Question by Question: Mental word problems


Anytime, anywhere, anything can turn into math. In the car, take turns asking each other problems (let the kids pose problems too!). Start with concrete scenarios: "So, if we baked 100 cookies, and there were 5 of us, how many cookies would we each get?". Or if the kids are into fractions, make it 17 cookies. It is easy to ask a hard problem, as you may find out when your kids take a turn to ask you!

Try to ask problems that are a little bit hard for your kids, but not way above their level. Then, if the don't get the answer right, DON'T TELL them how to do it. Ask an easier or more concrete question instead, until they can get it right. Try to ask related questions that may help with the first one.


Fancy name, but it really just means 'understanding what you are doing'. The term meta-cognition is used by the Singapore Mathematics Framework to mean 'monitoring one's own thinking, self-regulation of learning'

In simpler terms, this can mean letting students come up with their own methods of solving problems, asking with interest how they did it, and helping them recognize any errors in the result themselves.

Multiplication Speed Tests


Free printable PDFs with 100 multiplication problems. Have the student time themselves with a stopwatch or clock with a second hand and record their time and score on each test. Two ways of scoring:
How many problems can you answer correctly in 5 minutes?
How long does it take you to finish the entire test?

See progress: using a piece of graph paper, graph the student's scores over time. If graphing the time it takes to finish the entire test, you may want to use a special color for 100% correct tests.

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2nd Grade
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5th Grade

Drill and skill building

Drill has a place in building specific skills, particularly in cases where fluency is desired or memorization is required. When using drill as a teaching technique, it is helpful to measure the student's outcome so they can see their progress. The outcome can even be graphed to see progress visually over time.

Some examples of subjects in which drill is a useful technique:

multiplication tables: fluency in multiplication is very useful in higher mathematics
spelling lists: because English is a non-phonetic language
geography: state capitals, countries by continent, etc

How many arithmetic problems can you answer in 60 seconds?


Free online speed test will tell you the answer. This is a free javascript math quiz from the Argonne National Laboratory. See

Drill in arithmetic is sometimes underrated, but fluency in math is just like fluency in reading. Its much easier to see the beauty in poetry when you can read easily, and it is much easier to appreciate the beauty in algebra and calculus when calculating isn't painful!

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Middle School

bTeaching Creative Lesson Plan Contest Entry

What can parents do at home to help their kids learn?

bTeaching is sponsoring a contest for teachers and parents to suggest home lesson plans for back-to-school learning. Use this form to enter! All fields are optional, just fill in what makes sense for your idea.

Ideas for lesson plans are welcome in all subjects and for any grade level. General techniques for teaching skills are welcome too.

"Teach, teaching - not correcting."

Maria Montessori said this many times in lectures, with a mischievious pause after saying 'Teach, teaching....' Then she would clarify for her confused audience: 'not correcting'.

In practice, this means that when you see a very young child making a mistake, say misspelling a word in a story, do not interrupt their work to correct them.

The Editing of the Declaration of Independence


Perfect for perfectionists - take a look at Jefferson's rough draft, with many crossouts and changes. Kids may also be interested to learn that Thomas Jefferson was pretty upset about how the Continental Congress further edited his original document.

Here's a few possible assignments that can get kids thinking more deeply about Independence Day:

1) Read the final Declaration together, answering questions, and then ask the student to write it in their own words, as if they were telling a friend what the Declaration is about.

2) What was Jefferson thinking as he wrote the first draft? Does anything strike you about his edits? What was he trying to achieve? (Some of the edits were likely made directly by Benjamin Franklin and possibly John Adams.)

Down to Grade/Age: 
3rd Grade
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High School

Jump Rope Time


Jumping rope is an excellent aerobic activity and something every young child can enjoy doing, alone or with others.

Try having a regular time when you turn up some active music - 60's and 70's rock and roll works well - and everyone in the family grab a jump rope, hula hoop or just do some kicks or aerobics. Borton Elementary school provides jump ropes and music before school every morning for their Kinder thru 2nd graders.

For young children trying to learn to jump rope, it helps if two older helpers turn a longer rope for them, or tie one end to a doorhandle.

Weighted jump ropes are easiest to learn with, a good inexpensive type has jointed plastic beads along the length of it.

It can be fun to read books related to any activity when starting on it. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett has jumping rope as a central activity (by which Mary becomes a bit happier child) and is available at most public libraries. It makes a good read-aloud book for children in this age group.

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3rd Grade

Borton Elementary School

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