## Wednesday, October 3, 2012

### The Hottest Place on Earth

Scientists have recently re-examined the data and have concluded that the hottest place on earth is actually Death Valley National Park with a record-breaking high temperature of 134º. Previously, El Azizia in Libya was considered to be the hottest place in the world. Heat waves across the United States this year have broken previous records. Read more about Death Valley and see some amazing photos at NationalGeographic.com.

Excel Math lessons teach students to calculate temperature and understand the relationship between positive and negative numbers. Show your students the following thermometer (or have students make a large one for your classroom) and ask them what the temperature is:

Point out that the thermometer shows -10º below zero. Explain that below zero is colder than above zero. Ask your students if it is warmer when the temperature is -20º or 10º. Tell them that the positive sign is usually not written, because a number without the negative sign is assumed to be positive. Help students understand that even though 20 is greater than 10, the negative sign before 20 makes it smaller than zero and also smaller than positive (or negative) 10. Let them practice greater than and less than (or warmer and colder) with additional numbers on the thermometer.

The temperature problem shows just one way Excel Math lessons encourage students to apply math skills to real life. Excel Math Create A Problem exercises are designed to do the same. In this story problem from Excel Math Grade 6, students learn about Mt. Whitney, Mt. Everest and Death Valley as they practice calculating elevations and estimating:
 Create A Problem Exercise from Excel Math Grade 6 Click here to download this Create A Problem Exercise
Research has shown that helping students relate to the math problems they are tackling increases their ability to solve even more complex algebraic problems. According to an article in Education Week, "You don't think the words, the little details of context, will make a difference when you are solving a math problem, but it really does," said Candace A. Walkington, an assistant professor of teaching and learning at Southern Methodist University and the lead researcher for a series of studies at Southern Methodist in Dallas. The study finds that "Connecting instruction to students’ interests and experiences has the potential to enhance learning, even in abstract domains like algebra. Embedding instruction in relevant, interest-based contexts can promote the integration of prior knowledge with formal representations by allowing learners to focus attention on this difficult task. Given the pressing challenges that face algebra instruction, designing learning environments that foster such connections could be critical to future efforts to increase access to domains where learners must navigate abstract representational systems."

The Education Week article concludes, "Personalized math problems not only made it easier for students to understand what was being asked, but also helped boost the confidence of students who may have been intimidated by the subject." Read more at EdWeek.org.

Teachers who use Excel Math lessons have seen student confidence increase first-hand. Since students are not expected to master concepts the first time they are introduced, students are able to review and practice those concepts before assessment occurs. This proven spiraling process has students reviewing a variety of math skills each day, ensuring those skills and concepts are retained in long-term memory. Add that to the unique CheckAnswer system in Excel Math, and you have a built-in recipe for student confidence. No wonder Excel Math works so well for both remedial and advanced students.

Excel Math lessons include many creative story problems on subjects such as sports, pets, travel, cooking, reading, shopping, music, and other topics of interest to elementary students. Specially-designed Create A Problem exercises such as the one shown above, take this a step further by encouraging students to write (and solve) their own story problems. These exercises not only merge math with literacy, but also get students to think creatively about the world around them.

New to Excel Math? Download lesson samples at excelmath.com. View Common Core (CCS) and state standards at excelmath.com/downloads/state_stds.html.

Leave a comment below to tell us how you help your students connect mathematics with the world outside the classroom.

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