Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest post by KSA Darlene Varga: Linking Past to Present

This guest post is courtesy of Darlene Varga, AIMS Trainer extraordinaire and Kim Sutton Associate.  Darlene is a veteran teacher with more than thirty-eight years of experience teaching and training under her belt, who has presented on math and science at the district, state and national levels. Darlene's passion is for helping teachers and students alike come to love and feel more comfortable with math.

Kim Sutton Associates are highly skilled trainers and coaches from around the United States and the globe who share Kim's vision of making math a more creative, meaningful experience for students and teachers of all ages.  For more information on Kim Sutton Associates, please visit our Kim Sutton Associates page.

I was thrilled to become a KSA.  I knew it was a chance to share Kim’s creative and innovative methods of teaching mathematics with other teachers.  I did not realize it would, also, give me chance to reunite with past parents and fellow teachers. 
The second KSA workshop I presented was in Austin, Texas where I taught more than 20 years ago.  The numbers for the workshop were low, so I decided to share the workshop details with some of my friends on Facebook.  One of my former parents from the 1970’s responded and said she was no longer teaching but would love to come help me out in setting up.  A retired teacher I taught with in Austin invited me to stay with her and she, also, wanted to go to the workshop to help.  Another retired teacher I worked with was subbing at a school in the Austin area and she spread the word to that school about this workshop opportunity.  With her help, the workshop filled to capacity. 
The past parent and the teacher I stayed with came early and helped me set up, insisted on staying for the entire workshop helping with sales, etc. and then helped me pack up.  The teachers that attended (after a long day of teaching) were so involved with the activities and all seemed to leave energized and ready to go back and try out some of the new ideas. 
It was such a special day being able to spend time with a group of dedicated teachers and sharing time with people who were important parts of my early teaching career.  I look forward to more enriching experiences as a KSA.  Thanks Creative Mathematics for giving me this incredible opportunity.

Darlene Varga

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

See you in Louisville!

In the last week, we’ve traveled from gorgeous Gatlinburg to Connecticut by way of Gettysburg, amongst other stops!  Gatlinburg was beautiful-- I love where we live, but the fall colors really pop in Tennessee in a way you don't quite get in evergreen northern California.  I even got to sample some moonshine!  Gettysburg was breathtaking-- what an amazing part of our history as a nation! 

Later this week we’ll travel to Louisville in time for the NCTM regional conference being held there.  I hope if you’re in the area you can stop by and say hello!  I’ll be presenting twice on Friday: once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  In the morning, I'll be speaking on "Teaching Fractions to Develop Proportional Reasoning."  This session will be perfect for any grades 3-5 teachers who might be looking for some new tips and tricks on how to help their students find fractions more meaningful.  

My second session on Friday will be something a little different. This year, we’ll also be trying out something we’ve never done before.  I'll be hosting an exhibitor session!  The exhibitor session is called "Walking the Number Line for Research-Based Results."  As you might have guessed from the name, this session is going to cover one of my favorite tools, my number line, and all the different ways it can be used to cover so many concepts that your students need to know.  Whether you're pre-K or grade 5, we'll absolutely be doing something that you can use in your classroom immediately.  Come play with me! 

Stop by if you can-- attendees at this special exhibitor session will get a very special treat.  (I know Halloween has passed, but I'll try to keep it alive and well in the spirit of the conference.)  Looking forward to seeing all of you soon!  For more information on the conference, go here. If you can't make it to Louisville but still want to download my handouts, they'll be available here starting next week. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun with Dominoes

As some of you might be able to tell from my Facebook posts, I have dominoes on the brain.  Early next year, I'll be putting out my new book on dominoes and I've currently been experimenting with all different kinds of domino games.  The other day I got to practice some of these activities in my classroom!

My friend, Ella, came to do mathematics with me in my classroom one day after school.  Ella is an amazing third grader who loves math!  Since I have been working on my yet unnamed Domino book (hint, hint!) I asked Ella Bella to help me with a game idea!  

I found this darling scrapbook paper while shopping in Arizona with my pal, Patti Launi.  The paper has 35 addition problems. One of the games that we played, which would be easy to replicate with your class, used this paper as a game board. We placed the double six dominoes facedown.  Ella picked a domino and added the pips on that domino and matched the sum of the pips to an addition problem that had the same sum!

She is such a careful thinker!  She repeated the game to some lively music and did it much faster!  Oh how students love the magic of games!

