* Spotlight on Mathgeek Mama

Mathgeek Mama is a cool blog with seriously good math resources, advice, and freebies.  I stumbled across this site recently and have been downloading some cool resources ever since.  Bethany is the math geek behind this terrific site, loaded with resources, helpful links, and insights for struggling students.  She’s a former public school math teacher who now homeschools her four girls.

Why do I love Mathgeek Mama so much?  Bethany really gets it.  She understands why some kids struggle with math.  She tackles common misunderstandings with multisensory and appealing materials.  And much of it is FREE.  Here’s a good example.  I am tutoring my nephew in math; Isaac partially understands place value and regrouping, but still needs that aha moment.  Bethany has created a clever and attractive shopping game where the currency is pattern blocks.  Without resorting to piecemeal algorithms in his head, Isaac can play this game and truly understand why he must “regroup,” even if we don’t call it that.  Anxiety is reduced and understanding is increased.  Perfect!


Check out Bethany’s site for freebies and much more.  Her products are reasonably priced and worth the investment (and far more attractive than anything I could create).

* Tiny Tap’s terrific online courses

Tiny Tap takes online learning to a new level with curated Tiny Tap Courses!  Now teachers and parents can combine lessons to create seamless learning units!  Competency can be determined by requiring students to reach a certain score before advancing to the next lesson or continuous practice is available without requiring a minimum score.  Students also earn certificates as they complete courses.  Here’s a look at how phonics instruction can be personalized by grouping skills for particular students.  With over 80 thousand available lessons, comprehensive instruction is a tap away!

Tiny Tap 6.gif

Tiny Tap’s lessons and units are available in 30 languages and offer personalized instruction on a wide range of topics.  In case you’d forgotten, Tiny Tap offers parents and teachers insights on individual and class performance while providing differentiated learning experiences for students.  Tiny Tap is a terrific resource for special needs students with a wide range of needs.

If all that isn’t enough, what about making money while you individualize instruction?  Here’s the Tiny Tap teacher-driven economy.  You gotta love it!


I could easily imagine a social skills unit for my dear Christopher.  I think it’s time for me to start tapping!


* School-wide bulletin boards

A recent “Coaches’ Corner” feature of Teaching Children Mathematics encourages the use of bulletin boards as teaching tools.  Robyn Silbey shares a cool example for grades K-5 by using a single prompt (What is equal to 10?) divided into columns for all classes to respond.  This tool seems appropriate for expanding algebraic instruction and thinking to all elementary grades, so here’s my proposed bulletin board.  Teachers could rotate through small group displays so that all kids get “on the wall” in one year.

bulleting board image.jpg


* Matific

Matific is terrific!  What a fabulous website for teachers and parents!  I am only using a free trial right now, but here’s what I will enjoy for the next 30 days:

Awesome math games (called “episodes”) which can be used to supplement school/ tutoring math lessons, added as homework, or selected by the student for independent play (if teacher/parent allow).   I found myself happily playing a number of these episodes.

Excellent coordination with your math instruction.  Math activities (games and hundreds of worksheets) can be assigned which correlate to your school’s math textbook, Common Core, and/or student needs. Activities may also be assigned by grade level or topic.

An enormous number of activities are available!  They are designed for kindergarten through 6th grade.  What about quality?  These episodes require mathematical reasoning, provide positive feedback, and make excellent use of current technology for computers and tablets with touch screens.  They go far beyond the typical “pop the correct answer” online game.  Without pesky time limits, special needs kids with processing issues will enjoy the process.  I think all kids will enjoy both the thoughtfulness and humor in these games.  And who knew that worksheets could be engaging?  Try them at Matific and see!

Solid resources for teachers.   You’ll find lesson plans, videos, tutorials, recorded webinars, white papers and more.  The teacher guides for episodes are extremely well done.  There’s a description of the required task, requisite skills (“behind the scene”), suggestions for demonstrating the episode to individuals or the whole class, VERY thoughtful questions for improving student understanding and promoting further exploration, and then more teacher-led follow up activities.

Strong student analytics.  Get reports on classroom overview; individual student achievement; and student scores cumulatively, by topic, and by assignment.  They’re quite simple to access- no hunting required.

Excellent pedagogy.   Matific is a seriously well-designed site and takes supplemental math instruction to a whole new level.  Students are encouraged to reason and enjoy math.  I especially value the inclusion of algebraic thinking as a math topic.  The folks behind Matific are solid mathematicians and computer whizzes.

And after my 30 day free trial?  Seriously reasonable cost for an upgraded membership.  I am surprised at the low cost of Matific and hope it stays that way!   Great value for an amazing website!

I have snipped a copy of The Matific Mission and would say their mission is a success!

