"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why." ~Bernard Baruch
My major problem during my limited formal academic math education was my constant questioning. The question I asked most was WHY?
I have since come up with some answers that are better than, “Shut up and just memorize this formula.”
Here at Crewton Ramone's House of Math, I will constantly attempt to not only show you how but why we do the things we do. When I say “we”, I the mean many people who use manipulative based teaching techniques and variations on the Montessori method of teaching.
A common question is how do get started?
Just start. Seriously. Pick a tab to the left and watch a vid or two. Read. I lay it all out for you here and on my blog. There are many more hours and examples on my blog. If you don't have a set of blocks start with a combo kit. You get a password with that. Go to the sample lessons page. Get started. Watch vids, play with kids. Really. It's that easy.
Now you can click the "Getting Started" Tab. Be sure to scroll all the way down and get the Pdf's there.
If your kids are very young just play have fun quit worrying your are going to do it wrong.
Same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. This Website used to have 5 pages now it's over 60 and will grow from there...the blog has many great entries, check those posts out. Search a topic and read and watch vids...used to be 20 vids now I'm over 300...use your favorite search engine. "Crewton Ramone addition" and see what you get...etc. Once you go through most of the free stuff there's plenty more on the Password Protected pages and you can take a nibble for 5 bucks. You'll be amazed at what's there. Currently many more hours of video explanation, PDFs and instruction.
wow do I ever wish I had you as my math teacher when I was in school
years and years and years ago !!
I have learned sooooooo much in just a couple short tutorials on your site
I am now the mom to a wonderful 10 yr old girl child that I am home schooling!!
wow , I got to home schooling her due to the negative teaching methods in her public school and what they were doing to her self esteem
so now I am trying to teach her math - so far with much success compared to the NO based attitude from LMNtary school
and have showed her some of the techniques you have taught me
this has excited her like I have not seen in many a day!!!
and she wants "more mom!"
so please , where do I go from here with her instruction?
Some Common Questions.
For Pete's sake, I just want to order a Combo Kit! Where can I get one and how much does it cost.
Order a Combo Kit Here. Depends on how many you order and where you live. Short answer: about $91. If you live in Australia about 129.00.
Who the heck are you anyway?:
I was taught by several mentors, who I will name as appropriate. The method I have had the best results with was taught to me by a man by the name of Vernon J. Mortensen: Jerry.
Jerry Mortensen is quite a colorful character, and his story can fill pages and pages if not books. Please indulge/forgive me while I pause for a fully abridged version of my background and relationship with/to Mortensen Math. Suffice it to say Jerry started teaching young students after winning a scholarship to Italy to learn under Maria and Mario Montesorri. By his own admission he was more interested in going to Italy than the scholarship or teaching. When he came back he found he wasn't exactly suited to teach young kids.
He tried to get out of the commitment he made which was a 2 year stint teaching in exchange for the scholarship...they wouldn't let him out of it. So he decided that if he was stuck with the position that he would at least cause no harm...he might not teach them anything but he wasn't going to try to be an authoritarian while trying to herd cats...“the little buggers were driving me crazy.”
Little kids always ask why...often repeatedly.
Long story short he found quiet by accident that children learn best through play. And that you could play with kids and teach them math...he went on to take the Montessori method and the math manipulatives they had and improve and refine them. He basically picked up the ball and ran with it. You play but there's a way to play and direct their discovery of math concepts.
Much to the chagrin of many Montessori purists. From my experience the Mortensen Math method is indeed an improvement and the most effective way to teach math I have ever seen. Jerry Mortensen got his certificate from Mario Montesorri, I got mine from Jerry Mortensen, sort of. Kind of.
I was never given a “formal education” per se by Jerry Mortensen, but I have completed many hours of study and training that were about as formal as it gets. 10 hour trainings and 30 hour trainings, and then I graduated to Math seminars where I did the teaching and then was brutally critiqued by Jerry and other trainers. Brutal means brutal, they pulled no punches and didn't try to spare my feelings. I am well known for being a say anything kind of guy who is blunt and a straight shooter. I got a healthy dose of my own medicine.
Then I was sent on the road...and my real education began. “Why” is a question that is on quite a few people's minds as it turns out. Fortunately I had already asked a lot of these 'why questions' myself. But quite often I got questions I couldn't answer and that evening was on the phone with Jerry getting answers, along with reporting sales figures and attendance and so on.
I went to 3 cities a week and did seminars selling Mortensen Math kits and training. These seminars ranged in size from 7 people in a room to 750 in a room and everything in between. In larger cities 200 wasn't uncommon, but I'd say the mean was around 50-100. Here I got every kind of question you can imagine. I also heard math horror stories; sometimes met some very interesting men who taught physics or higher math; other times I met home schoolers who were fed up with the resources available at the time. It has since gotten better but not much. Here is where I earned my wings. I also noticed some patterns among the people who came that turn out to very common experiences of students and teachers of the mathematics. More on this elsewhere. (Ain't hypertext great?) But I try to remember that you are unique just like everyone else.
