More Math Apps for iPad: Singapore Math and Common Core

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

It’s been a while since my last post on iPad apps, and in the meantime a lot has happened. For one thing, I have downloaded and tried quite a number of math apps. I’m going to start a round-up of some of the most useful apps as I have time.

number bondsFirst up: exciting news! The Number Bond software, that I lamented being only on Mac or PC for so long, is now ported to iOS. As far as I can tell, having downloaded only the addition/subtraction version, it’s pretty much exactly the same as the computer version.

This has its pros and cons. Pros: the familiar interface, its simplicity, and the fact that it does one thing – it teaches number bonds at different levels. Cons: In light of the outstanding, more powerful software out there, it takes advantage of very few of these features. For example, it is not adaptive, meaning the difficulty does not change with the user’s proficiency. It also does not save user data, something the better educational software is doing (as I’ll discuss later), even emailing it weekly to the parent or teacher if desired. It also has a few bugs to iron out, which I’m sure will happen soon.

So would I recommend it? Yes, as a practice tool for a child at home or as a station in the classroom – but I would love to see it get more developer attention and become more powerful.

Download Number Bonds: Addition & Subtraction to 99

Next up: AL Abacus

For anyone teaching/homeschooling with Singapore Math or a Common Core curriculum, such as Eureka Math, or working with a child with a math learning disability, you will find  that the Slavonic Abacus, or Rekenrek, is incredibly useful for teaching number sense and place value. It breaks down numbers into groups of five and ten, which are easy to manipulate mentally, not least because our hands are right in front of us since we are in the womb, with five fingers each (otherwise known as digits!). While having the concrete manipulative is ideal for sensory feedback, sometimes teachers want to project the abacus to a group, or show a demonstration to a small group. This is where the iPad version, AL Abacus, comes in.

AL Abacus to 100This app is a Slavonic Abacus with two modes. The first is the side with numbers to 100. To access this side, hold the abacus in landscape (horizontal) mode. When all the beads are to the right, it is like pressing “C” (or Clear) on a calculator. To reset all the beads, just tilt the iPad to the left – exactly like on a real abacus. Just slide single or groups of beads to the left to add, subtract, multiply, or divide within 100.

AL Abacus to 1000sThe second side is accessed by turning the iPad to portrait, or vertical, orientation. In this mode, you can work with numbers to 1000, with different columns of beads representing the different place values. This can be a very powerful, easy tool for computing whole numbers through the thousands. To reset the beads, just lift the iPad up, and the beads all fall to the bottom.

Incidentally, this second side was designed by Dr. Joan Cotter, who did her doctoral dissertation using it. Her website, with additional resources, including how to use the AL Abacus, is http://rightstartmath.com/resources/.

This is an almost perfect representation of a physical version of the abacus. There are only two things missing, in my view: the sound of the beads clicking together, which would be great sensory feedback.

Download AL Abacus – Activities for Learning, Inc.

Since this tool is new to many people, here are some other resources besides just the iPad version.

Do you have other ideas or resources for teaching number bonds or using the Rekenrek? Post them in the comments!

Let’s Write a Comic!

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Would you like a fun summer writing project to do with your child? Why not create a comic?comic

Comics and graphic novels are legitimate forms of art and writing, and for visual people, they can be more accessible or relatable. And they require thought and good design to be interesting.

This spring, a girl I’ve been tutoring in writing for years made one with my help. First, we wrote the storyboard. Then we laid it out in ComicBook!, an iPad app, with dialogue embedded in bubbles we would edit later to fit the photos. Finally, we took the photos to fit the storyline, editing them with effects to make them look like a comic book.

Not only was the student completely engaged every step of the way, but her younger brother was almost addicted to the process. If we didn’t produce a page that week, he pestered her all week until our next session.

We completed the comic in our last session of the summer, and her parents agreed to let me post it here for your enjoyment. Please leave a comment if you would like to know more about the process, or if you create one of your own!

View or download The Danger of Being Bored! here (PDF, ~9 MB).

New Parent Workshop: Understanding Math Education

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Over my time as a math teacher, I’ve met hundreds of parents and teachers who all came to me with the same fundamental need: “I don’t feel good at math or confident enough to help my child (or students).” We rarely hear this from parents about literacy – everyone knows it starts with reading to your child – which speaks to the gap in our culture between literacy and numeracy.

Teaching Singapore Math and training teachers in it for years has deepened my understanding of how math works in ways I would never have believed possible. While previously I was just “good at” math, the subject now reveals its magic to me on a daily basis. I love the “ah-ha!” moments when a previously mystifying concept comes to light in a child’s – or adult’s – mind.

