## 5 Tricks for Solving Algebra Word Problems

When you’re solving algebra word problems, it’s smart to have a plan of attack ready to follow. Solving word problems may seem difficult, but when you read through the problem and can figure out what the specific equation is, it’s no harder than a regular algebra problem. Here are some tips for getting a solid system of steps to follow when you are solving algebra word problems:

### 1. Read through the entire problem before trying to solve it.

While it might seem tempting to start working on the problem as soon as you get halfway through the first sentence, you need to be patient. When you read through the entire problem, you’ll have a better chance of noticing any variables that are given and any that you need to solve for.

### 2. Look for keywords in the algebra word problems that can signal which operation you will be doing.

These keywords can go a long way in helping you determine how to set up the algebra equations. Here’s a list of some common keywords to get you started:

• Subtraction: decreased by, difference of, less than
• Multiplication: increased by a factor of, multiplied by, times
• Division: out of, per, ratio of
• Equals: are, gives, is, will be

Note that these keywords are not a complete list; you will definitely see other words used to mean these operations, but keep in mind how the numbers and variables are positioned and what is being asked, and you should be able to add to this keyword list yourself!

Also, be sure to pay close attention to the relationship of the two variables when it comes to division and subtraction. It matters which variable comes first, and when the algebra word problem asks for the difference between x and y, when you write the algebra out, you will show x – y. Likewise, the ratio of x and y written out will show x / y.

### 3. Underline anything that will be important for setting up the algebra equations or solving the word problem.

When you have read through the entire word problem, you will want to go back through and underline anything important. This might include the keywords you’ve just found and any variables, as well as what your solution needs to be, so that you can set up the proper algebra equations.

When you underline or highlight these important parts, you can quickly reference the things you need to without having to read through the entire problem again. This makes it easier to go back and double check that you’ve got the right equations and variables set up, without losing your train of thought halfway through solving the algebra word problem.

### 4. Write down everything that comes to mind as you’re solving the algebra word problem.

This way, you won’t have to try to remember what each variable is that you’re solving for, or whether you’re multiplying or dividing by two in the next equation. You can concentrate on each small task within the algebra problem, and then put the pieces together at the end. Having a written record of each variable also helps when it comes time to give your solution, as you know what variable has the answer in it!

Writing down notes also functions as a way to double-check when you’ve got your solution ready. When you’re solving an algebra problem in your head, you won’t have any way to go back and walk through your solution again if you missed a step. On the other hand, if you write down each step while solving the problem, you can retrace your steps and make sure your answer is correct.

### 5. Practice, practice, practice!

Above anything else, algebra word problems need practice on a consistent basis. By working a few algebra word problems each day, you’ll be able to fine-tune your solving methods and work on any of the rough parts.

If algebra word problems are giving you trouble in class, working with a private math tutor can help you keep up with the math topics. A private tutor will be able to give you the personalized attention necessary to work on the concepts in algebra or other math courses, and work at a pace that is just right for you. A tutor can also provide you with practice problems that focus on the specific areas that you need help with, such as setting up algebra word problems that emphasize certain areas over others.

Photo by Wendy

## 3 Tricks for SAT Math Problems with Student-Produced Responses

Even if you’ve reviewed the SAT math tips in Merrick, NY tutor Justin L.‘s previous article, the SAT math problems that require a student-produced response can cause a whole new level of anxiety. Read on to learn a few helpful tricks…

It’s very rare to see something on the SAT break a student’s stride and morale worse than the Student-Produced Response (SPR) questions. Everything about them goes outside what you’ve expected on the test. They are not multiple choice, the answers aren’t there, there’s no way to check if you’ve done it right, and they always seem harder. But if you can keep three simple things in mind, you can overcome this stigma and approach these SAT math problems as if they were any other question.

### Question Order

There’s only one section of your test that will have these and the SPR questions will always begin at question nine. This is important because the difficulty of this section is structured as if it’s two mini-sections. All the multiple choice math problems will go from easy to hard, and then it resets and the SPR questions go from easy to hard again. A lot of students will just go from start to end, which isn’t really the best approach. Think about it: you get to questions seven and eight of the multiple choice and they tend to be pretty tough. These questions take a lot of the time and effort that could be spent on other questions. People tend to get burnt out with these two and rush through the SPRs, and make countless careless mistakes.

