# The Blog

## 5 Common Math Myths

An important part of reforming our societal views about math is dispelling some common misconceptions about the subject.  There are several myths about math in our society that discourage people from being engaged in and enthusiastic about math.  People often think that only certain people can be good at math, that speed is indicative of ability, and that you don’t need math in “real life”.

5 Common Math Myths:

1. The Math Gene Myth: Some people are born “good” at math

TRUTH: This common misconception that, “I’m just not a math person”, is a harmful one.  Success and ability in math is malleable, not fixed.  Anyone can be good at math with practice in a supportive learning environment.

1. The Myth That You Don’t Need Math: You don’t need to learn math to be successful—unless you are going to be an aerospace engineer

TRUTH: Everyone needs math and uses math.  Math helps you to navigate through everyday life successfully.  Each of us would be hard-pressed to think of a day that we didn’t use math.  Some examples of everyday math are: going shopping, cooking, driving, telling time, estimating, etc.

1. The Drill and Repeat Myth: Drill and repetition make you better at math

TRUTH: New learning does not occur as a result of repetition and drilling (flashcards, worksheets, etc).  These methods of drilling often result in negative math attitudes and disengagement with the subject.  These methods encourage memorization, which is not indicative of skill/conceptual knowledge (see #5).

1. The “Right Way” Myth: There is only one way to solve a problem

TRUTH: There are multiple ways to solve problems based on people’s individual problem-solving skills and learning styles.  The important part of math is arriving at the correct solution–  not how you get there.

1. The Memory and Speed Myth: Math is about memorization and speed

TRUTH:  Speed is not an indicator of concept mastery.  Success in math comes from understanding concepts, not memorization. A good memory is not necessary for mathematic success. Counting on your fingers shows a greater understanding of numbers/arithmetic than memorization.

Help to demystify math by dispelling these myths with your kids and students!

## A Little Math for those Long Summer Car Trips

It’s the summer. You’re driving your kids all over the place—to camp, to sports practices, maybe even on vacation. Besides being forced to listen to One Direction’s latest hit single on repeat, what can you do with all that time in the car? Better yet, what can you do to help improve your child’s education?

1. Add the numbers on license plates together. This is a quick activity your kids can have fun doing by themselves, and it’s easy enough. It’s sort of like spotting license plates from different states, only better. And if your kids are really good, you can challenge them to subtract the numbers and get into negatives. This will improve their mental math skills and hopefully keep One Direction off the radio.
1. Estimate arrival times by mileage. Put away the GPS for this one! If you’re driving and you see a road sign with the number of miles to your destination, try to turn it into a word problem. “If we’re traveling an average of 65 miles per hour and grandma’s house is 100 miles away, about how much longer will it take for us to arrive?” We promise you’ll never hear “are you there yet?” while doing this exercise.
1. Determine the number of times the car wheels turn. This one’s a little tricky, but it can be a lot of fun for your kids to figure out. Pose a question like “When we’re traveling 65 miles per hour, how many times will the wheel rotate in one minute?” It’s challenging, but you can coach your kids along. They’ll begin to understand things like surface area and circumference in no time.
1. Have your child figure out how much your trip will cost. If your car gets 25 miles per gallon, you’re traveling 120 miles, and gas costs \$2.51 per gallon, how much will it cost to cover the distance. If you have a 13-gallon tank, about how many times will you need to fill up before you get there? (You can let your kids round to easier numbers for simplicity).
1. Estimate how many cars are on the road. A fun and easy activity. Your child will probably be a bit off on the first few tries, but encourage her/him to keep trying. This activity improves number sense and gives kids a sense of scale when it comes to large numbers. This game works best in a traffic jam, though we hope you don’t get into them too often. They’re no fun…

Next time you’re out driving, try one of these activities and let us know how they work. We’ve tried them ourselves, and we think they’re pretty cool.

