Motivating Math Games

Motivating kids before a holiday break can be a challenge, especially if you’re still expected to teach skills and review academic content. Whole group instruction is particularly challenging because it’s so difficult to get kids to sit quietly and focus on the lesson when everyone (including you!) is hanging on until your break!

As a former 4th and 5th grade teacher, I’ve been there, and I found that the best way to keep kids engaged any time of the year was by using math games. I love using games because they are so versatile; you can use them in math centers, cooperative learning teams, or small guided math groups. Math games give kids a chance to talk and move, but it’s productive talk and movement, so playing math games is the perfect way to keep kids focused.

Free Island Conquer Area & Perimeter Game

Island Conquer Area & Perimeter is a perfect example of a partner math game that will challenge your students and engage them in learning. The players, or “pirates,” plot rectangles on a coordinate grid and find the area or perimeter of those shapes. The rectangles on the grid represent islands in the ocean, and the pirates color the islands they conquer. At the end of the game, players calculate the total area or perimeter of their islands to find out who won. This game is free for my newsletter subscribers; click here to sign up for Candler’s Classroom Connections and grab this freebie!

Where to Find More Math Games

Whether your school is still in session or you are already on summer break, this is a great time to build up your collection of math games. You can make your own, of course, but they are quite time-consuming to create. If that’s not how you want to spend YOUR time, check out my Math Games Mega Bundle because it might be just what you need. This bundle includes 16 math games that are perfect for upper elementary students.

Each game is unique, which means you need to preview them individually. If you’d like to take a closer look at them, click the cover images at the end of this post to find them in my TpT store. If you like all of them, you’ll save over $25 by purchasing the Math Games Mega Bundle below.

Tips for Teaching with Math Games

If you’d like some tips for teaching with math games, check out my post, How to Use Math Games Effectively in the Classroom. In that post, I shared some strategies and techniques for using math games as a part of your instruction rather than just for fun. I also described an easy mini-lesson on how to teach kids to be a good sport. Many of those tips and that mini-lesson are also included in my freebie, Tips for Teaching with Math Games, which you can download from my TpT store. Enjoy!

[inlinkz_linkup id=718791 mode=1]

Source by [author_name]

How to Teach Addition of Fractions Using LEGO Bricks

We know that current math standards require students to learn through modeling using manipulatives. I have been using LEGO bricks for many years to teach students math concepts throughout the elementary and middle school curriculum. It’s a perfect math manipulative, and students love using the bricks, since many students are very familiar with them. I’ve developed specific strategies for teaching math using LEGO bricks for modeling and have been thrilled over the years to watch students’ test scores improve after they learn math using these strategies.

In recent years, I’ve taught many graduate students at High Point University how to teach with these methods, and they also report great success for their students when they use the techniques as new math teachers. I’ve recently published a series of books that show how to utilize LEGO bricks to teach all the major math topics in elementary school: Counting and Cardinality, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and Fractions.

Free LEGO Fractions Book
I’d like to share an example of how to teach using LEGO bricks. This is a strategy for teaching how to add fractions that have like denominators. It’s one of the lessons in my book, Teaching Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks, which is a part of my Brick Math Series. If you’d like to see more fraction lessons, you can download the entire PDF of this book as a sample of the series! Click here to request your free copy.

Adding Fractions with Like Denominators
Teaching students to add fractions can be a challenge. Students must first understand that a fraction shows part of a whole. This method of modeling fractions with bricks helps students see clearly what the parts of the fractions mean, and how only the numerators are added, since the two fractions are part of the same whole.

Let’s add the fractions 1/6 and 2/6 together to show how the process works.

    1. First, build models of the two fractions on a baseplate using LEGO bricks. The baseplate is an important component of Brick Math, because it keeps all the bricks in place.
    2. Start to model the two fractions, denominators first. Use a 2×3 brick (6 studs) to model the denominator of 6. Use two 2×3 bricks that are the same color, to help students understand that the denominators are the same. Leave a little space between the two 2×3 bricks.
    3. Model the numerator of the fraction 1/6 by placing a 1×1 brick above the first 2×3 brick. Model the numerator of the fraction 2/6 by placing a 1×2 brick above the second 2×3 brick. Using different color bricks for the numerators helps to show they are not the same.



    1. Now it’s time to model the action of adding the two fractions. Take another 2×3 brick and place it at the bottom of a baseplate. Place the 1×1 brick above this 2×3 brick. Then place the 1×2 brick above the 1×1 brick. Your model now shows 3 studs over 6 studs. Take three 1×1 bricks and stack them on each stud of the combined numerator bricks. Have students touch each stud to count 3 as the numerator of the solution fraction of 3/6 .
    1. If your students are ready for it, you can demonstrate how 3/6  = 1/2 . Place a 1×3 brick on top of the three 1×1 bricks in the model and show students that the 1×3 brick (modeling the numerator) is 1/2 the 2×3 brick (modeling the denominator).



  1. The final step in the process is to have students draw their brick models on baseplate paper. Drawing the models they have built helps students reinforce the visual depiction of the mathematical concepts. Baseplate paper is included in my book, Teaching Fractions Using LEGO® Bricks, which is a free sample of my Brick Math Series books.

When you take students through the modeling process, you give them a powerful way to visualize the action of the math. For both visual and tactile learners, this method helps student understand how to add fractions that are part of the same whole.

See Two Fraction Lessons in Action on YouTube
Watch the YouTube video below to see two fraction lessons demonstrated step by step.


Learn More 
If you want to learn more about how to teach using LEGO bricks, check the Brick Math programwebsite. The books in the series are available as both printed books and as PDFs, and can be purchased on the website, on Amazon and Kindle, and on TpT. Brick sets that have been designed for the program are available from that site as well. You can also purchase individual LEGO bricks from LEGO Pick a Brick, or from online resellers of LEGO bricks such as or

Dr. Shirley Disseler is an associate professor at High Point University and chair of the Department of Elementary and Middle Grades Education, and the STEM coordinator for the BA to MEd program. She is a LEGO® Education Academy Trainer and has been instrumental in developing and testing several LEGO® Education products. Disseler serves on the LEGO® Education Ambassadors Panel and is the trainer for the High Point University Teacher Academy for LEGO® Education. She has over 25 years of educational experience from elementary school teaching through higher education, including gifted education and exceptional children. She has recently started a new business called BrickEd on the Move that offers camps, field trips, and events based on learning with LEGO bricks.

