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]]>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.

This year I decided to make math fact games a daily part of my fourth grade class math routine. Without the luxury of parental volunteers, I attempted to take it upon myself to come up with a similar program, but how could I make it more fun? The idea behind the progression of difficulty with the alphabet got me to thinking, “how can I make it challenging, competitive and fun? Why not use karate belt colors to gauge performance and improvement to challenge and make it more fun for the students? Thus, I began a daily routine of Karate Math Fact Games. The practice sheets are roughly the same as they were at my school from last year. The difference is that instead of alphabet letters, the tests are grades and scored according to karate belt colors. My wife provided me with some cut-out, karate characters and belts. At the beginning of the school year, each student was given the opportunity to color and customize his own karate character and pin them on the cork bulletin board strip outside of our room where everyone could see them. I used Monday through Thursday for administering practice tests and Friday for belt testing each week. After the practice tests, I allowed the kids to grade their own tests and make their own decisions about what belt color they would try for on Fridays. This seemed like a great idea in theory, until it came around to my own consistency with administering the practice tests and grading them on Friday each week. It also became very cumbersome for me to manage, print and keep track of different levels of tests each day. I am sorry to say that I completely lost the desire to keep up with the program by the middle of our first trimester. I feel badly for not doing a better job of keeping up with this particular math fact game because the kids were really enjoying the challenge each day. Sometimes, though, teachers have to re-invent the wheel and focus on what is practical. So, rather than obsess over my guilt, I’ve implemented a new program that is much easier to manage and administer.

The Karate Math Facts game version 2 consists of a one-size-fits-all math facts sheet of 100 problems. From this point forward, I will have only one math facts practice sheet to print throughout the week. Also, I will use the same, printed sheet for the test on Fridays. The latest version will simply award belt colors based on the percentage grade of the correctly answered facts. Since, I have not started this program, I will do a pre-assessment test to make sure the belt levels and percentages reasonably reflect the ability of the students. I have attached an image as an example here, but I can adjust the levels accordingly. From recent experience, I am pretty certain that there are at least a few students who will be challenged at the yellow belt level color. On the upper end of the scale, there are a small few who should come close to 100%. Not only will this system be easier to manage, but I actually think it will make more logical sense for the students. By having a percentage to aim for, they will be motivated, challenged, and know exactly where they stand with their math fact abilities. In addition to the karate challenge, there are other math fact games that keep the students engaged and striving to be their best.

Earlier this year I wrote about the value of certain iPad apps to display on the classroom projector. I recommended several iPad Apps for Teachers. One, new iPad app that I have recently started using makes an excellent warm-up routine for getting brains warmed up and ready to go each day. MathEdge X is a very simple, but clever app that not only teaches and trains kids to multiply, but includes a Flash Card component that can be made into the game. Flash Cards can be customized from 1 to 12. For a morning warm-up routine, I choose numbers 1-9. I will display the problems on the board as students take turns, one at a time, answering the flash card prompts. If a student doesn’t know the answer, he must guess after 3 seconds. This is a tremendous way to engage the students and get everyone’s attention at the start of their daily math lesson. Math Edge keeps track of the time until all of the math facts problems are answered. We have 24 students and there are 25 problems, so I answer the first one. If one or more students are missing, we simply begin a new round. So far, our class record is 1 minute and 37 seconds. The really great thing about this game is that it sends a subtle clue to those kids who are struggling that they really need to practice and get better to help their class break the record. So far, there have been no hard feelings among classmates. They are very supportive and encouraging. As a result of this game, I’ve had more than a handful of kids tell me that they went home and practiced their flash cards the night before. Math Edge flashcards is a game that encourages team-work and challenges the class in less than 2 minutes. If you’re wondering how to play this game without an iPad, you can simply use regular flash cards and your own timer. The kids don’t really need to see the problems on the screen, though it does probably help them stay focused.

iTooch is a suite of iPhone and/or iPad educational apps that covers all subjects for for every elementary grade. You don’t have to buy the entire suite of iTooch applications. Applications are sold individually for around $3 – $5.00. I’ve purchased the entire suite for Fourth Grade which I think was around $9.99. iTooch math games include pretty much all of the fourth grade curriculum including Numbers and Place Value, Fractions and Decimals, Measurement and Data, Graphs and Statistics, and Geometry. The graphics are very kid-friendly and look great when displayed on the projector. This is an app that looks very much like a game, but in reality is more of an educational learning tool. To get the full benefit of the iTooch Math app in your classroom, you will definitely want to project it to your screen. By the way, if you would like to use your iPhone and iPad on the projector, but don’t have an Apple TV device, there is another, cheaper way: AirServer is a very inexpensive software program, which runs on windows that allows you to display anything that is on your iPhone or iPad on to your projector screen. Remember, though, that whatever messages you get on your phone can be viewed by your students. I would suggest using the Do-Not-Disturb feature while using AirServer or AirPlay in the classroom. Now, back to the App. While iTooch can be used as a math fact game, it does much more. Each section presents a selection of practice problems and then tests. The application can give your classroom a name and keep track of your progress and scores.

