Month: March 2013

Problem Solving Can Help You Learn Math

Quite often when people hear “problem solving” and math, their eyes glass over and they almost lose consciousness!

Yet even though it has a reputation for being extremely difficult, problem solving can truly help a student learn math skills as well as become more proficient at learning life reasoning skills!

I found this article at Article Alley by Dennis McLynn that I’d like to share with you.

Learning Math Through Problem Solving

Problem solving is an important component of mathematics education. It is a method that enables students to achieve a functional and logical understanding of math. Mathematics is an essential subject because of its practical role to the individual and society. Through a problem-solving approach, this practical aspect of mathematics can be developed. Problem solving is a method for students to construct, evaluate, and refine theories about mathematics.
Presenting a math problem to students and developing the skills needed to solve that problem is more motivational than teaching the skills without context. Such motivation gives problem solving special value as a method for learning new concepts and skills or reinforcing skills already acquired. Learning mathematics through problem solving can create a context which mimics real life and justifies the mathematics rather than treating it as an end in itself.

Problem solving is more than a process for teaching and reinforcing mathematical knowledge and helping to meet everyday challenges. It is also a skill which can enhance logical reasoning. Individuals cannot function optimally in society by simply knowing the rules to follow to obtain a correct answer. They also need to be able to determine which process a situation requires. Problem solving can be developed as a valuable skill in itself, as a way of thinking, rather than just the means to an end of finding the correct answer.

One of the goals of teaching math through problem solving is to encourage students to refine and build their own processes over time, as their experiences allow them to discard some ideas and become aware of additional possibilities. In addition to developing knowledge, students can also develop an understanding of when it is appropriate to use specific strategies. In this approach, the emphasis is on making students more responsible for their own learning. There is considerable importance placed on exploratory activities, observation and discovery, and trial and error.

Problem solving should be the focus of teaching and learning math because it encompasses skills and functions which are an important part of everyday life. It can also help people adapt to changes and unforeseen problems in their careers and other parts of their lives. Problem solving should underlie each aspect of mathematics teaching in order for students to experience of the power of math in the world around them.

By: Dennis McLynn

Dennis McLynn is the Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Business Development for High Points Learning. HighPoints Learning (HPL) is a leader in Web-based math education and instruction. HPL offers an online math tutoring program that helps raise participants’ math scores an average of 15 points in pre and post testing. HighPoints Learning services the 3-12 grade market. For more information visit:

So Mr. McLynn makes some good points, right? Did he succeed in making you less fearful of word problems?

Let me know!

Have a great day!

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Children Don’t Need Calculators To Learn Math!

I received a request to share an article with all of you from They’ve published an article and thought it would be a good fit for you, the readers of our blog. I read through it and agree that it is appropriate and a good fit. So without further ado, here it is:

Why Every Kid Should Be Able to Do Math Without a Calculator

by Michelle

In a highly-advanced technological age where every child seems to have a smartphone complete with a powerful calculator in their pocket, it may seem silly to make sure that they still are able to do math without the assistance of a calculator. However, there are plenty of reasons why children should know how to solve basic equations without a computer’s intervention. Regardless of how ubiquitous calculators and calculating software seem to be, there are things that a child simply can’t learn from plugging numbers in and instantly receiving an answer.

Learning to Operate in the Real World

While it’s quite likely that your child will almost always have access to a calculator of some sort in his adult life, it’s still important that he have at least a basic understanding of how to work out simple mathematical equations. Technology isn’t infallible, and there may come a time when he needs to come to a numerical conclusion and has no access to a calculator. When children rely on technology to do all of their work for them, they’re missing out on necessary life skills.

Learning Real Skills Versus Learning to Operate Software

A 2007 report by the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance to Congress shows that 16 of the best and most powerful reading and math learning software programs had no measurable effect on test scores. Students learned how to operate the software to obtain the desired affects, but not to apply the underlying concepts in daily life. No matter how well your child learns to solve equations on his calculator, he will essentially be missing the most important part of the exercise: how the solution is found. Kids can’t watch a calculator perform equations in real-time or observe the various steps in between. They simply enter a set of numbers, and another is returned to them. Manipulating a calculator with speed and accuracy doesn’t necessarily indicate that your child has the first idea of how to complete that same equation with a pencil and paper.

Obtaining Higher Education

Kids as young as those in elementary school are given calculators as a part of their curriculum, a practice that’s often continued all the way up to high school. What parents may not realize, however, is that many university math departments do not allow the use of a calculator. When a high school honors student is struggling merely to pass his first math classes in college, the hit to his self-esteem alone could affect his performance in the realm of higher education. Introductory collegiate mathematics classes generally ban calculator use, largely because in higher math the numbers are secondary to the abstract equations. For a science or mathematics-based major, the ability to understand the basic parts of an equation is essential. A calculator is of absolutely no use beyond introductory calculus, nor will it help a physics student find the answers they’re looking for. Instilling basic, core competency in these areas from a younger age and actively using those skills throughout high school far better prepares a young student to explore an education beyond the walls of that high school.

