Diarra Bousso Guey, Senegalese Mathematician
Careers, K-12, Math

More Math Inspiration

One hashtag that is always sure to reveal exciting math resources is #MTBOS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere). That’s how I discovered Nathan Day (@nathanday314), and a couple of his great shares. With his permission, I am putting the links in this post as I really want more people to become inspired by math and mathematicians. If you’re a teacher with a few blank spaces on your wall, some of these might be great additions!

First, here are Nathan’s files for 50 Mathematical Quotations. You can access them as a Powerpoint file (which can be added to Google Drive and converted to Slides if needed) or PDF:

Next, these are his files for 82 famous mathematicians from around the world:

I love seeing the diversity and representation (53 countries), and I think it will help your students to see that as well.

Thanks to Nathan for putting these together and sharing them! He also gave some shouts out to @DrStoneMaths, @SimonYoung10, and @Desmos for the versions/blog post on which he based his Famous Mathematicians posters, so thanks to them, too. As Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”

from Famous Mathematicians, compiled by @NathanDay314
Colorful fraction pieces and math sign
K-12, Math

Build a Math Mindset with a #WIM Playlist

If you’re still thinking about how to begin the school year on a positive note with mathematics, you might just want to consider a Week of Inspirational Math. I first blogged about this seven years ago, and the site has added more and more resources since that summer of 2015. Not only that, but there are a lot of features that make it even more helpful, including a method for creating a free, personal playlist of hands-on math activities that will work best in your classroom setting. The original WIM plans were posted annually, with 5 days of math activities designed to encourage discussion and thoughtful analysis while promoting a positive attitude toward math. You can still access those by clicking the button on the top banner, or you can search for specific activities and filter by grade level (K- College) and topic and create your own five days of math. You can see the newest activities for 2022 here.

I often share on this blog about my journey from being fearful of math to truly enjoying it, and I told my students the story every year because I wanted them to know that it can be done. So, when I see resources like Week of Inspirational Math, I want to shout about them to every educator who teaches math. These are the kind of activities that help children to see that math is not a subject that can only be mastered by the most nimble minds — and it can often be quite fun.

I’ve added the link to this year’s WIM resources to my Back to School Wakelet, which has other ideas for you as well. WIM is also one of the 73 sites in my Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep collection, if you’re looking for more reasons to stray away from the textbook;) In addition, I’ve added a new Professional Development session for 2022, “Off on a Tangent,” in which teachers learn about methods to help their students to hypothesize, discuss, and apply their knowledge in diverse situations that will provoke their curiosity and stimulate an appreciation for the complexities of mathematics. 

Portrait of schoolgirls by the blackboard pointing at a math problem and looking at camera
3-5, Games, Math

Wordle Stats Slow Reveal Graph

I discovered an posted about Slow Reveal Graphs back in 2020. I love the concept of gradually divulging a bit of information at a time, engaging students with suspense as they attempt to make meaning of the graph. It immediately got bookmarked in my Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep collection.

I recently revisited the site to take a look at the page full of Slow Reveal Graphs for elementary students, and was delighted to see one for Wordle Stats by Andrew Gael (@bkdidact). It provides a Google Slides presentation ready to go that includes a Jimmy Fallon clip where the Tonight Show host plays Wordle, apparently for the first time. This is great for two reasons: students who haven’t played can learn along with him, and he models how to learn from failed attempts as he plays. After the clip, students are shown the Stats page which many of us are familiar with, and information is filled in on each slide so that students can try to figure out how the chart will eventually be completed.

If you’re looking for fun ways to begin the school year, this could be the ticket for you. Do the Slow Reveal Graph, and then have students either make their own Wordles or try one of the many variations that I’ve collected here.

I encourage you to read more about using Slow Reveal Graphs with students, and try this routine with one of the many resources provided on this amazing site!

From Wordle Stats Slow Reveal Graph by Andrew Gael
children showing love for their teacher
Careers, K-12, Motivation

Back to School Inspirational Videos for Teachers

Even though I’m semi-retired and summers now tend to be my busiest time of year, I still fall back on a few of my old habits from my 29 years of teaching. One of them was to organize my home closets every summer, and so I started going through my memory boxes this year in the hopes of weeding out some things and gaining back some storage space.

Over those 29 years, I kept every card or letter from my students that included something they drew or their own handwriting. Going through the boxes of those notes has been bittersweet as my heart fills up with the beautiful memories. I think about the fact that I no longer have a life that is constantly enriched by a mosaic of personalities who could astonish me with their incredible insights, keep me grounded with their honest feedback, and sometimes make my eyes well up with their generous outpouring of love.

