Category Archives: Math

Hands-On Math

One thing our Pre-Kindergartner loves is to sort. I used to wonder if she was “too old” for this type of activity, but then I reminded myself her finger muscles are still developing strength and sorting is a form of recognizing differences and similarities. Recently I’ve begun to make the sorting more challenging for her, and she asks to do this again and again. I also realized that I can tailor this easy-to-implement activity to her own unique level.

Here she is sorting objects by color. She asked for the various manipulatives and then decided on her own the best way to sort them would be by color. While it wasn’t challenging for her, she had fun and it kept her busy and using that brain and those fingers for a good half an hour while I worked with her bigger siblings. After she finished, we talked about which muffin tin had the most and which had the least items, and we worked in some adding and subtracting until she was done.


IMG_0465 Continue reading


Book Talk Tuesday: Integrating Art with Elmer and A Million Dots

My three younger students love to create works of art. Every week I try to think of ways (thank you Pinterest!) to combine art with planned lessons. Quite often, this is done by extending a book to add in an artful element of learning.

This past week, this was quite effortless. I love it when a good idea actually comes together! I know all teachers everywhere can totally relate. Holla!


I had been trying to snag A Million Dots from our local library for quite awhile. Last Wednesday, we finally found it available. I read it to them on Friday.

This book is so fun, because as you read through it you actually see a total of 1,000,000 dots! Each page shares a 6-digit number and an interesting fact. As we read the book my 3rd graders took turns reading the 6-digit numbers. They also read a page here and there, but this was my read-aloud to them that morning so mostly they listened while I read.



They loved it when I told them they could choose ANY 6-digit number, a favorite subject, AND we would do some research to write a fact about the number and subject matter. Continue reading


Multiplication Facts with Visual Demonstrations

If I’m being completely honest, I’ve been slightly afraid terrified of teaching the times tables. Now that I have two 3rd graders in our one-room schoolhouse, I can’t avoid the times tables anymore. Who knew, though, they could be so much fun?

Recently, we reviewed some arrays and then we combined art with math for a hands-on approach to the why behind multiplication. If you’d like to try Multiplication Arrays with a City Skyline with your students, please check out Elementary AMC and download the freebie recording sheet while you’re there!


After my 3rd graders completed their own Multiplication Skylines, they traded papers and used the last column of the recording sheet to check each others’ work and record the correct color of the array shown on each building. They really loved this math lesson, and they wanted the photos printed for inclusion in their math journals!

To continue our study of arrays, we used small cubes one day to work out problems of our own choosing. They had to then show the problems on their papers using blocks and write out the equations as well.


Again, this was just another way to explore the why behind multiplication in a hands-on approach. Though my children were in 2nd grade last year, we don’t really follow the CCSS closely so arrays are not something we spent a great amount of time on last year. I do feel they are mature enough now to grasp multiplication and so far they are loving it! It is always fun when one of your students has a lightbulb moment like one of mine did and then said: “This is really just adding the same number over and over again.” I didn’t tell them this right off as I was hoping for them to see the patterns for themselves—love it when this happens!

I recently updated a resource I created a few years ago. Now my Multiplication Charts include facts through 12 x 12. It includes 3 color charts and 2 black-and-white charts for printing ease as well. If you’re not following me on Facebook, why don’t you consider liking my page? From time to time, I will offer Flash Freebies like I’m about to do for the next 5 minutes with this resource below. Please go LIKE Page Protector Printables and More on FB to find out about flash freebies, read valuable content and find out about my newest resources in my TpT store.


Please Share in the Comments: How do you bring multiplication alive for your students?


Why Can’t I Multiply Myself: Meeting Needs of Learners of Multiple Ages and Abilities

Over the last five years, I’ve had students as young as 4 and students as old as 16. In fact, this year, I again have a 4-year-old in my class and for the first time ever I have a 16-year-old in my class. In all honesty, I don’t call the place where I teach a classroom. Instead, I refer to it as our library.


When I think of what I hope to happen over the course of our days of learning, I think of scenes from a well-functioning library: students of many ages and abilities coming to a central location to learn at their own pace and from resources created for their unique levels and interests.

I will share four ways I have implemented a successful learning environment for students from preschool to high school.


1. Since I can’t multiply myself, I make myself available at specific times for specific students.


Many teachers do this everyday. You are most likely meeting with small groups or individual students over the course of a typical school day.


