Blog Archives

Stuck on an Escalator – Encouraging your students to TRY!

Just found this video – (it’s not new, I saw it a while back) and I thought I’d share. Too funny and lots of applications! I’m going to show it to my math students in reference to tackling challenging problems – like word problems. They have to try, they have to take a step…and then another and they’ll get where they’re going. If they don’t try, it’s like they’re allowing themselves to remain stuck on the escalator!

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Starting the Year Off With A Little Bit of Problem Solving

I have had a great time getting to know my students in our first full week back to school. I’m pretty sure that I have lucked out this year! Ahh…the honeymoon period. I love it!

Anyhow, I had mentioned a book a little while ago that I’d read this summer (What’s Your Math Problem? Getting to the Heart of Teaching Problem Solving) and wanted to include in some capacity in my teaching this year. I just wanted to throw out a little update. 

It’s so practical! I’ve used 2 problems from the book, just this week, and the kids are enjoying the challenge (so far). 

The first problem I gave the students is pictured below. I gave them coins on their desks to manipulate and they had the solution in no time! I love when things work out the way I want them to!


brain teaser math problem


 How is your school year going so far?




Making Math More “Real Life” for Kids ~ Accessible Mathematics

I have decided to make this my last post on Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement. I have 2 other math books that I am reading (What’s Your Math Problem? Getting to the Heart of Teaching Problem Solving and Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8) and would like to make some comments on those as well! SO much to say – so little time! Anyhow, I am going to chat for just a bit on shift #9, which is one that is important to me, but that I struggle with at times:

“Embed the mathematics in realistic problems and real-world contexts.” accessible math

It is extremely important to me to try my best to find connections to the real world and have answers ready when students ask the question, “Why do we have to know this?” And teaching grade seven, there is no shortage of students asking this question. It’s a good question, though and it’s my job to have an answer ready which is more than just, “Because you’ll need to know it for grade 8.”

Some concepts are much easier for me to find realistic connections to than others. I struggle with the first unit that we do, which is coordinate geometry. I know that reading a map (longitude and latitude) is an obvious example, but what about GPS? Realistically, can’t many people use the GPS in their vehicle or on their iPhones to get where they want to go? How many people on a daily basis need to use longitude and latitude? A yearly basis? I know that certain professions do for sure, but is it something that people outside of those professions NEED to know?  I’m talking about the average person. I’m not saying for a moment that map skills like understanding longitude and latitude are  unimportant. However, I personally have never needed that skill in my own life. Ever. (Outside of my profession, of course). I did find a video of an archaeological dig (it’s a little pixelated though) which somewhat shows people using coordinate geometry in a different sense – but what if you’re not in one of those jobs either? Hmmm…

Switching gears, what about teaching students the formula for area of a circle – when will they USE that formula in real life? Of course, if they’re making a table-cloth and need to know how much material to buy…but wait a second…how many people are at home making their own table cloths? And in real life, if we need to know something, like a formula, what do we do? Google it, of course. Within seconds we’d have that formula at our fingertips. So again, when was the last time you used the formula for area of a circle? I’d honest to goodness LOVE to know, because again – I personally never have (and am searching for more real life examples).

Integers? Positively!

Percentages? 100%!

Probability? You bet!

These are things that I can easily relate to with examples from my own life. For instance, I brought in my bills one year when we were doing integers and my students weren’t grasping addition and subtraction. When I showed then my debt and then my payments – it started to make a bit more sense. Real life! I just wish that every unit was as easy to find examples for as integers!


I guess what I’m saying is that this shift has made me reconsider something that I’ve thought of often: How can I make math more “real-life” for kids? You may say it doesn’t matter – solving problems is solving problems. Who cares what the actual problem is about? Well, they do, actually. Our students. They want to solve problems that may actually exist for them some day. Think about it. How much time would you care to devote to solving a problem of any sort if it had no context, or importance to you? I’m guessing not much. Why? Because it doesn’t matter, so why would we care?

Coming up with “real-world” examples and problems for my students is something that I’m working on and will continue to work on, as I know it’s at the heart of student engagement and understanding of math.

How do you try to bring the “real world” into your math classes? I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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