January's Math Newsletter ~ 2019

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It All Adds Up

A Parent Newsletter About Mathematics at Lyseth School

from Cindy Nilsen, Lyseth's Instructional Coach of Mathematics
Contact: [email protected]



Words ~ Words ~ Words

This month it’s all about words and how important it is for children to build an expansive working vocabulary of mathematical terms.  Words are what we need to communicate about most ideas; this is especially true about mathematics. We have to frequently communicate with children about their thinking about mathematics, because that is how we find out what they know and what continues to be confusing for them.

You are probably already aware that reading with your child on a daily basis is one of the best ways to support vocabulary development. When you are reading, you are making meaning of the words in the story, and, of course, the story itself. You may also be pointing out certain words and discussing how the way they are used is making the story exciting, interesting, perplexing, or appealing.

There are some other time-tested and proven methods as well.

  • Words are remembered when they are linked or related to concepts, or presented in context. Our brains remember and learn best when we connect new learning with prior learning. For instance, take the word square.To understand the concept of square, it’s helpful to understand four, sides, equal, angle, quadrilateral, opposite, parallel, rectangle, attribute, etc. Any of these other words can also be better understood and used if one understands the word square. These words all work together to help us build meaning. You may have noticed that even the seemingly simple word ‘square’ requires some understanding of several other complex ideas and concepts.

    Dictionary definitions can be misleading and very confusing. The following quotation is from the website Think Math! (http://thinkmath.edc.org):

    In mathematics, definitions are essential, because examples, alone, can’t ever nail down meanings precisely enough for the careful use mathematics makes of words. Even so -- and especially in elementary school -- definitions really don’t quite “work” until one mostly understands anyway. Only then can a definition help clean up the details, refining and making precise what one already knows in a fuzzy and approximate way. And even then, in elementary school it is generally hard to get a definition precise enough to do the job without using words and ideas that the child doesn’t know!

  • When we talk about specific words, we are highlighting the importance we attach to those words. We are conveying to children that we want the words to be remembered and incorporated into discussions. (In our classrooms, we ask students to use specific mathematical vocabulary every day.)

  • Our brains store information that is repeated. In our conversations, we need to use the terms that we want children to remember. If words are remembered in meaningful ways, these words then become part of a working vocabulary.

  • How many words are too many? Five unfamiliar words per week is a perfectly adequate number. Incorporate the words in as many different ways as you can. A wonderful resource for finding these words is your child’s classroom teacher. We introduce new words in our mathematics lessons; you may have seen these words on homework papers or returned classroom work.

  • Connect the unfamiliar words with specific or concrete examples so that your child can create a visualization or image in their minds. If you can point to a picture or object when talking about a word, this helps your child make clearer, more meaningful connections.

  • Read every day. Read every day. It is that important! Have you seen or read any picture books that are premised on mathematical ideas? If not, you will be amazed at the growing number of quality children’s literature that is math themed. For your convenience, I have included a list of titles at the end of this newsletter. The Portland Public Library has many of these titles in their collection. Please take a look and choose some books to enjoy with your child!

  • Be an example! Show your child how you learn, remember, and use new words in your own vocabulary.

  • Talk about words that have multiple meanings. English is full of these types of words, and this complicates everything… for everyone! Talk about these confusing words and help your child understand how to correctly use words with multiple meanings in their appropriate contexts.

  • Questions! Children’s vocabulary is expanded, and their reading comprehension is strengthened, when they are asked questions when they're reading, and when their questions about their reading are answered. Encourage your child to explain or share her or his thinking about what a word in the story means. Have her or him use context clues and inferences to figure out the plot and make predictions about what comes next.

    Recommended Books with Math Themes

    Enjoy Your Reading!


