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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 3, Issue 21

November 2007


Welcome back to our StarTeaching newsletter, 
Features for Teachers, packed full of tips, techniques, and ideas for educators of all students in all levels.   

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By: Munir Moosa Sewani

Teachers are the leaders of every nation. The following is from an educational article published by Munir Moosa Sewani, and describes the unique voices of very unique individuals in his home country.  You'll find that these cases are similar to those found world wide and across America.  

The major community problem for which I have contributed my efforts is the problem of “THE RIGHTS OF SPECIAL PEOPLE”. 

I have worked as a teacher and counselor for our “Community” for 7years. Since from my childhood, I had an intention to perform social work for the special people, because I had a natural bond of attachment with them. To accomplish my wish, I chose the “SPECIAL PEOPLE COMMITTEE” of our community so that I could bring change in their lives.  

“I Am Only one. But still, I am one. I cannot do every thing, but still I can do something, and because I cannot do every thing, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”   -  EDWARD EVERETTHALE”  

I dealt with all types of students from the categories of Profound, Severe, Moderate, Mild, but specially I have worked with “The Border Line” students who want their rights; who face the major problems in every society in every community; who want their creativity to explore in front of others; who awaits the love from others; who wants others to accept them as a Normal Being.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. “Chinese proverb”

And that chance of Volunteer Service for these beloved special children was the first step of mine towards my journey to work for their RIGHTS.

“I believe that every individual can make a difference”.

I thank God that these lovely students trusted me, gave me the bond of relationship, and accepted me whole-heartedly in just my first year of Volunteer Service. They shared all of their problems with me and I thank God for giving me the special power for being accepted by them.

I have heard their voices, their shivered pleadings, their wishes, their expectations. But still, they need every one in the society to hear them, to care for them and to love them.

I had even faced many problems from our community while working for their RIGHTS.

I could say this:  "Though I am young, but even then I am mature"

I can’t do every thing in this world but yes I have brought a little change in their lives, which is the big reward for me.   On this international platform I want to raise their voices.

I want to be their voice to tell you all the problems, which all the special people are facing. The problems, which need to be resolute, could only be possible by joining hands together.   The following are the major problems, which my community special people of “border line” category are facing, which has been identified by me are:

  • They want to get proper EDUCATION.

  • They want to get their RIGHTS.

  • They want others to TREAT THEM PROPERLY.

  • They want every one to stop calling them “SPECIAL”.

  • They want others to treat them as “NORMAL HUMAN BEING OF THE SOCIETY”.

  • They want to Marry.

  • They want FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

  • They want JOBS to begin their INDEPENDENT LIFE.

  • They want SOCIAL SECURITY.

  • They want to participate in INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIONS.

  • They want the PLATFORMS to show their talents to this world.

  • They want everyone in the society to MAKE THEM THEIR FRIENDS.

I want to share my experiences with you, that in what way I have helped few of my community special students of “borderline” to bring change in their lives and I would like to share my efforts and my initiative with you.

FIRSTLY, in order to create awareness among community people about their problems, I worked with special children and identified the problems, which they are facing.

Next, I wrote an article "I ADORE SPECIAL PEOPLE WHY DON’T YOU?" in which I wrote about their rights and distributed it to the community people so that they can be made aware about their personal needs and their rights. People, especially the younger members of our community, showed positive gestures and showed their keen interest to know more about them after reading my article.  In this way I made the people of my community well aware about their needs and expectations from the society.

Next, I participated in the workshops in which I presented a speech on special people in front of their parents. I faced many problems because I came to know that many of the special students were disheartened because their parents do not understand them.   Next, I personally visited many of the parents of my community and made them well aware of their wants, needs, and expectations from their family members.


Their weeps, their words, their expressions, their gestures; all had made me realized just one thing that still in Pakistan in all the major communities, SPECIAL PEOPLE ARE NOT TREATED AS NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS.   Even today I know that they are the special stars of our society. They have made our nation proud too by participating in Special Olympics Worldwide in 2004, but still they re-bounded with loads of pressures.

I have brought changes in few lives, but the question is, who will solve the problems and issues of all the special people of every community? Who will guide them? Following are my students, who have solved many of their problems through my efforts and counseling. I am just quoting examples of few of my students.

Name will not be disclosed; therefore I am using ALPHABETIC REPRESENTATIONS on the behalf of their names.

One of the experiences, which I would like to share, is the experience of one beautiful girl:

“A” is 25 years old. Her parents and family friends always discouraged her in many of her personal decisions. She is a “Border line” female student. Her family treated her very badly during her early age.

