Additional Math Pages & Resources

Friday, August 31, 2012

Classroom Management from Day 1

One of the most common pieces of advice we hear from excellent teachers around the country is that they begin on the very first day of school teaching students appropriate behavior in the classroom. (And then they repeat the process throughout the year.) These teachers suggest that some hard work, structure and organization up front save countless hours of discipline and heartache throughout the rest of the school year. 

Excel Math was written to give teachers the tools they need to develop a strong foundation of math in their students. For over 30 years, these math lessons have been proven to develop higher-order thinking skills, build proficiency, and produce confidence in students of all ages and abilities. Read more about Excel Math and its systematic spiraling process at

Harry Wong (educational speaker who has taught middle school and high school science) from Mountain View, California, suggests teachers start school with a First Day of School script. He recalls, "One teacher began his year with fun activities and spent the rest of the school year chasing after his classes. His first day lacked structure, which led to his students structuring his classes for him. Elementary school teacher, Melissa Pantoja, began the first day of school with a script, which led to a successful beginning. " Read more at

Dr. Fred Jones, educational author and speaker suggests using a "Say, See, Do" educational model. "In the Say, See, Do Teaching method, you tell students what to do, you show them what to do, and then you have them do it. The process is repeated as students learn by doing…one step at a time." Read more from Fred Jones here.

Kirk Rogers, History teacher in El Cajon, California, begins the year by having his classes practice how to be engaged students. He spends some time during the first few days of the school year to teach his students how to enter and exit the room, retrieve clickers and put them away, use laptops appropriately, and many more routine procedures. He has students practice doing each procedure every day. If a student "forgets" the correct way to behave, he has that student repeat the procedure correctly. For example, a student who lifts up the laptop with one hand to put it away is asked to return to his desk with the computer, holding it with two hands. He must then open the cover, close it, pick it up (this time with both hands) and then may put it away. Fred Jones explains, "When a good teacher or coach sees a student make an error, he or she instinctively steps in at that moment to re-teach. Otherwise, the error would be repeated until it became a bad habit."

Explaining proper procedures and then having students repeat those procedures correctly during the first few days of school means less time wasted throughout the school year. Mr. Rogers uses the acronym SLANT to help his students remember to be active listeners:

  • Sit up straight
  • Lean forward
  • Activate your thinking
  • Note key ideas
  • Track the talker

Here's a Powerpoint SLANT reminder you can download and use with your own class. After presenting the slides and explaining the acronym, have your students practice it. If you have computers in your room, let your students use these slides as electronic flashcards. Divide the students into pairs, with each pair on a computer. Have them scroll through the slides. Let one student in each pair read the question when it appears. Have the other student try to answer the question 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 that line five times before they move on to the next slide. Let the students take turns asking and answering the questions until they have the slides memorized. (This electronic flashcard technique works well for learning math terms and concepts, too.)

If a student forgets to take notes or pay attention, a simple reminder to "slant" can often take care of getting her refocused on the lesson at hand. According to Dr. Fred Jones, "To create student engagement, the teacher must succeed in managing both discipline and instruction. If kids are goofing off, you won't get much engagement."

Having a classroom routine often helps students feel secure and safe in the classroom. A predictable routine can also give students a sense of familiarity and confidence in knowing what is expected of them. Many teachers begin the class with a warm-up or bell work so students enter the classroom and are already working when the bell rings. For math warm-up activities and math worksheets you can download for your students, see our previous blog post, "Five Minute Math Class Warm-Up Activities."

Being prepared is a great way to keep your students' attention and to minimize lag time. Moving quickly from one activity to the next means students are engaged throughout the class. There is no reason to give students even a few seconds to become distracted or lose focus because the teacher has to collect materials or decide what to do next. 

