Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning to Count

Math education starts the day your baby is born. You have many opportunities to help your child excel at math. One of the easiest things to teach your child is how to count. Here are some ideas.

Songs: "10 Little Indians"
"The Ants Go Marching One by One"
"This Old Man"
"Five Little Ducks"
"One, Two, Buckle My Shoe"

Things to do with your child:

When you're changing the babies diaper, count his toes. Tickle or wiggle each one as you count them.

Each time you go up or down stairs, count them. (My oldest son quickly learned to count to 14 when he was two, because there were 14 stairs in our house.)

Once your child is old enough to walk, have him help you set the table. Count each thing as you put it on the table. Say, "There are three people in our family. So, we need 1, 2, 3 plates. How many cups do you think we need? We need 1, 2, 3 cups." Eventually, your child will answer that question with the right answer.

Any opportunity you have for counting, do so. When you're grocery shopping, turn it into a counting game. Count each item you put into the grocery cart.

Sometimes, you can turn snack time into counting time. Occasionally, give your child one bite at a time, counting them as you go. (You don't want to do this all the time. Sometimes, your child needs to just feed himself.;)

You get the idea. You can find lots of opportunities to count with your child. When you do this, they will slowly pick up the concept of counting without needing formal instruction.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time: Chapters 9 & 10

For previous entries, view chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Next week, we will finish this series. I am in the process of adding all the chapters to Google Documents. I'll have that completed by the time I'm done posting chapter 12 here. That way, not only will you be able to go directly to one place to see all the chapters, you'll be able to print or save any part of it that you want to.

Chapter 9:



Science, History, Math, Art, Language Arts:

shipwrecked sailor: draw a picture of a shipwrecked sailor. This would be a great time to watch Swiss Family Robinson. It's not extremely realistic, but a classic.

endurance: NOVA Marathon Challenge , Solo sports: running, mental endurance
myopic: Here, you could do the history of eyeglasses. Definitely, include Benjamin Franklin, if you do.
dome like: US Capitol Building, Capitol Rotunda, Taj Mahal
Declaration of Independence
: Meg quotes from the Declaration of Independence. Rea the Declaration of Independence. Discuss it. Free pocket copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
Gettysburg Address: What can I say? It's a great speech.
Periodic table of elements

Chapter 10:



Science, History, Math, Language Arts:
arctic: Study arctic animals. Study arctic tundra. Draw a picture of what an arctic waste might look like.

heartbeat: Listen to your heart rate. Color and label a picture of the heart.

paralyzed : Study temporary paralysis.

Novocaine: Explore the history, uses, and chemical properties of Novocaine.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

20 Questions

One of our families favorite games to play is twenty questions. As we have progressed, I have found that the game is an excellent way to really get deeper into nouns. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. The way we play our game is this:

One person thinks of something. We ask them if it is a person? Is it a place? Is it a thing? Is it an idea? They answer yes, or no. At first, this didn't seem to me like such a learning opportunity for nouns, but I was wrong. What I found, is that my children don't always know what category to put their 'thing' into. One child couldn't figure out what category to put an animal into. He felt that animal's should have their own category. After all, they're alive. To him, a thing is an inanimate object that you can buy. Another child had a hard time with descriptions.

This means that we are also learning adjectives and adverbs and ways to use them. We ask the person, "Is it bigger than a car?" We continue to ask these types of questions until we narrow down size, color, etc.

This game also helps with vocabulary. My 11-year-old son frequently comes up with words my 5-year-old son has never heard.

Finally, this game also helps with history. While this aspect is not language arts based, it is significant. When the 'thing' is a person, it is easier to figure out who the person is if you can place the person in time. The same goes for a thing. What if the thing no longer exists? The idea could be one that came to being during a specific time period. This can lead to many interesting conversations, especially if you all have ADD.

Enjoy this game and the trails it can take you down.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

America's Presidents: A Museum in a Book Giveaway

Times Up: The winner is #10, Pat! Congratulations!

America's Presidents by Chuck Wills:

This book is in the "A Museum in a Book" series. It starts with George Washington and goes through George W. Bush. The book has a lot of information, and artwork that is from museums. For instance, on George Washington's pages, there are paintings of the Delaware crossing, and Washington speaking during the signing of the U.S. Constitution. But, what makes this book truly unique, and worth buying, are the copies of documents. Scattered throughout the book are copies of original documents that you can pull out and look at. Washington's page has selected pages from a draft of Washington's farewell address. There is a letter from Thomas Jefferson, and six pages from the thirty-four-page draft of Monroe's 1823 message to Congress, which was later known as the Monroe Doctrine. There is a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a copy of the Gettysburg Address, written in Lincoln's own hand. There is a campaign poster for James A. Garfield, a copy of the formal declaration of war on Germany, issued April 6, 1917, and signed by President Wilson. There are many more documents. It is these source documents that make this book truly unique. I hope to be able to purchase the other books in the series. The series includes these titles: The Declaration of Independence: The Story Behind America's Founding Document and the Men Who Created It, Inventing America: The Life of Benjamin Franklin, and Lewis and Clark on the Trail of Discovery: An Interactive History with Removable Artifacts This book retails for $34.99. You can get used and new copies at Amazon. You can also order directly through Amazon. It is currently on sale for $23.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Many children struggle with mathematical concepts when the reach fractions. Fractions are frequently their first in depth study of abstract mathematical concepts.