Source by [author_name]

Teaching Tricky Trapezoids: Inclusive vs. Exclusive

Do you teach quadrilateral classification? If so, did you know there are THREE ways to define a trapezoid? Americans use either the inclusive or the exclusive definition depending on their curriculum. To complicate matters even more, teachers who live outside the United States define trapezoids in a completely different way! Believe it or not, the British English definition is the exact opposite of the two American definitions!

Which definition are you supposed to be teaching? If you’re not sure, it’s entirely possible that you’re teaching the wrong definition! But don’t feel bad if you discover this to be true because you are not alone. In fact, until recently, I didn’t even know which definition was used by the Common Core State Standards!

Before we dig into this topic, you need to know which definition you’re currently teaching. To find out, answer the trapezoid question below before you read the rest of this post. Then read the information under the 3 polygons that explains what your answer means.

What Your Answer Reveals

Because there are three ways to define a trapezoid, there are three correct answers to the question. Your response will reveal the definition you use to classify trapezoids.

  • If you only chose polygon 3, you use the exclusive definition which states that a trapezoid has EXACTLY one pair of parallel sides. This is the definition that I learned, and it’s the one I thought the Common Core used (but I was wrong).
  • If you chose polygons 1 AND 3, you use the inclusive definition which states a trapezoid has AT LEAST one pair of parallel sides. Many educators favor this definition because the other quadrilateral definitions are inclusive. For example, a parallelogram is a 4-sided figure with both pairs of opposite sides parallel, which means that squares and rectangles are also parallelograms.
  • If you only chose polygon 2, you’re using the British English classification system which states that a trapezoid is a quadrilateral with NO parallel sides. You teach your students that a quadrilateral with one pair of parallel sides is a trapezium, not a trapezoid.

Which definition SHOULD you be teaching?

Now you know which definition you use to classify trapezoids, but is that the definition you’re supposed to be teaching? If you aren’t 100% sure, make a note to check on it. Until recently, I thought the Common Core used the exclusive definition, but I discovered that the CCSS actually uses the inclusive definition! I posted a question on my Facebook page to find out which trapezoid definition most teachers were using, and over 180 people responded. I was surprised to learn that most teachers who follow the CCSS teach the inclusive definition.

How to Teach Kids to Classify Tricky Trapezoids

Did you know that there are THREE ways to define a trapezoid? If you're not sure which definition you're supposed to be teaching, check out this blog post from Laura Candler! You'll learn strategies for teaching kids to classify trapezoids, and the post includes a sorting freebie as well as links to additional hands-on resources for classifying quadrilaterals.If this is the first you’ve heard that there are three ways to define a trapezoid, you might be wondering how much to share with  your students. I mean, quadrilateral classification is challenging enough to teach without having to explain that there are three different correct ways to define a trapezoid!

I recommend that you find out which trapezoid definition you are expected to teach, and only teach that ONE definition. You could tell your students that they might learn a slightly different definition at some point in the future, but if you go into too much detail, your students will end up more confused than ever.

After you know which definition you’re supposed to be teaching, how do you introduce it to your students and help them learn to classify trapezoids or trapeziums correctly?

I’ve found that the best way to help your kids teaching those tricky trapezoids is with a simple sorting activity. There are two versions of this activity, and it’s best to use both of them if possible. The first is a printable, hands-on activity for math partners which is great for guided practice. The other is a Google Slides activity you can assign in Google Classroom for additional practice or assessment. Both activities are included in the Sorting Tricky Trapezoids (or Trapeziums) freebie below. The directions in this post explain how to conduct the teacher-guided partner activity; directions for using the Google Slides version are included in the freebie.

Trapezoid Sorting Guided Lesson Directions:

  1. Begin the activity by introducing the characteristics of a trapezoid (or trapezium) according to the definition you are expected to teach.
  2. Next, pair each student with a partner and give each pair one copy of the Quadrilaterals to Sort printable. Ask them to work together to cut out the polygons and stack them in a pile.
  3. Explain that they will take turns sorting the quadrilaterals into one of two categories using the T-chart. Give each pair a copy of the T-chart or have one person in each pair draw the T-chart on a dry erase board.
  4. Before guiding them through the sorting activity, assign the roles of Partner A and Partner B in each pair. Then ask Partner A to select the first quadrilateral and place it in the correct column on the T-chart. Partner A then explains the quadrilateral’s placement to Partner B who gives a thumbs up if he or she agrees. If Partner B does not agree, the two students should discuss the proper placement of the quadrilateral and move it to the other column if needed.
  5. Partner B then chooses one of the remaining quadrilaterals, places it on the chart, and explains its placement to Partner A. Partner A must approve the placement, or the two students discuss the definition and placement before continuing.
  6. Students continue to switch roles throughout the activity. If they aren’t able to agree on the placement of one of the quadrilaterals, they should set it aside for the time being.
  7. As students are working, walk around and observe them to see if they are classifying the trapezoids correctly. Stop to help students who are confused or who can’t agree on the placement of one or more quadrilaterals.
  8. If you use Google Classroom, follow up with the Google Slides version of this activity.

Hands-on Activities for Classifying Quadrilaterals

This simple sorting activity is actually one of the most effective ways to teach kids to classify any type of quadrilateral. In fact, it’s so effective that I developed a complete lesson for classifying quadrilaterals based on this strategy. Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals includes several introductory activities as well as a challenging game and two assessments.

One reason I wanted to bring the tricky trapezoid situation to your attention is that I’ve recently updated Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals to include all three definitions. There are now THREE versions of the lesson materials within the product file.

No matter which definition you’re supposed to be teaching, Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals has you covered. You’ll find lessons, printables, task cards, answer keys, and assessments that are aligned with the quadrilateral classification system used by your curriculum. Not only are these activities engaging and fun for kids, the lessons will help them nail those quadrilateral classifications every time! If you don’t believe me, head over to see this product on TpT where you can read feedback from 400 teachers who have used Classify It! Exploring Quadrilaterals with their students.

