Weapons of Math Instruction

by Rob Reilly Ed.D.

copyright 2004 Information Today Inc.


If you are like me, you receive piles of publications every month. They are selling various technology products and a number of the magazines have really interesting stories. In today's pile of magazines and flyers there are several ads for hand held computers; I was fooled as this 'ad' appeared to be small magazine, and there were actual magazines, which contained ads for wireless network gear, ads for adaptive keyboards, and virtually everything else that could be connected to a computer. But really…aren't the techno-gizmos that are offered just so darned intriguing? Well, at least, they're attractive to me! I'd like to have an LCD projector and a touch screen white board and a wireless laptop computer and on and on. But the bottom-line for me is being able to employ some sort of technology to improve education. I'd like to be able to come-away-from a magazine or an advertisement with something in-hand that I can use the next time I teach a class. The latest techno-gizmos are just fine but they seem to draw attention away from the reality that there's material lying around that may not be very glitzy or worthy of full-page ads but it will provide a resource for me as I teach my next class.

I guess the question that seems to get-lost is: "what do you use an LCD projector and white board to do?" In other words, "what curricular stuff, what subject matter, will be enhanced by the latest techno-gizmo?"

Well I decided to go on a math safari to find Web sites that appeared to be educational, and fun to use, and had curricular relevance, and were fun to use, and could be used by a novice, and were fun to use. Oh did I forget to mention that one of my criteria was that they "be fun to use"? Here are some terrific math Web sites. I believe that they are 'terrific' because they challenge students and they show the students why math is important to know--how it can solve real-world problems, and they are fun to use.

Ole Miss (a.k.a., the University of Mississippi) has an excellent web site that provides a Mathematics Contest Page that is sponsored by Casio. This site offers 6 math contests on a weekly basis. Casio calculators are given to one person selected randomly from among those who have submitted correct answers. Even though only one person with the correct answer receives a Casio calculator, all those who answer the question correctly are listed on the Web page. For Grades 6 and lower go to this web site http://www.olemiss.edu/mathed/brain/ for Middle School Madness go to http://www.olemiss.edu/mathed/middle/ and for the High School Challenge go to http://www.olemiss.edu/mathed/contest/

Auntie Math provides math challenges for K-5 students (http://www.dupagechildrensmuseum.org/aunty/index.html). There is a new math challenge for Auntie Math's niece and nephews posted every other week throughout the school year. These challenges come in the form of story problems. Your class can post their solutions and strategies and look at others answers also. Past archives with answers are also available if you'd like to have material to handout to your class.

Word Problems for Kids (http://www.stfx.ca/special/mathproblems/welcome.html) is hosted by St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. This site features about 4 dozen word problems, and solutions, for each grade level from grade 5 through grade 12.

The Geometry Math Problem of the Week (http://mathforum.org/geopow/) is a pay-to-play site but it is well worth the relatively small cost. Stop by this site and take a look.

General Math Problem of the Week (http://mathforum.org/funpow/) provides an inexpensive problem of the week; the same folks provide such problems of the week for middle school (http://mathforum.org/midpow/).

Buying Your Dream Car (http://www.microsoft.com/education/?ID=dreamcar) This practical spreadsheet lesson, which is brought to you by Microsoft Inc., offers easy answers to life's perplexing math problems like How much will my dream car really cost after financing? You need to use Microsoft Excel or some sort of spreadsheet. Even though this is a single lesson plan, it provides a solid example for other derivative problems such as buying a house, or buying other items.

Change Maker (http://www.funbrain.com/cashreg/index.html) -- Students choose one of four levels of difficulty. They must predict how much change is returned to them in a transaction, and not only the total amount, but also how much of each denomination.

Web Math (http://school.discovery.com/homeworkhelp/webmath/) is a "math problem solver" that provides students with immediate solutions to the problems they are working on complete with the steps. Topics range from calculating tips and figuring sale prices to factoring quadratic equations and graphing. This site is now hosted by DiscoverySchool.com and loads somewhat slowly so be patient. This site is worth a look!

Coin Flipping Page (http://shazam.econ.ubc.ca/flip/) flip up to 100 coins and see the total number of heads and tails. This site is excellent for teaching about probability

CoolMath4Kids (http://ccins.camosun.bc.ca/~jbritton/jbpolyhedra.htm) is an amusement park of math and more. It is especially designed for lots of Fun!

Explore Math (http://www.explorelearning.com/index.cfm?method=cResource.dspResourceCatalog) has multimedia activities that allows for the exploration of mathematics concepts. These Shockwave activities create real-time correlation between equations and graphs that help students visualize and experiment with many of the major concepts from Elementary Algebra through Pre-Calculus. To use an Activity you must first have the free Shockwave™ plugin.

