Math websites – for fun & for homework help

(Stop laughing.  Math websites = fun.  Really really!!  Of course, I’m also a HUGE bore at cocktail parties, so my definition of fun might be SLIGHTLY warped.)

For homework help:

  • – this is the free companion site to go with Pearson textbooks.  If you / your child happens to be using Pearson, AWESOME.  If not, there’s a by-topic index to help you find practice problems and examples for your kind of material.  Not much stuff for the early grades here, but great on middle school through most college maths!
  • – Dr. Math tackles common questions, from adding and subtracting positives / negatives through calculus.  Because it’s question based, it’s not topic-comprehensive, but I’ve always thought the explanations are super-clear and easy to follow.  They will answer submitted questions as well, but I have not tried this, so have no information on the speed of response.
  • – a collection of over 3,000 lectures / videos on a variety of education topics – GREAT for the aural learner… Collection gets added to regularly, and math topics start all the way back at basic arithmetic.
  • – not so much a “help-me-learn” site as a “check-my-answer” site.  Great for checking homework when you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to refresh yourself on the topic-of-the-day.  (I find it’s more helpful in the K-8 stuff than the higher stuff like Calc, but their Trig section is pretty good.)

Games & activities & articles

  • (math) – A great (vetted) resource for online activities, information on milestones and developmentally appropriate skills / expectations.  Also a good way to link in some characters the kiddos recognize.  Definitely preschool / early school age focused.
  • – originally a homeschooling resource, now grown into more of a clearinghouse of materials / lesson plans.  Again, games and activities lend themselves much better to skill drill than to some of the higher level (high school) curriculum, but I love how they tie activities / worksheets to current events & holidays.  Do be aware that the right sidebar is ad-heavy, though many of the ads look like more worksheets and activities.
  • (free section) – a full membership to edhelper is paid, but each month they make some printable worksheets available for free.  Not always the most engaging, but great for skill practice in the arithmetic years.
  • (parent section) – NCTM is the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics; the parent section is a glut of homework help websites, articles on how to help your kid (any age) be successful in math, and current trends / events in the world of math.  If you have time to spare, the general NCTM site is a wealth of teaching knowledge, and worth perusing.

Seven (and an… award?)

What?!?!?  Someone other than mom (Hi mom!! Love you!!) READS this?  Wow.

First, of all, THANK YOU to ProfMomEsq for the shout-out! (Do we still say shout-out?  No?  Dammit!  There go my cool credentials…)  Her blog is everything I hope to be someday.  Funny – my GOODNESS, how funny!  Honest, and so very, very well-written.  I could write for paragraphs on how well written, but then I think: “Would ProfMomEsq write for paragraphs on that?” No?  Than I won’t either.  (Also – wish I could take one of this lady’s classes – bet she’s a HOOT.)

Now: My seven facts:

Fact 1) My mom had a crush on my dad in 6th grade.  Ok, so it’s not really about me, but HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!  She had just switched schools, he was the non-paste eater the next table over… Love at first sight.  Only, not really.  If you look at mom’s senior yearbook, dad wrote that “she needed to bring that college boy she was going to meet home for his approval”.  Well played, dad.  Well played.

Fact 2) I went to a boarding school for junior and senior year of high school.  A co-ed, for-geeks-only (I know: surprise, surprise) boarding school.  And yet, my first drinking experience was in COLLEGE.  I may hypothetically have held a roommate’s hair while she puked, or hypothetically bought said roommate a fifth of Bacardi Limon for her 18th birthday – but I was always too much of a scaredy-cat to actually drink myself.  (What if they find out?!?!  What if I get in TROUBLE?!?!  The statute of limitations is past on the buying of alcohol offense, right? OH GOD, are those sirens I hear outside?!?!)  There you have me in a nutshell.  A geeky, nervous, somewhat-rebellious-but-only-vicariously geek.  Yeah, I said geek twice.  It’s that bad.

