Transitions are a difficult time for students. It’s easy for kids to misbehave and waste time. I don’t have all the answers for successful transitions, but I do have one: SING! If kids are singing, they can’t talk. (You might have to start the song over a few times to enforce this.)

If kids are singing Best Multiplication Songs EVER!, they are learning their times tables during each transition. My multiplication songs are short—most are about 30 seconds long. It’s a good length of time for many transitions.

My class works on times tables in a team approach. Say we are working on 3s. We sing the 3s while we line up for recess, lunch, special, end of day, you name it! We sing our 3s if we have a little time between activities.

This tip comes straight from my Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! The section on teaching 2 digit multiplication is very helpful for teachers looking to scaffold learning. I break long multiplication into 3 sections—multiplying multidigit numbers by 1, 2 or 3 digits. Within each section, a dozen or more lessons teach the process step by step.

Please use these two FREE sample pages with your class to introduce 2 digit multiplication. This introductory lesson lets your students learn the Hugs and Kisses method to keep their numbers lined up when they have to put in that place holding O. (The place holding O is the hug. You put an X, or kiss, over a number to kiss it goodbye when you are through with it.)

The workbook lets students practice Hugs and Kisses by beginning with multiplying times 11. This isolates the Hugs and Kisses skill, allowing students to focus on the procedure, not the math.

I wish I’d learned multiplication this way when I was a kid! I hope this and other lessons from the Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! help your students.

Bedtime Math promises to do for numeracy what bedtime stories did for literacy.

It all started when Laura Overdeck decided to help her kids love math the way she does. And boy, does she love math! Overdeck earned a B.S. in astrophysics from Princeton and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. She combined her love of math, kids and bedtime stories into the Bedtime Math series.

Each book offers multiple evenings of Bedtime Math because they beg to be read little-by-little, with time set aside for thinking.

BedtimeMath.org offers FREE Bedtime Math resources to complement the books. Check out the Daily Math for blog articles about fun real-life math topics. You can download a Wacky Math app that brings Bedtime Math to your device–daily problems, articles, etc.

Bedtime Math has a section for educators. The author asks educators to encourage bedtime math at home, rather than making it part of school. She also suggests starting an after-school math club, for which she will provide ideas and curriculum. Very generous. However, I think the educators section should be taken with a grain of salt. Remember, its advice is from the perspective of an accomplished mom of privileged kids, not a teacher whose students run the gamut.

Starting an after-school club opens a whole can of worms. A) you’ll be working for free B) you have to wonder whether school liability insurance and protections extend to after-school clubs–most elementary schools aren’t set up for them C) you are responsible for making sure the kids get home safely. If they walk, it won’t be in the safety of huge crowds of kids, and if they get picked up–well, the pickup might be an hour late or not at all.

Regarding the idea to keep Bedtime Math for home only: not everyone has a parent who loves math–or even likes it a little bit. Not everyone has a parent who reads bedtime stories. Heck, not everyone has a parent who actually enforces bedtime–and provides a real bed. Plus–not everyone has a parent who speaks/reads English.

Some kids may never experience Bedtime Math unless it is at school. Consider your school’s circumstances and decide whether Bedtime Math is something to recommend to parents or do at school. Also consider that families may be much more interested in Bedtime Math after you whet kids’ appetites at school.

Many students get confused when they have to plot ordered pairs on a graph. “Run and jump” helps them remember that the first number is x and the second is y. Teach your students to mutter “run and jump” as they first slide their pencil to the x, then slide to y.

Don’t get discouraged if your little scholars don’t quite master “run and jump” after the first lesson. The simple catchphrase should be enough to get most kids back on track, even if it’s been a while since the class plotted ordered pairs. Your heart will warm when you hear your students reminding each other to “run and jump.” Teacher intervention is rarely necessary once kids know the trick.

Click here for graphing worksheets from MathAids.com. You can choose from one quadrant and four quadrant worksheets. Click here for my post on FREE four quadrant graphing characters worksheets.

Help kids learn math facts by using Spaceship Math, the FREE leveled worksheets with 26 scaffolded levels.

Spaceship Math is part of Dad’s Worksheets, a terrific math site that I have written about a few times. With Spaceship Math, students learn their basic facts a few at a time. It starts very simply. For example, level A for addition covers 1+2 and 1+3. That’s it, unless you count 2+1 and 3+1 as separate facts. Level by level, students build their skills. There are four versions of each level, plus timed tests for every two levels. The worksheets are cumulative, so students are always reviewing old facts.

To find Spaceship Math on Dad’s Worksheets, click on the operation you want students to practice. That opens a menu of choices for the operation, and then you can easily find Spaceship Math.

