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Making Sense of Math: Applying, Playing, Exploring

By: Kim McConnell
young student using an abacus

Does your child …

  • Feel competent and comfortable working with numbers?
  • Know how to check an exact calculation by estimating the answer?
  • Know and choose between several methods of solving a math problem?
  • Understand the relationship between the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)?
  • Use mental math efficiently?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then congratulations, your child is numerate! That is, he or she has numbers sense, the ability to use numbers flexibly and understand basic math concepts.

As the foundation for all later math study, numeracy ensures that students will be ready to approach progressively more difficult problems and subjects like algebra confidently and logically—without being overwhelmed. Like literacy, it’s an essential skill set for navigating through life.

But what if your child isn’t numerate? What if your he or she …

  • “Hates” math?
  • Doesn’t know how to estimate an answer to check its reasonableness?
  • Needs pencil and paper to perform simple calculations?
  • Isn’t sure how numbers and operations are related?

Well, just because a student isn’t numerate today doesn’t mean that he or she can’t become numerate tomorrow. Here are a few suggestions and resources you can use to help.

Developing Numeracy Skills

To help develop your child’s numeracy skills, it’s important to first understand how students make sense of math. Basically, it comes down to APE: applying, playing, and exploring.

50 Facts and Events in U.S. Education History

By: Beth Werrell
50 important events in U.S. Education History

The Fourth of July is practically here! Flags wave at every corner, fireworks sprinkle the sky, and children sing patriotic anthems. It’s time to gather with family for festive picnics and celebrate the birth of the United States.

We all know how our country grew from thirteen British colonies to fifty United States. The Boston Tea Party and the ride of Paul Revere are just a couple legendary events that dot the timeline. But while U.S. parents and children know how the U.S. was formed, few know how our education system has evolved.

Review the fifty facts and events on this timeline with your child and give thanks for getting an education!
  • 1635—Boston Latin School becomes the first public school as well as the oldest existing school in the U.S.
  • 1647—A law passed in Massachusetts requires towns with fifty or more families to hire a teacher, and towns with a hundred or more families to build a grammar school.
  • 1690—Benjamin Harris prints The New England Primer, a reading textbook that becomes widely used for the next century.
  • 1783—Noah Webster finishes A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, a three-volume work he developed because he didn’t like the textbooks from England that were used at the time. In later editions, Webster rewrote words using American spelling.
  • 1791—Individual states take control of education when the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified.
  • 1801—While James Pillans discovered the method of using chalk on ...

Test the Sun’s Effects in this Sunscreen Experiment

By: Beth Werrell

Does your young child wriggle away when you apply sunscreen to his nose? Does your teen complain that she isn’t “tan enough”? Some children need help forming good sun-safety habits, and reinforcing them is crucial if you want to protect your child from permanent sun damage.

“There’s no other way to say it—tanned skin is damaged skin,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why it’s so important to apply sunscreen diligently. To help your student understand the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, try this sunscreen experiment for kids. All you need are a few household items and a sunny day.

Click on the graphic below to see the full instructions for this sunscreen experiment.

True or False

Ask your child these true-or-false questions to measure his or her knowledge of the skin.

  1. The skin is the largest organ of the body.
  2. Birthmarks are caused by minor damage to a baby’s skin in the womb.
  3. A callus is a bump on the skin that’s filled with fluid.
  4. You should wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  5. One way pimples form is when your skin produces too much oil.
  6. Scars can form on your skin when an injury heals too quickly.
  7. You don’t have to worry about UV rays on cloudy days.
  8. You have skin on your scalp.
  9. A first-degree burn damages the first layer of skin.
  10. Only humans and primates have fingerprints.

Answers

  1. True...

Keep Kids Learning with a Fun Summer Online Trivia Quiz

By: Beth Werrell
QuizBowl Challenge: Free Summer Online Trivia Quiz

Summertime is made for fun—but learning should be an important and enjoyable part of this carefree season! To kick off your vacation right, why not do something special today to recognize Summer Learning Day with your kids? Marking the occasion with tasty treats and a mini-celebration will help you emphasize the importance of summer learning and start family discussions about educational summertime opportunities.

