Category Archives: math

The First Week of School: Math

I have been thinking a lot about all of the different ways in which we can make math engaging, starting from day one! Math ought to be playful, engaging, fun, challenging(!), creative, real-world, purposeful, thought provoking, etc.

& so, if you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see that this is the way in which I plan to start the year … with centres & picture books of course!

The First Week of School: Math:
– rotating through 3 centres a day (+ one which is always “the initial assessment”).

Monday – Day #1
a) Introduce Math books, procedures, page set up, daily/weekly structure, etc.
b) Introduce Centres
c) Begin Assessment (number sense, etc.) – assessment includes pencil to paper, discussion, survey/questionnaire.

Day #2
1. Assessment (a little bit every day for 4 days)
2. Challenge: Find a One-Hundred Dollar Word (; How much is my name worth? (
3. Graphing Skittles / Gummy Bears ( ;

Day #3
1. Assessment (every day)
2. Marshmallows & Toothpicks Place Value (working with large(!) numbers) (
3. iPad Games

Day #4
1. Assessment (every day)
2. Where do we see numbers / math in our world? (Learning Log entries)
3. Shopping with Flyers (

Day #5
1. Assessment (every day)
2. Calendar Math (
3. Multiplication War (

P.S. We will have “longer than usual Math classes” week #1 .. just for the fun of it! 😉


Activity: Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying and Dividing with Decimals

If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see my students working with grocery store flyers in order to practice working with decimals.

* grocery store flyers (freeeeeeeee!)
* pencils, grid paper
* cookie recipes


1. My Favourite Meal:
– Take a grocery store flyer to look through/explore/discuss/share.
– What are some of your favourite foods? (Take time to talk, discuss, share …)
– What foods would you choose to buy in order to make your favourite meal? (Note: You must choose a variety of foods from each of the food groups.)
– Record the foods and their prices in your notebooks.
– Now, pretend that you have purchased these foods and are heading to the check-out. How much would you need to spend in order to purchase everything? (Make sure the line the decimals up carefully!)
– Use your understanding of “percent” in order to calculate the tax.
– Let’s say you brought $100.00 with you to the store. What would your change be? (Make sure the line the decimals up carefully!)

2. A Birthday Dinner:
– Look through the flyer.
– What are some of your family’s favourite foods?
– What foods would you choose to buy in order to make your family’s favourite meal? (Note: You must choose a variety of foods from each of the food groups.)
– Record the foods and their prices in your notebooks.
– Now, pretend that you have purchased these foods and are heading to the check-out. How much would you need to spend in order to purchase everything? (Make sure the line the decimals up carefully!)
– Use your understanding of “percent” in order to calculate the tax.
– Let’s say you brought $250.00 with you to the store. What would your change be? (Make sure the line the decimals up carefully!)

3. _______’s Dangerously Disgusting Cookies
– Choose a cookie recipe.
– You must “keep” the main ingredients; ingredients that are common to most every cookie, such as flour, sugar and butter. You must replace everything else (e.g. salt, vanilla, chocolate chips, etc.) with something disgusting! Something that does NOT belong in a cookie recipe such as fish, mushrooms or steak.
– Pretend that you are going to the store to buy all of the items necessary to bake your “Dangerously Disgusting Cookies”
– Now, pretend that you have purchased these foods and are heading to the check-out. How much would you need to spend in order to purchase everything? (Make sure the line the decimals up carefully!)
– Use your understanding of “percent” in order to calculate the tax.
– Let’s say you brought $99.00 with you to the store. What would your change be? (Make sure the line the decimals up carefully!
Let’s say that you were the only one who liked the cookies and you only wanted to make half the recipe. How much money would you have to spend at the grocery store?
– Let’s say that everyone loves your cookies, (I know … weird, right?) and you need to triple the recipe. How much would you have to spend at the checkout?
(Note: My students love this activity … We share and draw pictures of our cookies too! Gross! 😉

Hope you have fun!

P.S. I also often grab restaurant flyers & menus as well, and invite students to “order” meals for themselves, their friends and their family. We do a lot of adding, subtracting, multiply; & dividing. We even use “percentages” to calculate the tip as well.

Reality Based Math – Making it Relevant

Reality Based Math – Making it Relevant

Everything makes more sense …. well, when it makes sense!
& so having said that, it is important to make math lessons and activities relevant to the learner. When students see connections and real world applications they are better able to understand concepts. They can apply concepts to novel situations, make connections, and extend activities when the understand the “whens, wheres, whys and the hows” of what we teach. They engage in activities with greater confidence. They play more and take greater risks.

Here are some ways that we try to math relevant to the learner:

1. When introducing a new concepts have students go on a scavenger hunt. They must find examples of the “concept” (e.g. where do they see it, hear about it, where is it applied, etc.) in their world.

