Creating A Water Garden: Applied Math & Outdoor Fun

the math equation I used for my pond liner, from Engel Tutors in Ann Arbor
Figuring out the right length and width for my pond liner.

Warm April weather can turn student minds away from classrooms and towards the outdoors. Why not bond with them and keep them engaged in learning at the same time? Designing and creating a backyard water garden will give your student the opportunity to apply math concepts such as proportions, fractions, multiplication, division, and algebra, as well as the handy use of important tools. It’s a great way to work with them as a teammate and add an exotic habitat to the homestead for observation and quiet meditation. Continue reading Creating A Water Garden: Applied Math & Outdoor Fun


Helping Students with Dyscalculia Thrive As Mathematicians

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that mirrors dyslexia. Students with dyscalculia struggle to learn basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems via rote memory and traditional teaching methods. Dyscalculia does not mean “dumb at math”.  In fact, I am thinking of one recent student who now enjoys math and consistently earns A’s.

What can help these students make the big leap?

One solution is to teach elementary math equations with narrative and visual aids. To do this, develop a cartoon character with a unique personality for each number, 1 through 10, then develop stories for each of the challenging equations. Make sure that each number’s personality remains consistent  throughout the  equation stories.  Simplify each written story into an illustrated story picture on an index card.  Create a deck and use these with your student. Watch how quickly they learn the troublesome equations and speed up their answer time.


Explore one of the Math The Fun Way kits at .

City Creek is an excellent vendor of math education tools made fun!

If you have questions or comments, please email me to let me know how useful or educational this blog was for you and your family.  Happy Holidays!

Quicker Addition: Left to Right Math

Dr. Benjamin Arthur ,of the book The Secrets of Mental Math, encourages kids and adults alike to try adding left to right instead of right to left. The reason is simple. We are taught to read left to right, we write left to right, and are therefore more adept at thinking left to right. Only in math do we reverse the routine.

Here is how left to right addition works. Take an addition problem, such as 34 + 45. Add the tens columns first (34 + 40 = 74). Now add the ones column (74 + 5 = 79).

Try these examples in your head. I will pitch in some three digit numbers as well.

______23                       62                     134

_____+42                    +26                   + 63

This is all  very good, but what if I throw in much bigger numbers, such as…



Not only are the numbers bigger, but they include carrying-over. Here’s a trick.

Round-up the bottom number to 300. Now add 300 to 256. Then subtract the difference between 300 and 289, which is 11.

Hence, 256 + 289 = 256 + 300 – 11.

Then 256 + 300 = 556

556 -11 = 556 – 10 -1

556-10 = 546 and finally 546 -1 =545 Your answer is 545.

Try these: 645 + 276     and    327 + 499

What we learned:

* Adding left to right can be faster.

* With big numbers it is often quicker to round up the bottom number and subtract the difference from the sum.

On Friday I will share how you can build on left to right math with subtraction!

Mental Math Worth Its Weight

Quick, tell me what 27 x 11 is? If you answered in over 3 seconds and would like to know a trick that will render you as quick as the calculator, then read on.

For any two digit number whose sum is less than ten you can instantaneously come up with the product when multiplied by 11. Let’s look at the sample above, 27 x11. The digit in the tens column becomes the first number in your answer (2). Next, add the two digits in 27 together (2+7) to get 9. 9 is the next number in your answer. Finally, pull the 7 from the one’s column and put it in the one’s column of your answer. Hence you have 297. You will find you can do these steps very rapidly in your head and that it can help in practical situations.

Now you try one: 34 x 11. How about 43 x 11? Try doing it in your head, then check your answer with a calculator.

Secrets of Mental Math, by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer is a wonderful book about math you can do quickly in your head with a few tricks. It goes far beyond the 11’s tables, and far beyond multiplication. You can check it out at most libraries and it is easy to read. I highly recommend this book!