DragonBox Math Apps: Teaching students to think like mathematicians

DragonBox Math Apps: Teaching studentst to think like a mathematician

What it is: I adore the DragonBox math apps! I was first introduced to DragonBox through their Algebra app. The app takes away all math anxiety by teaching algebraic concepts without numbers or algorithms. It is genius! You can read my review of that app here. DragonBox Numbers is for kids who are new to numbers, counting, addition, and subtraction. DragonBox BIG Numbers is the next level app of Dragon Box Numbers. As they play, children learn about how big numbers work, and how to perform long addition and subtraction. In DragonBox Elements, students will secretly learn geometry. By playing 100+ puzzles, kids will gain a deep understanding of the logic of geometry. As they play, students will actually be recreating the mathematical proofs that define geometry. What I love about the DragonBox suite of math games is that they are unlike any other math apps. You won’t find mindless repetitions and quizzes of math facts, instead, these games help teach students how to think like mathematicians. This is learning math through exploration.

How to integrate Dragon Box math apps into your classroom: The DragonBox math apps take advantage of a student’s innate curiosity through play and exploration of math concepts. Each game engages students through exploration, reflection, and application.  If you have a 1:1 iPad classroom, use these apps daily! Students can play a game, and then come together as a class to reflect and write down the rules they have learned in that “chapter.” Then, take an equation from the game and solve it on paper. See if students can connect the cards and rules of the game to the equations on paper. Solve the equations using strategies and rules from the game.

In a one or two device classroom, play DragonBox as a class by connecting your device to a projector. Explore the rules together and let students take turns being in charge of a chapter. Review rules and make connections as a class. Set up DragonBox as a math center that students can visit in a rotation where one center is interacting with the game, the next is an opportunity to record rules learned and reflect, and the last is application of the rules to an equation.

Be sure to check out the DragonBox for educators where you can download teachers guides and printable resources for each game in the DragonBox math suite. You’ll also find a great “rules” guide for the algebra and geometry games.

These are seriously my favorite math apps of all time! They encourage kids who can think and apply like mathematicians rather than kids who simply memorize a formula. DragonBox creates a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and number relationships.

Tips: While the DragonBox suite of math apps aren’t free, you can purchase them at a deep discount for educational institutions and bulk purchases. Teachers, you can get access for free to make sure that the apps are right before committing to a purchase for your students. You can also purchase apps in bundles.

Starting with Soil: Organic Exploration App

Organic Exploration Starting with Soil App

What it is: Starting with Soil is a free app from the Whole Kids Foundation that teaches the importance of healthy soil and lets kids discover the harmonious roles that plants, animals, and people play in keeping it healthy. This high-quality, interactive app lets kids explore the life in soil through lots of interactive experiences. They can use a compost wheel to learn about which things can be composted; learn about pollinators and their role in the food we eat; explore fungi, bacteria, protozoa, algae, and nemotodes with a built-in microscope; and learn how long it takes to make an inch of healthy soil with an interactive timeline. Kids can also plant digital seeds, make it rain, and build their own digital compost pile.

How to integrate the Starting with Soil App in your classroom: The Starting with Soil app is a fantastic interactive experience that will help your students learn about how nature creates organic soil, the role that animals and cover crops play in organic farming, how different plants can thrive together, the importance of pollinators, and how compost is made and its part in growing healthy food. This free app can be used as a provocation for an inquiry unit about soil, in your science classroom, or during discussions about ecosystems or nutrition.

My favorite part of this app is the way it let’s kids explore soil. Rather than telling them why healthy soil is important, it reveals its importance through discovery, exploration, and play.

Follow-up learning by giving students the opportunity to put that new understanding to work. Have students design pollinator hotels for your school yard or garden, start a composting bin, or start a school garden. Check out the Whole Kids Foundation site for fantastic resources, ideas, and grant opportunities.

Tips: Starting with Soil is available on the App Store and Google Play.

Mathigon: engage, play, and explore math

Mathigon explore, engage, play with math

What it is: Today I was working on our inquiry block framework for the 2017/2018 school year and, as often happens with inquiry, fell down a wonderful rabbit hole that led me to this site. Mathigon is a fantastic *newish* math site (it’s still being built and added to) that brings textbooks to life. I know you’ve probably seen this claim before, but this is unlike the other online interactive textbooks I’ve seen. It’s more…alive. It’s like a personalized tutor, combined with story, and exploration. Really, textbook is the wrong word, because this is something totally new. A chat bot tutor makes Mathigon like having an additional team of teachers in the room, ready to answer questions and support your learners in real time. Real life application and narrative is part of the Mathigon DNA. This means that beyond learning the “rules” of math, learners are actually invited to engage the concepts, play with them, explore them in context, and find out what other concepts they are linked to. Rather than a linear approach, Mathigon lets students explore math in a more organic way through interest, linked ideas/concepts, and in a ‘down the rabbit hole’ approach. There are very few math sites that I’ve come across that truly support an inquiry approach to learning math, Mathigon is one such site.

