## Which One Doesn’t Belong? K-12 Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

What it is: Which One Doesn’t Belong? is a site I learned about from @TeamBaldwin today. This math site is for students of all ages and challenges them to look at a set of four images and determine which image doesn’t belong and justify their answer. The best part of this site is that each problem has multiple correct responses that can be justified. Students have to think through the differences that they see and then make logical decisions and be able to explain it to others. There are three different categories for Which One Doesn’t Belong including: Shapes, Numbers, Graphs and Equations.

Yesterday, @TeamBaldwin used the site this way:

This is a class of kindergarten and first grade students! @michellek107 will be blogging more about the class experience on the class blog, Architects of Wonder if you’d like to read more.

Tips: The graphs and equations appear quite challenging, but even young students can begin making observations about the types of graphs that could lead to some higher-level math discussions.

## 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!

## Trapped! Punctuation: Punctuation Practice for October

What it is:  I’ve long been a fan of the BBC’s Bitesize games and activities.  They continue to grow and continue to impress me.  I recently ran across the BBC Bitesize Trapped! Punctuation game.  It couldn’t be a more perfect way to practice punctuation in October.  It has all the elements that students will enjoy: a challenge in the form of a story, spooky characters and setting (but not too spooky), a built in extra game challenge to get from one level to the next.  The game begins with a short animation explaining how students got trapped in a tower and how they will solve punctuation puzzles to get free.  Students have to choose the correct punctuation to complete each puzzle.  After they have chosen the punctuation, they have to use some physics/experimentation to get an apple into a hole to move on to the next level.  This is FUN punctuation practice!

How to integrate Trapped! Punctuation into the classroom: Trapped! Punctuation is a fun way for students to practice placement of punctuation in writing. This beats worksheet practice hands down.  I like that the site puts students in the middle of a story and challenge.  Students will have to consider why a punctuation mark is appropriate in each place.  After students choose the punctuation to complete the puzzle, students have an additional challenge of getting an apple into a hole.  There are some very basic physic principles introduced here.  Students have to use the mouse to choose the angle and speed to shoot the apple to get to their goal.  The puzzles get increasingly difficult and add the additional challenge of extra twists and turns to get the apple through.  The second challenge asks students to choose the correct form of punctuation by “herding” crates with the mouse.

I like that these games are not your typical drill and kill.  They aren’t simply choose the right answer and move on.  There is an additional problem solving component built into each game.  Can’t beat that!

Trapped Punctuation would be a great challenge for kids in a one to one computer setting.  Don’t have that luxury? The games are quick enough to be used as a center activity in the one or two computer classroom.  Set up Trapped! Punctuation as one of the centers in the classroom for students to visit as part of their rotation.

Tips: This practice is fun and challenging enough that students may want to continue practice at home.  Be sure to share this link with parents, they are always looking for good uses of home computer time!

Help me personalize education for EVERY child!  Donate and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.

What it is: I just love when I get lost in a bunny trail of links…you know the kind, you go hunting for something specific and click on something that looks interesting which leads you to a browser of 25 tabs open.  I had one of these serendipitous link moments today that lead me to Gamestar MechanicGamestar Mechanic is both a game and an online community that teaches kids how to design their own digital games.  In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.  The free version of Gamestar Mechanic is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students.  This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins.  A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more.
As a teacher you will find sample lessons for using Gamestar Mechanic, an introductory step-by-step guide, and a full learning guide.  Teachers can even play a short quest to learn more about how to use Gamestar Mechanic in the classroom to teach core subjects.

How to integrate Gamestar Mechanic into the classroom:  There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life.  As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing.  Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game.  Gamestar Mechanic could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers.  It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting.  Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth.  It is pretty neat to watch!
Gamestar Mechanic makes it easy for all teachers to incorporate game design into the classroom and weave it into the core subjects being taught.  You don’t have to be a tech-superstar, just create an account, read through the getting started guide and enlist the help of a student who’s passion is game design.  This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking.  It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do.
Students can each create a game of their own in a lab setting where every student has a computer.  If you are limited on your computer options for students, create a game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can create games that incorporate other learning or research they are doing to help teach future classes or younger students.  At Anastasis, we have Crave Classes.  These are classes that the student gets to choose based on personal passions.  In the one or two computer classroom, give your students time for a Crave class where they work on Gamestar Mechanic.  Other students can follow their areas of passion…almost in a center type of a set up.
Tips:  There are a variety of pricing and package options for classrooms.  If your students are really enjoying the game design process, it might be worth taking a look at the premium options available.

