## Thursday, February 28, 2013

### Around the World with Math

World Maths Day, an international day of math, is celebrated on March 1. "Maths" is the European term for mathematics, although here in the United States we use the word "math." World Maths Day recognizes and celebrates all things mathematical, focusing special attention on getting students interested in careers in math.

In celebration of World Maths Day, you may want to invite some community members who use math in their careers to talk with your class. Also have each student interview his/her parents about how they use math in their own jobs and in everyday life. Let your students try some division or counting as you hand out snacks and drinks. Then try a few math equations or story problems together. Many students find word problems easier when they relate to their own lives. So feel free to include stories about sports, music, movies, money, and other topics of interest to your class. Here's a word problem from our weekly blog post—the answer is given below:
 Story problem from Excel Math Student Sheets
Excel Math lessons build confident math students with a unique spiralling system that gets math concepts into long-term memory. Take a look at some samples on our website: http://excelmath.com/downloads/sample_lessons.html

Give your students a link to this fun, easy-to-use Maths Dictionary when they need to recall (or learn) math vocabulary words: http://www.amathsdictionaryforkids.com/. This website is animated and colorful with lots of definitions, interactive calculators and printable math charts. The online dictionary contains over 600 common mathematical terms and words in simple, kid-friendly language. It's a fun refresher for teachers, too.
You can also download our Excel Math Glossary of Math Terms and print it for your students (or save the file to their computers or tablets). This Glossary is available in English and in Spanish. Each Excel Math Teacher Edition contains an age-graded Glossary in the back, as a handy reference.

One way to help students learn multiplication facts is by teaching them to multiply (and add) in their heads. Mental Math is an easy way to help students practice solving math problems without writing them down. Read more about Mental Math on our previous post:  Download a free Mental Math instruction sheet at www.excelmath.com/downloads.html.

Because Excel Math uses a unique spiraling strategy, the lessons build upon each other and need to be taught sequentially within each grade level in order to get the concepts into your students' long-term memory. Try out some sample lessons but then use it for a full year in your classroom to see the amazing results.

The answer to the story problem shown above is four.

If you have additional World Maths Day activities planned, feel free to share them in the comments section immediately following this post. (Click on the word comment to begin.)

Want to find out more about Excel Math? Take a quick tour here.

## Tuesday, February 26, 2013

### Read Any Good Math Books Lately?

On Friday, March 1, people across the country will dust off their books, power up their tablets and e-readers, and celebrate the joy of reading with such notable literary giants as The Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, Horton the elephant, and other Dr. Seuss characters. "Grab your Hat and Read with the Cat" is the theme of this year's Read Across America celebration.
"You're Never Too Old, Too Wacky, Too Wild, To Pick Up A Book And Read With A Child."

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2. An American writer, poet, and cartoonist, he is perhaps most widely known for his children's books written under the pen names Dr. Seuss. Read more about him at Seussville.com.

In Excel Math, we combine math with literacy throughout the school year with our unique Create A Problem exercises. 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. Take a look at a sample Create A Problem page on our website.

Here are some additional resources for including literature in your math class all year long.

Elaine Young from Texas A & M University has put together a page of links to literature organized in a table by math topics and age ranges: Mathematics and Children's Literature.

Here's a rather extensive list of math story books for the elementary classroom: http://www.math.utah.edu/~keir/elembook.html
The list includes a subject category that indicates if the story is about numbers, shapes, ratios, fractions, counting, tangrams, or another math topic.

This list of read-aloud books from the International Reading Association is a good short list of books with math topics such as counting. Stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss introduce literature to your young math students while letting them practice math concepts in a fun, interactive way.

Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries by Donald Sobol are great short story collections that can be read aloud to help students think through logic problems and brainteasers as they solve the mysteries of this clever boy detective.

Draw a Math Story: From the Concrete to the Symbolic is an activity from Read, Write, Think. It uses math literature as a model for students to write their own stories incorporating addition and subtraction.

