Celebrating Dr. Seuss Day with Math

When we think of celebrating the life and work of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss,” we envision a brightly-lit palette of rhymes and rhythms. Many of us associate this literary genius with the books that defined our childhood bedtime routines and dominated the bulletin boards throughout our elementary school. When you hear the word “Seuss,” who doesn’t immediately picture a tall, lanky cat with a red-and-white-striped top hat and an obnoxiously large red bow-tie? Because of Seuss’s ingenious creativity, we immediately wanted to befriend this Cat in the Hat as well as his many other characters from the crazy land of Whoville.

Theodore Seuss Geisel was born on March 2nd, 1904. To honor this man and legend, the National Education Association has declared this day “Read Across America Day.” I’ve heard this day be called a number of things, including Seuss Day; but despite what it is named, it will always be attributed to this wonderful children’s author.

While countless reading activities are designed to celebrate this educational holiday, math activities are somewhat overshadowed. I believe books, especially picture books, are a great tool to use to teach math. And although Dr. Seuss may not have rhymed about math specifically, many of his books can be taught in the math classroom.

I would like to share with you a bunch of Seuss-related math activities I discovered via Pinterest. Although many of these pins are geared toward lower-elementary, I think older elementary students would also appreciate some of these activities or games as they take a trip back down Childhood Lane to the wonderful world of Seuss! Just click on the pictures or the links below to take you to that Pinterest pin or board.

Oh! And don’t forget to visit www.seussville.com for more FUN Seuss-activities, lessons and games!

“Congratulations!

Today is your day.

You’re off to Great Places!

You’re off and away!”

— Dr. Seuss

 

Developing Fact Fluency

Milestones are so critical to our physical, mental, and social development. Learning milestones are just as crucial to our growth as full-functioning and independent adults. Recognizing and identifying primary colors, classifying foods and animals, and listing the letters of the alphabet are all important milestones in a young child’s life. Adding numbers, forming patterns and analyzing puzzles are also important steps that make up our educational foundation. These milestones are generally not taken for granted by parents and educators. In fact, many parents work hard to ensure their children have mastered these skills (some before they even begin kindergarten).

So why don’t we work as hard to make sure our students master another important milestone in their life: developing multiplication fact fluency?

One of the greatest outcries of elementary and middle school teachers across the country is “I wish my students knew their multiplication facts!” My initial reaction is why don’t they know their facts? I guess I take it for granted that students master their times tables in 3rd grade (when they should, according to the Common Core State Standards). Times tables are not fun to memorize, but allowing students to slack in this area of study only hurts them later down the road.

Have we become too liberal when it comes to our teaching methodologies and student expectations? Tom Loveless, Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, addresses this question in an article based on his research of growing math trends in the U.S., Trends in Math Achievement: The Importance of Basic Skills. In this research article, he states that, “Youngsters who have not mastered whole number arithmetic by the end of 4th grade are at risk of later becoming remedial students in mathematics.” And even though he makes this claim that threatens the educational livelihood of our students, we still see it happen. We let it happen.

Now that we’ve identified the problem and voiced it out loud, it is time to act upon it. How do we reverse the trend and ensure our students learn their facts? How do we make our students math-literate and fluent in multiplication?

I pose this question to the educators out there who see their students succeed in developing fact fluency in their classrooms each day. What are your methodologies and teaching strategies? If we are going to turn this ship around – and FAST – we must work together to find the best solutions possible for the best interests of our nation’s students.

Making Basic Multiplication Facts….Fun?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many students who enjoy studying their basic multiplication facts. Nonetheless, these are facts that students NEED to know; and the only way they are going to know them is by studying them and repeatedly seeing these facts over and over.

So what are some ways that teachers can make the learning process easier and less painful? Here are a few tips, for educators and parents, to help your students master those multiplication facts:

1. Make simple review games. Kids like to be entertained, and games will usually do that. Take any game – Uno, Checkers, Go Fish – and you can incorporate multiplication drills somehow. For example, if you are playing Uno, every time two number cards are played simultaneously, require the student to name their product. While playing checkers, require each player to correctly answer 2 multiplication problems to earn their turn.

2. Spend time studying with them. One of the worst things you can do is hand a child a stack of flash cards and tell them, “Go study.” Worse yet, sitting them in front of a math website and leaving them alone to practice independently. I often advise parents to use the time spent in the car, cooking dinner, commercial breaks while watching TV, and just before bedtime as opportunities to study multiplication facts with their children.

3. Homemade (or teacher-made) puzzles. It may seem simple, but creating creative and critical thinking activities involving multiplication (like the one in the photo above) will do the trick, too. I would rather work on a puzzle than sort through a stack of flash cards any day.

4. Create real-world scenarios that involve multiplication (application). Involve your kids in the decisions you make that require you to use multiplication. “We have to stop at the gas station on our way home. If gas costs $3 per gallon and we’re going to fill 9 gallons, how much money are we going to spend?”

5. Practice orally and in written formats. Variety is the spice of life, so spice up the way your kids practice their facts!

6. There’s an App for that! Did you know that there are over 500 multiplication studying/quiz apps available? Some are FREE and many are less than $1!

7. Reward them. Of course we want our kids to be intrinsically rewarded when they do well on a math test, but extrinsic rewards may work better with some youngsters. Consider giving your child a reward for each aced timed test they take at home (or reward them for every test they take at school). Create a “Multiplication Money Jar” and reward them with $1, $2 or even $5 for every 100% they earn on a test! Don’t want to give monetary rewards? You can also give “No Chores” passes, trips to the ice cream store, time allowances on the computer or with their favorite video games!