Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekly Reader Reboot, New Community College Blog & More

Weekly Reader Gets a Reboot! - The enduring children's magazine (I loved reading them in elementary school myself) has launched a new website as part of a sweeping effort to bring it into the digital age and meet the needs of teachers and students.  There are now digital editions of WR as well as a web-based reading comprehension program in addition to a slick redesign of the traditional magazines.  Here's a snazzy Flash video about the change.

New Blog Launched: Community College Spotlight - Written by Joanne Jacobs, the blog will focus on what President Obama has called "an essential part of our recovery in the present and our prosperity in the future."  Ms. Jacobs always knows how to find the most interesting stories, so CCS is definitely worth checking out.

Accepting limits [Seth Godin's Blog] - "Just because it's difficult to grade doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught."  Amen.

Infographic: Texas' New Textbooks - The Onion skewers the recent actions of the Texas Board of Education.

Textbooks Going Green [Betty's Blog: Timely Teacher Talk] - Tips on recycling and other things to do with old textbooks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why We Fail at Teaching the Language of Data

May 2010's Wired magazine has an interesting article by Clive Thompson on why we should learn the language of data. In short, he argues that we rely too much on anecdotal evidence and simple cause-and-effect solutions to difficult, multifaceted problems. We can't seem to look at data critically, whether it be polls and other research with poor methodology or counter-intuitive conclusions based on good data (think of the not-so-obvious ideas coming out of the Freakonomics camp).

Why is this so critical? "We live in a world where the thorniest policy issues increasingly boil down to arguments over what the data mean," says Thompson. "If you don't understand statistics, you don't know what's going on--and you can't tell when you're being lied to."

Thompson doesn't explain why this is true, but I have some ideas on that: our national and state standards and priorities for mathematics have to be at the top of the list of culprits.

We do teach a bit of basic data analysis all the way through high school, but not nearly enough.  Schools certainly spend a lot of time on probability, if you consider how the topic seems to be revisited every year from late elementary onward.  Unfortunately, a lot of that work veers too far away from the practical (You have 4 red marbles, 3 blue marbles, and 6 yellow marbles in a bag...) to be something students can really get engaged in. 

Problem solving, finding reasonable answers, determining what data is needed to solve a problem are all things we gloss over in order to practice multiple-choice questions and breaking down cryptic word problems.  Since our national and state priorities seem to be focused on the still-vague notion of "21st century skills" and preparing students for the growing number of high tech jobs (regardless of whether students are interested in pursuing those kinds of jobs or not), we focus more on a broad range of algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus skills throughout the middle and high school grades.  By the time many students finish high school, they're a jack of all mathematical trades, master of none.

Aside from problem solving skills, we don't spend enough time on proportional thinking (everything from using percents to measurement and scale) and just plain number sense that everyone could use on a daily basis.  What we're left with is a nation of people who fear math, who run to a calculator for the most rudimentary problems, and as Thompson pointed out, who don't know when they're being lied to.

What do you think?  Sound off in the comments.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fun and Easy DIY Tetris-Style Magnetic Blocks

It's no secret to longtime readers of this blog that I'm a huge Tetris fan, and not just because it's fun: I've shared with you research about how it can reduce stress and build your brain as well.  Now I'm going to show you how to make your own blocks to create a your own hands-on, analog puzzle game.

You'll need one package of inkjet magnet sheets (you can get them at any office supply store for $10-15), enough ink to print five full-color sheets, and an exacto knife or quality scissors.

Download the five PDFs that contain the pieces arranged in a grid as you see below and print them on each magnet sheet (most come in packages of 5).  Make sure to give the magnet sheets time to dry after you print them.  I've also included a blank grid that you can use for creating your own block designs if you wish.

Each of the seven classic pieces used in most versions of the game are here, arranged so that 40 blocks are fit into the five sheets.  Each piece is made up of 1.5" squares so that they're big enough to be easy to use and see from a distance.