I’ve always been a firm believer of focusing on the easy questions first. The best thing to do would be to do the first three (or so) multiple choice, and then jump right into the SPRs. You’ll notice that questions one and two tend to be just as easy as nine and 10. At the same time, questions seven and eight will be just as difficult as the final two SPRs of the section. So pick out all the easy ones first. Don’t get stuck at the end of the multiple choice questions when you have easier questions waiting for you.

For every multiple choice question that you get wrong, the SAT folks will take a quarter of a point that you’ve already earned away from you. This doesn’t apply with the SPRs. If you get one of these incorrect, your points aren’t touched like with the multiple choice questions. If you get it right, then you earn the point. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do them, this means you should do them! Even if you guess one of these questions wrong, you don’t get any points deducted.

I’m not saying to dedicate 25 minutes, but don’t leave them blank, EVER. If the question is too tough, then take an educated guess. If the question wants a number between one and 10, guess a number. You don’t have to work out a question you can’t answer, but at least fill something in — you have nothing to lose

### Know the Scantron

You have to fill the bubbles in. This may seem silly to even point out, but I’ve seen students write correct answers in the boxes on the scantron without filling in the corresponding bubble. The College Board isn’t going to have someone sift through tests to check for this, so make sure to fill in the bubbles if you want the points.

There’s no negative scantron bubble. All of your answers will be positive or zero. If you came up with a negative answer, something went wrong. Also, remember that fractions are your friend. Don’t waste time and convert all of your answers into decimals, just grid in the answer that you came up with. The test will score 11/5 the same as 2.4. If you have a repeating decimal, play it safe and just enter the fraction. Gridding in .3 for an answer of 1/3 will be graded as incorrect. If your calculator shows you the repeating decimal (.33333333333333) just hit Math, Enter, Enter on your graphing calculator for the fraction to grid in.

Keep these three easy tips in mind and these SAT math problems will be just as easy or just as hard as any other question. Do the easy ones first. Don’t leave any of them blank. Know what you can and can’t grid in.

Justin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!

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## Common Core Standards for English and Math | What Parents Need to Know

You may have heard about the new Common Core Standards, which most states have adopted into their curriculum. What exactly are they, and what does it mean for your child? Learn more in this guest post by San Diego tutor Natalie S

Having a unified educational system is an incredibly important factor when considering how to make sure each child is given the best chance to learn and succeed. This is why 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English and Math. However, most people don’t know what these Common Core Standards are, or even that they exist! Read below to find out more about how these standards impact your child.

### What Are the Common Core Standards?

The Common Core Standards are academic standards for English and Mathematics. They map out learning goals for what students should be achieving from Kindergarten to 12th grade. These standards are designed to better prepare students for rigorous college courses and for entering the workforce. Recently, these standards were updated, and we’ve summarized the changes below.

### What Are the Changes in the Common Core Standards for English?

The Common Core Standards for English include instilling academic practices like having children read and comprehend complex texts with increased difficulty. For example, each year, students read texts that are more complex (whether that be through prose or through themes) than the year before. Certain types of texts that the Common Core Standards website specifically lists include US documents, international myths, and Shakespeare.

The Common Core Standards for English also emphasize teaching students how to use textual evidence when making arguments in essays, as well as building specific knowledge about the non-fiction world.

### What Are the Changes in the Common Core Standards for Math?

One major change in the Common Core Standards for Math is the increased focus on specific concepts. Instead of trying to cram a vague understanding of a hundred different concepts into your child’s head, the Common Core Standards dictate that students should study a concentrated number of concepts in depth and master them. For example, students will still study multiplication and division, but they won’t learn how to implement those functions of math until the third grade. This should help students improve their understanding of basic mathematical foundations more thoroughly before implementing newer, harder concepts.

The changes also aim to better link seemingly unconnected topics in math. For a full list of concepts covered in various grades, take a look at the Common Core Standards website.