Have any other good car activities? We’d love to hear them! Comment below, on our Facebook page, or Tweet at us to share your idea. If you do, we’ll post them, and we’ll even send you a free Kids in Math Poster.

## Visit Us at the Second Annual Denver Mini Maker Faire!

Are you an inventor, a thinker, a maker, or a builder? Do you love to know how things work? Do you look at the things you buy and think, I could build that better?

Then join us this weekend, June 13th and 14th, at Denver’s Mini Maker Faire!

We love games, so we’ll help you build your own custom board game. The whole family can get creative. Maybe we’ll even like your idea so much that we’ll buy it!

Come visit us at Booth number 1519, right near the Human Foosball and right along Montview Blvd. Other booths near us include the Denver Public Library’s Toy Hack, the Mackintosh Academy, and Maker Shop Fun. Come see us all!

What else can you see at the faire? Well, there’s the TrotBot, the mini-van-sized walking mechanism. Then there’s Ed VanDyne’s Mythic Creatures exhibit, which includes a ten-foot-tall kraken, a griffin statue, and a 17-foot-long dragon! Oh, and there will be a 3-D printed guitar. Too cool!

We’ll be around on the 13th and 14th, so come see us.

## The Not-So-Odd Couple: Math and Play

Math and play. Many people seem to think that they go together like oil and water—which is to say, not at all.

But that’s simply not true. In fact, according to a recent educational article written by Professors Douglas H. Clements and Julie Sarama of the University of Denver, math and play go together like peanut butter and jelly.

This article, entitled “Play, Mathematics, and False Dichotomies,” explores the ways in which children naturally use math while playing. For example, did you know that children “engage in mathematical thinking at least once in almost half of each minute of play”?

We’ll give you a personal example. Our CEO and Founder Debra Hansen was out walking at Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the most recognizable outdoor music venues in Denver. Even when there’s no concert going on, you’ll see hundreds of people walking the 400 stairs from the bottom of the road to the top of the plaza.

While walking at the amphitheater, Debra met a 2-year-old boy named Everett and his dad. There are lots of parent/kid combos at Red Rocks, but Everett was not just walking with his dad—he was mathing with his dad. And that was special.

Everett jumped from one step to the next counting, “One, Two, Two, Two, Two…”

His dad said, “There sure seem to be a lot of two steps. Are there any other numbers you know?”

Everett stopped to think, then resumed his routine, this time saying, “One, Two, Three, Seven…”

His dad encouraged this expansion of the number series despite the incorrect use of 7 after 3. He then joined Everett in counting and jumping at the next set of stairs, this time saying the numbers in the right order. Without missing a step, Everett assumed the correct sequence of numbers.

As you’ve probably already gathered, Everett combined math and play without even knowing it. But the lesson for parents is what Everett’s dad did: he worked with his son, even for just a few minutes, to improve Everett’s math skills.

So how can you do the same?

First, always take the time to engage your child in learning. Everett’s dad noticed that he was playing with numbers and took the opportunity, no matter how small, to engage his son in some math play. When interaction in math is as comfortable as interactions with words, kids develop a thriving desire to learn more.

Second, always stay positive (even if you’re talking about negative numbers). When Everett’s dad asked his son if he knew any other numbers, he didn’t say that anything was wrong. When kids are learning math, we tend to point out what’s wrong rather than what’s right. For some kids, hearing too many negatives can be discouraging.

Third, you should always join your child in the activity whenever possible. Just like Everett’s dad, you’ll send the message to your child that both math and him/her are so much fun that you can’t resist joining them. Those are both positive messages, and ones that are sorely lacking from a lot of today’s math teaching.

Last but certainly not least, did you notice how short that exchange was? In real time, it was less than 3 minutes, yet Everett benefitted from it so much. Math does not need to be stressful or tedious. No parent has the time to put together a daily program of intense math work, and that’s okay. You shouldn’t do that. You should do what Everett’s dad did and take the opportunities when they arise. And trust us—they will.