As for what you could do with this, I thought I would show you:

If you have ideas for using these blocks, the magnet sheets or anything related, share your ideas in the comments.  I'm excited to hear what you guys come up with!

Friday, April 23, 2010

2 Things Every Teacher Deals With, Go Green & More

Teacher. [Look at my happy rainbow!] - Mr. Halpern shares a story about his students playing "school," with one pretending to be him. It reminded me of the many, many times when students pointed out my quirks, mannerisms, common sayings and so on. Their observations certainly don't end in Kindergarten!

when being a teacher takes over your life [Mrs. Awesome Blogs] - Mrs. Awesome reaches a point that all dedicated teachers must deal with eventually.

11 Small Ways to Save Big on Ink [Wise Bread] - For teachers, schools and parents that print a lot (i.e. everybody!), this is a good primer.  In honor of yesterday's Earth Day event, here's more on saving ink and paper:
New Education Page - I first wrote about this site a few months ago, and now they've added K-12 lesson plans built around their documentary film library.  There's a lot of interesting stuff on a wide range of subjects--a great way to engage kids post-testing.

Mensa Selects Its Favorite Brainy Games of 2010 [Wired: GeekDad] - I haven't played any of these yet, but I'm going to seek them out.  There's also mention of previous winners that you might have played (or should).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Free Shipping Coupon for 'Ten Cheap Lessons'

Just got word of a free shipping coupon you can use to get Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition from

Just enter the code FREEMAIL305 at checkout.

The deal ends 5/1/10, so you only have about a week to take advantage of this.  The fine print is below.

Disclaimer: Use coupon code FREEMAIL305 at checkout and receive $3.99 towards your final shipping cost. This amount is the US mail cost for a single book order. Please note: there will be a shipping total listed on your order receipt. This coupon code will reduce your final order total by $3.99, which is the US mail cost for a single book. Purchase must be 3rd party content. Self-purchases of your own content are not eligible. Discount cannot be used to pay for, nor shall be applied to applicable taxes or shipping and handling charges. Shipping destination must be a valid US address. Promotional codes cannot be applied to any previous order. No exchanges or substitutions allowed. Only one valid promotional code may be used per account. Coupon cannot be used in combination with other coupon codes. Offer expires on 5/1/10 at 11:59 PM. reserves the right to change or revoke this offer at anytime. Void where prohibited.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teachers Share Their Best Brain Breaks & Contest Winners!

Over the last two weeks, teachers have been sending in their best ideas for brain breaks.  A brain break is a simple mental and physical exercise, taking no more than a minute or two to complete, that helps re-energize and reengage your students in the classroom.  These submissions were part of a contest to win one of two copies of the book Energizing Brain Breaks by David Sladkey.  First, here's our two winners, as picked by the author himself:

Winner #1, Molly Tanner:
Try to blink one eye while snapping on the opposite side's hand 15 times in a row alternating eyes. [In other words,] blink you left eye while simultaneously snapping with your right hand and then blinking your right eye while snapping with your left hand.
David says: “I love the BLINK one. I'm going to use that one tomorrow.

Winner #2, Janet Frey:
Four Corners
  • label each corner with a number 1, 2, 3 or 4
  • have one person be "it" - they sit blindfolded in the middle the of the room
  • everyone else picks a corner to stand in
  • "it" says a number and the people in that corner are out
  • people move to new corners and "it" keeps saying numbers until there is just 1 person left
David explains: “I like Janet's because you can incorporate your lesson ideas into this. For instance, you could have students move to one corner of the room for an answer to a multiple choice question. Or even an opinion question where you have to commit to a corner and be prepared to explain why.

After reading all of the entries, I knew it was going to be tough to pick two winners, which is why I asked David to judge them! Here are the rest of the great submissions for the contest:
Students have to move their right foot in a clockwise circle, and then with their right pointer finger, they need to write the number 6 in the air.