Matific 2

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars  starstarstarstarstar




* Online calculator

Ah, thank you, online-calculator.com for providing a full screen calculator without an app.  This is a useful tool for students working with eye gaze technology.  I wish I could adjust the colors and also view the complete operation above the keypad, but I’ll take what I can get.  Image online calculator

* Room Recess: Playing and learning

Room recess

Wow.  I just discovered Room Recess!  What a gem of a site!  Room Recess is the brainchild of a single teacher who creates an amazing array of reading, math, spelling, and “computer lab” games.  It’s FREE and tremendously engaging.  Most importantly, the skill practice is high quality.  I have never seen so many excellent games on main idea, cause and effect, and inferences.  Those are always difficult skills to find online and Recess Room provides a treasure trove of excellent practice.   Other unique literacy skills include practice on prefixes, parts of speech, and vowel sounds.

If your students enjoy video and computer games, they will dive into this site with glee.  In fact, kids may not realize they are working!  The site is divided into academic categories, with specific skills listed by topic and/or grade level.  Room Recess games are typically timed or leveled, with some opportunities to regain lives.  The daily high scores are listed, along with first through fifth place winners.  Even for kids who cringe at timed activities, there are plenty of games that require more strategy than speed.  Again, I can’t say enough about the variety and quality of this resource.  The creator also encourages educators to suggest topics for games.

Can you believe this site is AD-FREE???


* The Math Diet

In a recent edition of Teaching Children Mathematics, authors Kateri Thunder and Alisha N. Demchak make a strong case for a “Math Diet” to grow healthy mathematical reasoning in kids.  Just as researchers have identified five foundational components of healthy reading reading instruction, the Math Diet is meant to provide students a balanced framework for navigating math through elementary school.

Here are the five components of the Math Diet as described by Thunder and Demchak:

  1. Counting
  2. Subitizing
  3. Conceptual understanding
  4. Strategic Competence
  5. Procedural fluency

I hear someone mumbling that EVERYONE knows counting is a given, and it’s certainly not esoteric.  BUT, there is a lot more to counting than meets the eye.  Many kids are able to process the more abstract features of counting (understanding order irrelevance, for instance), while struggling students never seem to get past using their fingers.  The key to a healthy Math Diet is to start early and start right.

In my experience, it’s hard to “feed” kids this Math Diet once they have acquired a taste for junk food math skills.  And as I’ve noted before, elementary teachers themselves may not have been exposed to healthy Math Diets.  That’s one reason I joined The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:  my personal Math Diet was sketchy.  maths-

* Robert’s My New Math Project: Calculus — RobertLovesPi’s Blog

Now that I’ve let the whole world know this, I have to follow through on my plan. It is difficult to embarrass me, unless I deliberately set up a situation that uses embarrassment on a global scale, as a self-motivational tool, and that’s what I am doing right now. I fully intend to learn calculus in […]

via My New Math Project: Calculus — RobertLovesPi’s Blog

I wish you all the best, Dr. Pi!  You’re a better man than I am!

* J is for joker


Cards at school?  No joke!  Anyone who’s taught math could name dozens of games using a deck of cards.  They’re great for learning basic facts and all kinds of “war” games can be played using multiples, factors, etc.  Yeah, it may not be politically correct to call it “war,” but you all know what I mean, right?  So change the name, if that’s a problem.  For the younger crew, one of my favorite sites for card games is Activity Village.  From fish to memory to “My Ship Sails!” you’ll find plenty of action.  Please remember to role play good sportsmanship with kiddos.  These games are no fun if war DOES break out in your room.

Here are some other links to card games:  Today’s ParentDelia Creates, Education.com, and TJED.org.

Jokers are more than great math fun.  The history of cards is a fascinating subject and can be tied to social studies instruction.  (Did you know that the Joker was an American invention?  No, I don’t mean Batman’s adversary.)  I have used cards purchased at Williamsburg, Virginia, to get kids interested in the US revolutionary period.  Students often enjoy creating their own cards after they see how simple these are.  Braille cards are always a draw (pun intended) and can help kids understand the challenges of reading with their fingertips.

playing cards

For those indoor recess days, card games are inexpensive and intriguing.  What about some STEM activities?   There’s a lot of science and engineering in building a house of cards.  Hey, that’s a good intro for teaching idioms!

Subitizing: More Than Meets the Eye

dice.pngSubitizing? Say what? This post clearly defines the term and provides excellent examples of the two types of instant recognition of quantity. I especially like the author’s suggestions for how to incorporate this skill in math instruction for older kids. Those of us who grew up playing board games are quick to recognize the patterns on a die (and the quantity on the “old fashioned” domino). That’s skill may be lacking on many of the games kids play with tablets and computers.

Learning is a journey, not an endpoint.

Subitizing is a relatively new concept for me. Sadly, it is not an integrated part of the mathematics curriculum yet. Therefore, children often have little experience with subitizing. When I first learned about this concept, I thought it pertained only to kindergarten, first grade, and struggling students beyond those years. However, I have now seen that children of all ages benefit from subitizing.

What is subitizing, and why is it important? Clements and Sarama (2009) define two types of subitizing. The first, perceptual subitizing, pertains to the ability to both perceive intuitively and simultaneously the amount in small number sets. No counting is neccessary, you just know the amount when you see it. Children develop the prerequisite skills for perceptual subitization at a young age. According to Clements and Sarama, children begin naming collections of 1, 2, and 3 from ages 1-2. By age three, children can also create…

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