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Crypto Kids

What it is: Crypto Kids is a website created by the National Security Agency all about creating and breaking codes.  This is a fantastic critical thinking website that also taps into math, linguistics, engineering, and analyzing skills.  I found Crypto Kids while I was hunting for an activity for students to learn more about codes as part of our Treasures reading series.  Crypto Kids turns out to be an excellent site for all elementary classrooms.  Students learn all about cryptology, the National Security Agency, and ciphers.  Students get the chance to meet the characters of Crypto Kids which include: Crypto Cat, Decipher Dog, Rosetta Stone, Slate, Joules, T. Top, and the leader CSS Sam.  Students can play logic games to test out their code breaking skills.  There are three levels of game play beginner, intermediate, and advanced.   As students play games, they will learn Morse Code, complete brainteasers that involve math and logic, create their own cipher machines, crack Yardleygrams and cryptograms, and learn some words in different languages.  Students can then learn more about careers that use cryptograms and code breaking at the National Security Agency. How to integrate Crypto Kids into the classroom: Crypto Kids is packed full of thinking and logic games and activities, many of which involve mathematical problem solving.  Crypto Kids games and activities are a great way to get your students thinking critically before math class.  Put one of the brain teasers up on the projector connected computer or interactive whiteboard for students to solve as a warm up activity.  Crypto Kids games are short enough that they could be used as a math center activity on classroom computers.  Students can visit the center in pairs or small groups and work on solving cryptograms together.  The Yardleygrams are stories that must be solved, these are fun to solve as a whole class. Since I was using this site to build background knowledge about codes with my students, we focused on what secret codes were, how they were used, and cracked some codes for practice.  As an extension activity, I had students read the descriptions of the characters on Crypto Kids and write a short story about the character.  These turned out great!  Students have to use the character qualities that are written and craft a story about the character, paying attention to how they think the character would act and what special skills they could use to solve a problem. Tips: Check out the Teacher/Parent section of the site for some additional resources. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Crypto Kids in your classroom.

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Algebra Lab

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Science, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 01-10-2012

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What it is:  Algebra Lab may not be much to look at graphically speaking, but the resources here are pretty stupendous!  Algebra Lab was created by Mainland High School teachers in partnership with Georgia Southern University and a host of student assistance.  The site includes really well done lessons, activities, practice pages (online), study aids, glossary, and word problems.  Algebra Lab is like a free, living textbook.  It has enough substance to help students work their way through algebra, while understanding the connections to how that algebra is used in a practical sense.  I didn’t appreciate Algebra until I took physics and chemistry.  When I saw what those equations I learned were actually used for, I could appreciate the learning requirements in algebra.  Algebra Lab does a beautiful job of helping students learn algebra within a context so that they really get a grasp of what these numbers are doing.

How to integrate Algebra Lab into your curriculum: I have enjoyed watching the debate over Algebra unfold in the last year or so.  One side of the argument asks if it is really necessary that EVERY child be required to take algebra.  The other side argues that algebra has great thinking skills that it develops, it gives students additional tools to understand the world through math.  I’m not sure where I land on this debate.  I don’t know that I believe that algebra should be a requirement for every child, and yet I think that my exposure to algebra was valuable.  Maybe the debate just needs to be reframed…HOW should algebra be taught?  I’m all for things being taught within context.  If you can teach any subject in a way that sheds light on other learning it is valuable.  I love when students make the connections between something like ratios and a site like Miniature Earth.  They not only get excited about the math (yes, really) they see a purpose for wanting to learn more about how it works.  Sometimes I think our job of teachers is really to help students see the overlaps that occur in learning so that they can make connections and have a cause to want to dig deeper.

I digress…

Algebra Lab is a great resource for math (and non-math) teachers.  Here you will find lessons, activities, word problems and practice opportunities for students.  Students can directly access the site, or you (the teacher) can pull ideas out to use within any other teaching you are doing.  The site is great for students to explore on their own (blended learning algebra style) or with guidance from a teacher.  As a non-math teacher, I appreciate the way the site helps me think like a math teacher.  It reminds me how all of these pieces connect to other learning.

Tips: If you have a one-to-one setting, students can practice directly on the website for immediate feedback.  Very helpful!

***Want to do your part as a CHANGE MAKER in personalized education?  Check out, support and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Algebra Lab in your classroom!

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