One of my favorite math activities to do with students is called, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” This was an idea that seems to have originated with @MaryBourassa, who created a website for this. I described the concept and offered some links in this post from 2016. Recently, I saw a Tweet from @Simon_Gregg offering an entire album of over 200 WODB images for educators to use for stimulating math discussions.
Each picture set has 4 different images. Project the images to your students, and ask them which one doesn’t belong – and why? Hopefully, you will receive many different answers, and they will all be right for various reasons. Because these are so open-ended, they can be used with different levels of complexity from number sense to geometric reasoning. Encourage students to use mathematical vocabulary as they defend their choices, perhaps even making it a game where points are awarded for including particular words. Challenge the students to try to find a reason for each one of the four to be excluded from the group, not just the first one they notice. The “See, Think, Wonder” Thinking Routine would go very well with this activity. (For more on Project Zero Thinking Routines, see this post.) A formative or summative assessment option would be to ask students to create their own WODB challenges.
WODB is one of the 15 Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep that I’ve listed on this post. I highly recommend checking out those links if you feel like you want to add a bit more zip to your math lessons – or just enjoy doing unusual math puzzles. (I’m addicted to the SolveMe Mobiles!)
Aaron Maurer (@aaronmaureredu), a STEAM educator who blogs at Coffee for the Brain, is hosting a month of Lego challenges during May, 2020. Each week is a different theme, and each weekday he posts a new challenge for that week’s theme. Before beginning the challenge, participants are asked to select 100 pieces from their Lego collection and post a picture of those pieces.
You can view the instructions from Maurer in the video below, as well as on this page (which includes a link to a form).
For the week of May 4th (this week, can you believe it?!!!), the theme is, “Movie Genre.” Each day is a different genre, with the first day being science fiction (of course!). You can see the builds for Week 1 that have been assigned so far on this page. Clicking on each build card will take you to the page with guidelines and pictures of builds that have been submitted so far.
Maurer already did a different Lego challenge last month, and used feedback he garnered from those participants to create this month’s lineup. Based on that input, he is also doing some livestreaming this month, so be sure to click on that button at the top of the website if you are interested.
I think this idea is really going to blow up, as Maurer had hundreds of participants from all over the world for the last challenge. (You can see the map when you scroll down on the Home Page.) If you’ve got kids who love anything Lego-related, this is their opportunity to be inspired and get creative!
Cat in the Hat Builds That is a mobile app that is based on the PBS series, “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.” With a target audience of younger children (Pre-K and up), this free app (available on Android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire devices) is an entertaining introduction to STEM principles, such as the engineering design process, problem-solving, inquiry, and creativity. By solving different puzzles and demonstrating skills such as perseverance, players can unlock more features in the game – opening up more opportunities to explore and create. They can decorate the tree house that serves as the home base in the app as they collect new objects during their adventures.
For those parents and educators concerned about too much screen time, Cat in the Hat Builds That also gives suggestions for STEM activities that can be done at home with parental supervision. In addition, there is a section for “Grownups” within the app that summarizes the games included, and the STEM concepts being taught within each one.
Although children could certainly play this game independently, I would recommend some parental involvement in order to maximize the learning. Recognizing and verbalizing the vocabulary and concepts will help students to develop habits of thinking that they can apply outside of the game for a long time to come.
The TX Youth Code Jam is a virtual hackathon, and open to submissions from any student in the United States in grades K-12. Entries are due on April 24, 2020. Coding is not required for the projects, but any students who are registered can learn more about coding and other topics in the scheduled online workshops.(My wonderful friend, Michelle Amey, is presenting a workshop for parents to encourage creative thinking, and her son is doing an Advanced Scratch Workshop.) It is free to enter the Code Jam, and creativity is highly encouraged. The requirement for each submission is that it must be something the student (or team of students) created to solve a problem. You can view the challenges here.
The Code Jam is offering lots of cool prizes, but the hope is that children will have fun designing, problem solving, and learning as they participate. As our current quarantine situation has made us painfully aware, people who are solely consumers in our society find themselves to be far too dependent on others to provide sustenance and entertainment. If your child needs some inspiration, go to the Resources page of TX Youth Code Jam, and scroll down to the section, “Kids like you innovating during the pandemic.” It’s great to see what young people can do!
National Geographic is currently offering a series of livestreams called, “Explorer Classroom.” These are currently available on YouTube at 2 PM Eastern Time. You can easily join in viewing by just clicking the “Watch” link under the featured presenters at the appropriate time. (Choose the calendar icon for the full list of scheduled programs.) For those of you planning ahead of time, you can register for the program with a chance for your children and/or students to get one of the few on-camera spots. The “Family Guide” that you will find after each program description gives excellent suggestions for activities and research that can be done before the livestream in order to get the most out of your experience. From discovering new species of frogs to learning what we can do to protect sharks, children will certainly find at least one, if not all, of these topics to be of interest.
I briefly mentioned Foldscope way back in 2017 after our Stanford tour guide pulled the amazing paper microscope out of her pocket to demonstrate the type of innovation you can find at Stanford. I always meant to do a separate post on this tool, but life got in the way and suddenly I am here, three years later, finally getting around to it.
Foldscope is an inexpensive, portable, durable microscope that you can carry around with you pretty much anywhere. It was invented at Stanford, and you can watch Manu Prakash speak about the evolution of this idea in the video below. (Linked here in case the embedded video doesn’t work.) Of particular note during our current coronavirus fears is the portion at 5:23 where a student declares how the Foldscope highlights how important it is to wash your hands to avoid dangerous diseases.
You can also view a TED talk with Prakash from 2014 here.
With various media outlets reporting on the current coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), it is important that students who may be exposed to this onslaught of information understand the facts. Educating younger children about the virus may be as simple as reminding them how to wash their hands, and other common methods that can help prevent the spread of many diseases. Older children may benefit from more specific information, and this can also be seen as an opportunity for broader learning as they compare/contrast pandemics throughout history, analyze mathematical models, and develop their own ideas about how to avoid further outbreaks. I’ve curated some resources below that might be useful in the classroom setting. As always, please review materials before using with your class to determine their appropriateness for your particular audience.