Fact 3) The winter before my 21st birthday, my parents moved across the country.  (Here’s how that phone convo went:

  • Dad – Honey, I think you should come home for Thanksgiving.
  • Me – Dad, I’ve been out of the house for 4 years / I’ll come home for Christmas / waiting tables is lucrative over the holiday weekend / blah blah blah
  • Dad – I don’t think you understand.  Come home over Thanksgiving to pack your sh*t, because when you come home for Christmas we’ll be living 12 hours away.
  • Me – oooooooookay.  *books flight*

So when I turned 21, I had to go to where my parents now lived to get an updated drivers license.  My plan: get a 6-pack at the store, get carded, giggle, go home, drink.  My mother’s plan: take me and my father out for (wait for it…) free country line-dancing lessons at a local bar.  So we go out.  HOWEVER, what the parentals failed to take note of was the *ahem* change in clientele at said bar around 10 pm.  When the dance floor began to fill with well-groomed men who had rhythm and dance MOVES, we all came to the realization (at varying speeds, bless dad’s heart) that we were sitting in a gay bar.  A gay bar with free country line-dancing lessons.  BEST. 21ST. BIRTHDAY. STORY. EVERY.

Fact 4) Not only did I ask my now-husband out first, technically I proposed to him.  Let me set the scene:  We’ve been together 3 years.  We’ve lived together for 2.5 of those 3 years.  Our parents have met, our siblings have met.  We’ve holiday’d at one another’s familial homes.  The big lug and I are driving to the outlet mall, when the conversation goes like this:

  • Hubs:  So I was thinking about our 5-year plan.  (Sidebar – he uses the “our” to flatter me.  There is little “our” to the plan.  I very rarely plan what I’m doing in half and hour.  Much less in 5 years.)
  • Me: We have a 5-year plan?  Are we going to be together in 5 years?
  • Hubs: Uh, I kinda thought so…
  • Me: So are we making this official?  I could really use health insurance, btw…
  • Hubs: Did you just propose to me?
  • Me: Depends… Are you saying yes?

So we bought a ring at the outlet mall.  (From the second store we went to.  Because the first lady was convinced that I wanted a solitaire.  Which I didn’t, as a working engineer, because anything sticking up off of my hand would get caught in the machine.  She didn’t believe me… Weird.)  We also waited almost 18 months to get married – but mostly because of our weird work schedules.  Because taking time off for the wedding would have been… inconvenient?  Huh.  Writing that makes it seem a little weirder than it felt at the time.

Fact 5) I have had a lot (LOT) of jobs.  I’ve been a nanny (twice), a waitress, a bartender, a line cook, an office manager, an HTML website coder, a vacuum-cleaner filter tester (the ones on the shelves that say “Arm & Hammer” – those got tested by meeee!!) a hospital financials straightener-outer, a corporate software license tracker-downer, a grad assistant, a standardized test developer, a printing factory quality manager, a high school teacher, and a community college instructor.  I think that’s all of them. (Update – I only had to add to the list once… Ok, twice.)  Ironically, after my current job (LOVEloveLOVEloveLOVE teaching at a juco), I REALLY enjoyed restaurant work.  Really, really.  Am trying to convince the hubs that we should do something in restaurants in our retirement… not sure he’s buying what I’m selling – but we’ll get there *grin*.

Fact 6) I cannot match colors.  I know some folks out there say things like that as self-deprecation, but I truly DO NOT understand what makes two colors elicit “you look nice today” while two other colors bring “are you going to wear that OUT?”.  So deep is my non-understanding of these things that I spent a full school year (grade 7, in fact) wearing head-to-toe gothic black.  Not because I WAS goth, mind you (I listened to country and watched PG movies for Pete’s sake) but because I never had to worry about whether my outfit matched.  Nowadays?  Let’s just say that bless the hub’s heart, after 10 years the illusion is gone – he’ll pick out what I should wear to a function without me asking.  And I love him for that.

