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Archive for the ‘Maths’ Category

Top 10 Math Apps for Children

August 21, 2012

Courtesy of teacherswithapps.com:

 

iDevBooks – Educational Math Apps, by Esa Helttula, are par excellence when it comes to educational tools! This suite of apps are a must-have for any school using mobile devices, as well as for parents who want to encourage mastery of math concepts for their children. This collection of 16 iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad educational math apps are easy to use and offer intuitive interfaces. The iDevBooks math apps are used by schools, parents, and students worldwide. They are also popular in special education.

Jungle Time, Jungle Coins & Jungle Fractions!, by Andrew Short, of Jungle Education – We still need to learn to tell time, utilize money, and understand fractions. These three essential concepts are not easy to teach and harder to learn. Lots of hands on practice is needed and Andrew Short has got the “lots of” covered. All three games offer five levels of challenge, they start with the rudimentary concept and gradually progress over several grade levels. A MUST HAVE!

Motion Math: Hungry Fish, by Motion Math, is another MUST HAVE math game! Mental math is such a key component for success in building a strong foundation in math, and building on this early on helps all other math concepts fall into place with relative ease. Our students were enthralled by this simple, yet brilliant game – and they were polishing up on their number skills with smiles on their faces! Brilliant job Motion Math!

Math Evolve, by InterAction Education and Zephyr Games, has really pushed the envelope. This app introduces a revolutionary “video-like” gaming app for practicing math facts. One of our students called it, “The Call of Duty,” of math games. Adam Coccari, teacher and creator of Math Evolve, sums it up best when he says, “Achieving success in all levels of math starts with having a solid foundation in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.” Mastering these facts takes time and lots of practice, Math Evolve has taken care of all of that in an enormously engaging format.

Operation Math, by Spinlight Studios, is sizzling with excitement! The mission is possible with this new app, which grabs kids attention immediately and keeps them engaged on their quest to do good. The goal here is to help destroy Dr. Odd and practice your basic math facts along the way. In order to open the series of locked doors, you must perform either addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or any combination of operations. You can first train in the infinite Base10 Training Room, where your performance will be tracked. When you are up for the challenge, you choose a mission.

Sums Stacker, by Carstens Studios Inc, is an amazing app. It incorporates critical thinking, problem solving, and strategic planning skills, all while you’re “playing” with math concepts, with great gaming style! Carstens’ says this about math, “It wasn’t until after my school years, that I became a lover of math. I managed to slip through all of those classes, text books, and homework assignments, without learning one of the most important math lessons of all – math is fun!” This app challenges your reasoning, your number sense, your addition and subtraction facts, and your knowledge of coin values, and oh yes, reading, if you so desire.

  iTooch MATH Grade 5, by eduPAD, is a terrific app that covers a lot of ground conept-wise and shouldn’t be limited to just fifth graders. This app combines a no-frills approach to content while still providing the user with an exciting learning experience. The mascot is adorable and keeps kids on task with lots of encouragement and there is a lesson summary available when needed. iTooch MATH now has grades three through five available.

Oh No! Fractions, by di Luna, came recently to our attention, but if a colleague hadn’t said, “It’s tough for kids to grasp fractions”, it may have slipped through the cracks. Luckily, it didn’t and we are here to sing its praises.Oh No! Fractions is as simple as it gets. This gorgeous app lets the user decide whether the given fraction is less or greater than another fraction. After the child has decided and chosen less or greater, it asks ”I’m Sure” and then “Prove It” where a visual representation of the two fractions is shown and manipulated by the child.

TallyTots, by Spinlight Studio, is a simple yet invaluable learning app to teach youngsters number concepts. The intent of the app is to teach your child number recognition, one-to-one correspondence, and how to count to 20 – all while having a delightful time. When the app starts, you are taken to a screen that has all 20 numbers. Your child chooses the number they want and the counting begins. Each number is outlined as it is counted up the number line.

KidgitZ, by TapDream Arts, is the second in a series of mental math challenges for kids of all ages. Addictive, it is! Students were so engaged that they never even heard the bell ring… and the next period was lunch and recess! Several students came looking for me and my iPad to continue playing during extra help. Their responses were all similar, with mentions of how hard it was to stop playing this AWESOME game!