After this I did "a few" seminars for Mortensen Math where we trained teachers, and then I eventually moved on the the level of Master Trainer, where I trained trainers to train teachers. To do this you have to know how to use the system but you also have to know why you do the things you do so that they understand how important it is to do things a certain way. The journey continues because I constantly get answers to questions which of course leads to more questions, leading to some to observe “the more you know the dumber you get.” I have exponentially more questions about how children learn and how the brain works and why we came up with math in the first place than I did when I started this odyssey.
I also have run tutoring businesses out of my house off and on for years, and looked into many programs and methodologies for the teaching of the mathematics. In this time I have taught out of many text books and met students of every skill level imaginable, from "learning disabled" to one student who was in college at the ripe old age of 12. One and all taught me as much about teaching math as I taught them about math and somehow I tricked their parents into paying me for playing blocks with their kids and had fun doing it.
There you have it, my story fully abridged.
One of the most common questions after people see how cool this is, is why isn't this being used in more schools...
where the heck where you when I was learning math?
A: Use manipulatives to introduce EVERY math lesson. Use them to show three examples or more if need be. Teach by example, using basic concepts. Direct them to discover their own rules whenever possible.
Q. I know you can use Manipulatives to help special needs and slower learners, but what about other students or gifted students.?
A. Short answer: See "I" above. Longer answer: Use the blocks for students of every skill level, and age group. One of the challenges some teachers have with teaching math is finding activities that are accessible to all of your students and that have the ability to challenge more interested or capable students without leaving the less capable students out. Manipulatives are a great resource for accomplishing this. Base ten manipulatives level the playing field and teach to all learning styles and age groups. I use them for ALL my students.
Q. How often should I use manipulatives in my teaching?
A. Short answer: See "I" above. Use the blocks to assist students with thinking, reasoning, and solving problems. Manipulatives are key to EVERY introductory lesson. Later you move to drawing the manipulatives then lastly to using just symbols, or writing. After that you can often move to such complete mastery that they can do it in their heads without getting out blocks or pencil and paper.
Q. How do I "fit in" manipulatives when there's so much to do?
A. See "I" above. Don't just use manipulatives as a support for teaching the math topics that are in your curriculum, make them a regular and integral part of your teaching. You can use base ten manipulatives to represent just about ANY math problem in basic operations, fractions, decimals, percentages, algebra and quite a bit of trig and precalc.
Q. What if older students say that manipulatives are for little kids or are beneath them?
A. It happens. But it's rare. Many older students can be cured of this by having them observe a 5 year old doing "advanced" algebra.
Q. How many kinds of manipulatives do I need?
A. Short answer: Top tray and a bottom tray, in other words a combo kit. Longer answer: I teach 80% or more of my lessons using a basic kit that has units, unit blocks from one to nine ten and hundreds and that's it. Fractions tiles are nice, multiple tens are nice, basic operations pieces are needed for algebra for teaching past second degree problems.
Q. Can I make cheaper manipulatives?
A. Short answer. Yes. But it's a pain and little kids have a hard time being precise. I've seen sites that offer pdf's or templates that you can download and cut out. These can be useful. But if you want to build and compare areas and perimeters, or make observations over time, paper pieces aren't durable enough or exact enough. Plastic Manipulatives will stand the test of time, the ones you see on my website are often 20 years old. Plastic manipulatives are precise. They also allow students to discover the many mathematical relationships inherent in them: place a child in a math rich environment and they will learn math.
Q. What about students who work well with manipulatives but have trouble with using or reading symbols.
A. The bridge from the concrete experience of math with manipulatives to symbols is crucial. That bridge is drawing pictures. While it may be obvious to gifted and talented students, it can be a more challenging for some students to see how a 6 x 3 rectangle built with sixes relates to a textbook explanation about 6 x 3 which means six groups of three. Young children are always amazed that six threes and three sixes are the same number. Help your students make the connections by demonstrating how a rectangle can be separated into three rows of six or six rows of three. Many textbooks still don't use or reference manipulatives, but many do have at leaste some pictures.
Q. What about using the same materials year after year? Will students lose interest.
Q. I don't have enough manipulatives to use with my whole class. What now?
A. Break your students into groups of four. Banker, builder, drawer, recorder. Banker gets out the pieces, builder (favorite position) builds the problem, drawer draws it and the recorder writes the answer or uses symbols to "show the work." Organize learning centers and have these small groups work at them. Introduce a few math activities to be done over several days, students can make choices based on which materials are available. You may be able to pool materials with other teachers to create class sets. At any rate having students work cooperatively with each other not only cuts down on the amount of blocks you need, but also encourages communication — which in turn promotes learning.
