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Using Mnemonic Techniques

In my college class entitled Conquering College, we have been working on ways to remember for tests. Of course, mnemonic devices came up. Mnemonics connect new learning to prior knowledge through the use of visual and/or acoustic cues. Such strategies assist students in remembering and recalling larger pieces of information for tests. Included in mnemonics are acronyms, initialism, acrostics, rhyme, rhythm and song and association in addition to visualization using the loci and peg systems. Let's look at four of these categories.

1) Acronyms - A word formed from the first letters of each one of the words in a phrase.
  • HOMES – The names of the 5 Great Lakes – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior 
  • ROY G. BIV – The colors in a rainbow – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet 
  • SCUBA - When you’re scuba diving, you’re using a “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” 

2) Acrostics – Sentences created from the first letters of key words.
  • Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally – for the order of operations 
Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction 

    **I personally prefer the phrase: Pale Elvis Meets Dracula After School. 
  • My Very Earthly Mother Just Sliced Up Neptune.  – the planets in order from largest to smallest: 
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune 

   **I particularly like this one since Earthly gives you a clue that the third planet is earth and Neptune is listed last. This means you only have to know 6.

Free Resource
3) Rhyme, Rhythm, Song – poems, limericks or silly songs – These work well for auditory learners.
  • I before E, except after C and in sounding like A as in neighbor and weigh.
  • In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
  • Twinkle, twinkle little star; circumference is 2 π r.       (I actually sing this for my students!)

4) Association – finding a common element. The association is usually coincidental.
  • Litmus Paper: Blue = Base – both begin with “B”. 
  • Arteries: Artery = Away – both begin with “A”. 
  • The principal is my PAL. Helps to distinguish from principle. 
  • Affect = Action (a verb) Helps to separate it from effect which is a noun.
These ideas plus many more are in a free resource called Mnemonic Techniques found on Teachers Pay Teachers. All you have to do is download it!

The ROOT of the Problem

When students skip count, they can easily say the 2's, 5's, and 10's which translates into easy memorization of those particular multiplication facts.  Think what would happen if every primary teacher had their students practice skip counting by 3's, 4's, 6's, 7's, 8's and 9's!  We would eradicate the drill and kill of memorizing multiplication and division facts.

Since many of my college students do not know their facts, I gravitate to the Divisibility Rules.  Sadly, most have never seen or heard of them.  I always begin with dividing by 2 since even numbers are understood by almost everyone.  (Never assume a student knows what an even number is as I once had a college student who thought that every digit of a number must be even for the entire number to be even.) We then proceed to the rules for 5 and 10 as most students can skip count by those two numbers.

Finally, we learn about the digital root for 3, 6, and 9. This is a new concept but quickly learned and understood by the majority of my students. (See the definition below).

Here are several examples of finding Digital Root:

1) 123 = 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. Six is the digital root for the number 123. Since 123 is an odd number, it is not divisible by 6. However, it is still divisible by 3.

2) 132 = 1 + 3 + 2 = 6. Six is the digital root for the number 132. Since 132 is an even number, it is divisible by 6 and by 3.

3) 198 = 1+ 9 + 8 = 18 = 1 + 8 = 9. Nine is the digital root for the number 198; so, 198 is divisible by 9 as well as by 3.

4) 201 = 2 + 0 + 1 = 3. Three is the digital root for the number 201; so, 201 is divisible by 3.

The first time I learned about Digital Root was about eight years ago at a workshop presented by Kim Sutton. (If you have never been to one of her workshops - GO! It is well worth your time.) Anyway, I was beside myself to think I had never learned Digital Root. Oh, the math classes I sat through, and the numbers I tried to divide by are too munerous to mention! It actually gives me a mathematical headache. And to think, not knowing Digital Root was the ROOT of my problem!

Divisibility Rules

A teacher resource on Using the Divisibility Rules and Digital Root is available at Teachers Pay Teachers. If you are interested, just click under the resource cover on your right.

A Go Figure Debut for an Iowan Who Is New!

