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### Ten Brain Tricks for Learning Math Facts

I've been fascinated by the brain for years now. I've read about how the brain works, and the best ways to help children learn. I've applied this knowledge into my teaching and have had fabulous results!

### Let's see how they relate to learning Math Facts!

We know that “Practice Makes Perfect” is a fallacy since we know if a child practices something incorrectly, he learns it incorrectly.  Whatever they practice needs to be accurate so the child learns it correctly.  (I’m sure you know how hard it is to break a bad habit!)  When practicing facts, it's important that the child practices the correct answer. Either have the correct answer on the back of flashcards, or have the child practice with someone who knows the answers!

This goes with the first idea: the kiddos need to know if they're getting the answer correct. If they are not, they need to know right away so they will practice it correctly.

Brains are much more likely to remember something if the learner uses more than one process. If the children are looking at the fact, saying the fact out loud, and moving manipulatives on the tens frame, they are more likely to remember the information than if they just looked at it. Another idea, stating the fact while jumping on one foot, or while doing jumping jacks.

When children work together, they are keeping the brain happy. Social interaction is HUGE when it comes to learning! This is one reason why games are great for learning math facts!

A little healthy competition gets the blood moving, bringing oxygen to the brain and helping the memory do its thing. This is another reason why games are great for practicing facts!

When the kids practice facts, it's a good idea to put fact families together: 4+7=11   7+4=11   11-4=7   11-7=4   or  3x6=18  6x3=18  18÷6=3  18÷3=6 This really helps the kiddos make the connections in the brain!

If it's possible color code copies of facts by fact families.
The brain really focuses on color, and helps make those connections!

This is why it's not a good idea to give the kiddos too many facts to study at a time. Start with just a couple of families, and build from there!

It is suggested that children spend 5 minutes a day, every day, rather than a half hour once a week. It's actually less time, but it's more productive!

It is recommended that background music is played during practice times. This is a good time for a piece of classic music, not rock music or anything with lyrics.

## Hope this list helps your kiddos learn their facts!

THIS FREEBIE makes it clear just how many facts the children need to master!
It just so happens I have a set of addition and subtraction facts to practice that follow almost all these brain rules, (you have to supply your own music) and even has a few brain breaks worked in! See here if you're interested: Brain Friendly Addition and Subtraction: Fact Practice and Assessment

Update: Due to popular demand and success with the above set of addition and subtraction facts, I'm made a new version to practice and assess multiplication and division, which you can find here: Brain Friendly Multiplication and Division: Fact Practice and Assessents!

### Clip Charts, Yay or Nay?

Many teachers use a clip chart for behavior management in their classrooms. I know of many parents and teachers who have strong feelings about these clip charts.

## Here are some of the arguments against the clip charts:

1. It's too public.
2. It upsets children when their clip is moved down.
3. They don't change behavior.
4. It's negative.

## Well, despite all these beliefs, I use a clip chart in my classroom, and I love it!  Here's why:

1. It holds the students accountable for their actions.
2. It gives the children a chance to change things around.
3. It motivates the children to want to do well.
4. It's positive and honest.

## Does it sound like some of my reasons for using it are conflicting with some of the reasons some have for not using it?

Well, I think the difference lies in the execution.

## I find the clip chart to be a positive experience because I make sure it is a positive experience.

Most of the time, most of my students end the day well above green, and very rarely does a student end the day below green.

If they do end below green, then they must have needed that communication.

## Do you know who else needs that communication?

The other students in the class.

They see the inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. It makes them feel insecure and sometimes scared if the child isn't held accountable for their actions. When they see that the teacher does something about inappropriate behavior, it makes them feel more secure.

When I have to move a clip down, I make it clear that the child made a bad decision and is NOT a bad child. Then I repeat one of my famous phrases: "You have the power to change this!"

Then I make a point to find them doing something well, and make sure that clip gets moved in the right direction.

## It's all about positive execution!

The teacher has the power to make it a positive experience or a negative experience. I choose to make it positive.

I have a music theme in my classroom, so I designed this Clip Chart System:

It has music pictures and music themed words like "Rhythmic Day", and the most desired level: "Symphonic Day". It's tough to get to that top level, but I make sure it happens, and I make sure even the most challenging kids find their way to the top level.

For children who struggle, there is a more private option.

Each day, the children record where they end the day. Each week, they do a self evaluation and choose a goal for the week.   Sometimes they do need a little help coming up with appropriate goals, but sometimes I am amazed at how insightful these goals can be!

## Beanie Babies!

Depending on where they end up at the end of the day on the clip chart, they'll get to start the next day with a certain amount of beanies on their desk! It may seem like a little thing, but this is HUGE with my second graders! Those beanie babies are like trophies to those little guys!

I've been using beanie babies as rewards for years now, and I've never had a class that didn't love them. Yes, they play with them at first, but they don't want to lose the privilege of the beanie, so they learn real fast to leave it alone.

