Instructional Fair: Using the Standards Series

I just read the only customer review for Instructional Fair’s Using the Standards: Measurement, Grade K, and the reason they dis this book is why I like it the most: it is not just a  workbook.  Sure, some of the pages look pretty familiar, but a high percentage of them are more like lab activities.  They get math OFF the page, and into BRAINS.  I have all four books in the K series, but I’m going to focus on the linear measurement part of this one book to give you a feeling for the whole series.

First off, the Introduction.  This series is written to the Standards outlined by the NCTM, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, so it goes WAY beyond rote memorization of algorithms for arithmetic.  It delves deeply, even at a kindergarten level, into critical thinking, applying math to real life situations, and creating and solving one’s own problems.  THESE are the skills that children need for life in the 21st Century, skills that no computer can ever replicate!  Skills and Standards are indexed, so one can target specifically as desired, or just start at the beginning and let them at it!(click on images to enlarge)

Next, I’ll give you some examples of the worksheets and activities from the linear measurement section, which is the first topic covered in the book.  Some of the pages are very standard workbook pages, but even these take it to the next level with extension activities, like this one from page 15 (which we did on the book using my workbook hack):  After numbering six snakes from shortest to longest, you are asked to draw six different fish in order from shortest to longest.  Below is what Big D did for this assignment.  She says that the brown fish was supposed to be longer, but she ran out of paper, and the little green fish with one fin wasn’t part of the assignment, but she wanted to put him there anyway.  The purple and red lines point to the shortest and longest fishes.

Weak fish, strong fish, short fish, long fish!

Another page (which we didn’t write down anything for at all) called for measuring with non-standard units of measure, in this case, a banana!  After planning ahead to make sure that Daddyman *bought* bananas for us, we were set to go.  Here’s the page in the book, as well as Big D’s simply stellar estimation that my pillow is four bananas long!

The banana lab and a more standard worksheet.

Big D is a good estimator!

Next was a pair of really hands on sheets, one about the length and width of one’s foot, the other measuring line segments with a ruler.  (Why they didn’t introduce the geometric notation of the line segment between A and B being AB with a line over it, esp for these early readers, I don’t know.)  These I printed out, since they needed serious manipulation, and we delightedly measured our bare and stockinged feet, since – hey – you can DO that in homeschool.  😉 

Why, yes, I DO do our math assignments along with the kids!

This sheet is opposite one on measuring lines, as seen below.  I pulled out rulers for each of the kids, and they went to town.  Buddy wrote nonsense letters in each space, and couldn’t get the hang of putting the zero mark of the ruler on the dot one is starting from, but hey, he’s two!  At first I thought it might be distortion from my copier, but no – line segment EF really is only 6 7/8″ long, whereas all of the others are full inches.  Beara didn’t notice, writing down that it was 7″ (and yes, I did introduce the little ” mark to mean inches.  One must always label one’s units! 😉 but Big D *knew* that it wasn’t a full 7″ so insisted that I teach her all about “the little lines in between”, and dutifully wrote down 6 7/8″!  This *could* be viewed as sloppiness on the part of the editor, but since the extension activity calls for making a new dot on the page and measuring from there to point A, and this was pretty much guaranteed to give a measurement that was NOT going to land on a full inch mark, this actually prepped the girls pretty well for this eventuality!  Measurements in real life are rarely tidy, and I liked that this prepared them for that, even if only by accident!

The book starts with a pretest, then divides into two sections, Processes, and Techniques and Tools, each of which contain exercises on linear measurement, mass, capacity, area, time, and temperature.  One of my few complaints about the book (the other is the lack of mention of the metric system) is this division into two parts; at a glance I couldn’t tell you why certain activities are in one section over another, no matter how the NCTM Standards Correlation Chart (a few pages in) says it is theoretically divvied up; each activity meets standards from both sections, but this way I have to flip around the book to get all the material for each kind of measurement, which is a pain in the keister.  (Note:  I’ve only given examples from the Processes section, but, like I said, I can’t see any differences between them, so hopefully this isn’t an issue.)

Wil Wheaton (yes, I *am* a geek, why do you ask?) wrote the other day in his Pi Day Post:

“When I think back on my years in school, I realize that math wasn’t hard, math was just boring. Until I got into high school and started solving equations in algebra, which were framed as puzzles for me to solve, math was always framed as this collection of facts that we just had to know by rote, because … well, nobody really knows why, we just do it and stop asking so many questions you damn troublemaking kid.”

Normally, I’d say bring our your inner Marilyn Burns if you want them to really *learn* math and problem solving (she’s my freaking hero, folks), and pull out Singapore Math to practice your algorithms, but one is pretty teacher intensive, and the other is all workbook, all the time.  This series from Instructional Fair is a really neat blend – hands on for the kids, but pretty hands-OFF for the parent-teacher, and it gets it done while having fun.  I plan on adding in healthy amounts of the other two as well, but right now this middle ground is juuuust right!

 * For some reason known only to Amazon, you can’t actually find this title with the other books in the series.  This link above goes directly to this volume, and the others in the K series are Geometry, Algebra, and Numbers & Operations.  The series as a whole goes up at least through grade 5.
Also, I have no affiliation with any of the producers of any of these products, and I have not been compensated in any way for my posting about them.  I just like them! 
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