Free Learning Tools, Games, and More


[Photo by ♥Sage (resting… finally!).]

Browsing the Internet, I came across a slideshow called 101 Free Learning Tools, which explores “the idea that there is at least one excellent free learning tool (or site) for every learning problem, need or issue.”

Of course, many of these sites I already knew, at least by reputation. But there are plenty of interesting places that were new to me.

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Review: Kiss My Math

Pre-algebra students stand at the threshold of adventure. Behind them lie the rocky plains of school arithmetic. Ahead, the trail winds into a murky, tangled woods and disappears in the shadows. Who knows what monsters might live in a place like that?

Actress and math maven Danica McKellar has traveled through the pre-algebra jungle and beyond, up the slopes to higher math. She survived the journey, and now, on the heels of her bestselling book for math-phobic middle schoolers, she has written Kiss My Math to guide uncertain students along their way.

Unlike the case with most Hollywood movies, this sequel is an improvement.

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Review: Math Doesn’t Suck

We’ve all heard the saying, Don’t judge a book by its cover, but I did it anyway. Well, not by the cover, exactly — I also flipped through the table of contents and read the short introduction. And I said to myself, “I don’t talk like this. I don’t let my kids talk like this. Why should I want to read a book that talks like this? I’ll leave it to the public school kids, who are surely used to worse.”

Okay, I admit it: I’m a bit of a prude. And it caused me to miss out on a good book. But now Danica McKellar‘s second book is out, and the first one has been released in paperback. A friendly PR lady emailed to offer me a couple of review copies, so I gave Math Doesn’t Suck a second chance.

I’m so glad I did.

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Math Games by Kids

Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.

The cold came back and knocked me flat, but there are compensations. The downtime gave me a chance to browse my overflowing bookmarks folder, and I found something to add to my resource page. Princess Kitten and I enjoyed exploring these games and quizzes from Ambleweb.

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More Free Math and Logic Resources

File library
Photo by Drab Makyo.

I have a huge, long-neglected bookmarks folder labeled “To add to resource page.” I am never going to find time to sort and review all of those links. But if I post a few at random now and then, perhaps you will find something useful.

So here are five new links I am adding to my Free (mostly) math resources on the Internet page.

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More Fun with Hexa-Trex

Hexa-trex turtle logo

My elementary Math Club students had fun practicing their math facts and “out of the box” thinking with Hexa-Trex puzzles. The object of Hexa-Trex is to find a path through all the number and operation tiles to make a true equation. The “Easy” puzzles are just the right level for my 4th-5th grade students, although they get stumped whenever the equations require Order of Operations. One girl enjoyed the puzzles enough to take our extra pages home for her dad.

Hexa-Trex puzzles were featured in the October issue of Games magazine, and now you can enjoy Hexa-Trex away from the computer with Bogusia Gierus‘s new book, The First Book of Hexa-Trex Puzzles. If you are thinking ahead to Christmas (can it be that time already?!), and if you have a puzzle lover in the family, this little book would make a fun stocking-stuffer.

How to Solve Math Problems

That’s a Tough One!

What can you do when you are stumped? Too many students sit and stare at the page, waiting for inspiration to strike — and when the solution doesn’t crack their heads open and step out, fully formed, they complain: “Math is too hard!”

So this year I have given my Math Club students a couple of mini-posters to put up on the wall above their desk, or wherever they do their math homework. The first gives four questions to ask yourself as you think through a math problem, and the second is a list of problem-solving strategies.

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Writing to Learn Math

2009 Challenge - Day 72: Pencil
Image by ☼zlady via Flickr

Have you considered experimenting with writing in your math class this year? It seems that math journals are a growing fad, and for good reason:

Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own.

William Zinsser
Writing to Learn

Math journal entries can be as simple as class notes, or they can be research projects that take hours of experimentation and pondering. Students may use the journal to store their thoughts as they work several days to solve a challenge problem of the week, or they might jot down quick reflections about what they learned in today’s math class.

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How To Start a Homeschool Math Club

From a recent e-mail:

“Hello! I am on the board of a homeschool co-op. We have had requests for a math club and wondered if you have any tips for starting one. We service children from K-10th and would need to try to meet the needs of as many ages as possible.”

There are several ways you might organize a homeschool math club, depending on the students you have and on your goals. I think you would have to split the students by age groups — it is very hard to keep that wide of a range of students interested. Then decide whether you want an activity-oriented club or a more academic focus.

When I started my first math club, I raided the math shelves in the children’s section at my library (510-519) for anything that interested me. I figured that if an activity didn’t interest me, I couldn’t make it fun for the kids. Over the years we have done a variety of games, puzzles, craft projects, and more — always looking for something that was NOT like whatever the kids would be doing in their textbooks at home.

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