Huge fans of WeUseMath.org

There are tons of great math websites in the world of the internet. One that I really like is a nonprofit site called weusemath.org. BYU's mathematical department is the muscle behind this site. The site attempts to help answer the question: "When will I use math."

The site is a very user friendly site that's loaded with a bunch of terrific information. The site is broken down into a home page and 6 key sections: Blog, Careers, How to succeed in Math,  Did You Know, Math Resources, and a store.

BLOG

The BLOG is not the main strength of this site. The articles are very interesting, but the frequency is somewhat limited. In 2016 the site posted around 5 articles. If you are new to the site you have over 70 different BLOG post in the archives to pick from.

CAREERS

This is my favorite part of the site. This section looks at around 40 different careers (everything from Actuary to Urban Planner) that rely on math.

The first thing this section does is to highlight a person with this job. Second, the low, medium, & high salaries for the job are listed. Third, educational requirements for a degree in this field are discussed. Fourth, the site talks about when math is used with this particular job. Next, a list of potential employers is mentioned. Finally, this section will list any miscellaneous facts or citations.

HOW TO SUCCEED IN MATH

There is a list of 7 different things/tips that can help increase students chances for success.

DID YOU KNOW

Is divided into "Math in Real Life" and "Math Tidbits. The "Math in Real Life" part is a collection of nice articles about math. The "Tidbits" sections is random trivial facts about math.

MATH RESOURCES

This is my second favorite part of the website. This section of the site includes free resources, list of math competitions, curriculum ideas, links to different math sites and links to math puzzles.

STORE

The store is a collection of shirts for sale. 

OVERALL

The CAREERS and MATH RESOURCES sections make this a great go to site for teachers and parents. 

Famous Mathematicians

So you need to write a report on a famous mathematician. Maybe you want to drop some historical math knowledge on your math teacher. Perhaps you just want to learn about legends of the mathematical world. Below are links to 4 sites that should help you learn about these titans of the mathematical world.

Famous-mathematicians.com

Buzzle.com

Fabpedigree.com

Clark University

Gift ideas for Math teachers (The baker's dozen)

Gift ideas for Math teachers (The baker's dozen)

The struggle is Real

It's that time of the year. It is time to find a gift for people that you have no idea what they want. If the person you are looking for likes math we can help.  Below is a baker's dozen random math gift ideas. Think of these items as "affordable mathematical luxuries." 

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Making 3D Shapes and Similar Objects using Scale Drawing

Making 3D Shapes and Similar Objects using Scale Drawing

Creating 3 Dimensional Drawings

One of my favorite activities each year is using scale factor to create three dimensional drawings. We do this activity when we are studying Unit Rates. There are a variety of reasons why this is one of my go to lessons.

Hands On

This activity gives students the chance to create something. The act of drawing, measuring, & designing is a nice change of pace from the usual worksheet avalanche. The actual act of creating this object allows students to see the relationship of sides all changing proportionally.

Creativity

This lesson gives students the opportunity to showcase their creative/artistic side. We have some basic guidelines, but in general students are free to design what appeals to them.

Visual

Many students are visual learners. For some students it easy to see difference between an object drawn to scale and an object that does not have a constant proportionality.

Connections with other classes

Art, Social studies (maps), industrial tech, and computer science classes are some of the classes that we are able to show a connection with.  For example, our art classes use one point perspective drawings which share a ton of similarities with our scale drawings.

Differentiate

The activity allows you to increase (or decrease) the difficulty. For example, if you have a student that is struggling you can use a very simple shape such as the letter "L" or use a very easy scale factor such as 2.  If you want to increase the intensity you can have students measure everything in inches (not centimeters) or require a very unusual scale factor such as 3/8 or 1.75.

THE PROCESS

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Prang Power!

If you work at any school in America I sure you are well aware of the Box Tops for Education Program. It's a super program and provides a lot of great resources. At most school I've been to the Box Top program is done as a school wide fundraiser. This certainly makes sense, there is strength in numbers. 

But what if you are a teacher and you are looking for an easy way to earn free items for your class? You don't want to do the Box Tops for just your class because that would undermine your schools efforts. It would be nice to find something that the other teachers in your building are not doing. The answer: PRANG POWER

What is Prang Power? Prang Power is an educational program created by Dixon-Ticonderoga the pencil company (which includes all Dixon, Ticonderoga, Lyra, & Prang products). Very few teachers are even aware of this program (I am the only person at our district). So how does this program work?

