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Popsicle stick math station

I can't even get over how jealous I am of everyone who is done with school for the year! We had a ridiculous amount of snow this year, so we missed a ton of school, and are not getting out until the end of June. 17 more days. Seriously! The kiddos are having trouble focusing, so I have had to get creative with the activities we have been doing. We are in the process of reviewing out content for the end of year tests, so I have been trying to put some mixed review in my math workshop stations. Enter the popsicle stick review station! I didn't snap too many pics, but managed to get a few.

The concept of the review sticks is easy- there is a problem on the right, and an answer on the left. The kiddos solve the problem and then look for the stick with the correct answer. These work out really well for review because the sticks are self correcting! If a kiddo doesn't answer a question correctly, they won't be able to find the answer. They know that they then have to go back and find their error.  

I teach math in a workshop format, and break my students up into four differentiated groups. The groups change often based upon the unit I am working on, so the kids know they are pretty fluid. I decided to try to focus on the needs of the groups, and made four different sets of review sticks. I did fractions, decimals, whole numbers, and algebra. Each set was color coded on the side so the sticks didn't get mixed in together.

The kiddos worked in groups to solve the problems and put the sticks in the correct order. They loved it! They even used them during a rainy indoor recess a few days later. So, there you have it- how I am "tricking" my kiddos into reviewing for our end of year tests. :)

The Order of Operations & a freebie!

When I was a middle schooler (a few years ago now!) I learned the order of operations with the acronym PEMDAS. We remembered it with the pneumonic phrase "please excuse my dear aunt Sally." I definitely remember the phrase, and I always remembered what they stood for... but I didn't really conceptually understand what I was expected to do. I followed the order strictly as it was written- parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. I remember struggling through algebra and wondering why sometimes division came before multiplication. My mind as further blown when a student moved in from another state and knew the order of operations as BEDMAS. How could that be the same?? The problem is pervasive- check out some of the popular meme pages for math problem postings. Grown adults solve problems incorrectly regularly, and argue about their strategy. Even those that solve it correctly generally back their answer up by sayings "I followed PEMDAS." That's troubling- because that is an acronym, not a mathematical procedure. 

I have been introducing the order of operations in a new way to my kiddos to try to prevent these types of misconceptions.

The two triangles above are what I give my kiddos now. They paste both into their math journals to refer back to. Why two different organizers? Well, I think it illustrates the fact that division and multiplication (or addition and subtraction) are to be completed in the order they appear, from left to right. If students constantly hear the operations in a specific order, many of them will memorize that and inadvertently solve problems in that order. The use of two graphic organizers with the operations reversed in each section helps reinforce that equal weight is given to "MD" and "AS" in each step. I also usually have my kiddos draw an arrow from left to right in the three lower sections of the triangle just to make it a bit more clear.

In fifth grade, we do not have to learn about square roots, but I give my kiddos the graphic organizer with square root on it anyway. I read an interesting article a few years back about "rules that expire" which inspired me to create it this way. The basic idea of the article was that throughout a child's life, they learn things in math that continually "expire" as they go on. For instance, when you multiply by 10, just add a zero! Well, that "expires" in fifth grade when they begin multiplying decimals. 42.5 x 10 is not 42.50! Conceptual understanding clears this up, of course, but trying to avoid the rules that "expire" is very helpful, too. In this case, the order of operations "expires" when square roots come into play if the students have not heard about them before. 

I love that the triangle shape takes the form of the problems as they are being solved, too! Each step along the way makes it smaller and smaller, until the work is eventually in the shape of a triangle. 

If you are interested in using this graphic organizer in your classroom, check the freebie here. I have posted several versions of the organizer, including as pictured above, with and without square roots, and a blank triangle to be filled in.  Enjoy!

Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation week is a great time to check out the Teacher Discount Directory!

Most places that have teacher discounts are giving even deeper teacher discounts this week.

CiCi’s Pizza: Teachers receive a free Buffet on May 5th From 4 PM until close. The fine print says you must have a valid teacher ID. Find your location HERE and call ahead and confirm your location is participating.

Chick-Fil-A: Most store are offering something to teachers, but it varies by location. Call your location restaurant for details! 

Staples: Teacher Rewards members received a coupon in the mail for 40% back in Staples rewards on any purchase. Woo! This is a great one. If you didn't get your coupon, check with your local store. Sometimes they are able to offer it in store. 

Teachers Pay Teachers: TpT is having another great sale- up to 28% off of items with promo code ThankYou. Check it out!

I am super sad to say that Chipotle will not be participating in teacher appreciation this year. No reason why, other than they "chose not to offer this promotion" per their facebook page. :(

Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments!
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