Need a Break?

I have been incredibly inspired by Sarah Carter @mathequalslove. She has so many amazing resources that she generously shares. As we prepare for and begin the new school year, I also want to be part of the giving community. I have been scouring the #MTBoS and other sources for “one off” activities that I can pull out and use at any moment. Our school is moving from 40 minute to 60 minute periods, and I know that I will need to incorporate new strategies to engage students for these longer periods of time. I want to build a collection of games, tasks, and activities that can be used either to introduce the class, to end the class, or as a brief interlude in the middle.

Pentanim is a game that comes from the NRICH database. It is a short logic game that can be used as a break in any subject. I have created student game boards should you want students to play in pairs with bingo chips, as well as a Notebook file to play this game as a class. When playing as a class, students could take turns, or you could still have two students play in a match against each other. One reminder, do not save the Notebook file before closing. This will allow it to open in proper format the next time you want to play.

You can access the files here.


Posted by admin in General Education, 0 comments

Summer Learning – Part 2

I have been looking for interactive sites for science, and I came across Wisc-Online. I have mentioned this site before, but I never explored the full extent of their website. There are three main categories on the home screen – learn, play games, and build games. In the “Learn” section, there are interactive slideshows and videos on a variety of topics related to computer science, science, math, and the humanities. In “Play Games”, you can choose from the same subjects, and games range in type (flashcards, hangman, jeopardy, matching, memory, bingo, tic-tac-toe, and many more). What I especially like, however, is the “Build games” section. The entire selection of game types is available, but you can tailor your game to your own content. They even provide an image library for you to use in your game. If you are going to build your own games, then I highly recommend exploring the variety of games beforehand. This will make it easier to build your own games. Have fun exploring!

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Biodiversity and Ecosystems

I recently came across some interesting biodiversity and ecosystem sites. The first site is called Phylo and it would be interesting to incorporate into a biodiversity unit. The website introduces a crowd sourced biodiversity card game (originally proposed as an alternate to Pokeman), and provides various decks for the same game format. Each deck focuses on different living creatures. You really need to explore it for yourself, I cannot do it justice. 

The second is a site called Wildscreen Arkive, and it would complement either biodiversity or ecosystem units. It appears that the main goal of the site is to archive the diverse life on our planet, and animal searches can be conducted based on conservation status. The education section of this website is also worthwhile, and lessons are organized into different age groups. Lessons are well developed, with presentation notes, teacher notes, and student handouts (update – education link no longer active).

Happy summer, everyone!

Posted by admin in General Science, Grade 6 Science, Grade 7 Science, 0 comments

Begin the year with math.

I have three math websites to share before school begins again next week.

The first, Mr. P’s Math Page, is suggested based on the Puzzles & Games page.  Explore the other pages as you wish, but make sure to spend some time looking through the variety of puzzles and games that he has shared in this section. The other real treasure on this website is the Problem of the Month archive.

Next, visit the Number Loving Resources site. There are a multitude of games to be found here, searchable by strand, topic, or UK Key Stage Levels. When you are finished there, head over to the Number Loving Blog to find great teaching ideas.

Finally, Mr. Barton’s Maths has a slew of worthwhile resources. You can wander over to the Just for Fun or explore his blog, but I have spent the most time on the Teachers page. While there, be sure to look through the Teaching Resources and then wander over to the Tarsia Jigsaw Bundle.

Have a fabulous new year.


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App Review – Math Doodles and Symmetry Shuffle

There are two apps by Carstens Studios that I have loaded onto our school iPads.

The first app is called Math Doodles and it sells for $2.99. The user is given three challenges (a fourth is in development) that revolve around addition, logic, and algebraic thinking. In the first challenge, Sums Stacker, the user needs to manipulate values within three piles in order to reach a target sum. In the second challenge, Connect Sums, the user must select values that reach a target sum. In the third challenge, Unknown Square, the user must find the missing value in a 3-by-3 array of numbers. One of the things I love about this app (in addition to the awesome graphics) is the ability to play in a variety of number systems. The user can choose to play with values represented as dice, fingers, holes, ten frames, tally marks, binary system, Braille, number prefixes, polygons, US coins and dollars, a variety of fraction types, Roman numerals, numbers shown in  either Chinese, Arabic, Gurmukhi, Hindi, Hebrew, or Spanish, or a mixture of all of the above. There are different levels of difficulty, as well. All of these options allow the app to be used across a number of grade levels.