I like to give the whole class a placement test. I choose a level in the middle, usually L. That has 7+2 and 7+4. From the placement test, I assign students to packets of either levels A-L or L-Z. The students don’t exactly thank me for these packets, but they do see that the packets help them learn. Plus, the leveled worksheets keep kids in their zone of proximal development, so it never feels too difficult.

I really like Spaceship Math for addition and, subtraction. For multiplication, I recommend Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!–and not just because I wrote it.

Spaceship Math multiplication is very different from the way most of us learned our times tables–one table at a time. It moves pretty quickly, and doesn’t give students a sense of how each times table works as a unit. My Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! levels times tables in an effective way. It provides lots of practice problems, plus word problems that show the value of each times table.

I haven’t written a Best Division Workbook EVER! yet, so for division, I give students worksheets based on the times tables. I assign division times tables in the same order I presented multiplication tables in Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!

I hope you and your students enjoy Spaceship Math.

Most teachers were taught to use a horizontal number line to teach concepts. I recommend using a vertical number line because it’s easier for students to understand.

When we add and subtract, we thinking of going up or down, not left to right. Wouldn’t that be easier to picture on a vertical number line? After all, to most kids, adding is going up and subtracting is going down. Kids don’t think of numbers as going from left to right.

To teacher integers (positive and negative numbers), I like to write a vertical number line from -10 to 10. I write the positive numbers in black and the negative numbers in red. (In a business context, red is the color for negative numbers.) To make 0 stand out, I write it big and blue.

Having positive numbers one color and negative numbers another helps students see the difference. Working on a vertical number line helps them see why –2+3 = 1.

Help your students learn spatial reasoning skills with pattern blocks. A class set of these versatile shapes can provide hours of fun and education.

Pattern blocks are mathematical manipulatives that let students see how shapes relate to each other.

In the first set, all shapes can be built from the basic equilateral triangle:

Equilateral triangle (Green)

Regular rhombus (Blue)

Trapezoid (Red)

Hexagon (Yellow)

The second set contains shapes that can’t be built of the green triangle, but can still be used in tiling patterns.

Square (Orange)

Small rhombus (Beige)

Click here for an inexpensive set of plastic pattern blocks available at Amazon.com

Students love to make their own patterns from pattern blocks. Another good activity is the pattern block puzzle. Students build complicated shapes, such as a train, using pattern blocks. Some puzzles have interior lines to show which pieces to use. That’s good for beginners. More advanced students like to figure it out themselves.

I like to print the puzzles and either laminate them or put them in page protectors. If you laminate the puzzles, I recommend taping or gluing the puzzle to construction paper for strength.

The order of operations is an important concept in math. It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn. Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part three: online PEMDAS games

After you’ve taught order of operations until you’re blue in the face, take a break and let some online games have a crack at it. Your students might find that practice is a little more fun when it comes in the form of a computer game.

Here are a few good order of operations games. You can paste the links into a convenient place for your students to choose from, or let them work from this blog post.

Kids, let’s have some PEMDAS fun! This guide is organized to help you find a game that suits your order of operations confidence level.

Good for beginners:

Order of Operations at SoftSchools.com: I like this game because it takes actual calculation out of the equation, so to speak. Students click on which operation they should perform first. The program models how to show your work.

Another no-calculation order of operations game: This game also lets you just deal with order of operations, not the calculations. It’s a good way to build your confidence in knowing what to do first.

Leveled order of operations game: This game provides practice problems that are leveled. You can choose to deal with parenthesis or just keep it simple. This is a good game for building your skills.

Connect Four-style order of operations game: This game can be for one or two players. It lets you solve practice problems, then place your piece for Connect Four. You can change the level of difficulty.

Rags to Riches: build your virtual fortune as you solve order of operations problems. It’s fun to think about making money at math practice!

Good for PEMDAS pros:

Funbrain Order of Operations game: This one asks students to place the numbers in order to create an equation that yields a predetermined result. This is higher-level order of operations thinking. Good for students who understand the concept, not so great for struggling students.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Don’t get creative with the acronym. This is what every math teacher after you will use.

The order of operations is an important concept in math. It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn. Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part two: practicing and perfecting PEMDAS

Let students make practice problems. Kids love to play teacher. Have them create problems for the class to solve. You can take a seat with the students and try the problems with everyone else. Taking the part of a student is good for you, too. You can feel the anxiety they experience as each new problem goes on the board.

Tell kids that PEMDAS is the default. Many students get through lessons on order of operations only to disregard them when they see equations a few months later. Many students don’t realize that they should always use order of operations. I tell kids that they should always use it unless a problem specifically says otherwise. (This would be a written mental-math problem on a standardized test.)

Warn kids of the PEMDAS pitfall: you’re just as confident when you’re getting it wrong. Assuming your students know their basic facts (and that’s assuming a lot), then the math in order of operations problems won’t be hard for them. Their competence with basic facts might lead them to think they’re doing well, even if they left PEMDAS behind a long time ago.