If you teach quadrilaterals and haven’t purchased this resource yet, take a few minutes to preview it on TpT. If you use it with your students, I think you’ll agree that Classify It is the most effective and FUN way to foster a deep understanding of quadrilateral classification!

Source by [author_name]

Leprechaun Luck Game and the FREE March Math Toolbox!

If you enjoy teaching math (or even if you don’t!), you’ll love the resources in the March Math Toolbox! You’re in luck, too, because this massive collection of K-5 lessons, games and activities is absolutely FREE! The March Math Toolbox freebie includes 20 math resources from over a dozen teachers and bloggers. These resources include activities for Pi Day and St. Patrick’s Day, as well as spiral review that can be used all month.

Free March Math Toolbox

My contribution to the March Math Toolbox is Leprechaun Luck, a fun partner math game that will spark loads of higher-level thinking and discussion. The game also makes an exciting introduction to basic probability concepts. Leprechaun Luck includes ready-to-use printables in black & white and color, along with detailed lesson information for the teacher.

Leprechaun Luck Free Math Game

How to Introduce Leprechaun Luck

Assign partners, and give each student a game board and 12 game markers. Each pair will also need two dice. For the game markers, the printable gold coins or marshmallows from a box of Lucky Charms cereal. Display the game directions, and ask players to place their 12 markers on the numbered squares on their boards in any arrangement they wish. Have them take turns rolling two dice, adding the numbers, and removing all game markers from the sum of the numbers. The winner is the first player to remove all game markers from his or her game board. Ask your students to play the game three or four times and try to figure out a strategy for winning.

Luck or Strategy?

The first time your students play the game, they may assume it’s just a game of luck and not a strategy game at all. But after they play a few more rounds, they’ll notice that some squares on the game board are “luckier” than others. How can this be? Why are some sums rolled more often than others? Can this knowledge be used to improve one’s chances of winning?

Questions like this pave the way for you to introduce and explore basic probability concepts with your students. Depending on your students’ readiness and interest level, you can touch on these concepts briefly or dig into them deeply. If you decide to go deep, the teaching suggestions in freebie will be helpful for guiding your probability discussions.

Grab Your Free March Math Toolbox Now!

Leprechaun Luck Game is just one of 20 awesome resources in the March Math Toolbox freebie! It’s only available for a limited time, so click over to the March Math Toolbox page now and request your copy. Lucky you!

Source by [author_name]

Teaching Informational Text with Magazines

With the Common Core emphasis on teaching informational text, you might be wondering where to find appropriate texts for reading instruction. Most classrooms are overflowing with great children’s literature and novels, but many schools lack a good selection of interesting nonfiction texts.

If you enjoy reading magazines yourself, the solution is right in front of you! As it turns out, children’s magazines are a great source of informational text. The articles are short, interesting, and appropriate for children. They often use a variety of different text structures and text features so they make excellent practice passages for working with nonfiction. In fact, many reading selections on state tests are very close in structure and format to magazine articles.

The challenge is finding enough copies of magazines for your classroom and knowing how to use them effectively. I’d like to share a few of my favorite sources as well as some tips for using them. I’m also going to giveaway a few subscriptions to Sports Illustrated Kids!

Listen to the Podcast: Teaching with Children’s Magazines

To learn more about teaching with children’s magazines, listen to Episode 8 of Inspired Teaching Made Easy using the audio player below, or find it on Google Play or Apple Podcasts.

Weekly Classroom Magazines

The most obvious place to look is to find a classroom magazine like Time for Kids and Scholastic News. I prefer Scholastic News and used it every year with my students. It was a great way for students to practice reading informational text and keep up with current events.

Since a new issue arrived almost every week, it was easy to integrate it into my literacy instruction and sometimes into science or social studies. We used it with small guided reading groups and reading mini lessons. It was easy to have students read and respond to the articles with graphic organizers or in journals. Because everyone had a copy of the same text and the magazine belonged to them, they could use highlighters to practice reading strategies and it was easy to discuss together. I also used it for “paired reading” practice as shown in this picture.

You may be able to get your school or PTA to pay weekly magazines because the cost is very reasonable.  Also, if you are a public school teacher in the US, you can get them through

Monthly Children’s Magazines

Weekly magazines have many advantages and should be a part of any classroom, but they don’t have quite the appeal of a traditional magazine like National Geographic for Kids or American Girls. Monthly magazines are larger, more colorful, and have a wider variety of different types of content. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive and only send out a few issues each year, so it takes time to build up a collection of them. It’s also harder to figure out how to use them in your lessons because each issue is unique.

How to Obtain Magazines for Your Classroom

Where can you get magazines for your classroom? Here are a few ideas:

  • You can start by asking your school librarian if he or she has collections of back issues that you can check out and bring to your classroom. If you do this, be sure to write down the number of copies of each title and count them at the end of reading class to be sure they have all been returned.
  • Magazine subscriptions are available through, so you can create a proposal for a variety of children’s magazines. The prices range between $15 and $33 per subscription, so you could request up to 10 different magazines and keep your proposal under $400 which will make it more likely to get funded.
  • You can ask parents to send in old issues of children’s magazines, but make it clear that the magazines must be kid-friendly and are subject to your approval before they can be read in class.
  • Establish a “Classroom Magazine Fund” and ask parents to donate money to help you purchase classroom magazine subscriptions. You can customize and send the letter shown below.
  • Ask parents to donate a magazine subscription to the classroom. See the customizable letter below for sample wording.
  • Some airline frequent flyer programs will let you use miles to purchase magazines. Delta’s program allows you to purchase Sports Illustrated Kids with points, and I often use my extra points to give away subscriptions to teachers. Read the giveaway details below to find out if one is currently in progress.

If you aren’t able to purchase children’s magazines for your classroom, I hope you’ll consider letting your students bring magazines to school and read them from time to time. You’ll want to review any magazines students bring from home, of course, because many popular magazines are not appropriate for kids. However, I think you’ll find that bringing magazines into your classroom will have a huge impact on your students and their attitudes towards informational text.

