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!

Adobe Forms Center: Create & Share Interactive Forms

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What it is: Sometimes I come across a useful site and think, “how in the world is it possible that I haven’t discovered this before?”  That happened today with Adobe Form Central.  This free web application lets you create pdf’s that are actually web forms that can be filled out directly on the pdf.  Fancy.  Forms Central has a huge bank of templates that you can start with including a section just for education.  These are mostly application, appointment, quiz type forms.  But the best…the ability to create your own custom pdf form! Design items include text fields, date fields, email fields, single choice, multiple choice, drop down menu, single check box, rating scale, file attachments, formatted text, images, and page or section breaks.  When you have finished with the form you can set the form up to automatically email recipients, redirect them to a new url, or include a confirmation message.  You can even collect payments through PayPal (I’ll tell you why I find that feature useful!).  When you are ready to distribute your form you can email the link, embed the form or share on Twitter.  From within form central, you can view responses and save to Excel or as a PDF.  You can even sort responses from within Forms Central.

How to integrate Form Central into the classroom:  The obvious (and boring) use of Forms Central for education is for creating quizzes and tests.  Pass.  I’m not interested in using it that way so the custom feature is where I head.  Form Central is a great place for you to create a guided inquiry form where students can view the current inquiry question and fill in their own lines of inquiry and thoughts as they begin into a new unit.  Answers are collected in one place so that you can go through with your class and discuss options.  This could be a great twist on the ideation step in design thinking!

Forms Central could be used to create customized rubrics that you and your students can fill in.  Again, the great feature here is that everything is collected in one spot!  Students can create and use forms to collect scientific or mathematical data that can be analyzed and evaluated later.

Students can create their own custom surveys for collaborative projects and easily distribute their forms and collect answers.  Our students created their own not-for-profit (LSGW Foundation), because they occasionally host fundraisers, Forms Central would be really useful for collecting information and donations online.  The ability to connect the form to a PayPal account where they can collect donations is fantastic!

The PayPal function could also be used by you at the beginning of the school year.  If you’re like us, you have parents fill out loads of Q&A’s at back to school night so that you can get to know the family and child better.  You could include a short wish-list of items that you would like for your classroom.  Parents could choose to donate monetarily to your classroom fund through your forms.  Forms Central also gives them an easy one-stop place to quickly fill out all of the information online.

Do you host an after school club or tutoring?  Use Forms Central to create your application/enrollment form and collect payment at once.

Have your students evaluate your class using a course evaluation (template), collect feedback from colleagues at a conference where you hosted a session, collect interest for a new offering in your classroom, create a risk assessment sheet…the sky is the limit for what you can create.

One of my favorite things about the start of the school year at Anastasis Academy is the Learning Profile that we create for each of our students.  We survey students to learn about their multiple intelligence strengths, brain dominance, learning style preferences, and interests and passions.  Forms Central would be a really great way to collect all of this information (at least until the Learning Genome is finished!).

Tips:  You may be wondering…why not just use Google forms?  I love Google forms, I really do.  But Forms Central gives options that Google does not.  Those options are appealing to me on a number of levels!  The bank of templates they have to start from is also super helpful when time is an issue.

Are you using Forms Central in your classroom?  Share your experience in the comments below!


What it is: In a word…awesome! Skitch is an amazing new (beta) application created by Plasq. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to let the Skitch creators SHOW you what Skitch is and does. Watch the video below for a quick run down of Skitch.

How to integrate Skitch into the classroom: Skitch is a great training tool. Skitch lets you capture any screen (or portion of a screen) and add your own notes, doodles, etc. Put together tutorials for your students on any computer related subject. Skitch is also a cool tool for students to use. Teach your students to use Skitch. They can use Skitch for research projects, to show another student how they solved a problem, or even as a place to take notes. All of your Skitch content can be saved as a picture file on the computer, saved on the web, or emailed. Students can embed Skitch onto their blogs. Once you start using Skitch, you will think of a million every day uses for it (BTW, share those with us as you come up with them!). It is so intuitive and easy to use!

Tips: I should mention that Skitch is only available right now for Mac’s. If you don’t have a Mac you should…this is yet another reason! 🙂

Update 1/31/2008:

When using Skitch in my computer lab, I used Remote Desktop to push the Skitch  application to all of the student computers.  I set up one Skitch account for each grade I teach.  This way, when students upload to the web, it goes to one page.  This was the best solution for my lab since I teach k-5 many of my students don’t have email addresses to set up their own Skitch account.  

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Skitch in your classroom.



What it is: Zoho is a free office productivity suite. Zoho Writer is an online word processor with collaboration features. There is no download or install, just sign up to start creating documents. Zoho Sheet is an online spreadsheet application where students can create and share spreadsheets on the web. Zoho Show is an online presentation tool to create, edit, publish and show presentations. Zoho Notebook allows you to create, aggregate, and collaborate on content online. Zoho Planner is an online organizer to maintain your todo’s, reminders, notes, and attachments. Zoho Meeting allows for desktop sharing, web conferencing, online meetings, and remote assistance.

How to integrate Zoho into your classroom: Zoho is an amazing tool. Use in place of office suites that require expensive licensing. What is helpful for the classroom is the ability for students to collaborate on projects. Students can begin a project at school and easily access it later at home.

Tips: Sign up requires an email address, if your students do not have an email address, set up a special email account just for Zoho (you can set up one email address that all students use, as long as they have different usernames this shouldn’t be a problem.)