I hope your weekend was spent relaxing, doing some reading, measuring in ounces and tablespoons in the kitchen cooking, watching some good sports while comparing on-base percentages and runs batted in, calculating percentages of sale items on your favorite online retail store, maybe knitting a sweater in a particular pattern, and possibly even watching the 1,567 minute long film Spartacus. I wanted to write to you and give you an update on how math has been going, or I should say….equating.
We have math for approximately 68 minutes every day, which equates to 1.13 hours or 4,080 seconds. We start everyday with a roughly five minute period where we practice our addition, subtraction, multiplication, and divisions facts. We then review a concept together that we are all learning in our math books for anywhere between a sixth or third of an hour, and if time allots, play a quick math game or activity. Let’s just say the theme songs from The Price is Right and Jeopardy! may or may not have somehow just mysteriously showed up in my iTunes account. Then, students have anywhere between 40 to 58 minutes to work in the Saxon 4 textbook at a pace that individually challenges them. Of course, there are caveats such as learning how to best manage your time and staying focused. Tests are taken after every five lessons and students have been expected to complete roughly one lesson a school day if they’re not taking a test. Overall, students have adapted well to the requirements expected of them and are working harder and harder as the weeks have progressed. In fact, a majority of the students were handed tests back on Thursday to bring home.
We started off the year discussing the importance of place value. The digits in $432.90 are quite different. While the digits themselves are obviously different, what they’re worth varies tremendously. For example, the nine in the tenths place does not come CLOSE to the power of the four in the hundreds place. Using humor and eyes for the everyday presence of math, we learned that paying $41.0 is a bit more ridiculous than the already ridiculous price of $4.10 for a gallon of gas. (See attached photo. When the class was asked what was wrong with this picture, one student responded, “It’s too expensive.” Nailed it in so many ways!). Place value is imperative to the understanding and success of adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and kicking butt in not only their current math work, but also in middle school and high school.
Last week, we started reviewing P.E.M.D.A.S. This acronym stands for Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. It’s otherwise known as the Order of Operations. Similar to the importance of the stop light, P.E.M.D.A.S. is a big part of successfully functioning in math. It’s also known by it’s mnemonic device of Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Aunt Sally has obviously required a lot of excusing in her life. Perpetual, actually. I bet her Lemon Meringue pie is a disgrace.
Families of students in my homeroom are aware of the Crazy Cool Cardinal certificates that have been coming home over the past year already, but families from other classes might not be so familiar. Crazy Cool Cardinal certificates are simple certificates of acknowledgment that students earn that recognize them for their hard work, inferential questions or answers, focus, assistance, development of pattern making and connecting skills, and simply just working hard. While it clearly states why it was earned when your child earns one, please be sure to ask your child to explain and justify why they earned it.
I met many of you at the 3.5 hour Open House, on the 500+ mile long field study to Central Oregon, or in passing in our symmetrical hallways. In our conversations, you’ve asked me about resources, help, and ideas to help your child succeed in math. “Resources and ideas, plenty I have!” as the wise and noble mathematician Yoda once said. I’m in the process of creating a page on my classroom website that is aimed specifically at web-based resources and tools aimed at helping families with math. I estimate, by rounding to the nearest reality-check, that it will be up and running within the next month. In the meantime, though, I offer you this piece of advice: talk to your children about math.
There is nothing more valuable than the simple importance of discussion. When you go to the store, compare prices and give them the cash to hold and pay. If you don’t use cash, then try to make it a priority to use cash more often so your child can feel the money, see the change, look at the receipt, and experience what tax is if you’re shopping in Washington because you’re in the mood to spend money on tax. If you watch sports, discuss the meaning and value that comes from the barrage of statistics that appear on the screen, especially if it’s a Seahawks game and the stats include decibel levels or the Richter Scale. WIIIIIILLLLLLLLL-SOOOOOOONNNNNN! Ask them to read the time of an analog clock. I know it’s frustrating and it’s easier to just put up a digital clock. I understand. But that simply avoids the practice necessary to make it make sense. Spark up conversations that require some sort of estimating, ask for their help in the kitchen measuring. If you use a checkbook, let them write out the amount in words every once and a while. If you have an allowance imposed for electronic use, incorporate fractions when discussing the time. If they are required to do chores, get them to do the math, not you.
Make them earn it. Make it meaningful. Make it authentic. Make math and the calculating, estimating, justifying, and explaining that it entails a part of not just their math class, but their every day life.
I’ve also attached a picture of what the lessons and corrections should look like in their math journal. Please let me know if you have any questions!