 Today’s Go Figure Debut teacher has been in the classroom for just over a decade; however, she is currently taking a few years off to raise her little ones. (Adelaide is three and Joseph is one.) She loves to see students grow and discover who they are and what they think. This is one of the reasons she enjoys middle schoolers so much. She finds that students at this age are starting to develop into their own persons, and they are questioning and forming their own thoughts. She loves being front and center to this change and helping her students successfully navigate this transition.

Rebecca describes her classroom as a place where it is okay to question and to just be yourself. It is a place where learning and independent thought are encouraged and where students are pushed to try new things and do their best. She believes that one of the most important things she can teach her students is how to form an educated opinion and defend it in a civilized manner as well as to listen and respond to others who may or may not hold the same opinion.

Rebecca married her high school sweetheart, Kyle. They currently live in the heart of Iowa Amish country where it is just as common to see a horse and buggy go by their front window as it is to see a car go by. (I use to live in Plain City, Ohio so I identify with this.) Besides teaching, she has also sung in several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including a lead in The Gondoliers. In addition, she possesses several random skills including the ability to ride and drive horses, bake bread, make jam and pie crusts from scratch and design and sew costumes for the stage.

Rebecca has over 100 products in her store, and eight
of them are free. One of those free items is
Free Resource
Romeo and Juliet Character Quizzes and Keys: Descriptions and Quotes. These two print and go quizzes on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare are designed to be used after reading the play. They make great comprehension checks or review activities. Quiz One has the students match the description of the character to the character's name. Quiz Two requires the students to match the famous quote to the character who said it and then explain one quote. Answer keys are included.
Another of her resources is a 115 page bundle entitled: Six
$13.50, save $2.50
Story O. Henry Product Bundle Plus Author Study Activity.
This bundle includes everything you need for a unit on O. Henry - full texts, lessons and activities on six O. Henry stories plus an author study activity. By buying the bundle, you save $2.50!

Rebecca does have a blog called Rebecca's Classroom and Kitchen. (I guess she gets pleasure from both!) Her blog's motto is, "Feed Your Mind and Your Tummy!" (Sounds like a plan to me!) Before mentioning any blog, I always check it out just to see what is contains and if I think it is valuable. Recently, she wrote a four part-series entitled Freedom in the Classroom which I really appreciated reading. You should check it out as well. It will cause you to reflect as well as to evaluate just how much freedom any teacher truly has.

Using Number Tiles to Problem Solve in Math

Math Activities for Grades 5-8
I prefer using hands-on activities when teaching math. One of the most successful items I have used is number tiles. Because number tiles can be moved around without the need to erase or cross out an answer, I have discovered that students are more at ease and more willing to try challenging activities. There is something about not having a permanent answer on the page that allows the student to explore, investigate, problem solve, and yes, even guess.

I have created several number tile booklets, but the one I will feature today is for grades 5-8. It is a 23 page booklet containing 15 different math problem solving activities that range from addition and multiplication, to primes and composites, to exponent problems, to using the divisibility rules. Since the students do not write in the book, the pages can be copied and laminated so that they can be used from year to year. These activities may be placed at a table for math practice or as a center activity. They are also a perfect resource for those students who finish an assignment or test early. Use these activities to reteach a concept to a small group as well as to introduce a new mathematical concept to the whole class.

Free Resource
Students solve the Number Tile Math Activities by arranging ten number tiles, numbered 0-9. Most of the number tile activities require that the students use each tile only once. The number tiles can be made from construction paper, cardboard, or square colored tiles that are purchased.  (How to make the number tiles as well as storage ideas is included in the handout.) Each problem is given on a single page, and each activity varies in difficulty which is suitable for any diverse classroom. Since the students have the freedom to move the tiles around, they are more engaged and more willing to try multiple methods to find the solution. Some of the problems will have just one solution while others have several solutions. These activities are very suitable for the visual and/or kinesthetic learner.

A free version for each of my number tile resources is listed below. Just click on the link to download the freebie.