Reaching adults hasn’t always been easy, though. I’ve played with the idea of offering online courses, but I haven’t had the blocks of time to devote to setting this up, plus it seems impersonal to me. Professional development courses in schools are expensive and available only to teachers, while many parents long to be able to help their children, especially if they homeschool.

This led to the idea of offering local workshops. We are piloting one at Think on Hudson on May 18 from 2-5 PM. It will be limited to 20 participants, and Garry, the CEO, will be offering free child care and perhaps classes for the children. I am keeping the cost minimal so everyone who wants to can attend.

May is a very busy time, and not everyone will get to attend. Therefore, assuming it goes well, I am planning to offer access to the video of the workshop and the booklet at a discounted price afterwards. If there is enough interest, I may even offer it live via Google Hangout.

Please register here if you are interested. You can also see the Facebook event here. We would love for you to come!

Pi Day: Pi Music and Classroom Activities

Monday, February 4th, 2013

With March (and spring!) right around the corner, many teachers are already thinking about celebrating Pi Day, or March 14. This is a great day to celebrate how much fun math can be.

I was inspired all over again by this music video using Pi to make music.

 

pi posterIf you would like to make Pi Day fun for your students, there are lots of fun ideas in this lesson plan, available from Teachers Pay Teachers for $1.99.

I also offer a free downloadable Pi Poster showing almost 1,500 digits of pi. My students always love these. Enjoy!

Why Long Division Makes No Sense

Saturday, March 5th, 2011


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One of my favorite humor bloggers is Allie Brosh, author of Hyperbole and a Half. I’ve been catching up on reading her posts lately, and this one caught my eye tonight: Hyperbole and a Half: Long Division Isn't Real. (If you visit the link, just be forewarned that she uses the f-word once in her post.)

This is how she describes her mom’s attempt to teach her long division in fourth grade, the year Allie was homeschooled. (Her actual post contains an awesome drawing about it too, so visit it if you can):

My mom was like “First, you draw a line with a little hang-y tail!  Then you write the big number inside the little half-box.  Then you write the little number on the outside!  Now, divide the the little number into the littlest part of the big number that is at least as big as the little number.  It probably won’t fit exactly, but that’s okay.  Figure out how many times it fits all the way and write that number on top of the box.  Now, write the number that the little number does fit into underneath the number that it doesn’t fit into and subtract them.  Then draw a line.  Then write your answer under the line.  Then bring the next number in the big number down next to the number you just wrote.  Then hop on one foot and punch yourself in the face while singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star… “

Does that sound familiar?

That’s the pitfall of trying to teach the “how” of long division before the student understands the concept.

Teaching students division the Singapore way – by starting with place value disks and understanding what division is, working with the concept, and gradually connecting it with the algorithm, along with learning alternative ways of dividing – has been a life (mind?) saver for my students learning to divide.

Do you have a story about long division?

NaNoWriMo Begins!

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010


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Yesterday was the first day of NaNoWriMo, and it began with a bang. My group has seven bright, eager children in it, and we all dove in to our writing projects yesterday.

NaNoKids 2010

Prior to that, we had a couple of meetings in which we worked on character development, understanding what plot is, setting expectations, and deciding on word count goals. I think my students from previous years underestimated their abilities yet again, if yesterday was any measure; they seem to grow their ability to write fluently almost exponentially each year. I’m impressed.

Even more impressive, one of our new members, a second grader, outstripped everyone in word count during a word war or two. This was the same little girl who couldn’t even get started at first. She was so excited and proud by the time her mother came to pick her up.

Like every year, I write alongside the students, and we all share excerpts from our writing in progress. Last year, however, I was writing a children’s book, while this year I’m writing an adult thriller. This means my word count will need to be higher, and I won’t be able to share all of it with the children. I’m also less enthusiastic about the subject matter; it was a plot idea that came to me months ago, and it’s just not as alive in me now. I started without any idea of characters, settings, or even specific plot ideas, so it was really stretching to get anything down.

On the bright side, though, I did reach over 1,700 words last night, the minimum to accomplish 50,000 words in a month, and the story wheels started spinning in the shower this morning. So maybe it will take on a life of its own yet again.

The write-ins are such motivators to get the ball rolling that I’m glad we held a meeting this Monday. We will meet again on Friday for those who want to get together. Be in touch if you’d like to join – it’s not too late!

Video: Singapore Math Training for Parents

Monday, September 27th, 2010


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If you are a parent who is interested in how Singapore Math works, but you don’t have time to attend a training session or do a lot of reading about it, here is a resource for you. This school recorded a session in which their parents were taught how this program works and how to support their children. Part 1 of the videos is here; click the video to go to Youtube to view the other parts.

        
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