They have to grab their right ear lobe with their left hand, and their nose with their right hand. Then they switch (grab their left ear lobe with their right hand...)
--Andrea Ryan

Students stand up. You come up with some alliterative sentences or sayings. Pick the letter that is causing alliteration (in the phrase “birds and bubbles balance on the big, beautiful banister” the letter is ‘B’) and the kids sit down or stand up every time they hear it. The goal is to go faster and faster with each repetition.
--Summer Haskell

Have the students quickly re-seat themselves in alphabetical order by last name. Based on the age level, you could also have students re-seat themselves by age, day of birth (June 1st birthday would go before February 10th birthday), height, alphabetical by first name, etc. This requires the students to get up, move around, talk to their other classmates (a terrifying feat for some in high school), and work together.
--Rachel Miller

Would You Rather
  • everyone stands up
  • teacher asks a question, usually silly, and designates a spot in the room for each option (ex. would you rather be big foot or be loch ness monster? big foot stands by the door, loch ness stands by the windows)
  • a few students tell why
Simon Says (led by a student)
-- Janet Frey

Drumstick tap
  1. grab out two skinny objects that are the same size ie pencils, rulers, drumsticks.
  2. hold one object in each hand in the middle of the object between your thumb and index finger (similar to a pencil grip only with more fluidity).
  3. tap one end of the pencil in you right hand on the top of the pencil in pencil in your left, the "momentum" of the hit will cause you to flip directions of the tap causing the bottom of the pencil in your right hand to hit the pencil in your left on the bottom side.
  4. The pen in your left will then flip so that the bottom flips to hit the pen in your right hand on the bottom and flip again to hit it on on the top.
  5. Then you repeat the process.
--Janelle Keune

My students love to play BUZZ at any random time I might just say BUZZ 7. Everyone stands up. Proceeding in a circular motion we start counting. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, can't say 7, any multiple of 7, or any number with a seven in it (17), instead you must say BUZZ. This causes the person to your left (the next person to count) to be out. They sit down. If you miss your BUZZ you are out and count continues with the next number. This game works with any number, but 6-9 seem to work best.
--Lauran Tyndall

I have taught my 2nd graders an activity that is great for practicing skip counting whole class. We call them our "skip counting chants," and we use them to learn our 2's, 5's, and 10's. For counting by 2's up to 20, we touch things that we have 2 of: eyes, ears, shoulders, elbows, hands (show 10 fingers when you say 10) hips (give them a shake!), thighs, knees, shins, feet. Even works backwards starting at the feet! We do cherry pickers/windmills for counting by 5': arms out 5! touch right hand to left foot 10! arms back out 15! touch left hand to right foot 20! and so on. For counting the 10's, we do jumping jacks up to 100.
--Marie Hoag

Have the class line up at the front of the classroom. Then on a count of three, they have to sit down in Alphabetical order according to first names (and last names if there are two students with the same first name). When this becomes too easy, have the students sit down in reverse alphabetical order.
--Jennifer Wagaman

Two students partner up and do a rhythmic chant:

Double Double This This,
Double Double That That,
Double This,
Double That,
Double Double This That

Whenever the students say "double," they make two fists and hit the bottom of their hands against the other student's.

Whenever the students say "this," they slap hands together, like two high fives.

Whenever the students say "that," they flip their hands around and "high five" the back of their hands against the other person's.

It ends up working out like this:

Fist, Fist, High Five, High Five,
Fist, Fist, Flip Five, Flip Five,
Fist, High Five,
Fist, Flip Five,
Fist, Fist, High Five, Flip Five

The last one is definitely the trickiest!

This could easily be done individually against a desk, too, and you can let students try it on their own time or you can chant the words together as a class so that it's easy to transition back to more structured work.
--Jenny Wilson
For my review and more information about David's book, read Engage Your Students in a Minute with Energizing Brain Breaks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cookbook Math, Great Board Game & PSA Project Idea

Math for America deadlines approaching [Math Be Brave] - Jesse sends out a reminder about two of the important program's fellowships for teachers in five regions across the country.

Fun, Spatial Thinking for the Entire Family [Wired: GeekDad] - A review of the game Blokus and its educational qualities.

