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.
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!)
My original post did not include an explanation, but I’m getting kinder in my old age;)
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.
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…
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!
On Monday, March 23, 2015, the White House hosted it’s fifth annual Science Fair. You can see some of the participants in the video on this site. I haven’t been able to watch the whole video, but I enjoyed the segment that starts about 57 minutes in (I just chose a random place to start) where some students describe their experiences with their FIRST Lego League robots to Bill Nye.
If you visit the site, you can learn all about this year’s exhibitors – which include the 6-year-old darling “Supergirls” FIRST Lego League Team below. Talk about STEM Inspiration!
You can find more coverage of the event here. And if you want some STEM resources, check out this Pinterest Board.
No one was more surprised than I was when I won the Honors Geometry medal in high school. For the first 8 years of school I accepted the incontrovertible fact that I was “not a math person.” Reading and writing came easily to me, and I was often praised in those areas – but math homework often resulted in tears of frustration and papers full of holes from too many erasures.
Everything changed in high school. My teachers encouraged me and were patient with my questions. I grew bolder with those questions because I was attending an all-girls school and felt less intimidated by the boys who always dominated math class with their speedy mental math in my early years.
I suddenly realized that I loved math.
Fortunately, that revelation didn’t happen too late.
You can make sure your own students don’t suffer from the same math identity crisis. From @naomiharm I learned there is a website called “youcubed” that is devoted to making everyone a “math person.” It provides math resources to educators, students and parents. One section is devoted to “Growth Mindset.” If you have no time to browse any other section (though I encourage you to do so), I urge you to download the “Positive Classroom Norms” by Jo Boaler. These 7 messages are a great way to develop a growth mindset in your math students.
If you download the packet, you will receive a page explaining each norm in-depth (some of them include links to videos) as well as a summary page you can post in your classroom.
Joe Hanson from “It’s Okay to Be Smart” and Meredith Walker from “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” recently teamed up to collect videos from anyone interested in making a tribute to a female science hero. You can view a compilation of some of the clips from the videos they received here. The entire collection of videos is available in this playlist. I have not viewed all of the videos, but the compilation one is a great way to give prospective young scientists a peek at some of the female role models that have inspired others to pursue a career in science.
While you are learning about some of the amazing women who have made significant scientific contributions you might also be interested in viewing the “Women in Science” series of art work by Rachel Ignotofsky. These whimsical prints illustrate some of the admirable women from history who have made an impact in such fields as chemistry, engineering, and computer science.
Because I have been collecting so many STEM resources in recent weeks, I have started a “STEM Inspiration” Pinterest Board. Let me know in the comments section if you find any other links I should add to the board!
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.
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!