Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wall Street Journal Article on the 2000 Boston Marathon

It is not every day that you make the Wall Street Journal. But on Friday there I was mentioned as a Boston Marathon straggler. I am in the company of a very heavy man running Boston and the oldest Boston Marathon finisher. It seems the WSJ found the old story from 2000 when the Nashua School District wouldn't let me take a personal day to run the Boston Marathon. I taught my day of school and then headed down to Hopkinton to meet up with race director Dave McGillivray at 4:00 and we ran the marathon a bit later than everyone else. It was an interesting day and an unusual way to run the race. By the way, I think it was one of the best days of teaching that I ever did!

Here are some articles about the 2000 Boston Marathon: interview before the race post race article article

Here are a few pictures from the 2000 Boston Marathon. (1) I am greeting Dave McGillivray (2) in the first wave of the evening marathon (3) being inverviewed after the race (4) with many teachers from Mount Pleasant School who came out to cheer and support me (and two of my kids)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

"Not on the Test" is a Song with an Important Message (and it is fun too!)

Here is a fun little satirical song with a message by Tom Chapin. It is called "Not on the Test". You can watch, download, and share the song here, as well as learn more about the song and its purpose.

My son, Andrew, liked to listen to Tom Chapin when he was in elementary school. His class went to his concert one year. Now Andrew is a budding "rock star" who passionately writes and records his own songs and even has a CD album of songs for his friends. I saw and heard about this song and video, "Not on the Test" about how teaching to the test can limit the teaching of the Arts in the elementary schools. I do appreciate the energetic teaching of Music, Gym, and Art at my school. Of course those are the favorite classes for many students and the teaching is wonderful. I would hate for our students to lose these weekly classes and I only wish they could have more exposure and time to given over to these important creative areas. We do lose out on a lot of Science and Social Studies at our school due to our emphasis on reading. Do you think Tom Chapin would be willing to write another song?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Using a Multiplication Chart to find Equivalent Fractions

This is one of my favorite math tricks that can really help your students as they try to understand how to work with equivalent fractions. I learned it at a workshop a couple years ago and have yet to meet a teacher who previously used or was aware of how simple this chart is to help students.

UPDATE: 4/3/2016 This has always been one of my most popular posts on this blog. For years, I have been teaching this using a self-created tool that I call the "Fraction Tracker" with my students. I always thought it would be something great for an iPad, but I don't have those creativity and coding skills. I finally decided to put my "Fraction Tracker" tool up on Teacher Pay Teachers. I included simple directions with photographs on how to use it. If you are interested you can find it here

Many simple equivalent fractions (most of the ones used in upper elementary years) are easy to find on a regular multiplication chart. I feel it is very helpful to point this out to your students. Many students struggle as they try to learn the many steps that it takes to find equivalent fractions. When you look left to right on the chart you are viewing the multiples of a number. When you view two different rows of multiplies you are viewing equivalent fractions.

For example using the 1's and 2's. Look at the two rows as if they were fractions.
1/2 = 2/4 = 3/6 = 4/8 and so on. You can split rows apart. Look at the rows for 1's and 3's. 1/3 = 2/6 = 3/9 = 4/12 and so on. To show how the chart works with my class I use an overhead projector and circle the numbers to make them easy to locate. To find 1/5 = ? / 30 I circle the 1 and the 5 underneath it on the ones column on the chart. Then I move my finger from the 5 until I get to the number 30 and circle that. I can block out or just cross out other numbers to make it clearer. Then I follow the 1 across and the 30 up until they meet at the number 6. and circle that. If you do it correctly the circles will form a square or rectangle.

Of course, as the students understand how to work the chart, teach them the other ways of finding equivalent fractions. It makes it much easier for them, however, to "see" the equivalent fractions for a number and the students even start memorizing the most common equivalent fractions.

Now for the most important part. When students take a test they usually cannot use a printed multiplication chart. So what! Train them on how to make a multiplication chart from their facts and have them practice often. Then at test time, they can reproduce the chart onto their test before starting the work. It should take less than 5 minutes. Not only can they use the chart for checking fraction, but they can use it as they do multiplication and division problems too! No it is not cheating. It is about being smart, observant, and prepared!

Do play around with the chart on your own. I didn't believe it would work that simply until I practiced with it and used it with my class. There are some other tips and techniques that you can quickly figure out on your own that even make using the chart easier.

Here is a blank multiplication chart template.

It comes from this site which has a bunch of interesting math templates.

If your students have a hard time memorizing their multiplication facts then this book Memorize in Minutes: The Times Tables shows an easy and unique way to help them out.