Math makes me nervous…

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Or perhaps I should now say “math used to make me nervous.”  Throughout my summer and my dabbling in the realm of mathematics, I have come to (somewhat) conquer my fear of math.  I have learned that “Math Anxiety” is a very really issue for many people.  I have done a little bit of research in the last few weeks regarding this concept.  First I would like to begin by explaining exactly what math anxiety is for all of you math-lovers out there: 

Math Anxiety: a phenomenon that is often considered when examining students’ problems in mathematics. Mark H. Ashcraft defines math anxiety as “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” (2002, p. 1). 

This “phenomenon” is something that all math teachers will eventually have to deal with.  Yep, I said it.  We will ALL have to deal with it at some time or another.  Many students are fearful of math.  It can be quite intimidating. I found an online test and took it to see if I had math anxiety at the beginning of the summer.  Sure enough, I did. Granted, not all of the questions applied to me, but even envisioning myself going to the board in math class made me feel slightly faint.  I hate being put on the spot, and I was always afraid when I was younger that I would get the question wrong and people would think I was stupid.  In fact, I have said many times that I’m “math stupid.” 

I’m putting this all out there because I think this is something that children should never be made to feel.  As educators it is our job to not only teach the material, but to do so in a way that empowers our students, not degrades them.  Because of this, I have put together a small list of things that I think all math teachers should do to help students overcome any fear of math they might have (regardless of the degree of anxiety):

1. Have a positive attitude! This seems pretty self-explanatory to me–be upbeat about what you are teaching!

2. Make it a game.  Use games to teach concepts.  This helps to take the pressure off of students.  It makes it fun!

3. Try not to put anyone on the spot. I know as teachers it is sometimes tempting to call on someone who never raises a hand to volunteer an answer.  I’ve been there.  I’ve (unfortunately) done that.  What I’ve found though, is that those students are usually the ones who suffer from math anxiety the most.  They need to be helped, not embarrassed. 

4. Offer extra help. This might sound obvious, but sometimes all it takes is a little bit of extra help with certain concepts to help students understand.  

5. Work through problems as an entire class. Am I saying that every problem should be worked out together as a large group? Nope.  Absolutely not.  I am, however, saying that at least one or two problems should be worked out before turning students loose.  It is also helpful to do one or two as a class, then allow students to do one or two in small groups (pairs perhaps), and then finally ask them to work individually so you can see who is struggling with the concept and help them out!

This list of helpful hints (at least I hope you find them helpful) is something that I try to keep in mind anytime I enter a math class.  I KNOW what it is like to be that student who dreads math class, hates math entirely, and uses my calculator for everything.  I try to make it my goal to never make any of my students feel the way that I felt growing up.  

Let me know if you have any tips or tricks that you use in your own classrooms for helping students through math anxiety! I’d love to add to my little list! 

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Awesome Educational Blogs

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I wanted to take a minute today to give you all a list of Educational blogs that I, personally, enjoy and find useful:

1. Learning Is Messy: This blog is all about how learning and teaching do not always follow a nice predictable pattern.  It’s a great reminder that sometimes things just don’t always go as planned, but what is important is that the children get it figured out in the end!

2. The Organized Classroom: This is a great resource for ideas on running an efficient and organized classroom.

3. The Polka-dotted Teacher: This teacher is super creative and gives lots of ideas about adding fun, color, and creativity to your own teaching.

4. Teach 123: This is a been-there-done-that teacher’s blog.  Michelle (the author) shares experiences and tips with other educators!

5. Kleinspiration: This teacher highlights uses in technology (she has a business background) and traditional teaching.  She is quite insightful.

I hope you enjoy these and please post your own favorites in the comments!

Common Core Standards in Wisconsin

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As parents and educators, we are all (hopefully) aware of the fact that the State of Wisconsin implemented the Common Core Standards (CC) this past school year. This was a big change for the school system, and one that has sparked a lot of controversy. While it is not my goal to upset any of my readers, I feel the need to share some of my thoughts and opinions regarding CC. All over the internet, it is possible to find lists of the wonderful things the CC will do for our children…it is ALSO possible to find lists of reason why people hate CC. I will start by saying that I can actually distance myself from this to some extent because my husband and I send our daughter to a Christian based private school and our son will eventually go there as well. Because the private schools do not have to follow these standards (even if the state adopted them), I feel like we have been let off the hook–thank goodness.