This is just the beginning of what you can do to have MathFun with your kids, though. For more information, sign up here for our Parents & Preschoolers in the Parks Summer Workshops. We’ll give you practical advice on how to help your kids improve at math. You don’t need worksheets or expensive materials. All you need is knowledge—and you’ll get it here!

## How to Stop the Summer Slide: The Family Fun Junk Box

In our last blog, we tried to scare you with the big bad Summer Slide.

Just kidding, of course. We hope that we gave you some helpful information. Neither you nor us want your kids to lose thirty percent of what they learned during the school year. We touched on a few activities you can try to keep your kids off the summer slide, but what if you want a little more detail?

Well, here you go!

For this activity, you don’t need to spend all your money. You don’t need anything fancy. All you need is a box and some junk.

Take a look around your house. You probably have loose papers lying around, straws in the cupboard, your favorite mixtape CD that has since been copied onto your iPod. Whatever you have, throw into your child’s Family Fun Junk Box—the more unlikely, the better. Make sure these are things that you won’t miss, because you won’t be getting them back. For this project, your kids will tear, crunch, and twist anything in their box into something new.

Here are some key materials you’ll want to include:

Connectors. Can’t build without ‘em. Glue and tape will probably be the go-to materials, but encourage your child to get creative. Try rubber bands, hair ties, or string. If they’re a little older, you can even give them super glue, pipe cleaners, or real scissors. Safety first, of course.

Structural Components. These will be the bones of your child’s master creation. Popsicle sticks, chopsticks, straws, and cardboard work perfectly for this purpose. Have fun with odd shapes, too, like Lifesavers or balls. These can lead to some really wacky creations.

Flexible Materials. These are easy—paper, plastic, yarn, and even an old shirt can be a whole lot of fun (as long as it doesn’t smell). These materials challenge your kids to work with what they have. No directions here, folks.

Tools. You can’t break cement without a jackhammer, right? The same goes for your child’s box. Of course, we don’t recommend giving power tools to six years olds, but you get the idea. Kid-safe scissors and a ruler are a better place to start. For the older kids, you might even throw in a protractor or a compass. Save the jackhammers for construction workers.

And don’t forget just plain weird stuff. You’ve been wondering when you would ever use that third grade participation trophy you’ve been hanging on to. Now’s your chance. Anything that just seems useless belongs in the box. Spools, loose change, old computer parts…anything!

While assembling the box, make sure your kids are involved. This is part of the creativity component, and it’s quality time to spend with your kids. What would be the most fun materials to work with? What would be most challenging?

Once you make the box, let your kids create! There’s only one rule: they can do anything to anything in the box. For you, the rest is mostly hands-off. Check in every few weeks to see what they’ve created, but for the most part, you’ll want to let your kids work independently.

What’s so awesome about the Family Fun Junk Box? Where do we begin?

• It builds creativity, and creativity is vital to problem solving.
• It builds critical thinking skills, a Common Core principle.
• Kids of any age will enjoy it.
• This is an awesome form of upcycling.
• Schools often posit that there is one right answer. But in life, we know there can be more than one good answer. The Family Fun Junk Box gives kids the freedom to explore all those good answers and more.
• It’s perfect for kids who aren’t good readers because there are no written directions involved. However, if you still want to add a literacy component, let your kids write their own creations.
• It builds perseverance, which is an invaluable trait for any good learner. Kids need to learn that mastery comes from years of trial and error. Furthermore, nothing is given to your kids in this exercise besides random materials. It’s up to them to shape those materials into something great.

When your child’s creation is finished, send us a picture! We’d love to share it with our fans on Facebook!

Have fun out there!

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/2014/01/how-to-create-an-upcycled-building-box-for-hours-of-open-ended-play.html

http://www.housingaforest.com/the-invention-box/

## What You Can Do To Keep Your Kids Off the Summer Slide

Twenty percent. That’s how much learning your child can lose over just one summer. Will that be the 2 months your 4th grader spent learning fractions? Or how about the time they’ve spent learning to multiply or divide?