How to Find Appropriate Children’s Magazines

Before ordering a subscription to any children’s magazine, you’ll want to make sure it’s appropriate for your students. Your local library should have copies of most popular children’s magazines, but if you’re short on time, you can look for recommendations online. The easiest place to find magazine reviews of is on Even if you don’t plan to purchase your magazines there, it’s really helpful to read reviews for any magazines you’re thinking of purchasing. You’ll discover, as I did, that some children’s magazines are full of advertisements, and some include content that’s not appropriate for the target audience. If you’re looking for magazines with informational text, check out National Geographic Kids, Ask,  Sports Illustrated Kids, Ranger Rickand Dig Into History. What magazines do you recommend? Please share your suggestions!

How to Use Monthly Magazines

Monthly magazines can be more challenging to use for small group or whole group instruction because you usually only have one copy of each issue. Fortunately, there are a few ways to deal with this problem. First, if you have a document camera, you can project an image of the magazine pages on a whiteboard where everyone can see them. Another option is to make copies of a specific magazine article to use with a lesson. Magazines are protected by copyright, but educators can generally make a limited number of copies for classroom use under the fair use copyright guidelines. However, before you make any copies, please read those guidelines yourself to be sure your situation is covered.

Another way to use monthly magazines is to make them available for students to read during independent reading time. If you don’t want to let your students read magazines every day, host a monthly Magazine Power Hour. This activity is one of the Power Reading Tools in Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide, and the lesson includes a ready-to-use printable to make the activity easy to implement.

In a nutshell, Magazine Power Hour is an activity that takes the place of your regular reading lesson once a month. Because an hour is too long for most students to sit still and just read, the Magazine Power Hour is broken into 3 shorter segments. Students read their chosen magazine for 15 minutes and then meet with a reading buddy to discuss what they read and learned. They repeat this process two more times, and each time they may choose a new magazine if one is available. At the end of the hour, all students compose a short written reflection about their favorite article.

Sports Illustrated Kids Giveaway

Next Giveaway Deadline: October 12, 2019 

As I mentioned above, some airlines have a “Mags for Miles” program where you can get magazines for free. It just so happens that I have some extra miles, and I’m going to use them to donate a free subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids to at least 5 of my email subscribers! 

If you want to win a subscription for your classroom, please enter using the Rafflecopter entry form below. You must complete all 5 entry options in the Rafflecopter to be eligible to win. I will choose at least five winners during the contest, and the last winner will be selected on October 13th, the day after the giveaway ends.

I have good news for those who entered the giveaway in August or September 2019 and didn’t win. You don’t need to enter again because your information is still in the system and you’re eligible to win in October!

By the way, due to mailing restrictions for the magazine, this contest is only open to educators in the United States. Also, all entrants must either be a current email subscriber or be willing to be added to my mailing list. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Source by [author_name]

Mathematical Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter

Do you love math? Or are you convinced that the math train left the station without you long ago? No matter how you feel about it, if you’re an elementary educator, you’ll probably have to teach math at some point. Fortunately, growth mindset research and new findings about how the brain works are leading to some amazing insights about the best way to teach math. Furthermore, these insights are making it possible to foster a love of math in ALL students!

Last year I discovered Dr. Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets, and I was fascinated by the research findings she shared. I also loved Dr. Boaler’s strategies for using those research findings to improve math instruction. I know that problem solving is essential in mathematics, and most of the strategies I was using are supported by the new research. However, I did discover that a few of my teaching methods are not actually best practices, so I’ve been reworking those strategies to incorporate what I’ve learned.

A few years ago I presented a webinar called Math Problem Solving: Once a Day, the Easy Way, but after reading Mathematical Mindsets, I knew it was time to update that presentation with these new research-based practices. I asked Dr. Boaler for permission to include information and strategies from her book in my webinar, and she graciously agreed.

My new webinar, Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter, focuses on growth mindset research and its implications for math instruction. Interested?  Download the webinar note-taking handouts and watch the replay .

Best Practices in Math Instruction: Agree or Disagree?

At the beginning of the webinar, I’ll ask you to evaluate 6 commonly-held beliefs about math instruction, and then I’ll share what the research tells us about them. What do you think about each statement below? Do you agree or disagree with these beliefs about math instruction?

  1. Problem solving strategies should be taught before giving students problems to solve.
  2. Drawing solutions and counting on fingers should only be encouraged for young children and struggling students.
  3. Students should only use calculators in math after they can perform the computations by hand.
  4. Mistakes are only beneficial when we learn from them.
  5. Some people were born with a gift for math, and others weren’t.
  6. The best way to meet the needs of all students is through ability grouping and differentiation.

If you want to know what the research says about these beliefs, watch the webinar replay! I dug into the best practices related to each of those statements about math instruction.

From Word Problems to Rich Math Tasks

One research finding about how to foster a mathematical mindset is pretty clear. Instead of overloading kids with traditional “word problems,” we need to engage them in more in rich math tasks. In the webinar, I went into detail about what that means, but basically a rich math task encourages students to think about math in new ways, finding multiple ways to solve problems, and to discuss their findings with others. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to find rich math tasks if you know where to look, and you can also turn traditional word problems into rich math task. Check out the webinar replay for tips about how find or create rich math tasks that are appropriate for your students.


Join Me for a Math Mindsets Webinar Journey!

I’m still learning about how to foster a mathematical mindset, so I consider this webinar to be more of a journey we’ll take together. You can board the Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter webinar train here; tickets are FREE, so hop on and take a seat now!

I’ll be your conductor if you decide to take this journey with me, and I’ll share what I’ve learned about growth mindset and math instruction. We’ll wrap up our adventure by exploring painless problem solving strategies you can implement right away that will motivate your students to love math, even if you don’t! Who knows? By the end of our journey, you might be a math lover, too!

Source by [author_name]

How to Earn 10,000 Scholastic Bonus Points (or More!)

Did you know that Scholastic offers a fabulous back-to-school deal that makes it possible to get thousands of bonus points with your first order?  The bigger your order, the more points you earn, and if you can place an order of $300 or more, you’ll get 10,000 bonus points!