Fact 7) I scared TO DEATH of what will happen next August when I finally finish my Master’s degree.  I’ve been in school since 1985, in college since 1998.  What on earth will I do without homework?!?!?  It seems silly, but I’m really kind of worried.  I’d like to think that part of what makes me an empathetic and effective teacher is that I’m still a student too – so I have no illusions about “optional” homework getting done, or procrastination on projects.  Because I still fight those same battles myself.  What if I lose touch with that part of teaching?  ::worried:: (OK, so that one’s not really a fun fact so much as what’s on my mind right now.  You want a fun fact?  How about this – despite the fact that I thought in my early 20’s that I’d never have kids, it took us exactly 14 days of trying to get the Little Scientist.  14 days.  I think the hubs might have felt cheated a bit on that one.  What – TMI?  Sorry – back to my worried, soon-to-be-non-student brain *grin*)

Now, here’s the hard part.  I’m such a newbie blogger that I’m not sure how this works *blush*.  So I’m going to nominate the seven blogs that make me excited every time I see a new post.  If you’re not into the whole “seven facts” thing, or the chain-letter aspect of this part, no response needed – just bask in the *love*, and know that I really appreciate your writing – I hope I’m more like you guys every post!

  • Artchoo: If I had an ounce of the creativity that runs through Jeanette Nyberg, I’d have… an ounce of creativity.  But that’s not the point.  I don’t NEED that ounce, because of all the wonderful stuff she shares on this blog.  Things to do, places to go, wonders to see – my kid thanks you.  Because even I admit that fractions all the time might be overkill, but need some help getting to the other fun stuff.
  • Butterfly Confessions: THIS.  Real and raw – I respect the hell out of Addye, and admire her writing, her art, and her guts most of all.  She inspires me to be more honest with myself and the folks around me, she makes me think and she makes me laugh.
  • Doodles & Jots: I never knew I liked birds until this blog.  I also had never considered getting myself ready for the day BEFORE waking the family up (makes sense, right?  Hit me like a lead balloon.  Ow.  But life-changing.)  Every one of Anntrea’s post is a little nugget of something – something to think about, something to do with the kiddo, something to do.  Love it.
  • With a Lil’ Love & Luck: Lyndsay writes about her life like the girlfriend you’ve had since grammar school.  So in-the-moment… and her kiddo is the same age as mine, so I very much appreciate how hard documenting this stuff can be.  She’s also waaay more crafty than I am – can I be you when I grow up Lyndsay?
  • Office Crush: Like chocolate marshmallow treats for your brain.  So much fun to read, and the cliffhangers?  My lands!  *pins and needles*
  • Reading & Chickens: Ok, so Shalini writes this one too, and this shouldn’t really count – but it was my VERY FIRST BLOG EVER.  Yes, I just yelled that – but the kiddo never sleeps, so it’s ok.  I found this on a google search for… crapp, I don’t remember.  I was up at 3am, rocking a newborn and trying to stay awake on my phone – and there it was.  I know her page views shot up, like, 14 million that night – sorry S.  Not trying to stalk you.  Just revelling in the awesomeness.
  • Yeah, Good Times:  Jill says the things that I wish I was funny enough to think of, and brave enough to say.  Her awesome drawings / stick figures?  Icing on the proverbial cake.  So. Much. Cake.

Why are you still reading this – go!  GO! Read something funny written by someone more creative!!  I gave you 7 awesome options above!! (Oh, and thanks for reading *grin*)

Homework help 3 – reducing fractions method 1

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


Because I know that’s what all the non-geeky just did at the word “fractions”.  One more time – get it out of your system:


Ok.  Let’s start (like always) with some of the vocab:

  • Denominator: (my students have nominated this for my most frequently misspelled board word).  This is the bottom of a fraction.  In a math situation the denominator tells you how many pieces you have cut a unit into.  Because I have an ongoing love-affair with pizza, most of our examples will have to do with this delicious food of the gods.  The denominator tells you how many pieces you cut a pizza pie into.
  • Numerator: This is the top of a fraction.  In a math situation, the numerator tells you how many pieces you have.  In a pizza example, the numerator would be how many pieces of pizza you ate.