All in all, I love the clip chart system, but it is indeed a lot of work to make it work in a positive manner.

If you're interested in the Clip Chart System I use, See the image above or see THIS LINK.

## I also have a version of the clip chart with a sports theme!

Click the image or click HERE to see this resource!

I also use other methods of classroom management such as the scoreboard from Whole Brain Teaching but I believe in the Clip Chart because I make it work!

### Gotta Get a Gimmick!

There is a song from the Broadway show Gypsy called Gotta Get a Gimmick! Many of you may know I'm a big fan of musical theatre, and have performed in many, many productions of theatrical shows.
In fact, I tend to be rather theatrical in my classroom, too.
(You might have guessed this from my profile picture.)

This post has nothing to do with that show.

This is a Bright Ideas post!

But, seriously, have you ever noticed how a silly little gimmick can grab the kids' attention and turn an mundane task into something exciting! I'm sure you've done it!

Here are some gimmicks I've used!

Giant Dice: I'm sure you've seen these! I could have given these little guys a worksheet to practice adding 3 addends, but the giant dice and the whiteboards made them forget they were practicing a skill!

M&Ms! This lovely lady found the M&Ms a fun way to make sure she was leaving spaces between words!

Brain Breaks! These two cuties are doing wall push ups. The kids absolutely love this stuff! Plus, they need it! These two are playing a game that has the Brain Breaks build right in, but they don't need to be "built in". Brain Breaks should be a big part of every day! It's amazing what a small amount of movement or a change of pace can do for learning!

Mini Cards! These young gentlemen are practicing addition with 2 digit numbers. This is another case where a worksheet would be sufficient, but these little mini cards just make it so much more fun for the little guys! They love these!

Bracelets! These bracelets are simply beads (from any craft store) and pipe cleaners. This particular one was made for the new year, and was a chance for the children to practice facts that add up to 14. They can manipulate the beads to make 8+6 or 9+5 or other combinations.  My students love these bracelets so much, they even make them at indoor recess!

I have plenty more, and I'll bet you do too!

I don't believe in ALWAYS using a gimmick. Sometimes they just have to work. But sometimes they need a little something extra to get them going!

If you like what you see here on Elementary Matters, please join me on facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!

For more Bright Ideas from lots of fabulous bloggers, browse through the link up below. You'll be amazed by the bright ideas!

### I Won Big in Vegas!

I won big in Vegas! No, not THAT way, but I did spend \$6.00 to come home with this:
Yes, that says 24 cents. I could have cashed it in, but I thought the voucher was a much more entertaining souvenir!

So the gold I came back with wasn't cash, it was far more valuable. It was knowledge!

Honestly, many of these things I knew, but this was reinforced by my 4 days in Vegas with teachers!

The Golden Nuggets from Vegas:

1. Collaboration! There is strength in numbers. When teachers (or anyone) share ideas and work together, supporting each others efforts, everyone wins! This concept was truly evident this week. I saw  many cases of teachers giving "shout outs" suggestions, advice, and encouragement to other teachers, and it warms my heart. I've never been much of a competitive person. I'd much prefer that we all get along and work together, which I've always found to work best!

2. Work With Good People! The above picture is a great example of what I mean by "Good People"! The person on the right is Paul Edelman, the man who created Teachers Pay Teachers. He gave the Keynote address at the Teachers Pay Teachers conference and made it clear he has gone out of his way to hire "good people". He clearly has, and there's no question that he is one himself! (I showed him a picture of my lovely daughter, whose college career is a reality because of TpT! We had a great conversation!)
On the left is Deanna Jump, the #1 seller of Teachers Pay Teachers. I'm lucky to have met Deanna at last year's get together, and was sitting right up front for her part of the Keynote address. She told her story, and it was clear to all that she is a good person! She's humble, genuine, and down to earth. I met many people over the last few days that met that description!

3. Take Risks! Yep, I always knew that taking risks is important, but I was way out of my comfort zone for a lot of this week. I'm basically an introvert, and I'm often shy, especially around people I don't know well. Wednesday night was the blogger meet up. There were several hundred teachers, all talking at once, most of whom I'd never met. My natural instinct is to run away when it comes to large groups, but I bit the bullet and started chatting and circulating! I'm so glad I did! I talked to people that I've "known" for years online through blogs and facebook, but I finally met them face to face! There were others I wasn't familiar with, and I'm glad that has changed! I forced myself to go right up to strangers, introduce myself, ask them about themselves, and pushed myself to keep circulating. I'm so glad I did!

4. Have something Memorable! Despite Rachel Lynette's suggestion to keep profile pictures "professional", I'm glad I have used the picture I have, which is far from professional looking! (Rachel DID give her disclaimer: "If something is working for you, keep doing it!) I've used my silly pose as my profile picture for a while, and more people recognized my picture than remembered my name or my logo. That taught me I needed to keep using this picture, because I want to be remembered! I suspected this was the case, so I made nametags with that picture on it, and wore them most of the time in Vegas!
I have to admit, that silly picture represents me as a teacher. I'm pretty animated, energetic, and fun. I've even been known to tap dance on a table to hold the kids' attention!
I also made a point to include my maiden name on my nametag, since I chat with many teachers on facebook, and that's the name I use. Most people are visual, so even if they can't remember it, they'd recognize it!

