So I don’t like zoos. In theory.

I really feel like I’m not supposed to like zoos.  The cages / the animals / the hoards of sweaty people / the rudeness that comes with hoards of sweaty people / the overpriced food / the gift shop / etc.

BUT.  THe Little Scientist and I took his first out-of-utero zoo trip this week.

And there was this:













Followed by this:

And then this (Thank you nice donkey. For not biting or kicking or any of those mean things.):

And finally, the kicker was when there was this.  (Chimpanzees, in case you were wondering.)

So yeah.  I kinda like zoos.  Sorry.

All laced up and other sequencing activities.

This week we’ve been working on lacing activities: for the cost of some yarn needles and some leftover yarn, we’re working on fine motor skills and sequencing.  (To really get the second part, I try to make the Little Scientist predict where the needle will come out next, or where it’s “hiding” inside by following the strings.

My first try (and still the favorite of LS) was the colander:

pull pull pull pull – wait a minute. why is my trivet on the floor?



back in… and now we’ve grown a fork on the floor. awesome.

(In full disclosure, shortly after these pictures, SOMEONE took to dragging the colander around the house by the string, pretending they were walking a dog. Goodness sakes, we need to get a dog for this boy.)

We’ve also started working on simple (SIMPLE) lacing cards, but the in-and-out is a work-in-progress.  He still likes for me to take the needle on the back side of the card and push it through.  We also like to think that the nose and eyes are holes.  If my hole-punch reached that far, I’d make that part happen.

chin to ear – sounds logical to me!

note that we’re still working on pushing it ALL THE WAY through.

I’ve also punched some holes in a up-cycled toilet paper tube so that he can thread across the tube… Will let y’all know how that one goes when we pull it out to play with 🙂

The other sequencing activity we’ve been working on is a story-board activity. A while back, I covered a 2′ x 4′ plywood board in flannel, and used the “prickly” side of some hook-and-loop dots (*cough Velcro cough*) to hang some dog pictures on the flannel board.  One of our favorite stories right now is Sandra Boynton’s “Moo, Baa, La La La” (you MUST check out the iPad app… Seriously awesome.  Seriously.).  I copied the pictures from our legally-purchased-and-personally-owned board book and put more prickly hook-and-loop dots on the back.  I mix them up and ask him what comes next, or purposefully put one in the wrong order and make him find it.  He thinks this last part is HILARIOUS – getting one over on mom.

rhinoceros’ *snort* and *snuff*


cow says “bvooo”. yes, you read that right. bvoo. don’t ask.

Staff Development Days

What my admin thinks I do on Staff Development Days:

8:00 – 8:30 Catered breakfast in the Commons
8:30 – 11:30 Speaker on Rudy Payne’s insightful and pedagogy-changing works, including break-out sessions for small group discussion
11:30 – 12:30 Relaxing catered lunch during staff meeting
12:30 – 3:30 Professional Learning Community small group work developing curriculum and common assessment

What my parents and students think I do on Staff Development Days:

8:00 – 8:30 Mimosas in the Commons
8:30 – 11:30 Drinking game on Rudy Payne’s insightful and pedagogy-changing works, including break-out sessions for small group body shots
11:30 – 2:30 Relaxing lunch at a small local bar
2:30 – 3:30 Small group mocking of students and parents

What I actually do on Staff Development Days:

8:00 – 8:30 Coffee at desk returning parent emails.  Swing through Commons, decide against stale bagel, but refill coffee.
8:30 – 12:00 Surreptitious (then not-so-surreptitious) phone checking while speaker reads Power Point slides word. for. word.  Jealous glances at seat-mate who thought to bring papers to grade under the desk.  Contemplate engaging speaker in discussion of racist undertones and assumptions in Ruby Payne’s research – remember that admin spent 3 weeks this summer at Ruby Payne workshop.  Decide in favor of job security, and resort to veiled snark on text and Facebook.  Try to sneak out of small-group sessions to go hide in classroom to prepare Monday’s lab assignment, but get caught in the hall and detour to the bathroom.  Vow to self to allow students more time to get up and move as small-group session lasts until noon.
12:00 – 12:30 Listen to admin extol virtues of morning’s training and vague descriptions of implementation practices.  Wolf down half of a turkey sandwich with Cheetos, and glare at the backs of the coaches beelining for the exit and their afternoon practices.
12:30 – 3:30 Professional Learning Community small group devolves in the first ten minutes into camps regarding testing and teaching philosophies.  Sit by and watch the fireworks as three teachers debate vigorously whether reteaching on TUESDAYS and retesting on WEDNESDAYS obeys the “true” intent of the PLC, or whether this is better served by retesting on THURSDAYS.  Give up attempts to hide grading efforts and spread out over two desks.
3:30 – 5:30 Stare at unopened parent emails hiding between admin emails with scintillating titles like “RUBY PAYNE AND THE MATH DEPARTMENT: RETESTS ON FRIDAYS” and “HOW YOU CAN BE A RUBY PAYNE TEACHER: THE OPTIONAL MANDATORY SUMMER RETREAT”.  Refill coffee and set up Monday’s lab.