This would be so easy and fun to replicate with your class.  All you need is a number game board-- it helps if it can be blocked out like this game board but you could also make it work with simple numbers by treating the dominoes as equations tailored for your grade level (i.e., 1 + 5, 1 x 5, etc.).  

In the meantime, I'm running a contest on my Facebook through November-- I'm looking for a title for my upcoming domino book!  If you have a good idea, post it on my wall.  The top three entries will get a signed copy of my new book and one grand prize winner will win a Skype session with me, to discuss your classroom, your teaching, math-- whatever you want!

Happy teaching!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Math Activities, Vol. 3: Monster Hands

I just have one more Halloween activity to share this year, but it's one of my all-time best.  Ask my daughter what it was like to grow up with a math teacher mother, and she'll undoubtedly recount stories of fun "games" that really turned out to be lessons in disguise-- but it didn't make them any less fun!  This is another one of those.

Monster Hands (or Witch Hands, if you prefer) is a fun and delicious activity to work on estimation with your students.  It also provides them with such a fun Halloween prop (a Monster Hand of their own!) that they may not even want to eat it!  Nothing wrong with a little less sugar intake on Halloween.  Remember, there is a difference between a guess and an estimate.  A guess is based on no previous experience or no applied strategy.  An estimate is based on number experiences or applied strategies.  It is difficult to tell when it is a guess or an estimate.

You'll need:
  • Lots of popped popcorn (I prefer kettle corn, but it doesn't make a difference)
  • 30 plastic see-through gloves (or one for each student in your class)
  • Candy corn
  • Ribbon
  • Bowls

Preparation begins!

Step One. Place bowls of popcorn and bowls of candy corn at clusters of desks-- no more than 4-5 children per station.  Pass out one plastic glove to each student.

Step Two.  Have students place one candy corn (tip facing outward) in each finger hole of the glove.  This serves as the Monster or Witch's "nail."

Step Three.  Ask students to write a guess for how many popcorn pieces it will take to stuff their glove.  Students should write down this number on a post-it and add to a classroom graph.  The teacher will make a graph of the guesses.

Step Four.  Students will count out five pieces of popcorn and hold them in the palm of their hands.  This is what five looks like!  Now it is time to estimate how many pieces will fill their whole hand.  Students write their estimate on a post-it.  The teacher will make a second graph of their estimates.  A discussion will follow about how the guesses compare with the estimates. 

Step Five.  Students stuff the gloves with the popcorn, counting each piece that they add and making sure that the glove isn't so inflated that it will explode.  (There's always one.)

Step Six.  Tie off the gloves and record each student's actual popcorn count next to their estimates.  Now there are three graphs (or if you'd rather, three columns)-- guesses, estimates, and actuals.  The student(s) closest to their estimation on all three wins a Halloween prize of some sort!

Finished witch hand!

There you go!  I love sharing a few of my favorite Halloween activities-- brings me back to the days of my own classroom and how much fun I had with my kiddos.  Let me know if you try or have tried any of these in your classroom!  I'd love to see!

Have a merry, scary Halloween!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Math Activities, Vol. 2: How Many Eyeballs?

One of my favorite parts of Halloween-- whether it was throwing parties for my daughter and her friends or transforming my classroom and lesson plans-- is how easy it is to repurpose everyday items into ghoulish goods.

If you don't already know the eyeball trick, or you DO know the eyeball trick and would like an idea for how to use it in your classroom, read on.

We used to host an annual Halloween party at my house when my daughter was growing up.  (These inevitably ended in pulling out the Ouija board and being interrupted by the "spirit" of a parent coming to pick up their son or daughter-- what fun!) One of the tricks that made me feel like super mom was peeling grapes to make Halloween "eyeballs."

Add a few crucial components and voila-- a perfect estimation Halloween tool!

In their pre-eyeball state
You'll need:
  • Lots of grapes
  • A bowl
  • Cardboard box with a hole


Step 1.  Peel the grapes so they're nice and slimy!  A tip to do this easily: boil the grapes for a few seconds, drain, and then submerge in cold water.  The skins will peel right off!  If you're feeling ambitious, you can even cut a raisin in half and use it as the iris.
Step 2.  Put all the "eyeballs" into a bowl and let students look at them so they can get a sense of the bowl.
Step 3.  Move bowl of "eyeballs" into the cardboard box.
Step 4.  Students get 15 seconds to feel around in the box of "eyeballs" to help their estimation.
Step 5.  Students record their answers for estimation on a classroom graph.  The student closest to the estimation without going over wins!  This can also be done as a team event!  Each group of four students will take turns estimating the eyeballs in the box.  The winner of each group would compete with the winners of all the other groups.