If you hold a read-a-thon on Friday, consider letting your students bring their favorite hats for your reading session (just don't let them share hats since lice can be easily transferred in this way) or bring a photo of themselves wearing a hat. Encourage your students to take a picture of themselves reading in a unique place (on a swing, in a tree, while standing on their heads, in a boat, in a museum, on a train, while on vacation in another state, etc.) and post the photos on a classroom bulletin board. For some math bulletin board ideas, read our previous post, New Year Bulletin Board Ideas for the Math Classroom.
The ReadingRockets website has a list of books to help children ages 0 - 9 enjoy counting and math: http://www.readingrockets.org/articles/books/c562/

Mathematics and Children's Literature is a collection of five lessons on the NCTM Illuminations website uses children's books to teach math topics ranging from algebraic thinking in the primary grades to data analysis, geometry, and measurement.

Download and copy this certificate to present to your students who participate in this day of reading. (To save time, sign and date the master and then print or copy it before adding each student's name.) Visit the Read Across America website to download a certificate to give to each your volunteer helpers.
For printable math certificates that you can customize for your own students, read our previous post: Printable Math Certificates and Awards.
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).

New to Excel Math? Take a look at elementary math lessons that really work for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade. Also find lots of math resources for teachers, parents and students at excelmath.com.

## Tuesday, February 19, 2013

### America the Beautiful Coins

 Grand Canyon National Park
In 2010, the United States Mint started releasing a new series of state quarters depicting national parks, memorials and historic sites. The series is called the America the Beautiful Quarters and will continue through 2021.

Grand Canyon National Park was the featured design on the fourth quarter released in this series. The Grand Canyon was first established as a national site on February 20, 1893. Read more about the Grand Canyon on our previous blog post: Happy Birthday, Arizona—100 Years of Statehood.
 2012 America the Beautiful Quarters

Fifty-six different designs make up the America the Beautiful Quarters series. There will be a quarter for each state, the District of Columbia, and each of five US territories. The designs are depicted on the reverse or tails side of the quarters.

Each year, the U.S. Mint will release five new quarters with national site designs. These quarters will be issued in the order in which the featured site was first established as a national park or site.

These are the five designs released in 2012 as part of the America the Beautiful Quarters series:
 Puerto Rico El Yunque National Forest New Mexico Chaco Culture National Historical Park Maine Acadia National Park Hawaii Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Alaska Denali National Park and Preserve
Each quarter in this series features a the same obverse (heads side) with the 1932 portrait of George Washington by John Flanagan. This side is inscribed with UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LIBERTY, IN GOD WE TRUST and QUARTER DOLLAR.

In Excel Math, we teach students how to recognize and add coins and make sense of monetary calculations.  Excel Math Lesson Sheets contain problems supporting the Daily Lesson, short Basic Fact Practice (when appropriate), in-class Guided Practice, and Homework. Take a look at one of our Grade 2 Student Lesson sheets featuring coins (we've even given you the answers):

 Excel Math Grade 2 Student Lesson Sheet

These are the quarters scheduled to be released this year:
 Ft. McHenry National MonumentRead more on our blog post: The Star-Spangled Banner
2013
NHWhite Mountain National Forest (released in January)
OHPerry's Victory and International Peace Memorial (to be released in April)
NVGreat Basin National Park
MDFort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
SDMount Rushmore National Memorial

The U.S. Mint has put together lesson plans by grade level for Kindergarten through Grade 12 to complement the historic sites shown on the new quarters. View and download the free lessons at http://www.usmint.gov/kids/teachers/lessonPlans/atb/

Visit the U.S. Mint to see a map that shows where all 56 of the national sites chosen for the America the Beautiful quarters are located: http://www.usmint.gov/kids/coinNews/atb/.

You can see the complete release schedule and the dates each historic site featured on these quarters at the U.S. Mint: http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/atb/?action=siteRegister

New to Excel MathLearn more here. Then take a look at our sample lessons.

## Wednesday, February 13, 2013

### Valentine Symmetry

Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, we thought it would be fun to take a look at symmetry as it relates to hearts, valentines, and other fun graphics. Help your students learn about symmetry as they cut out valentines and eat heart-shaped cookies. Let's start with the definition of "a line of symmetry":
A line of symmetry is an imaginary line that divides a figure in half. If you were to fold the figure along the line of symmetry, the sides would line up exactly, and the two halves would be mirror images of each other.
Download this math worksheet and copy it for each of your students (the second page includes the answers). You can copy it in color or in black and white. Talk about the definition of symmetry shown at the top:
Give each student a pencil. Have the students turn over the worksheet and draw a straight line diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner. Have a student (or you) read the definition of a "line of symmetry" aloud. Ask the students if they think the line they each have drawn is a line of symmetry. To check, have the students fold their papers along the pencil lines. They will discover that these are not lines of symmetry because even though the two halves are the same size, one is not the mirror image of the other.