PSA Project Idea [Math Teacher Mambo] - Longtime readers know I love projects, and this is one that I wish I had come up with first!  Students create a public service announcement for something you always or never want to do in math. 

Ratio: A Cookbook Review [Wise Bread] - I know what you're thinking: Mr. D, why are you linking to a cookbook review?  As you might have guessed by the book's title, Ratio focuses on making your own variations on all types of food based around ratios of different ingredients that work together.  Sounds like a recipe for a fun math lesson!  (Insert laughter/groans here.)

Innovative Ways to Engage Learners with Cell Phones Using Research-Based Strategies [The Innovative Educator] - A great compliment to the smartphone article I discussed earlier this week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Earth Day Lesson Ideas and Resources

Earth Day Celebrates its 40th Anniversary on April 22, 2010!

Forty years ago, on April 22, 1970, more than 20 million people converged in small towns and major cities across the United States to help launch the modern environmental movement. That first Earth Day was part teach-in, part call-to-action and part celebration. At Earth Day Network, our Education program continues a successful history of environmental education initiatives dating back to the first Earth Day in 1970.  We are continuing this tradition for the upcoming 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day on Thursday April 22, 2010. We have hundreds of resources to help go green and get involved in Earth Day.

Here’s a list of fun activities you can do with your kids to teach them about the environment:
  • Pull out invasive plants and replace them with native species.
  • Ride bikes, walk or take public transit.
  • Volunteer at a local Earth Day event.
  • Write a letter to a local policymaker.
  • Start a family garden and grow healthy food. Start a compost pile and use a rain barrel.
  • Switch out light bulbs for energy- efficient CFLs.
  • Learn about the history of the environmental movement. Use activity ideas from Earth Day Network lesson plans.
  • Paint an eco- mural. Use green art supplies.
  • Make art from recycled objects.
  • Play educational games Environmental Jeopardy.
  • Use the interactive online Ecological Footprint quiz.
  • View and discuss films on Earth Day TV.
  • Clean up your playground, schoolyard, walking paths or watershed.
  • Hold a recycling or waste reduction contest.
  • Take your class outside.
  • Compost your good scraps.
Need help? Contact for resources, ideas and support!

This is a guest post from Sean Miller, Education Director of Earth Day Network, a Washington DC-based nonprofit that works on environmental issues across the globe.

Monday, April 12, 2010

'Energizing Brain Breaks' Contest Extended 1 More Week!

Last week, I reviewed the book Energizing Brain Breaks, a treasure trove of simple ideas for engaging students in just a minute or two.  I launched a contest to giveaway the two copies of the book I had, but I didn't do a good enough job of promoting it! 

Read Engage Students in a Minute with Energizing Brain Breaks, then submit your own "brain break" to me via email ( by next Monday, April 19th.  Details are in the post.

Any help you can provide to spread the word is appreciated, especially by the people who could win one of the two copies of the book!

The Future of Education, in the Palm of Your Hand

The cover story in April's issue of Fast Company, A Is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution by Anya Kamenetz, is really interesting.  I'm always amazed that business magazines like Fast Company and Inc. seem to have a better understanding of the future of technology in education than those that focus intently on education

Kamenetz, the author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, looks at how the abundance of cheap handheld technology is empowering kids worldwide.  A lot of it focuses on the creation and expansion of TeacherMate (a device I'd love to test out), but there's a lot of talk about the development and usage of this kind of technology around the world.

The story is illustrated with anecdotes from kids using a wide range of technology across the country: iPhones, netbooks, iPod Touch, XO laptops and the aforementioned TeacherMate.  The kids love their devices and explain how they're helping them learn: "I got the XO last year... We can do math games, and it teachers us times tables, subtraction, and adding.  I think I'm better at math because of the XO," said one young student from Alabama.

I like the idea of technology helping to make up for the limited skills of teachers, or at least filling in the gaps.  In the article, one educator explains that in Nepal, many English teachers don't know English very well, so these kinds of devices fill the gap.  I wish every elementary student would have access to something that could help them learn vital math skills.

