Welcome to Blaugust 2019!

In June I was reading Volume 58 of Sarah Carter’s @mathequalslove Monday Must Reads. In it she referenced a task from @MrNiksMathClass on Twitter. I glanced past the task quickly as it was for high school and I teach middle school, and I didn’t find it relevant for my needs. However, I reread her post in July and went to check out Math with P. Nik’s Twitter feed. And I am glad I did.

His feed is full of thoughtful math problems and they are not just for high school. There are many that are very relevant for middle school students. I spent many hours that day in July going through his feed and filing away the problems that are relevant for my units. I will definitely keep my eye on his feed during the next school year.

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Bulletin Board Inspiration

Next year I am in a different classroom and have twice the bulletin board space to cover. I have been working on ideas of what to do with all of that space. Today I came across this post on Twitter:


I already maintain a puzzle board in the hallway (see related post) and hope to continue this year, but it is the space inside of my room that needs to be filled. I think I will have three bulletin boards to fill. I am inspired by the picture above and love the idea of creating a bulletin board around WODB. I worry about the upkeep throughout the year, but I plan on enlisting the help of my students. Be sure to check out the WODB website and Twitter feed for problem ideas.

Another bulletin board could be a math word wall. I have seen versions where the teacher creates it and it remains for the year as well as versions where the teacher creates it but it changes with each unit. When researching options I came across this site from the Virginia Department of Education. It contains pre-made math word wall cards for various ages and stages. Another option is to do what a friend of mine does, which is to have the students write the word wall cards as the concepts come up during lessons (sounds more authentic to me!). I previously wrote about a great site for fun bulletin board letters and you can read about that here.

I am still working on ideas for the third interactive board….any suggestions?


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Charged Up with Static Electricity Centres

I know that this idea was not originally mine. I have searched online for the original owner but cannot find the source, so I apologize for not giving credit where it is due. I took the original source and reworked it for my purposes. This resource has seven centres for static electricity. I have an instruction sheet for each centre as well as a student booklet. My first unit in grade 6 was a science skills unit. In that unit we focus a lot on the scientific method, including how to properly write a problem and hypothesis and how to identify independent, dependent, and controlled variables. These centres do not include a section for the variables, but that can easily be added. You can access the documents here.

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Thinkfun, the company behind the famous Rush Hour game, has a section on their website for educators. Head over to the Downloadable Games section for a selection of strategy games, brainteasers, and dice games in both colour and black and white versions. They also provide some resources to supplement the Rush Hour game as well as to allow students to play with a paper version of the game. Check out the Group Games and Activities section and look through the Big Games downloads for some larger group activities.

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tekhnologic Game and Activity Templates

My challenge continues … it is always hard to find time to write during the school year. Today I am sitting in a ski lodge while our students are on the slopes, and so I have found myself with a few extra minutes.

About a month ago I came across a PowerPoint resource that had a spinner wheel on one of the pages. I had never seen this before and I wanted to know how it was created. In my search for that information I came across the tekhnologic website, developed by a teacher in Japan. The downloads page has a series of game and activity templates for PowerPoint, Excel, and Word. You can also find some of these on the collections page, where PowerPoint game templates and ideas are highlighted.

And if you are interested in the spinner wheel PowerPoint template, you can find it here.

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And so it begins.

I have not written in over a week as I have been consumed with back to school preparation. Today was the first day of school and I am exhausted, but I wanted to take a few moments to highlight what I did with my classes.

This year I am teaching grades 6, 7, and 8 science (two classes each) and one grade 8 math class. Being the first day we had a modified schedule and I did not teach all of my classes.

After organizing lockers and reviewing essential and emergency routines, I had a few minutes left with my first class, a grade 7 science class. I decided to do Alicia Johal’s personality beakers. Over the weekend I had prepared one of my own to show as a sample. I intend to do this activity with each of my science classes at some point this week.

I did not teach a math lesson as the grade 8 class had an introduction to the MYP Community project during my time with them. I had one grade 8 science class today, and I did a few activities with them. First we did Dogs and Turnips. In this activity there are 23 words in an envelope and those 23 words can be formed into a sentence that describes a scenario. Without looking, students pick out five words and try to determine the scenario from those five words. They then pick five more words and decide if their original idea has changed. If so, they write their idea for the new scenario. They repeat this process with another five words, and then finally with the last 8 words. We compared what different groups had hypothesized and discussed similarities and differences. Next we did the Square Puzzle Challenge. Students were given five puzzle pieces, one of which is a square. First I asked them to show me a square in the easiest possible way. Most students quickly identified the square puzzle piece. Then I asked them to put the square puzzle piece aside and make a square with the remaining pieces. Most students were able to form the square fairly quickly and I allowed the others to “call a friend” for a hint. Finally I asked them to make a new square, this time incorporating the square puzzle piece. This one was much more difficult for them, and many more students needed hints. At the end we discussed the similarities and differences about both activities and we connected it to how ideas change as new information is presented in the science lab.