In reality, fractions are not abstract at all. But, for many children, the most they see of fractions are pieces of a circle drawn in their book. In order to make fractions easier for them, when they get to them, it is necessary to lay ground work. I am including several activities that are good for a range of ages.

Rice/oatmeal container: For very young children (ages 1 and up), one of the best activities you can have them do is playing with measuring cups. This activity will also help you get things done in the kitchen. Buy a large storage container (maybe 20 cups or so). Fill it with rice or oatmeal. Put several different size measuring cups inside the container, or in a different container. Not only will playing with these measuring cups begin to give them an idea of the way measurements work together, it is a great way to keep them busy while you work. I will warn you that this can be an extremely messy activity. I had one of these for Dominic. I just swept up when he was finished playing, and threw it in the trash. The small amount of sweeping was worth the quiet time. Plus, he was learning about fractions, and improving his hand-eye coordination at the same time.

Building Blocks/ Legos: I believe that a lot of little girls get gypped out of a good grounding in mathematics because they don't use building toys. If you have an especially 'girly' girl, Lego makes pink Legos, as well as dollhouse building sets. So, there's something for everyone.

Building blocks and Legos provide a hands on fractions activity that most children are willing to learn from. When children build with these, they notice that two square blocks equal a rectangular block. They also notice that two "4 block" Legos equals one 8 block Lego. If you take a few minutes to point out that 1 4 block is 1/2 of an 8 block, they will begin to notice the fraction aspect of it, as well.

Cooking: Obviously, the most common method of teaching hands on fractions is cooking. If you are willing to cook with your child from a young age, they will come to fractions with a good grounding of what they are going to be dealing with. Will that make fractions easier for them? Definitely, it will. But, you can help your child do even better by doubling, halving, and tripling recipes. This makes them begin to see how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions before they ever see fractions on paper.

Counting Money: This is a skill that many children begin learning in Kindergarten. As a result, it is a skill you can put to good use to introduce fractions. The most obvious application being with quarters. If you can find some, get half dollars, too. Explain that a quarter is, literally, a quarter, or one fourth, of a dollar. Have them add and subtract these. You can do this with nickles (1/20), dimes (1/10), or pennies (1/100). You could make some note cards with various fractions on them and have the students make those fractions with coins. For instance, if the note card had 5/20, the child would put 5 nickles on that note card. Then, if you wanted to take it further, you could have the child tell you what the monetary amount of 5 nickles is.

Preschool/Kindergarten Game: This game could probably be used with older children, as well. This is a game similar to the money game. However, instead of using money, you'll use pieces of paper or cardboard. Draw several grids. You could start with halves, thirds, and fourths. You can do this by dividing papers into halves, thirds, and fourths. Also, create matching 'fractions' to go with them. IE papers cut into halves, thirds, and fourths. You may want to color them to make them easier to see.
Then, create note cards with various fractions on them.

First have the children match up the written fraction with the proper grid. Then, have them put the proper number of portions on the grids. Below, the cards read, from left to right, 1/2, 3/4, and 3/3.

Most of all, have fun with fractions!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time: Chapters 7 & 8

Today, we're doing chapters 7 & 8. If you would like to see all the previous posts, please visit chapters 1, 2, 3 & 4, and 5 & 6. When I have them all up, I'll figure out some way to combine them without making it too long. Thank you for your patience.

Chapter 7:

neurological system

Science, Art, History, Language Arts, Math:
bronze: The CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building is made of a dull bronzelike material.
Here, you can study the Bronze Age, the uses for bronze, and explore bronze artwork.

marble: The entrance hall is made of marble. The benches in the hall are also made of marble. This is an excellent opportunity to explore the differences between bronze and marble. For instance, marble is a completely natural substance, while bronze is an alloy. Bronze is a metal, while marble is a stone. They have some great pictures at the Marble Institute of America that might help children picture what this building might have looked like.

perspective: "Perspective made the long rows of machines seem almost to meet." There are two activities you could do to illustrate perspective. First, everyone needs to be able to draw in perspective, if they want their artwork to be realistic. So, if your children are ready for an art lesson in perspective, this would be the ideal time to do this.

