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Homeschool Math Newsletter, Vol. 32, September 2009

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In this month's newsletter:

1. About the Newsletter
2. A review of Mathletics
3. A review of Multiplication Mountain songs CD
4. A review of Algebra Unplugged
5. Math trick and its proof: squaring a number ending in 5
6. Tidbits

1. About the newsletter

First of all, you might have already noticed that this month's newsletter happens to be filled with reviews. This doesn't normally happen, as the regular readers surely know, but it just happened that way this time. I didn't specifically plan it. Various companies send me materials off and on, and I write reviews about them. (I hope that my mentioning this does not result in a slew of products mailed to me... I really can't handle too many at a time.)

Some might feel, "Then I'm not going to read it, because I'm not going to buy anything anyway." Please don't just discard this newsletter for that reason. What I have written can be valuable to you EVEN if you never buy the actual product, for these reasons:
  • The reviews contain principles and ideas for math teaching in general.
  • The company may offer free samples/free trial that are useful.

  • You might have a friend that could right now use such a product.
  • You might be able to afford it in the future if you can't now.
  • The moment might come when such a product could be useful to you in the future, OR to someone else you know.
It's good to be knowledgeable in general about what KIND of products exist. For example, some people might not realize that kids can learn multiplication tables with the help of songs. Or, that it's possible to write about algebra in a humorous manner.

I'm not putting these reviews into the newsletter to be commercial advertisements as such, or for personal monetary gain (I'm not receiving any). I thought they were GOOD products and could HELP some of you! All the rest of you who are not going to buy (which is FINE) can still learn something from those reviews.

Also, I feel that people who are passionate about mathematics and who make a good product then deserve to receive a compensation for their efforts. Sometimes people just hunt for educational freebies - but I feel "a workman is worthy of his hire".

Noetic Learning Math Contests
for elementary students are now available for homeschools
Noetic Learning logo
  • Build your children's problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • Challenge your children and discover their math talent
  • Bring the thrill of math contest to your homeschool

2. A review of Mathletics

Mathletics is an online math practice system for K-12 that includes:
  • a regular "curriculum" section where you practice various kinds of math problems;
  • a Live Mathletics section where you race with math problems against other kids around the world;
  • Rainforest Maths - a separate website filled with math activities; and
  • a parent center with yet more resources such as printable workbooks and videos.
Mathletics is a subscription service, but it offers a lot! (Free trials also available) Read my review and see screenshots.

3. A review of Multiplication Mountain songs CD

It has been proven that music can help children memorize things. There is something about the music or the rhythm or both that changes or improves the way our brain works. I haven't studied this effect in-depth; I'm just familiar with the general idea.

So, using music to memorize math facts−or in this case, multiplication tables−is definitely a sound idea.

Multiplication Mountain is a CD by Hap Palmer, filled with songs for the multiplication tables. For each table, there is one song, but it is presented twice on the CD: once sung completely, and the second time without the answers sung. That way, the child can try to fill in the answers while listening to the song from the second track.

You can listen to samples at www.myspace.com/happalmer (the songs for nines and twos) and at CdFreedom website.

Here's yet another sample of his music from YouTube. It's called Bean Bag Alphabet Rag. It's not from the Multiplication Mountain CD. I just put the link here in case you want to check out the musical and singing style of this artist. Bean Bag Alphabet Rag by Hap Palmer. It's a pretty fun song!

Read the complete review.

4. A review of Algebra Unplugged

Algebra Unplugged by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats is not a textbook, nor does it have any exercises. Instead, it is filled with verbose, often humorous explanations of algebra 1 concepts for those who would rather hear or read math explained in many words, instead of in a few symbols.

Algebra Unplugged also often explains the reasons behind some peculiar mathematical notations or terminology, and in general, tells the students WHY things are done the way they are done in your "Real Algebra Book".

The Associative Principle

Organizing your singers into sections won't affect how many are in your choir. Grouping them is creating associations. The associate law recognizes the benefits of confining your tenors to one easy-to-patrol area. Fifteen tenors in a corner is no different from fifteen scattered throughout room. It's just safer.

If all you're doing to a series of numbers is adding them, you can add them one at a time, or you can put them in groups, then add the totals of each group.
Read the complete review.

5. Math trick and its proof: squaring a number ending in 5


If a number ends in 5, then its square can be calculated using this "trick" (I like to call it a shortcut because there's nothing magic about it):

Let's say we have 75 × 75 => Go 7 × 8 = 56. Then tag 25 (or 5 × 5) into that. You get 5625.

Let's say we have 35 × 35 => Go 3 × 4 = 12. Then tag 25 into that. You get 1225.

Let's say we have 115 × 115 => Go 11 × 12 = 132. Then tag 25 into that. You get 13,225.

You could definitely use this in algebra class. First explain the shortcut or trick itself. Then ask students to prove it, or to explain WHY it works, using algebra.

You could also explain this to younger students as an additional "neat trick" and let them explore and play with it.

Read more and see the proof.

6. Tidbits

  • Free e-books from Sylvan Dell
    Beautifully illustrated animal stories for reading online. (These are not math.)
  • Escher's impossible staircase
    Most of us have seen the picture of Escher's paradoxical staircases - but today I saw a model of them built of Legos! It's just cool!
  • Learn to recognize coins.
    A simple game I have used with my daughter to learn the coins.
  • IPlayMathGames.com is now free
    IPlayMathGames.com contains downloadable math games and activities (PDF) using cards, dice and other manipulatives. Find games and exercises for fractions, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, geometry and more.

Till next time,
Maria Miller

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