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 Girls and Maths

Click on the link to read Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math

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Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

August 13, 2012

Out of all the subjects offered in Primary school, maths strikes me as easily the worst taught. This is for two main reasons:

1. Teachers are almost uniformly from arts and humanities backgrounds rather than maths and science backgrounds. It is staggering to compare those that went down the humanities path in late high school or in their first degree compared to those that have completed major maths units.

2. Maths is often taught in a boring, unimaginative way. Mindless worksheets and excessive reliance on rote knowledge and algorithms are the standard fare in a typical maths classroom.

What many students seem to lose from maths is the practical nature of the subject. We need maths to do the most basic activities in our lives; from counting change, organising our bedroom furniture, telling time, following a map and cooking a meal. This message does not get through to children sick to death of yet another worksheet.

It is the practical reality of maths that provides this truly underrated subject with enourmous scope for creativity. Just take a lesson I invented called “Mission Impossible Maths“, for example.

But as much as I can try to refocus educators about maths, the future looks dire. Policy makers who have invented the killer punch to authentic learning, commonly referred to as standardised testing, are more interested in grades on a formalised test than they are practical knowledge, problem solving and inquiry.

That’s why they continue to push the rote line:

A campaign group promoting maths has attacked plans to overhaul maths teaching in primary schools in England as “undeliverable”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, National Numeracy says the draft curriculum is “overloaded” and relies too much on rote learning.

The curriculum, due to come into force in 2014, expects children to know up to the 12-times table by the age of nine.

A government spokesman responded: “It is high time rigour is restored.”

National Numeracy says the plans are “seriously flawed” because they rely too much on rote learning.

The group says that rather than raising standards the new curriculum could in practice prevent pupils from developing a strong underlying understanding of mathematics or from having the confidence to apply mathematical theory to everyday problems.

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

Click on the link to read Girls and Maths

Click on the link to read Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math

 

Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math

August 1, 2012

 

A fun and interesting math activity to do nightly with the kids:

Bedtime Math (TM!) was created by Laura Overdeck, an astrophysics graduate and mother of three in New Jersey who turned a fun activity with her kids into a website of the same name. Overdeck told NPR’s Ashely Milne-Tyte that Bedtime Math — or maybe bedtime math — started when her oldest child was two years old. Every night, while tucking her in, Overdeck would ask her a math problem. Her daughter loved it so much, they began doing it every night. More kids came along and the challenge of creating one problem that would keep three different kids of three different ages engaged became ever greater.

Overdeck worked it out. Her friends got interested. The website was born. And now, Bedtime Math is a thing (or at least I think it is. I keep hearing about it this summer.)

In February, Overdeck launched her website, where she posts daily problems and puzzles for kids of different ages. More than 5,000 people subscribe to her daily emails. They’re pretty cute and work nicely as short bedtime stories, too.

Click on the link to read Making Maths Fun is Not Mission Impossible

Click on the link to read Maths is Taught So Poorly

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

Should We Stop Teaching Algebra?

July 30, 2012

If teaching the skill of algebra is seen as unimportant, I have no problem with a proposal to remove it from the curriculum. But I don’t believe in scrapping a skill just because students are finding it difficult. What message does that send?

This week’s feature story in the NY Times Week In Review is one from Andrew Hacker, emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, who throws down the gauntlet that America should stop teaching kids algebra, “A typical American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.”

Now, Hacker explains, “I’m not talking about quantitative skills, critical for informed citizenship and personal finance, but a very different ballgame,” and lists extremely depressing statistics: “To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason… The City University of New York, where I have taught since 1971, found that 57 percent of its students didn’t pass its mandated algebra course. The depressing conclusion of a faculty report: ‘failing math at all levels affects retention more than any other academic factor.’

Click on the link to read Maths Teachers Who Can’t Pass Maths

Click on the link to read Children Exposed to Poor Maths Teachers

Click on the link to read Maths is Taught So Poorly

The Maths Professor who Understands the Importance of Engaging a Class

July 13, 2012

It’s fantastic to see a teacher who understands how important it is to keep the class involved and engaged:

Maths is not usually top of the list when it comes to favourite subjects at school.

But one teacher has found a novel way of getting his pupils attention.

Professor Matthew Weathers starts all his lessons with comical introduction piece – and now his endeavors are causing a stir on YouTube.