## Living Math Book List: Fiction for (almost) every math concept

Happy New Year!!  You may have noticed…I took a tech break for the holidays!  There may not have been an abundance of posts and sharing happening, but I was still collecting away and have more resources than ever to share in 2012.  Thank you all for making my 2011 such a wonderful year to be a part of!

What it is:  You know what I love?  Reading and books. Particularly fiction.  Living Math Book List is a fantastic site that introduces books (mostly fiction) for every math concept (okay, almost every math concept!).  The site is SO easy to use, just click on the “Search categories” tab and choose the math topic your students are working on.  A list of books with links to Amazon is at the ready.  The site is being updated regularly so new books pop into the different categories on occasion.  Isn’t it great to stumble on a new jem-of-a-book that you can use in your classroom? I love teaching through story, and Living Math Book List makes it easy to bring stories into your math class.  Including books in math gives students who struggle with math concepts a new vantage point and understanding.  It makes math meaningful by showing students why they learn the math concepts they do and how math really is all around us.  You have to love that!  Topics include: addition, angles, area, calendars, capacity, combinations, comparisons, counting, skip counting, data collection, division, doubling numbers, equal sets, equations, estimation, even/odd, fractions, graphing, making predictions, matching, measurement, metrics, money, multiplication, negative numbers, opposites, ordinal numbers, patterns, percentages, perimeter, place value, positional words, probability, problem solving, proportions, ratio, reading a schedule, regrouping, rounding, sequences, shapes, sizes, sorting, subtraction, symmetry, time, and weight.  So yeah, something for everyone!
How to integrate Living Math Book List into the classroom:  As I said, I am a big fan of reading and books.  Any time you can tie learning back to story is a win in my book.  Use the books you find on Living Math Book List to introduce new concepts, to enrich students interaction with a concept, as a launching point for writing their own math-related fiction, or just to expose students to a new way of thinking about the math they are learning.  The books make a great classroom read-aloud or can be used as a math center during a unit.
At Anastasis Academy, we made sure to have plenty of these types of math books available to students during silent reading.  They really enjoy reading them with a partner and pointing out the math concepts they recognize along the way.

Tips: Embed the link to Living Math Book List on your class website or blog, this will make it easy for you, and your students, to find math-related books any time.

## Math Puzzles from Math Pickle

What it is: Math Pickle is one of my very favorite math sites.  It goes WAY beyond your traditional math drill and skill games or math problem worksheets, and has students looking into challenging problems, and having fun doing it.   Math Pickle features mathematics videos for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.  The videos feature real students engaging in inspiring math problems and puzzles.  The videos often speak to unsolved math problems throughout history that students work to solve.  In the unsolved problem, students must use developmental level appropriate math to work out the problem.  Math Pickle is the brain child of Dr. Gordon Hamilton who wants to abolish elementary mathematics as a subject and push the idea that problem solving is at the very heart of mathematics.
Recently Gordon (Gord) sent Anastasis Academy his curricular puzzle books.  They are beautifully done!  The puzzle books reveal the beauty in nature that is mimicked in mathematics, math in machines, and slicing fruit based on symmetry.  Our students (and teachers) immediately picked up the books and started flipping through the pages, filled with pictures of insects, fruit, and machines.  They didn’t believe me when I told them they were math books!  The students saw puzzles and problems to be solved and were eager to jump in and do just that.  The BEST way to learn math skills.
The curricular puzzle books are available in PowerPoint form (for projector-connected computers or interactive whiteboards), as PDF documents, or as a Keynote file.  The free files are wonderful for whole class instruction and exploration. You can also purchase the books.  They include higher resolution images and, as I said, they are beautiful!
How to integrate Math Puzzles from Math Pickle into the classroom: Any time students spend solving engaging problems is a win in my book.  These Math Puzzles give students opportunities for problem solving, trial and error, and exploration.  The Math Puzzle books help students start seeing math with new eyes, they start understanding that math is all around them.  Math is in nature, inventions and games.  It makes our world beautiful.
Students who love nature and art will be particularly drawn to these puzzles.
The puzzles make excellent whole class challenges or center activities.  The books are appropriate for 1st through 8th grade and cover topics such as:
• Pattern
• Problem Solving
• Multiplication
• Problems with multiple solutions (not the typical one answer only they are all used to)
• Mirror symmetry
• Rotational symmetry
• Prime Factorization
These are a great way to stretch the brain and discover that there are multiple ways to approach a problem.

