Plotting Plots

If you have a fascination with literature and graphs, you may have seen LitCharts, which I wrote about back in 2016. LitCharts includes an interactive Theme Wheel for each of the works of prose covered on the site, such as this example for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I enjoy the meaningful conversations students have as they analyze such charts, often giving me many new understandings about the books from their perspectives. “Plotting Plots” is a website that also aims to give you alternative visualizations of books, though its “library” is not a comprehensive, yet, as the one you will find on LitCharts. Tom Liam Lynch is open to suggestions for new books to add as well as any other feedback from users. On this site, you choose a book, then select up to four words from the book that you would like to see plotted on a graph. The graph shows you the chapters where you will find those words and their frequency. For example, here is a graph I made for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

I would ask students to do a “See, Think, Wonder” activity with this graph to find out what they already know about the book, what assumptions they might make based on the numbers, and what questions this prompts. I would say, having read the book a few times, that I think Chapter 5 is right around when Harry comes face to face with blatant displays of magic for the first time, and I would wonder why friendship does not appear very often in the book despite the relationships he develops with Hermione and Ron.

The blog posts on the site are equally intriguing, such as this one on The Hate U Give, where Lynch gives us some insight into his realization that the parents play a more important role in the book than he initially assumed.

Because I love seeing the way different people can find to creatively use graphs and infographics for deeper understanding, I have this new Wakelet to share with you. As you will see, graphing is not just for math!

My Dog Can’t Do Any Math

So I have this friend who is about to adopt a dog and its foster mom said that it’s a great dog and it even knows how to “perimeter poop.” And I said, “OMG how do you train a dog to perimeter poop?!!!!!” And she said, “I was going to ask you!” Because I have three dogs. But sadly, none of them perimeter poop because I never knew that concept existed — so I guess you could say that they just “area poop.” You’re probably wondering why I am telling you this. Basically because I initially regretted that I never taught my dogs to perimeter poop but then I started regretting that I’m not in the classroom anymore because this could definitely be turned into the kind of math word problem my students would have thoroughly enjoyed. Once a teacher, always a teacher. And then I got philosophical as I realized that this was a classic example of someone having a lot of experience (me: having owned countless dogs) learning from someone new (her: adopting her family’s first dog ever) and that’s the lesson I should impart to you – that no matter how much you think you know about a topic it’s not as impressive as a dog that can defecate with geometric precision.

And since this blog is more about sharing resources, really, than about random thoughts about my inadequacies as a teacher of children and/or canines, here is a math resource on gorilla poop (I couldn’t find one on dogs) from the Lincoln Park Zoo. Or you can watch the video below of Maggie, the Jack Russell who supposedly does math (I think there’s some conspiring going one between Maggie and the owner). I like how one of the young students says in bewilderment, “My dog can’t do any math!”

If you want some more math resources, try my Wakelet of Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.

The dog who poops on our sidewalk – you know, where we walk

How Do You Really Feel About Pi Day?

If you’ve never celebrated Pi Day (March 14th) in your classroom, you may be missing an opportunity to get your students really excited about math. There is something quite magical about this number that appeals to curious young minds, inviting those who even believe (wrongly) that they don’t have mathematical minds to join in the fun.

Or, maybe not.

I was looking for new resources to add to my Pi Day Wakelet, and realized that I had somehow missed that Vi Hart, worshipped by my students for her math videos about Fibonacci as well as her awesome sketches of slug cats, has a tiny bit of a problem with Pi celebrations. She eloquently explains her argument in this video from 2014, Anti-Pi Day Rant.

I only discovered Hart’s argument by first unearthing Why Pi is Awesome (Vi Hart Rebuttal) by The Odd 1s Out on YouTube. (FYI – there is the comment that, “This is all bull crap” around 6:42 in the video.) And that, to be honest, is the first time it ever occurred to me that Pi might not be all that.

Side note: The first comment I saw under the rebuttal video was, “When the 2 quietest and smartest kids in class have a heated argument and everyone takes notes and grabs popcorn,” which seemed quite funny to this former GT teacher, who listened to debates like this in her classroom all of the time.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you really want to add a bit of a twist to Pi Day in your classroom, maybe you could show the students Hart’s video a few days before March 14th, and ask the students to persuade you as to why this number should be celebrated. And then you can use the ideas in my Pi Day Wakelet.

There are subsequent videos about Pi Day by Vi Hart in which she seems to soften her stance a bit – even one asking Pi to stay home last year to avoid coronavirus – but I haven’t watched all of them. Suffice it to say that my world was rocked hard enough by one anti-Pi video that I need a bit of time before I watch more.


More Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep

One of the most popular posts on this blog is called, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.” One problem is that I keep updating it, so the number is misleading. Another problem is that I don’t update it enough, so there are many sites that I’ve discovered that weren’t on the post. I spent this morning putting all of the site links into a Wakelet, and it now has 56 items! Some are brand new to me, while others are ones that I’ve written about in the past. Quite frankly, it was difficult for me to stay focused as I re-discovered old friends, like Splat Math and SolveMe Mobiles, and stumbled upon unfamiliar but intriguing ones like Mystery Grid and Cube Conversations. Whether you love math or despise it, I guarantee you will find at least one site on this list that will fascinate you!

Photo by Pixabay on

Same but Different Math

Same But Different Math encourages students to think about and discuss how two images might have the same value but different visual representations. It helps students to make connections and develop their own mathematical reasoning skills rather than to rely solely on rules that require memorization. You can find the 6-Step Protocol for discussion here. Though the concept seems simple, it can lead to much deeper thinking, and there are examples in the top menu for students in Kindergarten through high school.

Same But Different Math reminds me of Which One Doesn’t Belong? Though the latter is more open-ended, and might even lead you to conversations outside of math, WODB tasks can also promote valuable discussions among classmates that help to develop lasting memories they can continue to build upon.

For more math sites that depart from learning and practicing algorithms, check out my post, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.”

Would You Rather Math – Valentine’s Edition

I’ve just updated my “Would You Rather Math – Valentine’s Edition” Google Slides to look a bit better graphically (layout from Canva), and to leave room on the slides for student responses since many of you are virtual. You can get a copy here. The presentation has a blank slide for you to fill in your own problem(s) if you like. For those of you who didn’t see my original post on this, these were inspired by the work of John Stevens, who has a website of Would You Rather Math problems here.

In addition, I made a Jamboard using the slides as background images (so they are a tiny bit fuzzy), which you are welcome to make a copy of here. The link to this post will be added to both my Valentine’s Day and Jamboard Wakelet links.