Monday, April 23, 2012

Math Confusion

      My idea for Math Confusion came from the fitness craze, Cross Fit. The goal with Cross Fit is to do many different activities in a short amount of time, switching it up so that your muscles never know what is coming next. You work out your arms, then do cardio, then do abs, then do legs...and repeat as many times as you are able to make it through the circuit. It makes your muscles stronger and burns more calories because the muscles are working harder when the exercises are not repetitive.

     So as we were coming back from a field trip one day, I thought about using the same idea for a math review. Math Confusion uses the same idea as Cross Fit. Students work on lots of different math concepts in a short amount of time. They rotate from station to station working on place value, fractions, multiplication, addition… They get 2 minutes at each station and must try to get as many questions right as possible. The Confusion continues until time is up. The goal is for students to make it through the circuit as many times as they can in the time allowed and to get as many cards right at each station as possible.

I created 11 stations 2 place value, 2 addition, 2 subtraction, 2 multiplication, 2 fraction, 1 number forms. I printed the circuit (instruction) card and activity cards on card stock and laminated them for safe keeping. I folded the circuit card in half and added Velcro to the inside to make a little pocket for the cards to fit in. All 11 stations fit nicely into a gallon Ziploc bag. 

I set the stations up so that none of the same skills are side by side, hence the CoNfUsIoN! Here is an example of how I set up the stations: 

Next I divide the students into groups of 2. Each group rotates from station to station spending 2 minutes at each station. There are 32 activity cards at each stations so it is rare for any group to finish a station before time is called. 

Here is how I explain the confusion to the students:
There are stations set up around the room. At each station, there is a set of cards face down. I am going to assign you to stations where you will sit and wait until I say go. When I say go, you are to turn over the first card and write, down the answer as quickly as you can. After you have written down the answer, turn the card upside down and check to see if you got it right. Remember, don’t cheat. If you cheat your muscles (brain) want get any bigger (smarter). If you get it right, put it off to the side. If you get it wrong, put it back into the deck of cards on the bottom. When I say stop, you must stop writing and count the cards you got right. Then place all the cards back in the deck face down, and return the station to how it was when you started. Do not rotate to the next station until I give the signal. When I give the signal, rotate to the next station. Sit down and don’t touch anything until I say to start. Remember, the goal is to get as many right at each station as you can and to get around to every station. Are there any questions?

This was one of the best reviews I have ever done in my classroom. It reviewed every concept in Numbers and Operation in less than a 30 minute period. Check it out at my TpT store! Download the free preview, or get it to use in your classroom. I was so pleased, and I am going to soon begin working on the Geometry, Measurement, and Algebra versions. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

K-5 Learning Review

I recently had the awesome opportunity to review a great learning program: K5 Learning. K5 Learning ( is an online reading and math program for kids from kindergarten through grade 5. Our intent is to help kids build reading, math and study skills through independent study. K5 is designed for home use and can be used for after-school, weekend and summertime supplemental study or in conjunction with a homeschooling program.

K5 Learning - Main Logo 400 pxHow it Works
Kids complete an online assessment of 8 key reading and math skills, and then work independently at their own pace through over 3,000 online lessons and activities. The lessons are animated, interactive and simple enough that a 4-5 year old can use them independently. We automatically choose lessons for students (based on their assessment and past lessons), track student progress and provide reports for parents.

Benefits for Kids
K5 helps kids learn essential reading and math skills, develop good study habits, and fulfill their academic potential.

Benefits for Parents
K5 makes life easier for parents by allowing for effective, independent study by kids. Simplified interfaces, automatic lesson selection, student tracking and reporting all contribute to minimize the amount of daily supervision required.

When you first sign up, there are several helpful videos to get you started. They introduce you to the program, guide you through setting up assessments, and are there to answer any questions that may arise as you use the program.

I used the program with my 7 year old second grader, my 4 year old Pre-K student, and my 8 year old niece who is also in the second grade. I started with my children. Both are above grade level. My 7 year old is currently in the gifted program. After seeing how much they enjoyed the program, I signed my niece up. She struggles in math, so I knew the extra practice would be good for her.

All of the girls enjoyed the program. They liked the graphics and interactions the best. The games at the end of each lesson were an added incentive. However, they sometimes got bored with them because, even though they were great games, they seemed to be the same games over and over again.