The conclusions that Kamenetz draws--that these devices could ultimately mean a new role for teachers, but that it's still a hard sell here and now--are well-founded and worth discussion.  Read the article and share your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Math Teacher Fights His Own Shadow [Video]

Now this is how you use an LCD projector in the classroom:

Read more about this video on mental_floss.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Honest Abe, Math Madness, and Frankie Was Right

High school teacher turns March Madness into 'Math Madness' - Read how Bay Area teacher Sol Henik engaged his students with some friendly competition that incorporated the excitement surrounding last month's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  This is the kind of creative thinking that I wish every teacher (math or otherwise) would employ!

100 Best Blogs for the Classroom Teacher - I'm humbled to be included on this list, which is a great starting point for teachers looking to expand their personal learning network.  I would encourage you to look at blogs outside of your subject or grade level, because you're bound to find inspiration and ideas that you never would by keeping a narrow focus.

Relaxed Minds Remember Better [Lifehacker] - Maybe this is why Frankie says relax.

Support the Creation the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. - A new memorial for MLK is on pace to open on the National Mall in fall 2011, but there's still a bit of fundraising to be done.  This site contains various ways to support the cause, including videos, stories, banners and news to share with all of your social networks.

Lincoln. [Look at my happy rainbow!] - I consider Mr. Halpey one of my favorite teachers, event though he never had me as a student.  If you don't subscribe to his blog, you're seriously missing out.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Got Sucked In To Facebook

On the heels of last night's episode of South Park, which takes us to task for our national obsession with Facebook (you can watch "You Have 0 Friends" online), I feel there's no better time to ask:

Will you become a Fan of I Want to Teach Forever on Facebook?

It's an easy way to keep up with new posts, and soon enough will be a great way to connect with other readers.  Unfortunately, since it's brand new, I feel like Kip Drordy right now.  I promise you won't have to visit any farms, poke anyone, or comment on anything you don't want to.  Unless you want to, of course.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

iPad Is The Future Of Edtech, Not The Present (And That's Okay)

Everybody's talking about the iPad, and for good reason: like the iPod and iPhone before it, Apple has created a device that represents a paradigm shift.  Tablet computing is the future, but we have a long way to go before this technology will be ready for schools--and vice versa.

First, and most importantly, anyone who's followed Apple's product history knows that the first iPad won't be half as functional or powerful as it will after it goes through several generations of upgrades and adjustments.  My fourth-generation iPod, for example, is much improved from the first one that came out: it has a click wheel, color screen, video playback, and a much greater capacity than its parent.  You've likely already heard some of the most basic complaints about this first iPad: it weighs a lot, there are issues with charging, and you can't multitask.  It's not a stretch to consider it merely a large screen, severely limited iPod Touch at this early stage of development.

In terms of educational use, the iPhone, iPod Touch and smartphones are still easier to use, manage, are more advanced, and have far more apps ready for the classroom.  If money and time is to be invested in new technology, it certainly should go towards items like these, even considering that our profession is still learning to except (let alone how to use) powerful devices like these.  Of course, in many areas of the country, school districts are just getting around to updating decade old desktops and legacy software systems, so it's a stretch to imagine that we're anywhere near harnessing the power of a revolutionary technology.

That being said, forward-thinking school district should certainly experiment with the iPad and deluge of other tablets that are sure to follow, and start figuring out how they could be used.  This technology will be bigger and more beneficial to students then even the devices I already mentioned, or even commonly used devices like smartboards and LCD projectors.  We just aren't ready now, and neither is the technology.

Schools must also realize that the iPad signals what should be the death of the netbook.  The netbook was supposed to be the bridge between handheld devices and full-size PCs, but tablets are that bridge.  Spending money on them because they're cheaper and smaller than regular laptops is foolish and short-sighted.  Save your tech dollars for better tablet computers in the not-so-distant future.

