Category Archives: Math

Greg Tang Math Resources

Don’t tell anyone, but Greg Tang Math penetrated my incredible resistance to e-mail spam and persuaded me to visit the site out of curiosity.  I’m not really sure why the persistent e-mails that I kept trashing finally grabbed my attention, but I obviously wouldn’t be writing this post if they hadn’t eventually been successful.  (If you happen to be a spammer, please don’t think I am encouraging you to try the same strategy;  I can promise you that it was a one-time-thing…)

The good news is that I actually found some unique math materials on the site.  There are plenty of free resources that you can download, and even some interesting online math games.  For gifted students, the Kakooma and Expresso pages are great challenges. (There is also an online version of Kakooma on this page.) In addition, there are some printable math games on the resources page.

Of course, there are plenty of things you can purchase on the site.  Otherwise, what would be the purpose of the e-mail barrage?  But I think that you will agree that there is a generous dose of free materials, which makes some advertising bearable 🙂


The Twelve Days of Christmas Math Activities

Way back in 2012, I posted about some interesting math activities that you can do with the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  This happens to be one of my most despised songs ever because of the redundancy.  However, it’s worth using in class to demonstrate a little mathematical magic and get your students to think about the true cost of ridiculous gifts that no one would actually want to receive (aside from five golden rings).

Four years ago, this is part of what I posted:

My 4th grade gifted students are studying mathematical masterpieces.  We had looked at the Fibonacci series earlier this year, and a couple of days ago, I stumbled across an interesting lesson that ties Pascal’s Triangle in with “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  We spent half our day: creating the triangle, finding patterns in the triangle, finding Fibonacci in the triangle, trying to make sense of a Vi Hart video about the triangle, and using the triangle to figure out how many gifts were actually bought each day.

The other portion of my post mentioned a website interactive that doesn’t appear to work any longer.  However, it was hosted by PNC, who has been kind enough to provide an updated version that gives current estimates of the cost of each gift. There are also some educator resources, designed for middle school and high school students, as well as a free printable coloring book.  I plan to actually have my student calculate the final cost of the gifts.  (If you want to do the same, don’t let them use the website at first because it reveals the answer when you scroll down far enough.)  This recording sheet is one that you could use for gift calculations.

A nice feature of the updated PNC site is the interactive graph near the bottom that allows you to see how costs have changed over the years for the group of gifts as well as for each individual gift.  This can yield some good discussions on what might be driving the costs up or down.

image from:
image from:

Hidden Figures

I suspect that part of the reason that not many minorities enter S.T.E.M. careers may be because we don’t hear enough about the ones who have.  This coming January, Hidden Figures will come to theaters to tell the story of three African-American women who worked at NASA, and helped to propel John Glen into orbit.  You can see the trailer for the movie here.

As part of the promotion for the movie, PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox have teamed up to sponsor a contest for females who are 13 years and older who hope to change the world with S.T.E.M.  The winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship, so if you know a girl eligible to apply please pass this on.

In addition, you can visit the Hidden Figures website to play some S.T.E.M. challenges and read some other inspiring stories about significant S.T.E.M. contributions made by women.

image from:
image from:

SolveMe Mobiles

I was wandering around the “Would You Rather Math” blog the other day and noticed a tweet from the author (@Jstevens009) on his sidebar about SolveMe Mobiles. “It’s challenging and stokes curiosity,” he wrote.

You don’t have to tell me twice.

I immediately visited the link and spent my lesson planning time “testing” the site to see if it would appeal to my students.  Kind of like the way I “test” all of the cookies in a fresh batch to determine if my family will think they are satisfactory…

Fortunately, most websites don’t disappear after you test them (unlike chocolate-chip cookies), so my students will still find plenty of curiosity-stoking challenges to keep them busy when they try out SolveMe Mobiles.

The games are similar to the Balance Benders series of books, which my students enjoy.  They help you to practice algebraic thinking as you try to figure out the value of each of the shapes on the mobile based on the clues that you are given.  Of course, it starts out deceptively simple, like the one below.

SolveMe Mobiles, Level 1
SolveMe Mobiles, Level 1

Both shapes have a value of 5 since the entire mobile is balanced, and has a total value of 10.

There are 200 challenges, so you will eventually reach ones like this:

SolveMe Mobiles #163
SolveMe Mobiles #163

The online interactivity is fun because the mobile will tip if you identify the wrong value for a shape.  Thank you, SolveMe Mobiles, for this much subtler way to say, “You’re Wrong!” than many other games use.

If you are going to want to record your progress  If your students want to record their progress, they can log in.  Otherwise, there is an option just to play without registering.  You can also build your own mobiles.  Or your students can.  I mean, you probably want the students to do it – but I won’t tell anyone if you do it, too. 😉


Halloween Activities from Minds in Bloom

Rachel Lynette, over at the “Minds in Bloom” blog, offers some fun Halloween activities for critical thinking.  One of them is a Halloween-themed list of “Would You Rather?” questions.  For these, I would recommend that you encourage your students to justify their answers, and possibly have a contest for who can give the most unusual reason for his or her response.  (For another way to use “Would You Rather?” questions, check out this post.)

Rachel also has a free “GHOST” Scattergories-type game that you can print.  As an extension, you could have the students make their own spooky versions by changing the letters on top and the categories.

And, finally, incorporate some disgusting math into your Halloween plans by giving your students some “Witches’ Brew Math.” Boiled eyeballs, anyone?

Eyeball Punch - image from Flickr
Eyeball Punch – image from Flickr

Open Middle

Open Middle is a blog that offers unique math tasks for K-12 students.  Dan Meyer, an educator who speaks about how “Math Class Needs a Makeover” in this TED Talk, describes “Open Middle” problems this way:

  • “they have a “closed beginning” meaning that they all start with the same initial problem.
  • they have a “closed end” meaning that they all end with the same answer.
  • they have an “open middle” meaning that there are multiple ways to approach and ultimately solve the problem.”

Several educators contributed problems to the Open Middle site. You can search for challenges by grade level and by mathematical area (such as geometry).  Below is an example, submitted by Ian Kerr, from the 5th grade group of fraction problems.

5th grade fraction problem from Open Middle, submitted by Ian Kerr
5th grade fraction problem from Open Middle, submitted by Ian Kerr

I would encourage you to take a look at the “Open Middle Worksheet” that you can download for students, as it gives students space for multiple attempts, and also asks students to verbalize what they learned from each attempt.  This is an excellent way to reinforce that you can learn from mistakes, and the growth mindset attitude that you may not know how to do it yet.

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