So if I ordered a pizza on the way home from teaching, but by the time I got home the hubs had eaten some of it, we could represent this with a fraction.  Say he ate 7/8… This means that the no-good pizza stealing hungry fellow ate 7 of the 8 pieces that the pizza was cut into.

If I had ordered 2 pies, each cut into 8 pieces, he would have eaten 13/8.  Notice that my denominator still says how many pieces EACH pizza was cut into.  The fact that the top is bigger than the bottom means that he ate one whole pizza plus some more of the next one.  Pig.  (Any fraction with a top the same size or bigger than the bottom is called an improper fraction.  9/8, 8/8, 17/8 : all improper.  I’ve been known to call them Dolly Parton fractions, for obvious reasons.  LOVE you, Dolly! :-*)

Equivalent fractions are fractions that tell you the same amount, but cut into different kinds of pieces.  Picture this:

Now, who ordered the orange and grape pizzas? Seriously! That’s the LAST time I let the toddler pick the family dinner.

If I eat 2 slices of orange pizza and you ate 4 slices of grape pizza, notice we ate the same amount of pizza.  Using our vocab from above, notice that I just ate 2/4 of a pizza and you just ate 4/8 of a pizza.  But we ate the same amount – my two big pieces are the same as your 4 little pieces.  (Now, where is that Pepto… Orange and grape pizzas my ass.)

Because we’re not going to want to draw pizzas for every math problem, there’s a handy arithmetic rule: two fractions are equivalent (or talk about the same amount of pizza) when the numerator and denominator of the first can be multiplied or divided by the same number to get to the second.  2/4 is equivalent to 4/8 because I multiplied the top and bottom of 2/4 both by 2.

Sometimes these homework problems will look like this: give an equivalent fraction to 2/3 with a denominator of 12.  What the homework gods are asking you is this: 2/3 = ?/12.  What did we multiply 3 by to get to 12? 4!  So we have to multiply the top, 2, by 4 also: 2 x 4 = 8.  So 2/3 = 8/12.

Let’s do another one, with division: give an equivalent fraction to 8/20 with a denominator of 5.  Again, what the homework gods are asking you is 12/30 = ?/5.  What did we divide 30 by to get to 5? 6!  So we have to divide the top, 12, by 6 also: 12 ÷ 6 = 2.  So 12/30 = 2/5.


Reducing fractions to lowest terms is just finding an equivalent fraction – you want to divide the top and bottom until there’s nothing else that goes into both of them.  The nice thing is, as long as you do your times tables right, it doesn’t matter if you do this in 1 step or 17 – you’ll get the same answer at the end.

Lets take 15/30.  I would look at that and say Ooo! Ooo!  (To which the toddler would reply by running around doing his monkey impression.  Smart-ass.) 5 goes into both 15 and 30.  So I divide the top and bottom by 5, 15 ÷ 5 = 3 and 30 ÷ 5 = 6, so now I have 3/6.  What goes into both 3 and 6?  3! 3 ÷ 3 = 1 and 6 ÷ 3 = 2, so now I have 1/2.  Cutting a pizza into 30 pieces and eating 15 of them is the same as cutting it into 2 pieces and eating 1 of those.  Do 1 and 2 have anything else in common?  Nope!  Then the reduced form of 15/30 is 1/2.  Taa daa!!

Now, I could have done that faster by noticing that 15 goes into both 15 and 30, and in one fell swoop: 15 ÷ 15 = 1 and 30 ÷ 15 = 2, so now I have 1/2.  To be honest, I don’t stress too much about finding the biggest number to divide by.  I do these problems faster by dividing by the FIRST number that pops into my head that works, and dividing again if I have to.