Besides the long term shift to tablet computing, there's a couple of less-obvious changes I think will take place in the short term: Texas Instruments, Casio and other calculator makers are going to have to stop pushing obsolete technology on schools unless they want to get run out of the education business.  It's hard to be impressed by the bells and whistles of the TI-Nspire, for example, when teachers and students are carrying more powerful and cheaper devices in their pockets.

Video game companies don't face as dire a scenario, but they have to be aware of what the iPad represents in terms of competition.  Hopefully this will mean that Nintendo, Sony and their competitors will continue to work on making their existing devices into more than just game consoles.  They certainly have their act together better than the calculator guys, but everybody has to act fast.

In short, we should be a little excited.  But don't panic.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Engage Students in a Minute with Energizing Brain Breaks

It's hard to keep students engaged for the duration of a class period, no matter the length.  Teachers have some degree of influence based on their lesson plan, systems and procedures, and management skills.  Sometimes, though, teachers and students just need a mental break to get them refocused and reenergized.  That's where Energizing Brain Breaks by David Sladkey comes in.

David, who shares his ideas and resources at Reflections of a High School Math Teacher, has put together 50 fun, simple activities that stimulate the brain and body.  They only take a minute or two, so they won't take over your entire class period; in fact, they'll probably help keep your classes on track!

Each brain break involves students getting up and moving around while performing a task that engages different parts of the mind.  You can use them to break up long block periods, for transitions, or to jump start a low energy group whenever it's needed. 

The book is divided into activities for individuals, partners, or a group, so it's very flexible.  My favorite example is Rocks, Paper, Scissors, MATH:

You can see more videos of the activities in action at the Energizing Brain Breaks blog, along with several bonus breaks not included in the book.  Of course, the fun isn't limited to math by any means, and I believe these will work in any classroom, regardless of subject or grade level.  If this can engage high school students, imagine how well it would work with elementary or middle school kids!

Most importantly, the breaks involve no or little cost, prep, or materials.  Just flip to a page in the sturdy book (printed on card stock with a spiral binding) and get started. 

If I haven't convinced you to pick up a copy yet, here's the kicker: 25% of the profits on the book go to getting copies of Energizing Brain Breaks to schools that can't afford it, and another 25% goes towards building schools in Angola through the organization RISE International

Finally, I have two copies of the book to give away!  In the book, you're encouraged to create your own brain break, so that's exactly what we're going to do.  Take a look at the activities on the Energizing Brain Breaks blog, then write your own 1-2 minute activity that engages the body and mind.  It can be an individual, partner, or group exercise just like the ones in the book.  Email your ideas to by 11:59 pm Sunday 4/11/10.  Next week, I'll post the ideas of the two winners along with any other good ideas that come in.  Good luck!

Buy Energizing Brain Breaks

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Use a Dartboard to Review Geometry and Probability

This was posted on April 1st at Bluebird's Classroom as a April Fool's prank, with me taking the guise of Mrs. Bluebird herself.  Here it is in case you missed it:

Recently, I was inspired to turn Jenga into a real life math lesson after seeing what people were doing to it at one of my local haunts. So it should come as no surprise that I found another practial mathematical application using another popular game there: playing darts.

A dartboard is a beautiful and dense geometric figure, where finding the area of of each part would involve multiple steps beyond finding the area of a circle. That's great practice for standardized tests where students are challenged to do the same thing with much simpler figures. Then, of course, there's the probability aspect of actually playing the game--and you know how much I love probability games.

The activity I designed has two parts: geometry and probability. In order to find the theoretical probability of hitting different parts of the board, you need to know the area that you're aiming for out of the total area of the board. Finding the chances of hitting a certain region of a larger figure is another typical standardized test question, but again I think it's much more challenging than anything test authors might include.

So in Part I, students find the area of the entire board, the inner and outer rings, the inner and whole bullseye, and of each numbered section of the board. I had them leave their answers in terms of pi, because when they go on to probability, it will cancel out of their fractions. I also told students to put all of their answers as fractions or mixed numbers, because in this case it is better conceptually than resorting to decimals.