As any teacher can tell you, a student’s grasp of academic concepts can “slide” over the summer. Providing children with learning opportunities helps them to hold on to previously learned knowledge and better prepare for the new school year. One great way to keep those young brains active is by playing our fun, free, online summer-themed trivia quiz. Or, download the printable version for use in the car, at parties, or over dinner.

Featuring twenty trivia questions of varying degrees of difficulty, the trivia quiz promotes lively and educational discussion and is an easy way to incorporate learning into everyday summer activities. Students of all ages—and their parents—can play the Quiz Bowl and then challenge their friends. This summer trivia quiz is available to the public, so feel free to share the link with other families.

You may even want to continue the friendly competition by creating some of your own trivia questions! Parents can find even more ideas to help keep students learning throughout every season by visiting Connections Academy’s resources page.

By making summer learning activities enjoyable and incorporating a bit of lighthearted ...

3 Simple Tips for Choosing Age-Appropriate Children’s Books

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
mother and daughters reading a book together

When you go to the library with your child, there are hundreds of books to choose from. How do you find books that are just right for your child’s reading level and interests?

You can take a chance and pick a few, of course, or you can ask a teacher or librarian for a recommended reading list. But you can also find the right books for your child just by using a few simple techniques.

  1. Determine your child’s reading level.

    Sometimes, finding an age-appropriate book is as easy as matching your child’s age to the reading level printed on the back of a book. If your child is 10, for example, then you can look for books in the 9–12 age bracket.

    Here is one tool that uses a measure called a Lexile to match readers of all ages with books and other reading resources.

    But before you rely on this method, remember that every child is different. Struggling readers fall below the normal reading level for their age or grade, while advanced readers may be several levels ahead. Difficulty varies within reading levels and within Lexile ranges, as well. If a book uses a lot of figurative language, metaphors, idioms, or hyperbole, it will be more challenging to understand than other books in the same Lexile.

  2. Do a background check.

    If you want to know more about the content of a book before your child chooses it, do some research. Read reviews online and ask for advice from ...

Using Math in Nature: Activities for Kids

By: Michelle Pratt
Math in nature activities for kids

Summer offers endless opportunities for your child to build nature smarts. There’s gardening, swimming, biking, and other outdoor activities to enjoy.

While it’s good for kids to spend time outdoors, it’s also important for them to keep their academic skills sharp over the summer. It’s even better when you can combine summer fun and learning!

It’s time for you and your child to explore math in nature.

Finding Math in Nature

At first glance, math class and the backyard seem like two different worlds. But the two are actually very connected and math is all around us. In fact, math was developed to describe patterns in nature!

Here are some familiar math concepts with real examples in nature. There are also simple math-in-nature activities for you and your child to try.

Symmetry

Definition: When one half of an object is the mirror image of the other half.

Examples: Butterfly wings, flowers.

Activities: Make a list of 25 things in nature that have symmetry. Go outside to search for examples, if needed! You can also do this Leaf Symmetry Craft to get you started.

Spheres

Definition: A perfectly round, three-dimensional object.

Examples: Earth, sun, an orange.

Activity: Find an example of a sphere in nature and one that’s manmade. What’s different about them?

Fibonacci Spirals

Definition: A series of squares with lengths that match the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. It forms a spiral when you draw a line through the diagonals of each square.

Example: The inside ...

Father’s Day Activities: 10 Ways for Kids to Spend Time with Dad

By: Beth Werrell
10 Ways for Kids to Spend Time with Dad on Father’s Day

When Father’s Day rolls around each year, it’s customary to give Dad a card and maybe a present. You might even have a barbecue or a nice family dinner.

But if you want to truly thank Dad for everything he’s done for you, spend some time with him. Here are some Father’s Day activities to get you started.

  1. Help Prepare One of Dad’s Favorite Foods
  2. Alone or with the help of your family members, plan and prepare one of Dad’s favorite meals. You could surprise him with breakfast in bed or make him a special dish to take on a picnic. Another option is to ask Dad if he can show you how to cook his favorite food.

