Getcher Epic Pi Day T-shirt Here!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Pi Day Shirt on Zazzle

Pi Day Shirt on Zazzle

Hot off the presses, a new design is available to celebrate Pi Day 2015! Order soon to get yours in time, or order yours later to commemorate the fact you were there.

They could also make great prizes for Pi Day celebrations, drawings, or math fairs! Shirts in many colors, mugs, hats, even baby-wear and ties are available.

Free Downloadable Pi Poster

Free Downloadable Pi Poster

If you would just like a freebie, download my Pi Poster. And for classroom activities, visit this site to get them for $1.99.

Happy Epic Pi Day!!

Meet me at NYSCATE!

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

I’m excited to be presenting at NYSCATE on Tuesday morning, the last session of the conference. Even more exciting, my session is receiving a lot of attention; looks like we’ll have a packed house!

I’ll be showing off Eureka, Common Core, Inc.’s excellent interface for the New York State math curriculum. I’ll also be demonstrating a number of apps and a few websites that can be useful in conjunction with common core math. Hope to see you there, but if not, check here for links to handouts and apps!

Also, the reason for the long quiet on my blog is that I’ve been busy writing curriculum for A Story of Units, the New York elementary math curriculum. Now that this is winding to a close, I’ll have more time for other things, like this website. Let me know if I can help you!

Quick Tip for Teachers: Organize Your Manipulatives

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

One of the biggest challenges many teachers face when adopting a manipulative-heavy math curriculum, where pretty much every lesson starts with a hands-on component, is how to manage the pieces without sacrificing half the lesson time. Here is one way that may help.pencil case number disks

1. Buy, or ask each parent to buy, as many extra pencil cases as you need for the manipulatives. These cases are usually inexpensive, $1 each or less. Make sure you ask for the kind with the window and for three-ring binders.

2. Have a set of number disks (or color tiles, or play money, or whatever) per child. Sort the parts into plastic baggies if there are a lot of them, or just put them in together.

3. Use a permanent marker to label the pencil case with each child’s name.

4. Keep all the pencil cases in an easily-accessible place, so when it’s time to use that manipulative, each child, or classroom helpers, can easily find and distribute them.

5. Make each child responsible for putting his/her manipulatives back into the pencil case.

End result: hours of prep work and many classroom minutes lost reduced to just a few minutes of taking out and putting back!

Some teachers may want to group each child’s pencil cases onto a book ring, using the grommet holes in the pencil case. Others may want to place all of the same kind of manipulative into organizing baskets for distribution during a lesson.

Have other great classroom organizing or time-saving ideas? Post them in the comments below!

Singapore Math Cheat Sheet: Starting a Child Mid-Year

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

A teacher recently asked me a question: “What do I do with the student who is strong enough in his math concepts, but he has no idea about Singapore Math approaches like number bonds, and he starts our school late in the year?”

For her and other teachers in the same boat, I’m making this “cheat sheet,” which is targeted at elementary school children who start mid-year in Math in Focus or Primary Mathematics.

1. Number Bonds

Number bonds show the ways in which numbers relate to each other. They can also be thought of as “part-whole” pictures, in which you see two or more parts that make up a whole.

To catch a child up with these, you can try one of several things.

a) Sit with the child and a laminated number bond page, and write number bonds in them. Ask the child to create number sentences (equations) from the number bonds. Then have the child fill in the missing number in a number bond with a part, or the whole, missing.


number bond graphic

Whole with two parts

Number sentences:

4 + 6 = 10

6 + 4 = 10

10 – 4 = 6

10 – 6 = 4

With practice, the child will realize that all these facts are related, and that subtraction starts with the whole minus one part, while addition is made of two parts forming a whole. I’ve found it can help students who are struggling with subtraction, especially with those problems missing the whole, for example _____ – 7 = 5. Rewriting these as a number bond can assist the child to see that the whole is what is missing, so she needs to add the two parts.

An article that explains number bonds more in depth can be found at Let’s Play Math.

b) Have the child play number bond games. One of the best I have found is called Number Bonds. It is available for both addition/subtraction and multiplication/division. See my review of these games here.

c) Play other games that involve number bonds. Addition War and Subtraction War, which are outlined in this PDF, are both fun games children love. You can customize them to this need by having the student write the problems that turn up on the cards on a laminated number bond sheet with a dry-erase marker, which will show you how much the child understands about number bonds.

2. Model Drawing

Another feature of the Singapore approach to teaching math that is new to many US teachers in model drawing for problem solving. This is a powerful visual approach, and with practice, it becomes much faster than other ways of solving word problems.

A great resource to learn about model drawing is at To practice free problems using the model drawing approach, head on over to There are also videos on that site that explain the approach, and free iPad apps are available for four different types of word problems here.

For a new student when you don’t have much time to give one-on-one attention, set her up on Thinking Blocks to help her understand how to use this.

3. Place value

The Singapore approach places a heavy emphasis on place value. Many other programs do too, but not all, so you may find this lacking in a new student.

Again, considering that teachers may be too busy to spend a lot of one-on-one time with students, I am providing several electronic resources to teach this.

a) NLVM has some good resources for teaching place value. They require Java to run and can be used on a computer or interactive white board, or you can download their app that doesn’t require Java. Here are links to:

b) Here is an Illuminations lesson plan to play a place value card game.

c) A good iPad app for modeling with place value blocks is Number Pieces.

d) If you do have the time, make your own place value chart and use money or place value blocks to represent tens, ones, and other places your student may be learning. This will help a great deal with his number sense.


That wraps it up for this article, but if you have other questions, suggestions or issues, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll update the article as needed. Thanks for reading!



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