Monday, September 23, 2013

Measuring in Snickers

Have you ever measured in Snickers?

Young children, generally preschoolers, often learn to measure in non-standard (inconsistent) measurements before they measure in standard (consistent) measurements. Non-standard units might be blocks or perhaps toy cars.

Why not Snickers?

Seeing a little learner build a tower of blocks, a not-so-little learner remembered an extra Snickers bar in the cabinet.

"We could measure the tower of blocks with the Snickers!"


Now EVERYONE was engaged!

Yes, we could.

Within seconds we discovered the little learner's tower was two Snickers tall.

Soon we were measuring the lengths of books and tables, and then the height of the kitchen counter.

"The book is three Snickers long. The table is 15 Snickers long."

"Five books would be as long as the table."

Math was fun!

Drawing visual representations helped conceptualize the measurement.

Before too long, a not-so-little learner asked the question I knew would surface eventually.

"How long is the Snickers?"

Get the ruler.

End-to-end, not including the wrapper, the Snickers measured in at just a one-sixteenth short of four inches.

Wonderful. Now for a discussion on "approximate length", followed by the conclusion drawn by one little learner.

"If the Snickers is four inches long, then the block tower is eight inches tall!"


We understand. 

I realized our Snickers would be a great motivator for learning our "fours" (multiplication tables). Again, an object of interest (the Snickers bar) was the perfect motivation for learning. Boy, did we learn those facts quickly...not soon to be forgotten either!

1 Snickers bar is 4 inches long                                            1x4=4
2 Snickers bars is 8 inches long                                          2x4=8
3 Snickers bars is 12 inches long (yes, one foot!)                3x4=12
4 Snickers bars is 16 inches long                                        4x4=16

and so on...

Our last Snickers measuring experience involved dividing the bar up evenly. Since we found the Snickers to be four inches long and there were four people with whom to divide the treat, it was easy to figure each person would receive one inch of Snickers (and let me tell you, this part of the measurement was deemed the most accurate of the day since everyone wanted to make sure the bar was divided evenly). But what if the bar needed to be divided into five parts, or even six? That take division to the remainder level! We didn't have to go there.

Several important lessons were learned:

  • Visual pictures or representations help visual learners create a mental picture of a specific unit of measure; in our case the approximate length of four inches. I have found this helpful in my children as well as children I have tutored. Later when estimation becomes a necessary life skill, the visual representation will have created the immediate association. For example, my children "know" the approximate area of one square inch because they know a small square cheese cracker (picture Cheez-It) is approximately one square inch.
  • If you don't have a ruler or yard stick (standard unit of measure), be resourceful and use what you have (a string, a foot, an arm's length).
  • One concept can be used to learn another.

Now for another curious question raised by a curious learner.

If a Snickers bar is 4 inches long, is a Milky Way the same length?

Guess we need to find out!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Skittles Math

Skittles, 49 cents at the local Walgreens.

Breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. Mom has a surprise!

Bag opens. Mom pulls out five small bags of .....SKITTLES

Time for Skittle math. 

First we sorted the colors. The littlest learners loved this!

We counted.

Then we used mom's circle cutter to cut out construction paper circles in corresponding colors.

Then we graphed the colors. 

Oh no! Problem!

13 circles don't fit on the paper.

One learner's solution: 
one circle = 2 Skittles
1/2 circle = 1 Skittle

Problem solved!

Counted and graphed.

We discovered of the five bags of Skittles we opened (each child had their own bag), two bags contained 61 Skittles and three bags contained 62 Skittles. I asked the children to look at the weights on the bags. Same weights. Interesting. 

Could a machine deposit Skittles in each bag according to weight? 

Great question asked by one learner. Others agreed this must be the case. 

One learner added Skittles of two different colors. 

Two-digit addition. Visual representation.

One learner decided to represent each color as a fraction of the whole bag. 

Each learner used their empty package to create a unique cover to their Skittles Math book. 

Problem solving


Measurement: My Newest Math Resource

My children are excited about Measurement, the second book in my Month of Math series.

I think your children will be, too! 


Candy bars measure length. Rice compares quantity. Square cheese crackers teach area. 
Bicycles peddle miles. 