One of the biggest changes made to the Common Core curriculum is the new emphasis on linking topics across each grade level. This is a good tactic because it gives students a greater understanding of what they’re studying, however, it also means that it is imperative that students keep up with their work and do not fall behind. If you want to help your child learn with the Common Core Standards, it is important to check on them and make sure they understand their lessons in English and Math. Go over the readings with them, check their homework, and drill math problems at least once a week.

If your child starts to struggle and fall behind, this is a good time to consider hiring a tutor. Make sure the tutor is familiar with the Common Core Standards, and that he/she is aware of what your child should be learning at this time of his or her educational career. If you need further advice or assistance selecting a tutor, TakeLessons is here to help!

Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and test prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!

Photo by Bill Selak

## 5 SAT Math Tips for the Numerically Challenged

Nervous about the math portion of the SAT? Grab an SAT math practice test, sit down, and review these helpful tips from Merrick, NY tutor Justin L...

After you’ve taken a SAT math practice test or two, most students can admit that the actual “math” on the SAT really isn’t that tough — it’s figuring out what they actually have to do.

Sure, there may be a few shaky topics here and there or something that your teacher hasn’t gone over too much, but for the most part it’s not the actual calculations that frustrate most people. The real challenge comes from digging through the question to figure out what it is they actually want you to do. So to help you through this, I’m going to share some pro tips and get you heading in the right direction.

### 1) Underline

Underline important information: what X is, what Y is, or anything else that may seem important. Even if you’re not sure, the act of sitting there with your pencil and looking for these things as you read will help you retain the information. I know it sounds silly and way too easy, but if you make a visual trigger for your eye to jump to, you will be able to spot the important info quicker.

When dealing with word problems that are presented as daunting paragraphs, check out the last line or two first. The College Board tends to hide your actual goal at the end of a question. Underline it! Do that first and then read the question. You will have a better understanding of what to do if you know that you have to solve for X (or whatever they may want) at the very beginning.

### 2) Skip Multiple Choice Questions

Don’t do the questions you can’t get right. Yes, skip them. I’m not going to explain the scoring right now, but if you skip the hard questions, topics that you usually can’t do, and/or the last two multiple choice questions, you will end up better on time, less stressed out, and your score will jump. Try not to skip the first five multiple choice questions and never skip a student-produced response ever! The part twos where you actually come up with the answer and grid in the number do not penalize you if you get them wrong the way multiple choice questions do. Even if you have no clue, just grid in an educated guess.

### 3) Draw

The geometry questions can be very vague and many students aren’t sure where to start. So always draw a picture and label everything that you can. Most of the time, that’s the hardest part. Once you get everything labeled, just fill in all your blanks. Fill in every angle and side you can, jot down area and perimeter if you can, and then go back to the question. Once you get all the info illustrated and (neatly) labeled, go back to the question. Your handy-dandy diagram will have everything you need to get the answer.

### 4) Plug In Numbers

If your question is all variables, and those same variables are in your answers, just plug in numbers. Technically, any number will work. Just be smart about it. Use nice, easy, happy little numbers like 2, 5, or -3. Stay away from big ugly numbers like 19 and stay away from multiples of the same number.  If you have to select three numbers to plug in and your first choice is 5, don’t use 10, 15, or 20 as your other numbers. Write down in your test book what you’re plugging in. You will forget. Trust me. Jot down what number you are using for each letter, plug them into the question, get a real answer, then take your numbers that you picked and plug them into the multiple choice answers. One of the multiple choice answers will match what you did.

Let me give you an example. Tom works h hours at p dollars an hour. So let’s say this guy works 4 hours (h=4) and gets \$10/hr (p=10.) It looks like Tom is going to bring home \$40 for the day. Take your 4 and 10. Plug them into all of your multiple choice answers and see what comes out to your answer of 40. One of the answers would be p x h and that would be it. If you have a match then you have a correct answer.

