Back to School Activities
Always looking for new ideas for the beginning of the year? Me too!
I've got a few for you and your students, for when you head back to school!
The Name Game
I used this game for many years.....many times I'd plan not to, but then I couldn't stand not knowing kids' names right away, so we'd play:-) Students and I get into a big circle, and I ask students to come up with an adjective that describes them and begins with the same sound as the beginning of their first name, like 'Energetic Ellie." The first student to my left shares his/her name; the 2nd student repeats the 1st student's name and then shares his own. The third student repeats the first two names/adjectives, and adds her own. The activity continues in this way around the circle until we get to me, and I get to repeat all the names.
This game helps me to get to know all the students' names during the first class session. It also helps me learn about the students - it tells me who seems to have a good memory and who has more difficulty. I can see who appears to be confident and who is more hesitant; who's willing to accept help (I always prompt if they want/need) and who isn't. And of course, their adjectives usually tell me something about them:-)
Getting to Know You Truth or Dare
Truth or Dare - kids are intrigued when they hear the name! “Math Truth or Dare – Getting to Know You” is a set of 30 questions you can use to get to know your students and to help your students get to know each other.
There are 15 “Truth” question cards and 15 “Dare” question cards. Most of them do not have a “correct” answer, so if more than 15 students choose to answer a “truth” question or a “dare” question, then the questions can be used again.
The Truth questions ask about the students, while the Dare questions ask students to complete math computations (some of the computations are based on facts about the student, so these can also be used again, as students’ answers may be different.) You can grab this freebie on TPT or as part of the free download if you opt in for my email updates.
A Fun Way to Check Multiplication Problems
How often have you gone to a conference and been super-impressed by what a speaker shared? Has it happened often? It happened to me when I went to a conference as a very new teacher (in my second year, I believe), more than 20 years ago. At that conference, I was lucky enough hear Dr. Lola May speak. She was a great presenter, and certainly made an impression on me. I still have the book that was given at that conference and have referred to it many times over the years.
It was at this conference that I first learned how to use "casting out nines" to check the answers to multiplication and division problems. I had never heard of this method when I was a student, but being a new teacher, I kind of assumed it was a method well-known to other teachers.....
For Teacher Appreciation week, I created two FREE problem solving math wheels (they are in the same PDF file) - they can be used to teach problem solving strategies, be used as a center activity, or be used as a finished early activity. When complete, they can be added to students' binders/interactive notebooks to be used as references all year.
I hope you can use them! Just click the image to download.
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How often have you taught fraction division to your students only to find them "flipping" the wrong number? You may have taught them to "skip, flip, flip," "invert and multiply," or "multiply by the reciprocal." You may have listed out the steps, or taught them a nifty song, but somehow they still flip the wrong one or they forget to flip at all.
OR they change a mixed number into an improper fraction and seem to subconsciously think that since they did something to that mixed number, the flipping had already occurred...and then they don't flip anything.
Why does this happen? I'm going to say that it happens because they don't see the sense in it - it doesn't mean anything to them.
So, I started using another way to teach fraction division - perhaps you've heard of it, or you use it. I never learned it this way as a student, but I like it and it makes more sense to some students. I learned this method when I had a student teacher a few years back. She was teaching the fraction unit, and when her supervisor came in to observe and discuss, she asked if I had ever taught fraction division using common denominators. Having only learned (and then taught) to multiply by the reciprocal, of course I said no.
The next time she visited, she brought me a page from a textbook that explained dividing fractions using common denominators. These are the steps:
Step 1: Find common denominators, just as when adding and subtracting and then make equivalent fractions (students are already used to doing this - hopefully).
Step 2: Create a new fraction with the numerator of the first fraction over the numerator of the second fraction...this is your answer.
Done (unless you need to reduce)!
I was shocked - it seemed SO simple!
Check out this example - it's a simple one, for starters:
5/6 divided by 2/3.
1) Find the common denominator of 6 and 3, which is 6. This gives you 5/6 divided by 4/6.
