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The Virtual Mentor 2008-2009

May, 2009

Wouldn't it be nice to have some resources to send home with your students to help them over the summer?  There are a number of website that have activities, ideas, puzzles and brain teasers that your students might enjoy working.

The first is a site for girls,  Brain Cake provides resources, activities and helps for parents and teachers to encourage their girls' interests in science and math.

There is something for everyone at  If you like any kind of puzzle or brain teaser, this will keep you and your students busy all summer.

The Science Museum of MN is one of the sponsors of where you will find a A to Z listing of activities, topics and ideas.

If you've been wanting nets for paper polyhedra, as one of the virtual mentees asked me about earlier this year, you'll find more than you'll ever need at

For those of you who are graduating and moving on, good luck in your job searches.  Remember if you wish to remain on the Virtual Mentee list, please send me your new email address.

I'll be back in the fall.  Have a great, restful and relaxing summer so you can return to your classroom (or start in your new classroom) excited and eager for the new year next Sept.

April, 2009

Recently, I have had several of you ask me about the algebra requirement for 8th grade.  If you are going to the MCTM Spring Conference in Duluth next week, you will have a wonderful opportunity to learn lots more about what 8th grade algebra is and how to help your students be successful learning it.  I just downgraded the program for the conference from the MCTM website at and found all sorts of wonderful workshops and sessions.

If you are like me and can't attend the conference because of your broken ankle, there is information available for you, too, on the MCTM website.  At you will find a link to the 2007 MN Mathematics Standards, as well as a link to FAQs about them.  MCTM's Algebra Task Force has done a wonderful presentation explaining the new algebra standard and you can download their presentation.  In case you missed the Matt Mentor article about 8th grade algebra, you can find it on the same webpage.

If you are headed to Duluth, don't forget about the MCTM CONNECT session on Thursday evening, April 30 from 7 - 9 PM.  Meet with other new teachers, education students, experienced teachers, and MCTM CONNECT committee members.  Have a fun time having dinner, and learning about the conference and how to make the most of your conference experience.  You'll also be in line for lots of give-aways and great door prizes while meeting and networking.  It is not too late to sign up for the connect session.  You can RSVP to me letting me know your name, level of licensure and school district (if teaching.)

Have fun in Duluth everyone.  I look forward to joining you next year.

April, 2009

Happy April, Everyone.  I just learned that April is Financial Literacy Month from a front page article in my NCTM News Bulletin.  What a great way to bring real world math into our classrooms while teaching our students about money.  No one is ever too young, or too old, to learn and establish wise spending and savings habits.  No matter what your students' ultimate career choices, this learning will serve them well.

The News Bulletin provided a couple of web sites to help teachers.  The first is the website for the Council for Economic Education at where you will find lesson plans for K - 12 classes on economic and personal finance education programs.  There is also a page of links that take you to up-to-date macroeconomic data for use in your classrooms.  It is a very interesting site.

Another site given is for Feed the Pig for Tweens at that is sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  The home site of Feed the Pig is for adults but this "tweens" site is a financial literacy unit for grades 4 - 6.  It looks like a fun way for them to build these skills.

If you are a member of NCTM you've already gotten your April News Bulletin and gotten to read about these sites for yourself.  If you aren't a member, this is just one of the many things that you are missing.  Do consider joining -- after you've become a member of MCTM.  (This last sentence was brought to you by our sponsor -- MCTM!!!!)

Have a great time helping your students and their financial literacy.

March, 2009

With the beautiful spring weather we're having, you know that the Annual Spring Math Conference will be here before we know it.  Even more important, the Annual CONNECT* Session for New and Future Teachers will be the night before the conference starts.

Come and join other new and future teachers, CONNECT committee members, and interested experienced teachers on Thursday, April 30 from 7 - 9 PM at the Duluth Entertainment and Conference Center (DECC).  If you join us you can expect dinner (soup, sandwiches, pop and dessert), free teaching materials & ideas, fun activities and fun people, an overview of the Spring Math Conference, networking opportunities, and you will learn about the opportunities available for you through CONNECT.  I hope you can join us.  RSVP's are not required but are encouraged to make sure that we have enough food and give-aways.  You can just hit the reply button and RSVP to me.  Please include your name and email address, the school where you are teaching (if you are currently teaching) and your level of licensure.  If you can let me know by Tuesday, April 21, that would be great.

