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Tips for Teaching Math: The Coordinate Grid


One of the concepts that any math student must master if they hope to succeed in algebra or other advanced math courses is the coordinate grid.  If you are looking to help your child learn about this concept, you should simply invest in some graphing paper and a pencil.coordinate grid

First, have your child fold a sheet of graphing paper in half lengthwise.  Then, fold it again along the width of the paper.  When you open the sheet up, you should have two folds forming what looks roughly like the four different directions of a directional compass with the lines all intersecting roughly at the center of the paper.  Explain to your child that you are going on a journey and this is the origin point.  Its value is zero (o).  Then show them that everything heading from the right or left of this point is traveling along the folded line called the x-axis.  If the point is to the right (in the easterly direction of the compass), then the value of x is positive.  If the point is to the left (in the westerly direction of the compass), then the value of x is negative.  So if you move five squares to the right the value of x is 5 but if you move eight squares to the left the value of x is -8.

Then explain to your child that the vertical folded line is called the y-axis.  Any number above the origin (in the northerly direction) is positive while anything below the origin (in the southerly direction) is negative.  Therefore, a point that is six squares above the origin has a y value of 6.  However, a point that is 4 squares below the origin has a y value of -4.

Now, you should point out to your child that points on a coordinate grid are expressed by writing two numbers in parentheses separated by a comma like this:  (5, -8).  This means that the x value is 5 and the y value is -8.  In order to plot this on the same piece of graph paper, the child would move five spaces to the right of the origin point and then eight spaces down.

The idea here is to have your child practice this by plotting a variety of points until it almost becomes second nature to him or her.  After that, it is easy to find activities online such as fun math games to help reinforce these skills.  These games give your child the extra bit of practice to make them more comfortable with the concept so that it becomes ingrained.

The coordinate grid may sound like “scary” math but it doesn’t have to be.  It is actually a quite easy concept that visual and kinesthetic learners can easily pick up with some simple materials and great resources.

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Tips for Teaching Fractions


There are a variety of instructional shortcuts and tips to help teachers and parents; however, when it comes to teaching fractions, many just don’t hit the mark. Teaching and learning fractions takes focus, time and rigor. That said, to get through to students, you have to capture and maintain their attention to have any chance at success.

Building Conceptual Knowledge

When teaching math, it’s important to show how the subject relates to a child’s world. By using numbers in context, you can help a child make sense of what he or she is seeing. Without understanding the meaning of numbers, it can be difficult for children to properly employ problem solving strategies.

fractionsWhen dealing with fractions, the best way to provide conceptual knowledge is to draw on a child’s experience. Unfortunately, because they are so young, kids have limited experience. Still, you can use plenty of familiar, everyday concepts to make fractions seem less daunting.

  • Use Common Toys – One of the most popular toys for young children, Legos provide teachers and parents with an excellent way to explain fractions. Using 8-peg, 6-peg, 4-peg, 2-peg and 1-peg blocks, you can easily explain how fractions work in a visual way, using learning tools that seem familiar and less daunting.
  • Use Recipes – Cooking provides an excellent way to teach children about fractions. Since each ingredient requires fractions of cups, ounces, teaspoons and tablespoons, you’re able to clearly show how fractions work in real life.
  • Shopping - This is a great way for parents to show the value of knowing fractions. By having children determine sale prices versus everyday prices based on percentages, you can give them the chance to use what they’ve learned outside the classroom.
  • Food – Nothing is more familiar to a child than his or her favorite food. Pizza is ideal for teaching fractions; however, you can use just about any food as long as you have a knife.
  • Games – When it comes to capturing a child’s attention, nothing comes close to computer games. These days, modern kids are obsessed with technology; so much so, parents often find themselves forcing their kids to go outside and play. In reality, however, you can take advantage of this interest by using math-based games to teach fractions. Besides creating interest in the subject, Mathnook’s online games provide challenging problems that require serious thought. Still, children remain focused on the task, because solving each problem gives them the chance to rack up points, defeat competitors or advance to new levels.

Practical Classroom Skills

Obviously, at some point kids have to learn and accept basic classroom strategies for solving math problems. Still, by providing conceptual knowledge, you’re able to attain and hold their attention, so they’ll be more receptive to what they’re hearing. Likewise, by using food, toys and games, you can give them the opportunity to use their classroom skills outside of school. By encouraging children to employ math in this manner, they become practiced, while developing a greater sense of math’s importance in the real world.

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Famous Female Mathematicians


Girls and MathIt is a well-established fact that the future of careers in this country will come largely from those in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field.  But, unfortunately, females are finding themselves shut out of these careers because of the stereotype that young girls don’t “do” math.  Because of the gender based stereotype that girls are more emotional than boys, they are often pushed into more “artsy” fields such as the humanities leaving science and math for their male counterparts.  But this does not have to be the case.  Here are some examples of famous women throughout history who have overcome this stereotype and made a difference in the field of mathematics:

  • Maria Agnesi—This eighteenth century Italian mathematician wrote a book on mathematics to help her struggling brothers with the subject.  It worked since the book eventually became published and was a well-respected text on the subject which earned her a slot as the first woman mathematics chair in Europe.
  • Sophie Germain—Born in the year of the American Revolution, Sophie Germain exemplified the revolutionary ideals with her love of learning.  Because of the discrimination against women in mathematics, Germain had to submit her research under an assumed name.  However, she eventually became the first woman to be recognized by the French Academy of Sciences for her work on elasticity.
  • Hypatia—Perhaps the first recorded female mathematician dates back to the fourth and fifth centuries and is a descendant of the last member of the famous Alexandrian library.  Hypatia was a translator of famous mathematical texts as well as a philosopher and astronomer who was eventually murdered by a mob of Christian zealots.
  • Sofia Kovalevskaya—This nineteenth century Russian mathematician moved to Germany so that she could study privately because she could not formally enter a university program.  However, her work on differential equations and other topics eventually made her the first woman to receive a professorship in mathematics in Europe.
  • Ada Lovelace—Lovelace, the daughter of famous British poet Lord Byron, did not follow in her father’s literary pursuits, but instead followed her own path into mathematics, eventually working on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine writing what is known as the world’s first computer program.
  • Amelie Emmy Noether—No less an expert than Albert Einstein praised Noether as “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” (Quote source from Einstein:  Noether not only had to overcome her role as a female in a male dominated field, but she also had to overcome the prejudice associated with her Jewish heritage.  She eventually developed the foundations that Einstein would build on for his theory of relativity.

These pioneering women paved the way for the girls of today who are interested in mathematics and science and who wish to expand on their earlier work.  Math does not need to still be an “old boys club.”  It can indeed be open to all.

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Make Math More Fun – Mathnook Tutorial Videos



Math tutorials videosMathnook has long been the leader in assisting students in learning to love mathematics.  They have created a wonderful website with a plethora of online video games that make math more fun for young minds to explore.  These games run the gamut from basic computations and measurements to more elaborate skills such as geometry and algebra.  But what if you need help with the games and skills themselves?

Mathnook has a Youtube channel which can be found at  This channel includes tutorials for almost every game on the website which can help your child if they need help with a specific game.  For instance, a game like Math Balloons Decimals Game features a nine minute long instructional video which shows all of the features and options on the game, the end goal of the game, and how to perform the mathematical concept that is at the core of this particular game, in this case, decimals.  No matter what skill level your child is, he or she can be successful with these math games            When you visit Mathnook, you will find a series of fun video games that are designed to cover a variety of topics that are taught in the school system throughout the year.  Just the overall topics, which are organized at the top of the screen, include the following skills:
  • Addition
  • Algebra
  • Comparison
  • Coordinate Grid
  • Counting
  • Decimal
  • Division
  • Estimation
  • Even/Odd Numbers
  • Factors
  • Fractions
  • Geometry
  • Integers
  • Math Vocabulary
  • Measurements
  • Money
  • Multiplication
  • Number Order
  • Order of Operation
  • Patterns
  • Place value
  • Prime/Composite Numbers
  • Rounding
  • Sequence
  • Subtraction
  • Time

These skills represent the bulk of what a student is expected to learn in mathematics from pre-K all the way up to early high school.  And no one can deny the importance of mathematics in the current curriculum.  With a greater emphasis being placed on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) courses, students are having even more stress put on them to excel in these courses.  Many of the higher paying jobs of the future will require a background in one or more of these fields.  That is why it is important to give your child a leg up now while they are still at the impressionable state.  Since math skills build on each other, learning and mastering each one is of vital importance and these tutorial videos and games are a great way to do this while still keeping the learning process fun and informative.

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For quite some time now, has been a leader in providing free online math games for students to help enhance and support their mathematics education.  Now, the popular website is introducing a contest to promote customer appreciation.  Parents and teachers are encouraged to log-in and enter their school for a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card.  This contest will run through January with one deserving school being selected as the winner.

Gift card

The contest is easy to enter.  Simply log-in to Facebook and visit Mathnook’s Facebook page.  Like the page and then fill in the information for your school (or your child’s school) to be entered to win the gift card.  It’s that simple.  The winner will be chosen at random and announced in mid-January.  With the money won, teachers can help supplement their dwindling budgets by purchasing whatever they need for the classroom, be it supplies, books, or reproducibles. was founded several years ago by the husband and wife team of Jan and Tommy Hall.  They combined their experience in education and computer programming to put together this popular website which has become a full-time project for both of them.  It features video games that cover a variety of skills and standards in mathematics from basic level work like counting and measurements to more advanced work like algebra and geometry.  By creating video games that help students master these skills, the Halls have helped both students who are struggling to improve their grades in math and teachers who are looking for new ideas to help in the classroom.  Teachers are encouraged to use this site to help students who are struggling, to reinforce those who are meeting the standards, or to offer advanced work and differentiation for those students who are advancing beyond their peers.  And, besides being a great educational tool, Mathnook emphasizes that math can be fun by providing engaging games that help to make kids see the fun side of what many unfortunately have written off as a boring subject.

So if you are a parent or teacher who is already familiar with Mathnook, then you know how great a program it is.  If not, be sure to check it out and help your child or students with their math work and skills.  Either way, stop by the Mathnook Facebook page and be sure to sign up for the contest giveaway so that you can get a shot at a $200 gift card to Amazon for your deserving school.

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This is a blog about Math Nook, math games, math and other fun and educational subjects.
Math Nook is owned by Jan and Tommy Hall.

Jan is retired from education where she spent 30 years in various positions ranging from classroom teacher to math specialist. She now spends her time working on the website and raising MathPup.

Tommy works full time but spends his free time utilizing his math degree and love of games to create some of the math games found on the website.