Just because of seeing the family fights since from her early age, she had her first Epilepsy attack at the age of 10. She bears many hardships and had faced many physical punishments from her family. She was the first student of mine whom I studied very carefully. She wanted to participate in sports.

 For that, I went to her family, talked with them, and made them realize about their insanity, which made her daughter fearful. I told her family about the talents, which their daughter had. She was medically treated for her epilepsy and free medicines were provided to her by MY COMMUNITY HOSPITAL. I trained her for sports. From that day, her life changed and after continuous efforts and with her family positive gesture, she participated in “The World Olympics” in 2004,and won a medal too. The smile, which was seen on her face, was the first victory of my effort, which made me realize that at least I have brought a little change in her life. She firstly shared her victory with me, which was the precious virtual reward for me.

NOW, she is working at her neighbor’s house and earn around $100 a month. She has her own mobile, which she bought from her own salary. She is also a volunteer coach of our Community.   She always wished to be TREATED AS NORMAL CHILD. The good thing is that NOW SHE IS TREATED AS A NORMAL CHILD BY HER FAMILY. The only problem, which is not yet solved, is the PROBLEM OF HER MARRIAGE. She wants to marry and wants to live happy life.

The next girl is “B”. She had many traumatic experiences, which she had personally shared to me in her counseling session. Her wish is to MARRY and to GET SOCIAL SECURITY.   She explained me that her parents told her that you are SPECIAL and you CAN’T MARRY. She further added that one man in her building tries to sexually abuse her, touch her and use bad words. That man told “B” many times to come with him to his house.

“B” is a brave girl, not special from mind. My question is: How any one can tell this situation if he/she is special?

Though she is borderline student, I guess she is a normal child. She thinks, she evaluates everything and understands many things.

Firstly, she went to her aunt with whom she lives. Her mom is always busy in her work and her father is not alive. Her aunt ignores this serious issue. “B” wants FREEDOM OF SPEECH. She wanted to express her feelings. Many denied the serious issue, which she was facing.   I counseled her. She was taught how to handle such situations in the future. I went to her aunt and asked her how she can tolerate this serious matter. I told her family members that she is also normal and she also needs freedom of speech. Her family now treats her in much better way than before.

She also wants to marry in her life but still her family doesn’t want to talk about this matter.   What changes were brought in her life?   Now she knows HOW TO HANDLE THE SITUATIONS. She is MORE CONFIDENT. She ACTIVELY PARTICIPATES IN COMMUNITY WORKS and lastly, she is getting education which is funded by OUR COMMUNITY.  .I have counseled her for several months on many issues. I have taught her how to be brave and I have told her how to ask for her rights.

Am I insane? Who am I? Where I am? Why me?

The questions were spoken by one of the next brilliant student of mine “C” who is again a “borderline” child and had many wishes to go on. But because of NO JOB PLACEMENT for him and a NON SUPPORTIVE FAMILY, HE DECLARES HIMSELF AS A MENTAL, ILLITERATE, USELESS CREATURE ON THE EARTH. I taught him for 7 years and he is a true friend of mine. The problems, which he is facing in the community and society, are:

Firstly HE WANTS TO GO ABROAD. His wish is to see the world. Even though his family had been many times abroad but never took him with them because in their view their child is MENTALLY RETARDED.  Secondly HE WANTS A GOOD JOB. Thirdly, HE WANTS TO TRAVEL BY BUS INDEPENDENTLY. He also wants to laugh and wants his family to love him. He wanted others to make him a friend. He also wants to participate in sports.


I still remember that when  “The World Trade Center” was abashed and I didn’t know this news, this guy came to me and told me that,   “Did you hear the news that in New York America there was a blast in The World Trade Center?"

This sentence shocked me and I asked him how he knew? He told me that he saw it on TV and sharing with you that was why people are creating such riots in this world, and this is bad.

Are these words ever spoken by the insane?


He is normal. I declare it and I mean it.

He is normal and perfectly all right. I asked him who entered you in our community special school?

He answered me that his mom admitted him in special committee.

He told me that he is not special and he doesn’t like his parents for this kind of behavior towards him.

He wants to start his own business for that he asked many times to his family to help him and to the community people as well but no one showed him positive gesture for help.


I taught him the jute work on bottle. He did that and started selling it in our community and in this way, he started his own small business. He wanted to participate in sports. I taught him badminton and bocce and by the grace of GOD, he participated in ALL Pakistan Special Sports in the year 2003. He needs a friend and he got me as a friend and many of my other students whom I give religious studies in our community also talks with him humbly and love him very much.

Now whenever he meets me, I see a magnificent smile on his face. He wants just one thing that is the support from his family, which is still missing. He wants to sit in bus.

