Maria Miller Hello!

There's a lot in this month's newsletter...

  1. Math Mammoth updates
  2. MathFails (grades 1-12)
  3. KenKen puzzles (grades 3-12)
  4. A math moment
  5. The problem with math word problems (grades 3-8)
  6. Safe distance applet
  7. Puzzle pieces
  8. Just for fun!

1. Math Mammoth updates

Many people are starting to homeschool the first time in their life, this fall. Sometimes this creates panic, especially if a testing process reveals your child is woefully behind in math. I hear that story often enough, so if this is you, you're not alone!

First... no need to panic! Calm down. There are steps you can take. Others have gone through getting their kids caught up - even children who are supposed to be in 7th grade but operate in 1st/2nd grade level in math.

I do recommend TESTING, if at all possible, so as to get a good picture of what exactly they do know and don't know. Sometimes testing is counterproductive though, if a child has lots of math anxiety. So, use your judgment.

I offer free, comprehensive tests that can be used for generic math assessment as well as for placement in the Math Mammoth curriculum.

Here's my article about catching up.

Also, here's a nice short article from Kate Snow about filling in gaps that you might also find helpful.

Another testimonial...
I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful curriculum. My kids have been using Math Mammoth for two years now. My oldest daughter did both 4th and 5th grade light blue series these past two years. We do the Woodcock Johnson test where they put your subjects at grade levels and at the end of fourth grade her overall mathematics was at the level of 6.4 grade (with applied real world problem at 8th grade). This year at the end of 5th grade she was at 10.9 grade for overall mathematics (with applied real world problems at grade 17.9- that is she is on level with college students ending their first year of grad school) Our assessor was so impressed and said she was doing math by hand correctly that most adults cannot do. Everything she has learned these past two years have come from Math Mammoth. Thank you so much for making such a great math program that has allowed my daughter (who according to her hates math) to excel!

Brooke McMichael

2. MathFails

Take a look at these "MATHFAILS" - photos from real life that show a math mistake... or do they?

GREAT for discussion starters with children/students! One example from the article — the photo of the Sundae with a price of .99 cents.

3. KenKen puzzles

I've mentioned KenKen puzzles before... they're great little "math brain teasers" and practice your mental math skills. For almost all ages!

4. A math moment

A "math moment" from a few days ago with my son (CodeLover).

He was solving a problem that had to do with fraction multiplication. It has a quilt... and each square in the quilt is 5 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches. The quilt itself is 9 x 20 squares.

He worked on it a while and then came to me saying that his answer is definitely wrong... he was talking about that it's a MILES long rug! I had to chuckle 😁, but I was also happy he realized that something was really wrong. 😀

We delved into it together. Turns out, one crucial mistake had to do with the fact that area is in SQUARE units, not linear. So, when you convert square inches to square feet, you don't just divide by 12. (You divide by 12 x 12 or 144). (And that wasn't his only mistake.) I thought it was a great problem for a learning experience! ... because when you REALLY get it wrong, and then get it straightened out, you learn a lot.😉

5. The problem with math word problems

Have you ever noticed this kind of "recipe" for math lessons in many math books?


Explanation and examples.

Numerical exercises.

A few word problems.

In other words, the word problems are usually in the END of the lesson, and just a few. But worse... if the lesson is about topic X, then the word problems are usually about the topic X too!

Children might be learning about multi-digit multiplication, or subtraction, or dividing decimals. After the calculation exercises come some word problems, which oddly enough are solved by using the exact operation just practiced!

Worse YET... typically the word problems in elementary grades only have TWO numbers in them. So, even if you didn't understand a word in the problem, you might be able to do it. (The misguide to problem solving at the end of this article refers to this also.)

Just try: the following made-up problem is in FINNISH... and let's say it is found within a long division lesson. I assume now that you do NOT know Finnish — but can you solve it?

Kaupan hyllyillä on 873 lakanaa, 9:ää eri väriä. Joka väriä on saman verran. Kuinka monta lakanaa on kussakin värissä?

Drag your mouse over the space below to see the translation (highlight it).

The store has 873 sheets in 9 different colors. There is the same amount of sheets for each color. How many sheets of each color are there?

Continue reading

6. Safe distance applet

Some of your children/students might enjoy playing around with this applet 😃.

Given n people, what is the smallest rectangle you can fit them in at a safe distance (everyone at least 6 ft apart from everyone)? You can move the people around. You can also change the size of the rectangle and the number of the people. The "Help" button marks the people who are too close to someone.

7. Puzzle pieces

Have you ever stopped to check if your 100 or 300 or 500-pieze jigsaw puzzle actually has exactly 100 or 300 or 500 pieces? I did as a child, and found out that well, those are often just approximations.

You see, it's not easy (or possible) to find a factorization for 500 that would make a rectangle suitable for a puzzle. Most photos don't really go with 5 x 100 or 2 x 250 or even 50 x 10.

But for 1000, it works nicely to have 40 x 25.

So, ask your kids to check about this sometimes. 🙂

Here's someone else who came up with some math questions to ask from a jigsaw puzzle - one you can ask your kids is, "How many INTERIOR pieces are there?"

8. Just for fun!

Thanks for reading! :)

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Till next time,
Maria Miller

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