Books and apps and toddlers (oh my!!)

Today: a brief collection of some of our fave books & apps…  I’ve tried to link each to their amazon / iTunes URL as appropriate!  Many have to do with math, but a few are just our current obsessions.

  • Books:
    • Graeme Base: The Water Hole (although I think our babysitter finds the “all the animals went away” part particularly depressing…  And I think the author’s cheating by not telling me what sound the kangaroo makes.  YOU DON’T KNOW, DO YOU?!?!?!)
    • Sandra Boynton: Doggies (reflecting our CONTINUING OBSESSION with all things dog)
    • Keith Baker: Potato Joe (irony: the talking potato iPhone app scares the bejeezus out of the kid.  Counting potatoes, however seem to be just fine.  Weird.)
    • Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Ok, ok, so this one is MY favorite.  Gotta have books that you can stand to read OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER in this house.)
    • Brad Epstein: Chicago Cubs 101 (My First Team Board-Books; they’ve got one for all the major teams.  Not that you’d want any team but this one, for goodness sake.  Notice that it’s not a math book, per se – but all the numbers and counting lend themselves well to that kind of discussion)
    • Jonathon London: Wiggle Waggle (Non-math, but great for audience participation.  This book is the reason that my library books are 4 weeks overdue – I’m frightened of what will happen if it becomes unavailable… HURRY UP Amazon, with our copy!!)
  • iPhone / iPad apps:
    • Numberlys (Ok, so it’s really about the alphabet.  But the characters talk in / are named after numbers.  The fine motor skills are a fair bit higher than the 1.5 year-old can manage, but the animation just sucks him in.  So. Darn. Cute.  A little spendy – we used a birthday gift card to justify the cost…)
    • Shapes (by toddler teaser.  We haven’t tried any of the purchasable extension packs, but it comes with “basic shapes”.  A particular fan fave is the popping-balloons to get shapes game)
    • Monster / Another Monster at the End of this Book (Great for learning sequencing, predicting events.  Also good for fine motor practice – I’ve noticed a huge jump in abilities here at the 18/19 month mark.  Another spendy one: THANK YOU Mamaw and Papaw!)
    • Talking Carl (A repeating-heard-sounds app.  Nothing to do with math.  But the kiddo can imitate his giggles, and poke him in the eye.  He also likes to have Carl “tell him a story” – i.e. Mom tells Carl a story in 2-sentence increments, and then holds the app up so Carl can tell kid.  Convoluted, yes.  A tantrum-saver in the car? Absolutely!  We haven’t tried the new Gugl character update… I’m saving THAT one for a rainy day.)

How about you – any fave apps or books for us to try?

An obligatory facebook post

So, the IPO is tomorrow.

(Full disclosure: I quit facebook about 8 months ago, right when the timeline feature was looming on the horizon.)

A few numerical comparisons:

  • The IPO price is set at $38.  To compare, McDonald’s had an IPO of $22.50 in 1965, roughly equivalent to $164 in today’s money (inflation calculator here).  3 years ago, Google was priced at $85 per share for their IPO, and closed the day at $100 (earning a modest $1.67 billion).  It’s worth noting that the same stock is valued at ~$600 a share today.
  • Facebook stands to make an estimated $16 billion dollars tomorrow, should the stock behave as predicted.  $16 billion.  That’s enough money to give every man, woman, and child currently alive in the world $2.34 each.  Or to give each person who has EVER been alive $0.15.
  • Zuckerberg is 21.  At 21, Einstein was still a patent clerk, Newton still hadn’t read Euclid’s Elements, and Abraham Lincoln was just leaving home to find manual labor on the river boats.  The year Zuckerberg was born the top pop song was Bryan Adams’Everything I Do, and the first Gulf war began.  The Berlin Wall fell 2 years before he was born, and he has never known a time when Pete Rose was allowed to have anything to do with baseball.