Measurement is real, part of life. Not a concept stuck on a page, obscure. 

The activities in this book were enjoyed in our home with objects and items we encountered every day.

We measured, drew visual representations, discovered, walked perimeters. 

Now, we understand!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Creating High School Photography

Doesn't matter the subject, learning happens naturally, everyday.

A year ago, our daughter became increasingly interested in photography. A real interest. One she thought about every day. One she spent time researching, and then talking through her ideas. Home educating, I knew we had the freedom to explore her interest as part of our day, every day, if she desired. And she did!

Though I enjoy photography and have a "creative" bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would be included in a photography course. So, when she asked me what areas I thought would be included in a photography course, I joined in the learning. Together, my daughter and I researched possible content, brainstormed life experiences which could cultivate and refine her craft, and dove into photography contests she could enter. She thought she would like to upgrade her camera. She researched pros and cons of brands and features. Her interest drove the learning, I simply learned alongside. 

She wanted a road map, so to speak, of things she could study. As we brainstormed, we researched and wrote down these topics:

My daughter began her study of photography independently in ares of personal interest. We found safe online tutorials she could access (most camera companies offer tutorials and resources). Eventually she did enroll in an on-line high school course.

Finding a helpful "book" resource was difficult due to the nature of some of the specialty photography topics. At a used book store we did find Digital Photography Master Class, a DK hardcover publication. As a reminder, be sure to look through resources careful. Family guidelines vary. *

She became curious about pursuing further learning as well as potential career options in photography. Daytona State College offers these descriptions of their courses which helped understand the depth and scope of post-secondary study. Job shadowing a photographer or interning as a photographer's assistant at a wedding or larger event was a definite possibility. Of course, there are always the options of writing a research paper, reading a biography, making a pinhole camera, setting up a darkroom, and experimenting with mounting techniques. Perhaps the best education is the hands-on practice of taking, critiquing, and editing photos. We found on-line editing programs. The one we like best was Pixlr which didn't have to be downloaded to the computer. She also began compiling a portfolio of prints should she be asked to provide examples of her work. Practice is essential. Creating a yearbook for a co-op or working with a blogger to communicate content visually would be two wonderful ways to gain practical experience.

How could we communicate all she had learned and experienced to college admissions or perhaps a perspective client? Reading through sample course titles and descriptions on-line, I was able to write a concise course description of her work. Wow, to see on paper what she had accomplished. It was rewarding for her as well as confirming for me. She learned and understood foundational aspects of photography.

A curiosity revealed an interest, a catalyst for learning.

*The information in this blog is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are the overseers of their child's home education.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beaches and Tide Pools

Just getting home from a few days at the beach; watching tides go in and out.

Perfect time to expand on sea life we observed, salt we tasted, and shells we collected.

I remembered a resource I bought a few years prior. Sure enough the resource included a seashore mini-book. I printed one for each child.

Easy Make & Learn Projects: Animal Habitats | Main photo (Cover)

Working on our mini-books, the little learners wanted to know exactly what the shells and sea creatures looked like. They want to make sure they colored the organisms the proper color (well, some did!)

To answer their questions, we headed to our home library and found our shell field guide, actually two. Didn't realize we had two! The children and I reviewed how to use an index which enabled the little learners to independently look up the information they needed. Each found desired information and helped one another, excited about the uniqueness of each specimen. One of the field guides included maps, leading to geography discussions and dreams of one day finding "rare" shells we had never seen before. The conversation led to naming continents and oceans, all in an effort to find the most unique shells. Bonus!

One of the learners remembered seeing the tide move in during one of the beach walks. That revelation led to a discussion about tides, when they occur and why.

We talked about several of the shells and fish we found left behind when the tide moved out. We located and watched several online videos about tide pools.

After a few days our shell collection began to smell. We hypothesized about what might be happening. Laying out our shells, we made a discovery. Some of the shells had been alive when they were placed in the sand bucket. Finding a closed shell, one little learner asked if we could pry open the shell and take a look inside. EEEWWW! Impromptu dissection.

Often the best learning lessons are those we stumble upon! Other times they are the times we look, discover, and wonder together. This week has brought us a bit of both, and then some!