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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 4, Issue 14

July 2008

StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers New Teacher's Niche Tech Center  

Welcome to StarTeaching's bi-monthly newsletter, 
Features for Teachers!
Over 100 Issues and still going strong!  
Great Ideas and Features for all Teachers!   

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Check out our NEW FREE online resources, including the SQ3R sheet for reading 
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We are also posting an opening for a Feature Writer to submit a regular article each month on an educational topic. 

Email your resume and letter of interest to:  editor@starteaching.com

  Reader Response

Ask Dr. Manute

Dr. Manute is a well-renowned world traveler, guest speaker, and educational consultant.  

Dr. Manute holds multiple degrees in several educational fields. He has taught in both stateside and international school communities.  He has extensive experience (25 years) in school administration.  He also has worked at the university level, supervising teacher interns and teaching undergraduate courses.

As part of our NEW! Reader Response selection (asked for by our subscribers), we are pleased to have Dr. Manute answer questions from our readers.  

 You can  contact Dr. Manute through the form at the end of this article.  Thanks!

I recently received a question regarding test validity and reliability:
Dear Dr. Manute, 

"How do I know if the test that I am giving is valid and reliable?" 

Nelson Troncoso, Gabriela Mistral, Tome, Chile

Dear Nelson -

This is an excellent question.  Letís begin with the word test Ė what is a test?  A test is a measuring device used to provide information.  In education we use tests to help us make sound decisions regarding our teaching and curriculum.  Tests come in all shapes and sizes, from written to verbal to performance tasks.  Basically, when we teach, we need to know if our students are learning at the correct level of thinking.  The test results can provide that information.  From that information we make educational decisions such as do I move forward or do I need to re-teach? That is why reliability and validity of testing is so important.  If our information is flawed then our decisions will be also.  What a disaster!  Unfortunately this happens far too often, mostly by educators with the best of intentions.  I always caution educators to walk lightly when designing their own assessment devices.

Now, letís examine validity: what does it mean for a test to be valid?  Does the test measure what it claims to measure?   If a test is not valid, then the results will be inaccurate.  The test question 2+2=__ is certainly a valid question for basic addition because it truly measures a student's ability to perform basic addition.  For advanced addition, the question becomes less valid.  On a test designed to measure knowledge of the human body this question becomes completely invalid.  There are different types of validity that should be considered such as content, criterion-related and construct.  These are interesting research topics.      

Reliability refers to the degree of consistency between two measures of the same thing.  (Mehrens and Lehman, 1987)

The measure of how stable, dependable, trustworthy, and consistent a test is in measuring the same thing each time.  (Worthen et al., 1993)

Letís use the example of measuring a piece of lumber.  The measuring tape used should provide the same results each time even if different people re-measure.  The results should be consistent.  Another example of a reliable measure would be using a kitchen scale to measure green beans.  The same amount of green beans should weigh the same morning, noon, or night unless you have done something to change them.  The same should be true for classroom tests; it should not make a difference whether the student takes the test morning or afternoon, one day or another.  (There can be variables that do affect this.)

There is some argument which is more important, validity or reliability.  It depends on who you read and follow.  Now back to your original question: how can you make sure your tests are valid and accurate?  One way is to enlist the aid of other professionals who are knowledgeable in content and testing and have them examine the test questions and make judgments as to their appropriateness.  Another way is to give the same assessment twice separated by days, weeks, or months, and examine the results.  You could create an alternate form of the test A and B and examine those results. 

Whatever you do, you are definitely on the right track.  An educator who is concerned about validity and reliability certainly has the best interests of students in mind.  This type of concern leads to improved student learning.  Happy teaching and good luck this next year! 

Dr. Manute


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Challenges of Teaching
(part 1)

By Munir Moosa Sewani

Teaching is one of the most diverse and challenging professions in todayís world. Teachers are the ones who mold children into refined humans through their efforts and expertise. They play a pivotal role in this challenging world. The better future of the next generation is based on the knowledge, skills, and devotion of teachers. For me, itís a profession of challenge, submission, and wisdom sharing.

Society is constantly changing, and so the demand society places on teachers changes. This profession requires a lot of potential to embark upon the day to day challenges. Surviving as a teacher is almost impossible for those who are not enthusiastic enough to accept the changes taking place in teaching methodologies.  

If we look toward the current education scenario in Pakistan , we will be able to evaluate that itís the most challenging profession to adopt. I believe that challenges provide a lot of learning opportunities to those contenders who adopt this competitive profession with professional attitude.

Out of many challenges facing by teachers in the current setting, curriculum and classroom interaction issues are the most significant one.  Here Iíll share my personal perspectives and real challenging experiences which I faced during my religious and secular teachings. At the end, Iíll briefly propose some strategies for the improvement of teaching and learning.