My last class of the day was a grade 6 science class. After spending some group circle time with them (I had never taught them before and needed to learn their names!) we did an activity called Order Up!. Sometime in the summer I came across three booklets of instant challenges, and this activity comes from Practice Set A. In this activity I prepared number cards from 1 to 6 and a variety of different colour squares that were cut from construction paper. To add more of a challenge, I used different shades of some of the colours (light blue, dark blue, light green, dark green, etc). These were set up behind a screen (I used about six privacy shields to make the screen). I put the students into groups and told them that they would have to find a way to communicate the order of four colours to the rest of the group, but without speaking. I gave them five minutes at the beginning to come up with a communication system for their group. One at a time, each group sent up a person to look at the order of the colours behind the screen. That person then had one minute to communicate the order to their team and have the team guess the colours. I had prepared 10 different colours and so I changed the colours between groups’ turns. Sometimes I changed all of the colours and sometimes I kept a few of the old ones, but in different positions, and mixed in some new ones. During this first round only two of the five groups were able to communicate all four colours in the correct order. Then I gave all groups another few minutes to revise their communication system and we repeated the activity, but this time I had them guess six colours instead of four and I gave all groups an additional twenty seconds. They were much more successful this time and they came up with some interesting and creative communication systems. They had even found a way to communicate light shades vs dark shades. We debriefed the activity and discussed its purpose (team building, problem solving, communication and language) before I dismissed them for the day.

All in all it was a great first day. I hope yours was, as well.


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I have been looking for open source curricula for middle school math and science, specifically for Ontario, and the pickings are slim.

I came across this site from British Columbia. It is not a complete curriculum, but it has a few select modules for various subjects and grades. The Centre for Education and Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) recently released a grade 7 and 8 math curriculum. They also have available content for Advanced Functions, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus and Vectors. Unfortunately these two sites were the only ones that I found that directly matched my curriculum.

There are also some good options beyond Ontario and Canada based curriculum. Below you will find a list of some of the more popular options (focusing on k12 education).



Khan Academy

New Jersey Centre for Teaching and Learning

Illustrative Mathematics and Open Up Resources

Eureka Math


Specifically Online Textbooks:

openstax CNX – Mostly high school math and science textbooks with a few extras

BC Open Ed – Textbooks in many subject areas


Curated Databases:

Merlot – Curated sources across all disciplines

OER Commons – Curated sources across all disciplies


I am sure that I have missed some essentials that should be on this list. But it is late at night and I have been working all day, and my brain is in back-to-school mode. Please let me know what I am missing.

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Cleave Books Resource Pages

Last year I came upon (or was led to…I can’t remember) a website called Cleave Books. It is a little bit of a hodgepodge, but it has some interesting math resources. The Teacher Resources Online page brings you to a variety of template makers and information sheets. Here you will find templates for grid paper, number lines, digits of Pi, codes and ciphers, searches and cross sums, formula sheets and more, as well as practice booklets and other random activities. The Specialist Calculators Online page is basically what is says, a variety of calculators where each is devoted to a specific task. I like the Calendar Models page where you can create a yearly 3D calendar in varying forms. There is also a Pages of Puzzles section which houses generic problem solving puzzles as well as tangrams, pentominoes, dissection puzzles, and sliding block puzzles. The final area on this website that I will highlight it the MisMaths page. Here you will find math mistakes and misconceptions – could be good for same daily starters.

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Videos for Learning

Today I would like to share my favourite go-to sites for educational videos:


ASAP Science – Go here for the Periodic Table Song

Bozeman Science – Mainly science, one section on statistics and graphing

Crash Course – Science, engineering, history, and literature, also visit Crash Course Kids

Khan Academy – Anything and everything

Minute Physics – Great source of physics videos

Numberphile – Fun math based videos

PatrickJMT – Great compilation of math videos

Veritasium – Videos from many other sources on a range of topics



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Top Trumps in the Classroom

A few years ago I bought my son his first pack of Top Trumps. Neither of us had ever played before, but I saw the game in a store and was intrigued. Since then he has been hooked. We play at home and he plays with his friends at camp.

For those who don’t know, Top Trumps is a competitive card game with attributes similar to war. The main goal is to get all of the cards from your opponents. There are many versions of the game, and each game deck has its own theme. One of the decks we have is volcano themed, and each card is a different volcano from somewhere around the world. Here are a few card samples:


As you can see, the cards have various categories on them and each category has an associated numeric value. The cards are evenly distributed to all players and then players keep their cards in front them in a face down pile. At the beginning of a round each player looks at the top card and the first player calls a category and reads its numeric value. The rest of the players then read the numeric values for that category on their own cards, and the player with the highest value takes all cards from that round. If the numeric values on the cards are the same then those cards are placed in the centre, all players draw a new card from the top of the their piles, and the same player calls out a new category. The player with the highest numeric value on the new category takes all cards, including those in the centre.

I figured that somewhere there were teachers that must have adapted this game for the classroom, and I began to search. I found a few resources, but nothing too extensive. This summer I decided to look again and I found a few new resources to add to the mix.

You can find blank templates here and here. The second site is TES and requires a login to download, but the registration is free. Some documents on TES cost money, but there are many that are free. I have found some amazing resources on TES.

If you search online using key words, there are many resources that pop up. Here are just a few:


JustMaths has a few versions of Top Trumps, a few of which you can see below:

Mean, Median, Mode, and Range Top Trumps

Simultaneous Equations and Equation of the Line Top Trumps

Standard Form/Scientific Notation Top Trumps

Solving Equations Top Trumps


Other Top Trumps from TES (mostly from Laura Rees Hughes)

Integer Review Top Trumps

Order of Operations Top Trumps

Standard From/Scientific Notation Top Trumps

Substituting into Expressions Top Trumps

Solving Equations Top Trumps

Missing Angles Top Trumps

Averages Top Trumps

Fraction of an Amount Top Trumps

Fraction, Decimal, Percent Top Trumps


The Great Math Teaching Ideas blog by William Emeny also has a few versions of the game.

Substitution Top Trumps

Polygon Shape Properties


And of course, if you don’t want to download, print, and cut up your own, someone has made actual decks of cards to sell and changed the name to Math Trumps. You can visit that site here.

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