Category Archives: Math

Week of Inspirational Math 2

I posted last year about the Week of Inspirational Math resources provided on  I used these with my 3rd grade class (there are versions for K-12), and the students really enjoyed this approach to math.  The set of activities and videos promotes a growth mindset in math, and I felt that it really set a great tone for the rest of the school year as we worked on challenges.

I’m happy to see that professor JoAnn Boaler and the team at have produced Week of Inspirational Math 2, which looks just as promising as the WIM1.  The videos provided with this new WIM are a bit more fun, while still remaining faithful to the theory that anyone can be a math person.

Having personally experienced my own metamorphosis from “not a math person” to someone who excelled in math in high school, I am a firm believer that too many of us get caught in the myths and stereotypes that make us believe only a pre-determined group of people can understand math.  I have witnessed in my own classroom students who have given up on the subject and, with effort on both our parts, turned this fixed mindset around to become students who enjoy math.

If you have the opportunity to start your year with one or two weeks of Inspirational Math, I think you will find it is an excellent use of time that will pay off for the remainder of your school year.

from Week of Inspirational Math 2
from Week of Inspirational Math 2

Back to School Games from Breakout Edu

In this Education Week article, “10 Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School,” by Nancy Flanagan, she gives the following advice:

“Don’t make Day One “rules” day. Your classroom procedures are very important, a hinge for functioning productively, establishing the relationships and trust necessary for individual engagement and group discussions. Introduce these strategies and systems on days when it’s likely your students will remember them and get a chance to practice them. This is especially important for secondary teachers, whose students will likely experience a mind-numbing, forgettable parade of Teacher Rules on Day One.”

It’s often considered good practice to establish rules and procedures at the beginning of a new school year, but I can definitely attest that my daughter came home from each first week during her middle school years feeling bored and defeated.  Not only did the teacher of each subject spend the entire period going over rules, but many of them showed the same not-so-exciting videos, which repetitively appeared in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. (Fortunately, each year improved dramatically after the first weeks, as her fabulous teachers definitely challenged and engaged her.)

As a teacher of 25 years, I’ve gone through many first days, and I can tell you that I am just as enthusiastic as the students when my staff development weeks begin with rules, procedures, and awkward team-building activities.

Nancy Flanagan goes on in her article to suggest doing engaging activities the first day that will also help the students to learn something.  If you are looking for ideas, Breakout Edu offers some Back to School games that might be just the ticket to ramp up excitement so your students go home the first day and tell their parents what they learned and that they had fun doing it!  There is one game each for elementary, upper elementary, and secondary. There is even one for Staff Development! (Note: You will need to register for free with Breakout Edu in order to get the password to access the games.)

Consider embedding rules and procedures into exciting learning activities, rather than making them the starring topic for introducing the year.  Your students – and their parents – will thank you!

from Breakout Edu Back to School Games
from Breakout Edu Back to School Games

Can You Solve the Bridge Riddle?

TED-Ed has a fun animation of the traditional bridge riddle using everyone’s contemporary worst fear – zombies.  I would recommend using the video with students in 3rd grade and up, and definitely pause in the middle to give them time before showing the solution.  I took a screen shot of some of the vital information to leave on-screen for the students as they try to solve the puzzle.  Can you solve the bridge riddle? Search for “riddle” on TED-ed to find even more perplexing puzzles for your brain!

screen shot from TED-Ed, "Can You Solve the Bridge Riddle?"
screen shot from TED-Ed, “Can You Solve the Bridge Riddle?

With Math I Can

Jo Boaler, Professor of Math Education at Stanford University, and Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology (also at Stanford) have teamed up with several industry partners, including Amazon, to launch an initiative called, “With Math I Can.”  Dweck’s name will sound familiar to those of you who have heard of “Growth Mindset,” and Boaler specifically promotes the importance of having a growth mindset in math.

I’ve mentioned (one of Boaler’s many projects) on this blog a few times due to its great resources for teaching students how to have a healthy attitude about math.  With Math I Can has a similar purpose, but seems to be targeting a larger audience as it encourages you to take the following pledge:

Pledge from "With Math I Can"
Pledge from “With Math I Can

The site gives video resources for the classroom, your district, and home that include the recent set of “Big Ideas” videos from Class Dojo, along with the statistics and brain research that explain why we need to teach students that math is accessible to everyone.  The introduction video on the home page can be used to inspire teachers and parents to think carefully about the messages we send about our own attitudes toward math.

Hopefully, initiatives like “With Math I Can” will help young people to stop saying, “I’m just not good at math,” to “I’m just not good at math, yet.”

3d Printed Mandalas

My 4th grade gifted class is learning about mathematical masterpieces, talking about the symbolism of the circle, and discussing immortality as we read Tuck Everlasting.  I usually integrate a short project on mandalas as a culminating activity during this time of year, since their symbolism fits so well with the other facets of our study.  With a new 3d printer in our classroom, and students anxious to design, I gave them the option of creating their own mandalas in Tinkercad to print on our Polar 3d.  The one you see below is our first successful printed mandala.  We are still working on how we want to fill in the holes.  Traditional mandalas are made with colored sand, so we want to find a way to simulate that, yet retain the printed outline.  I will keep you posted on our journey to the final product! (Here is an interesting time-lapse video of the creation and destruction of a traditional mandala.)


Pi(e) Day Resources

We may have different Spring Breaks and some of my readers may see St. Patrick’s Day as just another day.  But everyone around the world must celebrate Pi Day.  Right?

This year’s Pi Day is on March 14th.  (LOL! that’s the date every year!)  Here are some of the resources I provided last year for Pi Day.

The official Pi Day website has some ideas for classroom teachers here. Education World has also collected a bunch of resources for teachers so they can celebrate Pi Day the right way!

image from Wikipedia
image from Wikipedia

Which One Doesn’t Belong?

I just love the people I follow on Twitter.  I get so many great ideas that would probably take a decade to reach me if it weren’t for the #eduawesome people who share resources regularly.

The other day I caught a tweet from @JStevens009 that had a link to a mysteriously named Google Slides presentation, “WODB?”  I opened it to find 52 slides that each showed four pictures.  (John stated that a colleague who doesn’t tweet had shared the presentation.)  Doing a little more research, I found the @WODB Twitter stream, which led me to the WODB website, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?

The website was created by @MaryBourassa, but includes submissions from many people.  The basic premise is to provide 4 pictures that share some attributes, but not all.  Your mission is to explain why each one doesn’t belong, and to support your answer. There are some that are more obvious than others, and that’s where the fun comes in!

from WODB?
from WODB?

For example, in the image  above, it is obvious the nickel does not belong because the rest are pennies.  The bottom right picture does not belong because it is the only one that shows the tail side of the coins.  The bottom left one does not belong because it is the only one that does not add up to 5 cents.  But what about that first picture?


Someone tell me what the other 3 pictures have in common that the first one doesn’t. I can’t figure it out.

And it’s driving me crazy.

I just teach gifted students; that doesn’t mean I am one!