To nurture the child in all dimensions, curriculum plays a significant role. In my view, curriculum is a plan, designed to cater to the needs of learning. The best curriculum is the one which can develop intellectual openness in pupils.

During my 8 years of teaching, Iíve evaluated that our curriculum is not meant to develop effectual skills and ideas in students. Itís only promoting the culture of rote-learning rather than promoting logical thinking. The challenge for a teacher is to discourage rote learning and to appreciate intellectual learning.

One genuine challenge a teacher confronts is to complete weighty curriculum within a set time-frame. Itís the widespread motto of administrators that a teacher should achieve the target of objectives on time, and teach everything the same as prescribed in the curriculum book by hook or by crook; otherwise, the students might loose marks in board examination. 

When I started teaching Pakistan studies, I saw that the books were not revised in many years. These were not meant to develop critical and rational development. I took up the challenge and made notes. Not only was the textbook knowledge added, but the inclusion of new knowledge was also incorporated. In this way, my learning centre students didnít lose marks in national board examination, and the strategy to provide current knowledge was also achieved. I guess that a challenging teacher should plan lessons in advance to teach effectively in a limited time frame.

Another challenge for a teacher is to transfer knowledge after filtration. Some curriculum books contain unauthentic data. The stake holders arenít enthusiastic to accept others' suggestions while designing curricula. Teachers in Pakistan also face the challenge to cater to the learning disabled in a mainstream because no curriculum is being initiated which can cater their needs. There is no central curriculum in Pakistan .  I was fortunate to write a workbook of biology, but was strictly guided not to add extra knowledge and activities. But I filtered the knowledge and wrote to the best of my capabilities. I also wrote few articles in newspapers regarding the monotonous textbooks which cannot retain the interest of a child or capture their imagination.

Rudina Xhaferri and Khalid Iqbal comment our curriculum as, ďThe curricula of both basic-level education and colleges are outdated and offer a very limited knowledge base. Especially in colleges, the subject matter of most disciplines continues to be outdated and irrelevant, allowing no room for changes in the context of education inclusive the content or improvement if inefficient teaching methods."

I agree with their analysis. The knowledge-based curriculum is missing.  Teachers want to encourage learning based knowledge, which can discover pupilsí creativity.  To cater a few of these needs, we developed few lesson plans and activities for students while teaching at Karachi Kid University . Its main purpose was to promote mental development and interactive session. Individual and group activities, critical dialogue sessions were designed. We also developed evaluation techniques. To face the challenges more effectively, we later joined teaching associations at the Aga Khan University , and learned skills to cater social, intellectual and emotional growth.

I suggest that the curriculum planners must be in tune with the changing world. There should be a balance between intellectual proficiency and intelligent social perspectives. Teachersí views should be encouraged before making any modification, so that the teacher can be ever ready to face the challenges.

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 for more than a year now. 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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Mastering Basic Skills software:


There are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to say this is the most important basic skill for not just to survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment. Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory & Concentration in an individual, namely: 1. Picture recognition
2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
4. Serial processing
5. Parallel processing
6. Recognition and Recall
Each of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to difficult.

At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as Scores Obtained.

A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18 levels depending on the marks one scores during the test. 

Each individual can assess his/her performance any time by clicking on "history", which gives complete details of date and time of taking the tests, marks scored each time and even time taken to do the test. This builds the confidence level and encourages more participation to eventually culminate in improvement and enhancement of memory and concentration.

Essentially, this software is a SELF AWARENESS tool that surely motivates the individual to realize one's capability and seek or be receptive for improvement. Also, if repeatedly done over a period of time works as Training tool to enhance their capability.
This software package is specifically designed to help young children to learn basic skills that will help them in school.  Continued follow-up will give these young learners success as they mature.  

Three versions of the software exist: Individual Software on either CD or Online,   Family Version Software, and an Institutional Software package.

StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports and endorses this software.  It will make a difference with your child or student.

Click HERE to order your own copy today:


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  School Features

Computer Based Learning

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Computer Based Learning, sometimes abbreviated CBL, refers to the use of computers as a key component of the educational environment. While this can refer to the use of computers in a classroom, the term more broadly refers to a structured environment in which computers are used for teaching purposes. The concept is generally seen as being distinct from the use of computers in ways where learning is at least a peripheral element of the experience (e.g. computer games and web browsing).

The Great Debate:

Since its inception, Computer Based Learning has been a subject of close scrutiny and debate, with myriad arguments being advanced both in support of and against CBL.

Among the arguments advanced by the proponents of CBL is its ability to provide quantifiable and instantaneous feedback for its users. It also often allows for educators to measure progress in an environment that is often more structured than the typical classroom, limiting stress and allowing for a focus on non-technical elements of pedagogy.

