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Math Literacy News: Volume 2 Spring 1995

It is with great pleasure that we publish this second edition of the: Math Literacy News. The Ohio Literacy Resource Center (OLRC) has received funding from the Ohio Department of Education for a 1995 Math Literacy Project. We are hoping to spend this money wisely in order to help adult math teachers in Ohio improve and validate their teaching methods. Jean Stephens, director of the OLRC, has asked me to edit this newsletter and help coordinate this project. We have a lot of exciting ideas, many of which came from suggestions at the Math Planning Meeting in September, 1994, in Columbus. I hope that you will continue to send your ideas and suggestions for this newsletter to the OLRC. If you know of any "points of interest" that should be included, please send those to me also! --Nancy Markus

We hope that these ideas are useful to you, and we thank all of you who have sent them to us. If yours is not included, it is because of lack of space, not lack of worth! More will be included in future issues. Please continue to send your ideas to the Ohio Literacy Resource Center.

Charley Flaig - Northwest Local School District
Charley writes about two activities that work in his classes.

  1. I stress estimation: I believe it is one of the most important techniques an adult learner must master. We do a lot of real world situational exercises: shopping with a limited/ specific budget; travel by estimating mileage, time, gas, expenses. In every word problem I require the student to tell me the approximate answer and then solve it.
    Editor's note: The fifth standard "estimation" is one of the easiest to incorporate into your class and one with immeasurable benefits. Estimation is useful on the GED, since 75% of the test can be estimated using the answers provided, and in life situations where persons seldom use pencil and paper or a calculator. The hardest part is to spend the time doing what Charley has suggested. Sometimes doing only ten problems with true understanding is more beneficial than hurrying through twenty problems. "Less is more."
  2. I love mind benders! We start each class with one. I only answer yes or no questions. I expect each group to arrive at an answer and then present it to the class.

Editor's note: This is a great way to get the class working together to solve problems and also to look at problems from many different ways. Remember, contrary to what you may have been taught in fourth grade, there are many different ways to solve problems!

Examples of Charley's mind benders:
I am thinking of a number (n) of pints.
n < 3 gallons.
n/2 has 0 left over.
n/3 has 1 left over.
n/4 has 2 left over.
n/5 has 2 left over.
n/11 has 0 left over.

I am thinking of a number (X) of inches.
X<4 feet.
X/2 has 1 left over.
X/3 has 0 left over.
X/4 and X/5 has 1 left over.

I am thinking of a number (M) of months.
M<5 years.
M/2 has 1 left over.
M/3 has 1 left over.
M/4, 5, or 10 has 3 left over.
M/6 has 1 left over.

There are 60 people on a bus.
1st stop: « of the people get off and 10 get on.
2nd stop: 4 get off and 3 get on.
3rd stop: 1/3 get off and 2 get on.
4th stop: End of line. How many people get off?

Monica Massella - Auburn Career Center
This is an instructional approach that works with adult students who get frustrated with fractions. This is an alternative method for teaching subtraction of mixed numbers where regrouping and borrowing is required.
Simply change mixed numbers to improper fractions, subtract, and then change differences back to a mixed number. This method would, of course, be more difficult with larger mixed numbers; however, for the student who has great difficulty understanding the regrouping process, it's another approach.

5 1/7 = 36/7 vs. 5 1/7 = 4 8/7
2 5/7 = 19/7 2 5/7 = 2 5/7
17/7 = 2 3/7 2 3/7

Lois Borisch - Princeton City Schools
The following is one idea I have used in GED classes for teaching how to find what percent one number is of another number. The method also has practical significance for the student's personal health since it involves finding what percent of a breakfast cereal comes from fat. (Nutritionists recommend that, as a guideline, not more than 30% of a food's calories come from fat.)

By bringing cereal boxes to class, the students can look up the following data from the nutritional information on the side of the box:

  1. Total calories in one serving.
  2. 2. Calories from fat in one serving.

Note: Sometimes the data about how many calories are from fat is not provided. In that case, have the student find the grams of fat. Since each gram of fat provides nine calories, the calories from fat can be calculated by multiplying the grams of fat by nine.

After finding both the calories from fat and the total calories, the student uses those numbers to find the percent of calories from fat. For example, if the number of calories from fat is 40 and the total calories in a serving are 210, the percent of calories from fat is approximately 19%. Since this is less than 30%, this is a nutritious breakfast!
Editor's note: In the Steck-Vaughn Pre-GED math book, also called Connections, there is a section in the Ratio/Proportion/Percent unit that includes finding the percent of fat in foods. Students love it!

