have the students answer with their clickers. After the allotted time is up (2 or 4 seconds), the correct answer appears on the video with a "ding." These seven-minute videos can be played on a computer using iTunes or on an iPod. Students gain mastery in just a few views. Each video is \$2.00 and comes with a money-back guarantee. Watch a sample video here.

Excel Math has a Glossary of Math Terms (in English or Spanish) you can use with your students to create flashcards of math words and their definitions. Excel Math was written to give teachers the tools they need to help students develop a strong foundation of mathematics. Read more about Excel Math and its systematic spiraling process at excelmath.com. Try out our online Timed Basic Fact Practice at http://www.excelmath.com/practice.html.

A comprehensive website for creating flashcards for all subjects is www.quizlet.com.