In an educational environment that relies largely upon calculators in the classroom, figuring out a way to instill basic mathematical principles and an appreciation for arriving at a solution through figuring it out independently isn’t easy. As long as calculator use is encouraged, and even required as part of a public curriculum, the responsibility to teach and reinforce basic equation-building and mathematical skills will fall upon the shoulders of parents. When your child protests that calculators are everywhere and he’ll never need to know how to work out a problem manually, explaining all of the reasons why he should still acquire these skills may help to soothe his indignation.

If you’d like to see the article at’s  site, you can view it here:

Of course if your child needs a boost in their math proficiency confidence – we are always ready to help them at

Have a great day!

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Help Your Child Learn Math With Fun Games

I found this video for a free math game that you can let your children play to help them learn math while having fun.

Check it out and try it out:

TuxMath Tutorial – Free Math Games For Children TuxMath is also know as Tux of Math Command. It is a free program and can be downloaded at Or TuxMath runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Unix and Linux. There are updates that come regularly, so check back with the site often for the new program. Also, the program is open source with the code available for free download. So, all of the game programmers can take a look at the code and see how the game is programmed. There are two games in TuxMath the first is comet zap (missile command) and the other is Factoroids (Asteroids). The game play on comet zap is well done with good graphics, sound effects and music. Factoroids can be a bit frustrating at times because it can be hard to dodge the asteroids, type the answers and fire the laser without being destroyed. The Math Command Training Academy has levels broken down in a way that teachers can find a level that closely matches their existing math lesson plans.

What do you think? Looks like fun, right?

Hope your children enjoy this.

Have a great day!

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Kakuro – A New Game To Help You Learn Math

At Mathnasium, we believe that learning math should be fun. One of the tools we utilize is to have children play games that will enhance their ability to learn math, so that learning math happens without the game player realizing it! As you get better at math, you’ll want to challenge yourself even more. So as I was looking for some challenging math games, I cam across this article about Kakuro. It sounds very interesting, though I admittedly haven’t tried it yet. Here’s the article:


Kakuro: Cross Sums

Trailing the revival and the reign of the sudoku puzzles in 2005, another Western game given a Japanese twist hit the puzzle scene. Kakuro puzzles, formerly known as cross sums, are now making waves as the newest puzzle craze. Bearing similarities in look and style to the more popular sudoku, kakuro puzzles promise to be more challenging and even more addictive than sudoku.

We know how brain and mental workouts enhance mental functions and sudoku has been included among the list of top brain boosters. Rightly so, since sudoku certainly poses quite a challenge to players. But if you think that simply placing numbers on squares in correct logic is challenging enough, try solving kakuro puzzles. They provide added difficulty and challenge of a higher degree since they require logic, cognitive, and practical mathematics. They are sure to provide you with a tougher and grittier mental exercise than the tamer sudoku. Certainly, these puzzles are not for the faint-hearted.

Kakuro puzzles are daunting, but they are not impossible. Enthusiasts emphasize that players need not have exceptional mathematical abilities or a genius like Einstein’s to solve the puzzles. Practical mathematical knowledge is often enough to solve the puzzles as long as players employ effective strategy and logic. Having sufficient grasp and mastery of the puzzle rules make it easy for players like you to use the right tactics. The rules of the puzzles are relatively simple. The “playing board” looks similar to a crossword with white and dark squares. However, there are no clues at the bottom of the box. The numbers on the white spaces are the only clues a you have. Each number represents the sum of the missing numbers in cells or boxes it refers to. Note that same numbers can’t be addends for the same run. For example, if the number in the box is 4, you can use 1 and 3 but not 2 and 2. Though the trial-and-error technique is often used, there are more sophisticated and logical techniques than filling your boxes with erasures and pencil marks.

A popular tactic is to search for cells with least combinations. These are usually the digits on the lower end of the number spectrum like 3, 5, 4, and other single digits. This limits the possible answers or numbers for a specific cell. Applying the same technique for the adjacent cells gives you a shot at the correct figure. Another tactic used in solving kakuro puzzles is looking for common numbers. This happens when two cells share a number. Finding the common number allows you to decide where to position the other number. To illustrate, if 3 and 1 are your answers for the number 4 at the vertical column or run and 1 and 5 for 6 at the horizontal line, 1 is your common number. Therefore, 1 merits the box at the intersection of 6 and 4. Experienced players solve puzzles by finding all possible and valid combinations plus correct cross referencing. Because as in sudoku, the position of the numbers matter in kakuro.

This third trick is probably the most elementary and least sophisticated. Marking answers on the edges of the boxes or cells with a pencil does not help you to solve the puzzles. However, it does help you track down your digits and combinations. This is especially helpful since kakuro puzzles have no definite limits. The “playing board” can measure as little as 3 by 3 or extend to God knows where. Over time, playing becomes easier because of practice. Also, you would have stock combinations in your head which you can use in playing. This is also a sign that you need to ditch the easier puzzles and move on to more challenging kakuro puzzles.

By: John Simon

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It sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Have any of you readers ever tried this game? I’d be very interested in hearing what you think.
Please post your experience in the comments below.
Have a great day!

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