From my last statement, I’m sure you can all see that I am against the common core standards. This is not something that I say lightly, because there are definitely some positive things (ie: they are intended to make us more comparable to other countries; help teachers develop professionally; assessments are meant to help track an individual child’s progress versus comparing the child to his / her peers; students have to come up with their own ideas and defend them in these assessments rather than the standard multiple choice questions); however, the negative outweigh the positive in my opinion.

While I can see why some distort things to see a positive side, the negatives are deal-breakers for me. I’m completely against starting as early as pre-k with academic rigor. Children today do not have the same luxuries we had growing up and I vehemently oppose pushing them so hard at a young age. These standards also lead to more high-stakes testing when I think our kids are tested to death already. Students with special needs are not properly accommodated and there really is such a thing as too much technology. These standards would require schools to upgrade to all kinds of new technology and would make a lot of the current materials (books, etc.) outdated. I also don’t like that states that originally had higher standards than normal were forced to lower their standards so that they are all the same. There is just something wrong with that.

The CC is simply another governmental implementation that will eventually pass and another reform will begin. Just as the No Child Left Behind act was an epic fail, my predictions are that the CC standards will be left by the wayside as soon as new government enters the equation. Unfortunately, in the meantime, our children and educators will be the ones left to suffer the consequences of these standards.

Check out what these websites have to say about CC:

Pros and Cons of CC

For love of CC (This article is very pro CC, and I do not agree with it, but I figured I should share it with you all anyway!)

Backlash from CC

 

 

The Value of Money

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I have been workpiggybanking on a fun little
project lately that deals with teaching money values to students. Any grown individual can relate to the fact that money makes the world go round and the importance of knowing your money inside and out.  Money management cannot be achieved until money is understood in its most basic forms.  As always, everything I do comes back to the value (pun intended) it has to myself and my family. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have a five year old daughter who is learning about life and all that goes with it.

Within the last six months or so, we began explaining money values to our little girl.  We began with the penny and moved up from there to the nickel, dime, and quarter.  We then introduced the dollar.  I think it has helped her that she already knows how to tell time and that there are sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour (thus she understands that within one thing is another).  I used actual dollars and coins in the beginning and then we found a few fun money apps.  I also sing the “penny song” with her and play money bingo (which I’m not sure if I made up or not…I got the idea of money bingo from seeing a picture online, but didn’t bother to read the instructions and came up with my own method to play).  So, I’m not the first parent to play the game with her child, nor am I taking credit for being brilliant at inventing games.  This is how we play: I made bingo cards that have pictures of different coins and a one dollar bill as the “free space.”  I have a huge change jar and randomly draw coins out and she has to then place the coin on her playing card (if she has that coin available).   Whoever gets five across, diagonally, or vertically, first-wins.   After she got good at that game, I made new boards with the actual value in the place of pictures of the coins.  We played the same way, only she had to figure out what the value of each coin was.   This was a fun way for her to practice her money values! I try to incorporate learning into many aspects of our everyday lives.

Each summer we enjoy heading to farmers markets to purchase fresh produce.  This year I began giving my daughter a five or ten dollar bill when we arrive (what ever I have laying around in my wallet in cash).  I let her spend the money on whatever she wants at the market that day, but the catch is that she has to handle everything on her own (of course I’m there supervising and helping along the way).  Her first purchase is always easy (all she has to do is hand over the ten dollar bill), but the second and third (if she gets that far) are where she has to really start to think.  She gets to handle the exchange, count her money and make sure she is given the correct amount of change.  This has been an excellent source of education for our entire family.  My daughter sees why learning about money is so important and it also gives her a sense of pride when she gets to come home with a bag full of yummy goodies to show her dad!