It’s a little scary to think that all the hard work that went into the school year can just slide away. Furthermore, if your child loses thirty percent of each year, think of how hard he/she will have to work to recover from three months off. It’s a tough predicament.

Don’t believe us? A recent study from the National Summer Learning Association concluded the following: “A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year…. It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do—and it doesn’t have to be a drag, either. Summers are for fun, and that’s why we have some fun solutions for you and your child to work on together.

Reading is one of the best ways to prevent the summer slide. Unlike video games and movies, books require kids to imagine what’s on the page, and they require active attention for more than just a few hours. Furthermore, books expand vocabularies and introduce all sorts of interesting new ideas that readers might never have thought of.

But what if your kids don’t want to read? There are a few things you can do. For example, read to them. Even high schoolers enjoy being read to! Share your favorite book with them. If you’re feeling brave, you can ever try doing different voices for different characters, but this isn’t essential. If you sound kind of silly (you probably will), then you can all share a laugh together.

Still need a way to motivate your kids? Make it into a competition. Kids love contests, and they especially love winning, so this might be one of those instances where you let your young reader prevail. The prize can be choosing the dinner menu or skipping a chore.

2. Play some games

Remember the whole competition thing? Games are perfect for it.

Depending on the game, it also allows your kids to work on their math skills. Monopoly and Life come to mind, but there are plenty of card games that can do the same, such as Uno and Crazy Eights. We even have a game (Who’s Counting) that’s perfect for math facts, and it’s loads of fun for the whole family!

Whatever game you play, it can be fun and a great way to spend time with your kids. Plus, pretty much every game improves a child’s procedural memory, which is very important to learning math and science. For example, when a child works on a complex formula in science class, they must oftentimes follow a very specific procedure to solve the problem. Without procedural memory, things can get tough quick.

3. Encourage your kids to be creative

This might be the best way to prevent the summer slide. Creativity requires brainpower, and pretty much all kids are creative when they put their minds to it. The thing is, if they’re just sitting around doing nothing all summer, they won’t get creative. Don’t let it happen!

Encourage your kids to build, write, think, act, sing, dance, and create. Put together a box of materials for project creation. Then, stand back and let them play. They can do this at home, or they can do it at a summer camp. Try to help them out any way they need. You can even take part in the fun, if you’re feeling adventurous.

In conclusion…

We’ll be doing these things and more at our STEMazing Summer Camps this summer. Kids learn best when they’re having fun, which is why fun is the main ingredient in our camps. Dr. Fun and her team make learning a blast. How small would you need to be to fit inside a plastic ball? How can children get their peers to equilibrium? What’s the best way to make electric play dough?

Sign your child up now and beat the summer slide!

## The 7 Steps to Relieving Math Anxiety

We’ve seen it all.

We’ve seen a 3rd grade math teacher who couldn’t play our game because she didn’t know her 3rd grade-level math facts. We’ve seen a 2nd grade girl who had nothing but success in her early years, then received low standardized test scores and subsequently decided that she hated math. We’ve seen an 11 year-old who didn’t even want to try our games because she didn’t think she was good at math. We’ve seen it all.

But we’ve also seen average students drastically improve their math skills after just an hour of Who’s Counting. We’ve seen these students suddenly forget their bitter hatred for math and just have fun.

So what’s the difference between the students who excel and the students who fall behind? Why do some students willingly sign up for the “I can’t math” club? It’s almost always because of math anxiety.

But what is math anxiety? Plain and simple, it’s a documented phenomenon in which people experience stress and negativity when encountering math. It’s often brought on by negative math experiences. Math anxiety triggers the fight or flight response in sufferers, which effectively shuts off the math center. The effect can be paralyzing.

This summer, we’re offering a camp for reducing math anxiety and eliminating math negativity. It’s called NoMo Math Anxiety.

What do we do at this camp? Here’s a preview.

