Middle School Math Assessments

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Summary: 

Standardized tests are part of the reality of modern schools, and although justifiably criticized they can also be a useful teaching tool. Ask your kids to take the test for their grade levels, without help, explaining that this is just a way to see what they might need help with and what they already understand. Tell them not to guess, but just circle any problem they don't understand.

After the test is complete, make a list of all the problems each child missed or circled. If they missed more than 2 or 3 problems, plan to work on a few at a time over a period of several days.

For each missed problem, do NOT tell the child how to do it - you want them to retake the test on their own later and figure it out for themselves. Instead, make several similar problems, including some with easier numbers, and have them work on the similar problems, with help if necessary, until they can work the problems independently.

Down to Grade/Age: 
Middle School
Up thru Grade/Age: 
Middle School

Build a Solid Foundation

Algebra was invented by Arabs but sounds like Greek to kids who are not clear on the concepts under the equations. Its not that kids shouldn't be taught algebra - its just that its necessary to make sure they are building on a solid foundation and 'owning' each concept as they move ahead. Likewise, while a motivated kid might read Twilight or Harry Potter before a passing a fascinating standardized test at the same reading level, it is also important not to discourage new readers by presenting them with work at frustration level.

Instructables - a community DIY site with many projects

http://instructables.com

Some of the projects are involved and definitely adult/techie oriented, but others require only simple materials. And there are a host of variations on the Mousetrap car:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Mousetrap-Powered-Car
http://www.instructables.com/id/Mousetrap-Car-Racer/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Lego-Mousetrap-Car/

Trace your own story

Summary: 

Combine guided practice with creativity in simple tracing exercise.

Use this tracing font to type something of interest to your child. For the youngest child their name, or a word or two on a favorite subject may be enough. For a slightly older preschooler, ask them to tell you a story or tell about a game they are playing. Type exactly what they say in the tracing font, and print it out using only the lower half of each page. Show your child their own words, then ask them to trace the letters and illustrate their story.

http://www.fontspace.com/kids-fonts/trace

Down to Grade/Age: 
PreK
Up thru Grade/Age: 
Kindergarten

Provide Self-correcting Work

This is another idea from Maria Montessori. To the extent possible, she tried to provide materials that would themselves correct the child in a natural way. Thus her fitting blocks that could only all fit into the holder if placed in order from longest to shortest, and many other wonderful manipulatives.

Discovery Education Free lesson plans

Structured lesson plans suitable for classroom use. Also includes online tools to create word searches and other puzzles.

http://www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers/free-lesson-plans/

How much of the world is the United States?

"Is the United States about a tenth of the world?" Believe or not, my almost-six year old asked this last night. Her big sisters have been doing a lot of fractions, and we talk about sizes of things.

I wasn't sure.

Unlimited Inquiry

Most children go thru a phase of asking questions about everything - 'why is the sky blue, why do people get old, why..?' In years past time-strapped parents without a clue how to answer such questions would often discourage their youngster with an impatient 'I don't know! No one knows!"

Scratch UnLesson 1

Summary: 

Scratch from MIT is a great way to introduce kids to programming. Kids from 5 to 15 will enjoy creating their own animations and games, with engaging characters and a way to record their own voices or sound effects. It teaches real object oriented programming, but with a drag and drop interface that makes getting started and making changes easy and intuitive.

For the first experience with scratch, I would say rather than start with a formal lesson plan, to just encourage your child to explore and try different things. It would help if the parent or teacher spends an hour or two ahead of time to learn the interface.

Once the child has had a chance to play around and make things happen on the screen, then it is a good time to step back and ask, 'what would you like this program to do?' while encouraging the child to keep her goals fairly simple and doable.

Some simple initial goals to choose from:

Scratch that game-maker itch

Scratch from MIT : http://scratch.mit.edu is a graphical interface for creating logical object-oriented programs, quickly and easily. I read a review of it in MAKE Magazine some months ago and finally tried it out. Looks extremely promising, and its easy to put together a simple intelligent animation in minutes. (well, a bit more for reading the instructions - but after I read them it didn't take long)

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