I don’t need to walk around in circles / walk around in circles…

(Soul Coughing – El Oso – 1998)

So the Little Scientist and I have been working on proto-geometry this week.  Our first venture was to make some un-swallowable magnets for the fridge: I whipped up a quick pdf file for this that you are more than welcome to appropriate (basic_shapes).  Each magnet is just over 3″ wide. 

The raw materials + gnarly glare

the magnets. plus fido and superman. and the pizza hut delivery number. yum.

explaining the magnets to fido

I decided to spring for the magnet paper instead of the standard magnet strips / buttons because it’s a little weaker in sticking-to-the-fridge power, and one of LS’s main frustrations is getting magnets OFF the fridge.  However, rather than print them on the oh-so-spendy $5/3 sheets magnet paper, I printed them on regular paper, traced them onto my foam, and then arranged them on the magnet sheet for maximum space usage.  (For the 7 I ended up making to completion, it took around half of a magnet sheet).

I bought the foam door hangers (around $5 also) instead of the standard 2 mm foam sheets because I was looking for foam with some thickness for chubby little fingers.  (See “frustration” above.)  Cutting all of the magnets out of foam left me with 3 hangers to spare.  I will confess that the starburst patterns seemed like a better idea on paper than they did on foam – I ended up scrapping that one and just making a small oval instead.

It’s interesting to note that after just a few hours playing with (read: chewing on) the magnets that the LS is way better with identifying shapes than the colors we’ve been playing with for over a month.  Maybe it has to do with introducing them fewer at a time?  Maybe it’s because he finds the word “parallelogram” HIL-AR-IOUS.  Hilarious.

3:15 Monday afternoon

At 3:15 yesterday afternoon I fished a pill out of the Little Scientist’s mouth.

He’s fine.

After a call to poison control (I knew I wrote that number on the babysitter magnet for a reason…), we hightailed it to the ER.

You know they take you seriously when there’s no waiting in a packed ER.

4 IV sticks + 4 ounces of charcoal by mouth (I put that chemical engineering degree to good use – mouth siphoning and using a straw as a dropper FTW), we just played a waiting game. One sleepless night later & it appears the only pill he found was the one I fished out.

No math today – just do me a favor & go check your bathroom floors / behind trashcans / in bottoms of drawers for lonely little pills.

Thank you.

More math snark & geek humor tomorrow. Promise.


Homework help 1 – divisibility rules (elementary)

(The first in a semi-regular series. A math boot camp to help you help your kiddo, if you will.)

So. Your grade-schooler brought home a homework sheet that asks questions like: “What are the factors of blankity-blank?” and “What are the multiples of mumble-mumble?” with the word prime thrown in there somewhere.

First: some vocab.

  • Divisors: numbers that go into what you are given without a remainder. Example – divisors of 8 are 1, 2, 4, and 8
  • Multiples: numbers that you get by multiplying what you are given over and over. (Think of multiples as one number’s list on the times table). Example – multiples of 8 are 8, 16, 24, 32…
  • Divisors make a list that ends. Multiples go on forever and ever.
  • Factors is a fancy-schmancy word for divisors

When the question asks “What are the factors of 100?”, they are asking you to list any and all numbers that go into 100 without a remainder. I do this by making times-table pairs, and then writing them all in order. 100 = 1 x 100 or 2 x 50 or 4 x 25 or 5 x 20 or 10×10 and that’s all. So the answer to “What are the factors of 100?” is 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100.

Sometimes they try to trick you: “What are the factors of 17?” Nothing goes into 17, you say (smarty-pants). Correct – but any number can be divided by 1 and by itself. So to answer “What are the factors of 17?” you list 1, 17.