Lets try a bigger one: 84/144.  Gah – that 84 has me stumped.  But I notice they’re both even, so I start by dividing top and bottom by 2: 84 ÷ 2 = 42, and 144 ÷ 2 = 72; so now we have 84/144 = 42/72.  Still even, so I divide top and bottom by 2 again: 42 ÷ 2 = 21, 72 ÷ 2 = 36; so now we have 84/144 = 21/36.  2 doesn’t work anymore because 21 isn’t even… but 3 goes into both 21 and 36!  21 ÷ 3 = 7 and 36 ÷ 3 = 12.  This gives us 84/144 = 7/12.  Does anything go into both 7 and 12?  Nope!  All done!  So the reduced form of 84/144 is 7/12.

(If you’re stuck on the “how do I know what goes into THAT” part – glance over at my homework help 1… it might help you out!)


See!  You made it all the way through reducing fractions without spontaneous combustion!!  Next time we’ll talk about an easy way to reduce HUGE fractions, through factoring and cancelling 🙂 🙂 🙂

The dads I know are mathematically cooler than yours.

You might try to argue – but it’s a mathematical fact.  Science will not be trifled with!

Take, for example, my own dad (who upon pain of releasing my own middle-school pictures, put the kibosh on any pics of him that were not Little Scientist related.  Touchè, dad, touchè. Know that there are a few involving a perm in the early 80’s, and a wedding pic involving a baby blue tuxedo that you are all missing out on.):

Proper instruction in nap-taking techniques


the patented baby-football-carry

First baseball game – either teething or anticipating hot dog deliciousness… or both. Kiddo, not dad. Dad wasn’t teething.

Showing off the park to Papaw. Talking a mile-a-minute. No, NO-ONE knew what he was saying. Yes, dad faked it LIKE A PRO.

See? Mathematically speaking his cool factor is in the gazillions.

And then there’s the hubs:

Discussing why mom’s obsession with fractions is PROBABLY unhealthy…

Looking for comma splices

FWIW – that cookie monster costume got blue fuzz EVERYWHERE.

Can someone PLEASE figure out how to crop out the flabby white dudes photobombing this sweet pic? Thanks.

No, no, no! You need the ALLEN wrench dad!

My professional egg hunters. What we learned: 70 eggs hidden in the yard is WAY TOO MANY.

All of which to say: THANK YOU to both of the dads in my life for being so wonderful. I wish I was better with words, so I could tell you how much I appreciate you both. So I’ll settle for embarrassing you semi-anonymously :-*


So there’s an art installation downtown.  I was unprepared, to say the least:


Giant. Snails.

BABY giant snails. Yes, that’s a different outfit. There was a fountain incident.

I know I risk this becoming the “we’re obsessed with animals” blog – but DO YOU SEE THE GIANT SNAILS?!?!

Can I also mention they were on top of buildings around the square? And on the gazebo at the grocery?

So cool.

A common garden snail runs, on average, 2 inches long when full grown.  The grown up pink snail was EASILY 8 feet long.  That’s 48 times longer than a real snail.  (Not to mention a MILLION TIMES PINKER.)

The garden snail can move about a quarter of it’s body length a second, which means the pink snail could reach speeds of 2 feet per second, or just under a mile and a half an hour!  Also, since garden snails eggs are roughly 1/10 the length of the snail, the pink snail would lay 9.5-inch eggs.  By the hundreds.

I think I just wrote a horror movie script.  *shudder*

Anyway.  Happy pink snail day!!

We’re MILDLY obsessed with cows.

Mildly.  As in constant mooing morning, noon and night.

So in honor of our new obsession, I’m providing ten riveting facts you didn’t know you wanted to know about cows.  Thank you google.

1. A cow can climb up the stairs, but cannot climb down. This is because her knees cannot bend properly.

2. A milk cow produces approximately 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime.

3. A cow stands up and sits down about 14 times a day.

4. A cow usually spends 6-7 hours in day eating cud and around 8 hours on chewing it.

5. Almost all domesticated cows chew at least 50 times per minute. 

6. An average cow has more than 40,000 jaw movements in a day.

7. Cows can drink up to 35 gallons of water a day.

8. Cows do not bite grass; rather they curl their tongue around it.

9. Cows have almost total 360-degree panoramic vision.

10. Cows have an acute sense of smell and can smell something up to 6 miles away.

You’re welcome.