Sy Ostransky - The Jewish Vocational Service "Academics for Employment"
I have found the following grid to be useful in helping adult students place numbers in their proper places during multiplication. It is especially useful with students with visual dyslexia that interferes with multiplication.

MULTIPLICATION GRID (To see copy of grid contact OLRC)

In the October, 1994, Math Literacy News, E. Jean Thom gave us ideas for an introductory activity for both students and the instructor. Unfortunately, we wrote "one hundred and thirty-six" as one way to indicate the number 136 determined by Jean's name. As Jean correctly points out, the number 136 should be read as "one hundred thirty-six" since "and" is used only when reading the decimal point in a number. Please note that this was our mistake, and we thank Jean for pointing it out to us! (It's great to know someone actually is reading this!)

Kathleen McDonnell asks:
What software can you recommend for ABE students, beginning level though GED? What software have you used, and what do you see as the benefits and problems with it?

Editor's Note: Please send your suggestions to: Math Literacy News. Reader's suggestions will be published in a future newsletter.

The December 1, 1994, Teleconference on Math drew over 100 educators to seven sites in Ohio. Thanks to Jean Stephens for coordinating this project. If you would like to have a copy of the teleconference packet with all its suggestions and thoughts, contact your Regional Resource Center. The packet, which was given to all participants, is full of ideas that can be applied in your classroom.

Delores Jones, SW ABLE, and Carolyn Naples, Warren ABLE, attended the NCTM conference in Boston from April 6-9, 1995. A report will follow in the next newsletter!

Paula Mullet, Cleveland Heights/University Heights ABLE, and Mary Lou Swinerton, Medina County ABLE, will be presenting carousals at the OAACE Conference April 28-29th. Their topics will be "Problem Solving and Hands-On Math." Don't miss their presentations during the carousals on Friday afternoon.

Diane Ninke, Northwest ABLE Resource Center, and Jean Stephens, OLRC, will be presenting a session on the math teleconference at the OACCE Conference on Saturday morning.

Planning Committee Meeting: The twenty-three instructors who were able to donate their time for an initial math planning meeting in September, 1994, will be returning to Columbus on Friday, May 19, 1995. Topics to be discussed will include the ABLE New Teacher Manual math section suggestions for GED 2000, and commercially published materials that actually work. Results will be shared through this newsletter.

The Instructional Strategies Academy will be held on July 17-19, 1995, at Mohican State Park. This academy, coordinated by Nancy D. Padak, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Kent State University, will include math, reading and writing, and most importantly, how to integrate them in your classroom. Mary Jane Schmidt, Massachusetts Adult and Community Learning Services and newly elected president of the Adult Numeracy Practitioners Network, will be presenting one day on math techniques.

Four Regional Workshops are planned for August and September, 1995. These workshops will cover the ADULT MATH STANDARDS and how to implement them with special emphasis on problem solving. More information from your Regional Center will be forthcoming. Scheduled dates are August 4 for the Northwest, August 16 for the Northeast, September 8 for the Southwest and September 15 for the Central/Southeast.


The Adult Numeracy Practitioners Network (ANPN) is now an official professional organization. The informal network which began in March, 1994, at the Washington, D.C. conference became official April 5, 1995, when over 90 adult literacy practitioners met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and voted on a constitution and slate of officers. Ohio was represented at that meeting by Delores Jones, SW ABLE, Nancy Markus, Cleveland Heights/ University Heights, and Jean Stephens, OLRC. One of the first actions of the new organization will be to become an affiliate member of the NCTM.

The Math Practitioner, a national newsletter for networking among math professionals in adult education, has been sponsored by NCAL for the first few issues. If you want to continue receiving this (or begin receiving it), you will need to become a member of ANPN ($10 annual dues). A membership application form is available from OLRC, or by writing Mary Jane Schmitt, Adult and Community Learning Services, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148.

Send your math tips for the next issue of the Math Literacy News to the Ohio Literacy Resource Center.

If you would like to receive additional Math Literacy Newletters or other OLRC publications, please call 1-800-765-2897.

Math Literacy News is a publication of the Ohio Literacy Resource Center and is edited by Nancy Markus.

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