Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated

First of all, did you know that TED, the fabulous producer of videos with “Ideas Worth Spreading”, now produces ebooks?  If you did, why didn’t you tell me?  Fortunately, I read the San Antonio’s Express News on Sunday, and found out about it when they published a brief review of one of the ebooks you can find at TED, Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated.

Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated is a book of Six-Word Memoirs collected by Larry Smith.  If you have not been introduced to Six-Word Memoirs, yet, I highly recommend that you read my original post on this topic, as it includes some other resources in which you may be interested.

In this new publication, which can be downloaded for Kindle, iBooks, or Nook for $2.99, Mr. Smith collected memoirs from students of all ages (grade school to grad school), and included the pictures that they drew to accompany them.  Some of them, like “Hey, my swimming lessons paid off,” by Charlotte Berkenbile (8) in Keller, Texas, are amusing.  Others, like “My alarm clock killed my dreams,” by Shawn Budlong (13) in Rockford, Illinois, are more thought-provoking.  Some of the illustrations are just as moving as the text.

I highly recommend this very affordable download.  If you are working with younger kids (K-3), you probably won’t want to show them the whole book, but select a few pieces as examples.  For older kids, there are many possible discussion starters in here, and definitely inspiration for them to create their own Six-Word Memoirs.

(By the way, TED Books also offers an app and a subscription.  If you subscribe for $4.99/month, you have immediate access to all of the current ebooks, and will receive a new ebook every two weeks.)


Painted Pie

from "Painted Pie"
from “Painted Pie”

“Painted Pie” is a video you will probably want to view more than once.  The post-Impressionist artwork alone is stunning.  But, even better, is the sweet story of a homeless boy who is searching for a human being to connect with him.  The moral of the story, that you never know how many lives you can touch with small kindnesses, reminds me of another couple of videos I have featured on here, “The Kindness Boomerang” and “Monsterbox“.  The film was created by Havish Thota, Kudzai Gumbo, Mehdi Farrokhtala, and Abdulrahman Alansari.  It has already won several awards.  The accompanying soundtrack, “Little Person” by Jon Brion is a masterpiece, as well.

In the classroom, I would, of course, ask the students to verbalize the moral of the story.  You could ask them to retell this silent movie in their own words.  Before even showing the movie, you could play the soundtrack, and ask the students to come up with stories that would go with the music.  If you are studying art, you might see if they could write a similar story based on another work of art.  Random Acts of Kindness Week is fast approaching (February 11th), and this would be a good way to introduce it.

I found this video on the “Kuriositas” blog.  Though the “Kuriositas” blog is not meant for a young audience, I encourage adults to check it out, as it features many interesting videos, pictures, and stories.

Here is the link to the video in case the embedded version does not show below:

Painted Pie from Mehdi Farrokhtala on Vimeo.

The Tinkering Studio

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 7.18.16 PM

It appears that 2013 will be the year for great, new museums.  I mentioned the Museum of Mathematics last week.  This week, while researching the site I am blogging about today, I found out that the famed Exploratorium of San Francisco is moving to a new location.  Fortunately, The Tinkering Studio site, sponsored by the Exploratorium, is still up and running – though it appears that the Exploratorium site is not.  Hopefully, it is just getting an upgrade like its physical counterpart.

The Tinkering Studio is full of interesting ideas for, well, tinkering.  There definitely seems to be a resurgence of the maker movement, and this site can inspire many creative projects.  Each project is described, offers pictures, and gives reasons for its educational value.  Many also offer PDF’s with instructions on how to do the project.

I am going to offer this site as a resource for my 5th graders, who have a Genius Hour each week, and who are sometimes looking for ideas for their next learning project.  I’m also going to keep it in mind for my 10-year-old when she says, “I’m bored,” this summer…

"Light Painting" from The Tinkering Studio Activities
“Light Painting” from The Tinkering Studio Activities

Vi Hart

photo credit: thane via photopin cc
photo credit: thane via photopin cc

I mentioned last week that I would do a post about the Vi Hart videos.  It is probably that many of you already know about Vi Hart, but if this post introduces even one more new person to her genius, then it is worth it.

If you look at Vi Hart’s Wikipedia entry, you will see that she calls herself a “Full-Time Recreational Mathemusician”.  She has her own YouTube Channel, and also partners with Khan Academy to create videos about math.  To put it simply, Vi Hart makes math entertaining.

My students particularly enjoy her Fibonacci series (here is a link to Part 1).  As I mentioned last week, she has become their math hero, and when they designed their own math museums, many of them dedicated rooms to her.

You can learn more about how Vi Hart films her videos by going here:, or watching the video I have embeddeded below.



In yesterday’s post, I stated that I would publish a post about the Vi Hart videos today.  However, I forgot that it is Friday.  Now, that my “Gifts for the Gifted” series is over until next holiday season, I would like to return to my Fun Friday posts.  So, I will “post”pone my Vi Hart post until Monday.

Several years ago, I purchased a book called GridWorks by ThinkFun.  It doesn’t look like ThinkFun still sells this book (although you can buy it for $21 on Amazon), but you can find GridWorks puzzles online, which is almost as good.  If you are looking to purchase something similar to GridWorks, I highly recommend another ThinkFun product, Chocolate Fix.

Both GridWorks and Chocolate Fix have 3X3 grids in which you have to place symbols (or pieces of chocolate) in certain cells based on the visual clues you are given.  In the easy levels, the clues are very explicit.  As you work your way through the levels the game, of course, increases in difficulty.

This link just give you puzzles 1-4.  But you can click here to get over 200 puzzles.  (Scroll to the bottom to get to the beginning.)

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Brain Teasers and Lateral Thinking Puzzles

photo credit: MuddyBootsPhoto via photopin cc
photo credit: MuddyBootsPhoto via photopin cc

“Kevin’s mother has three children. The first was called Alpha, the second was called Beta. What was the name of the third? “

I came across this document the other day, published by David Koutsoukis, and thought I would use a couple of these each week for transition times with my students.  During this “crunch time” of the second semester, my students are inundated with state tests and benchmarks.  These puzzles might alleviate a bit of the stress every once in awhile.  My students love riddles, and these are challenging, but short.

Answer to above:  Kevin (since it was his mother, and she only has three children)