Additional Math Pages & Resources

Thursday, March 27, 2014

8 Steps to Teaching Mathematical Practices

With the transition to Common Core across the country and the newly revised TEKS confronting Texas schools, educators are placing a greater emphasis on mathematical processes. Teachers are spending more time letting students discover concepts for themselves while teaching students how to put math skills into practice in everyday life.

It's no longer enough for students to simply learn algorithms. Now they must be able to explain how they arrived at their solution and then relate the math skills to real-world problem solving.

Students are now taught to analyze mathematical relationships and connect and communicate mathematical ideas. Students are expected to display, explain, or justify mathematical ideas and arguments using precise mathematical language in written as well as oral communication.

Excel Math weaves together mathematical knowledge and skills
The Texas Mathematical Process Standards weave together mathematical knowledge and skills so students grow to be successful problem solvers and use mathematics efficiently and effectively in daily life.

Excel Math Mathematical Practices
We've highlighted 8 steps to teaching mathematical practices by grade level. These include examples of how we've woven these Practices into the tasks and activities your students will complete throughout the year when using Excel Math. To get concepts into long-term memory, students must now begin to actively discover, interpret, analyze, process, practice, discuss and communicate about math.

Here's just one step to teaching mathematical processes from Grade 3:
Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others: In third grade, mathematically proficient students construct arguments using concrete references such as objects, pictures and drawings. They justify their conclusions as they participate in discussions that the teacher facilitates by asking questions such as "How did you get that?" and "Why is that true?" Third grade students use symbols, diagrams, graphs, number lines and mathematical language. They explain their thinking, construct arguments and respond to the thinking of others.

Download a separate grade level document addressing Mathematical Practices for Kindergarten through Grade 6 on the Excel Math website:

Read more . . . 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Top-Notch Math Lessons for Transitional Kindergarten
What is Transitional Kindergarten?

According to the California Education Code, transitional Kindergarten is defined as “the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.” Traditional kindergarten, in contrast, is a one-year program with grade-specific curriculum.

In some states, Transitional Kindergarten gives children an opportunity to begin Kindergarten, even if they are not yet old enough for Traditional kindergarten. These students are usually five years old, but their birthdays fall before the age entry cut-off.

So Transitional Kindergarten is not designed to be a preschool program. Instead, it provides students with year one of a two-year kindergarten program.

Excel Math Kindergarten Common Core lessons are ideal for a Transitional Kindergarten classroom. Here are just a few of the reasons these lessons work so well for young students:

Common Core Lessons lessons are age appropriate and sequential and focus on the Common Core State Standards. The unique spiraling process means students are not expected to master concepts the first time they are introduced. Rather, concepts spiral back into Guided Practice and Homework before they appear on assessments.

Read more . . . 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Math
We've created some new Base Ten Cards in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

Use these Ten Frames to help your students decompose numbers, identify fact families, and practice addition and subtraction.

Your students can cut out the shamrock patterns and use them as counters with the Base Ten Cards. Combine several Base Ten Cards to let your students solve problems with larger numbers.

Give each student 30 shamrock counters and two blank Ten Frames (or let the students work in pairs). Write on the board:
23 + 5 =
Let the students know it will always be easiest to find the larger number first.
Using Ten Frames a student might solve the problem by saying:
“I counted out 23 shamrocks. I put 20 shamrocks on 2 ten frames. That meant I had 3 left over. Then I counted out 5 more shamrocks (now I have 8 left over). That meant I now had 2 ten frames with 8 left over. 2 tens and 8 left over. That’s 28. So the answer is 28.”
Excel Math provides lots of opportunities for hands-on learning.

Read more . . . 

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pi Day in the Math Classroom

Happy Pi Day!

Celebrated on March the 14th in the United States, this holiday recognizes the mathematical constant of Pi, which is often shortened to 3.14 and is written with the symbol π.

The date of the holiday is 3/14. Next year the date will include the first 5 digits of Pi—3/14/15. If you hold your celebration at 9:26 in 2015, you will have covered the first 8 numerals. Math geeks can celebrate by enjoying the wonders of Pi through math, edible math, reading books such as Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, watching the movie The Life of Pi and viewing some Pi-inspired art.

At some schools, students celebrate Pi Day with a snack of pie. (We baked up a few kinds ourselves, just for the occasion. See if you can tell what flavors they are.) At a school in Massachusetts pie was served at 1:59 p.m. (a week early due to spring break) to mark the next three numbers in the 3.14 pi numeric expression. Teachers at the school also have used brownies and music to illustrate math concepts. Read the article from The Recorder of Greenfield, Massachusetts: The Joy of Pi and Brownies.