I know what you’re thinking because that’s exactly what I thought when I first heard about this deal! I couldn’t imagine putting together an order that large, but I realized I had nothing to lose by trying. Even if I didn’t get all 10,000 bonus points, I might end up with enough points to order new books for literature circles and reading workshop.

So I decided to put the challenge to my students, and I used it as our very first goal-setting lesson. I explained how Scholastic’s offer worked and how we could use all of those bonus points. We set the class goal together, and of course they wanted to go for the $300 order to get 10,000 points!  Next, we discussed ways to reach that goal, and we created an action plan. I sent a letter to parents explaining our goal, and I posted a chart on the board where we could display our progress each day.

Amazingly, we not only met that goal, but we surpassed it by about $30! My class was thrilled when FOUR big boxes of books showed up a week later! It was exciting to hand out the books, and I loved spending those bonus points on books throughout the year.  I asked my students to help me choose them, and they loved having all those new books, too!

Scholastic Bonus Points Freebie

I was so excited about our success that I shared the idea with other teachers, and the system worked for them, too! The next year, I created a free packet of materials to share, complete with directions, a sample letter to parents, a Scholastic Stars Countdown poster for tracking progress, and book coupons to use as incentives.

If you’d like to try it, you can download How to Earn 10,000 Scholastic Bonus Points from my TpT store. I just finished updating for Scholastic’s 2019 offer, so if you used this freebie in the past, be sure to download the most recent version. If you’d like to read the full details of Scholastic’s offer, take a look at the 2019 Back to School Arrow Book Club teacher pages.

How to Get Dozens of Free Resources for Your Classroom

I’m so excited about Scholastic’s back-to-school offer that I recorded a podcast episode with loads of tips and ideas for using this system to get a HUGE book order. Click the play button to listen now, or listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or Google Play.

Even if you don’t think you can reach a goal of $300, I urge you to give it a try. You might be surprised at the results, especially if you treat this as a goal-setting lesson. What do you have to lose? Any size order will generate loads of bonus points that you can spend on classroom resources, and if you get 10,000 bonus points you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot!

Source by [author_name]

How to Turn a Word Problem into a Rich Math Task (Part Two)

Part Two: Crafting the Process

When students struggle in math, it’s often due to their beliefs about what it takes to be successful in mathematics. They believe that some people were born with a gift for math, and anyone who wasn’t born with that gift will never excel in math.

Fortunately, brain research tells us that this belief is nothing more than a myth, and it’s not supported by fact. All students can experience success in math if they are taught in ways that foster the development of a mathematical mindset. This means setting high expectations for all students, engaging them in challenging and interesting math tasks, and providing the right kind of support and encouragement.

One way to foster mathematical mindsets is to replace simple word problems with “rich math tasks.” Rich math tasks provide opportunities for students to work together as they explore a concept or solve a problem. In my webinar, Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter, I give examples of rich math tasks and share several strategies for using them with students.

If you’re wondering how to get started with rich math tasks, it’s easier than you might think. The first step is choosing a suitable math problem, and the second step is guiding your students through the problem-solving process. Both steps are equally important, so I’ve decided to tackle them in two separate blog posts.

In my first post, Part One: Crafting the Problem, I explained the difference between word problems and rich math tasks, and I shared 6 tips for creating a rich math task from a simple word problem. In this post, Part Two: Crafting the Process, I’ll share strategies you can use to actively engage ALL of your students in the problem-solving experience.

7 Tips for Facilitating Rich Math Task Problem-Solving

The problem-solving process is just as important as the problem itself, and that process is greatly enhanced with strategies to facilitate active engagement and critical thinking. Here are 7 tips to help you craft the perfect problem-solving experience for your students.

1. Make Time to Go Deep with Rich Math Tasks
Rich math tasks take time, but there’s no doubt that engaging your students in these activities will pay off in the long run. Research shows that a deep discussion about one math problem is far more effective than several shallow discussions about many problems. Fortunately, rich math tasks don’t have to be completed in one session. Instead of devoting an entire math period to one task, you could set aside 10 minutes each day for problem solving. You might assign the math task on Monday and give everyone time to solve the problem on their own. On Tuesday,  your students could share and discuss solutions with a partner. Wednesday and Thursday could be devoted to a class discussion about strategies for solving the problem, and Friday could be spent on extension activities.

 2. Choose a Method for Showing and Sharing Work
Before you present the first math task to your class, you need to choose a method your students can use to show their work and explain their thinking. Math strategy discussions are an essential part of the task, and everyone needs to be able to SEE and HEAR the solutions being shared.

Individual dry erase boards offer one of the easiest ways for students to participate in the lesson fully. Students are actively engaged as they solve the problem on their own boards, and when it’s time to share, they can hold up their boards to show their work. If you have a document camera, students can place their dry erase boards under the camera to display their work while explaining the solution.

However, dry erase boards can be limiting if the rich math task continues for several days because students won’t be able to save their work for future sessions. If your students have access to digital devices with built-in cameras, they can take a picture of their dry erase boards before erasing them. Another solution is to have students solve the problem on paper on in a math journal.

Padlet, a free online tool, offers another way to share solutions and strategies. It’s easy to set up a free Padlet account and create a math problem solving “wall” for each rich math task. During the class discussion phase of the math task, students can post their solutions on the wall using text and images. The Padlet wall below was created for sharing solutions to the Apple Peeling Challenge #1 problem. For more information about how to use Padlet in math, watch my Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter webinar.

3. Defer math strategy discussions until AFTER students work on the task.     
I used to teach problem-solving strategies before giving my students problems to solve, thinking it would be helpful for them to be able to choose from a list of strategies. Typical strategies included “Make a Chart,” “Act It Out,” and “Draw a Picture.” Unfortunately, this approach is not supported by the most recent research on mathematical problem solving. As it turns out, it’s actually more effective to save the strategy discussions until AFTER students have tried to solve problems on their own. Kids are far more creative problem-solvers when they aren’t prompted to choose from a list of strategies. They often create highly-unusual but very effective methods of solving problems, and they love sharing their own unique methods with the class.

