Dividing Fractions

My 6th graders have been working with dividing fractions for the last two weeks. We explore these four ways, in this order:

  1. Number line
  2. Rectangles — I wrote about this here.
  3. Dividing by one
  4. Common denominator

It’s completely intentional that we work with the number line and rectangles first. I want my kids to see the answer and that it should match their intuition and understanding.


Posted in Course 1 (6th Grade Math) | Tagged , , , | 8 Responses

They Save Me

Like all mornings, the alarm on my cell phone pays no attention to my slumber and goes off anyway. I’ve changed the default ringtone of Radar to Ripples — it’s still annoying and elicits the same expletive from me.

Another Monday. Just three more Mondays.

Like going to the gym, the hardest part is getting there. Once I arrive at school, my mood is buoyant from the exchanges of greetings and smiles with the students.

I’m finishing up my 26th year in the classroom. Yet no two moments have been the same. Each kid unique, each class different, each interaction idiosyncratic. The kids are all lovely. They are all crazy. They ask great questions. They ask dumb questions. They know a lot more than we think. They know nothing. They are very kind. They are rude. They say funny things. They tell the worst jokes.

The briefest exchanges let me know that I’m in a good place.

Sometime during 2nd period:

At the start of 5th period:

Me: Please draw a rectangle, any size is fine.

J: You want us to do that now?

Me: No. Two hours from now.

K: Hehe. I love  your sarcasm, Ms. Win.

It’s been a rough year in my personal life. But I get to escape from it through these light moments with my students. They make me laugh. They make me fart. They save me from myself.

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Warm-Ups in Google Classroom


One does not say no to Elissa. And because I adore her!

We do warm-ups every day, and kids know it’s always the top assignment in their Google Classroom Stream.


I put 4 days worth of warm-ups on one Google Doc, like this week’s.

The warm-ups that make up the 4 days on the Google Doc are normally from any of these sources:

The 5th day is always a visual pattern — and this is on Google Draw so kids can mark it up.


How much time I allot for each warm-up depends on the question, from 3 to 5 minutes. Going over their answers as a whole class takes another 3 to 5 minutes. Every so often a warm-up takes 20 minutes, and that’s perfectly okay. When kids have a lot to share/discuss, I’d be a fool to stop them.

The warm-up below, for example, could be a full-blown PoW, so I gave students about 10 minutes of quiet individual time. This student finished up her thoughts for homework because she wanted to — and because math, and because my kids are better than yours.



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Baklava and Euler

Some 20 years ago. Two colleagues were talking in the hallway outside my classroom when I approached. Guess they were talking about food. He turned to me and said, “I bet Fawn doesn’t know what a baklava is.” I said, “I do know,” and walked away.

What I really wanted to say: Hey asshole. Why did you assume that I didn’t know what a baklava was? You could have just asked me if I knew.

Some 5 years ago. A math professor was visiting our math project because he was one of the regional directors (or in some similar capacity) overseeing the project. At the end of the workshop, he decided to tell me about dead mathematicians, scribbled their names on the whiteboard, and then he pointed to Euler’s name and said, “His name is not pronounced like what you might think.” I said, “I say oiler, how do you say it?”

What I really wanted to say: Hey asshole. Why did you assume that I didn’t know how to say Euler’s name? You could have just asked me if I knew.

I shared two instances, sadly I have many more.

I hadn’t heard of “mansplaining” until just a few years ago.

These various encounters were always unfortunate, and I’d walked away from each one without saying what I really wanted to say. I was probably thinking, I don’t have time for the likes of you. And my anger dissolved into boredom, almost as if I’d accepted it as part of life — an element in the period table, in the inert column.

But that might be a lie because I’m reactive to it — even for the briefest moment — by being made to feel small and vulnerable, intellectually inferior and naive, dismissed and categorized.

I shall speak up next time.


[Added 5/23/16. HT @HKhodai]

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A to Z

I’m just following Annie’s lead.

Here goes — just whatever word comes to my mind starting with that letter and how I might use it in a sentence.

A — Attorney. I should have been an attorney so I may charge my unfortunate client in increments of 1/20 hour.

B — Buttercloud. At Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe, you can order french toast made from buttermilk biscuits, like they do in heaven.


C — Cow. I have a memory of a cow.

D — Dick. Stop acting like a dick. Don’t be a dick. You’re a dick. (Why does dick get all the bum rap.)

E — Everett. Dear Everett, You left this world too soon, but I will forever see your big smile.

F — Family. I can’t stand services that claim “We treat you like family here.” No you don’t, because if you did, you wouldn’t charge us.

G — God. Are you there God? It’s me, Fawn, not Margaret. Screw her, I need You to work on me.