In particular, Computer Based Learning is often seen as the most efficient and effective manner in which to conduct distance education, as a lesson plan can be created that allows people to study at their own pace, either via the Internet or software installed on individual computers at various sites.

One strain of thought advanced by some advocates of Computer Based Learning suggests that the best use of CBL is alongside a more traditional curriculum, playing a supplementary role, facilitating interest in a topic while developing the technical and informational skills CBL promotes. Companies now providing CBL products, including Blackboard and iLearn, have often taken this approach in creating and promoting their services.

Those skeptical of the value of CBL have often argued that it can only teach to its programmatic limitations; that it is not as good as having a human teacher because it can only answer questions which have been programmed into it.

In addition, critics such as Neil Postman have argued that a curriculum with a computer at its core teaches a "technocratic" belief system, making all education into an uncritical type of vocational training. Rather than developing the more generalized skills of reading, writing, and critical inquiry, the prominent use of computers in the classroom teaches how to manipulate the technology to elicit the desired response in a non-collaborative, non-rational manner. In contrast, CBL advocates such as Jonathan Bishop believe that the use of computers in education can lead to social justice and can be successful when web logs are used as reflective learning logs.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



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MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Now Available!
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Coming August 1, 2008:

Part mystery, part science fiction, Year of the Dogman is an imaginative, compelling, and adrenaline-pumping adventure. Author Frank Holes, Jr. takes no prisoners in creating a diabolical creature that leaves the forest to prey on the hapless hamlet of Twin Lakes in Northern Michigan . When night falls, the nocturnal beast, Dogman, scares the living daylights out of anyone he happens upon as he searches for a timeless treasure stolen from a Native American tribe. In the midst of the chaos, a young teacher is forced to put two and two together no matter how high the cost to rid the village of the treacherous man-beast who thrives on destruction and terror.  

In The Haunting of Sigma, Frank Holes, Jr. returns fans of the legendary Dogman to the wild world of cryptozoology in Northern Michigan .  This darker, far more sinister prequel to Holesís first novel fully establishes his hold upon the imaginations of readers all over the Midwest .  June 1987 ushers in the hot, dry summer season, but something else far more horrifying has taken up residence in the deep wilderness in Kalkaska County .  The Dogman, a supernatural combination of canine and man, has returned to wreck havoc upon the tiny, sleepy community of Sigma.


Based upon the epic Greek tale of The Odyssey, yet set in the American Wild West, The Longquist Adventures: Western Odyssey chronicles the journey of a young boy and his guide through a perilous world of dangerous encounters and fantastic creatures.  It is a world of gun fights at high noon, stampedes on the great plains, stagecoach robbery, and an ultimate showdown with a ruthless, powerful gangster aboard a turn-of-the-century paddlewheel in the San Francisco Bay.  Can the time-traveling boy and the law-abiding Marshal restore order to the chaos of the American West gone truly wild?

Click Here For The
Year of the Dogman Website
Click Here For The
Haunting of Sigma Website
Click Here For The
Western Odyssey Website


The Dogman, a creature of MythMichigan, is an excellent example of modern-day folklore to study in your classes.   


The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  

Look for Western Odyssey this summer!

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New Teachers' Niche: 
A Place for New Teachers, Student Teachers, and Interns

Using Random Student Cards in Class

by Frank Holes, Jr.
Educational Consultant

Much has been said and written lately about providing students with choices. I'm all about any methods which will improve student involvement in class, giving them ownership in their learning. There are many ways to give students choices, options, or just to provide random results and change up the monotony. This article will discuss how to use random results in typical class situations.

Ever wonder if you choose certain students more (or less) often in class than others? Or would you like to be able to completely call on students at random?

A great technique is to make and use an index card deck with your students' names on the cards. On the first day of any of my classes, I pass out blank lined index cards (we use the 3 x 5 size) to all the students. I then have them fill these out with information we can use later on in class. Then I collect them and keep them separated by class with a rubber band. Then I can quickly access the names of all of my students. This helps for learning their names quickly too.

The random calling technique will increase your students' attention, since any one of them could be chosen at any time without you playing favorites or ignoring anyone. Always try to choose several students each time you use the cards, and everyone will quickly understand that they may be the next person called. No student wants to be embarrassed, so they will all formulate some type of response to give in case their card is drawn next. What information needs to be on the cards? That depends on what you want to know about your students. I ask for at least their names, parent's names, and phone contact numbers.

In one upper corner, write in the student's hour (I also like to circle the number) so you can sort them out easily later. Other useful information could include text book or calculator numbers, birth dates, and even students' interests or hobbies. How often do I use the cards? Several times each hour! We use the cards in warm ups so everyone has a random chance of being picked. The cards are used for choosing random teams or groups. They are great for class discussions, since students cannot just be quiet and disappear; every discussion question can be answered by several students in succession, who must either build on previous information given or generate a new line of thinking. I also use them to ask questions before students are dismissed. If the question is answered correctly, I let that student leave early.

