After 27 years in the computer industry, I've found my home as a Catholic school teacher. This is where God wants me to be.

Dec 292014

iPad Math GamesMath fact games provide a challenging and fun way to motivate a fourth grade class at becoming highly proficient with their multiplication and division tables. I think most fourth grade teachers would agree that it is frustrating to watch kids fall behind in math because they do not have their multiplication tables memorized. Learning math concepts is confusing enough on its own for some kids. Learning long division becomes a monumental task for those students who have to count and use fingers to multiply sets of numbers that they should have memorized. After a while, most teachers can easily recognize which kids are struggling because they do not have their math fact tables memorized. There is simply no way to teach math facts; it is pure memorization. There are routines, however, that we teachers can put in place to make kids practice and even have fun. The key to a math fact program is consistent practice.

Daily Math Facts Program in School

Daily Math Fact Practice

Last year, my school had a school-wide math fact program in place for fourth and fifth grade students. The program was a simple, 1-minute, daily, math-fact, practice drill consisting of 80 multiplication and/or division problems. The daily math sheets progress in difficulty each time the student successfully completes all of the problems on their sheet within the time one-minute limit. If memory serves me right, the sheets had 80 problems each. Each set was labelled with a letter from the alphabet according to the difficulty of the problems. For example, set A might include only 0s, 1s and 2.s. Set M would include 6’s and 7’s, etc., etc. The beauty of the school-wide program was that we had parent volunteers to grade the papers, make copies, and distribute them to student folders for administering the next day. I didn’t really have to do anything other than to hand out the student folders and administer the 1 minute test at the beginning of each school morning. At the mid-point and end-point of our semester, we would administer 2-minute, 100-problem tests for midterm and final grades. While this made things easy for me, I don’t think it really helped the kids who needed to practice the most. The ones who failed to practice and memorize their math facts each day continued to score poorly on the practice and graded tests. The lettered tests did provide somewhat of a challenge for the students, but it wasn’t really much of a game. It all comes down to practice and those who failed to take the time to do this at home, were the ones who scored poorly on the tests. I’ve included a copy of the 80-problem 2 minute drill here: Math Facts 80 Problem Drill.  This PDF file is courtesy of Math Aids Website, which by the way, is an excellent website for generating all kinds of tests and practice sheets for mathematics of all grades. Alternatively, you may also click on the graphic to the right to get a full, printable view of the sheet.

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 Posted by at 9:38 pm
Jul 232014

Everyday MathOne of the most rewarding experiences of my job as a first-year teacher was encouraging kids to write. One of my professors gave us an assignment called, Daily Warm-Ups. I chose to turn this into a math/literacy assignment which I will refer to as, Everyday Math. The idea of daily warm-ups is to engage students with short activities that require reading and writing at the beginning of every lesson, each day of the week.  These daily warm-ups can be based on any subject. I chose math as my subject because it coordinated with my alternative licensing unit plan for my Colorado Work Sample and Portfolio requirements. This also happened to tie-in very nicely with my Math Literacy assignment which I wrote about earlier this week.

My professor’s motivation behind daily warm-ups is that each day of the week, there is a quick lesson activity to help students get engaged with reading, writing and putting actual, real-life learning behind each lesson. My professor also required that a challenge problem be included at least once during the week. An everyday math warm-up was perfect for my daily plan which already included daily math problems at the start of each math lesson.

Using Everyday Math with Story Problems

To tell you the truth, the everyday routine of assigning raw numbers, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions, etc., was getting a little bit stale in the class room. What really brought this to light, though, was how my students struggled with story problems. Even some of the brightest, most ambitious students struggled to solve math when it involved literacy and a story. I found it rather alarming that the mathematics rules, calculations and formulas I was teaching were not making any practical sense for most of my students. I was too quick to assume that they were understanding the actual purpose of the math problems they were asked to do everyday. The word problems often proved that they didn’t know when to divide or when to multiply or when to subtract or when to add. Learning the algorithms is only one tool in learning the use of mathematics in a practical way. For this reason, I continued to add real-life story problems into their daily, every day math routine. This is when I began to notice a very positive flip-side to this whole dilemma. The story problems were helping kids who previously struggled with the calculations. Literacy is the not only the key to making practical sense out of everyday math, but helps enforce the formulas and calculations by teaching how, why, and when they are used. Bringing this all to light, made me all the more anxious to put forth some extra effort and creativity into our daily math routine. Unfortunately, our old routine was making the daily math seem more like a routine chore to students rather  than a fresh learning experience. I was faced with a new challenge where I had to not only increasing interest and motivation of the students, but make it seem interesting, fresh and new.  Continue reading »

 Posted by at 2:24 pm
Jul 192014

Logical ConsequencesIn the midst of my very hectic first year of school, I was given a rather intimidating assignment from one of my professors at Regis University: I was to construct not just one, but two brochures on the topic of behavior management programs and philosophies. With my hands already full trying to manage two different classes of 43 students and masses of papers to grade on the weekend, you can probably guess that I wasn’t real thrilled with the additional burden of constructing a couple of brochures from scratch.  As I began thumbing through endless web literature on behavior management programs, I found one that made very good sense to me: Logical Consequences by, Rudolf Dreikurs. When raising my own children, I learned some valuable lessons the hard way. As with teaching, there is no substitute for parental experience. I think most of us made the same mistakes early-on in wanting to do everything for our children. When they weren’t doing what they were told we often interrupted their behavior and inflicted some type of punishment which had absolutely nothing to do with the consequences of their own actions. Obviously, there are situations when it would be dangerous to do otherwise and we need to intervene for the physical and/or psychological well-being of the child. I quickly saw, however, that I let many harmless opportunities go by to teach my own kids a valuable lesson by allowing them to experience the consequences of their own actions.
Is it any different in the classroom? As I read the literature by Rudolf Dreikurs, I began reflecting on some of the behavior problems with my two fourth grade classes. When undesirable behavior occurred, who was the one paying the consequences? Clearly, me. In an effort, to right their wrongs, I was the one who was doing all the work. This was not always about correcting wrong behavior, but putting forth the energy to stop it before it even happened. I was constantly raising my voice to get them to line-up, threatening to take privileges away, and expounding countless minutes making sure they didn’t do the wrong thing. I was allowing my own stress and anxiety to be their only consequence. They were only too happy to let me continue carrying-on like a frantic and paranoid rookie while knowing how desperately concerned I was about their own welfare. Why should they worry when I was worrying for them? What was once a burdensome teaching assignment became a blessed learning experience, and a turning point for how I would manage my own class the rest of the year.


I designed mLogical Consequences Four Mistaken Goalsy brochure using a tri-fold brochure template in Microsoft Word. I used our Notre Dame school colors and wrote the brochure as if this was going to be send out to all of the parents. One of the important aspects of a teacher carrying out such a behavior philosophy is to engage in completely honest communication and cooperation with the parents. Logical consequences need to be followed both at home and at school. Below are excerpts from my brochure. I’ve attached snip-its of the actual brochure, since the tri-fold format does not lend itself well to a blog format.


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 Posted by at 1:36 pm