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.

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!

Check123: Video Encyclopedia


What it is: Check 123 is a new video encyclopedia site for kids. All videos are validated and ranked by Check123 professionals, are 1-3 minutes in length, and a curated on just about any subject you can think of.  Broad topics covered on Check123 include: history, sports, politics, food, performing arts, economics, earth, nature, tech, philosophy, music, cars, pets, human body, arts, geography, religion, psychology, TV, gaming, science, literature, fashion, media, and space.

How to integrate Check 123 into your classroom: Check123 is a great place for students to begin their research. These videos are between 1 and 3 minutes each, keeping students engaged in a topic and giving them bite-size information. I like that the videos are so well curated, it keeps search results on topic rather than the endless dig for quality content that can happen in a YouTube  search. Check123 videos are also wonderful as provocations for further inquiry. The short format gives students just enough information to whet their appetites and encourage additional questioning. Check123 is a great one to keep bookmarked on classroom and library computers for quick reference.

Video is the preferred learning method of 90% of our students at Anastasis, when they do a search, they usually begin on a video site. With Check123, they are sure to get some quality results back to kick start their learning and research.

Tips: Check123 is free for teachers!

Get Qurious: Interactive and Digital Play Kit

Get Qurious: Interactive and Digital Play Kit



What it is: Get Qurious is a company who’s goal is to keep kids curious, creative, and expressive by combining technology and play. The Get Qurious Maker Box is packed full of interactive play opportunities. In this box, the story of the Three Little Pigs comes to life in ways like never before with interactive games, puzzles, and activities that encourage creativity and discovery. Students can scan physical play pieces with the Get Qurious app and the play pieces come magically to life. In the box students will find story cards, masks, a puzzle, and a sticker book. Each piece comes to life when scanned in the app. The story cards help students sequence the story, and bring the story of the 3 Little Pigs into animated life. When students put on the masks, they become part of the story through augmented reality, students can tap the microphone button to record themselves as they re-inact the story. The puzzle building activity lets students build their own house. The pieces of the puzzle can be scanned to bring the house to life in 3D. The reusable stickers in the sticker book let kids create their own version of the Three Little Pigs.

How to integrate Get Qurious Maker Box into the classroom: The Get Qurious set brings the story of the Three Little Pigs alive in new and fun ways. I particularly like the way students are encouraged to think about story sequence, how they can remix the story to highlight a different point of view and characters, and the way they can become part of the story. This set is a wonderful way to bring the joy of reading to life. Students can interact with the familiar story as a center activity, or as a take-home kit. If you teach in the primary classroom, Get Qurious could be a great kit to send home with students throughout the year. A lot of times, parents may not have time to, or simply don’t, read with their children at home. The Get Qurious kit is engaging enough that you won’t have to “convince” your students to go home and read. The kit encourages exploration and discovery and combined with the app, leads students through the familiar story in new ways. For your struggling or reluctant readers, the Get Qurious app really shines because it offers immediate reading support as they scan story cards in the app. Students can record their reaction to the story, or expand on the story to tell it from a different point of view. They can also practice re-mixing the story using the re-usable sticker book and app.


While I love the intent behind Get Qurious, a few cautions: 1) It is called the Get Qurious Maker Box. The name is a bit of a misnomer, it definitely isn’t what you think of when you think of the Maker Movement. While it does blend technology and play, I wouldn’t call it a Maker Box. If you are looking for resources for your Maker Space, this isn’t it. This kit is better billed as a blended learning play kit.  2) The recommended ages are 4-9 years old. I think it appeals more to the 3-7 age range. This is best for prek through second grade classes.

Get 20% off your purchase by signing up for the Get Qurious newsletter!

Get Qurious was generous enough to send me a kit to explore for this blog post. Thanks Get Qurious!

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.

Swift Playground: Apple’s free app that teaches kids to code!

Swift Playground Learn to Code Apps on your iPad!