The cards can be shuffled each time you use them, or you can leave the order and pick up there again later, ensuring you've called on every student before repeating.

Now, can you stack the deck? Of course! Because you hold the cards, only you know if you've chosen truly at random. This is useful when you just know a student isn't paying attention, or if you want to check understanding by a specific student.

Should you worry about students who still seem to never be called upon? That does happen, but it will even out as the year goes by.  I've had the opposite happen too, where a student was actually chosen three times in a row, even though I shuffled the deck each time!

Student hobbies or activities can be great for making connections to class material. As a warm up or sponge activity, for example, use your cards to randomly call on students to state how what they learned in class could be applied to or connected to their hobby. The cards are great for choosing students to read aloud in class. And as the teacher, you can still stack the deck to match up appropriate students with a paragraph's difficulty level. I also try to assess student's reading ability by choosing particular passages I want them to read aloud. Then I make sure the student's card is chosen.

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Be sure to check out our website for more great information, tips, and techniques for new teachers, student-teachers, and interns in teacher prep programs. Also be sure to check out our Who-I-Want-To-Be teacher plan for preparing yourself to enter the educational profession.  Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

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"Cupcakes and Rootbeer" 

By Julie A. Manhan

Themes on Life

Why do people come into our lives?

There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with cupcakes, several cans of root beer and started on his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he saw an elderly woman. She was sitting on a park bench watching the pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed the lady looked hungry so he offered her a cupcake. She gratefully accepted and smiled at him.

Her smile was so wonderful that he wanted to see it again, so he offered a root beer as well. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling without saying a word.

As it began to grow dark, the boy realized how tired he was and wanted to go home. He got up to leave but before he had gone no more than a few steps, he turned around and ran back to the old woman, giving her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy arrived home his Mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked, "What has made you so happy today?" He replied, "I had lunch with God." Before his mother could respond he added, "You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile in the whole world!"

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face. He asked, "Mother, what has made you so happy today?" She replied, "I ate cupcakes in the park with God." And before her son could reply, she added, "You know, he is much younger than I expected."

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Take no one for granted and embrace all equally with joy!


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In This Week's Issue 
(Click the Quick Links below):

Reader Response: Ask Dr. Manute:
Test Validity and Reliability

Challenges of Teaching (part 1)

School Features: 
Computer Based Learning

New Teacher's Niche:
Using Random Student Cards in Class

Themes on Life:  
"Cupcakes and Root Beer"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Summer Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


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All articles will be proofread, and may be edited for content and/or length.


10 Days Of


Describe your favorite type of music.


Write down your FIVE most favorite songs.  Then tell why each is among your favorites. 


Describe THREE activities you enjoy while listening to music.


How can listening to music help you with your homeowork?


List 10 items we've learned in class this week. 


What does it mean to IMITATE something?


What are THREE foods that are commonly imitated?


Why is imitating someone else's work such a bad thing?


What are THREE movies or songs that have been imitated?


List FIVE real-life jobs that will use something we learned in class this week.   


10 days of writing prompts


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Full Steam Ahead!
By Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner



Coming Soon:

Finding That First Job!

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

What is the probability of finding a vowel within the alphabet?

Day 2 What is the probability of tossing a coin and turning up heads or tails?
Day 3

What is the probability of finding a consonant within the alphabet?

Day 4

What is the probability of drawing a heart from a deck of cards?

Day 5

1.     Use pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars to solve this problem.  You do not have to use each type of coin to solve the problem.

Art used a metal detector to find change on the beach.  He found $8.19.  If his recovered treasure is made up of an equal number of five different coins, what coins did he find?  How many of each?

Day 6

1.     Use pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars to solve this problem.  You do not have to use each type of coin to solve the problem.

Diane and Beth are running a car wash to earn extra money.  They have collected exactly $38 so far.  If they have an equal number of five different coins, what coins do they have?  How many of each?

Day 7

1.      Use pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars to solve this problem.  You do not have to use each type of coin to solve the problem.

Tony has $9.66 in loose change in his jacket pocket.  If there is an equal number of four different coins, what coins does Tony have?  How many of each?
Day 8

1.      Use pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and silver dollars to solve this problem.  You do not have to use each type of coin to solve the problem.

Jenny has a piggy bank.  She has $52.40 saved up so far for a new bike.  The money is made up of an equal number of each of four different coins.  What coins does she have?  How many of each?
Day 9  Fill in the correct math symbol in the blank:  
64 ___ 8 + 8
Day 10

Fill in the correct math symbol in the blank: 450 __ 16 + 466




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