Category Archives: Math

Engineering – Go For It!

When I realized that last week was National Engineering Week, the week was practically already over.  I tried to salvage things by doing some engineering with my 5th grade last Thursday – Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  Ironically, there are only 5 girls in my 5th grade class of 18.  But that’s still a higher percentage of females represented in my class than in the engineering workforce according to this article.

During my attempt to find an informational engineering website that would appeal to my students, I stumbled on eGFI (Engineering – Go For It!).  This site shows the many different professions that fall under the umbrella of “engineering.”  You can read about all of them, find out how to make a difference in each career, and “meet” engineering students as well as current engineers by reading their bios and major accomplishments.

eGFI

My students enjoyed just browsing the site and writing down 6 facts that they didn’t know about engineering that they learned from the site.  I wrote down 6 myself, and could have continued for another 50, I have a feeling!

The eGFI Magazine was a huge hit (but it seemed to work better on the tablets than on the PC), with articles about everything from movie-making to fast cars.

Of course, I didn’t have my students just read about engineering. We attempted to do our own engineering by designing the best ways to make straws fly through the air.  I gave them this activity from Zoom after they had tested out other options – some of which worked better.  (They are still reporting back to me on iterations they continued to create at home.)

On the way to lunch on Thursday, I overheard one student say, as if in complete surprise, “Engineering is really fun!”

I guess I need to do a better job at communicating that!

Pi Day

Pi Day sneaks up on me every year.  But not this time.  Even though the official date (3/14/15) this year lands on a Saturday during our Spring Break, I am prepared.  My 4th graders are studying “mathematical masterpieces” and Pi Day fits right into that topic. Plus, this is a super special year because the first 5 digits of Pi are 3.1415.  Look familiar?

Looking for ways to celebrate Pi Day?  There’s a website for that, of course – actually a few. PiDay.org has got you covered.  So does the Exploratorium. And there is also MathMovesU.

Personally, I plan to show my students this Mile of Pi video on TEDEd.  They are also going to learn about Pilish and write some Pilish poetry after reading this awesome Pilish translation of The Raven (H/T to Martha at A Way with Words for that idea!). If there is time, they are going to look for their birthdays and phone numbers in Pi using this website.  Knowing my 4th graders, they will probably also get a kick out of these Pi Day e-cards.

Will pie be served?  Maybe if they can solve this Pi Day Sudoku Puzzle

image from PiDay.org
image from PiDay.org

National Engineers Week

What does it say about my priorities that I started handing out Valentine’s Day resources in January, but I wait until National Engineers Week is practically over before I even mention it?

Not good.

Anyway, for those of you who didn’t know, National Engineers Week is February 22nd-February 28th.  If you don’t live in the United States, perhaps your Engineering Week is yet to come and this resource might prove to be helpful.

Of course, you shouldn’t leave the celebration of engineering to just one week a year.  And I’m pretty sure you won’t get in any kind of major legal trouble if you throw caution to the wind and try out some of these activities on an unofficial day.

Today happens to be Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.  As you know, our nation has a very high deficit of females in STEM careers. Part of this is due to stereotypes which lead to little encouragement for girls to pursue these professions.  Educating young women about their potential in STEM could go a long way to eradicating the blatant inequality we see today.

You can find all sorts of lesson plans and activities for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day here.  Be sure to check out the playlist of short videos as well.

If you have a young daughter, Rosie Revere, Engineer, is a great way to celebrate this day.  And, if you have a child in middle or high school that shows even the slightest interest in STEM, then I would recommend How to Be a Rocket Scientist.

image from DiscoverE.org
image from DiscoverE.org

 

 

Maybe I Should Have Asked If You Would Rather Make Valentines or Eat Chocolate-Covered Ants

Around this time last year, I wrote about using the “Would You Rather?” format for math problems.  This idea was brought to my attention when Richard Byrne posted about John Stevens’ awesome site where he regularly publishes these challenges.  If you have middle-high school age students, I highly recommend that you check out John’s blog.

Because my students are younger, I made a series of my own “Would You Rather” questions last year.  A few of them tied into Valentine’s Day.  You can access the problems and download the slides for your own use here.

Click here for more "Would You Rather" problems!
Click here for more “Would You Rather” problems!

I rolled out the set a couple of weeks ago for new groups of students to try.  I decided this year to give them a format for their answers.  I wanted to make sure they not only answer the question, but show their math and cite any resources they used (we haven’t worked on formal citations yet, as you might notice).  As you can see from some of the examples below, the sheet the students fill in has evolved a bit to make it a little more visually pleasing.

The students are allowed to choose any of the problems they like to work on.  It can be interesting to see their preferences.  What’s fun is that even the students who choose the same exact questions can have completely different correct answers.

