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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Exploring Virtual Labs


As I prepare for the upcoming school year I have been searching for good virtual lab websites. Here is the best of what I have found:

PhET – Range of physics, biology, chemistry, earth science, and math simulations, search by content or by grade level, teacher notes and activities also available

Glencoe Virtual Labs – Range of life science, physical science, and earth science

ChemCollective – Virtual labs and scenario based learning

Learn Genetics – Small selection of virtual labs

hhmi Biointeractive – Small selection of virtual labs, many other resources on website

Molecular Workbench – Must download each lab

The Physics Classroom – Some good interactives

Earthquake Simulator

Prepmagic – Still trying to figure this one out…unsure if there is pricing involved

Go-Lab – Range of physics, chemistry, life Science, earth science, and math


The following sites have resources beyond virtual labs:

Annenberg Learner

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Tic Tac Toe Time

Earlier this summer someone shared a link describing Ultimate Tic Tac Toe (I apologize but I cannot remember who shared the link). The post was on the Math with Bad Drawings blog which you can access here. I had never seen it before (I am obviously living under a rock…) but I immediately loved it. I filed it away on my computer. Somewhere. I went looking for it last night and couldn’t remember how I saved it and so I went searching online. I found the original post, and I found two other sites that I like.

The first is a digital version of the game. I would definitely have my students play their own games, but I love the idea of opening it up with a class game. You can access the digital version here. The second is a game on the Spin Master website called Marbles – Tic Tac Toe. In this version the tic tac toe grid is constantly changing placement. I have already made a few classroom purchases this summer, but I may have to add this to the repertoire!

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Bridge Baffler

Last week I showed a picture of four puzzle books that I have at home. I had gone through them and marked down the puzzles that I liked. Today I created a version of one of the puzzles to use in the classroom. The puzzle is called Bridge Baffler and it is from the Puzzle Play book. Apparently it is a modeled after an older puzzle, but I could not find any sources online. I didn’t love how it looked after I scanned it from the book, and so I decided to make my own version. The basic goal of the puzzle is to use two planks of wood to allow someone or something that is stuck on a rectangular island to make it off of the island and onto the surrounding land. The catch is that the two planks of wood are identical in size, and both are shorter than the span between the island and the surrounding land. For an easier challenge, students can use the two planks as manipulatives. To make it harder, students can attempt the challenge without the plank manipulatives. You can access the puzzle here.

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If You Build It…

Today I would like to share two online games that I love.

The first game is called Fantastic Contraption. It is an online physics building game with 47 levels. The aim is to build a contraption that will move a pink wheel into a goal area. In order to achieve your goal you can use various wheels, sticks, and water rods to build a contraption that will maneuver around the obstacles given.

The second game is called Launchball. This is another physics game with the aim of getting a ball to the goal zone. However, in this game you use fans, heat, water, and electromagnetic forces to move the ball around the obstacles.

Have fun playing!

Posted by Ilana Cyna in General Science, 0 comments

Designing a Puzzle Bulletin Board

Most of my bulletin board space is inside of my science lab, but I have a bulletin board that is in the hallway just outside of the science lab. Last year I taught all of middle school science as well as grade 8 math, and I used this bulletin board for math puzzles. I put the puzzle in the centre of the board and underneath I added a folder where students could put their solutions. When it was time for a new puzzle in the centre, I removed the old puzzle and put it either on the right or left side of the new one. I included the answer to the old puzzle and highlighted any correct solutions that students had given. Eventually the board around the centre puzzle got filled with old puzzles and solutions, and it was then that I emptied the board and started fresh.

When I originally designed the bulletin board, I had thought that only middle school students would take interest. However, there was a grade 4 classroom right beside mine, and I was pleasantly surprised to see those students hovering around my puzzle board on a regular basis. They liked the challenge of the harder problems, and I think they ended up attempting solutions more often than my own students. See my puzzle website list for inspiration of what to put on your own bulletin board.

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A Fracking We Will Go…Or Not

Science time.

I am going to highlight a project I have done in grade 7 science, but I am sure that it could be modified for other grades. I was looking online for an assignment on the environmental impacts of using oil or natural gas and I came across this website.

Both sources describe a town hall style meeting to discuss allowing oil companies to lease land for fracking natural gas, with the students being given roles within the scenario (oil and gas company representatives, government representatives, First Nations representatives, resource workers, community members, environmentalists).

I loved the idea of making a town hall meeting and so I explored how I could use this project and make it specific for my needs. I used many ideas from the above sources with some minor modifications. To be as relevant as possible, I wanted the task to be based on a real life scenario. The Climate Justice website used a fictional town in BC, but I was hoping to find a current issue on which to model the town hall. Also, one of the groups represented in the fictitious town hall was a First Nations group, and I wanted that to remain in my project. I began researching for active fracking projects in BC with First Nation reserves close by and I came across LNG Canada. At the time of this task, LNG Canada was seeking permission to access natural gas through fracking in Kitimat, BC with hopes to export the natural gas to Asian markets. This seemed perfect. I spent a lot of time on the LNG Canada website reading about their goals for the Kitimat site and the benefits they hoped to achieve, and I began to put together a student handout. You can access my handout here.