Clearly stating expectations before moving to the next activity helps clarify for students what the teacher is asking them to do. For example, knowing they need to get out a pencil and paper and not talk to their neighbor is a reasonable expectation. But when the teacher switches to a new activity, students sometimes feel they now have a chance to talk, move around, or ... (you fill in the blank). Watch an experienced teacher, Ms. Podolsky, use a variation of the "Say, See, Do" model to show her students how to move their desks into groups as quickly and quietly as possible. This is a helpful video showing how to introduce and then model procedures to students beginning at the start of the school year:

Clarifying how you expect them to act during the next activity will stop many disruptions and misbehaviors before they begin. Letting students know what is expected during the transition time from one activity to the next helps keep the lesson moving. Watch veteran teacher Caltha Crowe put this into practice as she instructs her students how to line up on the first day of school:

If you use timed activities with your class, here's an online stopwatch with an hourglass that empties and a ringing bell that sounds when time's up: It's fun to project it so everyone can see (and hear) the countdown. Use this link to get a full-screen mode: You can set the time from one second to 99 hours 99 minutes and 99 seconds and choose whether to use a talking clock, dynamite, a rocket, a candle, a number line, a group of runners or swimmers, and lots more. (Just click on the "back to egg timer" link.)

Providing a classroom routine and structure beginning on the first day of school can help set the tone for effective classroom management from day one. We would love to hear what's working in your classroom. Feel free to leave a comment with your tips for other teachers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

ABC = Alaska, Bering and Coins

On August 20, 1741, Danish navigator Vitus Jonas Bering discovered Alaska

Vitus Bering was born in the Danish town of Horsens in the summer of 1681 and baptized on August 21 (from the Horsens parish register). He went to sea as a young man and began a long career as a seaman. He moved to Russia, where he got married and had children. In 1703, Bering enlisted in the Russian navy. He became a lieutenant in the Russian navy in 1704, and during the Great Northern War he served in both the Black and Baltic seas. In January 1725, Peter I asked Bering to command the first Kamchatkan expedition to determine the extent of the Siberian mainland and its relationship to North America.

Bering led the expedition over 6,000 miles of wilderness and reached Okhotsk on the Pacific coast on Sept. 30, 1726, nineteen months after leaving St. Petersburg. The group built ships and sailed to the Kamchatka Peninsula. The ship Gabriel was built there, and on July 14, 1728, Bering began his first exploration. The Gabriel sailed northward, rounding East Cape on August 14.
Since the Asiatic coast trended westward and no land appeared to the north, Bering decided that he had fulfilled his mission. He turned back at latitude 67° 18' to avoid wintering on a desolate and unknown shore. The expedition spent the winter at Kamchatka, where Bering saw numerous signs indicating land to the east. But bad weather during the following summer frustrated his attempts to find land, and the expedition returned to St. Petersburg in March 1730.

Since Bering had not explored the coast of Siberia beyond East Cape, critics claimed that he lacked courage and initiative. In defense, Bering proposed another exploratory mission, and in 1732 he was given command of the Great Northern Expedition. This was the largest expedition the world had ever seen. It included 10,000 men all in all. Vitus Bering, as the overall organizer, was tasked to find and map the west coast of America. Read more at

Bering set out in June 1741 with two ships, but the ships were soon separated and Bering continued alone on the St. Peter. He changed his course to the north and sighted land on July 16. A few days later he landed on what is now Kayak Island. Physically and morally exhausted and fearful of being trapped by contrary winds, Bering turned back toward Kamchatka. On the way home, his ship wrecked on a small bare island. Bering and his crew had to spend the winter on the island, living in driftwood huts that were dug into the sand. Many of the men died that winter, including Vitus Bering, who was buried on the island with his men. The island was later given the name Bering Island. See the red box below. Read more at
Bering Island

Forty-five of the 77 officers and men of the St. Peter eventually reached safety in 1742. The various parties of the Great Northern Expedition obtained significant geographic and scientific information. For example, the strait dividing Asia and America, now named for Bering, was discovered. Visit the Horsens Museum for images and more facts about Bering.

Alaska entered the Union on January 3, 1959 as the 49th state of the United States. Juneau became the capital of Alaska. The word Alaska comes from the Aleutian word "Alyeska," meaning "The Great Land." Populated by Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts for centuries, Alaska was not explored by Europeans until Bering's visit in 1741. 

