Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, K-5, Math

Valentine’s Day: Some “Heartfelt” Resources for Teachers

If you’re looking for some “heartfelt” Valentine’s Day resources for teachers, this post has got you covered!

In the process of trying to update and collect my downloadable resources from over 11 years of writing this blog, I decided to start a “store” (located under “Downloads for Teachers” in my top menu) hosted on my website. The purpose of this store is not for me to make money, but to make it easier for teachers to search and filter through my resources. It has been a slow process, and I haven’t worked out some of the kinks. But I think it will be worthwhile eventually.

You do need to create a free login in order download items from the store. The majority of the items are free. However, I’ve decided to sell bundles of items for a low fee, donating $1 out of every $5 earned to teacher projects on Donors Choose. I am slowly removing my items from Teachers Pay Teachers and will eventually host everything I create on my store with the multiple goals of giving teachers easy access to free resources that are good for students and hopefully earning money to give back to teachers who have amazing ideas for which they need funding. Currently, all of my S.C.A.M.P.E.R. resources are available in the store and I am now working on getting my Visible Thinking Routine resources added.

Would You Rather Valentine’s Day Math for Elementary

While working on my store, I recently updated my “Would You Rather Math?” for Valentine’s Day using a cute Canva template. You can download the new PDF here. For the old versions (including Google Slides and PowerPoint), as well as a more detailed explanation, here is the post I originally wrote when I made this resource based on the work of John Stevens and his WYRM website. Want the free Canva template link so you can edit it and make your own? I’ll be posting it in this week’s newsletter, so be sure to sign up if you haven’t already!

I haven’t had a chance to update and upload this next Valentine’s Day resource to the store, but if you like to give out something other than candy for Valentine’s Day (or any time of the year), these QR Code Coupons that I made way back in 20212 are a cute option to insert into an old chocolate box or into Valentine’s Day cards for your students.

If you are looking for more Valentine’s Day Resources, you can check out my Valentine’s Day Wakelet here.

3-12, Books, Games, Math

Gifts for the Gifted — Math Games with Bad Drawings

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.

I envision today’s recommendation being given to: teachers who like to engage their students with different games, families who are looking for ways to have fun together away from screens, kids who have a somewhat adversarial relationship with math (as I once did), and geeky people like me who appreciate humor, logic, puzzles, and the surprising elegance of math.

Find Math Games with Bad Drawings here or your favorite local bookstore.

Math Games with Bad Drawings is the third book from Ben Orlin, who is also the genius behind the Math with Bad Drawings website. The book was released in April of 2022 and, frankly, I wish it had been published ten years ago. There are so many ways I would have used Math Games with Bad Drawings in my classroom, particularly when my students did their unit on mathematical masterpieces. It’s not only the games that would be a hit with the students, but the actual commentary throughout.

And, of course, the bad drawings.

As a teacher or a parent, I would set aside time to read this book with children as well as to play the games. Don’t skip the introduction because it’s also quite amusing. (I’m also pretty sure that a lot of the gifted teachers who I’ve worked with will appreciate some of the references to games we’ve played in class with our students. Escher, Fibonacci, and Set all make appearance at the beginning. And wait until you see Quantum Tic-Tac-Toe!) The rest of the book is divided into: Spatial Games, Number Games, Combination Games, Games of Risk and Reward, and Information Games. In addition to the rules for each game and illustrations, Orlin also describes, in many cases: where each game originated, why it matters, and any known variations.

This book is large (in both its length of 368 pages and its physical size), hardcover, and heavy. In the “Conclusion,” you’ll find tables that display the games listed in the book as well as the materials required (mostly pencil/paper), and the recommended number of players. (Most are 2 or 3 player games, though “Con Game” could be played with the seemingly arbitrary limit of 500 people.) The “Bibliography’ at the end is the most intriguing and entertaining bibliography I have ever read in my life. Not that I ever have read any bibliographies in the past, which just goes to show you how good it must be.

Math Games with Bad Drawings is going to have a prized spot on my bookshelf, and I’m pretty sure my family and descendants will never have cause to be bored again. I’m certain all will agree with me that there are infinite possibilities for fun with this book. Otherwise, this once-upon-a-time-despiser-of-math-turned-math-nerd will feel compelled to declare to all,


“I’ll just put on my Star Wars pajamas and sit in my mom’s basement and pore over some spreadsheets.”

Ben Wyatt, Parks and Recreation
Sunflower grown as part of citizen science project (sunflower)
3-12, Art, Creative Thinking, Math

Celebrate Fibonacci Day on 11/23 with Leo + Lea

Some of you may not be in school on Fibonacci Day (11/23) as it is during the U.S. Thanksgiving Week. Maybe you can celebrate it early, or when you return to school. No matter when you do it, there are plenty of ways to recognize the significance of this unusual number sequence, which has inspired mathematicians and artists for centuries. You can begin by visiting Donna Lasher’s “Fibbing Can Be Fun” page where you will find videos, puzzles, and lesson ideas. I have more links in my November Wakelet and you can also find some related links in my Math, Art, and Nature collection.

