Category Archives: Math

Parable of the Polygons

My students adore Vi Hart videos.  I think the kids understand maybe 1/2 of what she is saying, but she makes math fun and stimulates their curiosity.

Parable of the Polygons” is an interactive website that was created by Vi Hart and Nicky Case.  Having watched several Vi Hart videos, I expected the site to do one of the things Vi does best – teach me math.  But I was mistaken.  “Parable of the Polygonsuses math to teach about racism, sexism, (and all of the other negative”isms”) and what we can do to help eradicate them.

from Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case
from Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case

I innocently played each activity trying to make happy polygons until I realized that I, a self-proclaimed non-racist, have had probably zero effect in persuading others to be less biased.  Using math, I learned that, unless more of us make an effort to seek out more diverse colleagues and friends, there is little chance things will change.

This is definitely an activity that I will be doing with my students and I hope to make some changes in my life based on what I learned. From now on, this little square is going to be on the lookout for opportunities to meet more triangles :)

Shake Off Your Math Fears

Jo Boaler, the Stanford professor behind YouCubed.org, works hard to dispel fixed mindsets about math.  She recently shared a video from the 2015 YouCubed summer camp in which her students show their enthusiasm for problem solving and their willingness to learn from their mistakes.

YouCubed.org

For those of us trying to promote a Growth Mindset, particularly regarding math, this video is a great resource.  I also encourage you to take a  look at the YouCubed.org website for more great materials, including the “Week of Inspirational Math,” which would be a great way to start off your school year.

The Many Colors of the World’s Flags

A couple of years ago, I posted about an interesting infographic included in a presentation by Kathy Schrock.  The image showed each world flag as a pie chart of color.

Nicholas Rougeux has a different take on the colors of the world’s flags.  He chose to categorize them by color scheme.  Check out his poster that illustrates the flags of the world like flowers in a garden, with the height of the “flowers” indicating the number of flags sharing that color scheme.

image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:WikiProject_Flag-map
image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:WikiProject_Flag-map

Brainspace Interactive Magazine

Brainspace is a quarterly magazine for kids aged 8-14 that is published in Canada.  U.S. Subscriptions are also available (about $30 for 4 issues).

image from video in Brainspace Magazine's "School of Rap" article
image from video in Brainspace Magazine’s “School of Rap” article

The magazine topics in the issue sent to me for review ranged from dinosaurs to speaking French to whether or not you can get sucked out of an airplane toilet (not likely, it turns out).

What sets Brainspace apart from other magazines you might find in your elementary school library is that it also includes augmented reality.  For example, if you download the free Blippar app, you can see the dinosaur on the magazine cover move and roar.  The majority of the pages inside also have “Blipp This” tags, allowing you to scan an image and watch videos related to some of the articles.

The videos are educational and often include students.  Some of them definitely give this magazine an advantage over print-only magazines because the articles alone would not be as effective.  It’s helpful, for instance, to learn French phrases by seeing other students using them in context.

If you have a child who does not like to read, I wouldn’t count on this magazine changing their attitude.  More likely, they will scan for all of the “Blipp This” tags and close the magazine after they’ve watched each video.

But, if your child is eager to learn, and is especially interested in scientific topics, a Brainspace subscription could make a great gift.

If you are a teacher or librarian, Brainspace might be popular with your students.  I would caution you to try one edition first to make sure access to the videos is not blocked in your school.  I found at least two videos in the Summer 2015 issue that were hosted on YouTube and wouldn’t have been accessible with a student device if I was on school grounds.

Parents’ Choice recently gave Brainspace a “Gold Award.” (National Geographic earned a silver, just to put that in context.) You can read the Parents’ Choice Award review here.

I would like to see the magazine make things even more interactive by including polls or quizzes that could be accessed with a scan. They could also engage their readers by asking them to submit videos (with parent permission) for future issues.

Overall, this magazine has a lot to offer, and I look forward to seeing its evolution.