The IB rubric that I was using for this assignment has the following requirements:

  • describe the ways in which science is applied and used to address a specific problem or issue
  • discuss and analyse the implications of using science and its application to solve a problem, interacting with a factor (moral, ethical, environmental, economic, social, cultural, political)
  • consistently apply scientific language to communicate understanding clearly and precisely
  • document sources completely

I knew that the second and third strands would be easy to assess in a town hall meeting presentation, but that the first and fourth strands would be difficult. The students needed to research their roles to prepare for the town hall, and so I created a Google Doc research organizer for them. I had them research the issues, prepare their arguments, and anticipate how they would rebut the arguments of others. I also prepared an area for them to debrief after the town hall. I used their preliminary research to assess the first and fourth strands. You can access a pdf of the research organizer with the assignment handout in the link above.

When presentation day finally came the students were both excited and nervous. I had booked the school boardroom so that we could use it for the town hall for each of my two grade 7 classes. I loved seeing the students immerse themselves into their roles in both the way they dressed and the way they spoke. I expected each person to briefly speak and I did not think there would be any issue finishing within each of our 45 minute periods. However, I did not anticipate the in depth rebuttals that the students had prepared and how enthusiastically they approached this task. The end of each period came and unfortunately I had to cut off the discussions.

It is worth noting that the year this was done was quite unique in that I only had 11 students per class. I still needed to double up some of the roles, but I would not recommend doing this with too large of a group. If you need to make two groups within one class, then perhaps another teacher could do an activity with one half of the class while the other is conducting their town hall. Alternately, you could come up with two different scenarios and each half of the class could be an audience for the other.

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Iota …Small Tin, Big Fun

One of my favourite games is Iota. I bought it for my daughter to take to camp a few years ago. She never played it at camp and I don’t think that anyone opened it until last summer. I was going to a cottage for the weekend and I grabbed it on a whim. At the cottage someone else opened it to play, and I have been hooked ever since.

The premise of the game is to lay out cards, almost in a Scrabble like fashion. Each card has a number from 1 to 4, a colour of either red, green, blue, or yellow, and a shape of either a plus sign, square, triangle, or circle. Each player gets four cards at the beginning, and just like in Scrabble, replenishes the cards based on the number used during the turn.

Let’s say this is Player 1’s hand:

A possible move would be to lay out the following cards:

This turn would be worth 8 points for player 1, the value of the numbers on the cards. Player 2 has the following hand:

Player 2 now has to decide what cards to add to the board. Cards can be added in such a way to make sets of 4 where all cards either share all properties with each other, share some properties with each other, or share no properties with each other. Player 2 decides to add the green 3 triangle and the blue 3 square like this:

Player 2 has earned 13 points for this move. Just like in Scrabble, all connections matter. The green 3 triangle and the green 4 square are on their way to making a set of 4 and are worth 7 points. Two more green cards would be needed to finish this set, either a green 1 circle and green 2 plus or a green 1 plus and a green 2 circle. The green 3 triangle and the blue 3 square are on their way to making a different set and are worth 6 points. To finish this set one would need two more cards with 3’s, and those cards would each need to be different colours and different shapes than each other and than the ones already showing.

It is now Player 1’s turn again. Since Player 1 used two cards last turn, Player 1 needs to pick up two more cards to ensure that there are four cards available to play. This is the new hand for Player 1:

The red 2 triangle and the green 3 square were left over from the previous hand and the new cards are the blue 2 plus and the red 3 square. Player 1 decides to make the following move:

This move is worth 9 points. Player 1 is now creating a set where none of the attributes match. The final card in this set would be a blue 1 circle. Player 2 now picks two new cards and this is the new hand:

The blue 3 circle and blue 1 triangle are the new cards. Player 2 makes the following move:

Player 2 has only added one card, the 3 blue triangle.This move is only worth 5 points. To finish this set one could add a yellow 1 triangle and a green 4 triangle or a yellow 4 triangle and a green 1 triangle.

Player 1 now picks two cards to fill the playable hand, and the hand now looks like this:

The new cards are the yellow 1 circle and the red 1 square. Player 1 decides to make the following move:

Player 1 had added the blue 2 plus and the yellow 1 circle, for a total of 11 points. Play continues in this manner until all the cards are gone. When a player completes a set of 4 the points for that turn are doubled. If a player manages to use all four cards in one turn then the points for that turn are also doubled. If a player manages to use all four cards and create a set of four in one turn, then the points are quadrupled. There are also two wildcards that can be used as any card, and they look like this:

I had read so much about the card game Set and how so many people love it, and I finally tried it this summer at a games cafe. I must admit that I did not find it that exciting…maybe we played it wrong? I think that there is more strategy involved with Iota and I enjoy it much more. Next step…buying it for the classroom.

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Puzzles Galore

Yesterday I said that I would share puzzle sites that I have accumulated over time. I have blogged about this in the past, but here is an updated list of my go-to sites when I am searching for something fun:

A+ Click Math and Logic Problems

AIMS Puzzle Corner

Brain Bashers


Conceptis Puzzles

Cut the Knot

Erich’s Puzzle Palace

Gordon Burgin’s Puzzles

Krazy Dad

Mathematical Thinking

Math Pickle

Math Playground

Maths Puzzles

Peter Frank

Plus Magazine

Printable Puzzles

Puzzle Baron’s Logic Puzzles

Puzzle Choice

Puzzlers Paradise

Simon Tatham’s Portable Puzzle Collection

Terry Stickels

The Problem Site

Tree Knox



And here is one site to make your own puzzles:



I am sure that there are many other great sites that are not on the list. Please send me your favourites.

Posted by Ilana Cyna in General Education, 0 comments