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Notes — Factoring & Propaganda

October 30, 2008

Learning Notes: Saturday (Week 4, Day 7) and Sunday – Thursday (Week 5, Days 1-5)

Learning Notes for James:

–> We played several rounds of Mythmatical Battles. As I mentioned, we tweaked the rules so James has to subtract from each player’s “life points” each round.

–> He played loads of Timez Attack and has already progressed through the 8x tables.

–> We did some “book math,” and finished Lesson 26 in Math-U-See Gamma. He has not mastered multi-digit multiplication. As I have discussed almost ad nauseum, he is not a “left-brained,” sequential learner, and has great difficulty with any problem he can’t do entirely in his head. I have racked my brain, and I can’t think of a single instance — in that oft-discussed place called “real life” — where he will HAVE to solve 186 x 21 on paper.

So I’ve settled for asking him to estimate the answer by rounding (200 x 20 = 4000) then solving it with a calculator. I am surprised at how often he still has difficulty with basic math facts (“What is 6 x 4 again?”) This is another common trait of “right brained learners.”

I stand by my belief that number sense and understanding concepts is more important than computation. On the other hand, it’s impossible to even estimate properly without having mastered basic facts. I think we’re on the right track; we’re continuing to work on math facts through games (mastery will come in time) while moving forward with our curriculum, focusing on the concepts while downplaying computation.

–> We worked on factoring.

  • First I introduced the concept with with manipulatives (toy animals). “If 20 dogs are playing together, how many ways can they divide evenly into teams? They need to have the same number on each team, otherwise it wouldn’t be fair.”
  • He has worked with this concept before, and he’s VERY experienced with multiplication and division, so it was easy for him. He worked out that there could be a “free for all,” as he put it, “every man for himself” (20 x 1) or everybody on the same team (1 x 20), 2 teams of 10 (2 x 10), 10 teams of 2 (10 x 2), 4 teams of 5 (4 x 5) or 5 teams of 4 (5 x 4). He factored more numbers, using a similar approach.
  • We played a game I’d made years ago. It’s called Dragon’s Hoard, and there are many variations. (The surface contains a plastic sleeve, so you can change the board whenever you like). In this game, there is a board with the numbers 1-36. We use 2 regular dice. Each player rolls and multiplies the numbers he sees on the dice. If he rolls 4 & 9 (4×9), he gets to cover “36” on the board with one of his cubes (James used orange cubes; I used white). He also gets to cover all the factors of 36 (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 36). The object is to get the most cubes on the board.
  • We talked about basic things, like the fact that each of us had the same number of blocks on “1,” because “1” is a factor of every number.
  • After we played, we looked at the numbers that had NO cubes on them (like 11). We talked about the fact that there are some numbers where there is NO way to split evenly into teams except to have a “free for all” (everyone on his own team) or everyone on the same team.
  • I helped James pick out those numbers (the prime numbers) 2-36, using the Sieve of Eratosthenes technique. He placed a cube on each multiple of 2, then each multiple of 3, and so forth … and we looked at the numbers that were left.
  • Me — “Do you know what these numbers are called?”
    J– “Troll numbers!”
    Me — “Uh … I like that name, but actually they’re called prime numbers.”
    J –(looking supremely bored) — Oh. (Obviously he liked his name better).

–> One of my goals for Little Man is to have him start to master parts of speech. So I bought the Mad Libs Card Game. I’m here to tell ‘ya — every round of this game is a complete lesson in sentence structure and parts of speech. James’s best sentence: “Pickled tatooed creatures perfectly handcuffed bloody skeletons to horribly frighten the angry boys.”

–> He worked on the story he’s writing.

–> We worked in Spelling Power.

–> We played Hangman with some of his spelling words.

–> He finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and started Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

–> He had a music lesson and practiced piano.

–> Tuesday, He had a playdate with Sam. They ran around outside a lot  and played lots of Pikmen.

–> Wednesday, he had Homeschool P.E. and a playdate with Aengus. They ran around outside a lot, and played with Legos and Bionicles. I also got to hang out with one of my best friends (and drink coffee). 🙂

–> He wants to learn to make video games; today, his dad helped him get started on using Scratch.

Learning Notes for Sarah:

–> She played soccer.

–> She read Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones, and we read some of Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger .

–> She worked on her research project on banned books.

–> We worked in Math-U-See Pre-Algebra and finished Lesson 13.

–> We worked in Spelling Power.

–> We played Hangman with some of her spelling words.

–> We read and discussed a bit more of Are You Liberal, Conservative or Confused?

Literature Study on Animal Farm: Sarah & James:

We continued reading Animal Farm, and James narrated about some of the chapters we read. One of my goals for him is to have him summarize the main ideas when he narrates (rather than try to tell everything). He did beautifully.

We talked about propaganda. We discussed the fact that propaganda appeals to fear rather than reason, and bombards you with pithy slogans and images rather than providing information.

Sarah and her dad used the internet to explore different aspects of propaganda.


This is a recruitment poster used in Germany in WWI and WWII


This anti-Japanese poster was put out by the U.S. government during WWII.

This is one of the sites they explored.

When I type all this out, it LOOKS like we’ve been accomplishing a lot, even though I don’t feel that way. 😀 Another good reason for blogging.

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