A lot of students begin by finding a common denominator for the dividend and divisor when dividing by a fraction. And a lot of teachers intervene by saying, "Remember, you only need a common denominator for addition and subtraction. For division, just flip and multiply." Technically these teachers are right: you don't need a common denominator when dividing by a fraction. At the same time, the common denominator approach is in fact a viable alternative to flipping and multiplying. Take, for example, the expression 1/2 ÷ 1/8, for which flipping and multiplying yields 1/2 x 8/1, ...


"The reality of education is that people learn from people they love," says New York Times columnist David Brooks in a recent National Public Radio interview discussing his new book, The Social Animal. "We've spent all this time with big schools, small schools," Brooks later says. "But what really matters is how good people are at relating to one another." How cool is that?! A respected journalist and bestselling author--and a non-educator at that--drawing attention to an often-overlooked hallmark of great teachers: strong relationships with their students. At the same time, if we as educators react to Mr. Brooks' comments ...


It's common--and good--practice for teachers to have a short activity, often called a "Do Now," on the board for students to work on as soon as they enter class. Many teachers use the "Do Now" time to handle administrative tasks like taking attendance or organizing lesson materials. Then, after five or ten minutes, they say, "Ok, time's up," before taking another five or ten minutes to review the "Do Now" at the board. That's right, up to ten minutes to review something without knowing whether students have even done it, let alone how well they've done it. The "Do Now" ...


We educators are giving, helpful people. That's what drew many of us to teaching in the first place: a genuine desire to help children. And yet it's our helpfulness, I've found, that often hurts kids more than it helps them. The problem is that sooner or later success for students will require self-reliance. In college and the workplace, for example, the professor or boss won't be there for students every time they need help. And the more we help students now--when they can and should be helping themselves--the less prepared they'll be later when self-reliance is essential. I was as ...


Just a quick Pi Day pointer, math teachers: be sure to remind students that Pi is a constant rather than a variable. The misconception that it's a variable comes in part from the fact that we often express circumference and area in terms of Pi. I especially notice confusion when students work with the formula, Circumference = 2πr (there's something about multiplying the two outer factors, r and 2, and leaving π alone that gives students the impression that π is a variable). Happy Pi Day! Image by Toponium, provided by Dreamstime license Join my mailing list for announcements about webinars and ...


I previously wrote about my student James whose selective sneezing--always during whole-group instruction, never during small-group activities--gave new meaning to attention-seeking behavior. Yet as strange as the manifestation of James' need for attention was, the cause of it is quite common: teachers not calling on students when they want to be called on. And students' reactions to this are often far more disruptive than "sneezing." I'm reminded of an exasperated elementary school teacher who asked me for help with a challenging student I'll call Oscar. The principal warned me that Oscar had been a "problem" in previous years too, so ...


I've never seen a more challenging writing assignment for students than English teacher Brent Bice's journal prompt during my recent visit to his classroom at Esperanza Academy Charter High School in Philadelphia. Actually it wasn't the prompt but rather Mr. Bice's requirement that students respond to it in "20 words or less." That's right, 20 words or less. And as difficult as this was for a group of today's texting teens, it might have been even harder for my classmates and me. That's because, unlike Brent Bice, our teachers always imposed minimum writing requirements, which conditioned us to stretch out ...


A self-doubting student's turnaround illustrates the power and importance of teachers instilling hope in students.


Success often has as much or more to do with people's thoughts and actions as it does their abilities. I noticed this in academics, business, and sports before becoming a teacher, and tried to convince students of this after becoming a teacher. One way I did this was by telling them that success comes from the heart. I even came up with an acronym where each letter in heart represented a belief or work habit common among successful people: hope, effort, attitude, resourcefulness, and teamwork--which I posted in my classroom as an equation: Success = Hope + Effort + Attitude + Resourcefulness + Teamwork Pretty ...


David Ginsburg says meaningful education reform requires every adult in every school to stop enabling students' self-defeating behavior.


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