I believe that ultimately, the only way for a child to really master his or her math facts is to practice at home. When I was in fourth grade I remember practicing my flash cards every night with mom, dad, siblings, friends, or whomever was available and willing to help. Mastering memorization of everyday math facts is like anything else: it takes work and consistent practice. Math fact games are not going to replace the need for practice. What these games can and will do, however, is provide the encourage, motivation, and incentive for kids to take math seriously and practice at home. I’ve always believed that educational games are a motivating force. They can help us learn as long as we are willing to do the work necessary to make ourselves better. Daily math fact routines create a lot of work for teachers or volunteer parents, but nobody is really getting excited about them, are they? At the end of the day, we have to ask whether or not these programs are helping the kids who are slow with their math facts or simply patting kids on the back who are already sufficient in this area. I think these games offer an instinctive way for all students in the classroom to improve. At the same time, these games can provide teachers with a more natural and simple method of differentiation within the classroom. Fourth graders don’t always make the connection between individual practice and the payoff with their school work and tests. Math fact games are just one tool in many to help give all kids of varying abilities that extra, motivating push to get faster and better.

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]]>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.

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.

First, I began making it a requirement for the students to hand-in their daily math assignments for daily grading. Second, I designed a rubric for these assignments and requested a signature by the student’s parents. I wanted to stress to the students and parents that daily math would be an important part of their grade in the final semester. This meant that I had to put forth the effort everyday to grade the papers and hand them back the following day. So, at the beginning of each math lesson, I would hand the graded papers back to the students and we would review the problems in class. Then, I would assign them the next set of problems which they were given 10 – 12 minutes to complete. The wisdom behind my rubric is that kids don’t have to get all the answers right to get a good grade. In addition to accuracy, the rubric is also based on completeness, neatness and showing their work. This would insure that kids take their everyday math seriously. This new routine resulted in an immediate improvement in the work ethic of the majority of the students. No longer were kids just sitting around doodling and looking at the wall during the 10-minute daily math session. They got right to work.

However, it would require more than just this to really motivate these students and get them more engaged in learning something from their everyday math routine. I felt energized by the daily warm-ups assignment from my professor and the idea of incorporating this into our everyday math routine. This is when interest, engagement, understanding, and enthusiasm from the students finally started to come to life in the classroom.

Here is an actual PDF sample of a lesson that you can download, here: Everyday Math

Prior to this lesson, I did not have much experience teaching writing skills. I was not their language arts teacher. The first thing I noticed was that getting some fourth graders to begin writing was like pulling teeth. You would think they were about to scream, bloody murder. Other students quickly began writing, but didn’t always put the numbers in the right place. Some of them wanted to make math-problem questions out of them, instead of written paragraphs. After a while, a few of the students completed logical and accurate paragraphs and I read them to the class. Here is the beauty of this type of assignment: It allows for natural differentiation. The slower students were able to listen, learn and become inspired as they heard the stories from their classmates. Before I knew it, they were all begging me to read their stories. Not all of them were accurate, but the effort and understanding was vastly superior to anything I had seen from these kids up to this point. By the middle of the week, things were getting too easy for some of the kids. That is when I decided to make things a little more interesting. I announced to the class that I’d like to see some creativity and excitement in their stories. I wanted to see some writing!

As I was walking around reading stories, I decided to make a point by dreaming up a story example while pretending I was reading a kid’s actual paper. I picked up the paper of a kid named, Thomas, and quietly stared at it for a moment before saying aloud to the class, “Now this is more like it!”.. I began reciting what the kids thought was Thomas’s story from my imagination. While Thomas started protesting that he didn’t write the story, the rest of the class listened in awe and silence. Just to give a brief example off the top of my head, I recited something similar to this:

*It was a dark, dreary and blustery afternoon when old-man winter came knocking on the door of our little cabin. Grandma started up some broth as we huddled around the wooden stove to keep warm. Our crazy old grandpa just rocked back and forth in his rickety wooden chair glaring at us with the eyes of a mad man. We had a total of five wooden logs and grandma already used two. Winter was now clamping down on our bones like a great white shark in the arctic ocean. While we all silently feared how three logs might not be enough to get us through the bitter cold evening, grandpa just looked at us with those crazed eyes. He rocked, and he laughed and he laughed …*

As I handed Thomas back his paper, the kids, now realizing that I was deliberately trying to amuse them, were ready to take on the new challenge. A few minutes later, I had students begging me to read their stories. Their stories were not only accurate, but much improved in every way. Many of them were very interesting, creative, and humorous. I designed this daily assignment to be a 10-minute routine, but had to stretch it into 20 and 30 minutes because the kids were enjoying it so much. They enjoyed using their own imaginations and names to amuse their classmates. It was difficult to get them to stop. Some of the students wanted me to read their stories long after class was over.