How to integrate Mathigon into your classroom:  There are several ways to use Mathigon. Students can get a personalized math curriculum that adapts to them and offers recommendations based on what they are interested in and their understanding of different concepts. They can begin from several places: exploring the applications of math in every day life, the link between math and origami, Eureka Magazine (published by Cambridge University), through problems and puzzles, through fractal fiction, or through courses for grades 6-college.

The Treasure Hunt is a complete PDF Kit that can be downloaded and printed out. Split your students into teams and send them on an epic math treasure hunt through your school (available in primary and secondary levels) where each of the clues leads them to another.

Fractal fiction is particularly cool because it lets students explore mathematical concepts through interactive narrative of popular films including Alice in Wonderland, Oceans 11, and Harry Potter (the latter two are coming soon). You really have to go experience these to really understand the brilliance of how Mathigon has combined story with math exploration.  From the site: “The key to successful teaching is captivating storytelling – through real life applications, curious examples, historic background, or even fictional characters. These interactive slideshows combine an engaging narrative with beautiful graphics – explaining mathematical ideas in the context of popular stories and movies. They can be watched individually or be presented in classrooms.”

I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with the vastness of what this site brings to the classroom. Even if you don’t have the capacity for each of your students to have an account with Mathigon, the site can be easily adapted for the one computer classroom (as a center activity). Much of the content could also be explored as a whole class with a projector-connected computer.

Tips: I’ve found that really well done content for grades 6-12 (and beyond) in math to be severely lacking. This is a welcome addition to the math teachers tool box of resources!

Making & Science with Google

Making & science with Google

What it is: Making & Science is an initiative by Google aimed at showing students that anyone can be a maker or a scientist. Using the featured Science Journal app (Android and Chromebook only), students can measure light, sound, and more. They can also use the app to record observations, organize data, and add observational notes. Making & Science has partnered with Exploratorium for some fantastic activities that will have students exploring the world as a makers and scientist in no time. Students will explore light, sound, motion, graphs, conductivity, and much more through activities powered by the Science Journal app.

How to integrate Making & Science with Google in your classroom: The Science Journal app makes any Android phone or Chromebook computer into a scientific tool that students can use to collect data on light, sound, and motion. The activities included encourage students to explore the world as scientists and makers. The activities are simple enough for any classroom, and lead the students through understanding how the world around them works. They are a great kick-off to more in-depth studies of light, sound, and motion and teach students how to use the sensors on their phone and computer to collect data.  Most activities take 15-30 minutes, so would be the perfect length for groups of students to visit as a center if you have a few devices for students to use. I love the way each activity thoroughly introduces a concept, and equips students with the tools and understanding for further experimentation and investigation. The activities included are wonderful, but after students have a basic understanding, encourage them to come up with their own investigations of light, sound, and motion.

Students could use the Exploritorium Activities as guides for creating their own investigations and activities to share with the class.

Don’t miss out on the Making and Science YouTube channel, and recommended podcasts. They are AWESOME!

Tips: While the activities reference the Science Journal app for data collection, if you have access to other types of devices you can still use these activities! Just download a light, sound, and motion sensor app and your students can complete any of the activities on the Maker & Science site.

Photomath: Scan math problems for immediate step-by-step instructions

Photomath app: Scan math problems for immediate step-by-step instructions (with handwriting recognition!)

What it is: Photomath is an app available on the App Store and Google Play. With Photomath, students can scan a math problem and learn how to solve it with step by step instructions and an answer. The app includes a photo calculator (take a photo of a math problem, it gets solved in an instant), handwriting recognition, step-by-step instructions, and a smart calculator. For added features, Photomath+ includes complete step-by-step instructions, colorful explanations of the math, and extra math knowledge.

How to integrate Photomath into the classroom: On the surface, the Photomath app might look like the ultimate way for students to “cheat” their learning. After all, they can snap a picture of any math problem, get step-by-step “show your work” instructions, and the answer in an instant. When I look at Photomath, I see each device with the app as another teacher in the classroom. When students get stuck, or need to check their work/understanding, not only do they have access to the answer, but also to the process. They can see exactly where a mistake has been made, and even get an explanation about why the process is what it is. It also changes the math class from being procedures-based, and empowers teachers and students to engage math from a problem-based, practical aspect. Since students have help with the procedure of how to solve a problem, they can engage math as a mathematician, identifying the problem that needs to be solved, using number sense to understand the problem, and with Photomath ensuring that the procedure they apply has been solved correctly. It definitely could change the goal of your math class, rather than just finding the answer, assignments may become more practical application in nature.