Now, He earns around $20 every month from his jute bottle work. When his family came to know about it, they threatened him not to do so because according to his family it’s an insulted work and they don’t want him to sell his hand-made decorated bottles in the market. His big brother has slapped him too, but still he is struggling for his rights and selling his bottles.

I want to ask every parents in this world that if their child is normal, can also think, can imagine every thing, then why community and family pressure is still in every society creating a barrier for them?

They don’t have their own world of thought. They are also the part of us.   I, as a human being and a social worker tried to find work place for “C” but WHO WILL FIND A WORK PLACE FOR OTHERS?

What little change I have brought in his life?   Now he is selling decorated bottles hand made and he has gained a lot of confidence. He participates actively in social functions and he feels himself as a normal being.   Our community is very supportive, responsive, careful and being the part of this community I would like to say that though there are many community problems they are facing, but still I am trying my best to help them.   “Individual problems can be resolute easily but what about the problems of special people instill to be addressed worldwide”.

One more student “D” who starts using drugs because of the carelessness of his family. He was not special but just because of the changes in his behavior; his family took him to enter the special school. His dream was to STUDY IN A NORMAL SCHOOL but his family shattered it. He wanted to work, but he was discouraged by many community people and in social gatherings by commenting him as a mental. He is now 20 years old.

 Changes that I brought in his life.

I met his family who cooperated with me and now he is studying in the normal school in class 6. He is actively participating in community service and he is now also the member of WORLD SCOUT. The great thing is that HE IS NOW LIVING A NORMAL LIFE.

...Munir's article will continue next month with Part 2...

Munir Moosa Sewani is one of the most famous, prominent and creative names in the field of Education in the past 8 years. He is a Master Trainer In Special Education, Post Graduate, Teacher Educator and a Teacher. He is a Freelance Writer and Photographer, in addition to his role as a featured writer for StarTeaching's newsletter over the past six months. He is an author of the famous self-published storybook for children named as "The MORAL STORIES FOR CHILDREN" and has also written Biology course book for Secondary Classes. He has written almost more than 30 articles internationally on many websites and numerous newsletters dealing with social, health, educational and cultural issues, which are internationally recognized and published in most of the famous world wide websites, magazines and newspapers.

He is also a Social worker, private tutor, career counselor, musician, lyrics writer and have multi- dimensional talents.

His future plan is to write dozens of informative books and articles and to work for education and media also, in order to develop the sense of understanding many dimensions of life through his creativity.

You can contact Munir Moosa Sewani at: munirmoosa@yahoo.com

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Are the Students Truly Understanding It?
Are We?  Part 2

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark's latest articles are about changing our classrooms and teaching styles to reflect the latest changes in technology.  

This is part two of a three part look at what teaching is all about.

I think we live in one of the most exciting times when it comes to education. The students are changing in ways that challenge us to look at what we are doing in the classroom and make changes when needed. From outside the classroom we are being held accountable for what we are doing. Basically, we are being called to be a professional. Never before have we had so much learning available for us outside a classroom. In the past we had to take classes and read textbooks written by people that hadn’t been in the classroom for awhile. True, we’re still called to take classes. But now, as teachers, we can interact with professional learning communities online, take classes online, and share with other colleagues from around the globe our successes and failures so that we can improve what we do.

And what do we do? We educate kids. Our whole focus should be on the student. Without them we’re out of a job. In Part 1 of this article written last month I challenged you to think about whether your motivation was to just get through the curriculum, or educate the student. It’s an easy trap to fall into with all the pressures being brought to bear on the teaching profession today.

Another problem is that the way we were taught in school doesn’t work well with today’s digital students. Dave Warlick, a nationally renowned educational speaker, made some interesting statements in his Oct. 16th blog I’d like to quote: “I think that it’s part of the job.  It is my job, as a teacher, to be able to teach today — to be skilled at using today’s information technologies within today’s information environments and apply pedagogies that reflect today’s information environments.  We suffer from the myths of old world education,  that you go to school so that you will be prepared for the next 30 or 35 years.  But the teacher we are at graduation from college,  is not necessarily the teacher we need to be five years later.  Those days are long behind us — and I think that the job has become a whole lot more exciting as a result.”

He ended his blog with another statement that sums up what I’m talking about. And again I quote: “It’s part of the job of the teacher to continue to grow,” then we can get on with the far more interesting question, “What does the school and classroom look like where learning is what you see happening, not teaching — where learning stops being a job, and, instead, becomes a lifestyle.”