Tips: Thank you, Gord!  We love the books and are enjoying problem solving and exploring!

## Math Pickle: Put your students in a pickle encouraging genuine problem solving!

What it is:  Math Pickle is a FABULOUS site for mathematics inspiration that I learned about from @davidwees Reform Symposium session.  Math Pickle features mathematics videos for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.  The videos feature real students engaging in inspiring math problems and puzzles.  The videos often speak to unsolved math problems throughout history that students work to solve.  In the unsolved problem, students must use developmental level appropriate math to work out the problem.  Math Pickle is the brain child of Dr. Gordon Hamilton who wants to abolish elementary mathematics as a subject and push the idea that problem solving is at the very heart of mathematics. The videos featured on Math Pickle do just that, put your students in a math “pickle”.  If you think about the purpose of mathematics, this makes perfect sense.  What we really want is students who are great problem solvers and can use mathematics to help solve those problems.

How to integrate Math Pickle into the classroom: Math Pickle is the most excellent mathematics inspiration I have come across.  It approaches mathematics from the standpoint of a problem solver instead of from the standpoint of a rules follower.  Already that shift in thinking makes my brain happy.  Brilliant.  Math Pickle has problems and videos for every grade kindergarten through twelfth.

Use these videos to pump some inspiration into the way you approach and teach math or show them to your students and encourage them to continue solving the problems.  Don’t forget to film your students working through their own math pickles!

The Inspired page of Math Pickle is a must see.  Students can take a look at what mathematicians do in real life.  They can also learn about the source of Math Pickle problems.

Tips: Be sure to check out Muse, news and reviews for additional ideas, puzzles and reviews of math products, puzzles and games for the classroom.

What it is: Off Road Algebra is a series of video resources focused on pre-algebra and algebra for ninth grade.  This Hot Chalk  unit centers around off-road motorcycle racing.  There are 30 related problems for off-road algebra, each with an accompanying digital resources.

Problem 1: Conversion between gallons and liters

Problem 2: Miles per gallon

Problem 3: Gallons per mile

Problem 4: Velocity x time = distance, Part 1

Problem 5: Velocity x time = distance Part 2

Problem 6 (not available)

Problem 7: Comparing decibels

Problem 8: (not available)

Problem 9: Slopes and Ramps, Part 1

Problem 10: Slopes and Ramps, Part 2

Problem 11: Playing catch up, Part 1

Problem 12: Playing catch up, Part 2

Problem 13: GPS Axis

Problem 14: GPS conversion

Problem 15: GPS distance

Problem 16: Mixing Gas and Oil

Problem 17: Margin of Victory

Problem 18: Lap Time Math

Problem 19: Trac Turn Angles

Problem 20: Number of Revolutions

Problem 21: Inside and Outside a Wheel

Problem 22: Choosing between mean and median

Problem 23: Cylinder Volume

Problem 24: Comparing the Volume

Problem 25: Graphing the Ride

Problem 26: Acceleration, Part 1

Problem 27: Acceleration, Part 2

Problem 28: Acceleration, Part 3

Problem 29: Calculating with the contact patch

Problem 30: Tire Aspect Ratio

How to integrate Off-Road Algebra into the classroom: If you have spent any time in a math classroom, I’m sure you have heard something to the effect of, “why would we ever need this in real life?”.  It is a good question.  Learning should look like life…after all, isn’t that the point?  Off-Road Algebra helps students understand how the concepts they are learning in algebra are related to life through the world of off-road motorcycles.  Math is more than just filling in the correct answer on a test. Math is everywhere and we need to help students see that.

These videos walk students through off-road motorcycling problems so that they can make the connections between the classroom and life beyond the classroom.  There is a printable PDF that you can download that has thorough explanations and answers for all 30 problems. You can also find a correlation between the math problems and standards.