Now give each student a square piece of paper. Ask them if they draw a line from one corner of the square to the other, would the diagonal line be a line of symmetry? Yes, this time the line will be a line of symmetry. Let each student fold the paper in half along the diagonal to check. This time the two halves are mirror images of each other.

Now have your students turn their worksheets face up. Talk about the figures shown on the top row and how they show symmetry:

Point out that these figures show one or more lines of symmetry. For some of these figures, more than one line of symmetry can be drawn:
If we fold each of these figures in half along the arrow, the sides would line up exactly, and the two halves would be mirror images of each other. The arrows show the lines of symmetry. Two of the figures have more than one line of symmetry.

These figures do not show a line of symmetry:

If we folded each of these figures in half along the arrow (or along any other dividing line), the sides would not line up, and the two halves would not be mirror images of each other.

At the bottom of the worksheet, let your students draw all possible lines of symmetry for each figure. Talk about the answers as a class when the students have finished.

Hand out red paper and let each student fold it in half. Some of your students may have cut valentines from a folded sheet of paper. If so, let them demonstrate for the rest of the class. Point out that these valentines are symmetrical. When they are folded in half, the two halves are mirror images of each other, since they were cut together. Provide red and white doilies and markers for the students to use to decorate valentines for your school staff, nursing home residents, hospital patients, or for military families in your area.

If you have time, bake some heart cookies and bring them for your students to decorate with symmetrical patterns. Then let each student eat half a cookie along the line of symmetry. After taking a picture of each child (or the entire class) holding the "line of symmetry" cookies, serve juice to wash down the other halves of the cookies. Let each student decorate additional cookies to give to others along with the cards.

Symmetry is now part of the Common Core (CCS) geometry requirements for Grade 4. In Excel Math, we begin teaching students about the line of symmetry in Grades 1, 2 and 3. Download the Excel Math correlations to your state standards: Excel Math Correlations

## Tuesday, February 12, 2013

### 10 Tax Tips for Teachers

It's that time of year again, when we begin collecting our receipts and documents from 2012 in anticipation (or in dread) of filing our taxes. As educators, there are some additional deductions that may be available if you itemize deductions. Who qualifies? If you are a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide for grades K-12, you will qualify if you work at least 900 hours during the school year (homeschool parents unfortunately do not qualify). We've pulled together ten tips from tax experts.

Although this post provides general information about tax laws, please consult your tax professional for advice about your particular situation. The views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of AnsMar Publishers or Excel Math. We hope to give you some tips and places to look for additional deductions as you get your taxes ready this year.
1. If you pay property taxes, only deduct those taxes you paid in 2012. Some cities and tax authorities bill you a year behind, but that doesn't matter. You can deduct only those property taxes you or the holder of your escrow account actually paid in the year 2012.
2. If you itemize, you can deduct up to \$250 of classroom expenses that weren't reimbursed. Keep your receipts (or hunt down your credit card statements) for out-of-pocket classroom supplies you purchased in 2012. My husband teaches middle school and  purchases paper, Jolly Rancher treats (one per student each Friday that they earn Preferred Technology Time), and other supplies for his classroom each year. We keep our receipts, and it's amazing how quickly small purchases add up. It definitely helps to include that deduction on our taxes in the years we itemize. If you and your spouse both teach, you can each claim up to \$250, but you can't claim the same materials, so keep separate receipts. Read more on the TurboTax blog.
3. Don't confuse your escrow amount for the taxes you've paid. If your mortgage lender sets aside money each month in an escrow account to pay for property taxes, don't simply multiply the total by 12. Use the official statement from the lender, listing actual taxes paid. (Often the escrow account covers other expenses and may even pad the escrow amount to make sure all fees and taxes are covered.)
4. Think twice about claiming the home-office deduction. It's a complex calculation that often doesn't amount to much. What's more, if you make a profit when you sell your home, this deduction must be recaptured. It can also trigger an audit. Bottom line: claim it only if you feel it's worth it.
5. Some job-related expenses may be deductible, but only if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A and only if that item or service is common and accepted in your line of work and is appropriate and helpful to your job. Your unreimbursed business expenses must total more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI), and they only count if your employer doesn't reimburse you for them. Commuting to work, for example, is not covered. Read more.
6. If you use tax software to prepare your taxes, you may be able to deduct the amount of the software you purchased in 2012. You must have itemized your deductions, and be sure to keep the receipt.
7. Be cautious about claiming energy tax credits. Tax credits for installing energy-efficient windows and appliances were greatly reduced for 2012. If you're claiming a credit, follow the instructions carefully, as the forms can be complex.
8. You may notice additional notes on your W2 form this year. Not only your retirement contributions take out of your paycheck, but also any payments to healthcare and medical savings accounts may show up on your W2 form for 2012.
9. Save your receipts. Not only for your tax software purchases, but home office expenses, educator expenses, home maintenance and repairs, manufacturer's certifications for energy tax credits, and lender statements for property taxes paid.
10. A portion of your vehicle registration fee in California may be deductible. You won't be able to deduct the entire amount you paid the DMV, but save your payment receipt to see if a portion of the fees you paid in 2012 may be deductible. This only applies if you itemize your taxes and use Schedule A. If you do not have your renewal notice to find the vehicle license fee you paid, try the online fee calculator. For additional California tax information contact the Franchise Tax Board at 1-800-338-0505 or www.ftb.ca.gov.