5. The Best Form of Professional Development is Talking to Other Teachers! I doubt there are any teachers who don't agree with this one! I went to 4 valuable sessions sponsored by Teachers Pay Teachers on Friday. I learned a lot from those sessions. I can honestly say I learned even more from the times I got together with other teachers. We had the blogger get together on Wednesday (which I met a lot of people, but actual conversations were tough because it was crowded and LOUD!) We had the Happy Hour on Friday, plus, many of us got together for meals and activities. We had some amazing conversations at these get togethers. Topics included our classrooms,  Whole Brain Teaching, blogging, facebook, TpT ideas, Instagram, and even a few non-teaching ideas, such as weddings, divorces, our children, and the men in our lives! Honestly, those get togethers are the times I'll remember the most, and were the most valuable to me professionally.

6. Leave Room for Swag! What you see in the above right picture is only part of what I brought home with me! Yes, I somehow managed to get that suitcase closed, but it was a real struggle! My roommate, Heather from HoJo's Teaching Adventures managed to have a good chuckle while I sat on my bag and struggled to zip it!

7. There's No Place Like Home! I've always felt the best part of any trip is coming home. I had 4 fabulous days in Vegas with hundreds of AMAZING teachers, but it sure was good to be home! Even though it's all over, no one can ever take those memories away from me.

One more piece of advice: if you're like me and find it impossible to sleep on a plane, don't take the "red eye". At some point I may get enough rest and start feeling human again, but I don't think that will be this week!

### Show Your Patriotism!

I'm sitting here watching the annual 4th of July Boston Pops Concert and swelling with pride for my country. It seems these concerts just keep getting better and better! Back in the old days, we used to drive down to Boston, spend all day saving our spots on the Esplande, then watch the concert live. The traffic and crowds never bothered us, it was always worth it!

Nowadays I sit in my living room and watch on TV. It's not quite as exciting as watching it live, but it sure ois mre convenient!

In honor of the holiday, I've created some brain breaks with a patriotic theme.

I do love to include anything the kids are learning as brain breaks. I usually manage to include seasonal or holiday brain breaks when I can. These Patriotic Brain Breaks can be used for any Patriotic holiday: Constitution Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, or Independence Day!

## See the image or see here to download your freebie: Patriotic Brain Breaks!

### Ten Reasons My Students Play Lots of Games

I have been fascinated with the brain and how it works for years now.

I do a whole lot of reading about the brain. I have a ton of books about the brain and learning. I follow several online journals and newsletters, and make note of any articles that have something to do with the brain and how it works.

## Here are some of the things I've learned about the brain:

1. Practice Makes Permanent! We know that “Practice Makes Perfect” is a fallacy since we know if a child practices something incorrectly, he learns it incorrectly.  Whatever they practice needs to be accurate so the child learns it correctly. (I’m sure you know how hard it is to break a bad habit!) Games can be played over and over, giving the children plenty of opportunities for practice!

2. Practice with Feedback is even better!  As the
children work in pairs or small groups, the teacher or the partner should immediately say the correct answer if it’s not given. That feedback is essential! I emphasize partners checking answers during game playing.

3.  The Brain is a Parallel Processor! Brains are
much more likely to remember something if the learner
uses more than one process.  If the children are
looking at the fact, saying the fact out loud, and making gestures or moving manipulatives on the tens frame,
they are more likely to remember the information than if they just looked at it. I expect my students to say say facts out loud during game play.

4. Brains Need Social Interaction!  When children work together, they are keeping the brain happy. Social interaction is HUGE when it comes to learning!

5. Emotions play a big role in memory! A little healthy competition gets the blood moving, bringing oxygen to the brain and helping the memory do its thing. They sure love to win! (But make sure they know how to lose as well!)

6. Brains remember patterns! If you organize information
by patterns, it helps! An example might be learning math facts by fact family or sight words by word family. These two fact fluency sets are based on patterns.  Brain Friendly Addition and Subtraction Fact Fluency and Brain Friendly Multiplication and Division Fact Fluency

7. Brains remember colors!  Seriously! Using color
helps the kiddos remember! The above fact fluency systems are color coded for better learning!

8. The Working Memory can hold 2 to 4 chunks of information at a time! This is why I suggest starting many games with just some of the cards, not all the cards at once!

9. A little bit each day is more productive than a lot,
once a week! I like to spend 5 minutes a day with
math facts games, 5 minutes a day practicing sight words games, etc. This is so much more valuable than a half hour once a week!

10. Music helps the brain organize data! It is recommended that appropriate background music is played during practice times. When possible, play music during game time! It really makes a difference!