Fractions for Adults (http://www.sosmath.com/algebra/fraction/frac1/frac1.html) Even though this site is targeted toward those individuals who may have forgotten what they once knew about fractions, it is ideal as a 'review' of subject matter that has already been covered. Fractions for Adults is divided into several categories with accompanying examples and problems. The SOS menu will direct you according to your needs or performance. Fractions for Adults covers: simple fractions, compound fractions, complex fractions, decimals, and percentages

A+ Math for Kids (http://www.aplusmath.com/) was developed to help students improve their math skills interactively. Be sure to visit the 'games' room and play exciting games like Matho and Hidden Picture. You can also test your math skills with their 'Flashcards' game. This site also allows you create and print your own set of flashcards online by using Flashcard Creator. There is also a 'Worksheet' section where you can print worksheets to practice offline.

Flash Cards for Kids (http://www.edu4kids.com/math/) allows students to do math flashcards on-line. There are a number of functions that can be modified to allow the drill to be as easy or hard as you like.

After wading through lots and lots of Web sites and other online products, these are the best of the best. While I was on my math safari I came across other interesting math places that are well-worth the your time to review. I have listed those in the 'Resources' section. Good luck on your math safari; remember to look for things that are fun for the students!




This web site is a terrific compendium of all sorts of math resources. It's a MUST SEE site. See: http://mthwww.uwc.edu/wwwmahes/files/math01.htm

The Math Forum @ Drexel (http://mathforum.org/library/) provides an outstanding listing of mathematical resources for K-12 classroom teachers.

Ask Dr. Math (http://mathforum.org/dr.math/) Ask Dr. Math is a question-and-answer service for math students and their teachers. There is a searchable archive by level and topic, as well as summaries of Frequently Asked Questions. To use Dr. Math your students (or you if you need help) submit questions to Dr. Math via a Web form. Answers are sent back by e-mail; also Dr. Math will gather the best questions and answers into a searchable archive organized by grade level (elementary, middle school, high school) and topic (exponents, infinity, polynomials, etc.). I recommend using the Dr. Math searcher to find what you want (use keywords like fibonacci, fractal, or proof), and you should also investigate the Dr. Math FAQ (topics include prime numbers, pi, the golden ratio, Pascal's triangle).

The History of Mathematicians (http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Indexes/Full_Chron.html) This Web site provides a full chronicle of mathematicians from 500A.D. to the present day! The information here is a bit 'dry' but a great classroom teacher can jazz it up so that it's fun for the students.

The Chicago Public Schools (http://intranet.cps.k12.il.us/Lessons/StructuredCurriculumTOC/SCMathematics/scmathematics.html) instituted a "structures mathematics curriculum" with daily lesson plans for every grade K - 12. You can select your grade to see if there are suggested activities that you wish to adapt for your own classroom. {Note: Adobe Acrobat is needed to view these lesson plans.]

Algebra -- This page contains a compendium of Algebra resources--it's a virtual (not pun intended) bonanza of material (http://archives.math.utk.edu/topics/algebra.html). This site deals with: Absolute Values and Exponents, Fractional and Negative Exponents, Polynomials, Factoring Polynomials, Rational Functions, Compound Fractions, Solving Equations, Word Problems, Solving Quadratic Equations, Quadratic Formula, Complex Numbers, Inequalities, Quadratic Inequalities, Graphing Equations and Circles, Lines, Functions, Applications of Functions, Online quizzes, Ordered Pairs, Graphing Equations, Horizontal Lines, Vertical Lines, Slope, Equations And Slope, Find Equation of Line, Scatter Plots, Parallel Lines,
Perpendicular Lines, Solve A System.

Microsoft Inc.'s Education Page has a search engine for lesson plans. It's well worth a trip to try-it-out. See http://www.microsoft.com/education/default.asp?ID=LessonPlans

Calculators Galore (http://www.martindalecenter.com/Calculators.html) This is a MUST SEE site. It has every sort of calculator imaginable. If you're a novice, this site may seem overwhelming, but just try one item at a time and it will seem less daunting.

Figure This! (http://www.figurethis.org/) Funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Education, Math challenges for middle schools. The problems that are offered here are great for a morning activities. Figure This! Provides about three or four new challenges a month.

Stuff For Sale (http://www.elementary-math.com/?p=1) is a Web site that listing items for sale that you, as a math teacher, might be interested in (e.g., save $ on math curriculum material, math teaching videos, etc.).