©moominmolly, Flickr Creative Commons

Enjoy!  I would suggest these grapes as a healthy snack for your class...but that might be going too far.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Math Activities, Vol. 1: Pumpkin Circumference

Anyone who knows me knows that I love holidays.  When I'm home, I love to decorate my house for whatever upcoming festivity is on the horizon-- be it Halloween, Valentine's Day, or Thanksgiving!  My classroom is no exception.

Halloween is one of my personal favorites!  As a teacher, it was always such great fun to transition my classroom into a spooky fright-fest (the level of "fright" involved directly correlated to which grade I happened to be teaching at the time).  I also found that it was a great way to incorporate lots of math activities that students might otherwise not find quite as fun.

In honor of my classrooms past and your classrooms present, I wanted to share a few Halloween math activities this year that my students and I used to love.  This is the first one, complete with supplies and pictures.

What do you think Mickey's circumference is?

You'll need:

  • 5 pumpkins of varying size and shape
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Markers
For this fun theme activity, you'll need five pumpkins of varying size.  Line them up in whatever order you want somewhere students can easily view them.  

Part One: each student takes a turn studying the pumpkins, and then, using scissors and string, cut a length of string that they think would go all the way around the pumpkin. (Incorporate "circumference" vocabulary if appropriate for your students.) Each student will make a small mark on this length of string to indicate that it is his or her "guesstimate" string.

Part Two: each student will actually measure around the pumpkins with the string lengths they have cut.  Was it greater than, equal to, or less than their first guesstimate?  Finish with a class graph for the results if you'd like!

Lots of pumpkins to choose from!

I love this activity because it is such a fun way to incorporate concepts of visual estimation and circumference.  It gives students an up close look at real-life application of circumference while still being a fun way to celebrate Halloween!

Stay tuned for a few more of my favorite Halloween activities!  I hope you have a fun one with your students-- drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you if you try this in your classroom!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Magic Fingers in Action

Happy fall!  It's been a roaring season so far for me-- I'm in the midst of a three week trip that spans the country-- we're currently in Nashville but we'll be headed to Atlanta soon and back to what is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots, El Paso, before we're home again.  It's been quite the long trip but a few things have been great-- it's always fun to make classroom visits or even to hear about them by proxy!  One of my favorite things is when someone emails me with an example of their kids using my materials.  It makes me feel like I never left my classroom-- my classroom just extends across the country!

Jessica Harris, from Wallingford, Connecticut, sent in these pictures of her students using my magic fingers of mathematics (thank you Jessica!).  I had the pleasure of visiting with Jessica and 200 other teachers in Connecticut in May.  It was a wonderful visit and I hope to be going back soon-- especially now that I get to see Jessica in action!  Magic Fingers are great fun in the classroom, but more importantly, they're great for tracking and imprinting in both math and language arts.  They're very versatile-- students will love to use them for reading AND skip counting!  They can't get enough of the fingers, and it couldn't be more timely for Halloween at the end of the month.

In the pictures, you can see the students doing some of my favorite activities with the fingers.  This is such a simple activity that reinforces counting and number properties for students, and they love it-- they love pretty much every activity with the fingers!  I turn on Ron Brown's Random Number CD and have students track numbers that they hear as he says them.  Although this is an activity geared towards younger learners, don't underestimate it's power to reinforce number recognition.

One tip for using the Magic Fingers in your classroom: I like to give students 5 minutes at the beginning of the school year to "get all the giggles out."  I make it very clear that any time spent messing around with the fingers after these five minutes will result in the loss of all finger magical properties, and fingers themselves, and this is usually enough to keep kids focused for the rest of the school year.  That way I don't have to be constantly battling Witch Finger Fun-itis!

I hope you're enjoying this lovely October.  I'm off to fun in El Paso with Barb Novelli and Paul Agranoff and finishing up this trip in beautiful Seattle!  I hope to see you soon!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lone Star State Adventures

How is it possible that it's already past the middle of July?  This summer is going by so fast it's hard to believe.  Jeff and I are back home in lovely, cool Northern California after two weeks on the road.  We made it to Texas first, where we met up with Paul Agranoff and Barbara Novelli for a two-day class in Dallas.  It's always such a fun experience to get to see these two-- Barb and I had some fun at Charming Charlie's!  If you've been to Dallas and haven't made it there yet, you're missing out!