    • Fraction Fun - Adler, David A.
    • How Tall, How Short, How Far Away? - Adler, David A.
    • Shape Up! - Adler, David A.
    • Who Sank the Boat? - Allen, Pamela
    • Where's My Teddy - Alborough, Jez
    • Anno's Counting Book - Anno, Mitsumasa
    • Anno's Counting House - Anno, Mitsumasa
    • Anno's Magic Seeds - Anno, Mitsumasa
    • Anno's Mysterious Multiply Jar - Anno, Mitsumasa
    • Bat Jamboree - Appelt, Kathi
    • Pigs on a Blanket - Axelrod, Amy
    • Pigs in the Pantry: Fun with Math & Cooking: Axelrod, Amy



    • Kids' Funniest Jokes - Barry, Shelia Anne (ed.)
    • Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain - Bateson-Hill, Margaret
    • Opt: An Illusionary Tale - Baum, Arlene and Joseph
    • the King's Chessboard - Birch, David
    • Sea Clocks: The Story of Longitude - Borden, Louise 
    • Secrets of Ancient Cultures: The Maya - Activities & Crafts from a Mysterious Land - Bramna, Arelette N. & Michele Nidenoff
    • Benny's Pennies - Brission, Pat 
    • Flower Garden - Bunting, Eve
    • The Greedy Triangle - Burns, Marilyn 
    • The I Hate Mathematics! Book - Burns, Marilyn
    • Spaghetti & Meatballs for All - Burns, Marilyn 


    • The Secret Birthday Message - Carle, Eric
    • The Grouchy Lady Bug - Carle, Eric
    • Jesse bear, What Will You Wear? - Carlstrom, Nancy White
    • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed - Christelow, Eileen
    • Counting on Frank - Clement, Rod 
    • The April Rabbits - Cleveland, David 
    • Even Steven & Odd Todd - Cristaldi, Kathryn 
    • Do You Wanna Bet?: Your Chance to Find Out About Probability - Cushman, Jean


    • The Everything Kids' Joke Book: Side Splitting, Rib-Tickling Fun - Dahl, Michael
    • Math Man - Daniels, Teri 
    • Two Way to Count to Ten - Dee, Ruby
    • One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale - Demi
    • Deena's Lucky Penny - DeRubertis, Barbara 
    • Lulu's Lemonade - DeRubertis, Barbara 
    • Pizza Counting - Dobson, Christina 
    • Twenty is Too Many - Duke, Kate


    • Picture Pie - Emberley, Ed 
    • Picture Pie 2 - Emberley, Ed
    • Picture Pie: A Circle Drawing Book - Emberley, Ed


    • A Cloak for the Dreamer - Friedman, Aileen
    • The King's Commissioners - Friedman, Aileen


    • Piece = Part = Portion: Fractions = Decimals = Percents - Gifford, Scott
    • Each Orange Has 8 Slices: A Counting Book - Gigantic, Paul
    • The Big Buck Adventure - Gill, Shelley, & Toola, Deborah
    • A Fly on the Ceiling: A Math Myth - Glass, Julie 
    • The Father Who Had 10 Children - Guettier, Benedicte


    • How Many Feet in the Bed? - Hamm, Diane Johnston
    • Pattern Bugs - Harris, Trudy
    • Only One - Harshman, Marc 
    • Count Your Way Through Africa - Haskins, Jim
    • Count Your Way Through the Arab World - Haskins, Jim
    • Count Your Way Through China - Haskins, Jim 
    • Count Your Way Through Japan - Haskins, Jim 
    • Twelve Snails to One Lizard - Hightower, Susan
    • A Bargain for Frances - Hoban, Russell
    • 26 Letters and 99 Cents - Hoban, Tana
    • Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, & Spheres - Hoban, Tana
    • Let's Count - Hoban, Tana
    • More, Fewer, Less - Hoban, Tana
    • Shapes, Shapes, Shapes - Hoban, Tana
    • Sea Squares - Hulme, Joy N. 
    • Change, Change - Hutchins, Pat 
    • Rosie's Walk - Hutchins, Pat 
    • The Doorbell Rang - Hutchins, Pat


    • The Great Pet Sale - Inkpen, Mick


    • City By Numbers - Johnson, Stephen T.
    • The Quilt - Jonas, Ann 
    • Splash! - Jonas, Ann



    • A Day with No Math - Kaye, Marilyn 
    • Pet Show! - Keats, Ezra Jack 


    • Follow the Money - Leedy, Loreen
    • Fraction Action - Leedy, Loreen
    • Measuring Penny - Leedy, Loreen
    • Mission: Addition - Leedy, Loreen
    • Wacky Wednesday - Lesieg, Theo
    • Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo - Lewis, Kevin
    • Inch by Inch - Lionni, Leo