A new link I will be adding will be to the picture book, Leo + Lea. Written by Monica Wesolowska and illustrated by Kenard Pak, this story was inspired by a student the author met who was only interested in numbers. In this delightful tale, a burgeoning mathematician, Leo, meets Lea, who is obsessed with art. The two become friends. As the story unfolds, so does the Fibonacci sequence in words, numbers, and colors.

You can see a 90 second video in which the author and illustrator explain how the book developed here.

You might also be interested in this article written from both of their perspectives. Monica includes a free Fibonacci poetry handout on her site. If your students write some mathematical verse, you might be interested in submitting them to Donna Lasher’s Poetry Gallery here.

The products that can be dreamed of when a subject as logical as math intersects with the creative arts of writing and illustration will never stop seeming magical to me. I think your students will appreciate them, too.

Learn more about Leo+Lea here.
boy in red sweater wring on notebook
K-12, Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

10 Retrieval Activities + 1 Choice Board

You may recall my mention of retrieval practice in my post about the +1 Visible Thinking Routine. To briefly recap, scientific studies show that retrieval practice done in intervals can help learners to retain more information. These activities are like short pop-quizzes in that you are asking students to recall as much as they can without referring to notes or texts. But, while a pop quiz is used for the teacher to assess, the purpose of retrieval practice activities are to help students learn, so they should not be attached to grades. Ideally, they are woven into your teaching day and can take the form of games, classroom warmups, and even exit tickets. The +1 Visible Thinking Routine is one way to do retrieval practice, but I recently discovered some more ideas on Twitter.

It started when I noticed a Tweet from Brendan O’Sullivan (@ImtaBrendan) where he shared a choice board of “settler” activities. Now, I don’t know about you, but the word, “settler” makes me think of dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail or getting obliterated by my family when we play Catan. Once I found out from Brendan that these are a term for activities used “to get your class settled, to give them focus and moving towards learning,” the board made a lot more sense to me. (This is the fun thing about Twitter. Brendan is from Ireland, so I appreciate him helping us non-Europeans learn a new term!) Brendan’s choice board is a nice way to have students do some retrieval practice when class is getting started.

Settler Choice Board from Brendan O’Sullivan

I then noticed a Tweet from Liesl McConchie (@LieslMcConchie) where she shared a link to her mini-book of “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention.” Although it is math-focused, you can easily do the activities in any classroom. For example, I could see using the “Quiz, Quiz, Switch” activity in any grade level or subject (possibly using pictures for students who are pre-readers).

Retrieval Practice example from Liesl McConchie in her mini-book, “10 Retrieval Activities to Boost Student Learning and Retention

You can download more free mini-books from Liesl on her website.

By guiding students with retrieval practice activities, we will not only help them to retain more important information, but we are teaching them a valuable skill they can continue to use as lifelong learners.

jellyfish floating
3-12, Independent Study, Math, Research, Science, Websites

The Deep Sea

The Deep Sea is a fascinating website designed by Neal Agarwal (@NealAgarwal). Neal has placed the creatures of the ocean at their typical depths, and you can scroll down from 18 meters at which you find Atlantic salmon and manatees all the way to the deepest part of the ocean at 10,901 meters deep. Little pieces of trivia are interspersed here and there, such as when you reach the point that is equal to the distance to the height of Mount Everest.

Students who are intrigued by the ocean and/or unique animals would love this site, and you can also integrate math with comparisons to other distances. For example the world’s current highest building, the Burj Khalifa, is 828 meters high. When you get to around that depth, you can find Giant Oarfish, which can grow to 11 meters long. Have students brainstorm ocean creatures they know and estimate where they might be found in “The Deep Sea.” To learn more about deep sea creatures that may or may not be on The Deep Sea site, check out this slideshow from the Smithsonian Institute that includes the frightening-but-cute yeti crab.

exotic reef manta ray swimming undersea in sunlight
Photo by Svetlana Obysova on Pexels.com

By the way, Neal Agarwal has a variety of other interactive sites that might interest you here. There’s a 3d “Design the Next iPhone” where you can not only drag and drop components that you want to had, but you can also create a video where your phone is “announced.” If you like the philosophical discussions generated by the classic “Trolley Problem,” try “Absurd Trolley Problems” for some macabre humor. And there’s more! I’m definitely adding his site to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet. Although I must admit, comparing my hourly wage to other on the “Printing Money” site was not quite as fun…

Off on a Tangent training using Ethics Depth and Complexity Mat
K-12, Math, Teaching Tools

Off on a Tangent

I had a wonderful time yesterday working with NEISD GT on some math enrichment activities in a workshop I titled, “Off on a Tangent.” We mashed up a Slow Reveal Graph with Depth and Complexity mats and tried out the Connect, Extend Challenge Visible Thinking Routine with Splat. (The latter could have gone better, I think, with higher quality facilitation on my part. Definitely improving on that next time!) Even though they had just completed challenging working days, the teachers were receptive and enthusiastic as they explored the many resources I tried to curate just for them to either use with their students in GT or to recommend to classroom teachers for students craving new challenges.

I’m grateful for still having many opportunities to be involved in education despite “retiring” a couple of years ago. Thanks to all of you for allowing me to continue to be a part of this world whether it is by reading my blog posts (which admittedly often go off on a tangent), connecting with me on social media, or inviting me to present professional development. It’s an honor to regularly interact with and learn from so many rock-star educators!