I’ve been meaning to make some more of these because I like the multiple steps necessary, what the students learn about searching the web for information (they are working on finding reliable sources right now), and the writing needed to describe their thoughts.  However, I haven’t had the chance to add to the collection.  In the meantime, feel free to use the ones from last year and let me know if you have any suggestions!  And here is a link to the PDF for my latest iteration of journal sheets for these challenges.

Math Pickle Revisited

It amazed me to discover yesterday that the last time I posted about Math Pickle was in 2011.  This is a great resource for challenging those mathematical wizards in your class, and I really need to access it more often myself.

Math Pickle

“We learn best through hard fun,” is a quote that you will find on the Math Pickle website.  And there are many “hard fun” puzzles and conundrums to bewilder students of all age levels.

If this is your first time visiting Math Pickle, then I would recommend you click on the link for K-12 Video Support.  From there you can click on any grade level or math skill for a grid of suggested activities. Some of the activities are videos, while others include Powerpoint, Keynote, and even PDF worksheets.

Check out the Math Pickle Termite Terrorists Challenges here!
Check out the Math Pickle Termite Terrorists Challenges here!

My 2nd graders did the “Termite Terrorists” activity yesterday, and I really enjoyed watching them work through some of the puzzles. The included video is meant more to explain the activity to the teacher, but I actually showed the beginning to my students so they could see the lovely introduction that included the disgusting termites;)  This lesson lent itself to differentiation so easily because the students who made it through a puzzle could go on to another one that was a bit more difficult.  Their conversations and strategies were varied and fascinating.  We were amazed by some of the different solutions that could be found for the same problem. Since I actually didn’t look at any answers (and not all are provided), the students had fun trying to “beat” my lowest number on each challenge – and they often did!

Another wonderful resource on the site is the Curricular Puzzle Books link.  It includes free materials for Grades 1-6, and even includes a student-created puzzle book.

There are lots of other areas to explore on the site, including recommended board games.  Gordon Hamilton has done a fabulous service to the education community by providing so many great challenges and resources for free.  You can find out more about the amazing creator of this site, who also happens to be a board game designer, here.  If you can’t get enough hard fun from the Math Pickle website, check out Gordon Hamilton’s Teachers Pay Teachers site for additional puzzles available for purchase.

Sphero

To continue our Gifts for the Gifted series of 2014, I would like to recommend a little robot that looks like a toy but has a lot of educational potential.

I purchased a Sphero for my classroom late last May, and my students barely had time to unbox it before the school year ended.  As soon as they returned in August, they asked me when it would make its reappearance.  Some of you may remember that it was used by a group during our Cardboard Box Challenge this year.  Three groups of 5th graders worked together to make a huge Sphero maze that was several sections.  It was a big hit at our Cardboard Arcade!

The Sphero isn’t the easiest object to control.  That’s part of the fun. Using one of the “Nubby” covers can sometimes help, but it can also be a hindrance depending on the surface.

But the Sphero isn’t just about guiding a plastic ball around with your iPad.  Sam Patteson (@SamPatue) recently did a guest post on Cool Cat Teacher about how Sphero can be used in the classroom. Orbotix, the company who produces the Sphero, has a page of free lesson plans that you can use to teach math, programming, and other STEM subjects.  Courtney Pepe has used Sphero with augmented reality to inspire creative writing in her class.

If you’re a parent and not a teacher, you may be wondering why I am bringing up all of these educational options.  Don’t get me wrong; there are several apps that make the Sphero pure fun without necessarily being educational, and it can inspire creativity in those kids who like to “make.”  However, you may also want to consider buying one for your child and offering to loan it to his or her teacher for a week or two once your child starts running out of ideas at home.

image from: http://toybook.com
image from: http://toybook.com

You can purchase the Sphero at many retail stores, including Amazon. There is a newer product from Orbotix (Ollie) that may interest you as well.  However, I don’t have experience with it yet so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it.

If you are interested in seeing the other gifts I’ve recommended this year, as well as from years past, check out this Pinterest Board.

This is the Kind of Math Class Where I’d Like to Learn

I found this video originally on Upworthy.  It is so exciting to see the students’ enthusiasm as they work the real-world problem inspired by a train puzzle their teacher found at the store.  The teacher, Justin Solonynka, truly knows how to engage the minds of his 7th grade students!

How to Arrange a Train

You can see the sequel to the video here. The same students, a year later, receive a slightly more challenging problem.

I love seeing the collaboration and listening to the thinking of the students!

“It was never really about the answer.  It was about the process,” says Justin Solonynka in the second video.

Exactly.