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Big Learning News 8-16-06

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 4:26 August 16, 2006

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Table of Contents
Math Moment: Counterfeit Coin Problem
Activity: Spot the fake photographs
Activity: Make your own historic tale
Product Review: Apples to Apples game
Web sites: Math Facts Review

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Math Moment

Counterfeit Coins

Ages 8-12

http://mathforum.org/tpow/index2.ehtml?puzzle=206 (problem description)

http://matti.usu.edu/mathforum/coinproblem/ (working coin balance to use while solving)

Imagine you have nine coins, and one is counterfeit. Also, imagine all you know about the bad coin is that it is heavier than the rest.

This admittedly far-fetched game asks you to use a balance scale to detect the counterfeit in as few weighings as possible (it only takes two, but younger children can do it in more and that's OK). It's fun because you get to move the coins around on the balance and watch it go up and down. To use the balance, click on the words "coin problem" in the description or use this direct link.

Use this game to help kids be systematic when they solve open-ended math problems. Even if kids put a coin on the left balance and then test each remaining coin in turn on the right balance, that's at most eight weighings.

With younger kids, illustrate the idea of a balance scale with something like a ruler balanced on your finger. Ask them what would happen if you hung something heavy on one side. Then help them see that if you put four coins on each side of the computer's balance, and one droops, the counterfeit coin must be in the heavier pile.

For older kids, see if they can get down to two weighings. If they (or you) give up, see my cheat-sheet solution here.

Your kids may be interested in how people really detect counterfeit money. Show them the U.S. Treasury's tips for detecting bills.

Also, ask them what would be a better tool than a balance scale for detecting the counterfeit coin by weight.

And while you're thinking about math, don't miss our math fact review games at the end of this newsletter.

More Fun Math for Kids

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Guess the fake photos


Ages 6 and up

Can an elephant use a giant yo-yo? Part of media literacy is understanding that not even photographs always tell the truth. Help kids learn that lesson with these wacky photos in National Geographic's Fake Photo Quiz. Kids get to look at a series of impossible-looking photos and guess if they're real or fake. A pop-window explains how the fakes were created or where the real ones were taken.

If your kids would like to try creating their own "fake photos," they might like this book.

More photography for kids

Comment on this article


Make your own historic tale


Want to get your child back into writing? This tool lets your child write and illustrate a medieval tale, moving characters into place, writing text, and creating a story comic-book style, frame by frame.

Fun, but a few caveats:

- Don't use the shift key - the text is all capital letters.

- I couldn't get the e-mail or gallery functions to work.

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Game Review

Apples to Apples Jr. by Out of the Box

Three or more players, ages 9 and up

Apples to Apples practically guarantees laughs, while helping kids exercise their vocabulary, creativity, and logic skills.

Each player gets five cards, each with the name of an object - like "elevator," "camels," and "beef stew." One player is the judge, and plays an apple card with an adjective like "calm." All the other players have to choose one of their object cards and make an argument that it's "calm." Well, says one, an elevator is calm because all conversation stops until you get to your floor. Another says camels are calm - they never have to worry about water. A third player says "C'mon, beef stew - comfort food? What's calmer than that?" The judge chooses the best argument and that player gets the apple card. Then the next player gets to be the judge. Four apple cards and you win.

Everyone in our family thinks this is a great game, including our eight-year-old, and including me, who basically only likes Scrabble. Read the customer reviews on Amazon and you'll see we're not alone - one five-star review after another.

Buying Information

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Web Sites

Math Facts Review





I know many of you are worried that your kids have forgotten their math facts over the summer. So give them some extra screen time this week, provided they use these web sites:

Mathmagician is pretty straightforward timed practice. You type in the answers to each problem while watching the timer bar mark your remaining time.

Mathblox is more fun - blocks with numbers on them fall, and you click on two blocks to complete a number sentence.

Da-numba is addition only, but you get to use more than two numbers to add up to the given number. When da-numba is 6, you can click 4 and 1, or 3 and 3, or 4, 1, and 1 - etc. Caution - there are a lot of other games on this site within easy clicking distance, and some may not be suitable for young kids so keep an eye on them.

FunBrain Arcade offers the chance to enter your grade level and gives harder problems for higher grades. Also, it has many different games, and success at one game gives you the key to the next so there's motivation to persist.

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Big Learning News (c) 2006 Karen Cole

Content meant for adults and provided for informational purposes only - readers are responsible for previewing all materials and activities for suitability and safety before sharing them with children.
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