H — Happy. Be happy, anything less hinges on self-hate.

I — Ice cream. My kid ate all the ice cream, like all 12 bars and 8 pints, I shit you not.

J — Japan. This same kid is going to Japan for who-knows-how-long. I’ll wait until he leaves to restock the freezer.

K — Kaplinsky. I love Robert Kaplinsky more than I love kale, and I really like kale.

L — Lemons. Yes, freshly squeezed lemons, not limes, and lots of freshly squeezed oranges (or juice from a carton that’s NOT from concentrate), together with a shot of tequila = yum.

M — Matt. Matt Vaudrey just sent me a few texts today that brought a big smile to my face and his words felt like a warm hug. Thank you, Matt.

N — Nevaeh. I have a student named Nevaeh, and it’s only recently that I learned it’s “heaven” spelled backwards.

O — Open House! Yes, tonight is Open House, but I have no student work on display at all. Nada. That’s because we do almost everything in Google Classroom and on whiteboards, and whiteboards get wiped! I had my students write various PS [problem-solving] problems on large white boards for parents/guests to work on. Then on the big TV, I have slides on loop showing the kids’ work on Desmos, visual patterns, and other fun stuff.


IMG_4075 (1)

P — Pride. Sometimes pride may be mistaken for arrogance. Your pride should elevate others around you, whereas your arrogance aims to diminish them.

Q — CUE. I had a great time presenting at the first ever CUE Rock Star MATH camp last weekend in Los Gatos. (What? Qantas??)

R — Rosemary. After you grill a steak, finish it off in a hot pan with butter and sprigs of rosemary.

S — Sorry. [6/2/16: I took out what I originally wrote here. Anyway. Never be sorry for being you, for existing, for trying to do your best with what you have.]

T — Teachers. Teachers are my heroes, the same way that kids are my heroes.

U — Uterus. My, what a lovely uterus you have.

V — Vagina. Victory. Vegan. Megan sent me vegan jerky, and it tasted like shit.

W — Weed. Weed is that green crumbly leafy stuff that you can snort. Or am I thinking of dandelion.

X — Xtra. If you allow students to turn in Xtra credit, then I don’t think we can be friends.

Y –You. Annie would say, You do you.

Z — Zits. I shouldn’t be getting zits at age 51.

Posted in Shallow Thoughts | Tagged , , | 9 Responses

One-Tweet Post

Because I can.

And because I really love the kid who wrote this on her test. I’ll call her G. She tells me more than once, “Ms. Win, I’m not good in math. I struggle a lot, but this is my favorite class because you’re my favorite teacher!”

G has a tough time paying attention in class. She is always digging around in her backpack looking for something — the way an adult looks for misplaced keys or wallet. I love her mom too who has big sections of her hair dyed pink plus some other neon colors. Mom chills out in my room after school on Mondays because that’s when I offer extra help to students, and G is made to attend. I like watching G and her mom put their heads together and work on the problems. Mom acts like a kid when she’s doing math, and I say that in the most heartwarming way.

Sometimes I think about what my students will do when they grow up. I think G will just be fabulous because she really doesn’t give a shit about what others think of her. It is true because it is true.

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Mental Math of 45 x 25

Wow. I suck at this #MTBoS30 thing.

Couple days ago I tweeted this out because my kids were working on the same one.


Thousands of folks — okay, maybe 7 or so people — responded, and I thought it’d be fun to see what some common and not-so-common strategies were.

Most common (22 people):

(40 x 25) + (5 x 25)


(4 x 25 x 10) + (5 x 25)

Second most common (11 people):

(45/4) x 100


(45/2)/2 x 100

Tied with 6 people for each strategy:

(45 x 100)/4

(45 x 2 x 10) + (45 x 5) = 900 + 225

Equally popular with 4 nods each:

(50 x 25) – (5 x 25)

(40 x $0.25) + (5 x $0.25) = $11.25 –> Change to 1125

4 quarters = $1 –> so 44 quarters $11 –> plus extra quarter = $11.25 –> so, 1125

Still others:

35² – 10²

(100 x 25)/2 – (5 x 25)

40 quarters + 5 quarters = 1,000 cents + 125 cents

(9 x 5) x (5 x 5) = 9 x 5³ = 9 x 125 = (10 x 125) – 125 = 1250 – 125

45² – (45 x 20) = 2025 – 900

25² + (20 x 25) = 625 + 500

doubling and halving: (45/2) x (25 x 2) = 22.5 x 50 = 11.25 x 100

And an area model from Mylene:

Yay to math tallks! Also, I think it’s really important that we are intentional about what numbers we give students for mental math. Jason Zimba once said, “Think of mental calculation as being the best approach only in cases where a readily apparent mental strategy is probably both faster and more reliable than the standard vertical written algorithm.”