After that, we made it to one of our favorite summer conferences, CAMT, which was in San Antonio this year.  I got to speak six times this year (!!) which I think might be a record for me!  Kathy Collins also spoke, so Creative Math was well represented.  To all of you who stopped by our booth and said hello, it was great to see you!  If you didn't make it to the conference, or if you couldn't make my sessions or Kathy's, you can download the handouts here.

CM Booth at CAMT

After CAMT, we made it back to Paul and Barb for Math Camp in Houston.  Love getting to do the make it/take it with everyone-- if you have any make-it/ take-it pictures you'd like to share, you can always post them over on our facebook!  I'd love to see them in your classroom!  We finished up this two week tour in Springfield, TN-- the more of Tennessee I get to, the more I enjoy it!

I'd also like to share a few special pictures from our training up in Humboldt County this summer.  For the last three years, we've been honored to host a special training session in Arcata with some great trainers and educators from around the country.  We call these Kim Sutton Associate trainings, but I always feel like I end up learning more than I teach.  It's always a fun week-- we intersperse plenty of shopping, eating, and sight-seeing along with the training and it's such a blast.  

Our KSA crew in my classroom-- Barb Novelli is front and center

This year, we hosted representatives from many different states, including Tennessee, Oregon, Minnesota, and Virginia.  It's such a special treat in the middle of summer to get to take this time together with such talented trainers and math coaches-- it's a jam packed week but it's always so useful!

Ron and Nancy Brown joined us this summer-- what a treat!

Stay tuned-- I'm off to readjust to being home, maybe do some laundry and cheer on my beloved Giants, but I have a post coming up this week on new Numberline activities!  The summer will be over before you know it, and these will be great for use in the classroom in the fall!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who showed up in our classes and conferences this summer, and I can't wait to see the rest of you in the next few weeks!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Life throws curve balls like Tim Lincecum!

After a few sunny days home in Northern California, I’m back on the road again and just left one of my very favorite cities—Wichita, KS!  Jeff and I headed to Kansas City today, and you can bet we've hit a few Sonics while we've been out here!  Looking forward to our class tomorrow with Barb Novelli and Paul Agranoff-- we're trying out a new class about loving teaching math.  It's always fun to try out a new class with a new group of people!

Last Tuesday night, after a long flight home, I had a little accident—I tripped over a gas hose out on the runway in McKinleyville and fell and broke my nose.  We had to go to the hospital and get seven stitches, but I’m doing ok now and just wanted to give you a head’s up if you see me while I still have my stitches in!  Life throws you curveballs sometimes!

It's kind of amazing to see where the summer is going to take us-- after Kansas, we'll be home for a little bit for a fun week with our KSAs (who you can read more about here) which is always fun, and I'll definitely be posting pictures!  Looking forward to getting to see you all soon!

Mathematically yours,

Monday, June 10, 2013

School's out for summer! Which means I'm hittin' the road.

Hi everyone,

Well, we haven't quite made our updating goal for 2013, but the year is only halfway over and it's never too late to try again, right?

As usual, once school winds down for all of my teacher friends, my busy season on the road starts!  This summer is already off to a bang-- in the last week, I've gotten to spend some time in one of my very favorite cities, Nashville!  Thanks everyone who showed up on Thursday and Friday!  Jeff and I also got to do something very special-- we made it to FanFest this year!  It's hard to pick a favorite, but we had some highlights: Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban were all hard to beat!

Jeff and I, rocking out!  Doesn't Jeff look happy?  :)

I'm currently in Phoenix with my dear friend, Patti Launi, who was also one of my very first Kim Sutton Associates!  If you're in the Arizona/New Mexico area, you NEED to check Patti out here.  Thanks to everyone in my class today-- what fun!

So what are you going to do with your "free time" (haha!) this summer?  Are there any series you need to get caught up on?  My husband and daughter keep trying to get me to watch "Game of Thrones" but I keep hearing nice things about this "Downton Abbey."

If you're like me and you're thinking of your classroom even in the summer, have you checked out my free download section at my website?  I post all my conference handouts and freebies from my classes here.  I'll be posting exclusive pictures of some of these activities to my Pinterest board and Facebook in the next week (which you can find by clicking the icons on my blog), so stay tuned for those!

