Learning the times tables: not always fun, but necessary

The other day, my teenage kids admitted to me that I was right.

Trust me, this doesn’t happen often! So it warrants a quick post.

My kids admitted to me that it turns out that knowing your times tables does really help you in whatever math class you’re taking. That’s because after you learn your times tables, most (if not all) other mathematical concepts use the knowledge of times tables in order to solve problems. It’s not critical to know that seven times eight is fifty-six; you can figure that out when you’re working on a math problem that requires that information. However, knowing how to solve multiplication equations efficiently and correctly will vastly speed up the time it takes to solve almost any math problem. This is not only important in math class, but it’s also important when taking standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT… you know the drill. It also comes in handy in physics and other science classes.

So if you’re teaching young kids, make sure that they’re comfortable with numbers, and even though it’s a slog, have them memorize those times tables. Come up with fun ways to do it that don’t simply involve rote memorization (though the rote memorization is also important). Once they can solve multiplication problems in there head, it will help them solve more complex math problems in the future.

Here’s a post with a helpful times tables practice activity.

Being comfortable with numbers

Creating a math glyphI’ve been creating educational products for students for some time now, and I’ve discovered something about learning mathematics that I think is important. What’s important in learning math isn’t whether or not you’re good at math, it’s whether or not you think you’re good at math.

When students start learning mathematics at a young age, they’re going to either adapt to the concept of using numbers and symbols, or not. If they don’t, this might instill in them a common phenomenon – the “I’m not good at math” phenomenon. Once a student thinks they’re not good at math, it becomes true… they won’t be comfortable around numbers, and fear will keep them from learning to their full potential.

This is why I think it’s better to have students succeed at performing easier math than to challenge them with more difficult math. This is not to say that students who are already good at math should not be challenged. But for those students who fear numbers, giving them easier tasks that they are able to succeed at will bolster their confidence and remove their fear of numbers.

One way to achieve this is to make math fun. Give your students fun math glyphs or puzzles and avoid long, boring, repetitive rote math drills. Whatever you can do to remove their fear of numbers and instill a love of mathematics will help them as they grow as students.

Christmas Math Puzzles

I love the holiday season especially Christmas!!! It’s probably my favorite holiday, at least after October 31st it is. I think it’s awesome if children can celebrate holidays in class without missing out on pivotal math topics. I’ve made a lot of different math and literacy for different holidays just for this reason.

One Christmas unit that I really love is Christmas math puzzles. There are several different types of puzzles. Most children love the math stories the most. It’s a fun way to let math dictate the story. There are also graphing puzzles, drawing puzzles based on math questions, number search and more.

The great thing about my math puzzles is that I’ve made them for first through 6th grade. This allows young children enjoy them, as well as, older children. Depending on the grade level, the math skills are practiced for that particular grade.

You can check them out here.

Teaching Tolerance through Teaching about Religion and Cultures

In today’s world everything is constantly changing. We as teachers have to ability to teach tolerance through teaching about different cultures and teaching about different religions. It’s not about trying to convert anyone, of course. It’s about to understand the differences between people’s religion. Many religions do have common threads and with these common threads we can teach tolerance and empathy to our students.

I know when I was young, I didn’t know anything about any other religions and just a little about a few different cultures in Europe and Mexico (I lived in Texas). I really didn’t learn much about these things until I went to the University of Texas in Austin. I learned some through the classes I took, but most from the people I met. I took lots of foreign languages because I was so interested in learning more about these neat cultures. I took Malayalam, Japanese, Russian, French, Czech and Latin. I guess you could say I was a little bit obsessed. I embraced learning about the differences.

Today with the dawning of the internet, we can teach our children so much earlier when their minds are open to learn about new cultures and religions. One of my favorite things to make for my students and Teachers pay Teachers are units on different countries, religions and ancient civilizations. I hope you can use some of these products in your classroom to help teach about tolerance! We all can help make the world a better place to live together!

Five Ways to Use Interactive Notebooks in Your Classroom

What is an Interactive Notebook?
I’m sure you’ve heard about Interactive Notebooks by now, but let’s just review a bit in case you haven’t heard about them yet. Interactive Notebooks are a way that your students can interact with the subjects you are teaching them. They can cut, paste, draw, expand and really experience the subject they are learning. No two interactive notebooks are created equally. Some may say they are interactive, but they aren’t. Some may have too much cutting and pasting, which will interrupt your lesson plans. The best way to judge them is to look at previews and read all of the details before you purchase one.

Five Ways to Use Interactive Notebooks
1. Review and Test Prep – A lot of the reasons I started making and using interactive notebooks is because if you have a printable you use with your students, the students finish it and toss it into folder never to look at it again. With my interactive notebooks, the activities are designed to have the students come back and review what they’ve just learned. There are flaps, envelopes, yarn, brads and more all specifically used to help your students redo activities for test prep and to show their parents what they’ve learned.

2. Confidence Booster – Using an interactive notebook, your students can keep all of the things they’ve learned throughout the year in one place. Students can look through all of the different things they’ve learned and feel achieved.

3. Introducing New Topics – You can use the activities in an interactive notebook to help students learn new topics. Sometimes students are scared about learning new things. A fun activity will help relax them and allow them to learn new topics (especially fractions which can be frustrating for students).

4. Assessments – You can use the activities to finish up a unit. Instead of or in addition to a quiz, you can have students do an interactive activity to make sure they understand the concepts that you taught in the lessons.

5. Spice Up Lessons – If your students get bored with a topic (you know it’s bound to happen), you can pull out an interactive activity and use a little art and interactiveness to spice up your lessons.