Q. How do I know when it's time for students to stop using manipulatives?
A. The students should be your guide. Let them use the blocks until they attain or can demonstrate mastery. Some will be faster than others. The idea is not to make them manipulative dependent, but able to do math faster an easier because they can see what they are doing and understand what the symbols mean. When they master one topic they will use manipulatives again to start with the next.
Playing with blocks for fun and profit.
So what are some of the why questions?
Q. Why do you use manipulatives?
A. Simple: it levels the playing field and makes math easier to understand because they can see what they are doing and where the rules come from, what the symbols mean or represent.
Q. Why do you start in the concrete and what do you mean by concrete anyhow?
A. Concrete something you can touch or feel. Physical reality that can be represented with pictures and symbols. Math is a language, think about how babies learn words...they see something and learn the name for it...not symbols or words. Field trips are an effort to give students a concrete experience of things they may have only seen pictures of that were described with words.
Q. If you start in the concrete why do you use algebra which is abstract to teach mathematics to young children.
A. Because base ten manipulatives make algebra so concrete that students can see that algebra is just generic or generalized mathematics, and it's easier than base ten mathematics because of this.
Q. Why do you emphasize counting, addition and multiplication?
A. Because all math is, is counting. Addition is counting quickly, multiplication is adding quickly. Multiplication is the mile stone in the mathematics because it allows you to count very very quickly. It has been said that all math can be achieved with addition and subtraction...the mathematics, on the other hand, is NOT just computation.
Q. Do we have to sing?
A. Yes. Get over it.
Q. Why is play so important?
A. Because that's HOW we learn.
Q. The brain has unlimited capacity. Why not just memorize it?
A. It's not about storage it's retrieval. Also no fun: no learning. No endorphins: no continued learning.
How do I know teaching my kid advanced math won't damage him/her?
People who ask this question should be thrown face down into shallow pits and spit upon until they drown.
Can you teach a kid too early, won't you steal their childhood if they are doing algebra by the time they are 6?
People who ask this question should be thrown face down into shallow pits and spit upon until they drown.
Common Questions asked by Parents, Teachers, Reporters.
Q: What are your credentials?
A: I failed Calculus in high school.
Q: What's your motivation?
A: I want to stop as many kids from failing as I can before I have to take a long dirt nap. And Money: lots and lots of Money.
Because of that "F" I can actually say I feel your pain and mean it when I get a student who is failing. I have since learned how to teach math in a more comprehensible way. My results speak for themselves.
I also see that many of math problems can be prevented in the first place.
“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” ~Albert Einstein
I'm trying to revive the 4 year old genius in me that was mercilessly slaughtered by an institutional school system that knows the current methodology doesn't work but uses it anyway.
Q: Why did you set up a blog and website that eats up way too much of your time?
A: My mother was a teacher. She taught about 900 kids in her lifetime. With a blog and website I can do that and more every month. And Money: lots and lots of Money.
Q: You don't even have a degree, what makes you think you can teach math better than they do in public schools?
A: I teach math better than they do in public schools because I don't have a degree.
Q.1. Will this set last me up till Algebra etc.? or maybe the question is how long will this set last me up to?
A. One of my sets is 20 years old. I use the combo kit for teaching EVERYTHING, particularly algebra but also pre calc etc.
Q.2. Does the set include material or can I find it on your website for me to teach using the manipulatives? or Is there something else I need to invest in?
A. The set includes blocks only. If I had my way the set would include blocks and a DVD but I don't have my way...yet. You could get a ciriculum starter set for about 350.00 that has blocks and books but you still need instruction on how to use it. My website contains hours of lessons and soon I will have some 7 hour eCourse for 35 bucks or so so which will include a webinar plus a phone Q&A.
Basically do I have what I need to understand how to get started in counting and starting early addition and subtraction?
Yes. More than enough.
Q.3. I noticed some sheet's or templates you used inside of the tray's that indicates 10's, 20's etc using the trays to do addition, subtraction and other math are those included in the set? Can the tray's be leveraged as a part of the lesson or for self exploration.
A. They should be, if not make your own. They are simple to make, and it's a fun project. The tray's SHOULD be leveraged as a part of lessons or for self exploration.
Q.4. Are the manipulatives stackable to one another? I'm also trying to understand how this compares to Math U See.
The blocks stack but they do not interlock or snap together. Steve Demme was a trainer with Mortensen Math they parted ways in 1990. Math U See combines traditional text book learning with the blocks, by traditional rather than emphasizing concept based teaching and math as a language they go level by level (more or less) they way traditional public schools do: addition then subtraction then multiplication then division etc...you won't see pre-schoolers doing algebra...