2) The first numerator (5) becomes the numerator in the answer. The second numerator (4) becomes the denominator. Then reduce.
Let's look at another one, with mixed numbers:
1 and 4/7 divided by 1 and 3/4.
1) Convert the mixed numbers to improper fractions, which gives you 11/7 divided by 7/4.
2) Find the common denominator of 28 and make equivalent fractions. This gives you 44/28 divided by 49/28.
2) The first numerator (44) becomes the numerator in the answer. The second numerator (49) becomes the denominator. No reducing, in this case.
I've shown both methods to my sixth-graders. Some really like it. Others stick to the flipping method - but I don't know if this is because they like it better or because it was the first way they learned it.....most of them had been taught something about fraction division in 5th grade.
As far as teaching multiplying by the reciprocal - if students are going to use it, I think it's important that they understand WHY it works. It may be tough for them to understand, but if they learn the common denominator method first, the proof may then make more sense to them. I found a great article on the NCTM website that uses the common denominator method to prove why multiplying by the reciprocal works - check it out!
Recently I made two math wheels, to use to teach both methods of dividing fractions -taking notes will be more fun!
What do you think? Do you see any advantages or disadvantages to teaching fraction division using common denominators?
Grab this free fraction operations math wheel!
I love teaching fraction multiplication--particularly multiplication of mixed numbers. Why? Because I have fun explaining why multiplying mixed numbers DOESN'T work a certain way.
Inevitably, when we start multiplying mixed numbers, some students want to multiply the fractions by the fractions and then multiply the whole numbers by the whole numbers. And I can see why they might think that's ok - after all, when you add and subtract, you deal with the whole numbers and fractions separately. Sometimes, I think they don't want to be bothered with making improper fractions, because it's "easier" to just do 2 x 3 and then 3/4 x 1/2, haha.
So, every year, we end up having this discussion about why that just doesn't work. I enjoy showing/explaining that multiplying 2 3/4 by 3 1/2 means that ALL parts of 2 3/4 must be multiplied by ALL parts of 3 1/2. On the board, we make a list of the problems that would need to be completed: 2 x 3, 2 x 1/2, 3/4 x 3, and 3/4 x 1/2.
Now that we have all four products, we go through the process of adding them all together (finding common denominators, equivalent fractions,etc) and then reducing.....quite a bit of work to get to the answer:-)
Then we compare that to what we get when we convert the mixed numbers to improper fractions. The detailed example of completing four multiplication problems and adding the products proves not only that converting to improper fractions is necessary, but also that it's a lot faster! So, Tip #1 is to show students WHY what they're doing isn't correct...show what the multiplication really means.This may also mean bringing out the graph paper and showing what 3/4 groups of 1/2 looks like, etc, in addition to doing the computation.
Canceling, or "Crossing Out"
Tip #2 - Teach students to cancel, or "cross out" (or whatever you might call it), and show them why it makes life a little easier.
I love teaching this aspect of fraction multiplication. It's hard for some students to grasp at first, but when they repeatedly see that if they don't cross out, they have to reduce at the end of the problem (with larger numbers, like 168/12), they start getting excited about finding how much they can cross out. In recent years, I've found that students aren't learning this in earlier grades as often as they used to--for many, the discussion we have in my classroom is the first time they've encountered it.
Once I teach them the idea of reducing first, and we explore why it works, there are some that still want to stick with what they learned in earlier grades and reduce only at the end, while others get super-excited about the concept of making the numbers they're working with smaller at the start. I may be wrong on this, but it seems that the students who embrace it first are those who know their multiplication facts better and can more easily find the relationships between the numbers in the problem....a student who knows that 15 and 24 can both be divided by 3, for example, is more likely to go ahead and divide them by 3 than the student who can't see it because they can't remember/don't know what 15 and 24 are divisible by.
Multiplying Fractions and Mixed Numbers Wheel
Tip #3 - Give students a graphic organizer to help them remember the process. Some will need this and some won't, but it's handy to have in their binders to reference throughout the year. I recently created a fun math wheel, which is a great way to have students take notes about the concept, practice it, and then add their own personal, artistic touches.