Russia established a colony in Alaska to protect its lucrative fur-trading interests, but sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million, or two cents per acre, when it could no longer afford to maintain the colony. At the time, many in the United States felt the purchase was a mistake. Its worth became apparent only after the late 19th century gold rushes and the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, which is nicknamed "The Evergreen State."

On August 15, 2008 the Alaska quarter was released as part of the 50 State Quarters Program.

The reverse of the Alaska quarter features a grizzly bear emerging from the waters clutching a salmon in its jaw. The coin’s design includes the North Star displayed above the inscription "The Great Land" and the inscriptions "Alaska" and "1959. read more about the Alaska Quarter at

In Excel Math lessons, students learn to recognize coins of various denominations, calculate change accurately, combine coins to purchase different items, and much more. Excel Math lessons provide increased rigor with our true Spiraling of concepts and intentional spaced repetition. Read more about the spiraling process.

Print this coins worksheet for your students to help them recognize coins from a penny to a dollar. Click here for a larger version.
Coins Worksheet from Excel Math 
Grade 4 Teacher Edition

New to Excel Math? Visit our website, and see how easy it is to get started with our Quick Start Guide.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Multiplication Tables Made Fun

One of the basic concepts students learn in Excel Math is how to multiply numbers. This slide is from our Projectable Lessons CD for Third Grade:
Excel Math Projectable Lesson Grade 3

If your students have iPads or computers, reinforce your lesson with Timed Basic Fact Practice online. You choose the highest number (up to 12), the equation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division), and the lowest number (down to 0). The students have one minute to solve as many problems as they can, typing in their answers as the clock ticks down. When finished, they will see how many problems they got right, how many they missed, and the total number of problems they attempted.

Basic Fact Practice is also built into the Excel Math program. Brain research shows that using pencil and paper to write facts helps students remember them. Read about how to use Basic Fact Practice for your math warm-ups and download a free worksheet on our previous post: Five-Minute Math Class Warm-Up Activities.

This multiplication table goes from 1 to 20 in each direction.You can download this table to help any of your students who are having trouble learning their multiplication facts:

Read more and get math printables:

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Helping Math Students Excel During the Transition to Common Core

Classrooms around the United States are faced with the challenge of helping students excel in mathematics right now and transitioning to the Common Core State Standards next year or in the years to come. Many schools are discovering how Excel Math can smooth the transition while increasing student performance now and preparing students for the Common Core future.

For over 30 years, Excel Math has proven to be a powerful approach to teaching elementary mathematics. Take a look at the amazing results experienced by teachers around the country who have used Excel Math:
Excel Math allowed me to effectively teach math at two grade levels...without it I don't know how I would have hit all standards and provided the review and practice the students required to succeed. I recently had the opportunity to visit with twin sisters who were in my class during this time, and their mother shared with me that "those long math sheets" really prepared her girls for math throughout the rest of their schooling. Both girls are in college now, are strong math students, and both reported that they started liking math when they were in my class!
—Anne Evans, Teacher, Meridian School District, Idaho
“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. 7 out of 15 students were commended in my class in TAKS! So, hip…hip… hooray!"
— Marilyn, 4th Grade Teacher, Utopia Elementary, Utopia, Texas

Excel Math Common Core CorrelationsSo we were pleased, but not surprised, to see how well our Excel Math materials correlate to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Concepts are first taught in the Excel Math Student Lesson Sheets during the lesson of the day and then spiral back into the homework, guided practice, stretches (brainteasers), interactive activities and tests. So in the following days and weeks, concepts are reviewed and reinforced with a uniqiue system of carefully spaced repetition.

Basic Fact Practice is a regular part of the Student Lesson Sheet. And now you can have your students use their computers and iPads for additional online Timed Basic Fact Practice. All of these features combine to create a rigorous math program where students achieve outstanding results and are fully prepared for the future.  

