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Home > Archive > For teachers > Negatives (Math)

by Sara Moore

15 October 2008

Sarah Moore is studying to be a secondary math and science teacher at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

and Padma Akkaraju

Padma Akkaraju is an educator and consultant in math and science education.

Something Positive About

Negative Integers

Achieving a concrete understanding of negative integers, especially the mathematical operations involved, is a common obstacle for many middle school math students. As a result, students often resort to memorizing the rules for arithmetic operations as opposed to connecting their learning to the real world. This lesson is based on a constructivist approach to math learning. The learning activities effectively integrate kinesthetic and visual learning and provide real life examples. Students of all ability levels would greatly benefit from using manipulatives, such as positive and negative sign counters, that provide a concrete learning experience.

SpicyNodes benefits students of various abilities, interests, and personalities. Students who are adept at math and technology can work at their own pace, and explore complex connections within the topic of study, while students who are stronger in language arts can use their writing skills to build understanding without feeling weighed down by problems and exercises. Students with special needs similarly benefit, as they have the satisfaction of creating something all their own and participating in the same exercise as the rest of the class. SpicyNodes also helps students who are shy, or who experience anxiety when participating in class discussions, as they can display their ideas without pressure. Once the students complete the SpicyNodes presentation, they can look at the whole concept and see the underlying connections that they might otherwise miss.

Unlike other graphic organizers or traditional concept mapping, SpicyNodes provides a compelling learning experience by requiring users to clearly understand a concept when they create and label their nodes, and provide definitions or descriptions for various constructs. Another advantage of SpicyNodes over other graphic organizers is that it goes beyond traditional concept mapping, providing a nonlinear and open ended format as opposed to templates that limit one’s ability to make complex connections among the concepts. A traditional graphic organizer, though it gives the big picture, is static and suffers from space constraints thus limiting the number of meaningful connections in one’s learning. SpicyNodes serves as a dynamic technological tool that enables students to engage in deep learning by critically examining new facts and ideas, and making connections among different modules of math learning.


  • Discipline: Mathematics
  • Level: Grade 7
  • Objective: Understanding the concept and operation of integers with a focus on negative integers
  • Time Needed: 8 hours (minimum)

on negative integers.

for 7th grade students.

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