Do you have any special methods you use to teach the multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers?
Grab this free fraction operations math wheel!
Teaching Percent of Number
When teaching students to find the percent of a number (or the part or whole), I introduce two different ways to find the missing number - using proportions and using equations. Since different students often prefer different methods, I teach both, have them practice both, and then let them choose the one they like better. I've given an example of each method below.
The Percent of a Number Wheel shown here includes both methods. Each section of the wheel includes an equation and two examples, with room to solve using both methods. There's also a little room on the wheel (or around it) to add extra notes or your own examples, if you'd like. Around the wheel are a few practice problems that can be completed together or individually.
Method 1: Proportion
1) Substitute the given values into the %/100 = IS/OF proportion. Use a variable for the missing number.
2) Solve the proportion to find the missing value.
Example: What is 15% of 70?
Method 2: Equation
1) When given the percent, change it to a decimal.
2) Substitute the given values into the equation. Use a variable for the missing number.
3) Solve the equation.
* If finding the percent, be sure the answer is in percent form (multiply the decimal answer by 100).
Example: What is 15% of 70?
part = % ∙ whole
x = 0.15 ∙ 70
x = 10.5
When we work with the equations, I do manipulate the equations to show students how they are all versions of the same basic equation.
For example, if we start with part = % ∙ whole and we're looking for the whole (say the part is 35 and the percent is 25), we end up with
35 = 0.25 ∙ x. From solving algebraic equations, students know that to
find x, both sides will be divided by 0.25, which gives them
x = 35/0.25
(whole = part/%)
If you decide to use the wheel, I hope you and your students like it!
If you're looking for more percent of a number resources, check out the Percent of a Number Center Resources on TPT.
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I'm really liking the math wheel idea, so I created a new wheel for fraction, decimal, percent conversions:-)
How to use this resource (this information is also in the free download):
Around the outside of the wheel are the different conversion headings – you can use the wheel to introduce the conversions, filling in just the ones you are covering each day. Or, you can use it to review all the conversions at once. In either case, the wheel can be kept in students’ notebooks as a reference/study tool.
1) I like to begin with decimal to percent and percent to decimal. In the arrows in these sections, you’ll see x 100 and ÷ 100. It think it’s important that students understand that these are the operations being used for these conversions before giving them a shortcut, so I let them use calculators to complete the examples. Once the examples are complete, I ask the students to look for the pattern – what happens to the decimal point in each of these cases?
We decide on the “shortcut” rules together and then write them at the bottom of those sections.
2) The fraction to percent and fraction to decimal sections have the rules written already, so the examples just need to be completed.
I always relate fraction to percent to students grades. By the time we get to this topic during the year, students have been figuring out their grades for months (I never write their percentages on their assessments – they need to calculate
them). They know how to find their percentage if their quiz grade was 6/8 or their test was 48/52. However, sometimes they need a reminder that this official fraction to percent “rule” is the same thing they’ve been doing for months! I have them
write a little reminder in that section - “just like test grades!”
3) For percent to fraction, students need to remember that percent means “out of 100,” so the percent number will always go over 100. Then they must reduce.
4) I find that decimal to fraction is sometimes tricky for students. When they have trouble, I ask them to read the decimal number according to place value (“How do you say this number, using tenths, hundredths, or thousandths, etc.?”). Once
they speak it, they know how to write the fraction – 0.27 is 27 hundredths, which is 27/100. After completing the examples, we discuss the idea that the denominator will be whatever the last decimal place is (10, 100, 1000, etc.) and the numerator will be the digits in the decimal number. We write this rule as simply as possible.
5) Students then complete the 10 problems around the page. Above each number is the conversion to complete (F to P, P to D, etc.) They can then color the rest of the wheel background.
I had a great time coloring my answer key! These could make a fun decoration as well:-)
I hope you can use it!!
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