One of the great benefits of Excel Math is that it is continually enhanced. We print Excel Math throughout the year so you will always have the latest lesson sheets, unlike textbooks, which are static until you buy a new book.

With Excel Math, students learn higher-order thinking skills beyond what is required of CCSS. Our correlations allow you to focus on the standards or go even further, with additional concepts we provide.

Within each grade level, we correlate the Excel Math Lessons, Stretches, Activities and Exercises to each Common Core Standard. Visit the correlations page here. Click on the grade level button to see the correlation between that set of educational standards and Excel Math. At the bottom of each CCSS correlation, we list additional concepts covered by Excel Math. You can use these additional concepts to provide accelerated learning for your students who are ready for more.

Regular assessment and spaced repetition give students powerful preparation for future. Mastery is long term. Students receive immediate feedback on concepts practiced, which creates a natural feedback loop.

Excel Math is a proven mathematics program when used as a core curriculum. (Read more amazing testimonies about Excel Math from principals and teachers.) And it also complements and strengthens many of the other math programs on the market today. Test scores went up over a five-year period, when schools in Troy Michigan began using Excel Math. Here's what the local newspaper reported:
Fourth graders at three elementary schools in the Troy School District earned a 100 percent passing grade in the mathematics MEAP test administered in January 2004. All 212 fourth-graders at Bemis, Hill and Troy Union elementary schools earned passing scores on the Michigan math proficiency test.
Dr. Ronald O’Hara, principal of Troy Union, said elementary and middle school students in Metro Detroit improved their MEAP scores on eight of the 10 state exams. Local scores rose from last year in every grade and every subject except seventh-grade writing and eighth-grade social studies. Metro schools showed the most improvement on the fourth-grade and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading. 
The school adopted Everyday Math as its core math curriculum seven years ago, O’Hara said. Two years later, the school added the Excel Math program as a take-home supplement. After that, math MEAP scores began to climb. 
Learn more about Excel Math and try out some lesson samples at Download an Excel Math Lesson Overview here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Printable Math Certificates and Awards

Here are some websites where you can create your own free certificates, puzzles, flashcards and awards for your students. You can personalize the awards and certificates and print them individually (my husband likes to do this for his end-of-year awards) or simply design a template, print it out, copy it onto colored paper, and fill in the student information after you've printed it.

At Excel Math, we provide teachers with the tools they need to help students become successful at mathematics while building confidence and higher-order thinking skills. Visit our teacher resource page at

Lakeshore Learning has 24 colorful free certificate and award templates you can customize before you print out (with student's name, your personal message, teacher's name, and date). Awards include "Math Whiz," "Happy Birthday," "Star of the Week," "Excellent Effort" and "Great Progress." They also have printable math flash cards, clip art, coloring pages and a word search maker (you can use your own math words or glossary terms to create the search).

Customizable Award
DyeTub has 17 customizable and colorful certificates and awards for education use. You can add your own title to many of them to create specifically math awards. (You still have to sign each award, and you cannot remove the left signature line, even if you remove the name and title underneath it.)

Free Printable Certificates has lots of colorful certificates for teachers, with some specific math titles such as "Mathlete," "Algebra II," "Pre-Calculus," and "Robotics." These certificates are available in a free version (a PDF file that you can print) and a paid version that you can save in Microsoft Word and customize before printing.

Math Certificate from
123 Certificates has free printable certificates and awards you can customize (with  student's name, a subtitle, your personal message, teacher's name, school name and date). There are 11 certificates just for math and lots more for general education, some with areas to add your student's photo or a piece of artwork created by the student.

Carson Dellosa has lots of color and black and white certificates and awards you can print out after signing up for their email list. You can print one "Star Student" page and several activities without signing up. These are not customizable online but they are ready-to-print PDF files.

Certificate Street has a large variety of education certificates, but the certificates print with their watermark on the free version. Certificates include "Math Achievement Award," "Good Attitude Certificate" "Outstanding Leadership," "Bright Idea Award," "Most Responsible Student" and tons more. The certificates are not quite as cute and colorful as some of the ones at Lakeshore, but there are lots to choose from including many options for creating your own award titles.