The numbers 314 (the first three numerals in Pi) reverse to spell PIE, depending on the font you use. You can share this fun mirrored image with your students:
Even though Pi is no longer introduced in many elementary math classes, you can use this unique day to talk about decimals, infinite numbers, area, circumference and diameter of circles and real-world math. Excel Math includes a lesson introducing Pi to sixth graders:

Excel Math Grade 6 Lesson Introducing Pi (Click to download the lesson sheet with answer key)

Excel Math has been effectively used in GATE classes as well as remedial programs (both as a supplement and in a core position) for years. Excel Math lessons give teachers the resources they need to help every child succeed and achieve (at high levels) in elementary mathematics. Here's what one teacher shared with us:
"My sixth graders showed an average of 41% one year growth in test scores using the Excel Math program. . ." Read more success stories here.

Whatever you decide to do to celebrate Pi Day, you can finish it off with a cup of your favorite beverage and a slice of homemade pie! (Apple was the top pie in the photo at the beginning of this post, followed by cherry, chocolate with meringue, and pecan on the bottom.)

Read more . . . 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

5 Ways to Supercharge Your Math Class

(Earlier this week my colleague Bob Parrish visited a supercharged Excel Math classroom here in southern California. He returned with some wonderful impressions and suggestions for math teachers—or any teacher for that matter—interested in recharging their classroom. Special thanks to teacher Tim Bedley for sharing his expertise. Tim is pictured here teaching a third grade class a song he wrote to help them remember math-related concepts. Listen to some of Tim's music on In this post we've highlighted 5 ways to super-charge your class.)

I recently observed the combination classroom (grades 4-5) of Tim Bedley in Lake Elsinore USD because I was told he had some interesting education strategies that fostered student achievement while using Excel Math. I arrived a couple of minutes before the math time and walked into a classroom that looked more like a coffee house. Instead of a room filled with desks and chairs there were eight couches and the entire class was engaged in quiet reading with soft jazz playing in the background.

Tim Bedley
Collaborative Learning 
Tim indicated to the class that reading time was over and all the students quietly cleaned up and went out for a ten-minute recess. That is when he briefed me on what I was about to observe. We have all heard of the benefits of Collaborative Learning, but Tim’s methods are a practical application of the collaborative style, bringing it to life. Teaching a combination class is intense and Tim adds to that by teaching Excel Math to three different groups at one time (Grades 4, 5 and 6—for some advanced students). He assigns each group a name: Cheetahs, Lions and Tigers, and utilizes Small Group Instruction.

Shared Student Responsibility
Implementing a Shared Responsibility technique, two of the groups start with Consensus Review of the previous day’s Guided Practice and Homework. (Read more about Excel Math and these learning opportunities here.) Students are paired and review each other’s completed lesson sheet. This allows students to receive feedback on their work by having a discussion with their partner. When answers are different, they need to work together to reach consensus before turning in their papers. In doing this, Tim’s students have been developing many of the new Common Core Practices long before these standards were required. (Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, Model with Math, Use Appropriate Tools Strategically, Attend to Precision)

Reteaching Opportunities
While the two groups are engaged in Consensus Review, the third group is gathered along the classroom walls that are covered by long white boards, segmented so each student has a white board work station. Tim works with this group on a concept(s) that many missed on the last test, or Guided Practice. (Re-Teaching Opportunities)

Projectable Lessons
Excel Math Projectable Lesson
Because each student has white board space, all students are actively working through the concept instead of just listening to the teacher. There is frequent dialogue with a neighbor during this time, which promotes student involvement within the process. The three groups rotate between Consensus Review and working with Tim at the white boards. When a group finishes their Consensus Review they move to the Daily Classroom Lesson—Flipped Video. For each day’s Classroom Lesson Tim utilized Excel Math’s Projectable Lesson. (Read more about the Projectable Lessons.)

Teacher Instruction on Video
Tim has pre-recorded that day’s Lesson using the Projectable Lesson slides and his instruction. Watch an example of these teacher-created videos:

The videos can be viewed at computer stations, with a student’s personal pad device, or as a group via video projector. Students are able to watch videos at home for reference at a later time as well. After the video each student then starts working on that day’s Guided Practice.
Excel Math Grade 2 Guided Practice
Tim’s classroom management system runs with remarkable efficiency and student development is noticeably improved. While this is a specific environment, many of Tim’s strategies could be implemented in almost any classroom. This video recorded a few years ago outlines his system and gives a glimpse of his students in action:

Bob Parrish is Executive Vice President and Sales Manager at Excel Math. He also conducts Professional Development seminars for schools around the country—to rave reviews. In his spare time he enjoys playing the guitar, cooking, skiing, and along with his wife Lisa, raising a teenage son. To see Bob in action or to contact him about conducting in-service training at your school, visit our website:
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Excel Math is fully aligned to the Common Core and to state standards. Download correlations.

Excel Math can help students stay on top of their math skills and get ready for spring testing.

Some parents purchase the Excel Math Intersession Edition (at just $6.95 per student) to give their students extra review and practice. This six-week product is a great way to help students build confidence and refresh their math skills before assessments.