Second, you can do some games dealing with perspective. Hold an object the child is not familiar with far away from him. Ask him how big he thinks it is. If this is a younger child, have him say whether it is bigger or smaller than something, say his head/finger/arm/etc. Then, bring the object closer to him to see how accurate his estimation was. Another way to demonstrate perspective is to go for a walk and try to estimate how close two objects in the distance are, then walk to them and measure them.

"There is definitely something rotten in the state of Camazotz." Most children will not get this reference. This is a play on words from Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, Marcellus says, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." This would be another excellent chance to explore Shakespeare. There are so many quotes from Shakespeare sprinkled through the English language.

Chapter 8:



History, Science, Language Arts, Math:
hypnotism: Here, you can learn about the history of hypnotism. You could also attend a hypnotist's show. You could also try hypnotism out on each other.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday Video: The Elements by Tim Lehrer

I like this one because it includes the song a second time with the periodic table, which illustrates how many elements have been discovered since this song was written!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Periodic Table of Videos

The University of Nottingham has put together a really cool website. It is called the Periodic Table of Videos. Basically, They've put together a periodic table on their website. You can click on each element and that takes you to a link with either an experiment and/or explenation of the element. Here is an example (the boys' favorite):Hydrogen

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Learning Parts of Speech

When your children are learning the parts of speech, there are many different things you can do to help them remember the different parts. Here are a few things we've done.

The Verb Game:
In this game, all the children stand up. The 'caller' calls out verbs for the children to do. This is a great way for the children to understand that 'think' is a verb. The caller might say, "Sit. Run. Dance. Think. Walk. Jump. Twist. Pretend. Yell. Whisper. Daydream. Read. Drive." All of these things are verbs, but many children, when first learning verbs, only think of verbs that their bodies can do: run, jump, walk. This game is fun and is a good break from the usual way of doing language arts.

Interjection! A sudden, short utterance; an ejaculation
We had a lot of fun with this one. For several days after Xavier (then 7 years old) learned about this part of speech, we had a rule that when anyone uttered an interjection, someone was supposed to yell, "Interjection!" We also went for a while without saying interjections, instead substituting the word 'interjection' for the interjection. So, if someone were going to say, "Oh no!" They would instead say, "Interjection!" That was a lot of fun, although confusing. It made for a lot of laughter and all three of the boys, including the 5 year old, know what an interjection is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Multiplication: Those Difficult 9 Times Problems

It seems to me that every time I turn around, someone is telling me how hard it is for their child to remember the 9 times tables. I thought I would share a little trick my dad taught me.

There is an easy formula to remember the 9 times tables. Here it is:

The first number in the answer is 1 less than the multiple. The second number in the answer is 10 - the multiple.

If you have your child practice this, first with the subtraction problems on paper, then with the subtraction problems in their head, they will quickly master the 9 times tables.

This Day in History 2/4

In 1789, George Washington became the first, and only, president to be elected unanimously by the Electoral College. He repeated this on the same day in 1792. For more interesting information about this (I didn't know half this stuff) and for more history facts about this day, visit This Day in History, by History.com.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mythmatical Battles

I like the idea of Mythmatical Battles. These are dueling cards that allow children to practice their multiplication tables. I know that my kids would love to use these. They are big into myths, and would enjoy the premise behind these cards. But, I'm impatient, and can't wait to get these in my hands. So, I decided that the boys could make their own game. So, this morning, I set the boys the task of creating a deck of cards to play dueling games with.

They wrote the times tables 2x2-9x9 on the cards as offense. Then, we shuffled the cards, and they did the same thing for defense. This way, the offense and defense on each card are not planned. Now, we're adding to the cards. They can start playing with them now. However, we're also adding characters from books we've read to the cards. On the back, they will draw pictures.

You could also do this for addition, subtraction, and division. You could have the child cut out pictures from a magazine to put on them. We considered cutting out pictures from our Lego catalog and making them Star Wars cards. In this way, you can customize the cards to your child's interests.

The way you play is this:
Each player gets half the deck. Each player takes turns being on offense/defense. EX:Player one plays his card. It's his turn to be on offense. His offense number is 9x5. Player 2's defense number is 4x3. Player one wins that round. He takes both cards and puts them in his pile. Then, it's player 2's turn to be on offense.

You can play this three ways.
  1. You can play until all the cards are gone from the draw pile. Then, whoever has the most cards in his 'win' pile, wins.
  2. You can set a time limit. When time is up, whoever has the most cards in his 'win' pile, wins.
  3. You can play like war. Just keep adding the cards you win back into your draw pile, until one person has lost all their cards.

Have fun!