Why is it okay to pick on math?

As I was driving around town this afternoon running some errands for back to school prep I had the radio on. A commercial for a store that shall remain nameless (honestly, because I was so taken back that I cannot remember) came on and it really stuck a nerve with me. The gist of the commercial was a young boy who was thanking his mom for packing him an awesome lunch and then he said “but I still don’t like algebra”, and then the radio personality popped in and said “that is why I am a radio announcer”.

Why is it okay to pick on math, more specifically algebra?
What kind of stereotype does this reinforce?
Would it be okay to put any other subject in there?

Maybe I am a little too sensitive about math, but I feel that so much of how you approach math learning has to do with your attitude. When kids are hearing these types of commercials as they prepare to go back to school it is no wonder that building kids interest in mathematics can seem like a task at times.


Christmas Themed Math Problems

This is the last week of classes at my school before the Christmas Break! I always find it a difficult week to keep the kids focused and productive so I have tried to write some math problems to embrace the theme and help them to see there there is math every where we look! 
Miss Lewis’s
Christmas Math Problems
1.   The wrapping station in the mall can wrap 3 gifts every 5 minutes. For each gift they receive a donation of $2. How much money could they raise in 2 hours?
2.   Walmart is open 24 hours a day for the month of December, excluding Chirstmas Day when they are closed, and Boxing Day they are open from 7:00 am – 11:00 pm. How many hours is Walmart open during the month of December?
3.   Miss Lewis would like to put lights around 4 windows on her house. Each window is 1.25 m tall and 0.75 m wide. How many meters of lighting does she need?
4.  Mr. M would like to purchase a 2.5 m tall Christmas tree for the dining hall. Which of these trees is a better buy?
a.    All trees $49
b.   $18 per meter tall
c.    First 2 meters $40; each additional 10 cm $2
55.  There are 180 students in Lower School. Mr. Nagy needs to gingerbread cookies to lunch on Wednesday. Each batch makes 36 cookies and takes 22 minutes to bake. If each student can have 2 cookies. How many batches will he have to prepare? How long will it take to bake all of the cookies?
(Some questions adapted for metric units from:

Math Manipulative Bin Labels

So today was a snow day in Southern Ontario but I still made it into my classroom for some much needed prep work and cleaning. My first stop was the math manipulative bins because they were all mixed up and really driving me nuts. I have had them labeled since September with my label maker but the kids don’t seem to notice it so I have decided to put picture labels on each bin. In searching for what I wanted online I couldn’t find it so I have created something to fit my needs. I thought that other teachers might have the same issue so I have uploaded my file to share. I couldn’t load it to Blogger so I have uploaded it at the following link –

I hope you enjoy!

Dan Meyer: Math Class Needs a Makeover

I just watched Dan Meyer’s TED Talk entitled “Math Class Needs a Makeover“. In Ontario, we have Additional Qualification (AQ) Courses that you can take after your certified by the Ontario College of Teachers. One area of personal interest that I have been taking AQ courses in is “Primary/Junior Math” and I have been working on developing my teaching strategies to assist students in developing conceptual understanding, and problem solving skills not just which formula to use when. This year I have been focused on teaching more through problem solving and developing my own problems to really get at what students understand and are able to do.  It was interesting to watch Dan Meyer’s TED Talk because he mentioned a lot of things that I have been doing/ noticed with text books.

One point that really resonated with me was the use of the term “Patient Problem Solver”. So often in my class I find that I am spending my time encouraging kids to continue solving the problem and looking for other strategies because they seek the quickest, fastest, easiest solution (that may not always be correct). I am going to use this terminology in my classroom to encourage my students to understand that problem solving requires you to stick with it and be patient.

The second point that stuck with me was “math serves the conversation not the conversation serves the math”. I have been finding this in my class (but would have never been able to word it this way!). Working on utilizing pictures and having students do math from the picture I think it is a great way to add meaningful vocabulary and purpose to each element that is introduced.

The third helpful point from Dan was about creating good problems. I have been working on this all year and it is not an easy task. His suggestions were to eliminate substeps, ask the shortest problem you possibly can, let students build the problem, be less helpful! I know that I am not the only one that will struggle with the “be less helpful” but I think it is actually being more helpful in other ways. Developing better questioning strategies to assist students in solving the problem themselves will I think be my “be less helpful” strategy. Any other suggestions?

His closing message “math makes sense of the world” is truly the reason that we need to insure that all of our students develop a solid conceptual understanding of mathematics and problem solving skills so that they will be able to interpret the mathematical world around them, in whatever context they require.