What it is: Swift Playground is an awesome new app from Apple that teaches kids how to code in Swift. This free app for iPads uses games to teach kids Apple’s coding language used to create apps. Students can drag and drop code, and easily edit the code to customize it. The code can be instantly run so students can test out their code and see if it works. Best of all, in those instances that the code they put together doesn’t work, Swift Playground has debugging tools and hints built-in to help students rectify any problems. Students can also code with Swift from scratch making the app endlessly adaptable to any skill level.

How to integrate Swift Playground into your classroom: Swift Playground requires no previous coding knowledge, making it the perfect tool for learning how to code. For those students who have experience with coding, Swift Playground is robust enough for even seasoned programmers to bring new ideas to life. Swift Playground begins with a series of challenges to help students master the basics, students use code to help characters navigate a 3D world. When the challenges have been mastered, students can build and manipulate their own code to dream up new creations. Use Swift Playground to get your students thinking logically and solving problems from new perspectives. The skills built as students learn to code are the same skills that will help students in other disciplines like math and science. I love the way Swift Playground starts out by giving students a fun environment of challenges to learn the basics of Swift, but also allows them the flexibility of drag and drop code, and allowing students to edit and write their own code. Swift Playground even features a special keyboard that includes the most common coding characters so that students don’t have to hunt through keyboards to find what they are looking for. As students advance in their skills, they can use code templates that allow customization with code. Beyond what most learning platforms allow, students will be able to adjust multi-touch interactions, the accelerometer, and the gyroscope. These features and abilities are such an awesome tie-in to conversations about complex math and physics! When students are finished with their creation, they can share it with others using Messages, Mail, or Airdrop. Students can even post videos of their creation for others to see! For those who are really soaring, Swift Playground code can be exported to Xcode (where the pros create apps).

Swift Playground-Learn to code on the iPad

Many classrooms don’t yet have time built into the day that is dedicated to coding. But perhaps once a week you use coding in math class as applied math, or use Swift Playground as part of a 20% time offering in your classroom. If those are unavailable, consider participating in Hour of Code.  Play with Swift Playground yourself and you’ll start recognizing tie-ins with other learning that your students are doing. When your students are proficient with coding in Swift Playground, they can start creating and reflecting on learning with the code they know.  Swift Playground is a fantastic resource to have available as part of your Maker Space! Maybe they create a new game to help them remember vocabulary, or math facts. Perhaps they build a world based on a historical event. Once those basics are mastered the application possibilities are endless!

Tips: Everyone can code! This isn’t a skill that only a few should possess. Even the youngest students can use Swift Playground, I’m talking kindergarten can use this app! If you are new to the concept of code, check out this crash course from Apple.

World Education Games 2015! Math, Literacy, Science

What it is: You guys, the World Education Games is back again, taking place around the world October 13-15, 2015! More than 5 million students from over 200 countries and territories will participate in the games for 2015. This is an exciting online challenge for students around the world. The competition begins tomorrow and continues through October 15. The World Education Games includes World Literacy Day, World Math Day (which has been around since the first World Education Games), and World Science Day. Just by participating through the answering of questions, students will be earning UNICEF points which are converted into money that goes directly toward supporting UNICEF education programs where class and school resources are desperately needed.

In World Literacy Day, students will enter the Spellodrome to compete with students from around the world. A sentence will be read aloud and it is the student’s job to spell the missing word.

For World Maths Day, students will enter Mathletics, to compete with students around the world. This is a place for students to practice and work on math fluency speed and accuracy.

World Science Day will bring students to the IntoScience dashboard where students will test their knowledge with a panel containing 16 question boxes, split into four categories of science. Each question is worth one, two or thee points based on the difficulty. In this game, you must answer faster than your opponents.

How to Integrate World Education Games into your classroom: I love the World Education Games for the fun way that it helps students (k-12) practice facts in math, spelling, and science knowledge. This makes drill/skill infinitely more fun. Students can practice with their own classmates and with those around the world. When I was still in the classroom, World Math Day was a time of year that students looked forward to. They ASKED for homework (can I keep playing at home?). True story. The kids loved finding out which country they would be paired with. It was always very motivating to see someone half way around the world playing the same game at the same time. My students worked hard to see if they could be paired with someone on every continent before the Games were over. Keep track of the countries  that your students get matched with on a Google Map or on the printable maps offered on the World Education Games Website.

