MAT Blog

STEM of the Living Dead: 3 zombie-themed lesson plans

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 21, 2013 6:00:00 AM

STEMEarlier this week, we shared a zombie-themed writing activity with you and we’re happy to say that there are more zombies where that came from. This morning we came across STEM Behind Hollywood, a cool new resource put together by Texas Instruments.

Here you’ll find three free, Hollywood-inspired math and science activities that model the transmission of a hypothetical zombie contagion.

These activities encourage students to engage with STEM concepts like the exponential growth of a zombie horde and how the growth turns into a characteristic “s” curve from limited resources as the infection begins to spread. Students will learn or review the basic functions of various parts of the human brain and discuss factors dealing with immunity and vaccines.

Unless you can recreate the activities on your own, you’ll need to download the TI-Nspire trial software; the good news is that it’s compatible with iPads and other Texas Instrument hardware like the TI-Nspire.

If you want to take a look at the lesson plan before going through the effort of downloading the software, click here.


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Tags: STEM, STEM careers, science teachers, science standards, math teachers, mathematical concepts, zombie lesson plans, mathematics

Words, words, words…do we need them to teach math literacy?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Apr 4, 2013 10:27:00 AM

math literacyIn school, we depend on language to convey ideas. The teacher walks up to the board, writes words, uses words to ask and answer questions; the students receive books with words and are assessed with tests using—you got it—words. Even when it comes to assessing math literacy, we depend on words. This dependence on language is precisely what TED Talks speaker Matthew Peterson—Chief Technical Officer and Senior Scientist at the MIND Research Institute—addresses in his eight-minute lecture, Teaching Without Words. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Words, words, words…do we need them to teach math literacy?

Interrogating our dependence on language starts to make sense, however, when we consider states like California where 25 percent of students are English language learners, 15 percent have language learning difficulties and 20 percent fail language comprehension tests. Is Peterson suggesting that reading proficiency is not a priority? Not at all. He is simply suggesting that it may be necessary to find new ways to teach students for whom language is still a barrier. He’s also suggesting that we may not need language to teach math literacy.

In addition to watching his brief lecture (which you’ll find below), we recommend stopping by MIND Research Institute’s website to learn more about Peterson’s spatial-temporal approach to teaching K-5 mathematics. The software he and his team have designed to teach math literacy does not use language, numbers or symbols; instead, it teaches students to visualize and focus on interactive problem solving.


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Tags: math literacy, mathematics literacy, math teachers, mathematical concepts, mathematics

Fac(e)ing Mathematics through arts integration

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 11, 2012 9:29:00 AM

Mathematics is a high-stakes subject, especially in light of recent educational initiatives like "Race to the Top" and "Educate to Innovate.” High stakes, however, doesn’t mean that math can’t be fun—or creative, for the matter. In fact, we might even argue that if math students aren’t taught to be creative, they may be unprepared to meet 21st century challenges.

Think about it: Your students’ future isn’t static. Regardless of their future profession, life will demand that they have a diverse skill set. The math-savvy artist, for example, is (most likely) going to have more opportunities than someone whose knowledge stops with their own palette. A rapidly-changing, global economy needs not only solution-oriented, but creative thinkers with a range of experiences and interests.

That’s why we’d like to talk about math and arts integration and offer 2 creative lesson plan ideas that will help you (and your elementary students) take two seemingly disparate subjects (math and art) and fuse them together without having to compromise rigor for good times.

lincoln art projectFac(e)ing Mathematics through arts integration
The human face is a perfect place to begin. Why? For Caren Holtzman and Lynn Susholtz—authors of Object Lessons: Teaching Math through Visual Arts—it’s simply because the face has it all: number, measurement, size, shape, symmetry, ratio and proportion. When you apply these concepts to the body, you not only give your students a new lens through which to view themselves, but you help them to also approach math in a new and exciting way.

Activity 1: Lessons in Symmetry
This activity teaches students to create two-dimensional symmetrical images by giving them a portrait that only has one side of the face and asking them to complete the other half. You can either find a picture online or, if you are tech-savvy, scan and edit a photo of the student. If you have Photoshop, you can simply erase one side of the face, print it out and make photocopies for each student. If you don’t have access to photo editing software, print out the photo, cut in half vertically, place on a blank piece of paper, and make as many photocopies as you need.

Lesson Objectives
The goal of this activity is to help students analyze the geometric attributes and congruence of the face. An added bonus is that it also forces them to use their spatial sense to identify and recreate the symmetrically-balanced features that are missing. Once they are finished, you’ll find another teachable moment by asking students to consider issues of symmetry, proportion, measurement and perspective.

Symmetrical, congruent, balance, bilateral  

teaching picassoActivity 2: Polygon Portraits
This is another activity that uses the human face. This time, however, students will use geometry to compare the attributes of two-dimensional shapes; they will also have to see how those shapes can be taken apart and realigned to create new shapes.

