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Thinking Blocks: Model math word problems with virtual mantipulatives

What it is:  Thinking Blocks is a great find by @matthewquigley who was nice enough to share his find and let me take the credit (I may have made up that last part…).  Thinking Blocks lets students model and solve math word problems by using online virtual blocks to visualize the problems in new ways.  Thinking Blocks includes blocks to model addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, and ratios.  On the Modeling Tools tab, students will find modeling tool videos on addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, ratios, decimals and percents, and algebra.  These thinking blocks were developed by Colleen King as she worked to help her students in their Singapore Math program.  While the concept of modeling word problems with the blocks is most closely associated with Singapore Math curriculum, it can be used to support any math program and is especially helpful to use with visual learners.  Students can use virtual blocks to model known and unknown quantities.  By modeling in this way, students are better prepared for moving from arithmetic to algebraic thinking because they learn how to break complex problems into their simplest form.   The activities on the Thinking Block website includes guided and independent practice opportunities.  The tutorials can be used for guided instruction.  Videos show worked examples from each section (addition, multiplication, division, fractions and ratios.  Progress tracking is built-in (currently this is only per session but the site notes that sometime in September this should be included for multiple sessions).  The Modeling Tool lends itself to independent practice.  Students can choose from hundreds of built-in word problems or enter their own.  Dynamically generated models let students check their own work.  A full screen option is included for use on interactive whiteboards. How to integrate Thinking Blocks into the classroom:  Thinking Blocks is a wonderful website for exploring and demonstrating understanding of word problems.  Visual students will be keen on the ability to visualize math in this way, using the virtual blocks to represent word problems.  Because Thinking Blocks addresses so many different math disciplines, it is a great way to differentiate instruction for students at a variety of levels. Thinking Blocks can be used with the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can take turns working out word problems on the whiteboard while students at their seats work to arrive at a common solution.  Students at the board can “phone a friend” if they need a little extra help or guidance. Thinking Blocks would make a fantastic center activity on classroom computers.  Students could visit the center to practice some word problems and record a reflection about how the blocks enabled them to visualize the problem differently. Be sure to bookmark Thinking Blocks on school computers and let parents know to bookmark the site at home.  I suspect this site could be a life saver for MANY students (I would have been one of them!) Tips: You can adjust the difficulty of each model by adjusting the numbers addressed before students begin an activity. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Thinking Blocks in  your classroom!

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Mural.ly: Google Docs for Visual People

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 03-04-2013

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What it is: Murally is a tool I learned about from my friends over at House of GeniusMurally’s tagline is: “Google Docs for visual people.”  Being highly visual, that description immediately resonates with me!  Murally reminds me a little bit of Wallwisher (now Padlet), it is a way for learners to come together to think, imagine and discuss their ideas.  With Murally, students can create murals and include any content they want in them.  Learners can drag and drop images, video, etc. from any website (or from their computer) onto their mural.   Learners can create presentations from within a mural they have already created.  The best part: this all happens with the ability to collaborate with others.  Murally makes it easy for students to collect, think, imagine, show and discuss learning.  Murals can be made public (shared live with a link) or private (only friends granted permission can access the mural).

*** email address, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus account required for login.  You know what that means: 13 or older!

How to integrate Murally into the classroom: Murally is brilliant in the way that it enables learners to work and dream together.  My FAVORITE feature: you can drag and drop content from ANYWHERE!!! It works like the spring-loaded folders in Apple’s iOS.  LOVE this feature.  Honestly, this ability to clip content is a game changer.  It makes creating a mural incredibly easy.  Stinking brilliant!  

Murally is the tool that I wish existed when I was doing research projects in school.  Students can conduct and collect their research solo or invite friends to contribute to their research mural.  Students can add text, drag and drop links, pictures, video and other content.  After they have gone through the hunting/gathering phase of research, Murally makes it easy for students to go through and mindmap it all into some sort of order.  This tool is going to make me a better writer.  Visually being able to organize research and thoughts is HUGE.

Being inquiry based, I love the idea of beginning a mural for students with the driving inquiry alone on the board.  The learners job: be curious together.  Ask questions, explore, research, collect evidences collaboratively.  Capture all of that learning in one place.

Murally could be used for any mind-mapping appropriate project.  This is mind-mapping in the future.  Truly amazing!  The collaborative nature of Murally is fantastic.

Students could begin a Murally with a novel as the base.  As they read, they can include quotes, related thoughts, pictures, video clips, discussion, and related research.  I’m always amazed by the connections that our students make to other learning, a commercial they have seen, or a song.  Murally is a great way to visually collect all of this to share with others.

Murally would be an outstanding way to hypothesize about what will happen in a science experiment.  Students can then add in any research, class notes, discussion, etc.  After students have conducted the experiment they can include observations, photos, and final conclusions.

Use Murally with a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard for class notes.  As class discussions unfold, notes can be taken for the whole class and shared later.  Students can add to these later with additional learning, thoughts, and plans.

Because Murally can be used to show learning, consider creating map boards where students link what they know of Geography with the cultures, habitats, religions, politics of that area.

Murally would make the COOLEST “textbook” alternative.  Student created, mashup of all different tools, collaborative, discussion included, and organized in the way that makes sense to the learner.

This is one of those tools that has my mind spinning.  The possibilities overlap all subject areas and are endless.

Tips: The collaborative feature of Murally is so well thought out, see history and message collaborators quickly and easily.  Wonderful!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Murally in your classroom.

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