December 19, 2013

iPad app review: King of Math

by stryson

Back in February, I caved in and bought an iPad. For those who know me, you know that this was a huge leap. It remains the only Apple product in our house, and will remain as such for the foreseeable future. However, I took a workshop on iPad apps in the classroom, in preparation for my school’s purchase of iPads with some grant money, and I fell in love with many of the education apps that were available. Unfortunately (from my point of view), most of these were only available for an OS platform, not for Android. I was made such a believer by the class that I actually went out and bought my own iPad… to get used to and screen apps on my own, and to have them available for my private tutoring. I remain very glad that I did. (And I remain very much a fan of the particular teacher and seminar that got me hooked – it was a BER training taught by Joanne Troutner.) With that in mind, I’d like to start writing reviews here for some of the better apps I find, starting with… King of Math.

“King of Math” is a game intended to reinforce basic math skills. The player begins the game assigned a character that is a farmer, and as he or she completes levels, his or her character is advanced in rank. The rankings and overall look of the progress pages are meant to invoke a middle-age feel. There is a free version of this app, which allows one to play the first several levels, up through subtraction. For the higher math skills, one must purchase the app, which is reasonably priced at 99 cents. Overall, I quite like this app, and it seems appropriate for and interesting to students at the middle school level. There is a “King of Math Jr.” also available (with the same free/fee division) for elementary school students, and I enjoyed that app as well. These games fill a consistent need – ways to keep kids interested and invested in practicing their basic computation skills.

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December 6, 2013

Technology means “Magic.”

by stryson

I finally feel free to admit it… I always desperately wanted to introduce my computer classes with this Strong Bad Email:

I was pretty sure it wasn’t appropriate to do so, and that my kids would not understand most of the humor involved, but it continues to make me laugh, years later.

December 5, 2013


by stryson

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela

You will be respectfully remembered and sorely missed, sir. Thank you for who you were, and the impact you made on this world.

“‘I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” – Nelson Mandela … may you find rest now, and let us resume the long walk on your behalf.

December 5, 2013

Throw-Back Thursday

by stryson

“Throw-Back Thursday” has become one of many trends floating around the internet, particularly facebook. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, people make posts, generally ones with pictures,  that are from some time in the past and generally have nostalgic value with friends of theirs. I’ve gotten tagged in a few of these – including pictures from a dance studio I attended as a kid. I generally remain unmoved by internet fads (I swear, if one more person invites me to play Candy Crush, I’m going to quit facebook…), but I’m  into this particular one. In that spirit, here are some funny kids’ quotes that I’ve had sitting around since before I left the school.

I’m going to  attribute them to initials and the child’s age, for some added context. Enjoy.

From vocabulary homework, target words bolded:

“Some of the questions on the NJ ASK Test were incomprehensible, like  the ones that have letters plus numbers.” – GC, 14

“In the old days, smiths used anvils. Now cartoons use them.” – MG, 10

“I wonder how some surgeons deal with looking at innards all day without throwing up.” – MC, 11

“Many people used anvils back in medieval times, because their technology wasn’t exactly up-to-date, for they knew almost nothing.” – WN, 11

“Do you know, on an average day, I see one varmint in my household.” – SL, 10

… I don’t know that I want to see that house.

October 23, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

by stryson

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

-T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding”

It’s been a long time, and so much has changed.

The last time I posted, I was enjoying a wave of freshness that could only be brought on by the middle of summer vacation, when the memories of the previous year have matured from “exasperating” to “endearing,” and when the commencement of a new year still felt to be a lifetime away. Since then, an entire year (plus some) has passed – a year that has been a gigantic roller-coaster.

The short version of the story is this: at the end of the 2012-13 school year, I chose not to renew my contract. To tell the long version of the story would be both long-winded and unprofessional, both of which I refuse to be in this space.

I have, however, started anew, working privately, tutoring and teaching music lessons. It occurred to me recently that this space is still very relevant to what I do – and now I actually have some time to keep up with it! (I also have a horde of funny quotes from 2012-13. I didn’t stop recording them just because I lacked the time to post.)

So, that’s where we stand. New beginnings, take two.

July 10, 2012

All it took was a little time away…

by stryson

… to remind me of how much I like doing this. By “this,” I mean both blogging and teaching. After a bit of a hiatus, I’m back to both. I’m not teaching summer school – I haven’t done that since 2009 – but I am tutoring, which is just enough for me during the summer.

It seems to be an annual occurrence for me to get incredibly burned out and irritable by the end of the school year. I’m certain that I can’t be special in this – does anyone have any good tips for keeping it cool through the end of the year? I hate the way it spills over into my personal life… I’ve been spending summer trying to get back in touch with people after my coping strategy became “hunker down and ignore what you can until it all goes away.” My husband put a very positive spin on this troublesome habit the other night, though, which made me feel better: “You want to give each person and each thing 100%, so then when you’re not able to, you get frustrated.” While this is a kind way of viewing the situation, I’d love to get to a more balanced place, where I don’t get thrown for a loop as easily.

Ah, well. Back on the horse, at any rate.

I was going to end this post with a picture of the artwork with which my kids covered the board on the last day, but the picture is on my computer at home. In its place, I’ll share the artwork they left on the day of “Expo,” which is like a spring back-to-school night. (Clicking the picture should show you the full-size version for a closer look.)


May 1, 2012

Gobble Gobble

by stryson

When talking about ethnicity in one of my classes, one student tried to tell me about his heritage…

Hey, I’m part Turkey!

… an honest mistake, and a good teachable moment for the suffix -ish. Still, hilarious.

April 30, 2012

Amusing Responses

by stryson

As I’ve mentioned before, I teach kids with specific communication difficulties, so I probably shouldn’t find some of their wordings as amusing as I do, but I also suppose it’s good to keep a light heart…

With that in mind, here are some amusing answers:

1. Who is Joe? How did he get to California?

Joe is an African American man who was a slave. He got to California by escaping the slavery place.

From vocabulary sentences:

appraising – measuring the worth of something

In math I am appraising with a watch.

forsake – to give up on or betray

The Ipod will never forsake his friend, the Ipad.

bounty – numerous good things

After homework, I get a bounty of TV.



April 17, 2012

Welcome back from break!

by stryson

One of my students started my week off with this joke:

Why was the math book sad?

It had too many problems!

This, of course, called for an instant rimshot.

April 4, 2012

Quotes before break

by stryson

I daresay I’m as fried as the kids. Spring break starts after dismissal tomorrow, and it cannot come soon enough!

To cheer us through the last twenty-four hours, here are some quotes. Enjoy!


“May I get a drink? I feel like a cactus.” – 4th grade boy


“Can I have funny? Because that’s what I am.” – request made by 4th grade boy when choosing words for a synonym game


“I’m not going to be here tomorrow.” –5th grade girl

“Why not?” -me

“I have to go to a mountain!” She cracks up. “I don’t even know what that means!”-5th grade girl