Many teachers who are about to return to work for a new school year may wish they were in my current shoes: semi-retired, often working from home, finally the one who decides on my own schedule. I remember beginning every school year with a mixture of hope and mourning, excited to work with students again but sad to lose the sense of balance and control I temporarily regained during my weeks away. And every year it seems there are more challenges and more concerns.

But you are needed and you are appreciated, teachers. It’s hard to hold on to that when you are in the midst of it all, and when you look at all of the sacrifices that you make. There isn’t a lot of physical evidence to collect that proves your worth. I suppose it’s true that most of us didn’t choose teaching for the money or validation. It’s still nice to have, though.

That’s why I went through some of my Inspirational Videos for Teachers, and added a few to my Back to School Wakelet. I tried to look for the ones that are good reminders of what it really means to be a teacher. Some are funny and some are serious. Some are classics and some are newer. But re-watching them, along with re-discovering notes from students, has reminded me about why I did what I did for 29 years. I can’t give you any extra money, but maybe some of these videos will give you the validation that too often seems to be lacking.

If someone asked me, I’d go back in time and do those 29 years again. (Just not now because I’m menopausal and grumpy and have a Great Dane who would chew the house down if I left her for that length of time each day. And I’m really fond of getting up at 8 am instead of 5 am. And going to the doctor when I need to instead of putting it off until summer break. And having some semblance of control over my thermostat.) Teachers can be treated unjustly and have to endure untenable conditions. I certainly went through my share of that during my career. The system needs to change.

But there are a lot of us out there who are grateful for teachers. It’s not tangible and it doesn’t make up for abuse and poor working conditions. But it can help to look through those memory boxes, watch those videos, and remember you are making a difference.

3-12, Language Arts

Main Side Hidden Digital Template

In The Power of Making Thinking Visible (2020), Ron Ritchart and Mark Church detail what they call, “The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden.” I love how this routine really encourages inferencing and systems thinking because students not only discuss the main idea of the image or text they are analyzing, but the routine promotes critical thinking as the students delve deeper into connections and what may be directly and indirectly affecting what appears to be the obvious story. With appropriate scaffolding, the routine can be used with any grade level and any subject (though it may be a stretch to use it in math), though this digital template is best for 3rd grade and up.

I talked about this routine in detail in a post in March, and shared one of the templates I made for a PD on this routine for librarians. This summer, though, I happened to see a template from the one and only Paula at Slides Mania that would work perfectly for this routine. So, I asked her permission to use the template and share it with you. You can find her original template, “Top Secret,” here. (Please go to her link if you want to download the template for anything other than “The Story Routine.”) And here is a link to the version I modified to be used with “The Story Routine.”

Click here to access your copy of The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden Template

I have been collecting all of my resources for digital templates for Visible Thinking Routines in this Wakelet in case you want to see what I’ve posted in the past. If you’re not familiar with Visible Thinking Routines, I definitely recommend reading the book (also the first one in the series), visiting the website, and some of the other links I have in the Google Slides presentation.

The most important thing to remember, in my view, is that these routines are designed to encourage deeper thinking through discussion so, although some of us provide digital resources, they should not be done in isolation. The routines are also what I like to call, “self-differentiating activities” because, by default, they allow students to bring their own individual strengths to the conversations and feel valued.

So, bottom line – more value to the students with less prep time for the teachers. Win/win!

black and white carbon pattern

Getting to Know You Hexagons for Back to School

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a HUGE, TREMENDOUS FAN of Hexagonal Thinking. I do blog posts on it, PD’s on it, and pretty much recommend it to everyone I meet professionally.

One way you can use Hexagonal Thinking is to get to know students at the beginning of the school year. Give them each a hexagon to design where they reveal some things about themselves. Then see if they can connect their hexagons to each other’s based on similar sides. For example, I put some of my “favorites” in the hexagon below. If someone else has a hexagon with pizza as a favorite, they can put their hexagon next to mine with those two sides touching. You could put this on a bulletin board, so you have the whole class displayed on the board, where there is at least one connection for everyone, and some of them may have multiple connections.

I love to use Canva because I can set up frames to drag photos into easily, as I did with the triangle frames within the hexagon. If you use Canva, here is the template. Or, if you prefer to have students draw or write on a physical hexagon, here is a blank PDF version.

Either way, the hexagons will need to be printed and cut out so that students can try to match sides.

You can just have students put a favorite in each section, or give them prompts like: something that makes you smile, something that challenges you, something that is easy for you, etc… I wouldn’t go too deep as this is a beginning of the year activity so students need to develop some trust first.

I’ll be adding this post to my Back to School Wakelet. And here is one of my posts about using Hexagonal Learning in case the concept is new to you.