Thin Mint Math

OK, so I have a looong back story to the reason behind this blog. If you came here just because you saw the words “thin mint” or “math” and want to get to the nitty-gritty of it all, scroll down…and then keep going…keep going… and stop when you see THIN MINT MATH.

It all started one afternoon, not long ago, when my husband and I were out shopping. We saw the local Girl Scout troop was selling their famous cookies, so we stopped to buy our annual allotment of minty chocolaty goodness. I know it sounds glutenous, but I told my husband he should buy 3 boxes for the two of us (you can always throw them in the freezer, I reasoned). He bought five.

We raced home with our cookies and quickly dug into the first box. Before we knew it, two boxes were demolished! I’m convinced he was sneaking a few after I had gone to bed, and I’m sure he suspected I was eating more than I claimed. Maybe our cat, Phoebe, is to blame. Anyways…bottom line…the cookies disappeared and we were down to almost half our stash.

I panicked. Shortly after our realization that Thin Mint Season (a.k.a. end of February – beginning of March) was rapidly drawing to a close, I began my search for a quality substitute for our favorite cookies. Where does one go to find creative solutions to cookie-related desperation?

That’s right. Pinterest. Search: “thin mint cookies.”

I found a lot of awesome homemade versions that claim to be just like the real deal. I couldn’t believe it. I clicked on a dozen pins that lead to Mommy Blogs, Bakery Blogs, Chef-Wannabe Blogs, and Food Indulgence Blogs. It looks like people have been trying to decode this secret recipe for years and, fortunately for us, they have shared these recipes online so everyone may benefit! Yay! I was so excited and couldn’t wait to try one (or all) of these recipes!

But, wait. Not so fast. Just as I was about to close up shop, I discovered a pin for “Thin Mint Puppy Chow.” Now, that may seem gross at first, until you realize what “Puppy Chow” is.

Puppy Chow is a cute nickname given to a Chex-mix recipe originally called Muddy Buddies®. Yes, it is so popular that it is a registered-trademark of Chex®. The original recipe basically calls for a melted chocolate/peanut butter mixture to be poured over a bowl full of Chex® , mixed up, and then covered with powdered sugar. (Want the recipe? Click HERE.)

Thin Mint Puppy Chow is a slightly different variation. Basically, remove peanut butter and add peppermint. End result? You got it: Thin Mint Cookies (or a heavenly flavor that closely mocks the Girl Scout treat).

Here is the Pinterest Thin Mint Puppy Chow pin that I clicked on. [Note: I slightly changed up the recipe, because as you’ll notice, the chocolate on the mix wasn’t mint chocolate. I wanted the Chex-mix to taste like Thin Mints without having to sacrifice any more of my GS stash.]

 

THIN MINT MATH

So, what does this have to do with math? Well, I believe that any type of cooking in the kitchen involves math, and this mini project-based lesson is no exception. If you have kiddos around who (A) enjoy cooking, (B) like to get a little messy, and (C) love Thin Mints, then this cooking/math activity is for them!

Let’s start off with measurement. I made a sample batch for this recipe and used the following:

1 Cup Rice Chex

1/2 Cup Baker’s Chocolate (melted according to box directions)*

2 Tbsp Confectioner’s Sugar (Powdered Sugar)

1/4 Tsp Peppermint Extract

(* Use white chocolate with green food coloring if you want to add some color to your mix, like in the picture up above. Or, you can use semi-sweet chocolate sans food coloring. Or both!)

Math supplies!

This recipe yields 1 cup of mix (like I said, just a sampling size). That was enough for my husband and I to split for dessert, but as you’ll notice in the original Muddy Buddies® recipe, it calls for 9 cups of Chex®. So, let’s move on to ratios and proportions. To convert my small batch size to a proportional, larger recipe, students will need to find proportional values of each ingredient. I suggest you start off by encouraging them to double all of the ingredients, or tripling them. Then start asking more complex questions: But what if I want to make a full, 9-cup batch? If each person eats 1/2 cup, and we have 20 guests, how much should I make? How much of each ingredient will I need?

After your young chefs decide on how much of each ingredient is needed, then you can begin baking! Following a recipe in steps is another lesson you can teach:

Step 1: Measure cereal into a large bowl and set aside.

Step 2: In a medium-size bowl, melt the chocolate (based on the directions on the box, approximately 1 minute) until smooth. Then, stir in peppermint extract and food coloring.