### 5) Don’t Freak Out

Take a deep breath and relax. The formulas are there for you. There really isn’t that much you need to memorize; make yourself a one-page study guide of things to remember and you will be fine. Skip the hard questions. Make sure you use a pencil. Make sure your phone is off. If you made the effort to prepare, did a few SAT practice tests, do well in school, read for fun, and maybe play a little chess you will succeed. Don’t freak out.

Justin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!

Photo by Aaron Escobar

## 5 Fascinating Examples of Unexpected Beauty in Math

If the idea of sitting down to study math makes you grumble, you’re not alone. But have you ever thought about how beautiful math can actually be? Math is all around us–in nature, in architecture, and even in music–and exploring these sides of the subject can make it much more interesting! Here are a few ways that mathematics can actually be pretty amazing:

## Math in Music

Rhythm, musical pitches, and more–they all have some connection to math! And as you learn to read music, you’ll notice that the theory behind it is similar to how you learned fractions. Pieces are divided into measures, measures are divided into beats, and beats can be further divided by notes of particular values. In order to play the piece correctly, you’re using your brain to figure out the math as you go along!

You can “hear” math at work in many songs that make use of complicated rhythms and syncopation, and it’s especially evident when artists superimpose two songs together (i.e. mash-ups!). These artists often use computer software and mathematical strategies to determine where certain songs will fit, based on pitch, key, harmonies, and song length.

## Pythagorean Theorem Proof

OK, this one might just be for the math nerds out there. The Pythagorean Theorem is an algebraic equation that explains the relationship between all three sides of a right triangle. It states that the sum of the squares of each side add up to equal the square of the hypotenuse.

So what makes it beautiful? When you look at a right angle triangle, it can be hard to determine the ratios at first glance. But when it’s drawn out for you (like above), not only is there a fair amount of beauty in it, but you can see how it can be rearranged and dissected. Keep this ratio in mind the next time you need to study math for a test!

## Fibonacci Sequence

The Fibonacci Sequence is a set of numbers that rapidly increases, and is defined by the rule that the next number in the sequence is equal to the sum of the previous two. The first handful of numbers are: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on.

If you’re working with the Fibonacci Sequence and trying to figure out how to study math while using it, consider looking into the Fibonacci Spiral (also known as the Golden Spiral). Its growth factor–the rate at which the spiral gets wider–is equal to the Golden Ratio (we’ll get into this next). For examples of the Fibonacci Spiral, think about the outward spiral of seeds on a sunflower, spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, and the mesmerizing patterns on pinecones.

## Golden Ratio

As you continue further and further to the right in the Fibonacci Sequence, the ratio of a term to the one before it gets closer to the Golden Ratio, which is about 1.62. Mathematically speaking, the algebraic relationship looks like this: (a+b)/a = a/b. An easier way to think of it is to picture a rectangle, with sides a and b, where the b side is equal to a+b.

Faces that fit perfectly inside this pattern are considered handsome or pretty, and many historical buildings follows this shape as well. Other examples of where the Golden Ratio can be found include the design of the iPhone, famous paintings like Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, and even the dimensions of the human body. Who knew figuring out how to study math is sometimes as simple as looking in the mirror?

## Fractal Geometry

A fractal is a self-repeating pattern, at any scale in which it’s examined. A prime example of a fractal is the Mandelbrot Set, which has been heavily studied by mathematicians around the world.

Fractals defy the norms that you might be familiar with when zooming in on images. While normal images become clearer and more defined as you adjust the zoom, fractals just develop more detail. The initial image contains one large fractal sequence with smaller fractals branching off from it, and then zooming in on any particular area shows that the smaller fractals are the same as the large one, and that they too have even smaller fractal shapes branching from them.

Fractals are also evident in nature. If you’ve ever looking closely at a snowflake, you’re seeing fractal geometry at work. The snowflake begins at the macro-level with a hexagonal symmetry, and then continues with the same level of symmetry as you look closer at each individual section. This is why no two snowflakes are exactly alike–at some level each snowflake has a different type of fractal pattern.

If you’re still curious about how to study math and its hidden beauty, working with a private math tutor can be a great help. Your math tutor will cater lessons to your specific learning style, and work with you until you truly understand the material–which can be great if you are falling behind, or simply want to get ahead! Finding beauty in math doesn’t have to be difficult, and with a private math tutor you can learn how to study math as efficiently as possible. Good luck on your mathematical journey, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses–you might notice the Fibonacci spiral in action!