Each morning, I begin with my most needy student, who happens to be the youngest in my class at age 4. When I spend one-on-one time with her first, the rest of the day is always smoother and more productive. This time always includes reading a few books together, some of my choosing and some of hers, and on Mondays we also begin a new letter focus for our week.



After our focused time together, I encourage her to peruse independent activities from her workboxes. I won’t lie. She has been my most difficult student to embrace independent learning, but with time and patience she is learning this time can be rewarding and fun.

At the same time I am working with my little Pre-Kindergartner, my oldest, who is in 10th grade, is busy working on the laptop, which is shared between my four students. Also during this time, my two 3rd graders are working independently on reading to themselves, listening to an audio recording of a book they are reading along in, and/or grabbing one of their own workboxes from their ELA or Math shelves.


After my time with the PreKer, I move into group time with my 3rd graders, which could be a math lesson, a spelling lesson, a writing workshop, science or history lesson, or a combination of a few of the above. Since we homeschool, we definitely don’t do a group lesson on each subject every day, but we do spend time on each subject every week for a targeted time of learning new content. On this particular day below during a Math Group lesson on multiplication, we were working on a wonderful Multiplication Array activity shared by Elementary AMC.


I have found posting a daily schedule for all to see not only helps my students to not say constantly, “Will you help me with this?” It also helps ME to stay on task and be present and available when I have said I would be.


2. About those workboxes, they are necessary, needs-based, functional, and fulfilling.



My 10th grader has obviously moved beyond the workbox, so I’ll leave him out of this topic. I have used and continue to use workboxes with my elementary students as well as my preschool student. I don’t have a huge budget, which I’m sure is the case for 99.99999% of teachers everywhere. I needed a way to have a work surface and workbox storage for my then 2nd graders. I turned to Pinterest of course. I used Cubeicals from Tar-Get and a table top purchased from a secondhand store to make a large work surface with space for 18 Cubes underneath. The green bin on each side is mine, and I use it to store things for the following week.

For my preschooler, I repurposed an old shoe cabinet (cleaned up of course) and some cloth bins that used to be in my closet!



My 3rd graders have two sets of workboxes: one for ELA and the other for Math. They also have color-coded boxes, so they know where to go for their things and where to return those things. Often, they have similar or the same items but not always. In this way, I can differentiate as needed when I place new items in their workboxes before the start of each week.


 I use two resources available for FREE on TpT to help them move through their boxes each day: Math Rotation labels and Daily ELA labels. I printed both 3 to a page to fit my space and I use painted clothespins, which correspond to each student by color, for managing the available choices each day.

3. Use common resources with specific additions that meet individual learning goals.


You may be scratching your head here. Let me give three examples. I have these photo blocks that I purchased along with a membership to access cards to fit them. The cards range from preschool level to upper elementary, so on any given week I can pull out these blocks to include in our workboxes. Then I just add cards accordingly for my preschooler and my 3rd graders.

In the photo below, my Pre-Kindergartner is working on one-to-one correspondence.


 My 3rd graders were working on adding three or more two-digit numbers. If you need an active math center, this might be a good option! The blocks are active but they are QUIET. Each of these activities were included in their work boxes and were clipped with Math Games on our Math Rotations board.


 I created this game for my preschooler to work on number recognition and counting, however when trying to work with multiple students of different ages and abilities I have found simple games such as this can absolutely be used with a bit of differentiation among players.


While my Pre-Kindergartener was just naming her numbers and finding that same number on the board to which to move, my 3rd grades were working on multiplication facts! They would draw two cards while she drew just one. She named her number and found that space. They found the product of their two cards and chose one of the numbers to move to on the board. It made learning fun and achievable with these multi-age learners.



Finally, I made Math Manipulative boxes for our students this summer. While each box contains the same “ingredients” if you will, my students can use them at their own ability levels and as tools during their independent learning times.



If you’d like more specific information about these boxes, you can read about them HERE.


4. Using assistance is key to our success in this unique learning environment.

I will share just two of a few ways I use assistance in our learning adventures: technology and a tutorial. For those in a more traditional classroom, you may be wondering what is a tutorial and what does it have to do with classroom needs. A tutorial is a one-day-a-week (or sometimes two days) program where I drop off our students for a full day of rotating classes with same-age peers and tutors who guide the students in that particular subject. At tutorial, our students are exposed to various teaching styles, to a more traditional classroom environment, and lastly they are accountable to someone other than me.