As always, the Spring Conference starts the next morning, Friday, May 1 and continues until Sat. afternoon.  There are wonderful sessions planned on all sorts of topics, great keynoters, and lots of exhibitors.  The registration form and lodging information are on the MCTM website,  Check it out.  You will never be sorry that you attended an MCTM conference -- but you will be sorry about the opportunities you missed if you don't attend an MCTM conference.

CONNECT is the MCTM's Committee to Orient and Network New/Novice Educators in a Community of (Math) Teachers.

February, 2009

Hi to All,
I am sorry that I am sending this message so late (since the deadline to register is before March1) but my computer was quite ill for the past two weeks and finally died.  Now, I am online again and just in time to tell you about World Math Day.

World Math Day is March 4 and is a free global competition for students of all ages (5 - 18) and abilities.  Students play against each other in mental arithmetic games in real time.  The games last 60 seconds and students can play as many as they want to play.  It is a fantastic way to promote numeracy in your classroom.  In the past 2 years, since it started, students competing in World Math Day have made improvements in their mental arithmetic skills and had a great time while doing so.  The official competition runs for 48 hours (as long as it is March 4 somewhere in the world.)  Registration is free and online at .  Once you register your students, you will get an email message telling you the specifics.  There is more information about World Math Day at that site and the list of prizes that students can win.

Have fun with your students in a way that improves their math skills, too.

February, 2009

Everyone likes playing games.  If the games help your students learn, you don't need to feel the least bit guilty letting them play during school or assigning them for homework.

There are two sets of games available at that help students practice everything from identifying fractions to operating with them to writing equations using them.  The first set has simpler games that picture the fraction bars representing the fractions the students are to use.  The second set is snazzier and requires Shockwave.  In these games the fraction is not given a visual representation and would work well with students more practiced in fraction operations.

For those students who are well beyond fractions and into calculus, the Mathematical Association of America has a game available to nonmembers as well as members housed on its Digital Library site.  The Derivative Matching Game can be accessed at

For those of you who have students needing some visual help with understanding the trig functions there is help at with Java applets illustrating many concepts and activities to go with each applet.

I hope your students (and future students) will find practicing online a lot of fun as well as a great help.

January, 2009

With the importance of helping all students be successful in their understanding of algebra, I thought I would feature 3 of the online algebra-based activities on the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives website.  This website has some wonderful interactive manipulatives to help your students in many, many topics at grade level.

For the younger students, there are Color Patterns at .  A pattern is established and the students click on the appropriate colors to add the next 4 parts of the pattern.

For the middle school set there is an Algebra Balance Scale to help them solve equations at  .  An equation is given to the students.  They must then drag cubes representing x's and 1's and balloons representing -x's and -1's in the proper amounts to the scale.  The activity then has them determine what must be done to solve the equation.

There is also a set of virtual Algebra Tiles at

Every activity has 4 buttons at the top:  Activities, Instructions, Parent/Teacher and Standards.  Clicking on one of the first 3 opens a window at the side with various activities to do with the manipulatives, instructions for using the manipulative, or an explanation of the goals of the activity.  The Standards button is a link to the appropriate page of the online "NCTM Principles and Standards of School Mathematics."

I think your students will have fun and learn a lot using these virtual manipulatives.

December, 2008

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break.  I apologize for not getting a Virtual Mentor message out to you with Thanksgiving ideas for your classroom -- I am afraid that my paid work interfered with my volunteer work!  

Since everything is looking like Christmas, I thought that you might like some holiday ideas to get everyone in the Christmas mood mathematically.

For those of you interested in or already teaching elementary school, a good standby is the Teaching Heart site -- .  There are lots of ideas from graphing to problems to stories, etc.  Not all of her activities are for math but you probably teach more than math, too.

For those of you interested in or already teaching middle or high school Logicville has 24 Christmas-themed puzzles, activities, tangrams, word searches and Sudokus at .  Some of their puzzles and activities are interactive but you can get the noninteractive version if the computer being used doesn't support the program necessary for the interactive applet.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year Season.  I'll be back next year with more ideas.

November, 2008

I have spent far too much time and had way too much fun checking out the website I am writing to tell you about --  There are literally thousands of videos on this site for you to  use with your classes.  You can go to the "channels" tab and click on a certain educational level or subject.  I clicked on the math channel (of course) and randomly paged through videos.  

