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Archive for the ‘Maths’ Category

Teach Math Like Its Never Been Taught Before

March 15, 2018

math-problem

When you begin teaching your 5th or 6th Grade Math class, you often start with a high dose of ego.

You tell yourself that you can easily set any struggling student right by carefully and clearly explaining the skills and processes involved.

And then reality sinks in. It’s clearly not as easy as that.

There is a reason why your struggling students have continued to struggle throughout their first 5 or so years of schooling. It’s not the strength of the teachers they’ve encountered, because chances are, there have been some extremely adept teachers who have used tried and true methods for helping those student bridge the ever widening gaps.

Many teachers have expressed a reluctance of teaching 5th sand 6th Grade Math due to the introduction of concepts and skills which many Primary teachers find difficult. In truth, the major test of a 5th or 6th Grade teacher is not the skills itself, but rather the challenge of helping students learn skills they haven’t been able to grasp from their talented and competent previous teachers.

In order to cut through, teachers are therefore required to change things up. To employ slightly different ways of teaching the same skill. The following are some adjustments that work for me.

  1. Integrate the Skill in a Game – Kids love winning and try to avoid losing at all cost. Game play provides an incentive for children to learn skills that they may have ordinarily have claimed was too difficult. Dice games are the best because it provides a randomness that allows weaker students to often prevail over stronger students. I am constantly blown away by how effective game play is to break through to kids who usually struggle with Math.
  2. Change the wording – The wording of Math is so scientific and technical. Does it have to be? Absolutely not. So change it up. Instead of numerator and denominator, I use top bunk and bottom bunk. It helps. It doesn’t mean I will never teach them the right terminology, it just means I am more focused on the skill that the wording which can often intimidate.
  3. Reinforce the Objectives of Math – There is a reason why Math was invented and kids need to know that to be able to relate to it. I tell my students Math was invented for 2 main purposes. Firstly, to save us time. So instead of having to add 7 +7 a total of 8 times, I can just apply the sum 7×8, which is much quicker and easier. And secondly, for fairness. When I am dividing a birthday cake, everyone wants an equal sized piece. It turns out that children deeply value fairness and relate to the idea of resorting to shortcuts. Why not then explain how the skill of the day fits into one or both of the above categories?
  4. Bite Sized Pieces – I can’t tell you how many students I have confronted in the upper years who weren’t able to read time from an analogue clock. The big mistake, as I eluded to earlier, is to think that a careful and patient demonstration of what the big and little hands tell us will work. Again, you can bet that plenty of highly competent teachers have tried without success. My strategy is to break up the skill into small, bite-sized pieces. I tell them to ignore the hour hand. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Just focus on the minute hand. The next step is to show them the function of the minute hand and not move on until they get it. Only then do I introduce the hour hand. The problem that I have found is that reading an analogue clock involves a level of multitasking which kids (boys especially) find very intimidating. Take it slowly. One skill at a time. They respond better to that.
  5. Use What They Know – Students tend to do much better with currency than decimals. This is quite ironic, as decimals and currency are essentially the same thing. I tell all my students who struggle with decimals to pretend that 0.75 for example, is 75 cents. It helps! Math professors would be irate if they found out I was doing this. They would remind me that students will become unstuck when they encounter a decimal like 0.751, which doesn’t work with the currency technique. So what! Once I have taught them through currency their confidence levels are so high, I have found they are quite receptive to learning the differences that exist between decimals and money.

By the time your students have reached 5th Grade, they already have a sense for whether they like a subject and whether they are proficient at it. It’s so hard to turn the unconfident and unenthusiastic learners around.

But don’t give up. Just do it differently.

 

Click on the link to read A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

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Proof that High Schoolers are Obsessed With Nude Selfies

December 26, 2016

 

selfie

The Maths teacher who composed a quiz question about sending nude selfies clearly did the wrong thing. It was unprofessional and degrades both the teacher and subject.

But let’s put that aside for the moment.

Why would he do such a thing? Is he sick?

No. The obvious answer is that he was trying to engage his students by conflating skills to be assessed with real life interests shared by the students. This is something we are encouraged to do and is often quite effective.

The problem this teacher probably faced was that his students are really only interested in one thing.

So for all the parents that may have ranted and raved over the inappropriateness of the handout, this saga doesn’t just reflect poorly on the teacher:

 

A teacher set a maths question around nude selfies in a bid to make the subject more appealing to his students. However, his tactic has backfired – and he’s been given a written warning for his actions.

The teacher from the US wrote, “Tony can send 5 texts and 3 nudes in 19 minutes. He could also send 3 texts and 1 nude in 9 minutes. How long would it take him to send one text and one nude?”

Two students took a picture of the problem, and their father made a complaint to Fox News, who called the school. The City’s district supervisor Michael Sheppard then spoke with him.

