March Mathness

There are more than nine quintillion (9 x 1018) ways to fill out a 64-team March Madness bracket — and almost 150 quintillion permutations for the 68 college basketball teams in this year’s men’s tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The Princeton University Press March Mathness blog includes interviews of sports rankings experts, coaches, and mathematicians. Their predictions take the power of mathematical methods of rating and ranking, and bring them to bear on the NCAA hoops tournaments. The blog will also provide updates on the group’s collective performance, and the best method for picking the winner.

Blog posts, which date back to March, 2011, have described how math is used during tournaments, as detailed in Princeton University Press books such as Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football by Wayne Winston and Amy Langville and Carl Meyer’s Who’s #1? [Thanks to the Math Forum for putting this information in their weekly newsletter!]

There are all sorts of ways people fill out their brackets. Google has filled out a bracket based on search volume http://www.google.com/insidesearch/collegebasketball.html. Check back often to see how they’re doing.

We’ve blogged about the integration of math and sports in the past, too – check them out at http://msms.ehe.osu.edu/category/sports/.


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Think Globally and Locally, Mathematically

Student Explorations in Mathematics, formerly known as Student Math Notes, is an official publication of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and is intended as a resource for grades 5-10 students, teachers, and teacher educators. Each issue develops a single mathematical theme or concept in such a way that fifth grade students can understand the first one or two pages and high school students will be challenged by the last page. The content and style of the notes are intended to interest students in the power and beauty of mathematics and to introduce teachers to some of the challenging areas of mathematics that are within the reach of their students.

The teacher version includes additional information on world poverty as well as instructional ideas to facilitate classroom discourse. The student guides are available for free download (see below) but the teacher’s guides are only available with NCTM membership.

In the following activities from the May 2011 and September 2011 issues of the magazine, students use histograms and make comparisons between different country groups, then create graphs that compare these differences in many ways and consider how each of these displays might be used. In part 2, students consider important information about world poverty by using measures of central tendency and box plots. Students analyze data and use a hands-on manipulative to interpret and understand box plots, including the connection between percentiles and quartiles.

Part 1: Hunger at Home and Abroad (May 2011)
World Poverty Data can be downloaded here.

Part 2: Poverty at Home and Abroad (September 2011)
World Poverty Data can be downloaded here.


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We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Decimals—Adding and Subtracting

Do you find that your middle school students still become confused with decimals? Not unusual! The resources here offer support in explaining the concepts underpinning addition and subtraction of decimals, in particular, place value. They also include demonstrations of addition and subtraction and opportunities for practice. The goal for students, as stated in NCTM’s Focal Points, is to develop fluency with computing, solving problems, and making reasonable estimates. I hope these resources will visually and interactively engage your students, helping them toward that goal. 

If you have found other digital resources that have helped your own teaching of this topic, please take a moment to share with your colleagues. Just leave a comment below! 

Builder Ted
This interactive game deals with place value in decimals, necessary to understanding addition and subtraction. In the game scenario, students help Builder Ted by placing numbered bricks on a ladder in numerical order. At the first level of difficulty, all numbers are positive, but the two higher levels include negative numbers as well. If a number is placed incorrectly, all the bricks immediately fall and the player begins again.  

Place Value
The user can type in any number, such as 3601.076, or let the computer choose a number. As the student passes the mouse over each digit in the number, its place value is shown. Also, how to say the number is given, plus a short exercise asking the student to identify the digit in, say, the thousandth position.

Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages
Especially appropriate for tutoring or even review, the site introduces decimals (reading, writing, and comparing) and then offers examples and practice in operating with decimals.

Base Block Decimals
With this virtual manipulative, students can explore the meaning of place value and grouping as they add and subtract decimals. The base blocks can represent negative as well as positive numbers with one to four decimal places. Students exchange and group the blocks as needed to solve the problems created by either the student or the computer. All material is available in Spanish and French as well as English, including instructions for using the manipulative, information about bases and place value, and suggested questions for classroom use.

