5-8, Books, Math

Gifts for the Gifted – The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. 

If you’ve got a kid who’s advanced in math and/or a middle school student who loves math, this book just might be an excellent gift. The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math, by Sean Connolly, has 24 “Death-Defying” Challenges for young mathematicians, and the humor with which it’s written is perfect for this age range.

This book is yet another winner that I would have loved to use in my classroom. Posing witty math problems such as, “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “Buried Alive?” The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math categorizes the challenges by your chances of survival. “You Might Make It” problems address Common Core Standards for Grade 5, “Slim to None” are the Grade 6 problems, and “You’re Dead” challenges include Grade 7 standards. If the reader wants some hints, Euclid always has some sage advice to offer, and the solutions are broken down so you can see the type of thinking needed to solve the problem. In addition, there is a “Math Lab” recommended for each problem that gives instructions for creating a hands-on method of seeing the challenge in action. To make the book even more enjoyable, there are amusing illustrations throughout.

Can you avoid death by a giant blade or vexed parents? Will you be able to save Dr. Grog from an untimely demise due to a Brazilian wandering spider’s bite? Only your persistence and mathematical prowess can help you to escape each dangerous situation.

Rather than just handing the book to your gift recipient, I would sit down with them and challenge them to a duel of the wits for each death-defying situation, so you can model the enjoyment of trying to work out a perplexing problem. Don’t worry if you don’t remember middle school math; your opponent will be even more thrilled if they outwit you!

And if you are looking for more entertaining math activities, don’t forget about Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin, one of last year’s recommended gifts!

3-12, Books, Games

Gifts for the Gifted – Spiroglyphics

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. 

This week’s addition to the list is going to appeal to those who find coloring to be a great self-care solution. But it quite literally has a bit of a twist. Spiroglyphics, by Thomas Pavitte, is a an activity book full of spirals. Each page initially looks dizzying and completely like the other pages in the book — until you begin to fill in the spirals. Using a felt-tip pen, choose an end and begin coloring in the spiral. Follow it all of the way to the middle, and take a look at your masterpiece. It will still look like a circular labyrinth. But as you start working your way back from the middle to the outside, a magical picture begins to emerge. With seemingly no rhyme or reason, the spirals you’ve colored combine with the negative space to reveal a picture.

Can you figure out what this Spiroglyphic designed by Thomas Pavitte will be when colored in? (Hint: it’s not the following picture!)
Can you see the animal? This took me a pleasant hour to complete. As you can see, I didn’t quite finish because my felt-tip pen ran out of ink. You can discuss among yourselves in the comments what type of writing utensil you would recommend for these 🙂

I don’t really understand how it works, but the process is satisfying. Pair it with listening to some music or a podcast (in my case, it was, “My Favorite Murder” but I probably wouldn’t recommend that for young children), and you’ve got a relaxing way to spend an hour with a truly fascinating product at the end.

There are several different Spiroglyphics activity books to choose from. The one that I tested out is the “Animals” version. It includes 20 different full size (12×12 in.) perforated pages of animals, which can be torn out. If you like these kinds of challenges, you should take a look at some of the other unique activity books offered by Thomas Pavitte, including Querkles and 1000 Dot-To-Dot books.

It’s hard to suggest an age-range for this gift. No reading is necessary, but it definitely requires concentration and a certain allegiance to coloring inside the lines. While the latter is not something that I regularly preach, straying a lot from the spirals is not going to give you the enjoyment of finally discovering the subject of your picture.

If you’re thinking of buying this for your classroom, the perforation makes it great for you to pass out pages to individual students or keep at a station for fast-finishers. Each one does take some time to complete, so you will need a place to store works-in-progress. Some other ideas would be to give them to students as they listen to a podcast in class, and/or to assign them to research or write about their picture when it eventually appears.

I actually know many adults who enjoy coloring, whether digitally or physically, to help them to relax, so this could also work for grown-ups or even as a white elephant gift.

Whenever possible I like to link to independent toy stores and bookstores. Here is a link to one of our local stores, Nowhere Bookshop, for some Spiroglyphics books you can order through Bookshop.org.

Check back in next Friday for another recommendation!

close up of human hand
Books, Creative Thinking, K-12, Problem Solving, Writing

The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination

I love the entire concept of the newest book from Brad Montague, The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination. Montague, if you recall, was the creator of the Kid President web series, and also wrote the book, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome, with his Kid President brother-in-law, Robby Novak. Brad and his wife, Kristi, have a creative studio called Montague Workshop, and they worked together to create The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination.

Here is the description you will find on your favorite book site:

From New York Times bestselling author Brad Montague comes a top-secret, behind-the-scenes peek at the official agency that keeps the world’s creativity flowing.

Every day, special figment agent Sparky delivers all the mail the FBI receives to the proper department, like the Office of the Unexplainable or the Department of Dreams. It’s a big job, but Sparky keeps everything running smoothly . . . until disaster strikes when the Cave of Untold Stories overflows and threatens to topple the whole bureau. It turns out too many people have been holding in their big ideas, and now Sparky must recruit more agents to share their dreams, songs, and stories with the world. 

And now, dear reader, will you join the effort and become a special agent before it’s too late? The FBI is counting on you!

The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination, Indiebound

The recommended reading age is 4-8 years old, but as most educators know, picture books can be used with any age group — even high school. The clever story and illustrations will certainly appeal children and adults. There are also some resources for discussion and creative thinking provided here.