Back home tomorrow for a few days and then I'll be coming to see my friends in Kansas!  I'll be posting some fun and blog-exclusive video clips soon!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mathematically Inspired

Today's post comes to us from Cheryl Henjum, a fabulous presenter who we've had the good luck to welcome her into the Creative Mathematics family!  If you haven't had a chance to see a workshop with this electrifying woman, check out her upcoming classes and locations here.  Cheryl's known for inspiring a rejuvenated mathematics teaching style, and I'm so happy to get to share her thoughts and some of her journey to Creative Math here.  Enjoy!

Mathematically Inspired
By: Cheryl Henjum

Have you ever hit a teaching wall? Felt that sense of blah, as you look at your lesson plan book? Well, I have! It made me feel like an inadequate teacher, who was more focused on state tests, district assessments and structure that seriously suffocated my creativity and knack for teaching. I needed some inspiration!!! I love creating lessons that are engaging, fun, interactive, challenging, celebratory, and inspiring for all levels of learners.

I quickly searched for classes that would help bring back the “creative” twist to my classroom. I found a workshop by Kim Sutton and I thought the name of her company suited exactly what I was looking for, “Creative Mathematics.” Bingo!!! Just what I needed!

During the workshop I was engaged with games and activities that could easily be adapted to ALL learners. We used dice to create equations, identify place values of numbers, T-charts helped us find unknown patterns and the music was super catchy and FUN! I was truly inspired! Well, that was over 10 years ago when I first saw Kim Sutton. Today, thanks to Kim, I am still inspired, driven and always awaiting her next new book with eagerness.

Kim has a way of bringing mathematics to life without threat. She uses music to grab the attention of the students, engages them with activities and games that are interactive and FUN…..AND she is practical! As an elementary administrator I am always looking for ways to increase mathematical competency in each and every classroom within my building. The activities and games that Kim has created are easily adaptable to every learning level within the classroom, tracking sheets allow teachers to grab the data they need to establish and sustain mathematical competency. I call many of her activities and games “organic.” I guess I came up with organic after really seeing each student creates their own path, pattern, equation, etc. Students are then inspired because they truly have a part in the learning process.

I have seen drastic improvements in the quality of mathematical lessons delivered in our classrooms. Students are excited and learning is active. I am now inspired and have a sense of creativity even in light of all the changes that are happening within our education system.

Don’t let your creative senses dry up…..instead visit Kim Sutton the next time she is in your area. You will feel inspired, motivated and energized to build mathematical competency within your classroom!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

2013 + New additions to Creative Math

Well hello everyone!  Happy (belated) 2013!

I meant to have something about this up earlier, but as you can clearly see, our blog has been updated!  We've gotten a bit of a facelift from Lindsay over at Sour Apple Design-- didn't she do a great job?  We've also started using a different platform-- so now you'll be able to follow us and get real-time updates to this blog.

Speaking of, we have a new way we're going to do things around here!  One of our New Years' resolutions-- post to the blog more frequently!  (Clearly, we're off to a great start.)  We'll have new posts every week-- about what's new at Creative Math, where Kim's at, math news and stories and things we're excited to share with you.  We also hope you'll take the time to add comments if you have questions or if there are things you want to know more about!

You might have already noticed this, but we are now available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  We don't have too many products loaded up yet, but we'll be adding more all the time.  In honor of our San Francisco 49ers, we'll be running a SUPER Sunday sale tomorrow here, with 15% off select merchandise-- but the sale ends on Monday!  (Maybe earlier if the other Harbaugh wins-- just kidding, Ravens fans!)

One product we just added to Teachers Pay Teachers is Kim's Valentine's Choices activity.  This product has been available for some time on our website, but we gave it a bit of a makeover-- added some new color graphics and touched up a few of the worksheets.  It's a great seasonal math center, to be used daily to help with mathematically motivating children.  I cringe when I hear adults say that they never liked math growing up-- everyone has the capacity to love math, and Kim's centers help make it easier!  Who wouldn't enjoy math with conversation hearts?  This unit covers fractions, algebraic functions and patterns, among other things.  Check it out!  Here's the cover image below.

I hope you're having a wonderful weekend-- enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow, if you're watching, or the Puppy Bowl if that's your cup of tea.  Kim will be visiting beautiful British Columbia next week-- if you'd like more information on these workshops, or any upcoming Creative Math workshops and presenters, please visit our page here.

Go Niners!


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