## Friday, December 20, 2013

### 100 Years of Crossword Puzzles

Saturday marks the 100th birthday of the crossword puzzle! The first one was created in 1913 and we've been enjoying them (or struggling over them) ever since.

Excel Math lessons have been helping students succeed for over 35 years. Take a look at samples on our website.

Then read a special holiday greeting from the president and owner of Excel Math.

Read more about the history of the crossword puzzle from Smithsonian Magazine. And take a look at today's clever Google Doodle in honor of this auspicious occasion and the inventor of the crossword puzzle,  Arthur Wynne. Click on the doodle and the puzzle expands to let you highlight the clues along with the corresponding puzzle boxes. Simply start typing and the highlighted boxes fill with your letters.

If you'd like to give your students some crosswords listed by topic, The New York Times Learning Network adds a new puzzle twice each month. These are edited by the Times puzzle master  Will Shortz. You can print the puzzles for your students or let them solve the crosswords online (if your browser supports Java). Here's a link to one on money: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/xwords/19990101.html

You may want to have your students create their own puzzles in the new year. The puzzles can reflect on the past year, review vocabulary words, or anticipate the year to come. Give each student a piece of graph paper. Give the class a word to start with (year, math, vocabulary, new, etc.) or have each student come up a word and print one letter per square reading up or down. Have the students connect a new word with the first one. It may help to keep a separate list of words as they are used.

Make sure connecting letters also form a word. When done, have the students shade the unused squares in the grid. Help them number the spaces so the first letter of each word (across and down) has a number. Then let the students create a fill-in-the blank, a definition or question for each word used and print these on the bottom half of a piece of blank graph paper. Number the clues to match the words in the crossword puzzle.

Finally, have the students copy the numbered grid (without the letters) onto the top half of the graph paper with clues. Copy the student crossword puzzles and hand them out as bell work or extra credit throughout the rest of the year.

You may want to try creating your own puzzle for the holidays and then try it out with family and friends. Enjoy!

Excel Math is fully aligned to the Common Core and to state standards. Download correlations here.

## Wednesday, December 11, 2013

### Math Bulletin Boards: Let It Snow!

 Let It Snow! Excel Math Bulletin Board
Get your classroom ready for winter and the new year with these snowy bulletin board ideas from Excel Math. Even if you don't have an actual bulletin board, your math classroom can celebrate the season with creative wall decorations that encourage your students to do basic math facts.

Use the snowflake patterns to create basic fact problems appropriate for your students.

These can include addition, subtraction, multiplication and division operations.

For older students you can include a review of these basic operations as well as fractions, decimals, adding angles, finding equivalent fractions and problems with money.

Let your students add more math problems (one per snowflake), cut out the patterns, and use ribbon or colorful yarn to hang the snowflakes from your classroom windows and doors. Your students can add glitter glue for a sparkling effect.
 Snowflake Pattern

For a 3-dimensional look, hang the snowflakes from your ceiling so they dangle in front of your winter bulletin board at varying heights and depths.

After students solve the math problems, they can take home the snowflakes and use them as flashcards to review their basic math facts as well as to decorate their holiday gift packages.

 Snowflake Math Pattern Page

Excel Math is fully aligned to the Common Core and to state standards. Download correlations here.

Learn about Excel Math Summer School.

## Monday, December 9, 2013

### Winter Bulletin Boards for the Math Class

 December Excel Math Bulletin Board
Spruce up your classroom for the holidays and the new year with these fun bulletin board ideas from Excel Math. Even if you don't have an actual bulletin board, your math classroom can come alive with creative decorations that encourage your students to do basic math facts.

Simply cover a large area on your wall with colored paper or festive red wrapping paper. Add a holiday border (or a plain scalloped green border to which your students can add handmade snowflakes). Use blue and white for Hanukkah colors or red, black and green for Kwaanza.

Use the gift tags to create basic fact problems appropriate for your students. Let your students add more math problems (one per gift tag), cut out the tags, and use ribbon or colorful yarn to hang the tags from your classroom windows and doors.

After students solve the problems, they can take home the gift tags and use them as flashcards to review their basic math facts as well as to decorate their holiday gift packages.

Excel Math is fully aligned to the Common Core and to state standards. Download correlations here.

Learn about Excel Math Summer School.

## Monday, December 2, 2013

Yesterday marked the first day of December. Sounds like it's time to bring out the holiday recipes and work a little math magic.

Here are some fun cookies in various holiday shapes that your students can decorate while doing some holiday math. For the Santas, you can use any sugar cookie recipe you have on hand. Make the cookies into round shapes and bake. (Slice and bake refrigerator cookies work well, too.)

Let the cookies cool, then frost half of each cookie with red frosting and the other half with white. Add coconut to cover the white frosting, if you wish.

Use chocolate chips for eyes, placed just at the top of  the white frosting. Add a red cinnamon candy for a small mouth in the middle of the coconut. A mini marshmallow becomes the pom-pom on Santa's hat.

Give each of your students a Santa or gingerbread boy cookie and let the students decorate the cookies with frosting. Then they can add chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, cinnamon candies, small gumdrops, and other colorful decorations. While they decorate the cookies, give them the following word problem:

Sandi is decorating gingerbread boy cookies. For each cookie she uses two chocolate chips for eyes, one cinnamon candy for a mouth, and three small gumdrops for buttons. If Sandi makes 2 dozen cookies, how many gumdrops will she need? (72) How many chocolate chips? (48) How many cinnamon candies? (24)

Have volunteers show their solutions on the board. Talk about various ways to solve the problems. For example, you could solve for cinnamon candies first, since that's the smallest number and then multiply that number by 2 for chocolate chips and by 3 for gumdrops. Or, once you have the number of chocolate chips and cinnamon candies needed, you could simply add those two numbers together to find the total number of gumdrops needed.

Provide plastic snack bags if your students will take their cookies home. Or provide napkins and water if they will eat the cookies in class. (Make sure no one is allergic to the ingredients.)

If you have the time and equipment available, let your students make a variety of cookies or pies to share with a local senior center, soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

Bring in one of your favorite holiday recipes and have your students double or triple it. Then have them create a shopping list and price each ingredient. After the students calculate the cost to make the recipe, ask them to find the unit cost. For example, if the ingredients for 4 dozen cookies cost \$9.50, what would be the cost per cookie? (40¢)

If they hold a bake sale and sell all 4 dozen cookies, what will they need to charge per cookie to make a profit of \$10.00? What will they need to charge per dozen cookies? Could they make 8 dozen cookies with the ingredients they purchased? What would be the cost per cookie if they make 8 dozen cookies? (20¢) What would they need to charge per cookie to make \$10.00 in profit?

Excel Math is designed to combine math worksheets with hands-on activities and active learning. Our unique spiraling process helps students retain the math concepts for the long term.