To help students learn, I need to focus on my learning. If I expect to be told what to do all the time, that is what I will expect out of my students. If I work on becoming a self-directed learner, I will help my students to do the same. These are the skills of the 21st century. Focusing on the learning, and not on the teaching, has helped me focus more on the individual student. With student centered learning it’s great to hear from the students and guide them like a coach in the learning process. It’s exciting to walk by each group of students and hear them discussing the focus question and helping each other to understand the material. They are now engaged in the learning process, not just checking out as I stand up there lecturing. Students today are interactive. Is their learning interactive or one sided? Do you follow the textbook, or do you look for a way that meets the needs of your students and how they learn? That is where we, as teachers, become the professional. We need to always be looking for the strategies that help our students learn.

The educational term being used today is differentiated instruction. This isn’t a bad thing. When you begin to operate this way you will get to know your students better. Have you ever asked them what they liked when it comes to teaching strategies? I work with fifth graders and they have no problem telling me. When I reflect on what they have said and use their feedback, I find a more motivated student. All of us understand the importance of motivation.

My goal as a teacher is to engage every student anytime there is learning taking place. What I have found is the more engaged they are the less I have to deal with discipline issues. My students work in pairs and groups most of the time. I will ask a question and then move around the room as they work on it. Sitting at my desk is rarely an option. There are times where they work on something by themselves, but I allow them to ask questions of their fellow classmates or myself when needed.

This hasn’t always been the way I’ve taught. I was a lecture type teacher for many years. I was never satisfied though, but didn’t know any other way. After all, that was how I was taught. I then took an on-line class on helping students to become self-directed learners. Then, as I read more about the expectations of the work world and 21st century skills it all began to come together. I will tell you it is a work in progress, and I haven’t arrived yet, but it is exciting. I’ve shared with other teachers and we are learning together. More teachers are joining us, one teacher at a time.

So now it’s time to make your choice. Jump in and begin the change. It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight, but will happen. Get involved in some of the online educational forums. There’s plenty of support and help out there online.

In the next article I will be talking about formative and summative assessment and some of the tools available to help you get to know where each of your students is at any given time.


Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 20 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.  He is currently working on Masters of Integration of Technology from Walden University. 

Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with emerging technologies.  He has been married to his wife Bonnietta for 32 years with one daughter and two sons.  In the summers, Mark works for Mackinac State Historic Parks in the as a historical interpreter.

StarTeaching Featured Writer

Mark Benn is a leading expert in using technology in the classroom.  
You can feel free to contact him on email at mbenn@inlandlakes.org or at his blogsite:  http://www.furtrader.blogspot.com/ 


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The Many Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading

The benefits of classroom reading are many. Children (especially young children) have a natural love of reading. However, we at the middle school often see students who either struggle with texts or are turned off to reading. A great way of regenerating that interest is through sustained silent reading in your classroom.

This topic has been hotly debated recently in the International Reading Association newsletter. I'm not trying to enter this debate.  This article will simply describe what we in our school have observed and detail what we've done in our classes that has worked for our students.

First off, let your students choose what they read, whether it is a book, magazine, or whatever. It makes a huge difference in peaking their interest. Teachers already give (and require) plenty of specific readings through activities, literature, and in textbooks.  Students need the opportunity to read about what interests them, and this can occur when you allow them to choose what they want to read.  By all means, continue with your regular activities, but find a way to give your students time (in class is best) to read on their own.

It is very important for you as the teacher to model reading to your students. Read the entire time your students are reading too. Don't let this time be wasted on grading papers, checking email, or doing any other administrivia. If you want your students to take the time seriously, show them you are taking the time yourself and are enjoying the activity. Regardless of what the kids may say to you, they will imitate your behaviors in your class. You have this great opportunity to be a positive role model!

Just as in practicing writing and their skills through the week, you as the teacher need to schedule in time for sustained silent reading.  When I'm covering a piece of literature, for example, my class may read in a variety of ways. We may read aloud, I may read to the class, or we may play 'popcorn' around the room as students choose others. You probably have other out-loud reading activities you use too. These are great, and I always recommend them. But you should always give students time to read silently too. It doesn't have to be a lot, but I do recommend at least ten minutes, though not more than twenty. Think in terms of attention spans: plenty of time to become engaged in the text, read for a bit, and yet stay focused. Obviously some students could lose themselves in a book for hours on end, but not all kids have such a long attention span. Start with ten minutes and work upward, adding a few minutes each time.

In addition to literature we all cover in class, I also set up a regular library time so students can select their own books. We'll stay in the library for, again, about twenty minutes. I give students between ten and fifteen minutes to look over the shelves and 'try on' a book. Its like trying on clothing. This trial version is very important so students can start deciding if this is the book for them.  If it doesn't hook them in the first ten minutes, I suggest they try again. I'll try to make suggestions based on what I think the students' interests are. Sometimes we talk about what they like, what their interests are. Students are not required to check out a book, but they must 'try out' at least one book at each visit.

