Personal Whiteboards


In the post about Number Strings, I referred to a student’s “personal whiteboard”.  I use whiteboards throughout the day as a way of informally assessing students.

Instead of a store bought whiteboard, I prefer to provide students with a customized version.

  1. Start with a glossy page protector, a box of which which can be purchased inexpensively on eBay or at Sam’s Club or Costco.
  2. Insert a brightly colored sheet of card stock. Card stock makes the whiteboard a little sturdier and by using color on one side, I can instantly tell when the entire group of students is ready.
  3. Add appropriate pages. In the first grade, I might have a pre-made number bond page ready to go. When I’m teaching a lesson on adding or subtracting, I’ll insert a place value chart.

By keeping a classroom set of these on the shelf with the student textbooks, they would last an entire school year. Here are some printables to get you started:

You can find information on Alexandria Jones’ Pharaoh’s Treasure in the picture at Let’s Play Math.

These are also great for games and learning centers…

Sudoku, Kenken, Contig or

The Hex game:


Or any of the international logic games on the handouts page of this site.


Pi Day Songs


Only 3 more shopping days until Pi day.

In case you were seeking some music for your celebration:

Happy Pi Day

Happy Pi day to you,
Happy Pi day to you,
Happy Pi day everybody,
Happy Pi day to you.

(to the tune of “Happy Birthday”)

And there are more at this Pi day website. Be sure to check out all the mathematics and science songs at Greg Crowther’s site.

You missed the shipping date this year, but who says there’s a “season” for Pi shirts and aprons?

(Image via flickr user myklroventine)


Number Strings as a Math Warm-Up…

…or cool down, or any time a teacher wants to get students working mental math.

Number strings are short mental math activities designed so that students work several calculations in their head then provide the answer in chorus, either verbally, with whiteboards, fingers or pencil and paper. Have students write their answer on their personal whiteboard and place it upside down on their desks. (To avoid excessive drawing, remind students that you want to hear their marker “click”.)

When directed, students will show their answer to the teacher, who immediately checks for comprehension and enthusiastically provides an answer to each student (“I challenge your answer” or “Yes!”).

In addition to providing a teacher with instant formative assessment, number strings offer the opportunity to integrate mathematics throughout the curriculum. Use the following samples or write your own!

First Grade:

Begin with the number of legs on a cat. (4)
Add the number of wheels on a bicycle (4 + 2 = 6)
Subtract the number of teachers in the classroom right now (6 – ?)

When I say: “Show me the answer”, I want you to raise the same number of fingers in the air as your answer.

“Are you ready?  Show me the answer!”

Second Grade:

Start with the number of halves in a whole. (2)
Triple that number. (2 x 3 = 6)
Add the number of sides on a rectangle (6 + 4 = 10)

Write your answer on your whiteboard and flip it upside down. Hold it high over your head when I say: “Show me the answer!”

Third Grade:

Begin with the number of legs on an ant. (6)
Multiply by the number of legs on a spider. (6 x 8 = 48)
Divide by the number of legs on a human. (48 ÷ 2 = 24)
Subtract the number of legs on a horse. (24 – 4 = 20)

Sixth Grade:

Begin with the number of days in a leap year. (366)
Subtract the number of months in a year. (366 – 12 = 354)
Subtract the number of days in May. (354 – 30 = 324)
Add the number of days in a week. (324 + 7 = 331)


Teaching Primary School Mathematics update

Teaching Primary School MathematicsTPSM2

I recently noticed that the fabulous resource, Teaching Primary School Mathematics: A Resource Book has been updated for a second edition. The preface states that the second edition has been updated to:

be in line with the latest 2007 syllabus…The major difference in the 2007 syllabus at the primary school level is the introduction of the use of hand-held calculators at the Primary 5 and 6 levels.

Going page by page through the book, the only difference is in one sentence on page 26 regarding the use of calculators for Primary 5 and 6 levels now being encouraged by the CPDD (Curriculum Planning and Development Division) as opposed to being encouraged by the author.

If you are teaching the Singapore Math curriculum at your school, you should have a copy of this book. Having reviewed them both, I can now advise you, it doesn’t matter which edition.


Pi Day Resources

Pi Day is rapidly approaching. This year it is on Saturday, March 14th –  but don’t miss out! Teachers can observe this “holiday” on Friday, March 13th instead.

Here are some great sites to help you celebrate with your students.

Official Pi Day Site

Pi, Pi  Mathematical Pi
Song and animation. Enjoy!
Source on the web for teachers who want to find or share ideas for Pi Day activities, learning, and entertainment.

WikiHow: How to Celebrate Pi Day.
Tips on making this day (celebrated on March 14 at 1:59pm) memorable to one and all.

The Joy of Pi
Web site includes links, facts and information about the book:  The Joy of Pi.

San Francisco’s Exploratorium’s 2009 Pi Day site
Plenty of Pi Day resources, including Pi-Ku:

A circumference
divide by diameter
irrational pi.
– Paul D

Ever wanted to see the Pi drop? Here’s your site. They will be celebrating on Friday, March 13th to accommodate students.
Contest entry deadline is March 20th. From the Goudreau Museum of Mathematics in Art and Science.
(Did you know such a place existed? Plan your next vacation in New Hyde Park, NY!)