Use these videos with your whole class using a projector-connected computer or interactive whiteboard.  Video is ideal for math because it gives students the ability to pause, rewind and replay as needed.  Using an IWB with built-in IWB software, students can annotate over the desktop to solve equations as the video plays.

The videos are a great alternative to the standard math textbook, offering video explanations of how to solve a variety of problems.  Students can use these to support work in the classroom or at home.  The videos could make a quick-stop center activity in the one or two computer classroom.

Tips: Be sure to check out Hot Chalks other real-world math problems.

## PSToM: Parents, Students, Teachers of Mathematics

What it is: PSToM is an online portal for math classes.  With PSToM parents can follow their child’s progress and know exactly what their child is learning in math.  Students can learn at their own pace, assess their own learning and know how well they are doing in math (and why!).  Teachers can recommend math videos, know each students strengths and weaknesses and tailor classroom instruction to get more out of each class.  PSToM has built-in math problems with an area to solve them, math videos that can be shared, built-in tests and a place to discuss learning.  The site is simple but the learning possibilities are pretty incredible.

How to integrate PSToM into the classroom: PSToM is a fantastic supplement to the math classrooms.  PSToM makes it simple to create a blended classroom with online content, discussion and problem solving supporting what is happening in the classroom.  As a teacher it is easy to assign math videos and problem sets.  All data is collected and shared with students, parents and teachers.  PSToM is a great connection between the math classroom and home.  The mystery of the math classroom is taken out for both the parents and students.  Everyone knows what learning goals are being worked on, the progress and what skills need to be practiced.

Use PSToM as a supplement to your math classroom and to customize math lessons for your students.  Give students the opportunity to work on math at their unique learning level in a computer lab setting or as a center on classroom computers.

Tips: Be sure to tell parents about PSToM, it is a great way for students to get some extra practice and opportunity for understanding in at home.

## Draw That Habitat

What it is: I am a fan of everything PBS does, recently I ran across this gem while looking for some activities that help students learn about habitats.  Draw that Habitat is SO much more engaging than most of the “match the animal to the correct habitat” lower level thinking “games” (if you can call them that) that are out there.  In Draw that Habitat, students are introduced to imaginary animals.  They are briefed on the animal and its needs and are then given drawing tools to create a habitat.  Each month a new imaginary animal is introduced. This month’s challenge is an animal called a Flarch.  During the activity students learn that a habitat is a place that an animal lives where they get food and water, find shelter, search for a mate, and raise babies.  Students are asked to think about how and where the imaginary animal gets food and water, where it keeps safe from weather and other animals, etc.  What I love about this activity is that it calls on student’s creativity and imaginations.  They are asked to come up with a solution for an imaginary animal and in the process learn about habitats, camouflage, and adaptation.  When students are finished with their habitat, they can share it with other students and view and rate the habitats that others have created.

How to integrate Draw That Habitat into the classroom: Draw that Habitat is a great little activity for primary students who are learning about habitats, camouflage, and adaptations. It is probably best to use Draw that Habitat after students have a general understanding of what a habitat is.  This is a place where they can solidify that understanding and expand on what they have learned by creating something new.  I like the abstract nature of the activity, they aren’t creating a habitat for a known, real animal; instead, students are coming up with new solutions based on some key information they are given.  This gives students a chance to think critically, problem solve, and use some creativity and imagination.

In a one to one setting where each student has access to a computer, each student can create a habitat for the month’s challenge.  When students are finished, have a class parade, where students walk through and view the different solutions that classmates came up with.  Students can explain why they made the choices they did and see what other solutions might work.

In a one or two computer classroom, students can visit Draw that Habitat as a learning center in small groups.  Students at the learning center can each contribute to the habitat.

If you don’t have access to computers for students to visit, create a class habitat using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computers.  Each student in the class can add to the habitat and describe how their contribution is important for the animal who lives in the habitat.

As an extension activity, students can write a story about the imaginary animal and its habitat.

This site is intended for younger students (early elementary), but don’t discount it’s usefulness in upper-grades.  I find that when drawing-coloring are involved, students of all ages get excited about it- I have had 6th graders jump on this site and have a great time creating a habitat (they were jealous the younger kids got to do the activity and they didn’t- reminding me once again that kids like opportunities to play and be creative!).

Tips: Students can save the habitat they create offline as a .jpg file.  Click the “save” button to download.