For at least one week, ditch the worksheets (or do it like we do at Anastasis and ditch them every day!) and practice math facts and spelling with fun games instead. This is a few days of fun, friendly competition for your students. The adjacent learning opportunities during the World Education Games is great (similar to what the Olympic games brings!). Geography, math, spelling, and science investigations are the obvious adjacent possible. This year, UNICEF is partnering in on the Games and the points that your students earn goes toward a very worthy cause, for every point your students earn, money is being donated to UNICEF for education. In addition to the drill/skill, your students can inquire into the Power of One (as our students at Anastasis Academy are doing), or can inquire into organizations that make a difference in the world (like UNICEF) and explore the social issues that these types of organizations are working to solve.

Tips: Using an Android or iPads in the classroom? World Games Day has Apps for that! Download the Mathletics app here for free!


Virtual Escape Room

Virtual Escape Room

What it is: I’m telling you, the edublog alliance I created in 2010 is like the gift that keeps on giving. Year after year I continue to be inspired, excited, and made to think by my edublog alliance PLN! These are my go to blogs before all others! Karen Ogen recently posted about a Virtual Escape room. It is so much fun, I had to share here as well on the off-chance you don’t already follow Karen’s blog (iTeach with Technology). Virtual Escape Room is reminiscent of the Clue Rooms or Escape Rooms that are popping up all over the US (I assume they are happening overseas, can anyone confirm that?). These real-life rooms are not only fun, they are a great way for students to think critically and problem solve together. The premies of the rooms is this: You find yourself locked in a room and, using the clues in the room, must find your way out. There are props, puzzles, and clues all over the room and a time limit. The Arizona Science Collaborative has created a virtual version of the escape room (cue cheers from me!). While a real-life escape room would be amazing, often this is not a realistic school field-trip because of funding, class size, and transportation. Enter the virtual version!

How to use Virtual Escape Room in your classroom: The Virtual Escape Room is a great way for your students to work in small groups to solve a mystery together using critical thinking and problem solving. Students must work together to find their way out of a dark virtual room using the clues in the room and solving some puzzles. Students learn how to work together in teams, communicate effectively, go through the scientific method, and solve problems creatively. Put students together in groups of 3-4 students to solve these problems on classroom computers, using an interactive whiteboard as a center, or on individual devices. Before completing the room, discuss what makes a good team member. How can we best solve problems together quickly? Students can go through the room together. Find out which team can get through the virtual challenge the most quickly. Follow up with discussion about what clues they used, how the students worked together as a team, and what things slowed them down. How was the scientific method used?

Tips: If you aren’t familiar with Breakout/Escape rooms, check out http://www.breakoutedu.com to find out how other teachers are creating their own! The virtual room could be a great introduction to a larger room. Even better, introduce your students to this idea using the virtual room, and ask them to create their own escape room challenge (in-real-life) for each other!

SumBlox: explore number relationships through visual/kinesthetic play

** This is not a sponsored post, I’m just super excited about this product and can’t wait to see what our students do with it!

What it is: Why yes, this is a technology blog. But no, this manipulative is not a technology product. I’m writing about SumBlox here anyway because technology led to the happy discovery of SumBlox and is a great reminder of why it is important to be a connected educator! I learned about SumBlox just a few weeks ago on Twitter as a share from ISTE from @michellek107 and @sumblox. This also isn’t a free tool (like I normally share), but I’m already so impressed by the brilliance of this tool, that I’m sharing it anyway!

SumBlox are a wooden block set of numbers 1-10. What makes those blocks and numbers super amazing: each block size corresponds to the number that it represents. (1 being the smallest and 10 the biggest). Even more super amazing, when the blocks are stacked, they represent the equivalent number. For example, when the 2 and 3 blocks are stacked, they are the same height as a 5 block! GENIUS!! These blocks are a visual and kinesthetic representation of our base-ten number system.