Sheppard later told Fox: “We addressed the teacher and kind of clarified exactly what happened, and in this case provided what we thought was the appropriate consequence, which was clarification that that was inappropriate.”

He added, “He’s a good teacher, and just in this case, used an inappropriate word. You have to look to see if it is out of character or not, and in this case, it was something that happened that was just obviously not acceptable from the school district’s perspective. That’s why we took it, looked at it very seriously and provided the appropriate consequence.”

 

Click on the link to read A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

 

A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

June 14, 2016

mobile-county-racist-math

Racist! Sexist! Vile! Take your pick.

Below are some of the insanely grotesque questions asked of students in an actual math test:

 

  • Ramon has an AK-47 with a 30-round clip. He usually misses 6 out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Ramon attempt before he has to steal enough ammunition and reload?
  • Leroy has 2 ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to Antonio for $320 and 2 grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what is the street value of the rest of his hold?
  • Dwayne pimps 3 ho’s. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Dwayne’s $500 per day crack habit?
  • Tyrone knocked up 4 girls in his gang. There are 20 girls in the gang. What percentage of the girls in the gang has Tyrone knocked up?

 

The teacher has been put on administrative leave. I hope we never see from him/her again.

 

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

April 18, 2016

 

I love teaching math but I’m not putting up my hand to extend this 5-year-old’s skills.

 

 

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

April 4, 2016

 

If this is supposed to make the Common Core look great and parents old-fashioned, it didn’t work. The parents, in their own way show up the Common Core to be a ridiculous way of teaching math.

 

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

December 6, 2014

 

cat

 

Teachers almost always come from a humanities background. It therefore doesn’t surprise that they tend to feel more comfortable teaching English, History and Geography more than Maths and Science.

A very experienced curriculum coordinator recently told me that it is very common for primary teachers to skip fractions because they aren’t confident with the topic to answer some of their own text book questions let alone explain it to their students.

 

TYPICAL student teachers have the maths ability of a 12-year-old child, leaving them ill-equipped to teach the subject — let alone even pass a Year 9 ­NAPLAN test.

The warning comes from leading univer­sity maths lecturer Stephen Norton, who said that half his students would not pass the Year 9 national numeracy test, even after three or four years of tertiary study.

“Every year I test my students and they’ve got the understanding of a Year 7 or Year 8 kid,’’ the senior lecturer in mathematics education at Griffith University told The Weekend Australian. “They struggle with fractions and proportional reasoning and anything to do with algebra. They should have mastered this by the end of primary school. I believe it is our responsibility in univer­sities to make sure we can remediate that.’’

Dr Norton tested the maths ability of all 125 students who enrolled in a Griffith University graduate diploma of education — a one-year course for those who have a bachelor degree in another field — last year and this year, as well as 40 students in the third year of a bachelor of education course in 2013. Barely half the would-be teachers knew how to convert 5.48km into metres — and 17 per cent failed to convert 6kg into grams. Only 16 per cent could convert temperatures from degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit, using a formula written on the test paper. Just one in four knew how to convert a fraction to a percentage.

Barely one in five students could find the highest common factor of the numbers 28 and 70, and just 13 per cent knew the lowest common multiple of the numbers 40 and 140. More than half the students could not answer the question: “If the total cost of three tickets is $5.64, how much will 10 tickets cost?’’

Just one in three students knew how to calculate the areas of rectangles and triangles.

The alarming results of the only publicly available tests of student-teacher numeracy in Australia will fuel calls to reform the teaching of mathematics at schools and universities.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has already flagged the introduction of compulsory literacy and numeracy tests for aspiring teachers. The most recent OECD Program for International Student Assessment test reveals that four out of 10 Australian teenagers lack basic maths skills.

The federal Education Department’s newly released 2013 teacher survey shows that only two-thirds of primary teachers and a quarter of high school teachers were trained at univers­ity to teach maths. Five per cent of the nation’s high schools had at least one ­unfilled vacancy for a maths teacher during 2012.

The official survey found that almost a third of teachers involved in teaching numeracy wanted more professional development on the job.

Queensland’s Auditor-General has found that one in three maths teachers in Years 8 to 10 lack a tertiary qualification in mathematics. Dr Norton said half the students he taught flunked his entry test — although their results improved by 30 per cent after they completed eight weeks of maths study, including 32 hours of face-to-face instruction.

“Most prospective primary teachers struggle with upper primary mathematics upon intake,’’ he said.

“It is interesting that the third and fourth-year undergraduate students were on par with the entry postgraduate students.

“Inability to carry out accurate division and convert a decimal to a percentage, or to carry out basic whole-number problem solving, prior and post learning, was cause for concern.

