Recently in Math Category

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March 05, 2012

Spiraled Instruction, Stifled Learning

My first teaching experience was as a substitute teacher in Chicago assigned to an 11th grade Algebra 2 class for ELL Polish students. I began by giving students an assignment their teacher had left for them. But no one attempted it, so I asked a boy who understood English if he and his classmates n...

November 08, 2011

Combining Integers Instead of Adding and Subtracting Them

"Man, I didn't do nothing," students often said to me when I spoke with them about their behavior. "My point exactly," I replied. "If you didn't do nothing, you must have done something." It was after one of those exchanges when it occurred to me that the English language might provide a better way...

September 18, 2011

Foiled by the FOIL Method

I observed an Algebra class recently where students were trying to multiply two polynomials, (x + 5) and (3x2 - 5x - 4). And as I roamed the room, I noticed several students who were stuck because they couldn't "FOIL it." Others, meanwhile, did FOIL it and came up with an incorrect product, 3x3 + 15...

June 25, 2011

Math or Magic?

It's important when demonstrating mathematical procedures to stress the mathematics behind those procedures (i.e., the "why" behind the "what" or "how"), since failing to do so can cause or reinforce students' misconceptions. Take, for example, multiplying fractions such as 3/5 x 5/8, where teachers...

May 28, 2011

Prevent Confusing Language From Confusing Students

In Academic Fluency: A Key to Academic Proficiency, I wrote that proficiency in an academic subject depends in part on fluency in that subject's language. Now, here's a key to helping students achieve such fluency: anticipating and alleviating confusion when words have different meanings in academi...

April 10, 2011

Fractions: Divide and Conquer

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...

March 14, 2011

Pi Day Pointer

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 t...

January 01, 2011

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS)--Forever!

Teachers should steer students away from the popular "Dear Aunt Sally" (PEMDAS) order of operations acronym, says math coach David Ginsburg.

November 10, 2010

Estimation Before Computation

Three miles from third base to first base? That's what kids came up with in Coach G's illustration of the importance of treating all math problems as estimation problems.

September 27, 2010

Don't Tell Students to Show Their Work--Make Them!

Coach G offers a clever yet simple solution to the age-old challenge of getting students to show their work in math (and other) classes.

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