Summer session is kicking my arse and other thoughts


I forget every year that teaching summer session is a crash course for students AND faculty.  3 credits in 5 weeks translates to about a chapter a night in the classes I teach.  And we have class 4 nights a week.  Add in my Friday tutoring hours, and I’m at the school 25ish hours a week.

Which I recognize isn’t a ton… I bow down to every parent out there that works full-time & keeps the home fires burning.  For reals.

But, it IS waaaaaay more than my Fall and Spring schedule of 3 hours two nights a week + Saturday tutoring.  Our awesome babysitter (hahahah – I just typed babyshitter.  That’s funny right there.) has joked that she just might move in. Which actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea now that I mention it… She’s young – she can sleep on an air mattress through July, right?

All to say – I suck at posting.  I know.  *mea culpa*


My BABY brother is halfway through a two-week leave from the Navy, having just gotten back from his first deployment. While this has little to do with math, the Little Scientist and I really enjoyed the weekend he spent down in our neck of the woods.  Some proof of our enjoyment:

where are you goooooooing?!?!

there are no words for that expression. No. Words.

The LS uses the power of distraction…


Ok, I’ll let you up THIS time…

Homework help 2 – prime factorization (elementary)

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

Recap: factors are numbers that go into your given.  So, given 40, my factors are 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20 and 40.  Homework help 1 was all about finding those factors when the numbers weren’t so friendly.

New vocab:

  • Prime numbers are numbers that only have factors of 1 and themselves.  Like 17.  When I go to think of all the numbers that go into 17, I come back with nada.  Nothing goes into 17.  Well, nothing important.  I mean, 1 goes into everything.  And 17 goes into 17, but that’s kinda silly. As soon as I find myself thinking “well, nothing but 1 and 17 and that’s kinda silly” I know that 17 is prime.
  • Composite numbers are every other number.  Anything that’s not prime is composite.
  • 2 is the smallest prime number.  1 and 0 are just weirdos.  They don’t get to hang out at the prime number party.

We like prime numbers because they can’t break down any further.  If I asked you to break down 24, you could tell me that 24 is 2*12.  Or maybe 3*8.  Or get smarty pants and tell me 2*2*6.  Sometimes it’s handy for everyone to break down a number the same way.  To do this, we use prime factorization.

Lets do an example as a way of explaining.  If I asked you to break down 24, you might say that 24 = 2*12.  And I would say “you rock.”  (Because you do.)  But then I would ask you, are 2 and 12 prime?  You’d think for a minute and say that 2 is prime, but 12 is not, because 12=2*6.  So now we write 24 = 2*2*6.  Same question – are 2, 2, and 6 prime?  2 and 2 are, but 6 is not, because 6=2*3.  So now we write 24 = 2*2*2*3.  Sometimes people make this a picture:

See how each branch ends with a prime number?  And if we list the prime numbers in order, we get 2*2*2*3.

The power of prime factorization is that it TOTALLY DOESN’T MATTER what numbers you pick to divide by.  If you do the arithmetic right, you get the same answer in the end.  Let’s say you looked at 24, and thought 24=4*6.  Awesome!  Are either of those prime number?  Nope, because 4 = 2*2 and 6 = 2*3.  This means we can rewrite 24 = 2*2*2*3… The same answer as before!  Yay!  This factor tree picture would look like:

You can do factor trees for RIDICULOUSLY large numbers, fairly quickly if you’re good at times tables.

For example:

(Notice I circled the end of each branch when it got to a prime number, so I didn’t lose track of where my ends were.)

This means 960 = 2*5*2*2*3*2*2*2, or written in order 960 = 2*2*2*2*2*2*3*5

Not only is this an awesome conversation starter at a party (at least the parties I go too…), but it lets us reduce fractions in the next homework help post with almost no extra math at all.