The hard part comes when the numbers are big. Listing the pairs for 100 was intuitive. Listing the pairs for 1350? Not so much. This is where a few tricks come in.

  1. Figure out an approximate square root for the number you’re given, rounding up. If I’m looking at 1350, I can use the calculator to find that square root of 1350 = 36.7ish. If I didn’t have a calculator, I would say that 40×40 is 1600, which is close enough for our purposes.Why? Because each pair of numbers (like 1×100, 2×50, etc in our earlier example) has a small and a big number in it. The small number MUST be less than or equal to the square root. So for 1350, I don’t need to check any numbers bigger than 37. This is why a close guess that’s a little big (like 40) is fine too. I’m just trying to cut down on the number of things I’ve got to check.
  2. So we know with 1350 that we don’t have to check any numbers bigger than 37. There are some tricks for checking some of the other numbers, without punching anything into a calculator:
    • 2: is the number even (ending in a 0,2, 4, 6 or 8)? If so, 2 is a divisor. If not – 2 isn’t, and NEITHER IS ANY OTHER EVEN NUMBER. This is a big time-saver. Again: if 2 doesn’t go into a number, neither can 4, 6, 8, 10, etc. In our problem 1350 ends in 0, so the number IS divisible by 2. 2 x 675 = 1350
    • 3: if you add up all the digits, do you get a 3, 6, or 9? In our problem (1350), 1 + 3 + 5 + 0 = 9. So yes, 1350 IS divisible by 3. 3 x 450 = 1350
    • 4: look at the last two digits of your number. Is this 2-digit number on the 4 times table? In our problem (1350), 50 is NOT on the 4’s times table. So 1350 is NOT divisible by 4. (Remember, if you’d answered NO to 2, then you could completely skip checking 4).
    • 5: does the number end in a 5 or a 0? In our problem (1350), yes. So 1350 IS divisible by 5. 5 x 270 = 1350
    • 6: Was the number divisible by BOTH 2 & 3? (One or the other is not good enough). Our problem (1350) WAS divisible by 2 & 3, so it is automatically divisible by 6. 6 x 225 = 1350
    • 7: The tests for 7 suck. More work than they are worth – it’s easier to just use long division. Does 7 divide into 1350 with no remainder (or no decimal on the calculator)? In our case (1350), no. So 1350 is not divisible by 7.
    • 8: Do the last 3 digits make a number that is on the 8’s times table? This rule still requires long division, but a little bitty problem instead of a big one. In our problem (1350), 350 divided by 8 gives us a decimal. So 1350 is NOT divisible by 8.
    • 9: Do the digits add up to 9? (This is JUST like the 3’s test, but instead of good options of 3, 6, & 9, the only way to say yes is if they add up to 9.) For ours (1350), we say earlier that 1 + 3 + 5 + 0 = 0, so yes 1350 IS divisible by 9. 9 x 150 = 1350
    • 10: Does the number end in a 0? (Again, just a slightly more-restrictive version of the 5’s test.) 1350 ends in a 0, so yes, 1350 IS divisible by 10. 10 x 135 = 1350

    So far we have pairs of 1 x 1350, 2 x 675, 3 x 450, 5 x 270, 6 x 225, 9 x 150 and 10 x 135. We need to check the numbers from 11 to 37 by hand. Using my calculator, I get that 15 x 90, 18 x 75, 25 x 54, 27 x 50 and 30 x 45. The only other speed-up trick is that if a number is not a divisor, neither are its multiples. In 1350, I know that 7 is not a divisor. That means I don’t have to check 14, 21, 28 or 35.

    So the answer to the question “What are the divisors of 1350?” is 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 18, 25, 27, 30, 45, 50, 54, 75, 90, 135, 150, 225, 270, 450, 675, 1350.

Bonus example

  • Find all the divisors of 225
    first: 15 x 15 = 225 (aka, the square root of 225 is 15). Thus I don’t need to check anything bigger than 15.
    2? Nope, not even. This also rules out 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14
    3? 2 + 2 + 5 = 9, so yup. 3 x 75 = 225
    4? skip
    5? ends in a 5. Yup. 5 x 45 = 225
    6? skip
    7? by long division, 7 goes into 225 32 times with a remainder of 1. Nope.
    8? skip
    9? 2 + 2 + 5 = 9, so yup. 9 x 25 = 225
    10? skip
    11? by long division, 11 goes into 225 20 times with a remainder of 5. Nope.
    12? skip
    13? by long division, 13 goes into 225 17 times with a remainder of 4. Nope.
    14? skip
    15? by long division, 15 goes into 225 15 times with a remainder of 0. Yup. 15 x 15 = 225.
    list of divisors of 225: 1, 3, 5, 9, 15, 225, 45, 75, 225

Next time: PRIME factors (:

Happy mother’s day to unique you!!

