Questions for Ray...

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I want to lose weight. Help me Ray!

I'm not really qualified to help you with that. However, I can give you a mathematical way to do it. I can't guarantee it, but you could drop 10 pounds in 2 months. Here's what you do.

1. Multiply the pounds you want to lose by the calories in a pound of fat: 10 x 3500 = 35 000.

2. Divide the total by days you want to diet: 35 000 divided by 60 (days) = 583.

3. Eat that many fewer calories each day.

...and you thought it was difficult.

I can't seem to get through all the math curriculum. What should I cut out?

Good question. I'm not going to suggest what outcomes aren't important since I don't know your classroom needs, school growth plans, or district goals. Besides, where would I start? Traditionally, units such geometry or probability have made it to the July Pile...But, because a numerate student involves having a good sense of number, spatial awareness, an understanding of patterns and relationships, etc. it's hard to eliminate anything.

However, I can suggest a few things. To save time, move away from teaching strands in isolation. Did you ever notice how having taught a specific concept in October is seemingly forgotten by February? If things are overlapped, or revisited in different contexts, learning is more apt to stick. Thus, you save time reteaching.

Secondly, don't assign every question, for all units, for all lessons...etc. Just because the text has 12 questions in the lesson doesn't mean you have to assign all 12. Select the most important problems, questions and projects.

As well, instead of taking up all the questions when students return the next class, simply select a few questions at random. If students understand the material, it should show in the way they solved the selected questions. These two ideas could save a lot of time.

Think of it this way: If you're doing something that takes 15 minutes a day (such as marking homework with the class the next day, or 15 minutes on ALL questions in the lesson), then over the year, that adds up to over 2 weeks per 15 minute block!! What could you do with numeracy in those extra 2 weeks blocks?

When I get to the report card, I'm stuck with piles of class lists filled with percentages, grades, marks out of 10, 23, 100, 35, and more! Where do I start?

You mean, "Where do you end?". Begin with the end in mind. If you want to keep it simple at the end, keep it simple all the way along. Because my school did report cards that assessed each outcome on a 4-point scale, everything I did moved immediately to the 4-point scale. It was only at the very end that I converted the 1,2,3, and 4s into letter grades. I did that by scanning the 1,2,3, and 4s within each subject area, and using my professional judgment to decide the letter grade. For more on this, see my book on marking by clicking here.

Do you know any good books that my kids will love that help them with math?

Yes I do! Begin with anything by Greg Tang (grades K-4). My favorite book of his is "The Grapes of Math". Kids love it to! As well, try "Jayden's Rescue" by Vladimir Tumanov (grades 4-7). Anything by Marilyn Burns is good, particularly, "I Hate Math!". She manages to work in great extensions in the back of many of her picture books. I love "The Number Devil" too! That one is by Author Hans Magnus Enzensberger's dry humor and sense of wonder will keep you and your kids entranced while you learn (shhh!) mathematical principles. Who could resist the little red guy who calls prime numbers "prima donnas," irrational numbers "unreasonable," and roots "rutabagas"? Not that the number devil is without his devilish qualities. He loses his temper when Robert looks for the easy way out of a number puzzle or dismisses math as boring and useless. "What do you expect?" he asks. "I'm the number devil, not Santa Claus." (grades 4-8).

I need some quick ideas to help enrich my math program without breaking the bank. Help!

Okay. Quick. Go to a fast food chain and grab a veggie burger. Then ask for their nutritional information. Ask for 30 copies. Hand them out to your students and ask them to create graphs, bar charts, circle graphs, pictographs, etc. using the information on the nutritional charts. Begin by helping students pick a question to help them focus (i.e., "How does the amount of protein in the breakfast meals relate to the fat content?"). Look at the outcomes in the IRP. Assign tasks based on student interest and ministry outcomes. I did this in my class every year, and the interest was VERY high! (Another idea is to grab a stack of newspapers or magaizines and repeat the above process with articles, stock reports, advertisements, etc.)

I've tried using rubrics and they seem so technical to me. What should I do? I can see how they help, but they often seem so removed from the classroom.

One idea that really worked for me was to work with the kids to create well-written, effective rubrics. The most common of them were written onto large poster paper and put on the wall to refer to (i.e., in Language Arts: "Voice", "Meaning", "Form", "Conventions", etc. In Math: "Strategies", Accuracy", "Concepts", "Representation", etc.). Once they're put into kid-language, then the whole environment changes. Kids become co-assessors working with you towards the same goal. Marking is thus easier, and kids and parents know where to go next. Click here for a free sample.

I want to use some funny, yet relevant cartoons to help reinforce ideas in my science unit. Where would I buy that?

Simply go to Google, and type in "Science cartoons", and hit "images" instead of "web". Scroll through the cartoons and click on the images you want. Save them to a Word document and copy them onto transparencies to show to the class. Your students (many of whom are very computer savvy) can do the same thing on more specific topics in any given subject area. Keep in mind that many of the cartoons are copyrighted.

I lost my compass when I went hiking this past summer. Any tips? I heard you were good with directions. Besides, it's kind of a science question.

I'm not sure who told you that I was good with directions! That's hilarious. Anyway, there's an easy answer. Look at your watch. Simply hold the 12 to the left. Then, turn your hand so that the hour hand points to the sun. The spot exactly halfway between the hour hand and the 12 is south. It works. I tried it!

More to come!