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How do you choose a math curriculum?
*May 18, 2009*

*Posted by inspiremath in Curriculum, Q&A.*

Tags: Art of Problem Solving, Challenge Math, Curriculum, Jacob's Math, Keys to, Life of Fred, Math Mammoth, Miquon, Singapore

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Tags: Art of Problem Solving, Challenge Math, Curriculum, Jacob's Math, Keys to, Life of Fred, Math Mammoth, Miquon, Singapore

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That’s a question I get a lot. Everyone wants to know what I, someone who actually likes math, use to inspire my kids. I do have my favorites, but I do change around, depending on each kid. When I look for math curriculum, I consider the following:

- Price – I prefer inexpensive over pricey, flashy curriculum.
- Teaching methodology – I prefer math programs that emphasize applying what you’ve learned, rather than just all memorization. However, sometimes I’ll use workbooks that are simply for practice in a certain area.
- Teacher involvement – Some people prefer to have a lot of teacher resources, including DVDs and scripted teacher plans. I would rather have books that allow the student to teach themselves. That’s because when you figure it out yourself, you understand it better than having someone tell you how to do it. Plus I’d rather spend math teaching time playing games. Some people don’t feel comfortable and want more direction – and that’s fine too.
- Appealing to Senses – I like math programs that are visual and kinesthetic, but of course it varies from kid to kid. Some prefer colorful workbooks, others don’t care. I do like the problems to be explained visually and/or in a hands-on manner.

Based on the criteria listed above, these are some of the programs I like. Not every kid uses every one of these math books!

GRADE:

1,2,3 – Miquon Math

1,2,3,4,5,6 – Singapore Math (I get the workbooks only)

4,5,6,7,8 – Keys To… (good for extra practice)

1,2,3,4,5 – Math Mammoth (good for extra practice)

6,7,8, 9 and on – Life of Fred (not a complete math program, but excellent at explaining math for those that don’t like it as much)

5,6,7,8 – Challenge Math & Challenge Algebra

8+ – Jacob’s Math

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Why Do So Many Kids Play in Soccer Leagues?
*May 16, 2009*

*Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Motivation.*

Tags: Ideas, Motivation

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Tags: Ideas, Motivation

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I had three kids in soccer leagues this year. Our city league is always packed full of players. I got to thinking a lot about why so many kids play soccer, especially when it’s obvious that some of those kids are so not cut out to be soccer players. Many times it’s because the parents think the kids need some organized sport. The kids need exercise. They need to learn about competition. And in fact, many of the children who play soccer beg their parents to sign them up. However, from my observation, few play because they absolutely love the game. Some do, of course, but most of them play because they love the treats at the end of each game. And the trophy or medal at the end of the season doesn’t hurt, either.

An interesting thing is that as kids get older, they choose to play soccer because they like it. They don’t care so much about the treats and the medal is silly to them. They play because they want to.

So why am I posting this on my math blog? It’s because it’s all about motivation. Many of the kids that stay in soccer throughout the years until their teen years learned to love soccer in the early years because they kept playing, even when they were pretty much in it for the treats. Some kids naturally loved soccer because they were good at it from the beginning. Others may not have been gifted at the sport and weren’t motivated by the treats and thus quit at an early age (or didn’t even try.) Still others may have tried it, not liked it, but then tried it again later and found they really did like it.

It’s just like this in learning math, too. Some kids will stay with math if they get rewards like food or trophies and learn to like it. Others naturally love it because they are good at it. Some kids won’t seem to be motivated to learn math if they don’t catch on quickly, and the motivator offered isn’t right. And some may decide they don’t like it or can’t do it – and those are the kids that need to do something different for a while before they come back to it and find they really do like it.

For a while, I felt like kids should just do their schoolwork and learn just for the love of learning. I felt like “external rewards” shouldn’t be given because they weren’t related to the task at hand. It should simply be reward of feeling good about accomplishing something that should be the motivator. But I soon found out that doesn’t always work, especially in kids. Sometimes learning or exercise is hard work and is boring, and it’s the rare kid indeed that will work hard on something just for that inner satisfaction. What works better is not only offering incentives and rewards but to praise children who work hard and tell them how good they must be feeling for accomplishing the task.

