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I have often been asked for products that teach the concepts of fractions besides the old and possibly tired fraction pie resource. TOS Crew has reviewed a few good and different ones in that you can check out in the Blog Cruise archives. Recently, though, a couple of fun game products were sent to us to review that I think are quite unique. If your student really doesn’t feel motivated to learn fractions, the one I was sent is definitely worth a try. Fractazmic is a fun game that teaches fractions and numbers and measurement. And did I mention that it is a game! What better way to learn!

The basics of the game are to create a hand and have the most hands before any player runs out of cards. A hand is created by adding together the fraction cards of the same suit to equal one. There are three suits in three different colors. The sixteenths suit is red, the twelfths suit is blue, and the tenths suit is green. Within a suit, the cards show fractions that can be added together. When you have cards that total together to equal 1 in that suit, you have a hand. For example, in the twelfths suit or blue cards, you might have ¼ and 1/3 and 5/12. Those fractions when changed to equivalent fractions with the same denominator can be added to equal 1 such as 3/12 plus 4/12 plus 5/12 equals 12/12 or 1. Using graphical depictions on the colorful cards, the student can quickly make the mental calculations required while learning and reinforcing the concepts of equivalent fractions and adding of fractions. Each suit uses a different application for representation of the fraction amount such as eggs in a cartoon for the twelfths suit, water in a water bottle for the tenths suit, and a close up view of a ruler for the sixteenths suit thus teaching the concepts of numbers, fractions, and measurement. To aid even further the quick mental calculation, the ruler graphic used in the sixteenths suit also depicted cute little brown ants and green grasshoppers to visually and quickly see one sixteenth unit and 4 sixteenths units. This visually helps the student to remember that 1 grasshopper is 2/8 or 4/16 allowing for quick denominator change and adding along with the addition of the number of ants to better see and calculate the ones. This is an excellent use of visuals for mental calculation and concept reinforcement.

Along with the colorful concept depictions, the game play is simple and fast moving to motivate and encourage even the most reluctant of math learners. The play really does make it fun while teaching the complex concepts and the “why it works” behind the math.

Many special needs populations should benefit from the colorful representations of the fractions in comparison of equivalency especially learning disabled students. I will give suggestions for modifying the cards or adding to the cards that can work, especially if you wish to include your special needs students in play with your other students. These are merely suggestions. You may feel that they are more complex or work intensive than the benefit brings. You can decide that for yourself. If you have students who really need more tactile and kinesthetic representations, start with tutor-aided demonstration games where the student has a tutor to help him manipulate real objects of an egg carton with wooden or plastic eggs, a liter water bottle with the same graduated increments (if the student needs more than just counting the line markings to visually see the amount, use a clear water bottle and pre-measured colored plastic page strips that can be slipped inside the bottle to represent water to the desired level), and an oversized ruler or card-drawn ruler (if needed or to add more textured manipulation for the student who needs multisensory input to attach meaning to objects and words, and allow for the same visual effect for quick mental calculation, use appropriately sized models of an ant and a grasshopper). For blind and DeafBlind students, I would use the real objects first to help the student grasp the representation of the fraction and addition of fractions. The cards are easily brailled with the fractions each card represents and the word name or fraction name with the word suit to distinguish suit differences. After the student fully grasps the object representations, tactile markings can be placed on the cards to remind the student of the components for calculation. Or the cards can be brailled with the additional cell for the suit fraction such as the ¼ card of the twelfths suit can be brailled with “3 eggs” or the 3/12 fraction cells. Thus, the card would have the ¼ braille cells (with or without the number braille sign), the word twelfths or the number 12 and ths cells for 12ths representing the suit, and the braille cells for 3/12 or “3 eggs to cover all of the needed information to play the game successfully depending on the memory aids needed for the student. It must be noted that tactile markings and braille cells will make it necessary to be gentler when shuffling and during game play. Tactile markings may have to be reapplied occasionally, too. Again, these modifications are just ways to try to make the cards more useful to more student populations.

Fractazmic can be found at http://www.fractazmic.com for just $6.95. The website also describes other ways to play and listings of other great card games to learn other math concepts.

 

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

 

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As in a recent post, I mentioned that I have taught many subjects in public, private, and homeschools over the years. Technology is one of them. My students always seemed to love robotics. Recently, I was sent a neat little robot kit called “Bug” from TeacherGeek. Most robot kits are that I have used over the years are similar even if the theme was different. This one’s theme was a bug. There were a couple of differences though to this that I like.

One difference from the kits I have had in the past was the fact that once you built the robot using the instructions and then programming it once in some way either by a device on the robot itself that let you do minimal directional changes or the robot merely would go until it hit something and then change directions via a sensor or you used a very simple computer software program to give limited directions. Now as a teacher, I had access to other ways and programming languages to do more advanced programming, but the kits never gave you that kind of thing. So, you would build the kit and play with it a little bit doing the simple things you could do with it, but mostly you just watched it move and twirl some. Neat at first, but it was quickly boring. This kit includes a manual called “Electronics Lab” (teacher’s key provided as a download with a code with purchase) that uses inexpensive alligator clips found at hardware and electronics stores or the TeacherGeek web site that you use at first for connecting to switches, creating different circuits, and exploring different elements of electronics as you change the bug in different ways. You can’t do that with most of the other kits I have found.