We designate each Friday after our vocabulary quiz for sustained silent reading. Students may read their library book, another book of their choice, or even a magazine from the rack in my room (I typically collect old magazines from everywhere and keep them in a large rack in class). Old magazines include the old stand bys - Reader's Digest, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated. But I also gather Teen magazines, food and cooking, gardening, hunting and fishing, and video game magazines, among others. This way there are a large variety of topics for students to choose from.

The bookshelves in my room also have old reference materials and some outdated textbooks I've scrounged from other teachers. Some of your students will enjoy looking through drafting texts, recipe books, or science books, and you'd be surprised at the number of kids who love maps in social studies, history, or geography text books.

I've noticed a difference, especially in the attitudes of my students toward reading. Students given choices through the year were more engaged in the assigned readings through the year. Often, students (especially struggling students or low readers) have told me they enjoy reading, or they've found a topic or author they want to read more about, or the readings I did assign were some of the only ones they actually read (that year or in several years). Comments like that last one are bittersweet, because though I'm glad the student has regained the interest in reading, I'm sorry it took so long and the student was turned off in the first place. Sustained silent reading and allowing students to choose their own texts can be very powerful and beneficial to your students. You can be the teacher who makes a difference to your students.

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"Mouse Trap"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

We can learn so many things from the most unusual of teachers...

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. 
"What food might this contain?"

He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. 
"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house." 
The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, 
but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow. She said  "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, 
but it's no skin off my nose." So, the mouse returned to the house, 
head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -
- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife.  
The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup,  so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.   But his wife's sickness continued, 
so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock.

To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmer's wife did not get well; she died.

So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered 
to provide enough meat for all of them.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you,  
-- remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.

Each Of Us Is A Vital Thread In Another  Person's Tapestry;  
Our Lives Are Woven Together For A Reason.

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In This Week's Issue 
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Voice of Exceptional People

Tech Corner: 
Are the Students Truly Understanding It?
Are We? Part 2

New Teacher's Niche:
The Many Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading

Themes on Life:  
"Mouse Trap"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Autumn Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


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10 Days Of


Why is communication important?


Describe FIVE ways that people communicate. 


What are TEN ways that communication has improved over the past 100 years?


How has technology played an integral part in the development of world wide communication?


Create a short, 5 question TRUE/FALSE quiz to cover what we learned in class this week. 


How can you communicate better with your parents?


Why is it important to communicate effectively with your teachers?


What are FIVE ways you can communicate better with your friends?


Which of your friends is the best communicator?  Why is that?


List TEN important facts or new pieces of information you've learned in class this week. 


10 days of writing prompts


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The First Days of School

By Harry K. Wong &
Rosemary T. Wong



Coming Soon:

Preparing for Student Teaching

Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Getting Ready for Next Year

Setting Up Your Classroom


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1

Assign a number to each letter of the alphabet so that A=l, B=2, C=3, and so on until Z=26. Figure out this message.

  ___ __ __     __ __ __   
    25  15  21       1  18   5 

 __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __!
   6   1    2   21 12  15  21 19

Day 2

Write a message of your own assigning each letter of the alphabet so that A1, B=2, C=3, and so on until Z=26.

Day 3

Tape a number to someone’s back. Figure out what the number is on your back by asking questions that can be answered yes or no. Ask Questions like “is it an even or odd number?”, “Is it more than 50?” etc. until you figure out the number.

Day 4

Find the four adjoining numbers with the largest sum up or down, diagonally, horizontally, or vertically. Find the two adjoining numbers with the smallest sum.

















Day 5

How many corners are in these items together: 2 triangles, a square, 5 circles, a polygon, and an octagon?

Day 6

Make .90 cents using only quarters and nickels. How many combinations can you think of?

Day 7

Use these clues to figure out how many marbles are in ajar. There are fewer than

20 -5. There are more than 1 +6. There are two digits in the number of marbles. It is an odd number. The number is made of up 2 digits that are the same.
Day 8 How old will you be in 40 years? What will the year be?
Day 9 Mark received 6 more valentines than Sam. Ron received two valentines less than Sam. If Ron received 9 valentines, how many valentines did Sam and Mark receive?
Day 10

A recipe calls for 2 ‘/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups shortening, 1 cup brown sugar, 72 cup white sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 12 ounces raisins.

What ingredients do you need to make ½ the recipe? What ingredients do you need to make double this recipe?




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