Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Simplifying Radicals — Play the Game! October 29, 2012

Filed under: General Math,Middle School/Secondary School Math — Focus on Math @ 3:31 pm
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After reading about the game that Richard DeMerchant created for practicing the skill of approximating square roots, Katie Wagner (a friend and colleague) adapted the idea and created a game for practicing the skill of simplifying radicals! I think this is another winner, and hope that you will try this in your secondary classroom as it fits into your curriculum.

Thanks for sharing this, Katie. Link to Katie’s game here.

Mathematically yours,


Approximating the Square Root of Numbers — Play the Game! October 13, 2012

For those teachers who are looking for a way to have their students practice approximating square roots in an interesting manner, Richard De Merchant (a friend and colleague) has created a game for just such a purpose.

He explains how to play the game and adds some other helpful tips on his blog Math in the Middle (click here for the link to this particular post).

If this is something your students need practice with, then I heartily recommend that you check out this game 🙂

Mathematically yours,


Dot Plate Workshop: Early Numeracy Concepts October 9, 2012

dot plate workshop 2012This week some of the teachers in the district attended a workshop held here at the SD#60 board office. Our focus for the session was early numeracy, in particular, number relationships that are important for young learners. We focused on these “big four” relationships:
• One more/one less (extending to two more/two less)
• Visual/spatial relationships
• The benchmarks or anchors of 5 and 10
• Whole-part-part

I particularly refer to the whole-part-part relationship in that manner (as opposed to part-part-whole often used by others). I like stating “whole” first because the emphasis of that relationship is that a number can be pulled apart into two smaller parts, not the joining together of two parts to make a larger whole. This distinction is not just a matter of semantics, but rather a spotlighting of the pulling apart. “To conceptualize a number as being made up of two or more parts is the most important relationship that can be developed about numbers” (Van de Walle, 2005).

Understand that there is a lot of counting that must take place as children work to build these relationships. They must repeatedly work with counters as well as dice, dominoes, ten frames, dot cards, dot plates, and other things that show patterned arrangements of numbers to build a deep understanding about the numbers, first 1-10, then extending to 20, to 100 and beyond.

The workshop participants went home with a set of dot plates they made from small paper plates and bingo daubers (see photo). They also took home 4 sets of small dot cards printed on colourful cardstock. Lastly they took away larger paper plates with dot patterns on them (the patterns from either mini dot cards or mini ten frames) that could become spinners for games or made into activities for math centres.

One other tool that we talked about was a grid of tools that both the teacher and students could use for representing numbers. When one looks at the grid and possible combinations of materials, it is easy to see that having a few good tools on hand allows for many different ways for young children to be involved in representing number.

Download the Representing Number Grid here.

dot card spinner picDownload the dot card spinner here.

Download the ten frame spinner here. ten frame spinner cn pic

I hope you will think deeply about the ways you are having your young learners interact with numbers! You are laying the foundation for later mathematical learning.

Mathematically yours,

PS My apologies to the participants — I had intended to post this blog by the end of last week and did not get to it, and over the weekend I did not have access to the visuals I wanted to post with it. So, hopefully, this is a case of better late than never!

Van de Walle, J. and Folk, S. (2005). Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally (Canadian Edition). Pearson: Toronto.


Algebra and the New York TImes (or other newspapers…) October 1, 2012

Filed under: General Math,Middle School/Secondary School Math — Focus on Math @ 9:37 am
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Making connections is one of the processes listed in the Western Canadian Protocol documents, the BC curriculum documents (IRP’s), and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) documents. It is critical that students make connections between the different strands of mathematics (e.g., number, algebra, geometry, data) as well as make connections to mathematics in the real world.

High school and middle school math teachers are often looking for ways that they can help students connect math to real-life situations. In this blog post Patrick Honner provides some ideas for making such connections. He suggests things like mathematically modeling mortgages, redoing recipes, looking at Olympic records, examining population growth, and solving for stocks. The ideas are clearly not new, but maybe the article can remind you of a project you have done before or inspire you to take on a new one.

click here for link to article

How are you making math “real” for your students?
Mathematically yours,