In Part II, things start out relatively easy, with students finding the probability of hitting particular parts of the board with any given throw. Then, the questions move into the chances of hitting one of several parts in a given throw--such as nailing 20-15 or the bullseye in the traditional game of cricket. The final few questions deal with compound probability, such as hitting the same numbered section on three consecutive throws.

This is a challenging but not impossible assignment, and I think the real life connection of this idea will help engage students in the work. It should be appropriate for a well-prepared Algebra I class, but certainly for Algebra II, Geometry and beyond. I also think math geeks would have fun playing around with this as well--I certainly did!

If you want another hook to get your students to take on the challenge, bring in an electronic or velcro dartboard as a reward for hard work afterward. Actually, now that I think about it, I'd love to have a dartboard in class at all times, and allow students to play if they could find the probability of hitting whatever they were aiming for before throwing!

Dartboard Geometry & Probability (PDF)
Key and Notes (PDF) 

You can find more ideas like this in Ten Cheap Lessons: Second Edition and the inspiration to create your own in my upcoming book, Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Puberty, Comedy, Security, Sweepstakes and Seth Godin [Five for Friday]

Puberty Makes You Stupid [mental_floss Blog] - I didn't need a scientific study to tell me that!

Increasing Number of Parents Opting to Have Children School-Homed [The Onion] - From the article: "According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home."

Keeping Security High Even When Budgets Are Low - Written in part by Bret Rachlin of Wren Solutions, who previously shared a guest post How Teachers Can Help Make Their School's Security a Priority.

Ultimate Summer Field Trip Sweepstakes [Discovery Student Adventures] - Parents can enter their kids (ages 10-18) and teachers can enter themselves to win a trip to Italy and Greece July 5-19, 2010.  Just become a fan of Discovery Student Adventures on Facebook before April 15, 2010 to enter.

What you can learn from a lousy teacher... [Seth Godin]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Reasonable" Math Problems

As I mentioned the other day, we have dived in headfirst to the "tough stuff" of the 3rd grade curriculum. Word problems, 2-step problems, and now, "Reasonable" problems. It's pretty ironic, but even with 4 years of high school math under my belt, 3 ½ years of college math and engineering, and 2 years of graduate school math and engineering, I had NEVER come across this type of math problem in my life until I started teaching 3rd grade.

Here's a typical problem:

Mr. Sutton buys 4 tools at the hardware store. The least expensive tool is $10, and the most expensive tool is $20. What is a reasonable total for all 4 tools?

In my opinion, Mr. Sutton should look at his receipt and find the exact prices of each tool and add them, or at least round them and add. This lowest and highest deal is silly. Yet teach it we must.

Oh, and there's also a second kind of reasonable question.

Suzy the Squirrel can bury 3 to 5 nuts every day. How many days will it take her to bury 40 nuts?

Nevermind the fact that I always have to stop and deal with giggle fits every year when we do this problem in class (the kids giggle, too. NUTS!), but I think this kind is more difficult than the first because it requires something beyond just adding to find a total.

Speaking of unreasonableness, I have been working on getting my honeymoon booked. My fiancé and I have decided upon Turks and Caicos (mostly just because it is incredibly fun to say), and a 5 night stay at an all-inclusive resort there. However, the airfare is redonkulous!! Almost 700 bucks per person! Of course, if it was some of my kids charging me airfare, it wouldn't be so bad, because 2 people at 700 dollars each would only be 702 dollars. Possibly even 698 dollars. However, in the real world, it's so much more than that.

Ideally, my book would win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest and the $15,000 prize that goes along with it. Realistically, though, that's probably not going to happen. Any chance everyone could encourage their friends and neighbors to buy a couple of copies of Learn Me Good? On the Kindle even?

Coach K has already come through and delivered on my request. Somehow I doubt he's going to come to the wedding, but at least he gave me my early present.

Is it still "reasonable" to think that Duke can win it all?