4. Teach your students how to represent solutions visually. 
One strategy that’s important to discuss early in the year is how to represent math problems and their solutions visually. Visual representations can involve pictures, illustrations, objects, charts, or diagrams. I’ll use the two Apple Peeling Challenge problems described in Part One to illustrate my points. Normally, it’s best to focus on a single math problem, but these two problems are related and they work well together to teach an important lesson.

Start the mini-lesson by displaying Apple Peeling Challenge #1: “If it takes 2 minutes to peel 1 apple and 4 minutes to peel 2 apples, how long will it take to peel 10 apples?”

Read the problem aloud and ask your students to solve it. Don’t prompt them to draw the solution or give them any hints. Just walk around and observe them as they work. Some will try to draw the solution, some may write a number sentence, and others will simply write a number for the answer.

Next, choose several students who have solved the problem visually to come to the front of the class, show their work, and explain their thinking. One student might represent the answer visually by drawing 10 circles to represent the apples and count by 2’s (it takes 2 minutes to peel one apple) until they get the answer which is 20 minutes. Another student might create a simple chart like the one below, writing the number of apples above the line and the total minutes below it. A third student might use 10 plastic bingo chips to represent the apples, perhaps using a dry erase marker to label them with the total minutes.

If most students simply wrote the answer or 2 x 10 = 20, ask your class why it might be important to show how you solved the problem, either with simple drawings or with objects. If they don’t know, explain that if you can show the solution to an easy problem using pictures or objects, you’re more likely to be able to solve more difficult problems using similar methods.

To illustrate this point, ask your students to solve Apple Peeling Challenge #2: “Sam needs to peel 10 apples for a pie. If he can peel 4 apples in 6 minutes, how long will it take to peel all 10 apples?”

Because the problem doesn’t state how long it takes to peel ONE apple, this problem is quite a bit more challenging that the first one. Students who solved the first problem using mental math or with a simple number sentence will have difficulty solving this one using the same method. However, if you encourage your students to draw the solution or use objects to represent their thinking, you’ll be blown away with the creative methods they use to solve a problem like this!

For example, examine this visual solution which is modeled with bingo chips. The top row of bingo chips demonstrates that if it takes Sam 6 minutes to peel 4 apples, then it will take him half the time (3 minutes) to peel half the apples (2 apples.) The row of 10 bingo chips represents the 10 apples he needs to peel, and they’re grouped into 5 sets of 2 with the number 3 (minutes) written under each group. Finally, the solution is shown by the number sentence sentence 3 x 5 = 15 minutes.

5. Provide time for students to solve problems on their own before working with others. 
Cooperative learning can be a powerful tool for boosting student engagement, but students need opportunities to work independently as well. If students never have time to work alone, they may become dependent on others to do their thinking for them.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this. Simply provide a few minutes of quiet, independent work time after you introduce the math task, and ask your students to try to solve the problem on their own. Remind them to show how they solved the problem so they can discuss it with a partner or team later.

Some students will probably raise their hands almost immediately to ask for help, but stay strong and resist the urge to provide assistance. Jumping in to rescue them before they’ve even tried to solve the problem simply reinforces their belief that they aren’t capable of solving it on their own. The truth of the matter is that if they started to draw the solution instead of waiting for someone else to tell them what to do, they might find that they ARE able to solve it on their own. If some students insist that they have no idea what to do, ask them to reread the problem several times and if they still don’t know what to do, tell them to write a question mark instead of the solution. I can assure you that within a few days of implementing this practice, almost all of your students will attempt to solve the problem on their own, even if they are not confident about their solutions.

6. Use the Share-Share-Compare strategy to facilitate productive math partner talk.
After everyone has tried to solve the problem independently, the next step is for them to discuss their solutions with a partner. This will prepare them for the upcoming class discussion. I suggest that you assign partners yourself rather than letting your students choose partners. After you pair up your students, ask them to show their work to their partner and explain their solutions.

If your students don’t have prior experience with how to talk about math, you’ll need to guide them through the process the first few times. If you don’t, your students are likely to just compare their answers without discussing strategies. If they have the same answer, they won’t bother to discuss HOW they solved the problem. If their answers are different, the stronger student will point out the other student’s error, and his or her partner will correct it without understanding why it was wrong.

You can avoid these problems entirely by implementing Share-Share-Compare, a simple cooperative learning strategy to facilitate math partner talk. I described this strategy in detail during the Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter webinar, and you can see the steps illustrated on the right. This mini-poster is one of the resources included with that webinar or the one of the bundles that includes the webinar.

Before you begin Share-Share-Compare, assign A/B Partners, and ask them to sit side by side. Have them place their math papers or dry erase boards face down in front of them.

To begin the activity, Partner A shares by showing and explaining his or her work to Partner B. Partner B listens and asks questions. Next, Partner B shares by explaining how he or she solved the problem, and Partner A listens. Finally, both partners comparetheir work and discuss any differences in their methods. If they solved the problem using the same strategy, challenge them to try to find another way to solve it.

As your students are working, walk around and observe the different methods that are being used to solve the problem. Make a note of the different strategies your students used because this information will be helpful during the class discussion.

6. Wrap up with a strategy-focused, high-energy class discussion. 
The final step is a class discussion to share and discuss various problem-solving strategies. The best discussions are high-energy, fun experiences during which students are eager to share their strategies, analyze other methods, and express appreciation for each other’s creative solutions.

To begin the class discussion, display the problem and read it aloud. Ask for student volunteers who would be willing to show their work and explain their solutions to the class. When you choose the first volunteer, select someone who has drawn the solution or modeled it with objects because it will be easier for the other students to understand the solution. Invite the student to come forward to show and describe how the problem was solved.

If you have a document camera, the student can place his or her dry erase board, math journal, or paper under the camera so that everyone can see how the problem was solved. If you don’t have a document camera, you could take a picture of the student’s work and upload the image to a Padlet wall. Project the problem onto a screen for the whole class to see, or have students access Padlet from a digital device. If you use Padlet this way, I suggest that you upload one solution at a time to keep your students focused on the strategy that’s being shared.

If the student shows his or her solution, but doesn’t explain HOW the problem was solved, you may need to prompt the student to elaborate. For example, if the solution below was shared, you might ask how the student discovered that it took Sam 1 1/2 minutes to peel each apple.