Curved, straight, edge, polygon, regular, irregular, congruent, vertex, vertices, angle, plane

Here’s what you do:

  • Define and compile a list of polygon shapes by drawing them out on the board. As you do this, have your students describe the attributes of each shape.
    drawings of shapes
  • To supplement this activity, you might show your students pictures of Pablo Picasso’s cubist portraits. Compare his work to more conventional portraits and have your students talk about the similarities and differences between the two. Ask them what the like/dislike about Picasso’s work and why.

  • Next, hand out mirrors to each student and have them draw self-portraits in either black charcoal or pencil using only polygons.
  • Once they’ve done this, have your students describe their portraits using their newly acquired vocabulary.

  • There are innumerable spins you could put on this activity. For instance, you could limit the number of shapes your students can use—or you could require that each shape be a different color of pastel, charcoal or colored pencil. If you prefer, you could also have your students cut these shapes out of construction paper instead of drawing them.

  • If you want to challenge your students, ask them to use a set amount of polygons. For example, tell them that they have to use six triangles, 4 decagons, 5 octagons, 2 quadrilaterals, etc.

If you like these lesson-plan ideas, check out Caren Holtzman and Lynn Susholtz’ book Object Lessons: Teaching Math through Visual Arts; this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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Tags: arts integration, mathematics literacy, K-12 math, Math, math teachers, mathematical concepts, mathematics

10 Free Math Games for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 2, 2012 9:23:00 AM

Math GamesMath games for teachers are a fun way to entertain your mathematical geniuses and inspire the students who are lagging behind. If you're looking for new ways to inspire your students to find the joy in fractions, decimals, and algebraic equations - look no further. Here are 10 FREE math games that can help you reinforce your current lesson plans, allow your students some computer time, and give them a break - of sorts.

10 Free Math Games for Teachers

  1. Add Like Mad. This game gives students a target number and a huge board of number tiles. Students have to click the numbers in order to Add Like Mad until the numbers they have selected add up to the target number.

  2. Aquarium Fish. Little ones will enjoy this counting game. Count the Aquarium Fish and select the number that reflects the accurate total. At the end of the game, the computer tells you how many attempts it took to get the answer right, which can be a helpful assessment for teachers.

  3. Math Man. The game Math Man is based on Pac Man. Need we say more? First Math Man has to eat the ?, then he has to eat the ghost that solves the math equation. You can use it to reinforce multiplication, division, and rounding numbers.

  4. Digit Drop. Students practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division in Digit Drop. Simply drop the correct number from a big number batch to finish the equation. Students can practice, play, and select their level.

  5. Calc. Students do the calculation in their heads and type the correct answer. The better they do, the faster and harder it gets. Your geniuses can even start at the "genius" level.

  6. Counting Money. This is one of the best games for teaching students how to count money, make change, and do money-based word problems. Money Counting Basic states a specific dollar amount and students click on the money drawer to put the appropriate amount of change in the "hand."

  7. Genius Defender. Holy moly. Where was Genius Defender when we were learning to add and subtract decimals? Cute little men and women defend their fort as the "invaders" - holding decimal problems - mount an attack. When students type in the correct answer to an attacker's decimal problem, the defenders eliminate him. The goal is to answer all equation attackers accurately before they invade the fort. It's addictive.

  8. WMD2. Weapons of Maths Destruction involves shooting targets and tanks to receive a math equation. Easy equations deal with simple addition and subtraction skills. Harder ones move into the algebraic realm.

  9. More or Less? Help students make comparisons by determining whether there are More or Less of certain objects in the squares. By selecting the least populated, most populated, or evenly populated squares, students learn to compare quantities.

  10. Space Match Geo. Space Match Geo is great for beginning geometry students, helping them learn lines, rays, acute angles, etc. by playing a memory game. They flip over the icons to reveal a shape or a vocabulary term and have to match them appropriately.

These 10 math games for teachers are just a sampling of all that MathNook has to offer. They can be used to reward students who are doing well, as a fun way to work with students who are struggling with certain concepts, or as a Friday Fun Day. However, we do recommend that students use head phones so you can remain sane during the learning process.

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Tags: math literacy, mathematics literacy, Math, math teachers, mathematical concepts, mathematics

Singapore Math is intentionally redundant. You can say that again!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Feb 21, 2012 12:16:00 PM

singapore math capitalizes on redundancy for student masterySince the 1960's, Singapore has been a hallmark of math instruction. This country's students repeatedly rank at or near the top of the international mathematical rankings and outperform their peers in other countries. The differences in "Singapore Math" are significant when compared to math curriculum and instruction in the United States. These differences have prompted many US states and school districts to investigate and adopt curriculum based on the Singapore Math concepts, hoping for increased student understanding and achievement.

What makes Singapore Math different?

  • commitment to differentiation
  • careful and comprehensive assessment to understand students' mastery of concepts
  • slower pace to promote a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts
  • increased amount of time to fewer concepts
  • detailed instruction to introduce concepts
  • student practice via questioning, model drawings, hands-on manipulatives, and problem solving
  • connections across mathematical strands reinforce how mathematical skills are related
  • multi-grade approach to math curriculum makes mastery at one grade level crucial to student success in future grades
  • as foundational skills are developed, the instructional pace increases in the higher grades as students master complex concepts more quickly.

