Real Life Math VS “Mathy” Math

In working with students, parents and IEP teams, I find that there is an assumption that math at some point, possibly beyond arithmetic, is simply a science fiction movie that is minimally related to real life. I hear from students as well as adults, statements like, “algebra, when are we ever going to use it?” My response is, ALL THE TIME!

The math we often present in school is a “mathy” version of the math we encounter in life. For example, the top photo below shows a pizza menu and a situation that is realistic. The calculator screen shot below the menu shows how we likely would solve the problem using a calculator on our phone.

Below is the same type of problem, but solved using “mathy” math. How many of us (besides me) are doing this at the pizzeria?

The point is, we engage in algebra but maybe do not use all the symbols and vocabulary of algebra, e.g. when we typed in 2.25 repeatedly in our calculator, we were working with the math term “slope.”

This has implications for secondary students whose post-secondary plans do not include college. If the math class is teaching “mathy” math but you want your student to learn math as it is used in real life, then an alternative math course is needed. This could be addressed through the IEP.

 

 

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Problems with Determining Math Grade Level for a Student

A common scenario involves a school official reporting out the grade level in math for a student. For example, a 7th grade student I was helping had tested at a 4th grade level. As a result, the student spent much of her 7th grade year working on 4th grade math.

There are a couple problems in establishing a grade level in math. First, unlike reading, math is not nearly as linear. The image below shows a breakdown of the Common Core of State Standards math categories, called domains. In a video, I use this graphic to unpack why it is more challenging to determine a single level of ability for math. In short, the reason is the student could be doing well in some categories and doing poorly in others. Second, the testing used to establish ability level can be problematic for the student. For example, the student may not have the stamina or attention span to endure a longer assessment.

If you are presented with a single grade level as an indicator of math ability, I recommend that you ask for a breakdown by category and how your student will be provided differentiation to address gaps. This is more appropriate than plowing through all of the math at a lower grade level.

 

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Long Range Planning in Regards to Math for Students Receiving Special Ed Services

Below is a photo of a hyper-doc that I use to map out a long range plan for math services and academics for students receiving special education services. Here is a link to a video explaining how the document is organized and how it “works.” (Note, the image of the document on the video is not crisp, so I suggest you look at the handout while watching the video.)

The document contains several links to resources such as videos, websites and blog posts that provide additional information. Feel free to reach out to me using the Contact Form on this page if you have questions or would like input. I am happy to help.

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Wicked Cool Simulation Site

I used this site, Explorelearning, with a 7th grader with Aspergers who tested at a 1st grade math and reading level. We used the Photo Synthesis Lab (screen shot below) to gather experimental data on the hypothesis “what helps flowers grow?” He won at the school level and went on to district competition.

(As of April 2020 you can get free 60 day unlimited access.)

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Online Math Games

Here are a variety of online math game sites I have used over the years. Break is coming up for many districts. Maybe these can fill the void and allow some learning. Several address other content areas as well.

I have also used these games for break times at school to keep students working on academics.

If you have a child learning to count money, especially at an advanced age, there are some useful money games – especially ones with coins. I have students complete problems with actual coins then enter their response online.

https://www.abcya.com/

 

https://www.coolmathgames.com/

 

https://www.mathgames.com/

 

https://www.mathplayground.com/

 

https://mrnussbaum.com/math

 

https://pbskids.org/games/math/

 

roomrecess.comĀ 

 

http://sheppardsoftware.com/

 

https://www.splashlearn.com/

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Math Videos for Middle School and Algebra 1

I am rolling out a series of videos on math topics from middle school and algebra 1. Here is a link to the folder with the accompanying handouts. This post will be updated periodically.

Let me know if your school is covering a topic that is challenging and students would benefit from an alternative presentation. I will see what I can do. The links to the videos are listed below the photo.

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IXL and Google Classroom

Here is what we are doing at home during school closure time. I created a Google Classroom (anyone with Google account can create a class on the Google Classroom app) and posted links to IXL topics (photo at bottom). (NOTE: this is one method I use to differentiate at school.) If the school is providing online work, you can enter this into the classroom as well.

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Worksheet Websites I Use and Recommend

The following are screen shots of online math worksheet websites I use. The variety and the options in the criteria you select for your worksheets for some of these sites allows for differentiation in the classroom.

 

I will start with my favorite site, Math-Aids.com. This site allows for dynamic selection of criteria for each handout (see 2nd photo below) such as choosing the types of coins in problems for counting out the total value. The coin images are outstanding! It also offers content up to Calculus.

 

 

Super Teacher Worksheets is often used elementary schools. It offers content in science and language arts as well. It requires a $25 annual subscription which I easily find to be worthwhile.

 

 

Common Core Sheets is very useful site if you want to find handouts for specific standards by grade level (see 2nd photo below). It offers multiple versions of each handout.

 

 

 

Dads Worksheets provides a large bank of worksheets – multiple versions of each worksheet.

 

 

Math Worksheets 4 Kids offers multiple versions of each worksheet and content in science and language arts. There are many worksheets that provide unique support in how the work is presented, e.g. the Ratio Slope worksheet shown in the 2nd photo below.

 

Visual Fractions – title speaks for itself.

 

Worksheet Works is my 2nd favorite. It offers options in the criteria you choose, e.g. difficulty level (2nd photo below). They also offer unique types of handouts such as a maze with math problems to solve to find the path (2nd photo).

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Online Academic Practice – Especially for School Closures!

I recommend 3 sites for online academic practice in multiple content areas.

IXL.com can be purchased for an individual or a family with access to multiple content areas. You can try 10 problems for free. It allows students to work on specific skills. Math grades covered range from kindergarten to precalculus!

Here is a link to handouts to help you access Khan Academy which covers a wide range of math grade levels and other content areas, and the ACCUPLACER practice app to prepare for college placement tests.

 

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