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Bits and Pieces for Math and Science

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By Beverly S. Krueger

Have you ever had one of those days when you are all set to dig into an exciting project and find that youíve forgotten one small but essential element? Has your son happily informed you that it is impossible to do his math assignment because you have no graph paper? Well, I have! It's frustrating. This article is about those bits and pieces. How to keep from an abrupt termination of your plans by having on hand certain homeschool essentials.

Math

The biggest problem I have in math is keeping math tools from disappearing into the ether. Protractor, compass, rulerĖall seem to go missing just when we start on a geometry or measuring unit. Some might think that having multiple tools might solve the problem. Perhaps, but youíve never met my children who make the art of losing useful things a science. I tried keeping all necessary things in my desk drawer right next to me, so that when an item was removed I could admonish the taker to return it properly. This did not accomplish what I had hoped. The solution fell prey to the old in one ear and out the other tactic. Finally, I found a solution that has worked better than all others did. I put all the math tools into a plastic bag, the kind they sell in the school supply aisle for pencils and erasers and such. A nice big zippered bag will hold all you need. You can create sets for each child if you please, but the important detail is that they take the whole bag with them. Itís easier to find if they lose it, and they are much more likely to put the ruler back in the bag if the bag is right there with them.

Recently my son began working on finishing Algebra II after a break to do geometry. Naturally having moved in the intervening months, our pad of graph paper had gone missing. As a senior in high school, heís reached the point where he wants to get his schoolwork done. He wasnít pleased that he couldnít find any graph paper. Never fear, I have a nifty little free software program that prints graph paper for you in any size and configuration you want. With a few clicks of my mouse, my computer printer is soon spitting out graph paper. You can get this little gem of a program at PCWorld. (http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_description/0,fid,7735,00.asp)

Science

Youíve probably purchased at least one of those books that offer science experiments that use items commonly found around the house. Itís a well-known fact that whenever you start a science project all commonly found items useful to said project hide. Suddenly you canít find a paper clip to save your life. Then it dawns on you that the paper clips were last used by one young daughter to create paper clip jewelry. You threw away the resulting mass of tangled paper clips deciding it was too much effort to untangle a $.79 box of paper clips. Of course, you never remembered to replace the paper clips, so now youíre stuck without a paper clip when you need it most. If you had a handy dandy science supply box that was inviolable for non-scientific purposes, you wouldnít have this problem. Thatís exactly what Iíve done. I have several shoe boxes which contain all those commonly found household items that science projects seem to call for. Paper clips, rubber bands, marbles, yarn, string, tape, pennies, balloons, nails, screws, sand paper, paper cups, batteries, and anything I specially buy for a science experiment all get packed into these boxes. Oh, and I always include a scissors in this box because despite owning some eleventy zillion pairs of scissors we always seem to be without one when mom wants one. I suggest you sit down with your chosen science experiment book and create your science supply box by going through its pages and determining what you might need in the future. Put a star by those items that the authors believe are common household items but which youíve never found occasion to purchase. That way youíll know that that item needs to be purchased before the experiment can be conducted. This science box goes in your supply cabinetÖnot your kidsí shelf. If you want to give them access to this kind of stuff, make a science box for them. But if you want to be sure to have these items on hand at a minuteís notice, donít let your kids play with the stuff in this box.

Those who have no organizational challenges have already probably stopped reading this article. They wonder whatís so difficult about keeping supplies organized and stocked before they are needed. I can only say that there are forces of disorder that often defy my ability to fend them off. The tips offered here are my solutions to keeping track of those bits and pieces that make science and math possible.

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