If you’re interested in looking at my interactive notebooks, you can find them here. They have the perfect combination of low prep and high interactiveness.

Here are a few of my best sellers, you can click on the picture to see more information and a preview about each:

Learning about the American Revolution

History is really interesting to me, but I know some students get bored in history classes. My kids really enjoy learning about history with interactive notebooks. It combines history with hands-on activities and a bit of art.

Here are few picture of my American Revolution Interactive notebook in use.

I think it’s great to actually get the students excited about History and present it in a different format than they are used to. If you’d like more information you can check out my American Revolution Interactive Notebook on TPT.

Viewing a rocket launch

Space Shuttle AtlantisIf you live in Central Florida, or if you ever find yourself in the area, you might consider taking your kids or students to see a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. It’d say “It’s a blast!”, but then you’d probably send me hate mail and unfriend me on Facebook.

Last week I visited the Kennedy Space Center with some friends. My friends live and work in the United Kingdom, and as such had not checked out the Kennedy Space Center before. Our family got annual passes some years ago and been to the center several times, but it is always interesting to visit the complex, especially (for me at least) the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. On this particular day our kids did not accompany me to visit the center – they had school that day.

When we arrived we learned that there was to be a launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket later that evening. We decided we would take the shuttle to watch the launch. None of us had seen a rocket launch before – they don’t get that sort of thing in the UK, and while I do live here in Florida I had never gotten around to doing it. Maybe it was one of those “it’s always there if I ever want to do it, so no hurry” sorts of things. So after exploring the center we took the shuttle to the special viewing area and sat in the bleachers to watch the launch.

The launch went according to plan (well, okay, it was one minute late) and it was amazing. At first the flames appear, then the clouds of smoke start to billow beneath the rocket. The rocket slowly lifts into the sky, gradually picking up speed as it climbs. Then the noise hits you – a thunderous bass that shakes the bleachers even from far away (which is a good thing – being too close to a rocket launch will result in incineration or death by, believe it or not, ridiculously loud noise). As the rocket pierces the atmosphere it leaves behind a little wisp of cloud before it continues upward into space.

I’m hoping to take our own kids to the Kennedy Space Center to see a rocket launch someday soon. I think it is fascinating to see science in action, and the immense power of a space rocket in flight is breathtaking to experience. It also demonstrates how amazing we as a species have become at manipulating the materials of our world into amazing technology like space rockets, space shuttles, satellites, and telescopes to explore our universe. It also makes me think about STEM teaching, and of finding ways to introduce kids to different technologies by actually experiencing them – like exploring the insides of a computer, riding a high speed train, or watching something being manufactured at a plant. If you can think of any good ideas of this nature, please let me know!

P.S. One interesting site that a tour guide told us about at the Kennedy Space Center is Spaceflight Now. On this site you can see the various rocket launches that are scheduled throughout the world.

Falcon 9 rocket launch

TPT Teacher Appreciation Sale and Two Gift Card Giveaways

Hi Everyone! I hope you all are having a great end of the school year! I just want to thank you for all of your hard work this school year. Just think about all of your lives you have touched!

I’m giving away two $10 gift cards to two lucky people to help you wrap up the school year. One giveaway is at my instagram account Yvonne__Crawford. The other giveaway is at my facebook page – Mixminder. Enter both contests and double your odds of winning!

I’m also throwing a Teacher Appreciation Sale – 28% off my entire store. Just use code – THANKYOU17 to receive the entire discount.

Make sure to check out my new products, as I’m always adding new items. My newest item is an interactive notebook for kindergarten. Here’s a little peek at it.

3 Reasons Why You Should Use Interactive Notebooks with Higher Level Math Classes

prealgebra interactive notebook

Some people might think interactive notebooks are only for younger students. Some people believe that learning pre-algebra, geometry and algebra should be taught through worksheets and videos and other means. I think that Interactive Notebooks have their place with these upper grade classes as well. Here are my three reasons why I think you should use higher level math subjects.

1. Many students today are young when they take pre-algebra, algebra and geometry. When I was in school students didn’t take algebra until they were in high school. Today, students start take algebra as young as 11 and 12 years old. They are still young and would enjoy learning in a fun and interactive way.

2. Even students in high school are still young at heart and would just love some school work outside of the norm. Sure, there might be some students that might roll their eyes at the work, but they probaly would roll their eyes at anything.

3. It gives students a sense of accomplishment. Students can reflect on what they’ve learn and can also study for test using their interactive notebook.

Here are some of my own Interactive Math Notebooks for higher level math classes:
8th Grade Math
Pre-Algebra
Algebra
Geometry

math

interactive algebra

Why I Exercise with My Children

exercise

I remember the days of yesteryore when I was in school and we had PE every single day for an hour. This was from when I was in kindergarten until I graduated. I know some people opted out of PE in highschool after doing their required two years, but I stayed in it because I liked it. I had grown up with it. Today; however, it’s a time where students are lucky to get PE every 3 days and many PEs are skipped because specials are cancelled for some reason or another.

I’m sure there are some schools where students do get PE every day, but not at my children’s school. I used to homeschool them so we always exercised together as part of our homeschool curriculum. They actually attend a school where there is no PE. I think there is a health class they are required to take for 1/2 of a sememster, but it’s not just PE, it’s learning about the body, etc. They attend a public performing arts school and in the last 3 years my son has gone there, he has not had a PE class once. I’m fine with that because this gives us a task as a family. We need to stay in shape together. My son and I like to take walks together and go running together and my daughter and I take Irish dance classes together and practice together.

I’d like to hope that I’m instilling in them the sense of health and the ability to take care of ones’ body and soul through exercising. Time will only tell.