1. We teach mindfulness techniques. Countless studies have shown the benefits of these exercises. Mindfulness is a self-regulation strategy that significantly reduces math anxiety and improves confidence.
1. We make it safe to be wrong. A great deal of math anxiety is caused by a simple fear of failure. Nobody wants to be wrong, especially in front of her or his peers. If students think they’re wrong enough times, they might quit trying altogether. In our camp, we foster a positive environment where campers are encouraged to keep trying until they get it. After all, no one would have any success without mistakes!
1. The winners are the ones who try—not necessarily the fastest. There’s a common misconception regarding math and speed. We don’t buy it. Math is not a speed sport. Speed gets attention at an elementary level (both in education and the literal sense of the word), but it doesn’t mean much as kids get older and math gets more complex.
1. Of course, we work on skills. Some young learners think that they don’t need to work on math because they’ll never have math careers. While this might be true for some, everyone needs math and everyone can math. Plus, once campers see how much they’re improving, their math anxiety is lost amid the fun of math.
1. We use movement. Ever heard of Total Physical Response? It’s a theory that states humans learn skills better when they have a movement to go with the concept. So when we practice our math facts, we dance, we run, and we jump. Trust us. It’s a blast!
1. We use music. Just as there are many different styles of teaching, there are many different types of learners. Some students, for example, just can’t sit at a desk and listen to a teacher talk for 40 minutes. Music often connects with these kids on a much more artistic level; it allowed them to use the creative parts of their minds as well as the analytical. Furthermore, they have something to associate the concepts with, similar to Total Physical Response. And who doesn’t like music?
1. We have fun! None of our camps or workshops would be complete without this very necessary component. A lot of math anxiety comes from dry, difficult math problems that don’t leave any room for laughter and mistakes. Not at our math camp, bub.

We’d love to show your young learner the fun side of math. If you think she/he would be a good candidate for our NoMo Math Anxiety camp, sign up here today! We hope to see you and your child soon!

Questions? Give us a call at 720-837-9505 for answers.

## Why Don’t Students Stick with STEM?

What do Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, Steve Jobs, Kate Okikiolu, and Pythagoras all have in common? They worked in STEM fields!

In most American minds, there’s little question that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) are essential subjects of study. These are the fields that produce people like those mentioned above, the fields wherein we will discover the cure for cancer and the secrets of the universe.

And yet, we’re struggling to keep college students in STEM fields. Why is that?

recent Consumer Reports article highlights the issue in detail. According to the article, RTI International did a study on college students with STEM majors, tracking which students were sticking with their field of study. The results were pretty alarming.

“While nearly a quarter of high performing students who began pursuing a bachelor’s degree between 2003 and 2009 declared a STEM major, nearly a third of these students had transferred out of STEM fields by spring 2009.”

You don’t need a college degree to know that that’s bad news.

The authors of the study formulated a number of hypotheses as to why students are quitting their majors, but one in particular caught our attention.

“The authors believe the high degree of STEM attrition is due to the fact that the students didn’t have a sufficient STEM background when they entered college. Missing the opportunity to build early momentum in STEM coursework, they say, may lead students to abandon pursuing a STEM degree later on.”

So what’s missing for these kids when they’re young? Here’s our hypothesis: they’re not having enough fun!

Contrary to what some might think, kids don’t naturally hate science, technology, engineering, and math. What kids really hate are exams, boring textbooks, and poorly-constructed word problems, all of which seem to come up time and again in STEM. They don’t need to, though. Kids respond much better to STEM when they’re shown how fun these subjects can really be.

Here’s an example: in our simple machines workshop, we don’t give kids worksheets, word problems, or tests. Instead, we pretend to be ancient people at the dawn of civilization. We pretend to stand around a fire, and we pose pertinent questions to the group. If we want to survive, don’t we need to eat? What tools can we use to hunt? Once we’ve gotten our meat, how do we split it amongst ourselves? Thinking critically about the hardships early peoples faced helps kids understand what motivated those people to invent simple machines.