I really wanted my kids to love playing the piano. My oldest son did not enjoy it. I knew he loved playing computer games, so we used that as a motivator. For every minute of piano he played (1/2 hour minimum, 1 hour maximum), he earned an equivalent time on the computer. Talk about motivation! He started playing a lot, so I had to double the piano-playing requirement. Within a year or so, he found that he actually enjoyed playing the piano MORE than computer games. The same can be done with math.

My 8 year old son loves to have money. I gave him a math workbook, and thinking it’d take him about 4 months to finish, I wrote on the last page of the workbook that he could earn $5 if he finished it before the 3 months were up. He zipped through that workbook so fast – one week he did about 35 pages. Some of the pages were more difficult than others so some weeks he went a little slower. He finished it up in just 2 months. He says he loves math, even though he did struggle on parts of it.

Think about what motivates your child. Write these things down so you can use them to motivate your kids. Keep adding to the list!

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7th Grade Math Challenge
*May 15, 2009*

*Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation.*

Tags: 7th Grade, Ideas, Math Challenge

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Tags: 7th Grade, Ideas, Math Challenge

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1. Complete the following math books:

❑ Life of Fred: Fractions

❑ Life of Fred: Decimals & Percents

❑ Real Life Math Mysteries

2. Make 5 flip video camera movies showing how to play 5 different fun math games. Save and upload to the computer.

❑ Date: ________________ Game:_______________________

❑ Date: ________________ Game:_______________________

❑ Date: ________________ Game:_______________________

❑ Date: ________________ Game:_______________________

❑ Date: ________________ Game:_______________________

3. Play 1 math game per week with younger or older sibling.

Week: 1 ❑ 2 ❑ 3 ❑ 4 ❑ 5 ❑ 6 ❑ 7 ❑ 8 ❑ 9 ❑ 10 ❑ 11 ❑12 ❑ 13 ❑ 14 ❑ 15 ❑ 16 ❑ 17 ❑ 18 ❑ 19 ❑

20 ❑ 21 ❑ 22 ❑ 23 ❑ 24 ❑ 25 ❑ 26 ❑ 27 ❑ 28 ❑ 29 ❑ 30 ❑ 31 ❑ 32 ❑ 33 ❑ 34 ❑ 35 ❑

4. Teach younger sibling a math lesson 1x a week.

Week: 1 ❑ 2 ❑ 3 ❑ 4 ❑ 5 ❑ 6 ❑ 7 ❑ 8 ❑ 9 ❑ 10 ❑ 11 ❑12 ❑ 13 ❑ 14 ❑ 15 ❑ 16 ❑ 17 ❑ 18 ❑ 19 ❑

20 ❑ 21 ❑ 22 ❑ 23 ❑ 24 ❑ 25 ❑ 26 ❑ 27 ❑ 28 ❑ 29 ❑ 30 ❑ 31 ❑ 32 ❑ 33 ❑ 34 ❑ 35 ❑

5. Read about a famous mathematician. Read from at least two sources.

Date completed:

Name of mathematician:

6. Give an oral presentation of the famous mathematician you read about.

Date completed:

7. Read 4 living math books, approved first by mom.

❑ Date:________________Title:_____________________________________

❑ Date:________________Title:_____________________________________

❑ Date:________________Title:_____________________________________

❑ Date:________________Title:_____________________________________

8. Master your times tables up to 12×12. Set a goal to improve your speed and meet it.

My Goal: _____________________________________ Date mastered: _______________________

9. Set up Quickbooks to keep track of your business. Use it regularly with your business.

REWARD: When all these items are completed and passed off by mom, you will earn $20!

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6th Grade Math Challenge
*May 10, 2009*

*Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation.*

Tags: 6th Grade, Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation

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Tags: 6th Grade, Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation

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1. Complete units on the following topics: Do in any order, except that percentages comes after decimals and fractions, and word problems should be done last.

❑ Decimals

❑ Fractions

❑ Percentages

❑ Geometry

❑ Place Value

❑ Multiplying and Dividing (with 2 digit numbers and 10’s, 100’s and 1000’s.)