I noticed all of the girls grew stronger in math and reading over the 6 week period that we utilized the program. My pre-k student impressed me the most by how much knowledge she gained in phonics and reading. I was worried that the lessons were going to be too hard for her but she seemed to really enjoy them. In fact, she was the one who constantly reminded me that it was time to practice her reading and math. I think she will be sad that our trial period is over.

I enjoyed the fact that my children could log into the program and start a lesson without any assistance from me. It was something they could do while I was working, and whereas the lessons did challenge them, they were easy enough for them to complete on their own.

I do wonder what standards the leveling is based on. When the assessment comes back and says that my Pre-K student is on a 1st grade level when it comes to phonics, what standards are they using to base this level on. Of course, that is the teacher in me coming out.

Speaking of being a teacher, this program would be extremely beneficial in after school programs and home school situations. It provides independent practice, support for students who are struggling with concepts, acceleration, and review with extra practice.

A few changes I would make would be that the assessments should be automatic. You should not have to request them. Before a child ever starts the program, they should be assessed in order to be placed on the appropriate level. There should also not be a limit on the grade levels above where a child is. For instance, my second grader scored on a 4th grade level in several areas but the program would not put her on that level unless I requested it. This resulted in her being bored a few times.

Something I would like to see added to K5 Learning would be an incentive program. This would be great and extremely motivating. It could be like a virtual bulletin board where they can pin their completions of levels and tests and print out certificates and awards for their successes.

This program is definitely something I would encourage parents to obtain for their children. It is a little pricey but the benefits definitely out weigh the costs.

My Pre-K student said, "It is very good! I like it a lot. I love reading now. It is my favorite part, but math is a little hard. And thanks for letting us use it."

My second grader said, "I like it because you can go to a spelling bee and it lets you read non-fiction and fiction books. You can also go to math and reading. On math, you can count, round, add, subtract, and lots of things."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Show What They Know

We are taking the CRCT (Criterion Reference Competency Test) this week and next. This is the test that the state of Georgia uses at the end of each year to determine if students have mastered what they should in order to move to the next grade. Third graders must pass the reading portion and fifth graders must pass reading and math. Needless to say, there is  a lot of stress placed on teachers and students alike.

I am not going to even get started on my feelings about the injustices of basing a child's pass or fail on one test given on one day where any one thing could have thrown the child off for the whole day. What I am going to do is share some tips and great videos we found to pump our kids up for the test.

One thing I do to motivate my students is to give them a ticket the day before the test. The ticket has my "Fab Five" test taking strategies:
1. Read Carefully
2. Circle key words
3. Prove it!
4. Take your time
5. Check, check, check...and check again

Each day students have the chance to get 2 stickers (1 for each section of the test). If they use our strategies, they get a sticker. If they don't, they get...nothing. One the final day of the test, we have a celebration in the afternoon. There is a movie, popcorn, dessert, and coke. They get the following for their stickers:
6 Stickers=Just the movie
7 Stickers=Movie and popcorn
8 Stickers=Movie, popcorn, and coke
9-10 Stickers=Movie, popcorn, coke, and dessert
Not getting a sticker one time, does amazing things for motivating a student to change their tune about not doing their best.
Download my card free.

These helped to calm them down and actually get pumped up for the test.

I play these before school starts as students are coming in. They sing along and enjoy the lyrics, which help them to remember test taking tips. Then after the morning announcements and a trip to the bathroom, we mediate and calm our nerves with a visualization video. I found a great one on Youtube and you can see it below. After the video, the students are calm, focused, motivated, and ready to Show What They Know!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Detecting Key Words

To go along with my Wonderful Problem Solving PowerPoint presentation, I have created a packet of Key Word goodies. This packet has everything you need to ensure that students completely understand how to use key words in problem solving. It includes an attractive Key Word poster.

It also has a blank graphic organizer for students to fill in and student and teach notes. It uses acrostics and other mnemonic devices to help students remember the key words for addition, subtraction, and multiplication problem solving. There are 4 different printables which focus on addition key words, subtraction key words, multiplication key words, and a mix of key words. These also include word problems for students to solve. 

The final part of the packet is a Key Word game, which asks partners to sort word problems into the operations of addition, subtraction, and multiplication. It includes 24 word problem cards, which partners are to read and decide together which operation the key word is asking them to perform. 

You can download a preview of the packet or purchase it at my TpT store.