Review of TuxMath, order of operations in a bubble, problem solving with a bar model -- videos, CAMS & STAMS series of workbooks, and much more

Maria's Math News, Vol. 54, Summer 2011

I love teaching, and I love math. This newsletter is my way of reaching out and helping you to teach it, too.

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    Summer is in good swing... and once again I have some math resources for you. Save this email to read later if you can't get to them now.

    1. Review: CAMS & STAMS books from Curriculum Associates
    2. Tux Math - free math facts software
    3. Order of operations and "bubbles"
    4. Problem solving videos--bar/block model
    5. Tidbits

    1. Review: CAMS & STAMS books from Curriculum Associates

    STAMS book F I have finished my review of CAMS & STAMS books from Curriculum Associates... It is a series of assessment books, student worktexts, and teacher guides for struggling students that presents each math topic in a highly scaffolded manner.

    These books are supplemental to any basal math curriculum, and have been specifically designed to support struggling students. Each level consists of:
    Read the review!

    2. Tux Math - free math facts software

    You may have never heard of Tux Math, but among Linux users it's a fairly well-known children's arcade game for math facts practice. And it IS available for Windows and Mac too.

    My girls remembered about it just lately and have had somewhat of a frenzy of practice sessions with it. It's simple, free, yet fun. So I decided to give you, my readers, a quick review of it.

    screenshot of Tux Math

    You "shoot" meteorites that are falling down by answering math problems (type the problem's answer and press Enter/Return). If you can't answer one, the meteorite does some damage to one of the penguin's igloo. Then after enough damage, the penguin in that igloo leaves (walks away).

    screenshot of Tux Math

    But, once you answer a red "fiery" question that falls down real quick, you can get a cloud that comes and fixes the igloo. Then your penguin comes back! I think that's so cute!! You can only lose if all your penguins go away.

    The background is always an image from space.

    The options include any of the four operations, or have them mixed. You can practice specific times tables for example, which is good for my younger daughter at this time. As you go along in a game, then the questions start coming down quicker. At first they come down quite slow.

    There's a training section, and there's a section where it gives you random questions. In that one, you play as long as you want, and when you stop, it'll tell you if you are in the top ten highest scores for you. If so, then you go in the "hall of fame."

    Once you finish any particular type of problems (for ex. addition 0-5 or multiplication by 4), the star for that turns glowing yellow, and that's what my kids are after--they want to turn all those stars yellow. That's only in the training part, though. In the training part you have to answer a certain amount of questions.

    You can make as many new "accounts" as you want and fill the "hall of fame" with you and your various nicknames.

    It's just simple free game for math practice; there are no special features such as reports or training the facts you answer wrong.

    Tux Math, or Tux of Math Command is software that is available as a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Download it here.

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    3. Order of operations and "bubbles"

    Or you could call it a "cloud" or "balloon", instead of a "bubble". Anyhow, the idea is simple: in a given math problem with many operations, have the child encircle in a bubble/cloud/balloon the operation to be done first. He/she can use colored pencils or crayons for more fun.

    I just had this idea when my 2nd daughter was studying order of operations in addition and subtraction... that is, problems with many additions and subtractions, including parenthesis, things like

    100 + 20 − (50 + 10)

    20 − 8 − 6 vs. 20 − (8 − 6)

    (Those problems are found in Math Mammoth grade 3 curriculum.)

    So what we did was write some of the problems from the book on the whiteboard and she "bubbled" or drew bubbles around the operation to be done first. Well, her bubbles look like ovals, but she was thinking of them as bubbles--and that made it fun for her!

    use bubbles for the operation to be done first

    Then we did another fun thing, which is that she made me a difficult math problem with lots of additions and subtractions. It's seen in the bottom on the board. Then I solved it... and the answer turned out negative! Making problems for mom is always fun for little ones.

    The same idea will of course work if you are dealing with multiplication and division as well.

    4. Problem solving videos--bar/block model

    These videos show you examples of how to use the bar or block model in solving math word problems. The examples are all about 5th-6th grade level (I think). Enjoy! I hope they are of help!

    First I solve the following word problem using a bar model (Singapore math style), taken from Math Mammoth grade 5 curriculum: Brenda and Lily shared the cost of a $11.70 lunch so that Brenda paid two times as much as Lily. Find their shares.

    screenshot of video
    See the video

    Next problem is this: One rake is $5.60 more than the other, and together they cost $22.70. How much does the cheaper rake cost?

    screenshot of video
    See the video

    And lastly, John spent 3/10 of his money, and had $45.57 left. How much did he have initially?

    screenshot of video
    See the video

    5. Tidbits

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    Till next time,
    Maria Miller
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