Math Before Bed

Every night since my kids were tiny we’ve read stories before bed. It’s been a time for us to wind down, cuddle, get one on one time with each of them, and chat about the books and our day. Reading at night strengthens their reading skills. I did the reading when we started and slowly, as they get older, they’re reading to me. We do this for reading, but we’ve never done this with math.

I started looking for resources to do some math at bed time. I googled:


and there were many hits for a website/app called Bedtime Math. I checked it out. You can subscribe to an email to get a daily math scenario to do at bedtime with your kids. It always gives some background on a real-world scenario and then asks some math questions they made up regarding this scenario. For example, here was yesterday’s email:


They are ok…but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to discuss more, I wanted a variety of answers, not just one and boom we’re done. I wanted to strengthen my 8 year old and my two 6 year olds numeracy skills just like we strengthened their reading skills. I wanted my kids to share strategies on counting, estimating, adding, multiplying, sorting, patterning, etc all while laying in bed cuddling and comfortable. This site wasn’t doing that for me.

This week I received Christopher Danielson’s book Which One Doesn’t Belong in the mail.

Now this is what I wanted. Every page gets us discussing why we picked one shape over another. We talk about why someone might have picked each of the shapes. On the first night we did 3 pages and they wanted more. I wanted more. But I restrained. “We don’t want to use it all up on the first night!”.

This got me thinking. I wanted to discuss math like this every night, even for just 5 or 10 minutes. I needed more. That night and a few other nights I put together some pages for me, my wife, and my kids to do before bed. Here are a few pages:

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-30-39-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-1-21-58-pm screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-1-21-16-pm

So far we have 20 pages in this book:


Click to download a copy for iBooks on your iOS device

Each page in this book shows us a perplexing problem. Sometimes there is one right answer and sometimes there are many right answers. The purpose of each question is to generate a discussion about HOW you determined an answer. If you find one answer, try to find another. You could complete one page a night, or many pages. 

You can access the first 20 pages of the book here with an iOS device that has the iBooks app installed. Or you can download a PDF version here. That way you can view the pages while laying in bed with your little ones. I plan to add many more pages as the days go on. We have been doing two or three pages a night….my plan is to have about 50 or so. Please go ahead and download it and read with your kids. Also please feel free to edit the book and give me some feedback on the pages. I haven’t spent much time thinking about math in grades K through 3 YET.

Further Reading: 

Christopher’s site Talking Math With Your Kids

Table Talk Math – 

Our math related books for night time:



MEL3E Day 27

I’m a little late on posting our work from Friday. Our warm up was from Jen McAleer, the brains behind the site has put together a collection of tasks that create a bit of controversy. We completed the Starburst MiniGate task. 

Part 1: Estimate

Students estimated too high, too low and best guess. 


Part 2: Estimate the number in a bag.

Along with an estimate I had students determine how many 1/4 cups scoops would be in the bag if the bag had their estimate. 

Part 3: Reveal the number in the bag. 

After the students grumbled about how far they were off or celebrated if they were close they determined how many 1/4  cups scoops would be in a bag. We determined about 4 scoops would be in the bag. Now for the controversial part…this is the part that made them super mad! 

Show the Nutrition Lable and point out that it says 6 scoops should be in the bag. 

Are you kidding??? There were only 4 scoops in that bag and it says there’s supposed to be 6?? Come on. 
The students voiced their dislike for being ripped off.

We next worked on how much we should have paid for this bag instead of paying $3.09

There are more tasks over at go ahead and check them out. 

For the remainder of class we finished our quiz and mastery work from yesterday. Today the students felt more relaxed and comfortable about the quiz. More comfortable students = more confident about their work. 

I’ll be taking a break from blogging everyday this week but you can still follow my day-to-day on my spreadsheet


Flippity Flip, Bottle Flip!

How are all these middle schoolers/grade 9s landing these bottle flips?

Before today I hadn’t seen any of our students doing this bottle flipping thing! But I had a feeling they had all done it before. Today we started an activity with watching trick shots of bottle flips and will end with us creating and solving linear equations.

