Tuesday, October 18, 2016

5 out of 5 of These Resources Can Help You Teach Fractions Lessons

In an earlier post I highlighted the Thinking Blocks tools included in Math Playground. Thinking Blocks offers a good way to introduce your students to fractions. Here are some other good resources for teaching fractions.

Who Wants Pizza? is a fun online activity for learning about fractions. Who Wants Pizza was developed by Cynthia Lanius at Rice University. The activity has five parts plus practice activities for students to explore. Teachers will find notes about using this activities in the classroom.

Visual Fractions has eight categories of visualizations, lessons, and games for students to explore and learn the functions of fractions.

Pizza Fractions 1 is a simple iPad game in which students are shown a pizza with slices missing. Students have to select the fraction that represents the number of slices left on the pizza plate. Students shake their iPads to generate new problems. Pizza Fractions 1 is the first of five apps in the Pizza Fractions series.

Zap Zap Fractions is a fun and free iPad app designed to help elementary school students learn about fractions. The app contains clear narrated visual lessons about the basics of fractions. After completing the lessons students can test their skills in recognizing fractions by playing the Zap Zap games. The games present students with a series of visuals that represent a fraction. Students have to select the correct fraction to “zap” the oncoming obstacles in the game.

Conceptua Math is a provider of interactive visual mathematics lessons. One of Conceptua Math's primary focuses is on the development of tools to aid teachers in the instruction of lessons on fractions. Conceptua Math's offerings are a mix of free and premium (paid) tools. There are a total of fifteen free interactive tools for teachers and students. Each of the free tools has an introductory video and a sample lesson plan.

Watch & Share Reactions to Presidential Debates Since 1960

Watch the Debates is a PBS NewsHour website that offers videos of the Presidential debate of 1960 and every debate from 1976 forward. The site also includes videos of some debates between candidates for Vice President including the 1988 debate in which Lloyd Bentson famously quipped to Dan Quayle, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

Watch the Debates lets you find debate videos according to year and or issue. Once you have found a video you can register your reactions to the arguments candidates make in the videos. You register your reaction by using thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons. You can register a reaction as often as every five seconds in a video. When you register your reaction you will be shown graph of how other viewers responded at the same point in the video.

Applications for Education
Watch the Debates could be a great resource for high school and middle school social studies teachers. Through the issue filter on Watch the Debates students can see which issues were most pressing at various points in the last forty years. Students could also see how responses to those issues have changed over the years. Finally, students can see that there was a time when a debate between politicians was about the issues important to the people and didn't devolve into name-calling.

One way that you could use Watch the Debates in your classroom is to have students pick an issue then work in groups to trace when that issue first appeared in a debate and how candidates' responses to that issue vary over time. For example, I might have my students choose the issue of economy then break-up the class into small groups with each group watching and taking notes on a different debate. Then I'd bring the class back together to compare notes on what candidates have said about the economy through the years.

On a related note, check out The Living Room Candidate to see the evolution of Presidential campaign commercials since 1960.

H/T to Open Culture for the Watch the Debates link. 

How Sea Turtles Find Their Way Home

A few years ago I had the privilege to witness sea turtles nesting in Costa Rica. Since then I have been fascinated by how they are able to find their way back to their birthplaces years later. So when It's Okay To Be Smart published a video about sea turtles, I stopped what I was doing and watched it immediately.

In How Baby Turtles Find Their Way Home Joe Hanson, Ph.D. explains how sea turtles find their way home in a manner similar to that of salmon. Viewers also learn how the turtles' initial struggle to reach the ocean helps them return home years later. In the second half of the video we learn how Kemp's Ridley sea turtles were saved from extinction.

Your students can learn more about sea turtles in the free Disneynature Explore app.

Math Playground - Hundreds of Math Games & Instructional Videos

Math Playground is a great website containing hundreds of mathematics games appropriate for K-8 students. I first reviewed the site back in 2008. Whenever I have returned to it since then, more games and other helpful features have been added to it.

Math Playground offers a huge variety of math games for students. You can locate games according to suggested grade level, by topic, or by question type. Students who need a refresher on a skill, can probably find one in Math Playground's video library. Math Playground's video library offers more than 100 instructional videos organized according to topic. To the right side of each video students will see some suggested games aligned to the topic covered in the instructional video.

Thinking Blocks is one of the most popular features on Math Playground. Thinking Blocks provides interactive templates in which students use brightly colored blocks to model and solve problems. As students work through the problems they are provided with feedback as to whether or not they are using the correct sequence to solve each problem. Thinking Blocks contains templates and problems for addition, multiplication, fractions, and ratios. You can also develop your own problems using the Thinking Blocks modeling tool.

Applications for Education
Math Playground is the kind of site that is good to keep bookmarked on classroom computers for those times when you need some quick activities that your students can do independently. It's also a great site to share with parents when they ask for recommendations for educational websites they can use at home with their children.

Disclosure: Math Playground is an advertiser on