Step 1 - Sign up for the program

Signing up is easy and free. Just go to www.prangpower.com and sign up for the program. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes.

Step 2 - Collect UPC Codes

This is real easy to do at the start of the school year. Many of your students are going to have brand new boxes of pencils. Simply ask them if you can have their UPC codes. Most students are glad to get rid of the boxes. 

Ask you fellow teachers. Just like the students, teachers are loading up on pencils, chalk and other school supplies at the start of the year. Make the rounds at your school. Again most of the teachers are happy to get rid of their boxes.

Check in with your administration (this includes the secretaries). Often your school will purchase large amounts of pencils for testing and general use. Just like the kids and teachers, they are happy to get rid of their boxes.

Bonus Points - You can earn bonus points from prang for different things such as mentioning Prang Products on your school supply list.

Step 3 - Mail in UPC codes

As you collect UPC codes you can mail them to the Prang Program. Each UPC code has a point value approximately equal to the suggest retail price. So a $5 box is worth about 5 points. Prang will keep track of your points as you send them in.

Once you have earned 300 points you can begin cashing in your points for pencils, art supplies and other items.

Step 4 - Cash in your points for free Product.

At the start of this school year we received nearly 500 free pencils as the result of this program and we are close to getting more!

Todd Hawk is a middle school math teacher and the Founder of the Land of Math LLC (www.landofmath.com). You can reach him at landofmath2@gmail.com or follow him on twitter: @landofmath2.

 

 

8 Reasons why Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) is creating a grassroots disruption in education.

If you are involved in education you probably have heard of Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). If you have ever tried to pin something educational on Pinterest I know you are aware of TPT. TPT was started by Paul Edelman, a New York teacher, in 2006. Today Teacher Synergy (the company behind TPT) has evolved into a major disruptor in the world of education.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace for teachers to buy and sell different educational material. Initially, TPT was a really cool place for teachers to make some extra cash on the side but it has turned into a major game changer in the world of education.

Five years ago only one or two teachers at my school ever heard of Teachers Pay Teachers. Today, TPT is just part of normal conversation in the teacher lounge or during staff professional development. There have been multiple times that teachers will laugh when they realize that they downloaded the same product from TPT.

The Impact of Teachers Pay Teachers is far greater than simply making some money for selling a few worksheets. TPT is helping fuel major change in the world of education. Below are few of the ways.

Building

Because of TPT, teachers are now building different products. The act of building gives teachers a deeper understanding of the content they are teaching. We are striving for students to improve their problem solving skill, but teachers also need to work on this skill.  As teachers try to create new products it gives them a feel for what their students are going through.

Creative

If you are going to sell things on TPT, you can not just create boring run of the mill worksheets. You need to think differently. You need to make products that are unique and get students (and teachers) excited. What can you do to make a fraction lesson fun and challenging? Can you transform a traditional lesson into a hands on lesson? What about a game?

The process of being creative forces you to make the ordinary extraordinary.

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Don't fall for the seduction of the 1 cent pencil

The summer is wrapping up and the school year is about ready to kick off in full force.  This is the time of the year that is filled with optimism and excitement. Everything starts over.  Students get to meet new teachers, teachers get a new batch of students and parents get a chance to regain their sanity.

Despite all these warm and cuddly feelings that surround the start of school I am dreading another yearly tradition: parents buying their kids crappy pencils.

Don’t get me wrong, I to have been seduced by the allure of the 1 cent pack of pencils at Staples (or Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc.). As a parent you feel good about making such a wise purchase. After all a pencil is just a pencil.

“No so fast my friend,” to quote Lee Corso, the legendary football analyst from College Game Day (and Director of Business Development for Dixon Ticonderoga pencil company).  Pencils are NOT all the same and it DOES make a difference.

The trouble begins moments after the first bell.  The students complain that they can’t get their pencil to sharpen. Why? Because the quality of wood and lead is inferior and it is next to impossible to get many of these pencils sharpened. Many pencils are never able to be sharpened because the lead just falls out as you sharpen it. In addition, students are constantly getting up because their lead keeps breaking because of the poor quality. 

Mechanical pencils are no better.  Most of the time students are asking around for specific lead sizes because they ran out.  The lead in the mechanical pencils is so thin it snaps off with the slightest pressure.

