Category Archives: Math

White House Science Fair

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.

White House Science Fair 2015
White House Science Fair 2015

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!

The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK
The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK

You can find more coverage of the event here. And if you want some STEM resources, check out this Pinterest Board.

A Growth Mindset for Math Class

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.

from "Positive Classroom Norms" by Jo Boaler
from “Positive Classroom Norms” by Jo Boaler

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.

If this topic interests you, then you might also like to visit my Growth Mindset and/or my STEM Inspiration Pinterest Boards.

#ScienceWoman

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.

Illustration of Rosalind Franklin by Rachel Ignofotsky
Illustration of Rosalind Franklin by Rachel Ignotofsky.  See more prints and purchase them here.

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!

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.