If you have job-related education expenses, your textbooks and tuition may be deductible if  you itemize your deductions on Schedule A and your deductions are more than the 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) threshold for miscellaneous deductions. There are lots of restrictions, however (you cannot use the education to meet the minimal requirements of your job or to change careers), so read carefully before taking this deduction. Find out more at H & R Block.com

This information is provided for informational and education purposes only and should not be construed as professional tax advice. Although it is accurate and reliable to the best of our ability, there is no guarantee of its accuracy in your situation. Tax laws change often. For information regarding your tax deductions, be sure to contact your tax consultant.

Start saving those receipts now for your 2013 expenses so you have a complete record of items to deduct on next year's taxes. Be sure to consult a professional for current tax laws, and visit the IRS websitse at http://www.irs.gov/ for the latest federal tax forms and publications plus free e-filing instructions.

Find out more about how Excel Math can build confident math students with math lessons that really work. Visit our website: www.excelmath.com

## Wednesday, February 6, 2013

### Chinese New Year: Snakes in the Math Class

This year the Chinese New Year falls on February 10. In China, the Year of the (Blackwater) Snake will be celebrated on Sunday and Monday. Sunday is a new moon day, and is often referred to as the "Lunar New Year." We've compiled some fun ways to celebrate this festival in your math class.

The foam diamond-back snake hanging on the door in the photo below was created by our first-grade friend Tyler. We added a string to some of Tyler's snake creations and had snake races around our patio. You can let your students have snake races and/or hang the snakes around your room in various poses. Give your students craft foam or construction paper, markers, tape and scissors. After cutting out snakes of various lengths, your students can compare them to find the shortest and longest. (Make sure names are on the snakes so they get back to their proper owners.) The students can use inch and centimeter rulers to measure the lengths and then create a table or bar graph showing the lengths of all the snakes in your class.

Download paper rulers here. When you copy them, the size may change slightly, but as long as your students all use copies from the same original, it won't matter for comparing length. You might invite a local reptile keeper to bring a non-poisonous snake for your students to examine or hold. Have the students research and write brief reports on some of the snakes in your area so they can talk about snakes with your local expert. Before the presenter arrives, brainstorm questions the students could ask and use the questions for a Q & A time after the snake is introduced.

A few year ago here at Excel Math, we were greeted one morning by a rattlesnake who happened to slither his way into our offices in the predawn hours of the day.

Fortunately, Jim found some rather long trash tongs and was able to use them to remove the snake safely from the building. This photo was taken shortly after the snake was discovered. It blended into the carpet rather nicely.

Since the snake is not a welcome reptile in China, some people who are born in the year of the snake prefer to say they are born in the "year of the small dragon."
The snake has a forked tongue considered to be a sign of being argumentative. In the Chinese zodiac, the snake implies potential trouble from libel, dispute or slander. Read more about the Chinese New Year and other festival days at ChineseNewYearDay.com.