Consider using Photomath as a check-in station where students can go through their own work and identify where they may need support. The app offers immediate step-by-step guidance, when students don’t understand the guidance, you know instantly that more teaching is needed.

Tips: If your school has homework, this would be a great app to recommend to parents! When they get stumped, the app can be a sanity saver.

 

Plan It Green: build an energy efficient model city

Plan It Green, the Big Switch: Build an Energy Effient Model City

What it is: Plan It Green, the Big Switch is an online game/simulation from National Geographic that allows students to create their own energy-efficient city of the future. In the game, students build new energy technologies and advance energy research; gain points based on their eco-friendliness, energy production, and citizen happiness; compete with others for the highest city rating; tackle challenges and quests; and explore and build a diverse energy portfolio. Through Plan It Green, students begin to better understand various energy options and can experiment with different energy sources and see their impact through this game/simulation.

How to integrate Plan It Green, the Big Switch into the classroom: This game from National Geographic is a great way to help your students understand different kinds of energy, and think through the ways that the energy we rely on in our daily lives impact the environment. Use Plan It Green, the Big Switch as a provocation for an inquiry unit about energy. The game could be a great catalyst for further research and understanding of energy options and how our decisions impact the rest of the ecosystem. Students can test out theories in this SIM-City like game and watch the way their decisions impact citizens and the larger ecosystem.

Plan It Green would also be a great way to end a unit, after students have learned about different types of energy. This game would be a great simulation reflection to see how different decisions about energy play out.

If you don’t have access to a 1:1 environment, this would make a great center on classroom computers during a study on energy or even for whole-class play on an interactive whiteboard throughout a unit on energy.

I like the way Plan It Green puts students in control of decisions and shows them the consequences (or unintended consequences) of those decisions.

Tips: The downfall of Plan It Green is that it requires a Flash Player, so while students can register for the site using an iPad, actual play requires a Flash enabled browser.

StackUp: track self-directed learning online

Assign and track reading online: StackUp

 

What it is: I’ve written about StackUp before here but, over the last three years, the company has grown up enough that it warrants another post! StackUp has a pretty great back story. Nick Garvin, the founder of StackUp, was fresh out of school and wanted to apply for a job at Tesla Motors. The problem? His traditional resume failed to document the thousands of hours that he spent online in self-taught learning about the automotive industry. This frustration led to the creation of StackUp, a way for Nick (and others like him) to better document self-directed learning. As an educator, StackUp immediately appealed to me for the way that it could capture my own learning. Though I don’t hold a degree in educational technology, my years of independent study should be captured! My blog does a decent job of helping me share my learning with others, but it is still just a small representation of all that I have learned over the years. Similarly, my graphic artist husband has realized that he has a love for industrial design and machining. He has spent hours and hours learning 3D digital design, playing with 3D printers, CAD programs, woodworking, welding, and recently machining with a metal lathe. Though his traditional resume wouldn’t easily reflect it, he has a pretty impressive industrial design background. StackUp is a Chrome browser plugin that tracks everything from personal productivity (I’ve learned I spend way too much of my life in email hell), to verifying independent reading/learning, to helping quantify self-directed learning.

How to integrate StackUp in the Classroom: The beauty of StackUp is that it isn’t one more program to add to your curriculum, it isn’t one more piece of technology that your students have to learn. Simply add the plugin, ask your students to sign in, and it runs automagically in the background while they carry on with their learning. As a teacher, you can login to StackUp and create reading challenges for your students. At Anastasis, we are using these challenges in inquiry to encourage students to spend time on a variety of website types. Right now our students are doing an inquiry on How the World Works. They are inquiring into different types of energy. This lends itself to a lot of research on science websites. The challenges help us encourage the kids to diversify the types of sites they are incorporating into the inquiry block. Yes, we want the kids to be researching the science behind different kinds of energy, but we also want them to explore the history of energy use, the social and economic implications of how we use energy, the current political climate and it’s impact on how we use energy. You know…connective inquiry! StackUp lets our teachers challenge students to diversify their learning in this way by creating a category challenge. Teachers choose categories for students. No matter which websites they visit, if they are included in a category, they will get ‘credit’ for visiting that site. I love the way StackUp works for your classroom, and doesn’t box students into specific requirements for the tracking to work. Teachers can also set up challenges based on a specific website or time spent learning in a category.