Step 3: Pour chocolate mixture over the cereal and gently stir, coating as much cereal as possible.

Step 4: Pour chocolate-covered cereal into a large zip-lock bag.

Step 5: Pour in powdered sugar. Close bag (tight!) and shake! (This is the fun part!) Shake until the powdered sugar has evenly covered the cereal. Pour mixture back into a bowl and Voila! Thin Mint Puppy Chow!

If you have some spare Thin Mints laying around and you want to chop them up and throw them in for good measure, I highly recommend it as it will only increase the deliciousness of this treat!

Other math lessons you can incorporate into Thin Mint Math:

Estimating costs: Go to the store and purchase the ingredients needed to make the dessert. Guess how much it will cost before you start shopping, and readjust your estimate as you wander the aisles picking up each ingredient. This is a great lesson in money, estimation, and economics!

Elapsed Time: Have a party starting soon? How much time will be needed to make the recipe before the guests arrive? (You can show them that the suggested time is 15 minutes. Since this is our first time making this recipe, should we allow for extra time? How long will it take us to clean up?)

Not to mention (but I will, anyway), this yummy lesson teaches math concepts like fractions, addition and multiplication.

Happy Mathing!

Oh, and by the way, you can follow me on Pinterest and find more math fun at www.pinterest.com/thatmathlady

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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!

The “H” Word – Part II

I’ve noticed during the past several months that “homework” has increasingly become the new educational taboo word on the street. I’m used to students and parents rolling their eyes at the mention of the “H” word. But now we are getting that same kind of response from educators? What’s going on?

Let me start off by admitting to you that I believe in homework. I think the advantages of homework FAR outweigh the disadvantages. Instead of joining the crowd of naysayers, I suggest we place the concept of homework under the microscope for a moment to examine how it has become one of the roots of evil in our nation’s school systems.

The Purpose of Homework

Homework was not originally designed to be a monstrous threat (“You better use your time wisely in class or you’ll have homework…”) or a method to kill trees by using up more paper. No, homework was designed to help students learn more.  There are four main reasons why teachers should assign homework:

  1. Provide additional practice on a skill outside of school hours
  2. Utilize more time (that we just don’t have in a typical school day) to master a skill in creative and inspiring ways
  3. Encourage students to work independently and challenge their cognitive skills
  4. Teach responsibility and accountability

How It Became So Negative

I propose that the negative connotation associated with homework wasn’t created by students or parents, but by educators. I don’t mean we assigned homework with malicious intent; however, homework was assigned with a different intent than the four listed above. Here are some examples:

Teacher: Gee, we aren’t going to be able to finish this lesson today in class due to the school assembly. I’ll just let my students try and finish it on their own at home.

Teacher: I have assigned this same at-home project for the last 15 years, I’m not changing it (well, maybe the part about completing it and saving it to a floppy disk…)

Teacher: They wasted 20 minutes in the beginning of my class talking about the homecoming game/dance/American Idol/Gossip Girl finale. I’ll just give them an extra 20 minutes of work to do during their free time at home tonight.

Teacher: I have ten objectives to cover this week! In an effort to get through them all, I am going to set a quicker pace today to motivate students to work quickly; the slower-moving students will just have to take their unfinished work home and complete it as homework.

As you can see, a trend of time-savers (and alternative forms of punishment) became a common reason for assigning homework. Over time, more and more teachers lost focus on the crucial homework elements, such as the time it would take to complete a task at home, the objective of the assignment or even the expected outcomes of the assignment. Over time, this abuse has led to student, parent and even teacher resentment.

Adjusting Our Outlooks

It is time to regain a clear vision about how homework should be assigned and assessed.  We need to lose the murky, preconceived notion of what we think homework is (boring worksheets, projects with no purpose, and repetitive practice on a skill that was mastered days, weeks or even months ago) and replace it with the idea that homework should always serve as an advantageous support to our students’ education. Homework is supposed to help students excel in the classroom. Period.

Think About It: Have you ever tried to learn how to play a sport or a musical instrument? What would happen if you were given no time to practice off the court or off the stage, and then were expected to perform in a big game or a concert? Would you do as well as if you had practiced some at home?

Is academic homework any different?

 

Lastly, remember this quote:

“I love grading meaningless assignments and shuffling papers!” – No Teacher Ever

An Introduction to Flipping the Classroom

The process of teaching and learning throughout history has been somewhat predictable. Student goes to class. Teacher stands at the blackboard and presents a lesson.

