Thinking Blocks: Model math word problems with virtual mantipulatives

What it is:  Thinking Blocks is a great find by @matthewquigley who was nice enough to share his find and let me take the credit (I may have made up that last part…).  Thinking Blocks lets students model and solve math word problems by using online virtual blocks to visualize the problems in new ways.  Thinking Blocks includes blocks to model addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, and ratios.  On the Modeling Tools tab, students will find modeling tool videos on addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, ratios, decimals and percents, and algebra.  These thinking blocks were developed by Colleen King as she worked to help her students in their Singapore Math program.  While the concept of modeling word problems with the blocks is most closely associated with Singapore Math curriculum, it can be used to support any math program and is especially helpful to use with visual learners.  Students can use virtual blocks to model known and unknown quantities.  By modeling in this way, students are better prepared for moving from arithmetic to algebraic thinking because they learn how to break complex problems into their simplest form.   The activities on the Thinking Block website includes guided and independent practice opportunities.  The tutorials can be used for guided instruction.  Videos show worked examples from each section (addition, multiplication, division, fractions and ratios.  Progress tracking is built-in (currently this is only per session but the site notes that sometime in September this should be included for multiple sessions).  The Modeling Tool lends itself to independent practice.  Students can choose from hundreds of built-in word problems or enter their own.  Dynamically generated models let students check their own work.  A full screen option is included for use on interactive whiteboards.

How to integrate Thinking Blocks into the classroom:  Thinking Blocks is a wonderful website for exploring and demonstrating understanding of word problems.  Visual students will be keen on the ability to visualize math in this way, using the virtual blocks to represent word problems.  Because Thinking Blocks addresses so many different math disciplines, it is a great way to differentiate instruction for students at a variety of levels.

Thinking Blocks can be used with the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can take turns working out word problems on the whiteboard while students at their seats work to arrive at a common solution.  Students at the board can “phone a friend” if they need a little extra help or guidance.

Thinking Blocks would make a fantastic center activity on classroom computers.  Students could visit the center to practice some word problems and record a reflection about how the blocks enabled them to visualize the problem differently.

Be sure to bookmark Thinking Blocks on school computers and let parents know to bookmark the site at home.  I suspect this site could be a life saver for MANY students (I would have been one of them!)

Tips: You can adjust the difficulty of each model by adjusting the numbers addressed before students begin an activity.

Cyberkidz: games for math, literacy, geography, creativity and science

What it is: Cyberkidz is a great new website packed full of great learning practice games for kids age 4 to 11.  The games reinforce skills in a variety of disciplines including math, literacy, geography, creativity and science.

Math– amounts, pattern, scale, number recognition, counting, scale, sums to 10, sums to 20, weights, multiplication, telling time, money, measurement, calendar, volume, percentage, distance, division, mathmix, area

Literacy– letter recognition, alphabetical order, hangman, crosswords, typing, singular and plural words, sayings and quotes, learning Spanish, learning Dutch

Geography– America, state capitals, countries of the world, Asia, Africa, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, South Africa, Ireland, flags

Creative– painting, music, coloring, maze

Science– food for animals, skeletal system, body parts, animals, solar system, mammals, the eye

The games in each category are great for practice and skill building.

How to integrate Cyberkidz into the classroom: Cyberkidz is a fun place for students to work on the knowledge level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  The music game is the only creative game that I would truly place in the “create” category of Bloom’s Taxonomy because it gives students free rein to explore music and create a recording.   The majority of the games are designed to help students build skills and remember key concepts that are a necessary foundation for other learning.  These are a nice alternative to worksheet skill practice.  Students will enjoy the game quality of these practice activities.  Each activity can be advanced through relatively quickly making them perfect as a center on classroom computers.  Students can visit the game as a math, literacy, geography or science “practice” center before advancing to put those newly honed skills to work in a higher order thinking center.

These practice activities could also be completed as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  Split students into teams and rotate them up to the whiteboard for a class practice session.

Tips: On each game screen, students can scroll to the bottom for instructions on the game.  Most of the games are pretty self-explanatory and kids will figure them out quickly.

Number Nut

What it is:  Number Nut is a site all about math.  I love their  catch phrase: “enough math can make anyone nutty”.  This site certainly has enough math for that!  Topics on Number Nut include: shapes and colors, numbers and counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, order of operations, dates and times, fractions, decimals, percent values, estimation and rounding, ratios, and money math.  There is something for every math class here!  Each topic gives an overview of the math concept (kind of like the break down students would find at the beginning of a new math chapter).  This is followed by two interactives where students can practice their new found knowledge. Number Nut is standard aligned and has a great math glossary.

How to integrate Number Nut into the classroom:   Number Nut is truly like an interactive math textbook, there are multiple pages for each concept and each page is followed by two interactive practice areas.  I love this as an alternative to math textbooks because students get immediate feedback as they work.  They know whether they have mastered the concept or need to keep working at it.  With traditional math textbooks, a student doesn’t know if they understand a concept until they turn in their math worksheet and get it back a few days later full of red marks.  Number Nut is good for teaching new math concepts on an interactive whiteboard or with a projector.  Students can read along as you explain and demonstrate new math concepts.  Then, students can practice on their own.  Ideally, Number Nut would be used in a computer lab setting where every student is using a computer.  This would allow students to work at their own pace and on the skills they need the most practice on.  Number Nut could also be used as a math center where students take turns visiting and solving problems.

Tips:   I learned about Number Nut from a tweet by @kellyhines she is full of great classroom resources and one of my favorite education follows!  Number Nut does require flash so make sure that you have the appropriate flash plugins before using this site with your class.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Number Nut in your classroom.