In Excel Math, we help build confident, successful math students. Here's a question about China's population from our Grade 5 Excel Math Guided Practice 95:
In 1950, the population of China was 562,580,000 and
in 1990 it was 1,138,895,000. Which choice is the closest to the
increase in China's population between 1950 and 1990?
a. 5 billion
b. 60 billion
c. 500 million
Chinese New Year's Eve is a day of family reunions. Your students could each create a family scrapbook (print or online or both) complete with photos, stories, and a family tree. If they know the ages of some of the older people in their families, let them calculate their year of birth (or vice versa—if they know the birth year, have them calculate the age). Talk about some of the things that were not yet invented when their grandparents and great-grandparents were born.

Let your students bring Chinese food, clothing, toys, money and other objects to display. Show pictures of China—the land and its people while listening to Chinese music and trying some Chinese food. If you know someone who has lived in China, have them visit your class and share some of their experiences with your students.

The Chinese people celebrate the Chinese New Year for 15 days, ending with the Chinese Lantern Festival. Make paper lanterns to hang around your classroom. You'll find directions for making colorful paper lanterns at Enchanted Learning. Continue your own classroom celebration through the end of February, if you like.

New to Excel Math? Take a look at our proven mathematics curriculum for elementary students at ExcelMath.com and request your free samples. Then take a quick tour of Excel Math at http://www.excelmath.com/tour/tour01.html.

## Monday, February 4, 2013

### Celebrate e Day in the Math Classroom

Although it's not as well known as Pi, e is also an irrational number that occurs naturally in mathematics. With a numerical equivalent of approximately 2.71828183,  e is used in helping to decipher exponential and logarithmic functions. It's simple mathematical expansion is infinite. Rounding e to the nearest tenth we get 2.7, so e Day is celebrated on 2-7 each year.

On February 7, you can introduce your students to e Day with a classroom celebration. Sample foods that start with e (eggplant dip, escarole wraps, candy eggs, edame, or anything edible), read the poetry of ee cummings, solve some easy mathematics equations, do an Excel Math lesson, try some e-learning apps or computer technology (such as our Timed Basic Fact Practice), or do some fun math related to e.

In Excel Math, students build a strong foundation in math so they are prepared for higher learning. Students work with a variety of mathematical concepts each day. They tackle word problems, brain teasers, and cooperative learning. They learn to evaluate and solve problems, rather than perform algorithms by rote. Learn more on our website: www.excelmath.com/tour/tour01.html.

The music, "The Sound of e" by Carlton Shepherd is based on the irrational number e and includes a video slideshow. The composition was generated programatically via an algorithm over the mathematical constant e. You may want to share a portion of this video with your class:

"The Sound of e" musical composition by Carlton Shepherd

The constant e is also called "Euler's number" because it was first studied by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler. Jacob Bernoulli discovered this constant by studying a question about compound interest: Bernoulli noticed that compounding weekly (n = 52) yields \$2.692597..., while compounding daily (n = 365) yields \$2.714567..., just two cents more. The limit as n grows large is the number that came to be known as e. With continuous compounding, the account value will reach \$2.7182818.... More generally, an account that starts at \$1 and offers an annual interest rate of R will, after t years, yield eRt dollars with continuous compounding. Read more about compounding interest, Euler's number, and Bernoulli at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_(mathematical_constant).

My college statistics professor at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Dr. M. Gweneth Humphries (1911-2006) once found an error in her bank statement showing that the bank had not compounded the interest on her account daily, as they had advertised. Although the math was beyond the scope of the first teller she spoke with, Dr. Humphreys was eventually able to prove her point that the bank owed her accrued interest. (I was duly impressed.) Although you may not be interested in calculating your compounded interest without the help of a calculator, it certainly doesn't hurt to be able to do the math. Read more about Dr. Humphreys, the impact she had on her students, and the award given in her name by the Association for Women in Mathematics at http://www.randolphcollege.edu/x17430.xml.

Do you have a mathematics professor who has made an impact on your life? Leave a brief comment below describing how he or she influenced you. Then send a note of thanks via email or snail mail.

How are you celebrating e Day in your classroom? Will you be celebrating Digital Learning Day on February 6 as well?

Excel Math lessons help students develop a love for math as they build confidence, master mathematical concepts, and build a life-long foundation for using (and enjoying) math in everyday life.

New to Excel Math? Learn more by visiting our website: www.excelmath.com or give us a call at 1-866-866-7026. When you call between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday (West Coast time), a helpful person will answer the phone (never a machine).