Decimals
This site offers bare-bones explanations of decimal topics and interactive practice. In the long list of topics are adding and subtracting decimals as well as adding and subtracting money. The computer sets the problem and gives immediate feedback to the student’s response. The bottom of each lesson page contains timed exercises.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/29/2011.

Fractions: Multiplying and Dividing

Is there anything more difficult to explain at 5th and 6th grade level than the rules for multiplying and dividing fractions? These resources offer support in explaining the concepts that underlie the rules. Visual, interactive models are provided where possible. You will also find opportunities for your students to practice their skills in this area of arithmetic. If you have other approaches to teaching this topic, please share! Just use the comment box below!

Multiplication of Fractions
Visualize and practice multiplying fractions using an area representation. With the “Show Me” option selected, the virtual manipulative is used to graphically demonstrate, explore, and practice multiplying fractions. A rectangular grid, representing a whole, shows the areas of two fractions to be multiplied, one fraction in red on the left and another in blue at the bottom. The area of the overlapping region, shown in purple, represents the product of their multiplication. The “Test Me” option provides problems to be solved using the same graphical representation.

Multiplying Fractions
This tutorial site offers instruction as well as practice in multiplication of fractions. The fractions are modeled with either circles or lines (rectangular areas). The visual display matched with the numerical makes an effective demonstration.

Divide and Conquer
This lesson is based on the idea that middle school students can better understand the procedure for dividing fractions if they analyze division through a sequence of problems. Students start with division of whole numbers, followed by division of a whole number by a unit fraction, division of a whole number by a non-unit fraction, and finally division of a fraction by a fraction. Activity sheets and guiding questions are included.

Dividing Fractions
In this activity, students divide fractions using area models. They can adjust the numerators and denominators of the divisor and dividend and see how the area model and calculation change. Full access to ExploreLearning is available through an annual subscription, but you can apply for a month’s free access in order to test out the applets.

Fraction Bars
This applet offers a classroom-adaptable idea of how to explain division of fractions. Adjustable colored bars are used to illustrate arithmetic operations with fractions on the number line. The initial seeding shows a division problem, dividing 7/5 by ½.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/08/2011.

Fractions: Adding and Subtracting

As teachers, we all want our students to understand those concepts underpinning addition and subtraction of fractions— the concept of equivalent fractions, in particular. These resources offer teaching ideas on both the concepts and the skills, including demonstrations of addition and subtraction as well as problems for practice. I looked hard for material that would visually or interactively engage middle school students. If you have ideas to share on how you teach these operations, please use the comments area to put them online.

Visual Fractions
An exceptional tutorial on fractions, including step-by-step, illustrated explanations of addition and subtraction. Both circle and line models help students visualize the operations with like and unlike denominators. Interactive problems allow students to use these visual models as they figure the numerical answers.

Adding Fractions
Students must do the usual exercise of finding equivalent fractions with common denominators, but here the fractions are represented visually as portions of a square. Once the computer checks that the fractions are correct, students can drag the representations into a third box and enter the sum of the fractions. This is a real learning experience!

The Fractionator
Created by math teacher Jeff LeMieux, the site offers online and offline tools to help students understand fractions. The online tools use unit squares to model two fractions to be added (or subtracted) and then create equivalent fraction models; with this visual aid, students complete the operation. They can request a new problem for each exercise or enter the two new fractions themselves. Also provided are links to printable materials.

Soccer Shootout
Practice time! Students can practice the addition and subtraction of fractions at levels of difficulty ranging from Easy to Super Brain. Students play against the computer and are provided with a full solution when a wrong answer is entered.

Classic Middle-Grades Problems for the Classroom
The king finds a bowl of mangoes and eats 1/6 of them; the queen eats 1/5 of the remaining mangoes; the prince eats 1/4, etc., until only 3 are left. How many were in the bowl to begin with? A complete lesson plan is given, including activity sheets. A thought-provoking problem to cap this work on fractions!


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/10/2011.