Warn students that if the math gets hard, they probably made a PEMDAS mistake. Most practice order of operations problems do not involve difficult calculations and extra-long division. If your kids find themselves mired in deep calculations, they probably made a wrong PEMDAS turn somewhere along the road.

Find practice problems online.

Math-aids.com has an excellent Order of Operations section with scaffolded lessons to help you give the kids non-intimidating practice.

I highly recommend both sites. In fact, I have written quite a few blog posts that link to them. Click for the post about Dad’s Worksheets and here for the post about Math-Aids.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Don’t get creative with the acronym. This is what every math teacher after you will use.

The order of operations is an important concept in math. It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn. Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part one: getting started with order of operations

Don’t grade while you’re teaching.You want to create a risk-free environment for students to learn order of operations. Give them lots of practice, let them help each other, but don’t assess them. Not formally, at least. Don’t grade the homework for accuracy. Give the kids a chance to learn before you assess them.

Plan at least a week just to get the basic concept. Years of experience taught me that most students need a lot of time to grasp order of operations. Students get frustrated as they are learning the concept. Warn them in advance that most of them will take a while to learn this.

Scaffold the lessons. Break order of operations into baby steps. Students will need lots of practice with 3 + 2 x 4 before they deal with more complicated problems. I recommend that you use individual whiteboards or no-budget whiteboards (page protectors) so that you can create problems that suit what your students need from moment to moment.

Give real-world examples. One of the most common uses of order of operations is shopping. Tell students a little story about buying 3 of one item, 4 of another, etc. Then, add the tax to the whole thing if you think your class is ready for that. After you’ve told the story, write the equation on the board. Label each number. The idea is for students to see why you can’t add the number of bananas to the cost of oranges, just because they happen to be next to each other in your example.

Teach kids to give themselves a checklist. Model and require your students to write PEMDAS next to each problem. They can use the acronym as a checklist to make sure they are following order of operations as they solve the problem.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Don’t get creative with the acronym. This is what every math teacher after you will use.

Here is a fun activity that lets your students practice combination problems and learn a little about each other.

Every year, students have to master combination problems for the state test. The technique for solving these problems is simple, but the kids never seem to remember it. Hence the yearly review.

Sample problem: Josie has 2 flavors of ice cream and 3 types of toppings. How many different combinations can she make?

Answer: 6. You multiply option 1 times option 2.

That’s it.

I review these problems by making up a word problem for each student in the class. The problem’s theme is based on the child’s interest.

Examples:

Katie has three pairs of soccer shorts and four soccer tee-shirts. How many combinations can she make?

Matt has three different bats and five different baseballs. How many combinations can he make?

Doing this for a class only takes a few minutes. Each sample problem takes thirty seconds or less. By the end, the students know how to do this type of problem.

For now.

… this time next year, they’ll be reviewing it again!

Math and fitness go hand in hand at NumberFit, a British company that engages kids in physical activities that develop their math skills. If you live in the UK, see if NumberFit is a good fit for your school, youth group, camp or party. If you live elsewhere, look to NumberFit for inspiration on how to combine math and fitness.

NumberFit’s promotional video explains the gives you an idea of some of their activities. A child described NumberFit’s activities as “very, very fun and very, very maths-y.” You can see races, calisthenics, and math lessons in the short video.

The NumberFit blog offers interesting articles that will help you teach students the connection between math and fitness.

I like Maths in Sport. The article investigates how sprinter Usain Bolt uses mathematics in his personal and professional life, for everything from training to dietary requirements to how many zeroes are in his checks.

Examples of Usain Bolt’s math: (Go to the blog entry for answers and calculations)

What is the perfect angle for a sprinter’s feet to be at taking off from the blocks?

How long should it take before a sprinter’s body should be upright, running at 90 degrees to the floor?

What angle should a sprinter’s arms and legs be at to create the optimum speed and velocity while running?

March and sing the elevens (they’re to the tune of the US Navy’s march, Anchors Aweigh!)

Jump as you sing fives (they’re to the tune of Pop! Goes the Weasel)

The Running Quiz

Play this game outside or in a gym. Students stay in the middle of a large area, huddled in a group. One side of the running area is Choice A; the other side is Choice B. (Or true or false, even or odd, whatever)

Ask students a question, give them time to think, then, on your signal, students run to the area corresponding with their choice.

The thinking time is important. You want the students to make their own decisions, not just follow the crowd. Of course, struggling students will likely follow the crowd, but they’ll catch on after a while.

Examples of Running Quiz Questions for Math:

Even or odd

Ask any number, give kids time to think, then tell them to run to Even or Odd

Prime or Composite

Ask any number, give kids time to think, then on your signal they run to prime or composite

Adapt the Running Quiz to any subject matter! If you designate one zone as True and the other as False, the quiz works well for social studies and science questions.

