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Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - Independence Day (U.S.)

Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION Update

Last week, I released the first major update our freeware math workbook, MATH DITTOS 2: Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION for Special Learners, has received in almost ten years. The update incorporates a lot of odds and ends I'd used in the classroom, but never got into a release of the workbook before I retired from teaching.

Most of the changes in Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION involve improvements in visibility of fact bars and answer sheets. I also included some offset multiplier pages I'd used for years, but somehow never got into a public release. There's also a section of "no-grid" pages for teachers who think their students are ready to multiply without the assistance of grids to organize sub-answers and answers. And reflecting the January 1, 2010, change from shareware to freeware, this release requires no passwords to access any of its sections.

Old and New

FCM4-standardFCM4-portfolioFact Controlled MULTIPLICATION is now available in both the standard Adobe PDF format we've used for years (left) and the newer Adobe Portfolio format (right). Both formats can be viewed online with the appropriate web browser plug-in or downloaded in a bit more compressed .zip file.

VIEW standard Adobe PDF or Adobe Portfolio format.

DOWNLOAD standard Adobe PDF version (1.6 MB) or Adobe Portfolio version (3.4 MB).

What is MATH DITTOS 2: Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION for Special Learners?

MATH DITTOS 2: Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION for Special Learners is a unique, freeware tool for teaching multiplication. It is a sequential, ground up, approach to multiplication with fact support, much like a controlled vocabulary in reading. Each blackline master page contains fact bars to be completed and checked first. They may then be effectively used for reference while completing the practice problems.

Facts are presented from the 1's up to the 9's. Each series of pages presents only 2 sets of the facts (ie., 2's and 3's, or 7's and 8's), so that there is only one "new" set of facts and one review set per page. Inverse facts (ie., 2x6, 6x2) are included in the fact progression. Besides avoiding teaching each fact separately, this approach leaves fewer and fewer new facts to be learned as the student progresses through the book and into increasingly difficult computation.

The pages in this series are purposely limited to very few problems per page. This was done so that students with ADHD could tolerate and complete a daily assignment. Many of my non-ADHD students zipped through several pages a day. Although originally created for my MR, LD, and ADHD students, the series has proved useful for both special learners and regular education students.

A Bit More...and a New Column

The Fact Controlled MULITPLICATION 4.0 release has been on my to-do list for years. The update was almost complete in 2003 when my classroom assignment changed from K-6 special education to K-3. The new level of students didn't need multiplication, and my materials creation focus shifted elsewhere. Then I retired from teaching at the end of the 2003-2004 school year, going to work for a prestigious school of engineering for a few years before taking full, early retirement in 2008. While I got back to the update from time to time over the years, it never got done for a number of reasons.

The majority of the MATH DITTOS 2 series of fact controlled math pages was written on an old Macintosh Performa 575 with a 13" screen using various versions of ClarisWorks and AppleWorks. I moved creation and editing to a Mac G3 tower in 1998. But something changed in fonts, the operating system, or AppleWorks when Apple moved to System 8.5. I found that the formatting for all of the pages was wrecked! I looked at both fixing each page by hand in AppleWorks 6 and moving the entire series to InDesign. And as things would have it, I ended up doing mostly nothing, making minor changes to the series and the unfinished update on the aging G3 when absolutely necessary.

When I moved from using G5 towers to a mid-2010 Mac Mini last winter, installing Sheepshaver, an excellent Classic Mac OS emulator, was added to my to-do list. I had tried Sheepshaver in 2008 after Apple cut off support for Classic with their release of the Leopard operating system, but never could get a good install. And until a few weeks ago, getting used to the Snow Leopard and Lion operating systems and installing Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux under Parallels 7 took priority.

System 8.1 under SheepshaverMacBook ProBut when I finally got around to trying Sheepshaver again, I was surprised at the improvements in the emulator and its online documentation. I first got a good install of Mac OS 9.0.4 on my new, 13.3" MacBook Pro, and more importantly, almost perfectly recreated the streamlined setup I had on the G3 for working on MATH DITTOS 2 using System 8.1 under Sheepshaver on the Mini. I wrote a bit about the experience in Working with Sheepshaver.

The installation included AppleWorks 5, Adobe Acrobat 4, and an old shareware enhancement, Action GoMac, that adds a timesaving Windows-like taskbar to the bottom of the System 8.1 screen. The only casualty of the installation was the BeHierarchic Apple Menu modifier, which I quickly learned to live without.

So...the brand spanking new update to Fact Controlled MULTIPLICATION was actually done in system and application software over 15 years old! And quite frankly, it probably never would have gotten done without Sheepshaver. The G3 is, let's see, 2012-1998=14 years old, and sits in our sunroom/computer workshop that runs cold in winter and sweltering in the summer.

Since I chose not to rewrite the entire series in a modern application, this release, with any minor corrections needed, will probably be the last for the multiplication workbook.

I'm not done with my System 8.1 installation on Sheepshaver, though. I still need to finish the one digit divisor section of MATH DITTOS 2: Fact Controlled DIVISION for Special Learners. (Why did I ever pick such an awful, long name for these workbooks?) I've also fiddled a bit with the Addition & Subtraction workbook, but again, never got the improvements out into a public release.

And of course, there are still many, many rounds of RiskII to be played under the Classic emulator!

"Ha-ha-ha! Hello, boys! I'm back!"

No, I'm not resuming regular publication of Educators' News. Since many of you may end up watching the 1996 film, Independence Day, this holiday, I couldn't resist using the Randy Quaid line from the film, "Ha-ha-ha! Hello, boys! I'm back!" But I'm really not back and even moved our Educators' News tombstones up into the header to emphasize that fact.

Have a great holiday and summer vacation!


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©2012 Steven L. Wood