Category Archives: Math

New Hopscotch Curriculum

Hopscotch has been a favorite programming app of my students ever since they tried it for the Hour of Code a couple of years ago. One of my 5th graders chose to use Hopscotch to create his entire Genius Hour presentation last year.

Hopscotch is now offering a new curriculum for educators and I had a chance to sneak preview it before yesterday’s release.  I am very impressed by the format of the lessons, which were created using the Understanding by Design framework.

There are 6 lessons, about 45 minutes each, targeted for 5th-8th grades. However,  there is a lot of flexibility that allows for modifications for younger and older students.  The lessons include ideas for differentiation and detailed suggestions to include many levels.

Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Standards are included in the lessons.  Videos links are offered for all 6 activities to either use with your class or for the teacher to watch to gain better understanding.  Hopscotch not only differentiates for the students, but also for the teachers by making the instructions very clear for even those who have never used the app before.

I am excited that Hopscotch is offering such an amazing free resource for educators.  This app encourages creativity and problem-solving while teaching logic and many math skills.  Don’t worry if you have never programmed before.  With Hopscotch, you and your students can learn together.

Hopscotch Curriculum

Makey Makey Lesson Plans – Beyond the Piano

Many of you, like me, may have found the Makey Makey to be quite fun and a great way to inspire creativity.  But where to go from there?   Makey Makey now offers a Lesson Plans section with suggestions for integrating the Makey Makey into your classroom. The current list is fairly short, but I’m guessing there will be more added as time goes by.  I like the ideas, particularly since they are way more creative than anything I would dream up.  My favorite is the Candid Camera one, which would be a great way to spark writing in the classroom.

from Makey Makey Lessons
from Makey Makey Lessons

Pixar in a Box

Pixar in a Box is the result of a collaboration between Pixar and Khan Academy.  A student who is interested in a career in computer animation, or even just wants to know what happens behind the scenes, can learn the basics in six topics: Environment Modeling, Character Modeling, Animation, Crowds, Sets & Staging, and Rendering.  Each stage includes videos (with interviews from some of the Pixar employees as well as samples from movies), online practice, and hands-on suggestions.  Portions of each topic are targeted for “all age levels” while others are for middle and high school students.

My daughter, who is 12, tried out the beginning unit, which is Environment Modeling.  She was quickly engaged in learning how to animate a blade of grass.  The lesson videos were the right length and she really enjoyed the practice.  I question whether “all ages” would have found it as interesting as my daughter did; for her it was the perfect level of challenge.

Khan Academy has been the topic of controversy.  In my opinion, that has been because it has been used incorrectly by some.  Khan Academy lessons should not be assigned to replace the guidance and feedback of a live teacher.  However, they offer a wonderful opportunity for students to learn at their own pace about something of interest or as a supplement to lessons that might not have been initially understood in school.

I think my daughter enjoyed Pixar in a Box because I was sitting beside her – just as enthusiastic to learn and practice.  She has shown an affinity for both math and art, so learning more about animation did not seem like work to her.  If you have a child or student who also shows those qualities, then I would definitely recommend the two of you check out Pixar in a Box together.

image from: Khan Academy/Pixar
image from: Khan Academy/Pixar

Astronaut Eileen Collins Talks about Math

I found this 2-minute video on the Museum of Mathematics website. Eileen Collins, who was the first female pilot of the Space Shuttle, talks about her difficulties with math and the great reasons for sticking with the subject.

Week of Inspirational Math (Reminder)

I blogged about this in June, but as more schools start back for the new school year, I thought I should repeat it.

Stanford University’s Jo Boaler over at has 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
Week of Inspirational Math at

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, 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.

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 website for more great materials, including the “Week of Inspirational Math,” which would be a great way to start off your school year.