And the best part? These workshops are fun!

Help keep your kids in STEM. They’ll thank you for it later.

If you’d like to learn more about preparing your children for school, check out our Parents and Preschoolers in the Park workshop series this summer. Located in various beautiful parks throughout the Denver Metro area, we’ll teach you how to work on STEM with your kids now so they can be ready for the future. We’ll see you then!

## Worst Idea Ever: A World Without Teachers

By Kyle Massa, TPR’s Web Content Manager

Imagine a world without teachers. I’ll tell you right now—it’s not so hot.

In this world without teachers, if you ask anyone what one plus one equals, they’ll ask you what the words “one,” “plus,” and “equals” are supposed to mean. If you correct someone for using an incorrect tense, you might get burned at the stake for being a witch. And if you ever have a chat about the Theory of Relativity, you’ll be countered with the Theory of I-Don’t-Know-What-A-Theory-Is.

Sounds like a pretty rough world to live in…

Thankfully, we live in a world with lots of teachers. Phew! They’re working tirelessly each and every day to make the future brighter for students everywhere. But what exactly makes teachers so great? Here are just a few of the many reasons.

Teachers do way more than teach. Here’s a brief list of jobs teachers have every day: coordinator, manager, organizer, mediator, psychologist, nurse, mentor…and the list goes on. Even Superman would get a little stressed out by all that work (that’s why he sticks to journalism). After all, when you’re a teacher, you’re never just a teacher.

And when you factor in how much time teachers spend at work, you begin to realize what a tough job they have. Do you remember the best teachers you had in school? They were the teachers who arrived early to prepare for the day, stayed late preparing for the next day, and had about an hour-long break in between. They were probably also the teachers who coached on the side, or directed school plays, or ran after school clubs, too. Weren’t those the teachers that made the biggest difference in your life?

Teachers are some of the most talented people around. “Those who can’t do, teach.” I don’t know where that phrase came from, but it’s about as accurate as a weekend weather forecast (which, by the way, we wouldn’t even have without teachers). Do teachers settle for teaching because they couldn’t make it at something better? Absolutely not! The majority of teachers teach because they’re selfless, passionate people. They work hard to improve others and themselves because, despite popular opinion, teaching does not just come naturally. It’s a skill, and just like any skill, teaching requires dedication, hard work, and practice.

Teachers inspire the kids they work with. It’s amazing what a little positive encouragement can do for a young learner. Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer. I was always writing stories, making comic books, and wondering what I could write next. I never shared my work, though, because I never thought anyone else would care.

But when I met the right teacher, all that changed.

In first grade, I submitted a piece of creative writing to my teacher, Mrs. S. However, I wasn’t in creative writing class. The assignment was to write a journal entry about what I’d done over the weekend. I decided to interpret those directions rather loosely.

I ended up submitting a pretty outlandish piece in which I discovered a cryptic letter from the former occupants of my house, encountered a creepy doll in my basement, and was appointed to go on a magical quest. Whatever I handed in, I’m sure it wasn’t a journal entry.

Though Mrs. S asked me to try the assignment again (this time following the directions), she took me aside and told me how much she liked the story. She thought it was very creative, and she said she wanted to read more.

After that day, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I said, “I want to be a writer.”

Let’s celebrate our teachers. We want to hear your best stories about your favorite educators! You can post them directly on our Facebook page. Feel free to hashtag your post with #teacherappreciationweek. We’ll give out prizes for our favorite stories!

We want to hear about the time your teacher helped you to finally solve that tricky math problem, the time your teacher made you realize what you wanted to do with your future, the time your teacher inspired you to be more than what you thought you could be. We want to hear those amazing stories about those amazing educators!

And to every teacher out there, thank you for everything that you do. You make such an enormous difference in so many young lives, and no amount of praise will ever quite be enough for what you’ve give.

Thank you so much, Mrs. S!