One of the unintended consequences of using StackUp with our students, is they way it has added to our Learner Profile. Using StackUp has helped us gain a better understanding of who our students are by uncovering hidden interests that they might have. If a student spends a lot of time in a specific category or on specific websites, StackUp  gives us insight into those passions and interests.

Students (and learners of all kind- teachers count!) can use StackUp to showcase the reading and learning they do online by subject area. At a glance, students can see how much reading they are doing and what topics have been of most interest to them. This can help them discover the things that they are most passionate about, and even help them discover where they waste time. It is pretty revealing when you see how much time you sink into things like email, Facebook, etc. While I appreciate the time to connect with others through social media, I realized that I spend more time there than I probably need to. StackUp can help you manage online time more efficiently by revealing where you spend it.

Students can engage in classroom reading challenges and see how their learning compares to their classmates. This can be used as a motivational element, though we don’t use it this way at Anastasis (inquiry lends itself more to competition with self than competition with others).

One of the things we’ve loved about StackUp is the ability to help parents see the learning that their children are doing online. So often our time spent on devices can appear to be frivolous to those who don’t know what is happening while we are online. With StackUp, parents can see the time students are spending learning and what they are learning about. Of course, if students are spending 90% of their time on gaming sites that tells a story, too.

I really appreciate the way that StackUp helps teachers and students alike metacognate about where and why we spend our time online. It is a great tool to spur on reflection about where we spend time, and what we care most about.

One of the StackUp stories I love was from @SenorG, he talked about students taking a credit recovery class online. One of the things StackUp revealed was for every hour spent on the credit recovery site, students spent 20min on Google Translate. This information was invaluable for those assisting students. It was also valuable information to consider for the credit recovery course platform. Could they better empower students by embedding a translate feature? By translating the whole site? Way cool!

Bottom line: StackUp can help give you insight into your students online reading habits. It gives you a way to see where their learning takes them and how much time they are spending on their online reading/learning. We realized after a few weeks that our students had the bad habit of site hopping. They would start research using Google, but if the answer they were hunting for wasn’t immediately apparent on the site they clicked on, they would go directly back to Google. This helped us realize that we needed to teach students how to search smarter, and that when they arrived at a site, we needed to better equip them with the tools to dive into the learning.

Tips: StackUp is super easy to install, you can do it in under a minute! If you have Google apps, you can do this in under a minute for your whole school! Students can sign in using their existing Google education accounts. Don’t have Google for Education? First, I’m sorry! Second, not to worry, students can sign in using any email address.

The StackUp plugin can be easily turned on or off at any time. All information is private and can be deleted at any time. It is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. Students can choose which information to share on their profile.

StackUp Chromebook

Shout out to StackUp who generously donated a class set of Chromebooks to Anastasis students! Thank you!

 

Are you coming to the 5Sigma Edu Conference in February? If not, you should be! It is the place we were originally introduced to StackUp!

 

Literature-Map: Help students find new authors to fall in love with

Literature Map: Help students find new author to fall in love with

What it is: Literature Map is a literature recommendation system. It is really easy to discover a new author. Start by searching for an author you enjoy, and magically a map of names will appear based on what other readers of that author have read. The closer that two writers are on the map, the more likely it is that you will like both of them. Click on any name on the map to travel further and find more recommendations.

Literature Map- find your next favorite author

How to integrate Literature Map into the classroom: It’s a common problem, a student falls in LOVE with an author and devours everything the author has ever written. Then they come to the end of their journey and a sort of sadness hangs over them, there is nothing more. Enter Literature Map. Students can easily enter the name of the beloved author and discover others they are sure to love, leading them down a rabbit trail of reading utopia! Students can discover new voices, genres, and keep the love of reading alive. Literature Map is a great site to bookmark on classroom computers, in the library, or on student devices.

If your students do an author study, this site could be useful for helping them find related authors and then using Wolfram Alpha to compare the authors they find side by side.

Tips: Hat tip to @michellek107 for sharing this with Anastasis staff this week!

8 of the Best Research Tools for Inquiry

8 of the best research tools for inquiry

As an inquiry based school, Anastasis students (and teachers) spend a LOT of time researching. Our students essentially build their own living curriculum as they follow a line of inquiry. Below are my very favorite research tools for students.

Research platforms:

1. Kiddle– This is a kid-friendly, Google Safe powered search engine. What I appreciate about Kiddle is the ease of use for younger learners. Kiddle searches safe sites that were written FOR kids. Kiddle editors hand choose sites that deliver content that is age-appropriate and written in easy to understand language. Best of all, Kiddle’s image and video searches brings about the results you would expect it to for kids. When a student innocently types in “kitten” looking for cute pictures to add to a presentation, they get actual pictures of the feline variety rather than the scantily dressed woman named “Kitten.” So, winning!