The second app is called Symmetry Shuffle and it sells for $1.99. The user must either rotate (turn), reflect (flip) or translate (slide) the image so that all targets have been matched. The user can select from 12 possible images to “shuffle”, and can also change the size of the “shuffle” grid. Its features are not as diverse as on the first app, but I still find it a great addition to our math apps on the iPads.

Both apps allow the user to track the number of moves they have used so that they can attempt to solve the puzzle in the fewest possible moves, which is another great feature for differentiation.

Have fun playing.


Posted by admin in Math, Using Tech, 0 comments

Playing with Probability

I had to plan for the last 6 teaching days with my grade 8 math classes, and after that we are into exam review and end-of-year trips. We had not yet covered probability, so I thought that I could design some mini-activities to carry out over these six days.

Here is my plan for the six days:

Day 1:
-Introduce terminology (probability, theoretical probability, experimental probability)
-Each student is given an activity to carry out with either dice or spinners (see attachment below)
-Discussion of theoretical and experimental probability as related to the dice and spinner activities

Spinner and Dice Activities

Days 2/3:
-Introduce game assignment (see attachment below)
-Allow time for students to decide if they are working alone or in small groups
-Planning time for students to organize the activity

Game Assignment

Days 4/5/6:
-Students lead activities for class
-Class discussions of how each activity went and how other factors might have come into play. Classmates suggest ideas for improvement.

We just finished the first day of activities in one of the classes, and already students are learning how to modify their activities based on how the first ones went.

We will play some more tomorrow.

Posted by admin in Math, 0 comments

Pascal’s Triangle and Magic Squares

We have been working on patterning in Grade 7 math.  We spent a lot of time looking for patterns in Pascal’s triangle and seeing how the numbers in the triangle work together. I asked my students to each try to find a different pattern in Pascal’s triangle, and they rose to the challenge. They came back to class excited to share what they found, and each student was hoping that no one else had found his/her pattern. At the end of the first day of presentations, most students had claimed a pattern, but there were a few students whose patterns were claimed by others and needed to explore further. The next day I decided to help them out, and gave a short lesson about figurate numbers and asked the students to find tetrahedral and hexagonal numbers in Pascal’s triangle. We then looked into fractals and how the Sierpinski triangle can be created in Pascal’s triangle by blacking out all of the odd numbers. I left them with another challenge – to see what happens when you block out even numbers, and numbers that are multiples of 3 and 4.  I also showed them some of the Pascal patterns discussed in The Number Devil, a book I mentioned in a previous post.

Here are some of the links that I used for this series of lessons:

Pascal’s Triangle and its Patterns

Pascal’s Triangle from Math is Fun

Patterns in Pascal’s Triangle from Cut the Knot

Pascal’s Triangle from Math Forum

Wolfram MathWorld Fractal Page

Wikipedia Fractal Page (Scroll down to see the changing fractal beside the history section.)

Sierpinski’s Triangle from Math Forum

As we were having so much fun with numbers, we went on to look at the Magic Square in Albrecht Durer’s paintings. In his magic square, the sum of all rows and columns is 34. We used the Powerpoint below (source unknown) that was sent to me by a friend. To start, I only showed the first five slides, and then I left it to the students to determine where else they could find the sum of 34 in the square. They made me proud and found all of the sums mentioned in the Powerpoint, as well an additional sum found through a zig zag pattern.

Albrecht Drer’s Magic Square

Hope you have as much fun exploring numbers as we did.
Have a great week.

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Today I would like to share some great ideas from my Twitter PLN, which I hope to incorporate into to my lessons in the coming months.

The first is the traditional Locker Puzzle. I came across the Locker Puzzle a few years ago, although I first saw it under the name “A Thousand Lockers” from the Math Forum.  I recently found this exploration of the problem that James Tanton describes on his blog, Thinking Mathematics!, and I love what I read and saw. I can’t wait to try it with my students.

The second is a post from Nat Banting on his blog, Musing Mathematically. He posts a question, courtesy of Andrew Kelly, that tackles the concepts of surface area and volume. It is not the standard surface area and volume problem that I have seen, and although his work seems mostly to be with high school students, I think that it will be a great challenge for some of my grade 8 students.

