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Teaching Tips: Mathematics

Try these tips with the following Merit programs: Basic Algebra Shape-Up, Fraction Shape-Up, Pre-Algebra Shape-Up, Word Problem Shape-Up

General Suggestions for Using Mathematics Software

• For best results we recommend that students use these programs 20 to 30 minutes a session, two to three times a week, for six to eight weeks in conjunction with other methods of instruction.
• Program usage should be paced to allow students sufficient time between sessions to absorb the material.
• Start out with Merit's Tryouts to see where students need math help most.
• Discuss problem areas with students.
• Supplement Merit software with workbooks so students have a chance to practice skills in a variety of contexts.
• Return to the software; have students try Merit Warm-up and/or Workout sections.
• Follow up each software session by asking students what new things they have learned. What new questions do they have?
• Follow up each session by having students keep a list of important math words and phrases they have learned. Ask students to work in small groups, explaining their math terms to other students.
• Have students print scores received for completing software Warm-up and Workout sections. Later, discuss these scores with students. Are they pleased with their progress? What seems easier to them? What needs more practice?
• Return to the software and let students try Merit's Finals, to help prepare for and de-mystify standardized tests.
• Follow up software units with written post-texts.
• Compare students' software results with gains on standardized test scores.
• Specific Suggestions for Word Problem Shape-Up

• Relate math skills being practiced with Word Problem Shape-Up to material in the classroom.
• Practice basic words or phrases by giving students a problem and a list of relevant terms, e.g., "equals," "minus," "multiplied by," "variable." Have students rewrite the problem using some of these words. Finally, ask them to solve it.
• Practice percents, ratios, and/or fractions by having students observe their surroundings, e.g., what percent of classmates are wearing sneakers or the color blue; how many days per week do they go to school?
• Practice word problems by having students work in pairs. Give each pair a word problem from a text. Ask students to list phrases from the problem indicating the strategy needed to find the answer. Then have them list what operation(s) and steps are needed to solve the problem. Finally, have each pair solve the problem and share what they did with other students.
• Specific Suggestions for Fraction Shape-Up

• Relate fraction skills being practiced with Fraction Algebra Shape-Up to material in the classroom.
• Practice understanding of fractions by using math manipulatives. List some common fractions on the board, and have students work with colored blocks, pick-up sticks, marbles, empty soda containors or egg cartons to "make" their own matching fractions.
• Practice basic words or phrases by giving students a problem and a list of relevant terms, e.g., "numerator," "denomenator," "part of the whole," "common denomenator." Have students rewrite the problem using some of these words. Finally, ask them to solve it.
• Practice fractions by having students observe their surroundings, e.g., what fraction of classmates have black hair, have brown eyes.
• Practice fraction problems by having students work in pairs. Give each pair a fraction problem from a text. Ask students to list phrases from the problem indicating the strategy needed to find the answer. Then have them list what operation(s) and steps are needed to solve the problem. Finally, have each pair solve the problem and share what they did with other students.
• Practice fraction problems by having students work in pairs. Give each pair a problem from a text and the steps for solving their problem in a mixed-up order. Next, ask each pair to sort out the right order. Then have them write sentences explaining what is going on in every step. Finally, have them share their conclusions with other students.
• Practice fraction problems by having students write their own fractions based on their own experiences, e.g., what fraction of the day do they sleep, spend online, listen to music, exercise?
• Practice fraction problems by having students work in small groups to create their own surveys around fractions based on classmates' preferences, e.g., favorite singer, movie star, sport or web site. Next, ask them to survey other groups. Finally, ask each group to write fractions based on their data.
• Specific Suggestions for Pre-Algebra Shape-Up

• Relate math skills being practiced with Pre-Algebra Shape-Up to material in the classroom.
• Practice percents, ratios, and/or fractions by having students observe their surroundings, e.g., what percent of classmates are wearing sneakers or the color blue; how many days per week do they go to school?
• Practice basic words or phrases by giving students a problem and a list of relevant terms, e.g., "equals," "minus," "multiplied by," "variable." Have students rewrite the problem using some of these words. Finally, ask them to solve it.
• Practice word problems by having students work in pairs. Give each pair a word problem from a text. Ask students to list phrases from the problem indicating the strategy needed to find the answer. Then have them list what operation(s) and steps are needed to solve the problem. Finally, have each pair solve the problem and share what they did with other students.
• Practice converting metric units by having students work in pairs. They might try measuring their surroundings, e.g., a door, window, desk, wall; weighing small objects, e.g., a book, plant, apple; or comparing weights listed on common food items, e.g., a milk carton, soda can, candy bar. Have each pair share their conclusions. Finally, have students convert data into different units of measurement.
• Practice data problems by having students write their own chart, graph, or table based on their own experiences, e.g., number of hours they study, watch TV, use email, ride a bike per week.
• Practice data problems by giving students a chart, graph, or table from a text. Have students work in pairs, listing 5 facts that can be concluded from their data. Ask each pair to write 3 word problems, using phrases such as "most," "least," "more than," "less than." Finally, have each pair solve the problem and share what they did with other students.
• Specific Suggestions for Basic Algebra Shape-Up

• Relate math skills being practiced with Basic Algebra Shape-Up to material in the classroom.
• Practice integer problems by taping a very large number line to the floor. Give students a simple integer problem and ask them to work in pairs, writing out the steps for solving the problem. Next, have all students gather in a circle, with one student volunteer standing at "zero." Finally, ask other students to take turns telling the student how many strides to take, and in which direction, in order to solve the problem.
• Practice integer problems by having students work in pairs. Give each pair a problem from a text and the steps for solving their problem in a mixed-up order. Next, ask each pair to sort out the right order. Then have them write sentences explaining what is going on in every step. Finally, have them share their conclusions with other students.
• Practice algebraic word and/or formula problems by having students work in pairs. Give each pair a word problem from a text. Ask students to list phrases from the problem indicating the strategy needed to find the answer. Next, have them list what operation(s) and equation(s) are needed to solve the problem. Finally, have each pair solve the problem and share what they did with other students.
• Practice proportion problems by having students observe their surroundings, e.g., compare the length of a desk with the length of a wall, the diagonal of a book with the diagonal of a room, a diagram of the school with the actual size of the school.
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