2. Read, share, read, share and read some more: There are some great picture books out there to share with students at all grade levels
(e.g. )

3. Students write stories based on current classroom Math concepts.

4. Seamlessly intertwine math in others areas of the curriculum.
(e.g. & Math Mash-up

5. Use sports statistics in math class! Visit this site out for some great resources:

6. Use free grocery store flyers in math class. Issue a challenge: Give students a set amount of money and have them shop for a family meal, a birthday party, etc. Calculate the total & the change. We conduct similar activities with take-out menus, restaurant menus, car sales magazines, toy store flyers, etc.

7. Students write their own math word problems to share with the class. Trade them, play with them.

. Teachers use students’ names and real life classroom situations, etc. in word problems.

Of course this is just a starting point.
Please share your making-math-relevant-ideas!


Assignment Mash-Up: Math & Literature

Assignment Mash-Up: Math & Literature

If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would notice that I am always striving to ensure that there is some overlap between subjects; that Math ties in with Social Studies, that Science ties in with Writer’s Workshop, that grammar & spelling tie in with a Theme Day, etc.

This week I students will engage in a Math-Literature Mash-Up!

In Language Arts we are reading The Egypt Game. The main character in the novel is a girl named April.
In Math we are looking at measurement & geometry.

The assignment:
Design a amazing bedroom for April!

The Language Component:
During their design process consider carefully all that you know about April and apply this to your design. Consider the following (& more!):
•    Who is April Hall?
•    What are her interests?
•    Does she have any hobbies?
•    What does April do in her free time?
•    What are her dreams and her hopes?
•    Would she have a book shelf and if so how big or small would it be? What would be on the shelf?
•    Would she need a big or a small closet for her clothes? What would she have hanging there? How would it be arranged?
•    Would she require a dressing table? A desk? Drawers for special objects?
•    What colour would you paint her room and why?
•    Would you leave space on her walls for posters or pictures? What would she hang there?

The Math Component:
•    Review all that you know about area and perimetre.
•    Your first assignment is to map out/measure your own bedroom – including the furniture within. This will help you to design April’s room to scale.
•    On a piece of graph paper begin to design April’s room to scale. I will check in with you often throughout the process.

I can’t wait to see what my creative kids will come up with!


Valentine’s Day Math, Language, Science & Art Activities

Valentine’s Day Math, Language, Science & Art Activities

I) Math:
(A) Give students Valentine’s Day candies that come in several colours.
1. Graph them according to colour.
2. Find the colour mean, median and mode.
3. Calculate colour fractions, i.e. 18/24 reds, 2/24 pinks, 1/24 blue, 2/24 purple, 1/24 yellow. Turn fractions into decimals and then percentages.
4. Students write and trade their own Valentine’s Day word problems. Be sure that they are multi-step, include irrelevant information that must be weeded out and clever/well written.

(B) Plotting Ordered Pairs
On a piece of graph paper students follow directions in order to plot/map out Valentine’s  Day pictures. (Younger students can use a 100s Board).

II) Language

(A) Valentine’s Day Poetry
Students choose their favourite recipe. Replace food items with “Valentine’s Day/Friendship/Love Words”. (Brainstorm words as a class.)

My Valentine’s Day Cake
Just for You!
8 oz (225 g) Love
2/3 cup (140 g) Kisses
1 cup (210 g) Hugs
1 cup Roses
4 Smiles
4 heaped tablespoons (1 dl) Kindness
4 tablespoons Winks
1½ teaspoon Joy
1 teaspoon Faithfulness
4 tablespoons Trust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a heart-shaped 10 inch (25 cm) cake tin (3 inches tall) with non-stick paper and grease the tin. .
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes with love.
Serve and enjoy.

(B) Word Challenge:
How may words can you make using the letters in “Happy Valentine’s Day”.


III) Science Class:
Human Body:
We have learned about the cardiovascular system and the heart. Use this knowledge to create Valentine’s Day cards:
Decorate the outside in the traditional way. On the inside record ways to keep heart healthy.
Examples include:

  • Eating heart healthy foods.
  • Make time to exercise every day.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat foods that are low in cholesterol, fats and salt.
  • Eat foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. fish, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, etc.)
  • Eat heart healthy foods, i.e. blueberries, oatmeal, salmon, soy, spinach,
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

IV) Art Activites:

1. My favourite card:
“Heart in Hand Valentine Card”

2. Make “Crazy Card Carriers”

More Than “Just Numbers” – Math Success: The Cognitive Ingredients

More Than “Just Numbers” – Math Success: The Cognitive Ingredients

A friend came over the other night for a little wine and cheese.
Eventually (as so happens every once in a while with friends) the discussion turned to education in general, and then to her daughter in particular.

“Zoe” (a successful, energetic mother of two) started to talk about her youngest child who is have a tough time in her Grade 4 Math class.

“She (“Petra”) just doesn’t seem to get it ,” Zoe began to say, “…. and I’m worried because she’s starting to think that she’s dumb.”
Ugh … It’s bad enough when a child struggles in school – but when it starts to affect his/her self-esteem – well, that’s when things can get really “ugly”.
Now I know Petra … and she certainly doesn’t present as a child who would struggle with anything. Petra is in fact a chatty, upbeat, athletic, avid reader who has always enjoyed school.
I asked Zoe whether she had talked to her child’s teacher about this. When the answer was “no” I informed my friend that at least we knew where to start.