While classroom teachers aren’t using a tutorial, you may very well be in a setting where you rotate and teach certain subjects. I like having someone to assist me in this teaching adventure, and I hope you have a team approach in your classrooms as well!


As far as technology, we use the computer and my iPad along with several websites, particularly the following:

• Tumblebooks (this is free to us as we have a library code; perhaps your school or local library has one as well)

I love that my students can follow along as each book is read. I also love that this site works beautifully on a tablet device! Each book has the appropriate reading level already assigned and they are divided into story books, language learning, chapter books, fiction, and non-fiction.

• IXL Math (and Language Arts)

We use this exclusively for math review and practice. I love that it features individual student accounts and that at any time I can view and/or print a report for each student’s progress. While it is divided by grades, students are allowed to use any grade level or multiple grade levels, which makes differentiation a breeze. Also, the CCSS are included and state standards as well for those who need this information for reporting purposes.

This site isn’t free, but there are no ads and they do offer discounts through various ways such as school licenses and through sites specific to homeschooling like Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

Reflex Math

Again, a paid site but to me it is worth the cost for the absence of ads and the reports it generates in addition to its intuitiveness. Each student works on fact families at their own pace in addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division.

Both IXL and Reflext Math have a built-in rewards system, which can be extra motivation for reluctant learners or those with a competitive spirit!

In addition to these sites, we use the computer for keyboarding practice and writing through typing. Even my youngest learner can find her way around the iPad. One other tip I’ll add: each of my students has their own set of headphones that are comfy and make it possible for them to use these devices anywhere in our library without disturbing students around them. I also set up a blog where my students can access free choice websites during independent tech time. You can find it here.

One last piece of advice: don’t underestimate the resources available for FREE from your local library! If you have a listening center in your classroom, you may be missing out if you aren’t checking out the wide range of audiobooks available at your local library. These work well on tablets and/or your desktop computers, and your students will be polishing up those reading skills if you also pair them with the actual book for them to follow along!


While you are working one-one-one with a student or small group of students, other students can be working independently on a device or computer with many options for ELA or math or a combination of both!

I hope you have found some helpful information in this article that perhaps you can use in your own classroom among your students. With just a bit of creativity and stretching, we can teach children of different abilities in one room, and in the process our students learn that all of us have something to offer and we can all learn from one another!


Monday Made It: Place Value “Blocks”

Sometimes you just need to PAINT and CUT and DO even when you’re in 3rd grade. Yesterday was one of those days where I threw caution to the wind and decided we would spend some time painting and cutting and would *hopefully* have a fabulous math tool to show for our work and repurposing.

It is no secret I save trash, especially pieces of cardboard. Don’t EVER throw away cardboard labels. They are SO VERY USEFUL: canvas for painting, repairing paperback book covers, matting a picture, AND for making place value “blocks”!


First, my 3rd graders painted the back of the cardboard labels with various colors of craft paint. After allowing it to dry, we used rulers and a bic black ink pen to create the grids for hundred blocks and then cut some of those down for base tens and ones pieces. Continue reading


3rd Grade Math: Place Value to Millions

The first three weeks of school have flown by really. In 3rd grade math, I wanted to review and assess, so I started with some Place Value lessons and activities. I was pleasantly surprised to see my peeps recalling a lot of math knowledge and exercising their noodles as well!


I decided to make one of those Place Value Strips I’ve seen all over Pinterest after trying to find one someone else had shared with no success. I printed each of our strips on different colors of paper, but if you didn’t have colored paper or you didn’t need multiple copies you could just have your students edge each strip with a different color marker. I made a little freebie you’re welcome to download to guide your students in making their own Place Value Strips, which show them how the numbers add up to millions. Continue reading


Cool Tools for Addition and Subtraction Fact Mastery


This past year, one of our focuses in math was to master those addition and subtraction facts within 20. Some days, the recall was instantaneous. And other days, well, it wasn’t! I found it helpful to give my students a plethora of tools they could use to help them gain confidence and master those facts!

I would include these on a rotating basis in a bin they could pull from for independent review, free choice, or when waiting on me to work with them one-on-one. I am going to try something slightly different with our bin system, but they will still include cool tools for math review and mastery.

I rarely if ever pay full price for tools such as these. I am including links to these tools on Amazon, but I would encourage anyone reading to frequent garage sales, thrift shops, and consignment sales, because teaching tools are ALWAYS to be found at these places! Oh and retiring teachers can also be a gold mine of resources; they have certainly blessed me and my students!