Operating on a Level Playing Field

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As you all know by now (if not, check out my welcome post), I am taking an online course this summer. This week in math class was quite interesting for me.  My biggest issue with any kind of coursework is “what am I getting out of this?” or “How will this help me in the future?”  I like to know that what I’m doing is actually benefiting me in some way.  Busy work drives me absolutely bananas.  I’m pretty sure any parent out there can understand where I’m coming from with that statement (we all have enough things to do during the day without feeling like our time is being wasted on something that will not directly benefit us in the very near future).  The lessons from our text this week were completely valid.  I will admit that at first I thought it was going to be silly (I mean, why would we need to know what kind of numeration system ancient Egyptians used?!); however, about half way through the chapter, I decided that it was a great lesson for me to learn (maybe not the math itself, but the reasoning behind  the math.  Well-played, Chapter 3, well-played.

This week we worked on using the different math operations with different base numbers.  So, if our current numeral system works off a base ten (which it does), think about switching it up and trying to do addition or subtraction using a completely different base (ie: base 5 or base 2).  It took me a few tries to really wrap my brain around the concept.  The base ten system has been ingrained in my head for so long that I felt almost naked trying to operate off of a completely different system. A light bulb at this point went off and I realized that this is how students feel when we try to teach them something that is so natural to us.  This week I learned to put myself back in the shoes of my students and remember what it feels like for some of the concepts to not come quite so naturally.

I like to think about it as trying to explain to someone what exactly we’re doing when we’re chewing or swallowing food.  For most of us adults things like the number of minutes in an hour and the number of seconds in a minute are something we do not even need to think about anymore.  It’s natural –or at least it certainly should be for those of us even considering teaching America’s youth!  What if you had to explain to a child how to properly chew food?  Could you explain how to use your tongue to push the food around? When to know to swallow? How many times to chew? Which teeth to bite food off with versus which teeth should be used to grind the food up?  These are all things that come to us naturally at this point, but think about a six month old baby having her first experience with solid foods. Also think about having to explain it to someone for the very first time…it would be frustrating!  As a parent, do you hand the baby a grape and expect her to know exactly what to do with it? For your child’s sake, I certainly hope not!  We need to approach math with a similar thought process.  We need to ease our kids in and remember that this is all new for them.

I was surfing the net to see what kind of numeral systems are used around the world.  I was surprised that the whole concept of swapping base numbers is not just utilized in this course.  This is a very normal occurrence (similar to using a Fahrenheit / Celsius conversion…which if you have ever spent any time in Europe at all, you will know is something definitely worth knowing)!  It is an excellent example of taking ourselves out of our comfort zones to understand where our students are coming from.

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Real-Life Applications…

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Hello and welcome to mathisfunforeveryone.  As stated in the heading, this blog is for an online math course I am taking this summer which is aimed at teachers and future teachers.  This week we have been working on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers.  I have to say that I enjoyed this week a lot more than the first, simply because I found a real-life application.

I have a little girl who is just beginning to learn about the concept of doing “math.”  We are obviously starting with addition, and this weeks readings, videos and homework has been fun for me mainly because I have been able to apply it to helping my daughter. A lot of what we worked on in the course (properties, models, sets, etc.) is much too advanced my little one; however, the main concept of showing students-through the use of manipulatives- how the math breaks down has been extremely helpful for us at home.

During my mini-lessons with my daughter, we have been using candy (something she definitely relates to and loves) to learn how to add small numbers.  I give her a handful of candy and we work on “If I have three pieces of candy and you give me 2 more, how many pieces of candy do I have now?”  She caught on very quickly and I was able to introduce equations and show her how they relate to the pieces of candy we had started out using. I picked up some fun worksheets here that really helped us along.  I was very pleased with seeing such quick results from such a fundamental concept through this week’s assignment.  I even decided to download a new math app on my phone and tablet that lets her practice her addition complete with music and an applause when she gets the answers correct.

In short, the thing I hope to gain most from this course is the real-life application of the concepts we’re learning.  Math is such an abstract form to so many people (truthfully, myself included), that I really hope to find a way to make it more user-friendly.  This week was a great start for this and I really hope that I will be able to continue with this! As any parent knows, things generally seem more worthwhile when you can find a way to use it to help your own kids out!Image