Photos by rodtuk, alexanderward12tisebjDevaun.PhotographySteveR

## 7 Math Study Tips to Make Your Next Test a Breeze

When you’re prepping for a math test, there are a few things that you can do to make sure you’re not sweating bullets when the test is handed out. Check out these math study tips so you can prepare properly and be ready to give the test your best shot!

## 1. Use Diagrams

Get in the habit of using any given diagrams while studying, or creating your own if you need to. While this might seem like one of the more simple math study tips, it can be quite useful. Not all problems will need a diagram, but if you don’t give yourself a chance to draw one at all, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

For any math problem with specific units of measurement, make sure you have their conversion factors memorized or handy in a reference sheet. For example, a problem could be given to you in feet, inches, and yards. If you haven’t paid attention to the relationship between all three of these units while studying, you’ll feel frazzled when you get to the problem and have to figure it out on the spot.

## 3. Get Familiar With Your Calculator

If you are using your own calculator for the test, and have used it on other homework problems and quizzes before, this is one of the few math study tips you can ignore. On the other hand, if you just got a new calculator, or know you’ll need to borrow your teacher’s calculator, make sure you know how to use it. That means figuring out where all the common function keys are, as well as how to access any trigonometric or high-level operations you may need.

Even if you’ve studied a ton the past few weeks, using an unfamiliar calculator will put you at a big disadvantage. Practicing with your new calculator on the types of problems you’ll be faced with before the test date is key.

## 4. Practice Reading Through Problems Completely

This is a common error to make when you’ve got a familiar-looking problem – many students will just glance at the problem, guess at where to start, and then begin solving without figuring out what exactly is being asked. Sometimes you’ll save a few seconds, maybe 10 or 20 at most. But more often than not, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time.

For instance, if you think you need to solve for speed but instead the problem is asking for distance, at best you’ve already found distance and need to backtrack through your solution. Worst case scenario you’ve spent a few minutes finding the speed but will need to start over completely to solve for distance. As far as math study tips go, this is one of the simplest tips to follow, but one of the hardest to remember when it’s crunch time! Just remember not to jump the gun when approaching a new problem, and you’ll do just fine.

## 5. Practice Showing Your Work

Even if you’ve got the solution to a few simple problems down pat, make sure to get into the habit of showing your work, even if you can solve it in your head. This is another trick that’s among the simplest of math study tips to actually follow, but it can take some practice to remember.

## 6. Don’t Cram!

Rather than trying to cram for the test the night before, space out your studying the week before the test. By studying over the course of several days, you can figure out which areas you are confident in, and which require more studying. You can also cut down on the time spent studying the night before the test, and get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is incredibly important before taking a test, as you’ll likely to perform worse if you’re tired. This is a helpful study tip for any subject, not just math!

## 7. Remain Confident in Yourself!

Above anything else, the best math tip is to stay confident! Remember that you were able to solve all of the problems when you were studying the few days before the test, so when you’re faced with a difficult problem, stay calm. Taking 15 seconds to breathe deep and relax before starting a hard problem can pay off. Getting flustered and spending a few minutes spinning your wheels will leave you further behind than if you took a few moments to relax before starting the problem.

Need some extra pointers? Working with a private math tutor is a great way to get the one-on-one guidance you need to perform your best in class and on important tests. Find a tutor in your area here, and start working toward the A+ you deserve!

Photo by CarbonNYC

## Our 3 Best Math Tips for When You’re Feeling Stuck

Solving math problems can seem tedious at times, and other times it can be frustrating and challenging. When you find yourself stuck on a particular problem, it’s nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are three math tips to get you moving again.

## Be Familiar With Factoring Tricks

This first trick is actually three math tips in one! The key is that all three math tips have the same general plan: to help you factor a number or determine divisibility.