  3. Create a “Dad Handbook”
  4. Think about all of the important lessons or skills your dad has taught you. Write them down in a handmade book or blank journal to create a “Dad Handbook.” You can also write about favorite memories—and don’t forget to add illustrations or photos. When you are finished, present the handbook to Dad on Father’s Day so he can read it and display it on a family bookshelf.

  5. Discover Dad’s Interests
  6. Ask your dad to share one of his interests or hobbies with you. For example, if Dad plays an instrument, he can teach you how to play a few chords, or you can simply make music with water glasses. If he enjoys art, go to a museum together. Everyone likes to share their interests with someone they ...

Map Out Your Summer Adventures with Geography Apps

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald
Geography Apps for Kids

Family visits, vacations, and field trips will keep your family on the go this summer. You can add to the fun and turn travel time into learning time with geography apps for kids.

Geography apps help children practice their map-reading skills, measure distances, and learn the layout of the United States. Please note that the suggested games and activities offered in the apps below are intended for use by anyone over the age of 13. So, we strongly recommend that parents review the terms of use before letting younger children play with the app or register for an account with the respective websites.

Travel with Flat Stanley

Have you met Flat Stanley? He is a visitor—often made out of paper—who is mailed to other classrooms. In fact, Flat Stanley has even visited virtual school! For a while, Stanley will join a new group of students. They will write about his visit so Flat Stanley can share information about the experience when he returns home.

Try these apps to share in Flat Stanley’s adventures over the summer.

  • Flat Stanley (iTunes, free) is an app that allows Stanley to travel digitally. Help your student test it out this summer so he or she can learn about students in other locations.
  • Learn the States with Flat Stanley (iTunes, free) helps students learn the names and spellings of the 50 states. There is also a paid version, US Geography with Flat Stanley HD, that covers flags, state ...

Check Out Our New Learning Activities Resource Section

By: Beth Werrell
Visual Guides of Fun Learning Activities

Hands-on learning is crucial to your child’s growth. Educational activities exercise a child’s analytical skills and creative thinking, plus they help develop a love of learning!

Here are some examples of the engaging ideas you can find:

  • A science experiment to supplement a lesson.
  • An educational holiday craft.
  • A fun activity for the family.
  • A collection of inspiring quotes or useful facts.
  • A creative, healthy snack.

If you’re looking to extend learning into family life, check out our visual guides of fun learning activities. Many of these guides are instructographics.

What Are Instructographics?

An “instructographic” is a combination of “instructions” and “graphic.” It’s a visual depiction of the instructions for a craft, science experiment or learning activity.

Instructographics are handy because they use a combination of words and pictures to demonstrate the steps of an activity, whether it’s to prevent apples from turning brown or to make fossils in your backyard.

Take a look at our collection of visual guides to find some learning activities for you and your child to try this summer. Don’t forget to check out the blog posts associated with each instructographic to get more information.

What are some of your favorite learning activities and crafts? Let us know!

47 Learning Activities for Virtual School Students Who Finish Work Early

By: Peggy Barnholt
47 things to do when you're finished schoolwork early

If you’ve worked hard all year to keep your family ahead of schedule on virtual school lessons, your student could finish schoolwork before the school year officially ends. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can start summer vacation early! State laws require online school students to attend for the entire school year.

When students complete their work early, they are required to do educational activities related to their core courses. Here is a list of teacher-approved learning activities for your student in grades K–8 that will keep his or her mind engaged in learning until the finish line!

All Subjects
  1. For any texts or quizzes on which your student scored below 70%, review the corresponding lessons and complete additional learning activities.
  2. Go back and view teacher comments on portfolios and work on any skills that the teacher said needed improvement.
  3. Take a field trip to a local museum and ask your student to write about what he or she learned or observed.
  4. Subscribe to the free Macaroni Kids website and receive a weekly email of kid-friendly events and activities in your area.
Language Arts
  1. Watch a movie based on a book and then read the book (or vice versa). Ask your student to write a paragraph comparing and contrasting them. (A few good choices: James and the Giant Peach, Shiloh, Call of the Wild, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Lightning Thief.)
  2. Read a biography together, and then have your student write his or her autobiography, a family member’s ...

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