There are videos for every level about almost every math topic you can think of.  One is "Adding with M & M's", another about subtraction, and one called "Wild Things Movie" that has grade school children using pictures they'd drawn and cut out to act our problems involving "Wild Things".  There are many videos about solving algebra problems, using ideas in geometry, finding derivatives and understanding the trig relationships.  There are some great musical ones that would be delightful to use at the beginning or the end of class.  A number of the old "Schoolhouse Rock" math songs are featured along with others that teachers have written and performed themselves.

There are some that would be good assignments for students who were absent when you covered something.  There are others that would be good for you to watch when you can't fall asleep because they are so boring they'd put you to sleep right away.  Not all videos uploaded to the site are equal.

The goal for this site's founders is to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos.  It is a free service and anyone can upload a video.  As a result, there are good ones and not so good ones.  Viewers are encouraged to make constructive comments and rate the videos.  This includes flagging inappropriate ones.  If a video is flagged as inappropriate, the site administrators will view it to make a determination.

With so many videos on the site, it is very helpful that they are searchable so you can find the perfect one to show your students.

Until next time, may all your clicks on videos be on worthwhile ones.

October, 2008

It's that time of year -- the leaves have turned and the weather is cooling -- can Halloween be far behind?  As your students are getting excited about it, are you looking for some themed activities and ideas to use with them during their math classes?

If so, check out MathWire at  This is a site maintained by Terry Kawas and includes activities and ideas that she, her students and the teachers in the districts where she has worked have developed and used with their classes.  She gives teachers permission to download and use everything on the site for free with their own classes.

There is a wealth of material on this site for teachers from K through 12, although it is a bit sparser in the high school range, depending on the topic you are teaching.  The activities are archived and searchable in several ways.  

I started with the seasonal math for fall and found activities in estimation, measurement, symmetry, coordinate graphing, probability, patterns, problem solving, and literature connections.  Then, I checked out the topics listings.  As I was scrolling through and checking out the various topics and some of the activities, I came across "Writing in Math Class."  It had some great ideas for how to get your students started, give them practice, and links to other sites with additional ideas and help.

Have fun exploring the site.  I'm sure you will find something that will help your students learn -- which is the reason we are in the classroom.

October, 2008

Happy October to All.

This is going to be a very short message since I am in the midst of the final countdown for the MCTM Fall Conference.  I do hope all of you are registered for it.  You will find great sessions for those of you looking forward to your own classroom and those of you who have been teaching for awhile.  Do stop and say, "Hi" to the harried looking woman running around -- that will be me!

The Futures Channel, , is a website for those of you who are looking for answers to your students questions about what is this good for or when will we use this or how does this help be get a job, etc.  There are videos for you and your classes to explore answers to these questions and more.

September 2008

Hi Mentees,

Welcome back to a new school year whether you are on the student side of the desk or have crossed over to the teacher side.

I have a couple of websites to tell you about to help you get your year off to a great start.  For those of you interested in the elementary grades, I want to tell you about Mike's Math Club.  For those of you interested in 6 - 12, there are a couple of pages on TeachNet that I think you'd like.

Mike's Math Club is sponsored by the Milken Family Foundation and is at .  The club describes itself as a curriculum enrichment program for elementary schools.  Their Welcome Page says the club "teaches secret codes that emphasize various skills, handy hints that promote mastery of basics . . . , and math games that show students how to use logic and deductive reasoning to create strategies and solve problems."  There is a cast of characters that help do all of this.  They range from Detective Duck (who helps students examine secret codes) to Professor Panda (who has alots of handy hints to make math more fun) to Hollie Hamster ( who thinks fractions are fantastic.)  Of course, there are lots of math activities, games and problems.  There is also a pen pal program.  Check it out for your students' sakes.

TeachNet has several pages those of you interested in 6 - 12 might find useful and fun.  The 10 Commandments of Math should be in every classroom.  You can find the classroom version of the 10 Commandments at

This same site has Brain Binders.  These are puzzles that are printed on a sheet of paper.  The object is to only fold (no cutting allowed) on the lines and to have the result look like the picture given with the correct color showing.  There are plenty to keep your students working at them.  You can access all of them at .

TeachNet is a work in progress and has some lesson plans and lots of teacher ideas.  Explore.  You never know what idea will fit perfectly with what you are doing in your classroom.