The downside to Kiddle: if you have older students doing research on social justice issues, “sex trafficking statistics in America,” they will get an “Oops” message for questionable language. It might not be robust enough as a research tool for jr. high and high school students depending on the issues being explored.

Kiddle- Safe visual search engine for kids

2. Boolify– The best thing about this Google Safe powered search engine is the way it teaches learners how to correctly use a search engine and how to refine their searches. Boolify teaches this skill by asking them to use keywords and Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in a search to refine results using a drag/drop interface. Students drag elements and follow prompts to learn how to correctly complete a search to get the best possible results.

Boolify- teach students to search smarter

3. Wolfram Alpha– This is not really a search engine, but more of a computational knowledge engine. It is a fantastic tool for comparing information (think people in history, weather in different parts of world, etc), exploring mathematics, units and measures, data/statistical information, science, geography, technology…truly you should just go play with this knowledge computational engine because my description isn’t doing justice to the cool things it does! This is a powerful addition to inquiry. My favorite feature is the ability to compare things side by side. The nature of inquiry often has students exploring relationships between events, people, places, etc., Wolfram makes it really easy to do this!

Using Wolfram Alpha for Inquiry Research

 

4.  Creative Commons– This is a great place to search for images, videos, sounds that are listed under the Creative Commons license that lets learners find content they can share, reuse, and mix into something new. The caution I would add here for kids: Anyone can list content under the Creative Commons license and depending on the search, some questionable material may pop up. This one is best used with supervision! Creative Commons is a great place to start a conversation about licensing and using content created by others.

Creative Commons Search

Resources to help learners work through research independently

5. Michael Friermood who writes The Thinker Builder has a great graphic organizer to help learners work toward independence in their research. You can find it HERE.

Inquiry Research Graphic Organizer from The Thinker Builder

 

6. Create a culture of thinking by giving your learners the tools to help them through a variety of thinking routines. This is an awesome resource when students hit a wall with a “closed” inquiry question (one that is too narrow and has one answer). It is equally useful when students aren’t sure how they can expand their research. These thinking routines will help them “open” questions and think from new vantage points and angles that may set them off down a path of new or expanded inquiry.

Tracy Ann Clark created this fun-to-use, and great resource for helping learners explore these thinking routines…because who doesn’t love a cootie catcher?! Find it HERE.

Visible Thinking Routines Cootie Catcher Tracy Ann Clark

 

7. Anatomy of a Google Search- this PDF helps learners understand the how and why behind a search.

Download the PDF HERE.

Anatomy of a Search- Free PDF Download

8. Google Modifiers cheat sheet- this is a good one to explore with students and then hang on the wall as a reminder!

Download the PDF HERE.

Google Modifier Cheat Sheet for Students

Want to learn more about how we run our inquiry powered k-8 classrooms at Anastasis? Join us for our conference in February! 5Sigma Education Conference

Which One Doesn’t Belong? K-12 Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Which One Doesn't Belong? Math sets

What it is: Which One Doesn’t Belong? is a site I learned about from @TeamBaldwin today. This math site is for students of all ages and challenges them to look at a set of four images and determine which image doesn’t belong and justify their answer. The best part of this site is that each problem has multiple correct responses that can be justified. Students have to think through the differences that they see and then make logical decisions and be able to explain it to others. There are three different categories for Which One Doesn’t Belong including: Shapes, Numbers, Graphs and Equations.

How to Integrate Which One Doesn’t Belong? in your classroom: My favorite part about this site is that there are multiple answers for each set. Students can see how perspective and which attributes you are looking at can change the answer. The site is a great catalyst for critical thinking and problem solving in math (or any) class. Put a problem set up on a projector as a math class starter and ask your students to independently choose their answer and be ready to justify it. Then, as a class, discuss answers. After students have done this once, challenge them to find as many possible answers as they can independently before sharing responses. This site would be a great tie-in with the humanities to discuss perspective and vantage point. Even in something that feels as static as math, perspective can actually make any problem quite dynamic.

Yesterday, @TeamBaldwin used the site this way:

Which One Doesn't Belong? Math setsWhich One Doesn't Belong? Math setsWhich One Doesn't Belong? Math sets

This is a class of kindergarten and first grade students! @michellek107 will be blogging more about the class experience on the class blog, Architects of Wonder if you’d like to read more.

Tips: The graphs and equations appear quite challenging, but even young students can begin making observations about the types of graphs that could lead to some higher-level math discussions.