Another difference is that the Bug is a simple build with student-friendly parts making it easy for students as young as third grade to create and enjoy a fun project. It is also capable of being used to go further as mentioned previously with the lab manual and a few inexpensive parts. Most kits I have found were just too simple or way too complicated and involved. I like the fact that I can use the same kits with all my students and let them go as far as their interest and ability allows them to go.

I also must mention what might be a third difference and is the final wiring manual. After building and exploring, the last manual does an excellent job as a last challenge to permanently wire the bug including soldering. It checks understanding of schematics by letting them figure out the final schematic, followed by placing the wires according to the schematic, and then prepare the wire for wiring, and finally soldering. The teacher check’s off at each step to make sure the final results in a robot bug that goes forward, can be reversed by pushing a switch, and most importantly, doesn’t short circuit. The soldering instructions are included and are easy to follow and clear making first time soldering as easy as can be made. Some kits require you to look up soldering somewhere else, or their instructions are very lacking in detail and unclear. My students enjoyed the build and are still exploring much to all our delights.

 

Accessibility isn’t really advisable here for every group, but with supervision, this could be used by many tactile learners, learning disabled students, and some ASD students, especially Asperger’s. I brailled the steps for me by scanning the documents in, but I needed sighted help, of course, checking things some. I could feel the wire placement and even soldering once cooled, but I still will use a sighted aid. Blind and DeafBlind students who are older and more skilled can learn to do these projects, too, if you braille the instructions, give them a sighted helper, and teach them to know what they are feeling. I only let the oldest and most capable blind students solder, but feeling where they would solder first and then lightly and carefully, they can be taught with patience and practice. Try on practice parts first, of course.

Check out this project, accessories, and other products from TeacherGeek at http://www.teachergeek.com. The best thing about this project is the price. The single bug kit is $29.98, but multiple packs of 10 and 50 allow you to get enough for the whole family or co-op classes for as low as $6.29 for each bug. For the next three months, my readers can also get 10% off any of the TeachGeek products by using the code:hschool. Now there is no excuse not to try. In fact, this comes just in time for Christmas, so why not get Bugged!

 

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

For several years, I taught technology and computers in the public schools for upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Prior to that, I taught all subjects in middle school and high school including many special needs students. Of course, I had more vision during those years as I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. In the years that my boys were in scouting and I was Scoutmaster, the activities I did with them were often similar. Of all the things we did like building bridges out of paper and wood, making egg packages for safe drops, robots and other stuff, I have to admit building a life-size catapult with the scouts was my most memorable. Recently, I was sent a product from Pitsco, Inc. that brought back a lot of fun memories from those days. You see they sent members of the TOS Crew some projects to review. I received the trebechet and catapult kit or siege machines from one of my favorite periods in history, medieval times.

For grades 5-12 with some extensions below if providing lots of help or group effort, the siege engine is sure to provide many hours of educational fun, if not chaos. The kit provides the parts for two projects: a trebuchet and a catapult with each being suitable to lay siege to any number of miniaturized castles or villages. The spiral-bound guide provides history, numerous historical trivia facts, safety guidelines, and activities teaching concepts from science, technology, engineering, and math. You will also find additional resources to supplement and enhance your study, as well as, all the national teaching standards covered by the activities. You are given just what you are needed to begin your exploration of the fun and learning of siege machines and even going beyond.

The projects were easy to assemble. From the easy-to-remove, pre-punched parts to gluing (specific type of glue is required and doesn’t come with the kit, but it is sold by Pitsco, Inc. and is easy to find at other online sites, inexpensively) to final construction, the steps were fairly easy to follow. The pictures were a bit dark, but they were ok. You will need a few tools, but they are inexpensive and found in most homes already or can be purchased at hardware stores.

As far as accessibility, hands-on projects are usually very good for a variety of special needs students including tactile learners, learning disabled, ASD students, and even blind and DeafBlind students. For those with reading issues and learning disabilities who have trouble following complex steps, I actually made a list of step by step instructions for each of the projects simplifying the steps into easier language and more manageable steps. For blind users and myself, I scanned in the instructions making sure that the document was scanned using the Optical Scanner Recognition (OCR) software and saved it as a .txt file easily used by a brailled display. Adobe .pdf files cannot be read by a braille display. On an Apple machine, a .pdf file can be read if it is a text file and not a picture or.jpg file. There is a template page for using to bend the metal clips into specific shapes for holding certain pieces together in specific ways. I used thin lines of puffy paint or plain white paint can be used, too. This allowed me to feel how the wire needed to be bent and let me do that part myself. Even as old as I am, I still like to do as much of a project myself as I can. I am sure most students are the same way. It isn’t very fun just watching someone else do everything. Even if a child can only hold a piece as it is glued or wire is inserted and clasped, the child really feels a part of the project and remembers more if allowed to do even the smallest of things to help. The details were not hard to follow and didn’t take that long to complete, but the sense of accomplishment even for me was empowering.

Hands-on and simple designs are truly a great way to explore the complex concepts of math, physics, engineering, problem solving, and history. Even these small versions are great ways to learn, but don’t be surprised if your students ask to build a life-size one. Well, I won’t tell you not to, since I loved throwing water balloons from the one we built, but I would say consult a Boy Scout first! Smile…

To check out the Siege Machines kit or any of the other Pitsco, Inc. projects, head to http://www.shop-pitsco.com. You find this kit in the Homeschool area for $21.95 . Price-wise. the kits are  good. I paid more money in the past for less quality materials or simply had to scrounge around for my own which was often difficult. The convenience and affordability will be pluses for your homeschool. Remember it is always best to learn by doing.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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