In the latest of his videos, the maths genius, who teaches at the Biola University in California, piques the curiosity of students learning about imaginary numbers with an impressive display of computer wizardry.

He creates a double of himself on a computer which appears on a white board behind his desk and then proceeds to chat to his imaginary self.

His class burst into fits of giggles as his double asks him to stop interfering in the lesson, asks him to leave the room and tells him off when he tinkers with the microphone.

The video has already amassed 17,000 YouTube hits.

Mr Weather said: ‘I like asking interesting questions or telling interesting stories but with a smaller class, it’s easier to do tricks on them.

‘I upload my videos on YouTube so my students can see them but then other people start looking at them.’

Children Exposed to Poor Maths Teachers: Ofsted

May 22, 2012

I am not particularly surprised by the finding that bright students, in particular, are being failed by poor maths instruction. It’s been my experience that most teachers come from a strictly humanities (i.e. English, Politics, History) background. These teachers often shirk maths and science as it isn’t their forte.

In a damning report, the watchdog warned that the scale of underachievement at school was a “cause of national concern” that risks robbing the country of well-qualified mathematicians, scientists and engineers.

It said that many of the most gifted children were “insufficiently challenged” at primary and secondary level after being set the same work as mid-ranking classmates.

Inspectors insisted that too much teaching focused on the use of “disconnected facts and methods” that pupils were expected to memorise and replicate without any attempt to solve complex problems in their heads.

Large numbers of pupils are also being pushed into sitting maths GCSEs a year early – forcing schools to completely ignore many of the most demanding algebra topics, it was revealed.

In a highly-critical conclusion, Ofsted said that teaching was not good enough in almost half of English state schools, with almost no improvements being made in the last four years.

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

Teaching Fractions: The Musical

March 22, 2012

As it is very difficult to convey the skills of fractions,  I am keen to see how a new programme that helps students learn fractions to music actually works. Fractions is often the skill that teachers dread to cover. I have heard of teachers that have demanded to teach lower grades just to avoid it.

That is why I am sure that this programme will generate plenty of interest:

For tapping out a beat may help children learn difficult fraction concepts, according to new findings due to be published in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics.

An innovative curriculum uses rhythm to teach fractions at a California school where students in a music-based programme scored significantly higher on math tests than their peers who received regular instruction.

“Academic Music” is a hands-on curriculum that uses music notation, clapping, drumming and chanting to introduce third-grade students to fractions.

The programme, co-designed by San Francisco State University researchers, addresses one of the most difficult – and important – topics in the elementary mathematics curriculum.

“If students don’t understand fractions early on, they often struggle with algebra and mathematical reasoning later in their schooling,” said Susan Courey, assistant professor of special education at San Francisco State University.

“We have designed a method that uses gestures and symbols to help children understand parts of a whole and learn the academic language of math.”

It will be interesting to see if this programme becomes a success.

Maths Teachers Who Can’t Pass Maths

February 19, 2012

Sometimes I wonder how well Primary school maths teachers would go if they were forced to sit a basic skills maths examination. I fear many of them would stumble, especially in skills such as fractions.

How much worse it would be to have specialist maths teachers in the high school system with gaps in their maths knowledge. This may or may not be a reason for the inability for some teachers in getting the desired results from their students:

New Westminster parents are pressing their school district to investigate what they say is an exception-ally high failure rate over many years for high-school students enrolled in math classes taught by a particular teacher.

But they say the district has brushed aside their finding that three out of four students in those New Westminster secondary school math classes failed last semester. And recently, in response to their freedom-of-information request for math marks for all Grade 8-12 students in the school, the district told them they would be charged $1,385 to cover the cost of research and photocopying.

One of the parents, Lisa Chao, said she was shocked by the bill and highly doubts that much work is required to produce the information parents believe would back their contention that the teacher has been unsuccessful in teaching the lessons for many years. “This is information … they should have been gathering at the end of every semester,” she said in an interview. “It shouldn’t take more than three hours to print off.”

Parents deserve the right to information when they suspect that a teacher is letting down their children. Schools shouldn’t shy away from being open and transparent, because when they use tactics like the one referred to above, they look like a party to a major cover-up. I have no problems with schools supporting their teachers, but sometimes even the school needs to take an impartial view.
This teacher should be given every opportunity to defend the allegations. However, the doubts about his/her effectiveness seem valid and require a response.

