Category Archives: Math

Opt for Osmo for Optimum Fun

Woohoo!  Here we go!  This is the beginning of this year’s “Gifts for the Gifted” posts – a series of articles I do each Friday in November and December to give teachers and parents ideas for great toys and games for your children.  To see what gifts I’ve recommended in the past, take a look at my Pinterest Board.  (I also have one for Books for Gifted Children.)

gifts

 

I reviewed today’s product, Osmo, in May, but some of you may not have been readers way back then.  You should definitely check out that first post as it gives some details that I will probably leave out in the interest of brevity in this article.

Put quite simply, Osmo is a set of accessories for your iPad that allows players to interact with real physical objects that are recognized by your iPad within Osmos’ free apps.  My classes (K-5 gifted students) tested the product out last year before it hit the market, and absolutely loved it.

image from Venturebeat.com
image from Venturebeat.com

There are currently 3 free apps: Words, Tangrams, and Newton.  The apps will not work without the set that you can currently purchase for $79.99 (free shipping). The set includes a base for the iPad, a mirror to place over the iPad camera, letter tiles, and tangram pieces.

In case you are concerned that your child or students will get bored with the 3 apps, I can assure you this hasn’t happened in my classroom yet.  The company does hope to add additional apps in the future, and they have made significant updates to the current ones over the last year.  In addition, the Words app allows for customization so that you can basically create your own games using photos and words that you load yourself. (See instructions here.) This feature is tremendously powerful in a classroom setting.  You can make Osmo a center to practice certain words, differentiate with several albums, and do class play to review vocabulary by mirroring your iPad on your screen.

There are two reasons that I recommend Osmo: it’s good for kids and the company is extremely supportive of its customers – particularly educators.  If you are looking for a great gift to give a teacher (perhaps pooling money with several parents) or a unique gift to give to a younger family member, then Osmo is definitely a great choice.  You can purchase Osmo directly from their website, or at an Apple store near you.

Inspirograph

Technically this should be a Phun Phriday post.  Because it’s seriously, addictively P.H.U.N.  However, my Friday posts in November and December are devoted to my “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  So, we’re going to break the mold and make it a Phun Thursday.  And even though that’s not quite as alliterative, it’s still fun.

I saw this tweet from @shannonmiller this week.

Spirograph TweetOf course, I immediately investigated the link.  I actually have an old Spirograph kit that I bought from E-bay a few years ago and I’ve been debating whether or not it would make a nice center in my classroom. The reason for the debate is the pins involved.  I think I can overcome the pin issue, but for those of you who don’t have a kit or prefer not to deal with pins Inspirograph is a perfect solution.  You can even download the image when you have finished your masterpiece!  Can you imagine trying this out on an interactive whiteboard?!!!

Some people, of course, prefer a more tangible experience.  But what about an edible one? If you head on over to The Kid Should See This, you can see how you can have your Spirograph Pancake and eat it, too

For those of you who might be appalled that I switched Phun Phriday to Phun Thursday, I have a couple of Spirograph math links for you from Dr. Mike’s Math Games and Mathematics Teaching Community.  Ann Pool has a GCF lesson that goes with Spirograph, too. I don’t really understand them, but don’t tell my students.

Here are a couple of masterpieces from the Inspirograph gallery.  Can you tell which one is mine?  (Hint: the less good one!)

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Can You Solve This?

There was a link to this lesson in the most recent TED Ed newsletter, and I immediately jumped at the challenge. I’m a bit competitive sometimes;)

I will say that I did solve it before the solution was revealed on the video, but it probably would have taken me as long as anyone else if I wasn’t able to view the clips of people guessing incorrectly.

This is an excellent lesson on how we often make assumptions, and then look only for the evidence that appears to support them.  Lots of classroom discussion could definitely branch off from this one short video.

You can find more Veritasium videos here, although I always recommend that you watch videos prior to showing them to your students to determine if they are appropriate for your audience.

Note: There is an “inappropriate” word said extremely quickly at about 2 minutes in.

from the Veritasium Video Blog
from the Veritasium Video Blog

More Ideas for Pic Collage

I had a great time at the end of last school year allowing the students to use the Pic Collage app on the iPads to create mini-yearbooks using pictures from our class blog.  There are many uses for the app, and I’m pretty sure that I have yet to use it to its full potential.

Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year
Using Pic Collage to summarize your favorite moments from the school year

At a recent PD about using apps for creating, one of my colleagues, Camala Rose-Turnage, suggested using the app for a fraction study. Students could take a group of pictures, of which only some have a certain thing in common (such as the color red), and then other students could figure out the fraction.  Awesome!  Besides the fact that I had never heard an idea like this before, I could see a lot of potential for differentiation.  Some students might choose obvious traits for their groups, such as color or shape; others might select something more abstract, such as objects that are used for particular activities (recess toys) or ones that all start with a certain letter.  The fractions might vary in complexity, too.  You could have some students portray fractions that could be reduced, or even – depending on the Pic Collage layout – mixed numbers.

Speaking of math, here is a post showing how students can use Pic Collage to create their own math reviews.  And here are some other ideas that could be used in a primary classroom.

Pic Collage is also great for app-smashing.  Use it with Thinglink and Aurasma for an awesome interactive poster.  You can find a ton of Pic Collage app-smashes on this Pinterest board by Holly Inniger.

What’s your favorite way to use this versatile app?

Powers of Ten Day

So, I didn’t even know this was a thing.  I overheard a few of my fabulous co-workers discussing it at a meeting yesterday, and completely interrupted them because it sounded like such a cool idea!

Powers of Ten Day is celebrated on, of course, 10/10.  (It probably would have been really cool if I did this four years ago on 10/10/10, but I think my students won’t hold it against me that I didn’t know it existed – particularly since none of them knew me back then.)

image from: billwhittle.com
image from: billwhittle.com

You can do all sorts of things to celebrate Powers of Ten Day.  It would probably be appropriate to show the famous Powers of Ten video, which does an amazing job of zooming out and in on a picnic scene by powers of ten.  This document by Jerry Becker gives some other ideas for activities for various grade levels.  Or, you can check out the “Zoom Inside Stuff” link on Strange Matter.  The Scale of the Universe or The Universe Within are both fun, too.  Here is a Pinterest Board full of Power of 10 activities for younger students.

If you aren’t necessarily interested in Powers of Ten, but just the concepts of scale and zooming in and out, check out my post on a cool site called, “Here is Today.”

Do any of you celebrate this day?  I would love to hear what you do!

 

It Ain’t Rocket Science

“You think that video game is fun to play?  How about inventing one?”  This is a quote on Part 3 of Episode 4 of It Ain’t Rocket Science.  In this segment, you will see a FIRST Robotics competition and the winner of the first “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If…” contest.

It Ain’t Rocket Science is a project from Time Warner Cable as part of its Connect a Million Minds program, which endeavors to get more young people involved in STEM activities and studies.  According to TWC, the series of videos hosted by Adam Balkin,  “introduces parents and kids alike to some of the coolest opportunities, events and careers in STEM.”

So far there are 24 episodes, which you can watch on Time Warner Cable or access on the website for the show.  The 30-minute episodes are divided into bite-size pieces so you can sample them or show them to a class.  This is another great resource for getting students excited about STEM.

Screen Shot from Episode 4 of It Ain't Rocket Science
Screen Shot from Episode 4 of It Ain’t Rocket Science

DragonBox Elements

I don’t often recommend paid apps on this blog.  One reason is that they are difficult for many educators to obtain for their classroom, as I outlined in yesterday’s post.  Another reason is that I feel that many of the paid apps have features that can be found in other free apps. However, every once in awhile, I run across a paid app that I think is unique and worth sharing.

I was recently given a promotional code for DragonBox Elements, and decided to test it out.  Previously, I had reviewed another app by the same company, DragonBox Algebra 5+, for AppoLearning.  (DragonBox 12+ is also available for older students, but I have not tried that one.) I was very impressed by the app, and have recommended it to parents who have young students with a high interest in math.

DragonBox Elements, like the Algebra apps, is designed to teach math “secretly.”  The Elements version teaches Geometry (I think they should change the name, as “Elements” made me think that it was a science app), and is aimed at students from 9-11.

DragonBox Elements - a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here
DragonBox Elements – a Geometry app for ages 9-11 available here

The app accommodates up to 4 different players (individually, not at the same time), and has three levels of difficulty.  As advertised, it slowly guides you through basic geometric concepts by playing a game.  After learning to identify different types of triangles and quadrilaterals, the player begins to “prove” geometric characters into existence. For example, if one is given a triangle that shows two congruent angles, then there must be two congruent sides – making it an isosceles triangle.

None of the concepts are explicitly taught.  My daughter, who is 11, had the main complaint that she didn’t feel that she was learning anything.  However, when I asked her to explain her actions on a level, she basically gave me the steps of a geometric proof.

Like DragonBox Algebra, DragonBox Elements is a good app to recommend to parents who want to give their children an entertaining, educational app.  I think it definitely helps if there is an adult who can ask some guiding questions to aid the child in verbalizing what he or she has learned.

All of the DragonBox games are available on all mobile platforms here.  You can also find teaching resources on the site.