I showed this video:

My students wanted to argue that some of the tricks were fake…. but they were glued to watching. They all had tried flipping bottles before and some said they were amazing at it.

I had a full water bottle with me and asked if I could flip this. They all shouted that it was too full. I tried flipping and it was a no go. So I cracked it open and drank a few gulps. “Nope….you still won’t be able to flip that Mr. Orr — too much water still.” Again, I tried flipping it and nope. Still not even close. “Mr. Orr you probably won’t be able to flip it even if it had the perfect amount of water.”  So I took a few more swigs. “Still no good sir.” As I was chugging….someone yelled out for me to STOP! I did…..then flipped that bottle…. and…..Boom! The class was blown away!

I had them log into a simple Desmos activity that asked them to choose which bottle would be ideal for flipping.


Almost everyone had chosen yellow.

The next slide had them moving a line to show the water level and then having them estimate how many ml would be ideal.


Students were estimating between 100 and 200 ml.

“I think it’s 125 because that would be a quarter of the bottle. I think a quarter is the perfect amount of water.”

“I think it’s not 250ml because it has to be less than half…..but I think it’s not exactly half of that….so half of 250 is 125….but I’ll say 150ml.”

I shared all of their guesses:


They kept asking if they were going to get to flip any bottles?? I said, “This is math class….do you think we flip bottles in math class?”

Then I broke out the bottles.

Here is the plan. We are going to have a bottle flipping contest. Rules:

  • Draw a line on your bottle where you think the ideal amount of water should be. Determine how much water to put into it in ml.
  • When you know how much water you need record it on our chart….put exactly that much water in there.
  • You must use your bottle for the contest.

Here are some pics of them working on this first part.

img_2250 img_2248 img_2247 img_2243 We had just enough time in this class to determine our volume, fill the bottle to verify it met the line, and practice flipping for about 10 minutes.

Part 2: The Contest

Students complete in five one minute trials. Recording how many “lands” they get each trial. screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-1-37-07-pm

We average those five trials to develop your “Landing” equation! Who was the winner? What does their graph look like?


We use that equation to solve some problems. How many after ____minutes? How long will it take to make 100 lands? What does the equation look like if you have a head start of 5 lands?

I’ve modelled this lesson structure after this Paper Tossing activity and ultimately after Alex’s Card Tossing activity.

Featured Comment:


 Well I am a middle school student and I go to chesnee middle school and I think that I just might show this to MY math teacher even though I don’t like math but you just made me want to like math. I’m in the sixth grade.

MEL3E Day 26

Today I tried to jam too much math in and it caused some frustration! The warm up went awesome though! It was from

We talked about each of the options and some missing information. Students wanted to know what kind of car it was so we could determine the fuel consumption.

They volunteered some makes of cars to use…and we settled on using a Ford Fusion. We looked up the fuel consumption and we found some info.  img_2268

Groups were all over this problem. It was great to hear the conversations about how many km would be driven, how much option 1 would cost, and how many litres the car would use to travel there and back. I had conversations with each group about why someone might choose option 2 over option 3. We chatted about when would it make sense to choose option 1. Such rich talks.

This warm up turned into half our class and I was completely fine with it. 

Where things went downhill was after. My original plan after this warm up was to spend half the period completing our mastery and upgrade work then leave about 20 minutes for a new quiz. I tried to cram all of that into the remaining time. I said they had the next 15 minutes to work on their upgrades and then we’ll do the quiz. Fine right?? By the time they got their iPads out, logged in, and chose a question to work on those 15 minutes were up. I passed out the quiz and some students showed frustration of just starting their upgrade work and now had to write the quiz. One student stood up and said he was not writing the quiz and walked out. The others put their upgrade work away and started the quiz. No one finished. I expected no one to finish, but didn’t expect the frustration. I should have read the class better. I should have known my students better and that’s on me. I should let them keep working on their upgrades and done the quiz another day. Tomorrow we’ll keep going.