With every even number being divisible by two, and every number with five or zero as the last digit being divisible by five, you might wonder if there are tricks for other numbers. Luckily, there are! Here are a bunch of math tips for how to determine which numbers are divisible by other odd numbers:

• For 3, add up all the digits in the number. For example, taking the sum of the digits in 123,456 gives you 21.
• Since 21 is divisible by 3 (3×7=21), 123,456 is also divisible by 3.

This same trick works if you try it for 9 as well. Adding all the digits of 12,345,678 together equals 36. And as 36 is divisible by 9 (9×4=36), 12,345,678 is divisible by 9 as well.

Figuring out if a number is divisible by 7 is a little more work, but it can still be done!

• First, take the last digit of the number and double it.
• Then, subtract that result from the rest of the digits, but don’t use the last digit again!
• Take 112 for example. The last digit is 2, and 2×2=4. So subtract 4 from 11, which gives you 7, which of course is divisible by 7
• Now you know 112 can be divided by 7 as well (7×16=112).

For larger numbers, if you don’t know whether the result is divisible by 7, just continue doing the process until you’re sure. With 1,393, you have 3 as the last digit, and when you double it you get to 6. Subtract 6 from 139 to get 133, and then you have 3 as the last digit again. Subtract double-3 (2×3=6), from 13 to get 7, which is divisible by 7, and 133 is also divisible by (7×19), as is 1393 (7×199). This doesn’t seem too bad!

## Draw The Math Problem To Get A Better Idea

Not all math problems benefit from using a drawing, but if you can depict the situation with figures instead of just the text, you may get a better understanding of what’s going on (especially if you’re a visual learner!). You might also be able to make connections through the diagram that you wouldn’t otherwise.

This is one of the simplest math tips out there. A lot of math tutors and grade school teachers will encourage (and sometimes require) you to draw the problem out as a solution step. They weren’t doing it to make it longer for you to get through your homework. They were doing it because sometimes a visual interpretation can give you a better idea of the problem than just the words on the page.

## Get Help From Your Teacher Or A Private Tutor

We’ve listed this one last because it’s probably the most important tip. If you’re stuck on a math problem and can’t figure out where to go next, asking for help can be hard, but necessary. Don’t think of it as something you should be embarrassed or ashamed of. Many of the smartest people in the world today had troubles getting through some of their math problems! They knew when to ask for help, and that’s what helped them persevere.

Along with getting help from your math class teacher, consider finding a private tutor for math. Getting one-on-one instruction can help a great deal, as the pace of teaching is matched to your individual needs. You’ll never need to worry about the teacher going too fast for you to comprehend everything, or too slow and cause you to be bored to tears. Your tutor can also help you target specific areas in your math curriculum that might need extra work, and show you different ways to understand and master the concepts. Once you’re at that point,  you’ll fly through those math tests and start improving your grades in no time!

Photo by A&M-Commerce

## Forget Boring Math Problems – Try These Online Math Games!

When you’re trying to drive home key math concepts, making the repetition and practice into a game can help keep things interesting and fun! While there are a multitude of math games that involve one or more players and some simple props, there are also plenty of online math games to check out. Playing a computer game online can help break the monotony a bit by switching mediums from card games. Listed below are a few websites that are worth checking out when you’re looking for online math games.

## Primary Games: Math

This website has more than 1,000 games in its database, including online math games, science games, and reading games. The math portion of the site is broken down by grade level, and you can browse games designed for preschool all the way up to sixth grade. There is plenty of content for any grade level, and enough games for each specific math concept that you’ll never run out of fresh material to challenge and motivate yourself or your child.

All of the games are designed to be fun while also working on key concepts. Some may work on more than one, but all of them will clearly indicate what idea is being focused on in the description. Chances are with their selection, you’ll never get bored while learning new math ideas!

## HOODA MATH

At HOODA MATH, you’ll find a great selection of online games, including many flash games with a math focus. You can narrow the games down by grade level, from Kindergarten through high school. You can also find online math games by specific subject area: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, algebra, and integers.

The selection of online math games at HOODA MATH also includes mobile games. You can easily operate these with a touchscreen mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. This makes for a great road trip tool, as you can play the games on any device that has access to the Internet whether you’re in the living room or in the car!

