Maria's Math News, Vol. 79, February 2014

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

Hello! This time, I want you to take notice of the first item below, the story of the autistic girl and how she went from not being able to count to doing 5th grade math in a short space!

Then I also have some worksheets, a resource for free tests, a story problem from my daughter, and news about a math carnival!


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1. Math Moment -- autistic girl (grades K-12)
2. Worksheets for coordinate grid and volume (grades 5-8)
3. Free practice test bank (grades 7-12)
4. Math story problem about horses (grades 4-6)
5. Math Teachers at Play (grades K-12)

1. Math Moment -- autistic girl

Here is the story of one of the Math Moments contest winners. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did -- an inspiring story of GROWTH in the face of difficulties! It is amazing how much IS possible!

There is nothing more rewarding as a parent to see your child accomplish something that they have been working really hard on. For my husband and I that was doubly rewarding as we really felt our daughter would never really be able to do much in terms of math or reading. We knew that she was on the autistic spectrum from a very young age. For YEARS we would try to teach her to count. For most kids counting to 5 is easy, and something they can at least do by 4 if not younger, and abc's as well. But our precious dd just could not. I would cry at night wondering how she was going to make it in the world without even being able to count to 5 or spell her name or well... anything. My husband told me that as we were home educating it was really ok for me just to let it go. Stop worrying and just work with her where she was. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself AND her. I realized that she had many strengths that I had overlooked in my stress about what she couldn't do. So I played on those. I cooked with her in the kitchen and measured out loud, counting how many carrots or potatoes. To HER it wasn't math... it was helping mom cook.

Imagine my shock when a few weeks later, she came to US in tears. "Mom, Dad, I want to count and read like my brother. I want to be a big girl and not just look at the pages. I want to know what it says." She was a few short months away from being six. I JUMPED out of my chair, but my husband grabbed me and quietly spoke to her. "Darling, we are so happy that you are ready to learn to count and read, but you have to understand something very important. It takes a LOT of hard work and focus. It may be challenging for you, but we know that you can do it. Are you sure you want to do this?" "YES!!!!" she squealed.

We were living in Spain at the time in a very rural area, all I really had was paper and pens and different little things laying around our rented accommodation. We set to work making flash cards and counting everything we saw. As she has ASD, I felt it was important that she understand the concept of number, the why and how it all works together. By the end of the week she was counting to 5. Her brother was so proud and supportive we would hear him in the pool setting up things for her to count. He was even trying to teach her addition. We ALL delighted in her discovery of the world of numbers, but no one more than her.

This photo is of THE moment when she counted to 10 by herself without ANY help... and her brother... you can read his face and know the support... he was as proud of her as anyone could have been as he too had been working with her for so long.

It is hard to believe that was only 3 years ago. Now she is doing 5th grade maths including adding and subtraction of fractions, long multiplication and division and some algebra! I often forget those nights crying on my husband's shoulder, beating myself up for not being able to get through to her. But was real...

I credit Math Mammoth for the engaging worksheets that I found when I stumbled on them as I was trying to find a grade level assessment. She loves the simple and clear way they are presented and it makes it more inviting. I wouldn't dare say that maths will ever be my daughter's favorite subject but it will always be mine. Math provided the platform for me to watch my daughter begin her path to becoming someone I had never dared dream possible.

Thank you for giving me a platform to share our story...

Kindest Regards,
Jenn Gillies

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2. Worksheets for coordinate grid and volume

Here are some new worksheet generators for my site, especially meant for grades 6-7:

  1. Worksheets for the coordinate grid. You can make worksheets where students plot points on the coordinate plane, tell the coordinates of points, plot shapes from points, reflect shapes in the x or y-axis, or move them up, down, left, or right (translations).

    For example:

  2. Worksheets for the volume and surface area of cubes and rectangular prisms. The options include the usage of fractional edge lengths. You can also ask for surface area when volume is given or vice versa.

    For example:

3. Free practice test bank

Here's a resource for high schoolers (mostly)!

Varsity Tutors has created a massive FREE practice test bank for all kinds of standardized tests, including SAT, SSAT, ISEE, GED, GMAT, HSPT, CLEP, AP, ACT, and ACCUPLACER -- and also generic subjects such as algebra 1, geometry, or calculus. It contains tens of thousands of practice problems.

You can also create a free account so you can save your test results and keep track of progress over time, as well as create your own tests.

Note: this is not for math only but includes English, science, reading, writing, social studies  and so on -- whatever subjects are tested in any particular test.

4. A math story problem about horses

I recently mentioned about changing math problems from closed to open, and gave a few examples.

A few days ago my 5th grader was facing a page in Math Mammoth 5 filled with word problems that had to do with conversions between measuring units. So... I asked her to choose and solve 3 problems from that page, and THEN write her own story problem where the solver will need to convert measuring units.

This is what she came up with. I guess I should have guessed the topic. :^)

Photo by

There are three horses in a paddock, and each weighs a different amount. The first horse weighs 13,760 ounces, the second 1/2 ton, and the last one 1,100 pounds. What is the weight of all the horses together, in pounds? No calculator allowed.

She needed some help, because in her original version, the weights of the horses were not realistic -- but it was good to have a discussion on that, as well.

Try it yourself! Ask your kids to make story problems. You might be surprised. :)

5. Math Teachers at Play

Math Teachers at Play #70 has SO much to offer that I think you should go check it out yourself. It's a pretty carnival illustrated with photos and some extra puzzles along the way. There are posts about: For example, I found a mail carrier themed math facts activity, a card game to practice order of operations, a geometric pattern in (x + 1)(x − 1) = x2 − 1, and so on!

Explore the carnival!

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Till next time,
Maria Miller
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