(All percentages from google.  There are several statistical assumptions I’m making that are probably false, but it’s all in the name of making a good point, right?)

There are approximately 85.4 million mothers in the US.

44% of these are moms with children younger than 18, or around 37.8 million mothers in the US.

54% of moms eat breakfast with their children, or 20.4 million mothers in the US with young children.

52% of US residents drink coffee, so 10.6 million of these are drinking coffee with their breakfast with young children.

10% of US residents identify as vegetarian, or a little over 1 million of these moms are NOT eating a Sausage McMuffin.  They are, however, eating with their young children and drinking coffee.

65% of US residents have smart phones, or 689,000 of these moms are trying not to spill their coffee on their phones while eating breakfast with their small children.

10% of us residents use twitter, or 68,900 of these moms are tweeting about not spilling their coffee on their phones while eating breakfast with their small children.

61% of US residents wear glasses, or 42,000 of these moms.  They’re thinking they need to clean these glasses because they just mis-spelled a tweet about not spilling their coffee on their phones while eating breakfast with their small children.

2% of US residents are teachers, or 840 of these moms.  They really should be grading papers, instead of thinking they need to clean their glasses because they just mis-spelled a tweet about not spilling their coffee on their phones while eating breakfast with their small children.

3% of US residents have reptile / amphibians as pets, so 25 of these moms.  Crapp!  Has someone fed the frogs recently?

5% of US residents 6’ tall or over: 1 person  – that’s me!!

Point being – all those categories overlap to make one messy me.  That’s true of everybody – we’re just like folks in a number of different groups, but the overlap is unique to each of us.  So, at the risk of being sappy, I hope that you have a great Mother’s Day however you choose to uniquely celebrate it – whether you are a mother, have a mother or know a mother.


A random thought – the number of cows and the number of mothers in the world are approximately the same.  However, there are ten-thousand times more mothers than there are elephants and giraffes combined.  Point: an elephant or giraffe would be a MUCH cooler Mother’s day gift than a cow.  Free advice.

Toddler categories (sneezy, dopey, happy, grumpy, roly, poly)

Ok, so I don’t actually mean categories for toddlers.  I mean activities for young toddlers involving categorization.  I know it looks like we’re working with puffballs and hands and colors – but developing the order and “belonging-ness” of things is a vital pre-math skill for little guys and girls (in jargonese, we call this the start of the one-to-one and the stable-order principles).  I stole got most of these ideas from – she rocks.

That being said – no laughing at my photography / disheveled house.  That would be mean.

Color pathway:

We tape construction paper in a “road” to the kitchen floor, and as the little scientist walks up and down his road, we talk about the colors he’s stepping on.  Every once in a while I give him a color to find.  Sometimes he finds it.  Sometimes he poops his pants instead.


Looking some more…

Found it!

High Fives:

I traced his hand onto a cardboard template, then made one hand in each color (yes, I did re-use the color road construction paper – aren’t you proud of me?).  I then taped these to the wall at toddler-level.  We work on high-fiving particular colors, or particular spatial relationships (“go higher / lower / to the side!”).  We also smooch on the purple hand.  We like purple.  Please ignore the damp splotches in the picture.  (Which reminds me that I need to laminate my next set of handprints.  Construction paper bleeds color onto matte walls, fyi.)


Aaaand from a different angle. Same thing though.

Puffball sorter:

I took an old egg carton and around thirty little puffballs of varying sizes.  The goal would be to put one puffball in each egg slot (also working on pincer grasp for fine-motor practice).  The actuality would be discovering that we like licking puffballs.  Delish.  We’re still working on this one.


More dumping…

Now sorting! Hey – is that mom’s knee?

(bonus: these make great rainy-day indoor activities too!)