## MathPlayground

What MathPlayground might lack in quantity, it makes up for it in quality. These games are great and cover all of the focus areas in elementary school mathematics classes. You’ll find an assortment of math and logic games, as well as word problem games that can help visually-based learners.

The concepts on the MathPlayground website are somewhat broken up into different grade levels, but most of the online math games have a range of grades that are targeted, such as grades two through five. While this might make it a bit difficult to pinpoint which games may be right by only reading the title, a quick spin through the game’s description should help clear up any issues of whether it will be appropriately challenging. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a game that’s too difficult or too easy.

## Other Ideas

Aside from specific online math games, you can actually learn math from many regular games, as well! For example, take the Candy Crush app. If multi-part addition is the learning concept you’d like to focus on, try to add up the moves for each level. If you played three levels and had 11 moves, then 14, then 18, figure out how many moves it took to complete all three levels in total. Your answer is the solution to a three addend addition problem! You can also determine how many more moves it took for the second level than the first. That’s another problem that now deals with subtraction!

Any moves- and points-based game can become a math problem, so you don’t need to solely rely on online math games. You can track how many points per move you scored on a specific level, for example, if division is the topic you want to work on. Or if you want to focus on multiplication, designate each move as a certain number of points, and try to figure out how high your score would be after a specific number of moves. You might find that after you run some simple math, it’s way easier to get a high score!

If you’re traveling and don’t have access to the Internet for online math games, all you really need is some creative thinking to turn any ordinary app on your smartphone or other device into a great learning experience. As long as you can find a way to introduce a reason for performing the math operation, you’ll never run into a situation where boredom sets in. And sometimes the best way to learn is by having fun!

Photo by Jimmie

## 5 Tips for Completing Fraction Worksheets

Struggling with learning fractions? It can take some time and repetitive practice to really get them down. Here, Tucson tutor Blake C. shares his best tips…

Fraction worksheets are usually meant to get us to visualize fractions as parts to a whole. Some of us may vaguely remember being asked to identify fractions by looking at the number of shaded regions of a given shape cut into so many pieces. Others among us have little ones who are confronting this type of fraction worksheet for the first time and who may be having trouble.

As a parent or a student, we first need to understand that the purpose of these worksheets is to understand that certain things in our everyday experience of the world can and must be divided. We can most easily understand the abstract concept of fractions when we give it a real-world, common-sense context. Here are some helpful tips to get this right the first time.

1. Think about the shapes on your fraction worksheets in terms of slices or portions of your favorite treats. Pizza works great when you’re dealing with circles. For squares, think of cake or brownies. This will help you give a real-world context to what you’re being asked.

2. Think of the total amount of slices or portions as the denominator of your fraction. It’s how many pieces you started out with.

3. Think of the shaded regions as the numerator of your fraction. It’s how many slices or portions somebody has already eaten.

4. Think of the slice itself as the portion size, and think about the number of slices in each whole pizza or whole tray of sweets as the fixed denominator. This number will not change. For example, if you have two pizzas (circles), each of which is cut into fourths, and you are asked what fraction is represented when both pizzas are fully shaded, since each pizza has 4 pieces our answer would be 8 over 4. What this denominator tells us is that each slice, no matter how many slices we have, represents one quarter of a full pizza.

5. Don’t let the number of shapes get you confused. The denominator is always the number of slices or portions in each individual shape. The number that will change is the numerator, which represents the number of shaded slices or portions. If we have 50 trays of brownies each cut into 8 squares with all the squares shaded, then we have 50 trays with 8 pieces each. This means a total of 400 pieces, but since each tray is cut into 8ths our fraction must be 400 over 8. No matter how many trays we have, we are always answering in terms of 8ths of one whole tray.

The main thing with these kinds of fraction worksheets is just to keep your concepts straight. The numerator is the number of shaded regions you have in total. The denominator is the number of pieces in each individual shape. Remember not to let the number of individual shapes get you confused. Finally, make the effort to connect this to your everyday experience; knowing why something is important makes a big difference in how you learn it and whether or not you’re going to remember it.

