Have you played the math game, Krypto? It's a great activity for problem solving, reasoning, and practicing math skills (fractions!), and I think your students will love it!
Krypto is an activity I learned about at a conference where Dr. Lola May presented (in like 1993, I think!). I didn't realize until a long time afterwards that it was a commercial game that could be purchased :) I believe it's also available as an app now. I've used the game idea from time to time, following the rules as laid out in the book I got at the conferece. Krypto can be played with whole numbers or fractions (and with positive and negative integers as well, I'm sure!). Playing Krypto With Fractions The rules are simple (kind of like the "24" game): 1. Choose 5 common fractions, with denominators of halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, eighths, tenths or twelfths. 2. Students add, subtract, multiply, and/or divide the fractions to make the 5 fractions equal the target number of 1. 3. Students receive points for meeting the target number of 1. For example, if they reach the target of 1 using only 3 numbers, they get 300 pts; 4 numbers = 400 pts; if they use all 5 numbers, they get 1,000 pts. You can set up the point system any way you'd like. Krypto can be used as a team effort/team game or individual enrichment activity.
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What's your favorite time of the school year? I'm guessing that it probably isn't testing time, nor the test prep weeks leading up to it! In spite of the fact that we never want to teach to the test or prepare students just for a test, the fact remains that students have to take the standardized tests, and we want them to do the best they can. So, how can we best use our test prep to help them?
1) Spiral Review The most effective test prep method I've found is using spiral review throughout the year. The warmups I use review previous concepts, reinforce current concepts, and introduce new ones. This way, we are always solidifying concepts ("prepping for the test"), and as we get closer to test time, the warmups give us a chance to discuss concepts that might show up in the testing, but that we won't cover until after the testing occurs. Using these warmups may put me a little 'behind' in the curriculum on a daily basis, because they take time; but it helps solidify understanding and puts my students a little ahead with other concepts at the same time. I'm good with that:) Finding the Lowest Common Denominator with the Ladder Method What's the most challenging math topic to teach/most difficult for your students to ‘get'? This was my question in a recent Instagram survey. I got a variety of responses, but the one that came up most often was fractions – remembering the ‘rules;’ students finding common denominators when they were multiplying; students (older students) not being able to find a common denominator; and so on. So, today, I’m going to share how to use the ladder method to find the lowest (least) common denominator, and hopefully, if your students have struggled with this, it will help them (and you!). Before I explain how it works, I want to share that I've used the ladder method for several years, after many years of teaching GCF and LCM the ‘traditional’ way  the way I’d been taught! And during those years, I’d often get frustrated by the fact that students would miss the GCF because they missed factors, or they couldn’t find the LCD because the numbers got too big so they just multiplied the denominators…..or they listed out the multiples, but made a mistake in one list, and so they never found an LCM/LCD. I'm sure you know what I mean! The ladder method took these issues away, and it also added something I didn’t initially expect – it appeared to improve number sense for many students who struggled with their multiplication facts or with the idea of finding factors and multiples. It helped them understand HOW numbers were related to each other by making the breakdown of the #s more visual (using prime factorization does this as well, but the ladder method provides a little more organization to the process, and I think that’s helpful).
Are you one of the lucky ones? You know, the ones who get to teach math AND language arts…or math AND language arts AND science? Or are you one of the poor, unfortunate souls who only gets to teach one subject area? :)
I’ve had the opportunity to do both. As an elementary teacher for 12 years, I taught all subjects – math, LA (reading, grammar, spelling), science, social studies. When I moved to middle school, the subject load was reduced a bit. The first year, I taught science and LA (reading, grammar, spelling  which was 2 periods). The second year, our 6th grade went to teams of 2, and math was added to everyone’s subject load. I didn’t mind the addition of math, because I really like teaching math. BUT, planning for all those subjects made me feel like I was an elementary teacher again…..except the content was more difficult, the class periods were shorter, and the grading took longer. It was pretty overwhelming. Planning labs, literature circles, discovery math lessons…..it was a lot. This lasted for only a year, and then we went back to teams of 3 (most of us, anyway), and I went back to science and LA for 2 or 3 more years. Then the math teacher on our team retired, and I got to switch from science to math (plus LA). After several more years, our teams grew to 4 and then 5 teachers, and I was responsible for teaching just math.
Ways to Improve Problem Solving Skills and Math Communication
Do your middle school math students struggle with problem solving? Do they get to the end of the word problem and then guess at the operation they need to choose (maybe not realizing that there are multiple operations)? You probably see this with some of your students, while other students do very well with problem solving. What methods have you found to help those who struggle? What methods can you use to help each student at his or her current level?
I’ve used many strategies over the years, to help students sort out how to make sense of word problems and how to approach them. These methods didn't have a specific name at the time (like close reading or talking to the text), but some would fit into these categories.
For Upper Elementary and Middle School Classrooms
Have you been here?
You’ve only got a week or so before the winter break begins….and schedule changes mean you’ll miss a couple classes during that time. You’ve finished the current topic, and there’s not enough time to fit in another unit. You know that sometimes kids have trouble staying ontask at this time of year, as they are looking forward to break! But you don’t want to waste class time .... So what do you work on? What are some fun, but academic things you can do during math class to help the students keep practicing and learning? I've got a few quick ideas for you:
5 Tips to Help Middle School Math Students
The math homework dilemma – to give or not to give (IF you have the option in your district)? How much to give? To go over it all or only review some of it? What will be most helpful to your students?
Maybe your experiences have been similar to mine: I’ve adjusted my practices from year to year, sometimes spending a lot of time reviewing homework, but other times spending little; some years giving homework related to the lesson, other years giving homework that was basic skills practice; some years lots of problems, other years just a few. There seemed to be pros and cons to each. Thinking about this topic yet again, I decided to look for some research to see how we can help students get the most out of the homework we assign. 
AuthorHi, I'm Ellie! My mission here is to support teachers as they work to provide engaging, meaningful experiences for their students. I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels, and am here to share what I've learned through those years, as well as what I continue to learn. I hope you'll find some ideas or resources here to help you out! Categories
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