Maths is Taught So Poorly

February 13, 2012

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

The other day, whilst teaching ordering numbers up to 4 digits, I got my 8-year-old students into groups, each given a particular airline to reasearch. The groups had to find the 3 lowest airfares for a return domestic trip between certain dates and times, These prices were then compared and ordered from least expensive to most expensive. Isn’t that the whole point of ordering and comparing numbers?

Whilst engaging in the exercise, the students enjoyed working in groups, competing for a bargain against other groups, learning how to book airline tickets and simply use their imagination by pretending they were actually intending in going on the flight.

Isn’t that more interesting than a worksheet that has numbers on it to order?

This is why I am not at all surprised that British students leave Primary school ‘with the maths ability of 7-year-old’:

An analysis of last year’s SATs results has shown 27,500 11-year-olds are going on to secondary school with the numeracy skills of children four years their junior.

The figures equate to a staggering one in 20 of the total of those leaving primary school. Boys perform worse than girls, with 15,600 behind in their ability.

Separate statistics published two weeks ago also revealed that one in three GCSE pupils fail to get at least a grade C in maths.

The disclosure follows the launch of a Daily Telegraph campaign – Make Britain Count – to highlight the scale of the nation’s mathematical crisis and provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy skills.

It comes amid concerns that schoolchildren are less likely to study maths to a high standard in England, Wales and Northern Ireland than in most other developed nations.

I appeal to Primary teachers to give the text-book a rest and don’t be afraid to try new and exciting ideas to engage your maths students.

Teachers Administered “Slave” Maths Problems

January 11, 2012

When I first heard about the story of a teacher who wrote maths problems such as, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”, I was as angry as many of the people calling for the teacher’s sacking.

After further contemplation, I am no longer as irate.

This teacher made an awful mistake (and one that will brand him/her, rightly or wrongly, as a racist). It was a very poor choice of maths problem and I am sure that the teacher involved feels very ashamed about their role in this incident. I have to say, that I don’t think this teacher was being racist. But I wont go too far in my defence, as some acts of stupidity defy any plausible defence.

A Georgia school insisted today there was no “maliciousness” intended when a third grade math quiz asked students to compute the number of beatings a slave got a week and to calculate how many baskets of cotton he picked.

But the Gwinnett County School District has launched an investigation to determine how the offending questions made it onto the students’ homework sheets.

The math homework assignment was given to more than 100 students at Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross, Ga., as part of a social studies lesson, Gwinnett County school officials said. The assignment outraged parents, community activists and members of the Georgia NAACP.

Sloan Roach, a Gwinnett County school district spokeswoman, told ABCNews.com that the students were studying famous Americans and as an attempt to create a cross-curricular worksheet, one teacher used Frederick Douglass and slavery beatings for two of the questions.

Although only one teacher wrote out the controversial questions, another teacher made copies of the assignment and it was distributed to four out of nine third grade classes at Beaver Ridge, Roach said. The school is not publicly naming any of the teachers who are suspected to be involved.

In lashing out against the school and its teachers, I think people are missing a small but still important side story. There is a growing obsession in educational circles to integrate the curriculum. Teachers are called on to integrate all subjects under an unbrella topic. For example, as this year in an Olympic Year, many teachers will plan their maths, language, science, art and music classes around the Olympic theme. This can work well, as the topic lends itself quite easily to the subjects listed above.

But then you have a subject like American History and Slavery. You are the maths teacher, and you have to find a way to cover the curriculum whilst at the same time, covering the topic of slavery. This is neither an easy task nor a fair one. I am glad that I haven’t been asked to combine the two, as I would find it all too hard.

It is time we realised that not every topic can be integrated across the curriculum. Sometimes you have to let the maths teacher teach maths, without imposing on them a topic that doesn’t fit well with skills such as chance and data and order of operations.

Was this teacher in the wrong? Absolutely! Was he/she a racist. Probably not. Should the teachers found administering this worksheet be fired? I don’t think so. Should a maths teacher ever be expected to combine maths problems with a slavery topic?

I would have thought the answer to that question was obvious.


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