Last year our 7th grade math department spent some of our supply money on extra Ticonderoga pencils (the Language Arts teachers just mocked us).  We could tell the difference and so could the kids.  The pencils were easy to sharpen, kept their point longer and didn’t break off as often.

By the way, I am not affiliated with the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil company.  There are many other fine pencil companies such as Blackwing (my personal favorite is the Blackwing 602), General’s, Golden Bear and Prospector.  Many of these companies make their pencils in the United States.

I know it seems like such a small thing, but anytime you can reduce distractions you are greatly increasing the students chances for success.   Parents are always looking for ways to help their children.  The purchase of a quality pencil is an easy and affordable way to assist with your child’s success.

Todd Hawk is a middle school math teacher and the Founder of the Land of Math LLC (www.landofmath.com). You can reach him at landofmath2@gmail.com or follow him on twitter: @landofmath2.

Creating a Successful Math Newsletter

One of the things we try to do each year is to create a math newsletter to share with parents, students and administration.  The main reason is to help develop better communication with parents.  The development of our newsletter is an ever evolving process, but we feel like we have hit on some key things that make our newsletter very effective.

     At the start of the year we focus on gathering the email addresses of different parents, students and any one else that might want the newsletter.  We have been able to get around 90% of our student's families to sign up.  When we send out the newsletter we just email a PDF to the different people on our email list.  We mail copies to families that did not sign up for email.  We also make extra copies and leave in the classroom for students that might not see the email version. In the past we sent out newsletters each month.  This year we are attempting to send out one a quarter.

    Above is a sample of one of our newsletters. The rest of this article will focus on the content, features and structure of the newsletter.


#1 Headline: The first thing we do on our newsletter is state what it is and for what time period.  In this case we call the newsletter the "7th grade math newsletter" (yes we know, verrrrry creative).  If we had newsletters for each individual teacher we might have use something like Mr. Mitchell's Math Class (also very boring) or perhaps something slightly more interesting such as Math Mania.

#2 Contact Information: This part of our newsletter includes information such as Names, email address, school phone, planning period times, website, etc.

#3 Quote: We like to have a quote about dealing with one of two topics: 1) Importance of math and/or 2) Motivational. 

#4 Greeting: We address this to the parents despite the fact that many of the readers of the newsletter are our students.

#5 Dates to Know: Just like it sounds. We focus on big events such as early releases, no school, end of grading period, parent - teacher conferences, etc.

#6 Classroom Activity:  In this section of the newsletter we highlight an activity that takes place in the classroom. For example, this newsletter mentions our "Fab 5" which is a basic skills review at the start of each class.  In this section we might mention a math program we are using, special projects, or discuss our invention program.

#7 Upcoming Topics:  In this section we list what we are currently working on in class and what parents can expect in the next few weeks.

#8 Math Careers: One of our goals is to let parents and students know about the many career options available in mathematics.  It seems obvious to us, but many students have no idea about the math needed in different careers.  A couple of weeks ago a student told me how he wanted to be an architect but was stunned to find out math was required math.

#9 Get to Know a Mathematician: Here we are Highlighting a person that has a career that uses math.  We like to focus on interesting jobs/people that are unique. In this newsletter we focused on Tinker Hatfield the person that worked on designing Air Jordan shoes.  We make a conscious effort to have an equal amount of men and women.

#10 Websites of the Month/Quarter:  We feature two or three sites that we feel could be helpful and sometimes interesting. In theory parents and students can use these sites for extra practice or assistance.

#11 Past Websites of the Month/Quarter: Instead of deleting our  past website selections we keep them as a running list.  As the school year progresses this turns into a nice collection of resources for the student, parent and even teacher.


#12 Math Programs: Our school is located just 30 minutes outside of Columbus, Ohio and just 45 minutes from The Ohio State University.  This location allows us to have access to a variety of math programs.  

    In each newsletter we try to promote local Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.  This is information that most parents are not aware of.  By listing these programs many of our families are able to find items that interest their kids.

#13 Tips on Being successful:  Finally we include some words of wisdom from top business leaders.  The theme of this section usually focuses on work ethic, goals, and perseverance.

Todd Hawk is a middle school math teacher and the Founder of the Land of Math LLC (www.landofmath.com). You can reach him at landofmath2@gmail.com or follow him on twitter: @landofmath2.