Blake C. tutors in various subjects, including math, reading, and SAT prep, in Tucson, AZ and online. A Flinn Scholar, Blake C. graduated from The University of Arizona with a degree in Business Management in 2007 and later returned for a second Bachelor’s in Music Theory History and Criticism, which was awarded in December of 2013. Learn more about Blake here!

Photo by misskprimary

## 5 Fun Addition Games for Kids

Math doesn’t have to be boring! Take a look at these ideas to have fun and encourage learning with your kids, from Dallas, TX tutor Kristin S.

Are you looking for ways to get your kids excited about math? Incorporating it into familiar surroundings and activities can make it naturally enjoyable! Try these five fun addition games to give your youngster the gifts of practice and play.

• Count ’em Cars

This is a 2-player game that’s great for summer road trips! To start, each player selects 3 different colors. The first person to identify 10 cars with their chosen colors wins (30 cars total at 1 point per car). Identify cars by calling out the color, and remembering scores mentally. For older children, assign different point values to each color (e.g., 2, 4, and 6 points; or 5, 10, and 15 points), and make the final winning scores higher (e.g., 30 or 100 points). In either version, players keep a running total of points until one person reaches the winning score. Cumulative mental addition can improve a child’s information processing speed, focus/attention, and memory.

• Book Math

This fun addition game works well with young children (ages 4-7). Grab a few books that are full of pictures. Ask your child to count specific objects in each book (e.g. “How many monkeys are there?”), and write the number on a piece of paper. Add a plus sign between numbers, and have them add the total number of objects per book. Use counting to help them add, if needed.

• Musical Math Multiples

Turn on your favorite, fun music, choosing songs with a medium to fast beat. For young children (ages 4-7), start with 1 and add 1 or 2 on every other beat, once the singing begins. They can keep the beat mentally or clap. Stop at 20, then move to a faster song to increase the challenge and fun! Older children can pick a number between 3 and 9, and repeatedly add it to itself to learn single digit multiples. Once the singing begins, add on every other beat up to 50. This game is a great cognitive skill builder. Mentally calculating while moving, keeping the beat, and listening to music increases the brain’s capacity for focus/attention and faster information processing.

• Circle of Time

This is especially well-suited to children learning time concepts. Choose an adult timekeeper and have everyone circle up. Each player draws 3 slips of paper containing the name of an object or place (e.g., movie, book, store, etc.). The timekeeper picks a random starting time (e.g., 3p.m.). Player one begins a story about him or herself, naming an activity related to one slip of paper. For example, “I took a basketball (drawn word) to the park and practiced free throws for 20 minutes.” The story continues to the left, with the first player as the star. Player two might say, “It was really hot out, so when he finished he jumped in the lake and swam for an hour and a half.” Turn 3 could be, “All of a sudden, a galloping horse ran into the lake and splashed around for 18 minutes.” Keep turns short and fast, to increase the challenge. Continue the story three times around the circle. When finished, each player writes the time they believe the story ends (e.g., 11:32p.m.). The time keeper announces the correct ending time, and all winners keep their slips of paper. Player two is now the star. After everyone is a star, the player with the most slips wins!

• Fast Flip

Use one deck of cards per player. Shout “Go!”, and each player grabs one topcard after another from his or her deck. Add cards to keep a running total. Aces are worth 11 points, face cards are worth 10, and number cards are worth their own value (a “four” is worth 4 points, etc.). When 20 or more points are reached, a player lays all cards down and begins drawing again. The first to reach 100 points and shout “I’m the king of math!” wins the round. After 5 wins (500 points), the king is the ultimate winner and the other players must shout, “All hail, the king of math!”

Help your child cultivate a love for math by using the five fun addition games above, or make up your own! Whatever their age or level, these games will build your child’s cognitive skills and help them excel in math.

Kristin S. provides tutoring in a variety of subjects in Dallas, TX. Her tutoring experience includes Geometry, Pre-Algebra, elementary Math, English, Spelling, Reading, and Reading Comprehension, and she has experience working with children with Attention Deficit Disorder and behavioral disorders. Learn more about Kristin here!

Photo by GenBug