Mathigon has appeared on this blog from time to time, most notably on my post, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep,” because of its visually engaging math activities. In the past few years, the site has offered a puzzle calendar with 24 different challenges every December, only one of which can be opened each day. Solutions are given the subsequent days, but you will need to log in (it’s free to register) to see them. If you prefer to pick and choose among puzzles, the puzzles from 2017-2019 are available by clicking on the tabs at the top of the page – great for challenging your advanced students or looking for specific math problems that will support what you might be currently covering in your curriculum.
Since Mathigon’s puzzle calendar is basically a mathematical Advent calendar, I will be adding this post to my Winter Holiday Wakelet. Check it out for some more fun activities to do this December!
I am so not proficient when it comes to spatial reasoning. This makes sense to me because I can’t think of ever really practicing it as a child. I didn’t build with Legos or blocks, and I wasn’t really into jigsaw puzzles. Mostly, I read a lot. That means I’m generally a decent speller, but when I try to sew a face mask you will have to turn it right side in to make it right side out. Or something like that. Let’s just say my very un-straight stitches are very visible on the side of the material that you would normally want people to see. And, yes, that is with a sewing machine.
So, as I spend the second half of my century of life trying to visualize what comes naturally to everyone else in my family, I would like to re-iterate that spatial skills are pretty important, and aren’t really a big focus in most schools. Regular readers will know that this isn’t a new theme on this blog, and here are some past posts that I’ve done with other great resources: Spatial Reasoning, Spatial Puzzles, and a bunch of reviews of apps and games.
Today’s spatial reasoning resource would have been so fun to do with my engineering students. It comes to us from Mark Chubb (@MarkChubb3), who offers these One-Hole Punch Puzzles on his blog, Thinking Mathematically. I’ve seen puzzles like these on some aptitude tests, but usually the questions show how a paper was folded and punched, and you have to select from the multiple-choice the subsequent result when unfolded. In this hands-on twist, Chubb produces the results, and students have to use their own pieces of paper and one-hole punch tools to demonstrate where the paper must have been folded and punched.
In a pre-Covid class, we could have shared hole punchers and then had a huge confetti party. Sadly, this may not be an option for any teachers anytime soon, but I encourage home-schoolers, parents, and anyone who can’t sew a mask to give these puzzles a try.
Math Art Challenge caught my eye the other day when I saw a tweet from its organizer, Annie Perkins (@anniek_p), about the most recent challenge, “Mandalas,” authored by Siddhi Desai (@SiddhiDesai311). Mandala projects used to be a student favorite in my gifted and talented classroom, and we have created them from all sorts of materials, such as the traditional sand ones and 3d printed ones. The students also loved making digital mandalas, especially using words and kaleidoscopes of nature. When I read Desai’s post, I was blown away by a video she included about the extraordinary mandalas that pufferfish make to attract their mates, and wish I could go back in time to show it to my students.
From the tweet from Perkins, I found that she has a page of Math Art Challenges, with 81 on there to this date! I have always been fascinated by the intersection of math and art, so this collection is a goldmine to me. Since I usually try to give specific resources on my posts in order not to overwhelm, I decided to recommend her challenge from Day 53, “Origami Firework From One Piece of Paper.” This seems like an appropriate challenge for this particular holiday weekend, when viewing a real fireworks show is improbable for many due to the pandemic.
Charty Party is a game based on charts. (H/T to @MsMessineo for tweeting about this!) Played like Apples to Apples, a judge is selected who turns over a card with a chart on it. Only the X-Axis is labeled. Players look at their own cards, which have potential labels for the Y-Axis, and choose one from their hand that they think the judge will find the funniest. The player whose card is chosen by the judge collects that chart, and a new person becomes the judge. The game ends when someone has collected 5 charts.
The creators of the original Charty Party, which was designed for ages 17+, received a lot of requests for versions that would be appropriate for classrooms and young families. So, after interviewing many people, including teachers, they are back with an All Ages Edition on Kickstarter. The good news is that the game has already been funded, so production is guaranteed. The even better news is that for every $5,000 the team raises from backers, they will donate 10 Charty Party All Ages games to a school. As I am writing this post, they have already raised over $56,000. (Their original goal was $10,000.) The kind of hard-to-swallow news for those of us eager to play it is that delivery of the games will not begin until January, 2021. 😦
You can get the original Charty Party right now, and add on your All Ages Cards when you receive them. I read some of the Q&A on the product’s Amazon page, and in response to, “How many cards would I have to remove before I could allow my high school students to play this at school?” one person answered, “About half.” Personally, I think it would be fun to have your students make their own cards to go with the charts for the time being.
In my third article for the NEO Blog, which was published today, I give a detailed look at how S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. instruction can be accomplished remotely. The article has links to many resources, so you will likely find at least one new helpful tool somewhere in the post. You can read, “How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning” here.
Next month’s article will be, “Applying Universal Design for Learning in Remote Classrooms.” As always, I would love reader input on this topic. If you have any resources or examples that would be helpful, please comment on this post!
I’ve been in the process of gathering recommended tools and strategies for distance learning, and bookmarked a spreadsheet started by Fawn Nguyen (@FawnPNguyen) where she is collecting “Distance Learning Best Practices for Maths.” One of the resources entered on the sheet is Graspable Math. Intrigued by the title, I decided to check out the website.
Graspable Math is a free website that allows students and teacher to manipulate the terms in algebraic equations easily online. You can see how it works by going directly to the canvas, and typing in your own unsolved equation. (Go to Insert – Math Expression.) Then, just click and drag to indicate each step you would go through as you attempt to solve it. A neat feature of Graspable Math is that only the results of your most recent step will show on the canvas. However, at any time you can click the handle on the right side and drag it down to show any or all of the previous steps as well.
Here is the short video that was included on Nguyen’s spreadsheet that summarizes Graspable Math:
Once you are ready to create assignments (there are specific lessons on the site you can use if you need help getting started), head over to this page for a quick tutorial on how to design lessons for your classes.
For those of you who are elementary teachers with students who may be ready to move on to algebraic thinking, Graspable Math also has a projects page that includes interactive games that scaffold the topic. One of the games is specifically appropriate for elementary students.
Whether using an interactive whiteboard at school or teaching remotely, educators will find that Graspable Math is a nice way for students to demonstrate their understanding of algebra.