What once seemed so difficult for the class had now become a very enjoyable, Everyday Math routine. This year, as I teach both Language Arts and Math, there will be much more time for valuable writing assignments like these.

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]]>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 my 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.

Dear 4th Grade Parents:

As a 4th grade teacher, I recognize that nothing is more important to your child’s educational development than a healthy, learning environment. Teachers are very fortunate to have access to dozens of excellent books and resources on effective classroom management. The good news is that the very same logic and processes used in these teaching resources are effective tools for parents as well. By working together, teachers and parents can establish effective and consistent behavior habits at home and in the classroom. By using and adhering to the principals of Logical Consequences, we can establish behavior habits that children can grow with, both at home, and in the classroom.

**Logical Consequences** is a behavior philosophy that was founded by Rudolf Dreikurs, a behavior psychiatrist, who believed that all human behavior is orderly, purposeful and directed towards social approval. We all have our own interpretations of the world in which we live. So, rather than respond to the world that surrounds us, we base our actions on our own view of our environment. The result is that we sometimes behave or misbehave in a manner that best suits our own interpretation of the world rather than what is best for us and others.

Dreikurs believed that we should emphasize encouragement over praise and punishment. Encouragement acknowledges effort, helps children recognize their own performance and stimulates cooperation and helpfulness among peers, teachers and parents. The whole idea is to empower our children and allow them to learn and experience the natural rewards and consequences of their own behavior.

As parents and teachers who practice this philosophy at home and in the classroom, we will soon see the rewards of a system that works. Logical consequences are the natural and inevitable way for all of us to learn and succeed in life. The only question is when do we put our confidence in the truth of nature and give it a chance to work?

**Four Mistaken Goals of Children who misbehave:**

- Attention Getting
- Power
- Revenge
- Inadequacy

… Rudolf Dreikurs

When asked how he can keep putting children in these boxes known as, ** Mistaken Goals**, Rudolf Dreikurs replied, “

**Logical Consequences Resources**

– Middle East Technical University

– Cal State University

– UC Santa Barbara

**What it means…**

Every action has a consequence. Only favorable behavior results in favorable results. Children learn that their behavior is the result of their own logical choice. By experience natural consequences children learn to take ownership of their own behavior.

**How it works…**

For starters, a healthy relationship with the child or student is important. When children or students misbehave it is important that the consequences they face are perceived by them as the natural result of their own behavior. Their trust and safety in both the teacher and parent is a requirement.

Putting the mechanisms in place requires time and patience. Both parents and teachers often want to help and do things for our children and students. Getting started, means we sometimes have to put aside our natural impulse to help our children.

If you’re a teacher, I’m sure you’ve already recognized realistic situations in your classroom where logical consequences can be easily applied to fit the behavior. Recognizing that unnatural consequences always resulted in chaos, stress, and me having to yell a lot, I decided to take a calmer approach the rest of the year. Appropriate and natural punishment never has to raise its voice. One thing that it does require sometimes, though, is patience on the part of a teacher or parent. Here are just a few situations where I put this philosophy to work.

You would think kids would be thrilled to get to the lunchroom as soon as possible. But, why should they be in a hurry if their teacher is doing all the work to get them quiet and ready? One day I decided to take the advice of my sister, a 13-year teaching veteran. I very calmly told my 4th graders that they would have to be completely silent and lined-up in front of the door before we would leave for lunch. I explained that I wasn’t going to waste my time quieting them down. There was still talking, but instead of reminding them a third time I went to my desk and started grading papers. After a couple of minutes went by, the classroom became completely silent. I stood up and said, ‘well, it looks like we’re ready to go.” I reminded them that they lost two minutes of their lunch and that maybe next time they’ll do better. Of course, this required some sacrifice on my part. I lost 2 minutes of my own lunch. The good news is that it only has to happen once or twice.

There is nothing more embarrassing for a teacher than to have your students interrupting another classroom with talking down the halls. I had a strict policy against talking. I addressed this by making the entire class go all the way back to the classroom for any noise or talking. The problem is that unlike lunch and recess, going to some of their specials classes was not one of their favorite things to do. Of course, many of them were more than happy to stall as much as they could. In some cases, I would simply make the one person who talked go all the way to the back of the line.My solution for this next year is to communicate with their specials teachers about being late to class. Their natural consequences will be imposed by their teacher who counts them tardy or gives them an assignment, etc.

Why is it so difficult for fourth graders to remember to put their names on their assignments, homework, and tests? This was a problem that plagued me the entire school year. At first, I was not helping the problem by constantly reminding them to put their names on the paper. A logical consequence for a missing name is that the paper cannot be graded, so it is considered late and marked down. Even with a 20% late penalty, I continued to receive nameless papers throughout the year.

Teachers, please share your own ideas and experiences of the Logical Consequences behavior philosophy below. I would love to hear from you.

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