Make Sense of Math

So, I decided to rewrite the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s the final installment…

Math Tip #8: Make Sense of Math.

  • Use the patterns you discover to help you solve problems.
  • Don’t get lost in the details of a problem. Look for general truths.
  • Apply common sense to math situations.
  • Think about how different things are similar.
  • Think about how similar things are different.
  • Remember that your mind is your most important math tool.
  • Pay attention to your thinking process. What patterns do you find there?

Continue reading Make Sense of Math

Discern Patterns

I’m almost done rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

They say mathematics is the science of patterns. So here’s…

Math Tip #7: Discern Patterns.

  • Look for patterns in numbers, shapes, and algebra equations.
  • Notice how numbers can break apart to make a calculation easier.
  • Number patterns morph into algebra rules.
  • Adapt math situations to make the structure clear. (For example, by adding new lines to a geometry diagram.)
  • Step back from a situation to see it from a new perspective.
  • Try to find simpler patterns within complex equations or diagrams.
  • Not all patterns continue forever. Test your patterns. Can you trust them?

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Exciting New Homeschool Math Program

Homeschooling friends, check out this new homeschool math program that’s fun, rigorous, and engaging — a delightful, hands-on course that helps parents (and their children) understand math.

Introduction to Cuisenaire Rod Structures Course

I had the privilege of previewing this class as Sonya and Lacy put it together. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with math, or who wants to take a non-traditional approach.

By focusing on making sense of number relationships, and by teaching algebra before arithmetic, this course provides a stress-free path to rich mathematical mastery.

And for all they provide, including weekly live workshops and a slew of printable math journal pages that prompt deep thinking, the price is a steal!

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Say What You Mean

Continuing my project of rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s my version of SMP6…

Math Tip #6: Say What You Mean.

  • Words can be tricky, so watch your language.
  • Label drawings and graphs to make them clear.
  • If you use a variable, tell what it means.
  • Care about definitions and units.
  • Pay attention to rules (like the order of operations).
  • Use symbols properly (like the equal sign).
  • Understand precision. Never copy down all the digits on a calculator.

Continue reading Say What You Mean

Master Your Tools

As I’ve mentioned before, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s my version of SMP5…

Math Tip #5: Master Your Tools.

  • Collect problem-solving tools.
  • Practice until you can use them with confidence.
  • Classic math tools: pencil and paper, ruler, protractor, compass.
  • Modern tools: calculator, spreadsheet, computer software, online resources.
  • Physical items: dice, counters, special math manipulatives.
  • Tools for organizing data: graphs, charts, lists, diagrams.
  • Your most important weapon is your own mind. Be eager to explore ideas that deepen your understanding of math concepts.

Continue reading Master Your Tools

Look Beneath the Surface

So, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s the fourth installment…

Math Tip #4: Look Beneath the Surface.

  • Notice the math behind everyday life.
  • Examine a complex situation. Ignore the parts that aren’t relevant.
  • Pay attention to the big picture, but don’t lose track of the details.
  • Make assumptions that simplify the problem.
  • Express the essential truth using numbers, shapes, or equations.
  • Test how well your model reflects the real world.
  • Draw conclusions. Explain how your solution relates to the original situation.

Continue reading Look Beneath the Surface

Know How to Argue

You may remember, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

My kids loved to argue. Do yours?

Math Tip #3: Know How to Argue.

  • Argue respectfully.
  • Analyze situations.
  • Recognize your own assumptions.
  • Be careful with definitions.
  • Make a guess, then test to see if it’s true.
  • Explain your thoughts. Give evidence for your conclusions.
  • Listen to other people. Ask questions to understand their point of view.
  • Celebrate when someone points out your mistakes. That’s when you learn!

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Don’t Panic

As I mentioned last Saturday, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s the second installment…

Math Tip #2: Don’t Panic.

  • Don’t let abstraction scare you.
  • Don’t freeze up when you see complex numbers or symbols.
  • Break them down into simpler parts.
  • Take each problem one step at a time.
  • Know the meaning of the math, how it relates to the “real world.”
  • But if it gets in your way, ignore the “real world” situation. Revel in the abstract fantasy.

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Never Give Up

Have you read the Standards for Mathematical Practice? Good idea in theory, but horribly dull and stilted. Like math standards in general, the SMPs sound as if they were written by committee. (Duh!)

I’ve seen several attempts to rewrite the SMPs into student-friendly language. Many of those seem too over-simplified, almost babyish.

Probably I’m just too critical.

Anyway, I decided to try my hand at the project. Here’s the first installment…

Math Tip #1: Never Give Up.

  • Fight to make sense of a problem.
  • Think about the things you know.
  • Ponder what a solution might look like.
  • Compare this problem to those you solved in the past.
  • If it seems too hard, make up a simpler version. Can you solve that one?
  • If one approach doesn’t work, try something else.
  • When you get an answer, ask yourself, “Does it truly makes sense?”

Download the poster, if you like:

What do you think? Would this resonate with your students?

What changes do you suggest?

You can find the whole SMP series (eventually) under the tag: Posters.

Update: I Made a Thing

I had so much fun making these posters that I decided to put them into a printable activity guide. It includes the full-color poster shown above and a text-only version, with both also in black-and-white if you need to conserve printer ink.

Here’s the product description…

Join the Math Rebellion: Creative Problem-Solving Tips for Adventurous Students

Take your stand against boring, routine homework.

Fight for truth, justice, and the unexpected answer.

Join the Math Rebellion will show you how to turn any math worksheet into a celebration of intellectual freedom and creative problem-solving.

This 42-page printable activity guide features a series of Math Tips Posters (in color or ink-saving black-and-white) that transform the Standards for Mathematical Practice to resonate with upper-elementary and older students.

Available with 8 1/2 x 11 (letter size) or A4 pages.

Check It Out

FAQ: I’ve Ruined My Daughter

My daughter is only eleven, but I’m afraid I’ve ruined her chance of getting into college because she is so far behind in math. We’ve tried tutors, but she still has trouble, and standardized testing puts her three years below grade level. She was a late reader, too, so maybe school just isn’t her thing. What else can I do?

Standardized tests are not placement tests. They cannot tell you at what level your daughter should be studying. They aren’t designed that way. The “placement” they give is vague and general, not indicative of her grade level but rather a way of comparing her performance on that particular test with the performance of other students.

There can be many different reasons for a low score. I’ve listed a few of them in my post In Honor of the Standardized Testing Season.

Continue reading FAQ: I’ve Ruined My Daughter