I don’t have to stretch my imagination one bit to picture this story coming to life on the big screen one day. But in the meantime, treat your students and/or families to this sweet book and recruit some more special agents for the cause 🙂

photo of stonehenge london
3-12, Books, Careers, Science

Dig It! Archaeology for Kids

I was recently given the opportunity to review a nonfiction book by Caitlin Sockin, Dig It! Archaeology for Kids. The title is scheduled for release on April 25, 2023, but you can pre-order it now. The recommended reading age window is 10-16, and I feel like that’s absolutely on target. If you teach or parent children in grades 4 and up who have shown the slightest interest in archaeology, this 100 page book will become an indispensable resource for them. Of course, history, geology, and art play big roles in the study of archaeology, so devotees to those topics will also find many rewards when reading this book.

Dig It! Archaeology for Kids, by Caitlin Sockin
image credits: SS/SCStock (background); SS/AD Hunter (mag glass)

Writing nonfiction for kids is an especially challenging task as the author needs to develop a format that will deliver facts while maintaining the reader’s engagement throughout the book. Sockin achieves this by perfectly blending photographs and illustrations with fascinating information that will intrigue even well-read amateur archaeologists. Thoughtfully broken into bite-sized pieces, the material in Dig It! combines details of the work of archaeologists with tantalizing examples of some of the most famous archaeological sites discovered around the world. Readers can digest the book in small sections, or devour it from cover to cover in one session. Unlike a dry textbook, Dig It! is equally rich with both information and entertainment.

Although 10-16 year olds may be the ideal readers of Dig It!, I think adults will also find the book absorbing. Though I’m not an expert on archaeology by any means, I approached reading the sample with the idea that a children’s book about the subject would not teach me many new things — and was delighted to find out that I was wrong. For example, I had no idea that there is a Woodhenge in England in addition to Stonehenge, or that the clues that archaeologists look for include artifacts, features, and ecofacts. (By the way, Dig It! does a good job of explaining new terms in layman’s language on the pages the words first appear, and also has an excellent glossary at the end.)

Throughout the book you will find questions that prompt curiosity and QR codes that can be scanned to visit interactive websites related to archaeology. In addition, there are recommended additional resources that can be done in school or at home, such as science experiments, models, and games. I like the sections that suggest career options for people interested in archaeology and outline why archaeology is important so that readers can envision how something they might currently view as a hobby can actually transform into a meaningful career for them.

image from Dig It! Archaeology for Kids by Caitlin Sockin
image credits: SS/ABCDstock; SS/mehmet.ozer (top L); SS/Everett Collection (top R); @user:VasuVR/WC/CC BY-SA 4.0 /https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en/No changes made (bottom L); @user:Nomu420/WC/CC BY-SA 3.0/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en/No changes made (bottom R)

How do you get children to enthusiastically read nonfiction books about dusty relics of the past? Ask Caitlin Sockin, because in Dig It! she has cracked the code.

Teachers: Get the free educational guide, created by Deborah Lee Rose, for Dig It! here!

january scrabble
Books, K-12

Coming Up in January, 2023!

I’ve just updated my January/Winter Holidays Wakelet — which means that there are a few more new links you can find and some outdated ones that I’ve deleted. It includes resources for MLK Day, Lunar New Year, and Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust Remembrance Day is a new column that I just added. One of the resources I added to that column is a picture book called, Bartali’s Bicycle. This was one of the Texas Bluebonnet Books for which I had the opportunity to write curriculum for a local school district, and it really made an impression on me when I read it. It is the true story of the heroic Italian cyclist named Gino Bartali, who secretly saved countless lives during World War II. Students will be amazed by his daring and innovation, and you can find a link to a discussion guide on the author’s website.

visit the author’s page here

Also, just a reminder that I’m scheduled to present at TCEA in San Antonio with Amy Chandler (Assistant Director of Gifted and Talented in North East Independent School District) on January 30th, 2023, on Digital Differentiation. We’d love to see you in person!

3-12, Books, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving

Gifts for the Gifted — The Challenging Riddle Book for Kids

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my ongoing 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students and one for Books for Gifted Children or Anyone who Loves to Learn.

When I was in the GT Classroom, some of the resources I inherited from the previous teacher were books of “lateral thinking puzzles.” I can’t recall the specific author, but today’s recommendation has similar puzzles and is written specifically for students ages 9-12. Some of the puzzles are definitely suitable for younger, and I have a feeling you could pose others to adults and stump them.

“Lateral thinking” is a term attributed to Edward de Bono, also widely known for his “Six Thinking Hats.” According to de Bono, we use two types of thinking when solving problems — logical or “vertical” thinking and creative or “lateral” thinking. Often a combination of these is needed in order to innovate.

Many riddles/brainteasers have come to be known as lateral thinking puzzles because they challenge you to think beyond the obvious assumptions. Often using puns, words that have multiple meanings, or topics in which we may have unconscious biases, these puzzles often seem impossible until we examine ourselves and try to coax our brain along a new path.

For example, Danielle Hall’s book, The Challenging Riddle Book for Kids, includes a riddle I’ve seen many times with different names substituted, “Alex is Charlie’s brother, but Charlie isn’t Alex’s brother. How is this possible?” The answer is that Charlie is Alex’s sister, but the reason this requires lateral thinking is due to the fact that many think of the name Charlie as predominantly a male name.

You can find this book at Bookshop.org or your favorite independent bookstore.

There are some riddles that I’ve seen before in this book, but many that are new to me. Among the 175 puzzles, you will find some classics like the Riddle of the Sphinx and other more recent creations. Answers are in the back of the book. If you’re a teacher, these riddles are great for transitions and brain breaks. If you’re a parent, they are fun for dinner conversations or car rides. Children will love trying to stump you, and it’s great for the adults to do “think alouds” as they try to solve the riddles in order to model lateral thinking and persistence.

If you’re interested in more brainteasers like these, I have an entire collection here. You might also enjoy this gift recommendation from 2020, Sleuth and Solve. You can also find other book recommendations on my Pinterest board.