The last is a great way to get your students excited for the Superbowl next weekend. This Superbowl lesson on Yummy Math leads students to investigate the cost of  advertisements for the Superbowl and how they have changed over the years.

Have a great week.

Posted by admin in Math, 0 comments

Systems in Action

I have accepted the fact that I am not superhuman, and so I cannot always accomplish everything that I want. There was a time where I would feel guilty for not writing for the past month or so, but I have become wiser and now understand that I must retain my sanity. Report cards and another school project (Climate Spark) have kept me on hiatus, but I am back…

We have begun our Systems unit in grade 8 science. I introduced the unit by having my students play Fantastic Contraption, one of my favourite online physics games. The site has been a little finicky lately, but my students still had a lot of fun with it. After they had a chance to play for a while, they shared some of their favourite designs with their classmates. I then showed some videos of neat inventions that work as systems. First, we watched a few videos that highlight the innovations of Theo Jansen, creator of PVC sculptures in the Netherlands (see the BBC news video and the Ted Talk). Next I showed them some of the machines designed by Rowland Emett, which were used by the character Caractacus Potts in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This week I will also show them some examples of Rube Goldberg machines, videos of which can be found on my July 3 post. When we are a little further in the unit I will share some websites for work and mechanical advantage.

Until then, have a great week.

Posted by admin in Grade 8 Science, 0 comments

A Great Beginning

I had a fantastic first week of school. I incorporated some great resources into my repertoire, both internet resources and resources shared through twitter.

For my grade 7 and 8 science classes, I used the Subversive Lab Grouping Game, courtesy of Frank Noschese. His version uses American states and American presidents as two of the categories, which were not as relevant for my students. Instead, I added in chocolate bars (Twix, Aero, Milky Way, and Kit Kat). My largest class is under 20 students (yes, be jealous), and so there was no need to come up with a 6th category. I anticipated the questions regarding Mars – is it a planet or a chocolate bar? Technically, the chocolate bar is called a Mars Bar, but I was going to be lenient with this. As it turned out, that conversation came up, and the students knew that it is correctly called a Mars Bar. I also anticipated some discussion around Milky Way, as it could be grouped with planet names under a “space” category, but the students kept it in the chocolate bar grouping and just grouped the planets together.

For my grade 8 classes, I also conducted an activity on observations vs. inferences. Using this Powerpoint (original source unknown, but greatly appreciated), we talked about the differences between what we know and what we think. Students looked at a series of tracks on the first slide, and shared what they observed on the slide. At first it was difficult for them, as they immediately began making assumptions about the scenario being portrayed. After we shared every possible observation, they then had the opportunity to infer what they thought was happening. We then went to the second slide and third slides, which showed a continuation of the tracks, and went through the same procedure. As a final wrap up, we discussed how these skills are important in the science classroom.

In grade 7 math, the students completed the Fish Dish rich task from Bowland Maths. This activity required the students to help a chef determine the correct order to cook a meal, in the shortest possible time. Many students came up with the correct order, but soon realized that they had not determined the most efficient time. We compared everyone’s answers, and they helped each other determine how they could improve upon their methods.

In grade 8 math we conducted an investigation of the game of Tic Tac Toe, courtesy of Jim Noble from InThinking. The first investigation asked all students to determine the number of ways one could win with the basic 3 x 3 game of Tic Tac Toe. They were then asked to determine the number of possible ways to win in a 4 x 4 grid where four-in-a row wins, and in a 5 x 5 grid where five-in-a row wins. They then looked for the algebraic expression that determines the number of ways to win from the grid size. This immediately had them recall learning from the previous school year. The students then had a choice between two further investigations. They needed to attempt one, but were free to attempt both. One investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given a 4 x4 grid, a 5 x5 grid, and a 6 x 6 grid. Again, they searched for the algebraic expression, which was definitely harder this time.  The other investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given 3D grids (3 x 3 x3 and 4 x 4 x 4). I had only a few students attempt this investigation.

I spent many hours this summer researching rich math tasks and assigning them to specific units for grades 7 and 8 that I will incorporate throughout the year. The success of this first week of school has shown me that the time taken to search out these tasks was time well spent.

Have a great week.

Posted by admin in General Science, Math, 0 comments