Excel Math Quarterly Test 1
Certificate of Completion
TeacherVision has a list of certificates by topic such as "Behavior Awards," "Performance Certificates," "Rewards," "Badges" and "Customizable Certificates." You can view and print five free items but there is a flat fee to see more.

We've created a couple of customizable Excel Math certificates you can download and print out for your students. Just click on the blank lines where you want to add text (and under the signature line to type your name). Or print the certificate as it is and write in all the information by hand.

You can also print one certificate, write in all the information except the student's name, sign the certificate, and use a color copier to copy the certificate for each student. Now write the student's name on each certificate. Download the Quarterly Test 1 Certificate here. Download the Quarterly Test Certificate (for use after any quarterly test) here. Visit our Excel Math website for more resources.
Excel Math Quarterly Test
Certificate of Completion

TIP: When you have the option, use a cursive or italic script to sign your name before you print the first certificate so you don't have to sign each certificate.

Hold a special recognition ceremony after the quarterly test for those students who did well or as an encouragement for everyone who completed the test.

New to Excel Math? Take a look at the lessons for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade plus lots of math resources at

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Catch a Falling Star—Meteor Showers

During the early morning of August 12, we will have a chance to see a spectacular meteor shower—the Perseids. In the dark of the night we will be able to see thousands of these brilliant falling stars. The skyshow will continue until August 23 but will become less frequent starting August 13 and will drop to just five shower members per hour by the weekend of August 18. These meteors can be seen most clearly during the early morning hours of August 11 and 12. Astronomers are predicting 10-25 Perseid meteors an hour so grab a friend and check it out! But be sure to be patient, get comfortable, and watch as long as possible for the best show.

In Excel Math, we help students develop higher-order thinking skills so they will have a love for math and want to be life-long learners. Watching the meteor shower this weekend with your family and friends (and reading a bit about it beforehand) is a just one fun way to do just that.

A meteoroid swarm is sometimes referred to as a "flying gravel bank," though it is not a very compact one. Each August the Earth, following its normal orbit around the sun, intersects the orbit of dust particles left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. Read more at

These dust particles—all of them tiny specks—become extremely hot as they hit the Earth's upper atmosphere at speeds of 20-50 miles per second. Each hot particle generates a streak of light before the particle is obliterated. These swift streaks of light appear to dart across our northern skies from their namesake constellation, Perseus, from late July through most of August. See photos: Amazing Perseid Meteor Shower Photos

The Perseid meteoroids may be anywhere from 60 to 100 miles (96 to 160 kilometers) apart at the densest part of the swarm. Most meteors are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all of them disintegrate and never hit the Earth’s surface. That's what's so amazing about the shower that will appear in the skies on August 12. This year, the Earth is expected to encounter the "core" of the Perseid swarm, where meteoroid concentration is densest, around Sunday. Read more at

There are several meteor showers during the year. For people on the West Coast of the U. S., the advantage of viewing the Persieds is that they occur in the summer season during clear, relatively warm weather. The moon will be almost new, so the sky will brighten only slightly after about 2 a.m. The expected peak of the shower is before dawn on August 12. This is when the Perseids put on their best show as the meteors appear to diverge from a patch of sky near the Double Cluster in Perseus.  Read more at the American Meteor Society.

The hour before the first morning twilight should produce the best Perseid rates, which should be almost 25 per hour on Saturday morning for observers with transparent skies. Those who have to view under hazy skies will probably only see half this amount. On Saturday evening Perseid rates should be 5-10 per hour. On Sunday early morning the moon will have moved eastward in eastern Taurus, some 10 degrees below the bright planet Jupiter. At that time the moon will be 25% illuminated. It will be 40 degrees away from the Perseid radiant. According to Robert Lunsford at the American Meteor Society, "observers with clear, transparent skies, may see rates of nearly 40 Perseids per hour Sunday morning." Read more from Robert Lunsford here.