❑ Word Problems

2. Create a fun math game. Play it with someone.

Date completed:

Describe your game:

3. Play 1 math game per week with older or younger sibling

Week: 1 ❑ 2 ❑ 3 ❑ 4 ❑ 5 ❑ 6 ❑ 7 ❑ 8 ❑ 9 ❑ 10 ❑ 11 ❑12 ❑ 13 ❑ 14 ❑ 15 ❑ 16 ❑ 17 ❑ 18 ❑ 19 ❑

20 ❑ 21 ❑ 22 ❑ 23 ❑ 24 ❑ 25 ❑ 26 ❑ 27 ❑ 28 ❑ 29 ❑ 30 ❑ 31 ❑ 32 ❑ 33 ❑ 34 ❑ 35 ❑

4. Teach younger sibling a math lesson 1x a week.

Week: 1 ❑ 2 ❑ 3 ❑ 4 ❑ 5 ❑ 6 ❑ 7 ❑ 8 ❑ 9 ❑ 10 ❑ 11 ❑12 ❑ 13 ❑ 14 ❑ 15 ❑ 16 ❑ 17 ❑ 18 ❑ 19 ❑

20 ❑ 21 ❑ 22 ❑ 23 ❑ 24 ❑ 25 ❑ 26 ❑ 27 ❑ 28 ❑ 29 ❑ 30 ❑ 31 ❑ 32 ❑ 33 ❑ 34 ❑ 35 ❑

5. Read about a famous mathematician. Read from at least two sources.

Date completed:

Name of mathematician:

6. Give an oral presentation of the famous mathematician you read about.

Date completed:

7. Read these living math books:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Tales by Malba Tahan

How to Count Like a Martian by Glory St. John

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy and Richard Walz

8. Master your times tables up to 12×12. Set a goal to improve your speed and meet it.

My Goal: _____________________________________ Date mastered: ________________________

9. Create a 12×12 times table chart. Find at least 6 patterns and list them here:

10. Laminate your 12×12 times table chart. Hang it in the kid’s bathroom.

11. Estimate how much at least 15 items will cost at the store. Do this five different times.

#1 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#2 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#3 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#4 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

#5 Your guess_______________ Actual amount _________________

12. On a trip, calculate the following before you leave. Compare to actual numbers. Do this 3 different times.

#1 Distance__________ miles __________kilometers / Cost to travel there _____________

Time to get there _______________ Actual time _____________

We went from __________________________ to __________________________

#2 Distance__________ miles __________kilometers / Cost to travel there _____________

Time to get there _______________ Actual time _____________

We went from __________________________ to __________________________

#2 Distance__________ miles __________kilometers / Cost to travel there _____________

Time to get there _______________ Actual time _____________

We went from __________________________ to __________________________

13. Read 5 large numbers of mom’s choice.

Date completed: _____________________________________

14. Plan a math games party. Plan fun games and snacks. Invite friends.

Date:_____________________________

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Yearly Math Challenges
*May 1, 2009*

*Posted by inspiremath in Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation.*

Tags: Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation

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Tags: Ideas, Math Challenge, Motivation

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Sometimes it’s hard to remember to do all the fun stuff in math. We get stuck in our workbook rut, and then the kids start complaining… you know how it goes.

One fun thing that we’ve done is to create an math challenge award program for the year. Kids still are learning skills, but they also get to have fun stuff too. Basically I create a check-off list for the whole year of things each child should accomplish in math, and if they do, they earn an award (or reward). You can tailor this to your own child’s needs. Sometimes for younger kids, I’ll just write in the back of their workbook what the reward will be when they finish the book, and play games with them during the week. I make these math challenges mainly for the older kids. Many of you wanted to see what this looks like, so I’ve posted some on this blog.

You can have your child help make the year challenge. When the challenge is complete, present your child with an award. It could be a certificate, a trophy (buy an old one at the thrift store and make a new name plate), cash, a toy, party or whatever you decide. It might be fun to have something that could be earned yearly to place on a plaque.