After the first volunteer finishes speaking, don’t confirm that the answer is correct or say that it’s incorrect if the work includes errors. If it’s not correct, the correct answer will be found by the end of the discussion. Simply thank the student and ask if your class has a question about how the problem was solved. On the other hand, if student in the class discovers an error and asks about it, you should facilitate a discussion about the perceived error without confirming the answer.

If no one challenges the answer and your students want to know if it’s correct, just smile and say, “We’ve only looked at one way to solve the problem. To verify the answer, we need to solve it a different way to see if we get the same answer. Did anyone solve this problem a different way?”

If anyone says that they solved the problem a different way, ask him or her to come forward to share his or her solution. After that student finishes speaking, ask the class again, “Can we find another way to solve this problem?” Continue this process until everyone who wants to share a new strategy has had a chance to do so. If you don’t have time to finish in one session, ask your students to continue thinking about the problem and conclude the discussion the next day.

Before you wrap up the discussion for this problem, be sure to confirm the correct answer, especially if any answers shared earlier in the discussion were incorrect. After the solution has been verified in several ways, ask your students, “Do we all agree that ______ is the correct answer?”

The first time you facilitate a rich math class discussion, your class may only find a few ways to solve the problem. However, as they become more creative in their problem-solving approaches, they may discover 5 or 10 ways to solve the problem! When that happens, it can become difficult to keep track of the different strategies and to remember who shared each one.

Padlet offers one of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with this problem. Simply take a snapshot of each student’s solution and upload it to the Padlet wall you created for the problem. Label the post with the student’s name, and ask him or her to complete it by entering a written explanation.

To show you how Padlet works, I created the math problem wall above for the Apple Peeling Math Challenge #2. I uploaded three examples of how students might solve the problem and how their work could be displayed and shared on Padlet. If you use this apple peeling challenge problem with your students, I’d love for you to add any new solutions to the wall. Click over to the Padlet Apple Peeling Challenge #2 Wall, upload an image of the solution and enter a written description.

If you have time, you can extend the rich math task by asking your students to create their own related math problems. For example, some students might create a similar problem that uses different numbers, perhaps even fractions or decimals. Some students may change other elements of the problem, changes that would require an entirely different method for solving it. To share the new problems with their classmates, students could post their problems on the Padlet wall or write them on index cards to be tacked to an “early finishers” board.

To learn more about how to foster mathematical mindsets in your students, check out my webinar, Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter, or one of my problem solving bundles. The Math Mindset Challenges Bundle shown below includes the webinar plus a collection of editable word problems and templates to get you started. If you’re looking for something more comprehensive, take a look at my Math Problem Solving Mega Bundle which also includes all 4 Daily Math Puzzler books.

Rich math tasks are exciting for kids, even those students who lack confidence in their mathematics ability. In fact, these students often turn out to be the most creative problem solvers in your class! When you take steps to foster mathematical mindsets in your students, you’ll be amazed at what happens. If you haven’t been using rich math tasks, I hope these tips will help you to jump in and get started now!

Source by [author_name]

December Activities Your Kids Will Love!

Seasonal lessons are perfect for the weeks leading up to the winter holidays. Those days can be chaotic, so it’s important to plan lessons that are both meaningful and fun. Kids are more likely to stay on task when they are actively engaged in learning, and that’s definitely true in December!

Sugar Cone Christmas Tree Reading & Math Activity

One of my favorite holiday activities is having students read and follow a recipe to make Christmas Trees from sugar cones, frosting, and small candies. I modified the activity for students who don’t celebrate Christmas by providing graham crackers to frost and decorate.

Creating Christmas trees from sugar cones and frosting might not seem like an upper elementary activity, but kids of all ages can benefit from learning to read and follow a recipe. To make the lesson more challenging, I created reading and math questions to go with it, and I formatted the questions to make them similar to the ones on state tests. After my students created their sugar cone Christmas trees, I allowed them to eat their treats while answering the questions. We wrapped up the lesson by discussing the answers to the questions and clarifying misunderstandings about how to read a recipe. Who knew a test-prep lesson could be so much fun?

If you’d like to try this with your students, you can find the Sugar Cone Christmas Tree recipe and test prep questions in my December Activities Mini Pack along with an editable letter to send home to parents.

More December Lessons & Activities Your Kids Will Love

If you like the Sugar Cone Christmas Tree recipe reading and math activity, you’ll love my December Activities pack which includes seasonal lessons, activities, and printables along with directions and answer keys. Download a full PDF preview of the packet to see every page in the product.

 As you can see in the preview version, these printables and activities make it easy to add a little fun to your December lessons while keeping your kids on task and learning. I’ve also been told that they make great lessons to leave with a substitute teacher! Here’s a complete list of what’s inside:

  • Winter Holiday Mug Exchange Directions & Editable Materials Letter
  • Holidays Around the World Research Project
  • Christmas Daily Math Puzzlers
  • Dreidel Game Rules and Pattern
  • Dreidel Math Explorations
  • Christmas Word Challenge
  • Silly Winter Stories Cooperative Learning Activity and Writing Prompts
  • Sugar Cone Christmas Tree Recipe and Reading Comprehension Questions
  • Happy Holidays Homework Pass
  • Happy Holidays Book Coupon

My students loved theses December lessons and activities, and I know yours will, too!

Source by [author_name]

How to Turn a Word Problem into a Rich Math Task (Part One)

Part One – Crafting the Problem

Growth mindset is much more than a buzzword, and nowhere is this more apparent than in mathematics. Research findings in this field are transforming our perceptions about best practices in math instruction. As it turns out, developing a mathematical mindset is more highly correlated with future success in math than scores on standardized tests!

One way to begin fostering a math mindset in your students is to turn traditional word problems into “rich math tasks.”

I tackled the topic of rich math tasks in my recent webinar, Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter, but I want to dig into rich math tasks a bit more here on Corkboard Connections.

Rich math tasks have two critical components, the WHAT (the problem) and the HOW (the process).

In this post, we’ll take a look at how to transform a boring word problem into a rich math task. In my next post, I’ll share active engagement strategies you can use to help your kids rock the problem solving process! Click here for Part Two.