Teachers, parents, and school officials often mention the drawback of other math programs is that they are "an inch deep and a mile wide;" that is, they cover many concepts with very little depth.  Singapore Math is completely different. The curriculum is committed to a detailed, deep understanding of fewer concepts as a way for students to truly master the skills being taught. This redundancy can be highly beneficial to students and makes it less likely that they will have to be remediated on similar topics in future grade levels.

Consider the curriculum's approach to a single activity for teaching the multiplication table of “8” to third grade students. This activity is part of a larger unit designed to teach and reinforce the multiplication tables in multiple ways. Teachers are encouraged to have students:

  • Use centimeter graph paper to color in 10 rows of “8” and then write down the facts for multiplication by “8” in alignment with the arrays.  
  • Count by “8.”  Since this may likely be a challenge to most students, teachers can explain (after initial practice) that students can add 10 and then subtract 2 each time in order to count by “8.”
  • Circle the numbers on a hundreds chart that they land on when counting by “8” and identify any patterns present on the chart.  

Often in elementary math instruction, multiplication facts are learned by rote memory with little emphasis on the associated mathematical patterns or relationships. What can be interpreted as redundancy in a curriculum based on Singapore Math is actually a method to promote deep understanding of a single concept. With other approaches for math instruction it may appear that students quickly learn and master the multiplication table for “8.” But do they truly understand the mathematical implications of the multiplication?  With Singapore Math, they most certainly do!

Need some refreshing tips to encourage math literacy in your K-6 classroom? Simply download our free Math Literacy Guide, several pages of inspirational ideas for teachers, from teachers!

Download Our FREE Math Literacy Guide


Tags: singapore math, Marygrove MAT, Math, mathematics

Boys don't read? Girls don't like math? A look at gender and learning.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jan 12, 2012 5:30:00 AM

are teachers combatting cultural stereotypes in class? Marygrove looks at gender and learning.There are many long-held assumptions that "girls don't like math" or "boys don't like to read." A recent blog by Andrew Meltzoff and Dario Cvencek on NBC’s Education Nation  takes a look at gender stereotypes, and raises questions about how we may be socializing our children in this country to prefer one subject over another. While there is compelling research that suggests boys and girls do learn differently, there are no definitive conclusions that both genders can't succeed in any area of learning.

There are things teachers can do to promote learning for all, regardless of gender or subject area. It is a suitable and appropriate role for teachers to help students understand that their academic and cognitive abilities are not predisposed from birth. This understanding and concerted myth de-bunking can help students be more adaptable and open to a variety of learning approaches and instructional methods. They may also be more willing to take academic risks.

  • Girls who have more confidence in their math and science abilities, and have had teachers explicitly emphasize these abilities, are more likely to enjoy and excel at their math studies. Long term, they also are more likely to opt for math and science electives in high school while also considering a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career.

  • Boys who learn in a boy-friendly, print rich environment will understand that reading isn't just for girls. Teachers need to research and provide books that are interesting to boys (non-fiction, science fiction, mystery, action) to demonstrate that no matter what they like to read; there are many great titles available.  

Teachers should provide direct feedback on a student's performance and work production. When feedback is both explicit and prescriptive and focuses on the learning process, specific learning strategies, and a students' effort—achievement increases. This feedback will help to improve persistence during a difficult task, increase performance, and support students' beliefs about their abilities.

  • Direct feedback during math or science instruction will help to support girls' learning by providing explicit instruction on their performance and the logical/mathematical processes likely accompanying a math or science task. When teachers place emphasis on the strategies that were used and whether or not they were successful, girls will understand the sequential process of math and science learning. 

  • In order for any student to be a successful reader, he must be able to independently apply a variety of comprehension strategies during reading. Teachers need to provide direct feedback to boys regarding their use of these strategies. Particularly when reading fiction texts, boys should be engaged in conversations regarding their use of comprehension strategies and whether they enhanced their overall understanding. 

Teachers can expose all students to a variety of opportunities and possible careers that break gender stereotypes. Students need to understand that your gender doesn't determine what you enjoy learning or what your future career may be. Exposure to these beliefs in elementary school will shape early understanding for both boys and girls.

  • There are many prolific female mathematicians and scientists available as examples for girls (including Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, and Sally Ride). Profiling these successful women will help to demonstrate to girls that there are a variety of STEM careers available to them that take advantage of their math and science abilities. Teachers should explore how to use the text and website, Math Doesn't Suck, by Danica McKellar which demonstrates that math can be both easy and relevant.

  • The website "Guys Read" is a place where boys of all ages can discuss boy-centric books, provide literary reviews, and learn what some of their favorite male authors are currently working on. Created and maintained by Jon Scieska, this terrific website focuses on books and genres that boys like most, while providing substantial support and encouragement for boy readers.

Let us know your thoughts about gender and learning--we acknowledge that we are just scratching the surface of this very complex issue.

You can learn how to motivate every reader in your classroom by viewing our FREE webinar on Goal-setting and Reading Fluency, today!

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Tags: Marygrove MAT, Reading, mathematics, gender and learning

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