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!

Shocking! The real purpose of your life! or What are we preparing for?

Today @lancefinkbeiner shared this video with me.  It is too good not to share!  Now…how to make this the reality of what learning is really about in schools.  I can’t tell you how often in education that the answer for why something is done is, “we are preparing kids for…”  For example, we give 3 hours of homework to elementary students because we are “preparing them for middle school.”   In middle school we give additional homework and weekly tests because we are “preparing them for high school.”  High school has it’s own set of ridiculous standards in preparation for college.

My question: when are we preparing kids for life?  When are we preparing them to engage in the world around them?  When are we preparing them for healthy relationships with others?  When are we preparing them to ask good questions and seek answers?  When are we preparing them for what to do with failure?

The problem for preparing kids for the next system they will encounter is that the next system isn’t really the goal.  That goal is this imaginary place we call “success” and “perfection”.  Neither exist.  How do we prepare kids to live honest, meaningful lives?  THAT is what I am interested in preparing for.

Study Blue

What it is: Study Blue is a very handy study tool for high-school and college students that works the way they do.  Students can use it to store notes and create flashcards.  Study materials are then accessible anywhere that students have an internet connection and even from their phone.  Best of all, it is free to sign up and get started!  Study Blue helps students study more efficiently by keeping track of what students have already mastered, and what they still need work on.  This makes studying focused and productive.  Students can easily create flashcards based on their notes and use those flashcards to study online or from their phone.  Study Blue is logically organized (by class) making keeping track of study materials easy.  Students can invite classmates to add to the notes or study materials from within Study Blue. Students can even upload notes they have taken outside of Study Blue. As students are creating flashcards and notes, they can enter text, audio recordings, and images. Even better, Study Blue has a library of special characters that can be inserted into notes and flashcards-perfect for math and language studying.

How to integrate Study Blue into the classroom: What makes Study Blue so brilliant, is the way that it works for students.  The features within Study Blue are robust enough to stay up with students needs, but simple enough that it will get used often.  Study Blue is a must-recommend to students. I love the way that Study Blue pays attention to what has already been mastered, and works with students to strengthen study habits.  The ability to share within Study Blue means that students can work together to share resources, collaborate, and tackle their studying.  It may be worth creating a teacher account to share lecture notes with students via Study Blue.   Study Blue is a great way to help your students stay organized, and make the most of their study time in a way that makes sense for them.  It is flexible enough to work for any student!

Tips: Students will need an email address to sign up for an account on Study Blue.  Study Blue is a free service to use, they also have an upgrade version that lets students compare notes with others, print notes, combine flash card decks, etc.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Study Blue in your classroom



What it is: HippoCampus is a website with incredible vision.  The goal is to provide high-quality multimedia content on general subjects to high school and college students free of charge.  Subjects on HippoCampus include algebra, American government, biology, calculus, environmental science, physics, psychology, religions, statistics, and US history.  Each of the subject has a large library of multimedia content from students to learn from.  HippoCampus was designed as part of the Open Education Resources, a worldwide effort to make education available equitably to everyone.  Each lesson includes multimedia lessons, the text of the lesson, and related resources.  I believe the HippoCampus model will be the textbook of the future.  Students are able to learn at their own pace, pausing, reviewing, and receiving instruction on demand.

How to integrate Hippo Campus into the classroom: HippoCampus has an incredible library of content for teaching and learning.  Use the multimedia lessons in place of traditional textbooks or as a supplement to your current curriculum. Teachers can build their own HippoCampus homepage where students can access specific lessons targeted for them.  You can even create custom announcements to be displayed to students.   Although HippoCampus was designed with high school and college students in mind, many of the multimedia presentations could be used to teach middle school students as well.

Tips: HippoCampus uses Adobe Flash and QuickTime.  Make sure that you have each on your computers before using HippoCampus.

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


 Some school years start out much bumpier than others.  This year has definitely been a bumpy one for me.  Nothing seems to be working the way it should, the kids are disappointed that in the first 4 weeks of school they have not had computers available in computer class.  I am feeling frustrated at the lost teaching time (so many things to fit into a 35 min. once a week class!)  This weekend one of my professors from my college (Colorado Christian University) days spoke at church.   Sid Buzzel was/is one of the most influential educators in my life and one the I deeply respect.  He came to teach about education.  It was exactly what I needed, I loved hearing his passion for education and his explanation to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children why he is an educator.  He reminded me of why I am an educator.  I miss being taught on a regular basis by Sid.  The church recorded Sid’s inspirationalwords.  I highly recommend this podcast.   I’m sure it won’t take long to figure out why this man made such an impact on me and my teaching career.  I’m ready to press on through the problems and teach my students…with or without computers! 🙂  Take a break, put your feet up and get renewed.  Let me know what you think and tell us about the influential educators in your world.   



What it is: I’m not generally one to get excited about math especially algebra, geometry, and *uggh* calculus. But, I think if I had access to a tool like GeoGebra I might have enjoyed them (or at least understood them) more. GeoGebra is a free dynamic geometry system that lets students complete constructions with points, vectors, segments, lines, conic sections, and functions and change them dynamically afterward. Equations and coordinates can also be entered directly; this means that GeoGebra has the ability to deal with variables for numbers, vectors and points, finds derivatives and integrals of functions and offers commands like Root or Extremum. (If you didn’t catch that you are not a high school math teacher *wink*). If you are a high school or college math teacher or know someone who is…that description just made you feel a little excited. GeoGebra is a free multi-platform download.

How to integrate GeoGebra into your curriculum: Use GeoGebra to help your students understand complicated or abstract math concepts. This software is amazing for your visual learners…again a reason this should have existed when I was in school! Allow your students to explore math concepts with this software and to practice their learning. You can also use GeoGebra to create dynamic math worksheets for your students. Very cool!

Tips: Make sure to check out the examples section for some great GeoGebra uses. You can also attend free online workshops to learn how to use GeoGebra. For some great ideas and further explanation of GeoGebra check them out on Wikipedia.

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