Artist's rendering of Perseus
Perseus was the first of the heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus was the Greek hero who killed the Gorgon Medusa, and claimed Andromeda. He had rescued her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon to retaliate against Queen Cassiopeia, who declared that her daughter, Andromeda, was more beautiful than the Nereids.

If you want to celebrate the meteor shower with a party, the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) is holding an annual public "Meteor Party" complete with telescopes set up for attendees to use. You can also contact the Seattle Astronomical Society about their August star parties at Goldendale and Snoqualmie Point Park. The times and dates for best viewing are good for all locations in North America. For Europe and Asia, the moon’s location will be slightly different but the general circumstances are similar. If you live south of the equator, you'll be at a disadvantage since the Perseids are not well seen in the southern hemisphere.

According to Robert Lunsford, "Most people are going to be disappointed with the show. There will be times when no activity will appear for 5 minutes and then 10 meteors will suddenly appear in the same time span. You need to get comfortable and watch as long as possible so that you may witness the peaks of activity along with the droughts. Really serious folks will hop in the car and head for dark skies away from the city." Check your local Astronomical Society website for more information.

New to Excel Math? Take a look at the lessons for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade plus lots of math resources at

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Roman Numerals and the Olympics

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, began in London on July 27, 2012 and will continue until August 12. We're seeing some amazing athletes in action.

Many of us were surprised to discover that during the first four decades of Olympic events, the Olympics gave official medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music along with the athletic competitions. The majority of these medal-winners were works of art inspired by the athletes. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first artistic competition. Even so, most of us have been unaware that the arts, as well as athletics, were a part of the modern Olympic games, almost from the start. Read more at 

XXX is probably one of the more easily recognizable Roman numerals since most people are familiar with X as 10. XXX = 30, so in 2012 the Games of the XXX Olympiad = 30.

Roman numerals were used until the 13th Century AD when Fibonacci published his Liber abaci, which means The Book of Calculations. This book showed the practicality of the new Arabic numbering system by applying it to bookkeeping, conversion of weights and measures, the calculation of interest, money-changing, and other everyday applications. Read more on our previous blog post about Fibonacci.

Students today may not be as familiar with Roman numerals as they were in previous generations. However, Excel Math students are introduced to Roman numerals in fourth grade. Here's a worksheet explaining how to recognize Roman numerals (the answers are shown below):
Excel Math Fourth Grade Student Lesson Sheet 126
Click here for a PDF download of this worksheet
The Romans didn't have a symbol for zero as we do with Arabic numerals, and numeral placement within a number could sometimes indicate subtraction (if the smaller number was placed before the larger one) rather than addition (if the smaller number came after the larger one). So the Roman numeral I = 1 and V = 5, IV = 4 (5 - 1), and VI = 6 (5 + 1). L = 50, C = 100, D = 500, and M = 1000.

Today, Roman numerals are used on some clocks and watches, in copyright notices, in the Superbowl title each year, as well as for the Olympics. The 2011 Superbowl XLV was played on February 6, 2011, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This was the first time the Super Bowl was played in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. From the Roman numerals, can you tell what number that Super Bowl was? If you need help, use the Roman numeral converter at

In the 2012 Superbowl XLVI the Giants defeated the Patriots by the score of 21–17. The game was played on February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the first time that the Super Bowl was played in the state of Indiana. Can you decipher the Roman numerals and then calculate what number the 2013 Super Bowl will be?

What number will the next Summer Olympics be in Roman and Arabic numerals? Here are the answers to the Roman numeral problems on the Excel Math worksheet shown above:

The 2011 Super Bowl was number 45 (XLV = 50 - 10 + 5) and 2012 was Super Bowl number 46, so the 2013 Superbowl will be number XLVII or 47. The next summer Olympics will be XXXI or 31.

Learn more about how Excel Math can work for your students at Excel Math is fully aligned to the Common Core and to state standards. Download correlations.