“Most students found any mathematics associated with fractions, proportional reasoning and algebra challenging and in many instances this was only partly remediated over the study time.’’

Dr Norton — who has a PhD in mathematics education and a master of science, and taught maths and science for a decade at Brisbane high schools — called for more face-to-face maths instruction for all trainee teachers.

He said he believed he was the only academic who tested trainee teachers’ maths ability before and after their maths instruction.

 

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

December 2, 2014

 

What do you get when you add a proud father who happens to be a sports star and a child who can calculate difficult equations in his head? A great endorsement for mathematics!

 

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

 

How Kids Learn Maths

August 18, 2014

 

 

tables

My favourite subject to teach is maths. This is not because I have a personal affinity with the subject, but because I believe that it can be taught in an extremely engaging way. I prefer to dispense with mundane text books and mindless mental math activities and concentrate on games and outdoor maths lessons such as the one I came up with called Mission Impossible.

To me, maths is an everyday skill with real relevance. That relevance must be apparent to the students. If they can’t understand why we need addition or fractions or measurement, how on earth will they be able to apply what they have learned?

That’s why I’m against teaching times tables by heart as an end point. Sure, students may be able to recall 9 x 7 instantly, but if you ask them how many tickets were sold for a sell out concert if there were 9 rows of seat with 7 seats in each row and get a blank response, they just haven”t got it!

I appreciate studies into maths like this one, but ultimately, I think it is about finding an engaging way to show how maths is applied in everyday situations:

Stanford University researchers first peeked into the brains of 28 children as they solved a series of simple addition problems inside a brain-scanning MRI machine.

No scribbling out the answer: The 7- to 9-year-olds saw a calculation — three plus four equals seven, for example — flash on a screen and pushed a button to say if the answer was right or wrong. Scientists recorded how quickly they responded and what regions of their brain became active as they did.

In a separate session, they also tested the kids face to face, watching if they moved their lips or counted on their fingers, for comparison with the brain data.

The children were tested twice, roughly a year apart. As the kids got older, their answers relied more on memory and became faster and more accurate, and it showed in the brain. There was less activity in the prefrontal and parietal regions associated with counting and more in the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, the researchers reported Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.

The hippocampus is sort of like a relay station where new memories come in — short-term working memory — and then can be sent elsewhere for longer-term storage and retrieval. Those hippocampal connections increased with the kids’ math performance.

“The stronger the connections, the greater each individual’s ability to retrieve facts from memory,” said Dr. Vinod Menon, a psychiatry professor at Stanford and the study’s senior author.

But that’s not the whole story.

Next, Menon’s team put 20 adolescents and 20 adults into the MRI machines and gave them the same simple addition problems. It turns out that adults don’t use their memory-crunching hippocampus in the same way. Instead of using a lot of effort, retrieving six plus four equals 10 from long-term storage was almost automatic, Menon said.

In other words, over time the brain became increasingly efficient at retrieving facts. Think of it like a bumpy, grassy field, NIH’s Mann Koepke explained. Walk over the same spot enough and a smooth, grass-free path forms, making it easier to get from start to end.

If your brain doesn’t have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.

“The study provides new evidence that this experience with math actually changes the hippocampal patterns, or the connections. They become more stable with skill development,” she said. “So learning your addition and multiplication tables and having them in rote memory helps.”

Quiz your child in different orders, she advised — nine times three and then 10 times nine — to make sure they really remember and didn’t have to think it through.

While the study focuses on math, Mann Koepke said cognitive development in general probably works the same way. After all, kids who match sounds to letters earlier learn to read faster.

Stanford’s Menon said the next step is to study what goes wrong with this system in children with math learning disabilities, so that scientists might try new strategies to help them learn.

 

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

 

 

A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

October 22, 2013

 

 

Is there anything more powerful than a proud parent? Watch how much this positive math result means to this father.

 

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Meet the Armless Math Teacher

September 21, 2012

I love stories about remarkable people overcoming adversity:

A woman born with no arms is proving to children they can achieve whatever they want to – by teaching them with her feet.

Mary Gannon, who works at a Lakewood, Ohio middle school, writes on the board, types on her computer and hands out worksheets with her toes.

Ms Gannon, who teaches maths and science, grew up in a Mexican orphanage and was adopted by an Ohio family when she was seven.

She joined the school last year as a substitute teacher and now tutors 6th, 7th and 8th graders full-time, driving to work in a car with the number plate: ‘Happy Feet.’

Speaking to Fox 8, she said hopes her determination teaches the children a valuable life lesson.

‘I’m doing what I wanted to do, what I love to do,’ she said. ‘And if you set your mind to whatever you want to do and you love to do then – go for it – no one can stop you.’She said she does not like being called handicapped or even different ‘because it has a negative bias’, she said.

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

Click on the link to read School Fires Entire Staff!


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