How a Word Problem Differs from a Rich Math Task

Basic Word Problems 
Word problems at the elementary level tend to be simple problems with a single correct answer. Children are often taught to solve them by learning to identify key words and numbers in the problem and then applying the necessary mathematical operation. For example, a basic word problem might read like this: “There are 10 apples, and it takes 2 minutes to peel each apple. How many minutes in all are needed to peel the apples?”

A typical method of solving this problem involves underlining the key words “each” and “in all” and circling the numbers 10 and 2. The key words tell students that they need to multiply the numbers to find the answer, so they multiply 10 and 2 and record the number 20 as the answer. If you ask these students to draw or model the solutions visually, they are at a loss. If you ask them to label the answer with the unit, they are as likely to write “20 apples” as they are to write “20 minutes.”

Word problems don’t inspire deep thinking, analysis, or discussion because the solutions are fairly straight forward. Sure, you can encourage your students to talk with a partner about how they solved the problem, but their explanations will sound like this: “First I underlined the key words, and then I circled all the numbers. Next, I multiplied the numbers to get my answer.” An explanation like that hardly qualifies as “math talk”!

Rich Math Tasks
Rich math tasks, on the other hand, are usually more open-ended and can be solved in many ways. Some math tasks are inquiry-based questions that have more than one correct answer or problems that require students to use hands-on materials to discover the solutions. Other math tasks look like regular word problems at first glance, but when you attempt to solve them, you realize there are many ways to arrive at the answer. Rich math tasks don’t have key words that you can underline, and circling the numbers won’t help because you might not even need all the numbers to solve the problem! These types of math tasks stimulate discussion, questioning, and critical thinking as students struggle to choose the best strategy to solve the problem.


6 Tips for Crafting an Awesome Math Task

Finding or creating the right math problem is the first step in developing a rich math task. Here are some tips that will make the process of crafting your problem much easier.

1. Start with a Visual Problem
Select a word problem that’s easy to visualize, and try to solve it in several different ways. Make sure the answer can be represented visually by drawing it or by using physical models. If you realize that there’s only one way to solve it or that it would be difficult to represent the solutions visually, rewrite the problem or find a new one. I’ll use the Apple Peeling Word Problem above to demonstrate how to turn a simple word problem into something much more challenging and interesting.

2. Remove Key Words 
After you’ve selected a problem, look for key words such as, “in all,” “each,” “per,” and “total.” If possible, rewrite the problem without using the key words, making sure that the meaning doesn’t change. Removing key words forces students to THINK about which operation is needed instead of just underlining words and mindlessly choosing an operation based on those words.

3. Add Extra Details and Information
Next, add details that aren’t really needed to find the solution. If students have been trained to underline key words and circle numbers, these extra details will confuse them. They will have to think about the task and decide which words and numbers are actually important.

Let’s use the first 3 tips to rework the Apple Peeling Word Problem and turn it into Apple Peeling Challenge #1. While the problem is still quite easy, the lack of key words and the extra numbers make it a bit more challenging. Students have to think about what is being asked and decide the best way to solve it. This is a good starter problem for introducing students to rich math tasks because it can be solved in more than one way using visual models. Students could draw circles for the apples, use round objects like pennies or bingo chips, or they could even use real apples!

Ready to take Apple Peeling Challenge #1 to another level? Applying the next 3 tips to that problem will make it even more challenging and interesting!

4.  Personalize It and Make It Real
To make the problem more interesting, personalize it by adding a real person’s name, maybe even the name of one of your students! Add enough details to make it come to life or turn it into a story. In Apple Peeling Challenge #2, including the detail that Sam is peeling the apples for a pie makes the problem more meaningful. A teacher in the Math Mindset Connections Facebook group took this problem and turned it into a story about making a pie for Thanksgiving dinner!

5. Turn It into a Multi-step Problem
Rewrite single-step word problems to ensure that multiple steps are needed to solve it. The information in the basic word problem stated that it takes 2 minutes to peel each apple. The easiest way to add another step is to replace that detail with enough information for students to calculate how long it takes to peel each apple. Each problem will be a bit different, but there’s always a way to modify the problem and turn it into a multi-step math task.

6. Change the Numbers
You can often make a word problem more challenging by changing the number values. For example, instead of Sam peeling 10 apples, he might need to peel 100 apples because he’s baking 10 pies for a banquet. You can also use numbers that result in fractional answers. For example, in Apple Peeling Challenge #2 above, Sam can peel 4 apples in 6 minutes so kids should be able to figure out how long it takes to peel one apple. But 6 is not divisible by 4, so the number of minutes it takes to peel one apple is not a whole number. Do you see how tweaking the numbers a little can instantly make the problem much more challenging? Now you have a problem that’s perfect for a math task!

Why not try creating your own Apple Peeling Challenge? In the Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter Webinar, I shared 2 more apple peeling problems that are quite different from the problems in this post. I’ll bet you can come up with your own apple peeling problems, too!

Where to Find Editable Word Problems for Rich Math Tasks

If you don’t want to craft your own multi-step word problems, or you don’t have time to hunt for them, check out my newest product, Math Mindset Challenges. It’s a growing collection of editable word problems in several different formats. The problems themselves are in an editable PowerPoint document so you can change the wording and customize them if needed. All of the problems have been field-tested by upper elementary teachers, and they work well as is, but if you use a different measurement system or want to tweak the problems using the tips above, you can easily do that. If you’d like to take a closer look, head over to my TpT store and click on the preview link on the product page.


The Math Mindset Challenges product shown above is included in my Math Mindset Challenges Webinar Bundle and my Math Problem Solving Bundle. Both bundles include the Math Problem Solving: Mindsets Matter professional development webinar, too.

Next Up – Part Two: Crafting the Process

Remember that rich math tasks have two essential components, the WHAT and the HOW.  In this post, I’ve tackled the WHAT, the math problem itself.  However, it’s not enough to create a great word problem; it’s what you do with that problem that counts! Click here to read Part Two, Crafting the Process, where I dove into HOW to facilitate the problem solving experience. I shared loads of active engagement strategies that will take problem solving to a whole new level in your math classroom!

Source by [author_name]