# ZeroSum Ruler (home)

## Blogging on math education and other related things

### Math manipulatives lead to student failureMay 19, 2011

During a 4th grade substituting assignment, the teacher left a set of word problems for the kids to do.  A bunch of these word problems involved division, and the students were directed to use their counting blocks.  As I walked around the room, I saw kids doing just about everything a kid will do with giant leggo-type blocks.  There were guns, there were swords, there were towers.  Some kids were using the blocks to work the word problems, but many of the students who wanted to use them for good were having trouble.  My role morphed from teaching math to teaching the kids how to use the counting blocks.  One word problem called for dividing 125 by a variety of numbers.  There is a large margin of error while counting 125 of anything, and with a string of problems that all rely on a 100% accurate count, it felt to me that the kids’ time could have been better spent.  When do manipulatives cross the line from helpful to hurtful?

A great article titled Teacher Learning and Mathematical Manipulatives: A Collective Case Study About Teacher Use in Elementary and Middle School Mathematics Lessons  by Laurel Puchner, Ann Taylor, Barbara O’Donnell and Kathleen Fick, outlines one of the many problems that can arise while using manipulatives in math.  This article is a worthwhile read, especially for those teachers wondering why manipulatives don’t seem to work as well as advertised.

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contact blog author Shana Donohue: shanadonohue@gmail.com

### My Harvard Math for Teaching Thesis: Complete! And ready to share…March 20, 2011

After many many years of jumping through many many hoops, I am finally graduating with my MA in Mathematics for Teaching in May.  My thesis, Negative Number Misconceptions in High School: An Intervention Using the ZeroSum Ruler is right now at the printers being printed and bound.  I don’t know about you, but that instantaneous feeling of relief after taking a final exam or passing in a final paper stopped hitting me sometime in college.  So now, I’m just feeling a bit burnt out.  OK, completely burnt out.  But I’m sure it will hit me soon since it kind of needs to; I need to now get in a post-Bach program to get my Initial teaching license.  I like to do things backwards.

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So here it is for download!  For all to read!  Or maybe to just glance.  In my study, the ZeroSum ruler proved effective in reducing eleventh grade error on integer addition and subtraction problems (especially with negative integers).  If I wasn’t so burnt out, I’d want to test it with younger kids.  Imagine how our world would be if my eleventh graders actually mastered integers when they learned them in, and only in, 7th grade.  But that’s in my thesis.]

### ZeroSum ruler’s 62% success rate!March 9, 2011

The ZeroSum ruler improved my student’s understanding

of integers

by 62%

in a very short 2 weeks

Surpassed even my high expectations!

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HaPpY Calculating!

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### The recession-proof Exam: When will it pop?December 19, 2010

The article by Todd Farley “Standardized Testing: The New Wild West” pretty much sums up why high-stakes testing has such a stronghold.  It’s a recession proof industry!  I knew that millions went into it, but I didn’t know the full extent of greed that’s going into it.  Farley himself admits to capitalizing.

But like all bubbles, this one will pop.  Hopefully.  Then maybe our kids can go back to learning again.

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In somewhat related news, here’s a great chart of just how many math topics we throw at our kids each year as opposed to A+ countries where students excel in math…