I purchased the Educational Set for our classrooms which comes with 100 solid hardwood blocks including: Thirty 1 blocks; twelve 2 blocks; eight each of the 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 blocks; two 10 blocks and four teaching manuals. The purchase was right around the $300 mark with free shipping and a 10% discount with the code “sumfun.”

SumBlox- Explore number relationships through visual/kinesthetic play

How to use SumBlox in the classroom: These blocks allow students to visually represent and discover math relationships. Students can stack blocks to explore and visualize addition equations, if the stacks are the same height, they also have equivalent values. Students can stack multiples of a number to represent abstract math concepts like multiplication grouping or addens of ten. Students can also explore the concept of fractions and of the mathematics behind adding fractions with different denominators by stacking and scaling fractions. SumBlox also are a fantastic introduction to algebra concepts.

The educational set comes with 4 guides that lead you (the teacher) through exercises and lessons to do with your students. While these are extremely well done, because we are inquiry based, my excitement comes in seeing how students will explore these independently first. I’m excited to see students discover the number/size relationships and number patterns.

At Anastasis, we have a 1:1 iPad program. I anticipate that students will use these blocks for stop-motion animation projects as they explore (iMotion HD is the app they use), capture their discoveries of number relationships in their eportfolio (we use Evernote), and even in Explain Everything videos.

Tips: If you are an administrator purchasing these for your school, go ahead and purchase a few of the educator kits. I only purchased one and am already going back to order one for each classroom. These are going to be popular!

Ozobot: game pieces with brains

What it is: “Oh my gosh! This is SO AWESOME!!” – Exclamation from a student upon playing with the Ozobot for the first time.

Last week, I got an Ozobot in the mail…I couldn’t wait to play! These little robots are game pieces with brains. They are about the size of a large bouncy ball and kids can interact with these little robots in a variety of ways. Right out of the box, the Ozobot is ready to use. After a quick calibration (which consists of holding down the power button and setting on a “dot” card) the Ozobot is ready to play and learn with. Ozobot reacts to color codes. The color codes have already been programmed which means that your students can use those codes to create their own games and challenges. Red, blue, green, and black markers can be used to create their own challenges, games, and courses for the Ozobot. In addition to your student’s imaginations, the Ozobot website has pre-made mazes and games that can be downloaded and printed out. The Ozobot can also interact with your iPad or Android devices, download the Ozobot app and you suddenly have a lot more ways to interact with the Ozobot!

How to integrate the Ozobot into your classroom for learning: The Ozobot is a great way to teach your students the basic building blocks of coding. While they won’t actually use code to make Ozobot move, the color codes teach students to think like a programmer. Students start to realize that they can make the Ozobot move and react based on their input of different colors. Before you give your students the OzoCode sheet (which can be downloaded from the Ozobot website), use the color card included with the Ozobot and ask your “scientists” to observe this strange new discovery. Students can play the part of scientist and record observations about what Ozobot does in reaction to the different colors and codes on the maze. Can they reproduce some of these behaviors on their own drawings for Ozobot? Next, give them the color code reference chart and let them experiment with the different color codes. IF they make a red and blue dot next to each other THEN what does Ozobot do? Help students think in terms of IF/THEN and not only will they get practice with the scientific method, they will also get some great building blocks for coding. Students can use the color codes to design their own mazes and challenges for the Ozobot, they can even create their own games! The Ozobot kit that I received is from the Competition Series and included two Ozobots and some Ozoskins (so that you can tell them apart). Students could create large self correcting math or vocabulary puzzles for Ozobot to solve. They can write down the question and try to “beat” Ozobot to the correct answer. Each student can create a problem and they can be used as a center game…Beat Ozobot. Ozobot can move, set timers, pause, exit and win, count down, walk backward, spin, zigzag, etc. While it travels to the correct answer on the sheet of paper based on the path drawn, students have to try to solve the problem first. A fun digital buddy to practice math, vocabulary, geography, etc. with!


Tips: Ozobot is also a pretty great dancer. It should definitely be included in any classroom dance party!