This is Your Brain on Engineering

GoldieBlox, the company devoted to encourage more females to develop interest in STEM, has had its controversies.  But I think they’ve done an excellent job with their latest PSA, a video that parodies the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign.  The ad creatively shows the use of its toys to highlight the entertainment value of engineering and design.  However, it also sprinkles in some sobering facts about the relatively low participation of our gender in engineering careers.  I like that GoldieBlox offers explanations, resources, and links about each of these facts on its site.

For more information on STEM resources for girls, you might want to visit my recent post on Women Role Models, or this one that gives several links to books, games, and sites.

We the Geeks

We the Geeks

In the fortuitous way that things seem to often happen in my life, I spent a fabulous Saturday morning with my daughter at a free event designed to spark girls’ interest in all things STEM related, then 24 hours later stumbled across a “Women Role Models” video on We the Geeks that reinforced all of my strong feelings about this topic.

We the Geeks is a series of Google Hangouts sponsored by the White House.  The purpose is “to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. “

In the latest episode, “Women Role Models,” several female guests are interviewed (you can see the guest list below), and give their insight on how to encourage more girls to pursue scientific careers. Many of the guests mention how influential their teachers and teachers were in stimulating their interest in science.  What I heard repeated several times, though, was how important the excitement of the adult mentors can be.  One guest said, “If you have an excited teacher, you’re going to be excited about it.”  Another guest advised that parents should “learn with the kids… stay excited with them.” The latter point is key because, as she pointed out, if parents show that they are intimidated by science and math, that “trickles down” to the children.

Some of the other past episodes of We the Geeks have included: “Celebrating Black History Month,” “Student Startups,” and “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something.”  I haven’t watched any of the other videos, yet, but they all look pretty intriguing.

(Here is a link to a collection of videos to encourage girls in STEM from Amy Borovoy at Edutopia.)

Guests who recently appeared on "Women Role Models" in We the Geeks series

Guests who recently appeared on “Women Role Models” in We the Geeks series

 

My daughter peers through a telescope at the sun during the Girls Inc Science Festival

My daughter peers through a telescope at the sun during the Girls Inc. Science Festival

Mathigon

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 8.13.37 PM

Mathigon is a website that explores and displays the true beauty of mathematics. The site is relatively new, and still has some parts that are under construction.  However, there are plenty of features that are ready to use right now.

Mathigon includes an e-book called World of Mathematics that can also be downloaded as a Chrome app. It is full of wonderful information, activities, and animations.

Along with its e-book, Mathigon currently provides 6 other slideshows and activities, with 3 more that are “under development.”  My favorite two of the completed projects are, “Alice in FractalLand” and “Maths Treasure Hunt.”  The second one offers resources for teachers and wonderful graphic printables to engage upper elementary and/or secondary students.

“Alice in FractalLand” is a delightful slide show that uses footage from the Disney film and integrates some of what I term “Masterpieces of Mathematics.”  The Fibonacci sequence, Pascal’s triangle, and fractals are all included in this digital adventure.  (If you would like some other resources for these topics, here are some links to posts I have done in the past: Fibonacci, Mensa for Kids, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and Nature By Numbers.  You also might be interested in this Rainbow Loom Fibonacci link that I recently got from the fabulous TechChef4U.)

Got a student fascinated with origami?  Try Mathigon’sMathematical Origami” link. (You can click on the “i” underneath each picture for folding instructions.)

Or perhaps you want to show the applications of mathematics in various careers, including sports?  Try Mathigon’s “Panorama” tool.

For anyone who has a passion for math – or even shows potential for a passion for math – Mathigon is a site that will be welcomed and enjoyed.

 

Video Story Problems

Video Story Problems

This resource was shared by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher).  I am always looking for new ways to bring relevance to math, and I love this idea.  The Video Story Problem channel currently has 195 videos created by teachers and students.  If you go to this post on “The Tech Savvy Educator” you can get more information about the motivation for producing these videos, and how you can get involved.  There is even a form for students to plan their own Video Story Problems to submit.

Below is an example of one of the Video Story Problems that you can ask your students to view that proposes a challenge to figure out some awesome discounts at Kohl’s.  (If you are unable to view the video embedded below, try clicking here.)

Video Story Problem – Shopping at Kohl’s from Ben Rimes on Vimeo.

Connect a Million Minds

Connect a Million Minds

Connect a Million Minds is a program that is sponsored by Time Warner Cable with the aim “to address America’s declining proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”  The program includes some videos, a website, grants, and other initiatives. In today’s post, I want to focus mainly on a couple of sections of the website – though I encourage you to also visit the collection of videos that show how STEM is used in many careers that students may not usually associate with these subjects.

One of the features of the Connect a Million Minds website is “Connectory.”  This is a page that allows you to search for STEM activities occurring in your area.  I did a search for my zip code, and was a little disappointed.  I am aware of a few upcoming events that weren’t listed.  Obviously, this database requires entries to be submitted from the local programs, and there does not seem to be two-way communication going on everywhere.   Parents are often asking me for camps, classes, and events, and I would love to be able to use this as a one-stop resource.  This has potential, but may need more media exposure to be fully realized.

Another feature of the site is the “Campaigns” section.  Currently, they are running a “STEM in Sports” campaign, which looks like it could really be beneficial for “hooking” some students into STEM.  It includes videos from some sports celebrities, such as Victor Cruz, Magic Johnson, Ian Poulter, and Jeff Gordon.  In the videos, the men relate their specific sports to STEM. (Notice that I said, “men.”  It would be nice to find some women to include in the sports section, as well!)  The “STEM in Sports” campaign also includes some resources for Parents and Educators to download that give suggestions for fun activities highlighting STEM connections in each sport.

If you are trying to find some STEM resources for students, try taking a look at Connect a Million Minds.  You may find something new that will spark a student’s interest in STEM.

 

Would You Rather Be My Valentine or Do a Few Math Problems?

Would You Rather Be My Valentine

Earlier this month, I saw a post by Richard Byrne that led me to this great site of mathematical “Would You Rather” problems.  John Stevens (@JStevens009) is the clever man who creates these mathematical challenges, and I love the thinking that is required to solve the questions he poses.  I tried a few with my 3rd graders, and they were hooked.  Many of the problems, though, require a little more advanced math knowledge than generally possessed by 8-year-olds, so I thought about penning a few of my own.  Since Valentine’s Day is closing in, I decided to go with that theme.  I asked John if he minded me borrowing his idea, and he generously gave me the go-ahead.

The rule I give my students for these problems is that they must prove their answer using mathematical reasoning.  They are allowed to use the internet to research and/or do some hands-on measurements.  It’s possible that they may be able to justify completely different answers.  For example, on the one about the pound of chocolate, they might choose the lower amount instead of the higher because they are not huge fans of chocolate – though that seems to be rather rare.

I don’t know if you have ever heard kids playing the actual “Would You Rather” game, but it can get a little disgusting.  They seem to enjoy the gross questions, so I threw one into this series for the sake of low entertainment ;)

Feel free to use the Google Presentation, this Powerpoint file, or this PDF.

For more Valentine-related links, check out this post!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.