I found these Math Wrap-ups at a local consignment sale for school supplies. I have the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division sets. They really do work, and my students enjoy the kinesthetic component of this tool.


I found the Magic Math Machines at our local dollar store for … you guessed it, $1! I bought the addition and subtraction versions and now I wish I had purchased the multiplication and division versions which the store had at the time. They are simple but cool. They don’t require batteries and they don’t make any noise just like the wrap-ups. 🙂 These tools are useful for self-checking as each fact answer is revealed when the student pushes the buttons. You really can’t read the answer until you push it, which makes for a fun activity. Another thing we discovered is that these really help students see the patterns in those basic math facts!


The Math Shark is one of our favorites. Not only does it have options for those basic addition and subtraction facts, but it also covers fractions, decimals and percents. DO NOT purchase this at amazon! It is really overpriced there. I found mine at a local liquidation store for $15. I remember contemplating the purchase, but I knew it retailed for much more at amazon and I really wanted to try it. It is electronic, but it is very basic and can be silenced! Again, we use it for individual review work and for challenges too. The feedback from this is instant, and if the student answer incorrectly the correct answer is displayed along with the original equation so they see the whole equation correctly. I like that feature very much!


This simple tool, Number Dice, goes the distance in our school! I do have on my wish list at amazon some 10-sided number dice. In the meantime, I use other creative ways to get them thinking and challenge them! In this photo below, my student was instructed to add shake the box and add the two numbers together inside it. Then he rolled and added the third die to that number. This could be used with any number of dice and with any type of dice.


Summology is a unique game I picked up at a conference a few years ago. It wasn’t cheap, but to be honest, I loved that the tiles are all wood and the storage case is as well. I also knew the uses are many, and that it isn’t something you could easily replicate. We use it infrequently, but when I put it in a math bin, they get excited to see what equations they can make. It includes tiles for all four of the basic operations, but they are easily pulled since they are white. You can use all of them or just one operation or some of them. Whatever works for your students! You can purchase Summology only at the Simply Fun site or at one of their conference booths.


Last but not least, I am always thinking of new ways to use my Page Protector Printable concept to practice math facts. This Brick Builders Math Pack turned out to be bigger than I had originally planned, and it includes some ELA in addition to the math focuses on math facts within 20, place value to hundreds, and some word problems too! We pull this out on occasion for review and hopefully in the not-too-distant future I’ll be making a Multiplication pack sure to please the brick lovers in your classroom!


For your next stop on the Just the Math Facts Blog Hop, check out Sally’s blog post at Elementary Matters!


Homeschooling High School {10th Grade 2014-2015}


Our oldest, AKA Curly on the blog, will be in 10th grade this year. Where has the time gone?

Time marches on as they say, and he will be in his second year of high school this year. He will continue his education at home. This post is not about why, but he manages his time wisely, studies hard, is respectful of me as his teacher, and puts forth 100% effort in his school work 95% of the time.


This next year is going to be very challenging without a doubt as far as pure academics. He is going to have a heavier load than last year, and he will be working on his Eagle Project before the school year is over.

Below is a list of his classes:

  • Advanced Chemistry in Creation* (aka Chemistry 2)
  • Prentice Hall Algebra  **Per Jonah’s request, we switched to Geometry instead. More about that below.
  • Logic and Debate: Art of the Argument (1 semester)*
  • Music, Movies and Mozart (1 semester)*
  • American Lit and Advanced Communications*
  • Mandarin Chinese ***I loathe Rosetta Stone now, but I’ve invested so much. Trying again this year as Jonah will have a lighter load and we will try it with a newer computer.
  • AP US History
  • Physical Fitness: Flyfishing, Pursuing Eagle Scout*Taken at our local Tutorial with a teacher and other students

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10 Posts in 10 Days: Hands-On School

I realize my blog is really neglected at the moment. It isn’t that I don’t want to write or that I don’t have anything about which to write. It might be that I don’t seem to be able to hold my eyelids open any longer by the time I get a blank page up on my blog late at night. It certainly isn’t that I don’t have any photos I need to upload.


We have all of the math wrap-ups. They make a great math tub activity. They are self-checking and all attached together, which makes losing parts of them virtually impossible.

Nonetheless. I want this to be a record, or rather a journal of sorts, of our pursuits in learning and just life in general.

I decided I would challenge myself to write 10 posts in 10 days. I make no promises, but what follows is my first installment: Hands-On School. Continue reading