I told Zoe that the first step ought to be a conference with Petra’s teacher — and off of the top of my head I could think of three really good reasons as to why. First of all, teachers want to work in partnership with parents to ensure for school success – academic, social and emotional. Secondly, teachers are trained professionals. We want to use what we have learned (and what we are learning) to make sure that our children have positive and progressive experiences in our classrooms – our home for the year. Lastly, we are human. Yup … go figure: We don’t like to see any child struggle or feel badly. It breaks my heart and selfishly makes me feel as though I’m not good at what I do. (I am for example, always second guessing myself … it’s not a good feeling, but I have learned to accept this part of my personality and “roll with it”.)

I went on to explain to Zoe’s mum that Math is much more than “numbers & calculations”. There are heavy attention, memory, language, etc. components. Furthermore, I wanted her to understand the complexity of Math, and that while Petra may require additional support in some areas/strands of Math (e.g. Number Sense & Numeration) she may well excel in others (e.g. Geometry & Spatial Sense). Only time would tell.
In the meantime is was about time to speak with her teacher.

This got me thinking: What are some of the necessary cognitive abilities for learning in Math?
Here’s what I came up with. I am going to share this with Zoe today over date scones and tea!


Some of the Cognitive Abilities (& a couple of other things thrown in for good measure) Associated Understanding & Achieving Math Success in the Classroom:

1. Attention

2. All of the “Memories”:
Short Term & Longer Term Memory
Working Memory
Auditory Memory
Sensory Memory
Semantic Memory
Memory for Math Facts
Procedural Memory
Memory for Rules
Pattern Recognition

3. Language Skills (Math has a heavy language component):
Language processing
Verbal Expression
Understanding Vocabulary

4. Nonverbal Skills / Abstract & Spatial-Temporal Reasoning:
The ability to recognize sequential organization
The ability to recognize visual information and relationships
The ability to recognize spatial patterns and manipulate them mentally
The ability to recognize and remember visual sequences as well as cause and effect
Symbolic Thinking

…. & as with anything: The willingness to take risks

What Successful Math Students Do

General Math Tips

Before the end of the school year I had a discussion with a mum who asked what her child could do in order to continue to be successful in math (e.g. “successful” in a very general, “life skills” sense). “Sam” had always struggled with math and had finally reached a place where she felt successful. Yay!

Mum and I had a great chat, and together (together in the true sense of the word as she had many excellent ideas as well) we came up with the following list of suggestions.

& so … If you had been a fly on my classroom wall you would have seen two women, working together, creating & building on the ideas of one another for the child.

(The Bonus: In the end I feel that I benefited as much as they did.)


Marvelous Math: A Mindlful Approach

“Be organized. Clear the Clutter”
– Organize your locker and desk at school. Organize your homework space at home. Keep binders, pencil boxes, all math materials well organized. Organize your time!
– Be organized in your thinking. When approaching a task have a plan; a method! If you don’t have  plans or methods find the, ask for them, adopt them, use them.
– Clear the clutter on the page. Approach activities and assignments clearly – methodically.

– Do assigned homework every night to the best of your ability. Pay careful attention to what seems to “flow” naturally and when you seem to get stuck. Have post it notes on hand to mark any pages on which you have questions or concerns.
– Find a homework buddy(s). Have a couple of friends “on call” if you find that you are beginning to feel at all frustrated or unsure.

“Establish an Understanding”
Math is about making sense of our world. When given a question, activity or formula work through it until you understand it – e.g. know where  formula came from & where it will take you. Don’t just memorize! Understand! Internalize! Own it!
– It’s also very important to understand the language of math. e.g. What does it mean to  multiply? What are fractions? Why are graphs useful? When problem solving how do you know whether you need to add, subtract, multiply or divide?)

“Math Dictionaries”

– Use your math dictionary when necessary – keep it on hand. If your teacher is not making personal dictionaries in class then consider purchasing one. There are great books available for all ages and grade levels. There are also some wonderful online math dictionaries.

“Review & Repeat”
Never underestimate the importance of review and repetition when acquiring a new skill/concept.

“Play, play, play – Take risks – Have fun!”
Exude confidence. Believe in yourself! Dive right in! Be an active participant. Use manipulatives, doodle, draw, colour code, create!
Approach math in diligent and yet playful manner. It can be tons of fun to work with numbers and formulas.

“The Classroom Connection”
Listen, participate, share, question, celebrate.

“A Team Effort”
Teachers and parents are part of a student’s team!
Your teachers and parents want you to be successful! Ask for help if and when  you need it.

General Tips:
– Develop and use problem solving strategies consistently.
– Always show you work.
– Master your basic multiplication/number facts. If you haven’t mastered them yet them have a chart handy.
– Play free online math games. There are a ton out there. Some good sites can be found here:
– Read picture books that have a math theme/component.

Finally: Have a good look around you! Math is everywhere!