For more augmented reality resources, including lesson plans and free apps, check out my Augmented Reality page here.

Week of Inspirational Math

Stanford University’s Jo Boaler over at YouCubed.org has just released a set of free lesson plans that can be used for 5 days with any grade level from 3rd through 12th.  This “Week of Inspirational Math” includes videos, handouts, and Powerpoints.  As they progress through the activities, students develop a Growth Mindset when thinking about math, and are encouraged to think in multiple ways about problems. The first lesson even includes an activity that fosters collaboration amongst their peers.

Week of Inspirational Math” would be great to use at the beginning of the year, as it will set a tone for learning in class that can be applied to all subjects.  To access the plans, you will need to register for free with YouCubed.  However, it’s a small price to pay for an excellent set of activities that will start your year right.

Week of Inspirational Math at YouCubed.org
Week of Inspirational Math at YouCubed.org

The Fido Puzzle (And an Explanation)

I was reviewing old blog posts and came across one about the Fido Puzzle.  For their “sharing time” my 5th graders have recently been trying to stump each other with riddles, and I think this might be a good one to add to the mix.  (If you are a parent of one of my 5th graders, don’t show them the answer!)

fidopuzzle

My original post did not include an explanation, but I’m getting kinder in my old age;)

Painting with Sphero

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on a #makered Twitter chat and somehow the conversation turned to using the Sphero robots to paint.  I was hoping to do this with my 4th graders because we are studying mathematical art and I thought it would be a good way to tie it in with the programming they have learned – but I had no idea how to go about it.

My colleagues on Twitter immediately offered fabulous suggestions: use tempera paint, try it with the “nubby” to give it texture, and buy a cheap plastic swimming pool to contain the mess.  One teacher offered to try it the next day with her students and, as promised, sent me pictures of the results.  Claire (@pritchclaire) also gave me the suggestion to stay away from red paint as it kind of stains the Sphero.

pritchclaire
image courtesy of @pritchclaire

After receiving all of this great advice, I introduced the topic to my 4th graders.  Then we set about coming up with a plan.  First, they learned how to program the Sphero to make polygons using the Macrolab app.  (We used the free 2D Geometry lesson from Sphero offered on this page.)  There is an app that allows you to drive the Sphero free-hand, but it’s difficult to make exact shapes that way.  Macrolab gave us the tools to be more precise.

The students needed a good 90 minutes to practice making different polygons.  The next step was to sketch a design. I absolutely loved listening to the conversations about the math involved as they tried to figure out the angle degrees for each command.  Despite their experience with the complexities of Sphero programming, the students started out with grand, complicated sketches.  After doing dry runs, however, they realized they needed to scale things down a bit.  Sketching and practicing took about another 90 minutes.

After many practices, each group came to our improvised drawing board.  Although I loved the plastic pool idea, I realized that the bottom wouldn’t be flat enough to keep the Sphero in control.  I brought a piece of drywall to school that had been sitting in our garage.  We used some extra cardboard to add some sides to it.

With disposable gloves on, the students manually rolled the Sphero around in a puddle of paint, then set it up on the “canvas” and started their program.  I should mention here that I was describing my day to my husband and he said, “You should have just put the paint in a plastic baggie and rolled the Sphero in that.”  Hopefully I will remember that idea next year…

Photo Apr 01, 12 58 59 PM
Preparing a nubby-covered Sphero for making art

As you can see, the results of using a programmed Sphero were a bit different than the above photo.  Personally, either method looks fabulous to me.  The students agreed.  As soon as they were done, one of them immediately said, “We should find out if we can hang these in the front foyer!”

Can you identify when they used the nubby for their lines?

You can see some video of our “technique” below.

After the experience we got into some good discussions about what art is and why the Sphero might not have always acted according to their expectations.  Although this probably isn’t a lesson that could happen in the regular classroom due to time and equipment constraints, I think it worked well for my little group of 6 students!