There is very little collaborative learning in a teacher-led classroom. Flipping your class allows for more collaboration with peers!

Student takes out his notebook and scribbles down notes – to the best of his ability – as the teacher is talking and modeling the lesson on the board. Finally, the bell rings and student goes home to practice what he learned at school. Sound familiar?

But what happens to the average student who still needs assistance when they get home? To whom does the student turn toward to get the assistance they need to complete their homework correctly and on time? If only the teacher could come home with them and teach the lesson again, as many times as necessary, until it finally clicks. And while the teacher is there, he or she could probably help with the homework, too!

Let’s propose that the teacher does the instructing at home instead. The student comes home from school and instead of pulling out a workbook, they pull up a video their teacher has made. The student watches their teacher present a 10-minute lesson on the computer and takes notes. They can watch the video once, twice, or as many times as they need. The best part? Students can pause the video if needed, get up and stretch, grab a snack and learn in the comfort of their home without interrupting the teacher!

What happens the next day in class? The student goes to school and the teacher reviews any questions the class may have from watching the video. The teacher does a review problem and then gives the students the typical homework to do in class with the teacher’s support. Because the instruction and the initial learning was done at home, the teacher can better utilize the in-class time to work with small groups as well as individuals. There will also be more time allowed for formative assessment so that the teacher can check for understanding throughout a unit. Just by flipping the traditional structure of learning in school, more time is created for student engagement, assessment and active learning inside the classroom.

Flipping The Classroom is a growing trend around the world. Teachers and school districts nationwide are starting to recognize the benefits of this phenomenon thanks to the growth of technology in our homes and in our schools. There is no better time for you to jump on board and witness these same positive results!

Are you already flipping your classroom?  If so, please share your success stories with us at http://www.thatmathlady.com!

The “H” Word

Homework has become such a controversial word in education. Some teachers hate it, while others love it. I am a believer that homework was designed to be a help, not a hindrance. However, years of inappropriate assignments and homework abuse have lead teachers, students and parents to loathe the “H” word.

Personally, I am a fan of homework when it is planned and assigned appropriately. What is appropriate homework? Work that is assigned by the teacher with the intent of moderate independent practice to reinforce concepts being taught in the classroom.

What does that mean? Take a closer look:

“Work that is assigned by the teacher.”

The teacher is the person responsible for the lesson. She knows what the objective of the lesson is and how students should work toward mastering that skill. She knows, in order to learn the material, if students should spend one evening on a worksheet, or two weeks on a project. When students and parents interfere with that decision making, homework loses its vigor and purpose. Therefore, students, parents and administration should respect the role of the teacher and allow her to make the call.

“With the intent of moderate independent practice…”

Homework should be meaningful and reasonable, yet not too difficult. Your students should be able to complete the assignment based on the notes taken in class. If the task is too difficult, students will grow frustrated and quit. (Or, worse yet, get the answers from somebody else in class.) On the flip side, if the assignment is too easy, it won’t have an impact on their learning.

“To reinforce concepts being taught in the classroom…”

Homework is a continuation of the learning process that was left off in the classroom, and it should reflect the guided practice that took place in class that day. Homework should not be used to introduce new concepts. (That’s your job, Teacher!) Although homework needs to stay relevant to what is being discussed in class, spiral review of previous concepts is acceptable (especially if the previous concept relates to what is being learned).

Reflection

I had a math teacher in middle school whose homework assignments were almost too predictable. Just before the bell would ring each day, he would bark, “For homework, complete the problems on page ___ in your book…numbers one through fifty…odd only.” To keep us on our toes, he would sometimes tell us to do even numbers instead.

I look back on his assignments now, decades later, and think, Did he assign appropriate homework?

His homework assignments – albeit monotonous and predictable – always went along with the lesson taught in class, so it was always a continuation of learning in his classroom. The problems that were assigned to us came from a 20-pound text book, which had example problems and definitions for reference. And I don’t recall spending too much time on my math homework that year; it was always a reasonable amount that could be tackled and finished before dinner.  As a student learning to time-manage, it was a nice feeling to be able to rely on my math homework being the same each evening So, in conclusion, I would state that his homework was appropriate.

Homework Should Be…

  • Assigned by the teacher
  • Continuation of the learning process
  • Relevant in content
  • Reasonable amount

Homework Should NOT Be…

  • Introducing a new concept or skill
  • Too difficult (or too easy)
  • Repetition of a skill already mastered
  • Determined by students or parents
  • Punishment