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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


Jean-Dominique Bauby was 43 when he suffered a massive stroke that resulted in “locked-in syndrome.” He was only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. This is his book.


And in truth I would have been pleased to trade my yellow nylon hospital gown for a plaid shirt, old pants, and a shapeless sweater — except that it was a nightmare to put them on. Or rather to watch the clothes manipulated, after endless contortions, over these uncooperative deadweight limbs, which serve me only as a source of pain.

Like the bath, my old clothes could easily bring back poignant, painful memories. But I see the clothing a symbol of continuing life. And proof that I still want to be myself. If I must drool, I may as well drool on cashmere.

And then one afternoon…, an unknown face interposed itself between us. Reflected in the glass I saw the head of a man who seemed to have emerged from a vat of formaldehyde. His mouth was twisted, his nose damaged, his hair tousled, his gaze full of fear. One eye was sown shut, the other goggled like the doomed eye of Cain. For a moment I stared at that dilated pupil, before I realized it was only mine.

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Jerks, Brats, Nincompoops

I write and speak often about how much I love my students and teaching mathematics.

Mathematics and problem solving were love at first sight for me; I’ve loved these things as a kid growing up. But students and teaching were acquired love; I had to get a teaching credential and meet the students before I could grow to love both.

But this post isn’t about love at all really because in all honesty I don’t love all my students all the time.

It’s spring time, almost progress report time for the last quarter, and the 8th graders at our K-8 school are itching to leave the campus where they’d spent the last 9 years. Our 7th graders are uniquely a rough bunch — something is amiss in their group dynamics. And our 6th graders behave like “squirrels on crack.”

Friends remark that I must have a lot of patience to be a teacher. I claim that because I need to reserve my patience for students, there’s not much I have left for adults. Grownups can piss off with their nonsense, I’m here for the kids.

But the kids can be jerks, brats, nincompoops. They can be manipulators, liars, bullies.

I believe there are actually good reasons why kids can act in any of the aforementioned capacities.

But I also don’t believe in making excuses for them. We must know at least one or two or a dozen adult assholes. Well, I don’t believe these folks became narcissistic a-holes overnight; instead they have been self grooming and unrepentant because the folks around them have made all sorts of excuses for them.

It might all be a timing issue. If we could just nail down the right time to say the right thing. Think about the times when we held our tongue to discipline a kid because we think he/she is too young. (Unfortunately the word “discipline” has gained an erroneous negative connotation when its original meaning from the Latin disciplina is teaching and learning.) Think about the times when we thought quietly or said aloud, “Oh, she didn’t mean it.”

I was in a store not long ago when a young child — he was still slightly unsteady on both feet — was allowed to hold a ceramic vase. I say “allowed” because his mom said to him, “Be careful with that, honey.” What do you think happened two minutes later? Yup, he dropped the fucking vase and shards of ceramic went fucking flying everywhere. The manager had to show up with a broom and a dustpan. Meanwhile the mom held her son tightly to her fake boobs to soothe him, “Oh, sweetheart, you didn’t mean to break it. That’s okay. This lady here will clean it up. You’re okay, baby. Everything is okay. I know you didn’t mean to…”

Jesus Christ. I wanted to smack the mother with the dustpan. If children cannot stand steadily on two feet, then they are probably not old enough to hold a fragile piece of anything. (And maybe I made up the bit about her boobs being fake.)

This post took a weird angry turn. Anyway, we need to love our kids — or get out of teaching if they are not our type — but let’s stop making excuses for them. Spring fever is not an excuse. Most of us are probably wrapping up or done with testing. If the students are truly “acting up” more at this time, then I wonder if they’ve picked up from us that we’re not really into “teaching” any more.

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Google Classroom

Falling behind on #MTBoS30 already!

Here’s my excuse.


Bonanza, Oregon


I’m loving Google Classroom. We have effectively gone nearly paperless by doing warm-ups, weekly PoWs, problem solving, almost anything and everything in Classroom. I appreciate the efficiency of organizing folders and the seamless integration with Google Drive. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m excited with how we’re using Classroom already.

I put a visual pattern in Google Draw for students to mark up the pattern and figure out the equation.


Visual Pattern #195 from http://www.visualpatterns.org/181-200.html


Visual Pattern #177 from http://www.visualpatterns.org/161-180.html

Students complete a Google doc for other warm-ups. Here’s one we just started today.



Students do PoWs (from NCTM The Math Forum) in Classroom, and I can give them feedback directly on there.


We save valuable class time by posting answers to textbook problems in Classroom.


You get the idea. I would love to learn how you use Classroom! Please share in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @fawnpnguyen.

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