The State Fair Project – Teaching Math

State Fair 2

When we developed The State Fair Project in fourth grade there were countless opportunities to use math.  During the year we were constantly looking at statistics for each state.  Size, population, socio-economic make-up, average temperature, significant dates…  All of these numbers were looked at and discussed.  The numbers were used not only to compare and contrast the 50 states but to develop some cause and effect hypotheses.

If the average temperature of a state was warmer than most, how would this effect the size of the population.  How about the average age of the population?  Why would older people tend to live in a warmer climate? Why would more Olympic skiers grow up in specific states?  But, why were there Olympic figure skaters training in Florida?

Every statistic became a jumping off point for further discussion and research.  Questions created more questions.  The use of math was constant, fluid, and authentic. (And of course, reading and writing skills were strengthened as well.)

*This authentic project can be easily adapted for territories, counties…whatever system the country you are studying uses.

Music – The Ultimate Math Activity


I was inspired to write this post by these happy, beautiful faces in a photo I recently took.

This is not a project in the traditional sense of the word.  This is an authentic life activity. If your child shows any interest in music, encourage this!

Research shows that an involvement in music greatly improves a child’s ability with math.  Reading music is in actuality a mathematical experience.  On top of that, children who are involved in a musical group have social contacts, acceptance, peers…

And, students who are involved in a high school group or organization do better in school.  Let’s be honest, being a teenager is awkward, so having a group to “belong” to makes a huge difference.

*A message to Mr. Dave Shepard, Director Hollywood Hills High School Spartan Marching Band:  I know you are most likely no longer with us, but wanted to thank you. (Maybe there is internet in heaven.) When an overweight, overwhelmed freshman with low self-esteem walked up to you after the first day of ninth-grade band and told you she wasn’t good enough to be in that class, you asked her what kind of grades she got.  When she replied A’s, you quietly told her to go sit back down.  With that simple response you changed her life.

Teaching About Time Zones, Part I

chrisjan20131Quilt by Chris Staver

I am passionate about Authentic Teaching and Authentic Experiences, because I believe that is truly the way we internalize learning.  I  just returned from a marvelous trip to Alaska.  I kept a list of entries I wanted to add to my blog when I returned home.  However, yesterday we traveled for 22 hours through four time zones, arriving home at 4AM.  So in order to publish somewhat coherent blogs, they will have to wait for another day or two!

Having completed hundreds of worksheets on calculating time and time zones as a student (and admittedly giving students hundreds to do as well during my early years as a teacher) I can honestly state that nothing compares to the authentic experience of resetting you watch four times, recalculating your departure and arrival times, and trying to drag yourself out of bed the next day suffering from severe jet lag.  I definitely internalized the “time zone” concept!   Bye for now…gotta go take a nap!

*I promise to publish some authentic ideas for ways to teach time and time zones (without taking your students to Alaska) once my brain fog clears!

Teachers: The Budget


Having students work out and stick to a budget is a great way to teach and reinforce math skills.  It is also a way to show students how to find out what something might cost and to stick to a budget.

For example, for classroom parties, give the students an amount to work with, give them websites they can search to find prices, and let them plan the party.  Giving students ownership of the budget and planning provides an authentic math experience, and also gives the students ownership and pride in their event.