    • Three Pigs, One Wolf & Seven Magic Shapes - Maccarone, Grace
    • I Spy - Marzolla, Jean & Wick, Walter
    • Gator Pie - Matthews, Louise 
    • My Grandmother's Clock - McCaughrean, Geraldine
    • The Token Gift - McKibbon, Hugh William
    • A Million Fish...More or Less - McKissack, Patricia C
    • Eating Fractions - McMillian, Bruce
    • 12 Ways to Get to 11 - Merriam, Eve
    • The Three Bears - Multiple Authors
    • The Three Billy Goats Gruff - Multiple Authors
    • The Gingerbread Boy - Multiple Authors 
    • Moria's Birthday - Munsch, Robert
    • Animals on Board - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom! - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Betcha! - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Captain Invincible & the Space Shapes - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Circus Shapes - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Give me Half - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Just Enough Carrots - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Less Than Zero - Murphy, Stuart J.
    • Might Maddie - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Missing Mittens - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • Probably Pistachio - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • The Best Bug Parade - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • The Best Vacation Ever - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • 3 Little Firefighters - Murphy, Stuart J. 
    • How Big is a Foot? - Myller, Rolf


    • How Hungary Are You? - Napoli, Donna Jo & Tchen, Richard
    • Ranger Rick (magazine) - National Wildlife Federation
    • Melisande - Nesbit, E.
    • Amanda Bean's Amazing Dream - Neuschwander, Cindy
    • Sir Cumference and the First Round Table: A math Adventure - Neuschwander, Cindy
    • Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone - Neuschwander, Cindy


    • Bart's Amazing Charts - Ochiltree, Dianne


    • Apple Fractions - Pallotta, Jerry 
    • The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar Fractions Book - Pallotta, Jerry 
    • The Hershey's Kisses Subtraction Book - Pallotta, Jerry
    • The World Almanac & Book of Facts 2005 - Park, Ken
    • DK Nature Encylcopedia - Parker, Steve (ed.)
    • The Warlord's Beads - Pilegard, Virgina Walton
    • A Remainder of One - Princzes, Elinor J.
    • Arctic Fives Arrive - Princzes, Elinor J.
    • Inchworm and a Half - Princzes, Elinor J.
    • One Hundred Hungry Ants - Princzes, Elinor J.
    • Math Counts Pattern - Pluckrose, Henry 


    • The Button Box - Reid, Margarette S. 
    • It's About Time, Max! - Richards, Kitty
    • How Much is that Guinea Pig in the Window? - Rocklin, Joanne
    • One Hungry Cat - Rocklin, Joanne 
    • One Hundred is a Family - Ryan, Pam Munoz


    • One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab - Sayre, April Pulley & Jeff
    • How Much is a Million? - Schwartz, David
    • If you Hopped Like a Frog - Schwartz, David
    • If you Made a Million - Schwartz, David
    • Millions to Measure - Schwartz, David
    • On Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey - Schwartz, David
    • Math Curse - Scieszka, Jon
    • Ant to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street - Seuss, Dr.
    • Cactus Desert, Arctic Tundra - Silver, Donald
    • Tropical Rain Forest - Silver, Donald
    • The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Animals: A visual Who's Who of the World's Creatures - Simon & Schuster
    • Caps for Sale - Slobodkina, Esphyr
    • Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt, Smucker, Barbara
    • A Place for Zero: A Math Adventure - Sparagna LoPresti, Angeline
    • The Art of Shapes: For Children & Adults - Steele, Margaret and Estes, Cindy 


    • Math Fables - Tang, Greg 
    • Math for All Seasons - Tang, Greg
    • Math-terpieces - Tang, Greg
    • The Grapes of Math - Tang, Greg
    • The Best of Times - Tang, Greg
    • If you Look Around You - Testa, Fulvio
    • Little Quack - Thompson, Lauren 
    • Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes - Thong, Roseanne 
    • Grandfather Tang's Story - A Tale Told with Tangrams - Tompert, Ann
    • Two of Everything: A Chinese Folktale - Toy Hong, Lilly


    • Persephone and the Pomegranate: Waldherr, Kris
    • Mouse Count - Walsh, Ellen Stoll
    • Emily's First 100 Days of School - Wells, Rosemary 
    • Eyewitness Natural World - Whitfield, Phillip
    • I Went Walking - Williams, Sue
    • A Chair for my Mother - Williams, Vera B.
    • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear - wood, Don and Audrey


    • Welcome to the Green House - Yolen, Jane
    • Welcome to the Ice House – Yolen, Jane





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