Most folks don’t know (or care) about coloring maps or map coloring theory, but today’s elementary school students are forced to take an interest. For some reason, these subjects are often stressed on state achievement tests. However, few textbooks provide practice or assessment for the skills.

What’s a teacher to do?

Turn to the Internet. That’s what I did, and I found some resources that I hope will help others.

Back up and explain: coloring maps questions usually go something like this: what is the fewest number of colors needed to color this map so that no edges are touching? (A squiggle of lines forming a “map” accompanies the question.)

Teachers and students were left to fend for themselves, drawing their best guess at sample maps, coloring them in, and trying to figure out how many colors were needed. We never really knew if we were doing it right.

Someone already did this work for us, apparently. My research showed that four colors are enough for any map you can draw. Two two mathematicians, Ken Appel and Wolfgang Haken, figured this out in 1976. If that’s not enough to convince the kids, I invite them to read about the four color theorem. (Here’s the short version: four colors are enough!)

So, I taught my students a few things:

a) It’s never more than four colors, according to mathematicians.

b) On our practice tests, the answer is almost always three colors. Ergo, this is most likely the answer to any coloring maps question life will throw at you.

c) If the answer is only two colors, it will usually be pretty clear because the picture will look more or less like stripes.

I found an Internet tutorial on the subject that lets students practice coloring in the maps. In our era of standardized testing, the ability to actually color in the map isn’t important, since it can’t be reduced to a bubble sheet answer choice. However, the act of trying to color in the maps helps students understand why you never need more than four colors, and why three colors will usually suffice.

Click here to use the tutorial, from subtangent.com. I highly recommend the tutorial as a computer lab exercise for your students.

Click here for a printable coloring maps worksheet/tutorial.

A National Board Certified Teacher explains what an educator’s life is really like. The series is a value-added collection of Best ClassAntics Posts EVER! Each post explains something about a teacher’s life and links to ClassAntics posts with relevant teaching tips.

Part Eleven: We are miserable when our class has trouble with math

Teachers get very upset when their class has trouble with math. We consult with colleagues, search for resources, and look deep within ourselves to find ways to make the math lessons stick.

Seriously, we spend A LOT of time thinking about math. This is probably why ClassAntics has so many posts on the subject.

Summer slide, the yearly decline in skills during vacation, affects every academic subject. Making up the deficit and math can be quite challenging. A series of posts provide tips for teachers and parents to help kids build math skills.

Multiplication really is an important skill, and teachers employ many, many techniques to teach it. Every child learns differently, so a host of methods are needed to reach the class.

School districts provide textbooks and workbooks, but these are rarely sufficient to teach every mathematical concept. Teachers have to look elsewhere. We find fun games for our class to play during computer lab time. Good examples are found in the posts on FREE Online Resources to Practice Rounding Numbers and Online Resources to Teach Money Math.

We try to incorporate math into other subject areas. Science is an obvious one, but did you know math and poetry can play nicely together? Here is a fun lesson: April is Poetry Month: Math Poem and Worksheet.

This tip comes from ClassAntics readers. Mrs. Sullivan and her after-school group emailed me saying that ClassAntics posts helped them during their unit on counting money and good saving habits. The group found an excellent website that provides access to many Money Math resources.

Click here for the complete list. Below are some of my favorites:

Dollar Dive: An arcade game where you try to load up your ship with the required amount of money before the Sea Monster gets the ship. From US Mint.gov, so you know it’s safe and allowed in most districts.

Do You Have Enough Money? A simple game that asks if you have enough money to buy a certain item. This site is good because kids need experience dealing with pictures of money, not just money. It’s not always so easy to tell the coins apart.

Pocket Change: A Moment of Edutainment: This is a really good but simple game that challenges you to make a certain amount of money with a certain amount of coins. You see this prompt on standardized tests. The pictures of money are really clear and easy to understand. Kids will have to get used to the Kennedy half dollar.

Counting Money: This demonstration from Harcourt School Publishers asks students to count money from pictures of coins and type the amount. This is a good choice for computer lab time or for a whole-class demonstration using a projector.

The One Dollar Store: Drag coins to the box so you can pay for items at the dollar store. The site has a kid-friendly look to it.

Cash Out: You run a cash register at a store. Your task is to give change. Different levels let you choose whether the game gives you hints, or whether you have to figure the amount of change from the purchase price. If you take hints, the game is basically a test of whether you can gather the right coins. If you don’t take hints, the game lets you practice the counting up method of making change.

Money Flash Cards: A simple game that has you figure out how much money is there. This game uses paper money as well as coins.

Thank you again to Mrs. Sullivan and her after school group. Your tips will help many kids and teachers!