Math is Like…. [first day]

An activity I have done every semester since I started teaching is one I call “Math is Like….”

After going through all the course mumbo-jumbo, we talk about creativity!

Then the activity starts like this….

Here is your chance to get creative!! Take your Post-It and write Math is like….”

I then give the students some examples from previous years. The idea is that they are to complete the statement with their own thoughts.


Some students write funny things, some negative things, some insightful things! I let them know they are allowed to write whatever comes to mind as long as its school appropriate.

I have found that this gives students an “airing- out” of past experiences and we get a fresh start!! My grade 9 students have all come from different backgrounds in math….some great…..some not so great! So I tell them that if you have had a negative experience in math in the past, part of my goal this year is to help them change those beliefs about math

Here are some of this years Math is Like ….. statements. [I've got my work cut out for me!!!]







Minnie’s Juice Cup [3actMath]

Here is a 3-Act Math problem I’ve been working on. My first unit in the fall is measurement and I wanted something to do with volume.

Minnie’s Juice Cup!

Act 1:

Question: How many juice boxes will fit in the cup?

Act 2:

Make them guess for each of these measurements.



I am open to suggestions on how to handle the two different diameters. I tried averaging them and came up with a pretty accurate answer.



Act 3:


R2D2 – Post-It Note Art!

I loved Nathan Kraft’s Van Gogh Post-It Note art on his windows. If you haven’t seen it…check it out.

I wanted to do something similar for a while now (like @mr_stadel’s File Cabinet Problem) and found some time now that school is over! Following Nathan Kraft’s instructions with Excel I created my own Geek Art…

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 4.40.10 PM

Grabbed some Post-Its and got to work…..I also created a time lapse video so I can make a 3 Act math problem for my students (Coming soon!).


Info for 3 acts
Each Post-It is 2″ by 1.5″
The board measures 42″ by 43.5″
I actually used 609 Post-Its!!

2014 Pictures

This morning I read a blog post from Jonathan Claydon on 180 blog posts. I’ve learned lots of class/math ideas this year from reading 180 blogs and I loved his ideas on 180 days of pictures. My goal next year is to start posting 1 pic for each day. It would be a great thing to show the students at the end of the semester too!

here are a few pictures from this semester.

Commit & Crumple!

Saw this activity in a book I picked up at the NCTM conference a few years back (Philadelphia).


This book has been great for engaging activities in math….here is the one we did today:

Commit & Crumple
We are reviewing for our exam and I wanted to review average rates of change and instantaneous rates of change. I wanted to see what they remembered…and also how they remembered the graphical representation of rates of change.
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Game of Risk

Recently read a blog post of a review game …. Risk from Angie (@aeakland) . I love review games instead of just textbook questions… i adapted this game to be played in my MHF4U Advanced Functions class.

Here are the rules….

  • In teams, each team starts with 100 points. Write your points and names on the board.
  • Complete any of the Risk Questions in any order. (They are just the Review questions from the textbook).
  • For each question: After coming up with a solution, wager any or all of your points.
    • If you are correct – - add the points to your total!!! Yay!
    • If you are incorrect — subtract that many points from your total. Boo!
  • The top three teams with the most points were eligible to enter the draw at the end for the prize!!!

photo 4-2

Great things about the game…

Kids were cheering – when getting the problems right!……that doesn’t happen when just working on review problems from the book.

Kids were self /peer assessing their work — by betting they were deciding how confident they were on their work! They took their time, and thought about their answers making sense!

Kids were doing math!

The winning team won their choice of a geek sticker!


The Internet in Real Time

Love this info graphic…..posting it here to remind myself about creating a math lesson around this. Lots of possibilities. Let me know if you have one?

So far… “Pick a stat, show how it’s changing with respect to time in a graph, equation, table”.

Click the animation to open the full version (via

Click the image to open the interactive version (via

Explain Everything….more than a screen recorder

I’ve been loving the app Explain Everything more and more! Yes it’s great because when students record their work it forces them to think more about language and ideas than they are used to. I like that! That is what drew me to the app in the first place. But I’ve been loving it even more….. I’ve been using it lately NOT to record work. I’ve been using it to deliver content to students in a new way. We can use the app as a sort of enhanced digital workspace! Here is an example: 20140523-111859-40739536.jpg

Click the picture to download the Explain Everything file

I created this for my lesson on periodic functions. Here is why this is awesome……

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Corner to Corner – 3 Act Lesson

I was recently in a cross panel learning team meeting and we were discussing open questions/problems to give our students. A fellow teacher, Marcus, gave the following problem to his class:

Find the distance from one corner of the box to the opposite diagonal corner.

Using this idea, along with the learning team’s focus on getting students to estimate before solving problems [as a way to engage all our students] I created the following 3Act math lesson. (thanks Dan Meyer for the tips)

Act 1- Corner to Corner
Give your students the weird little video.

Ask students What do you wonder? Or What would you like to know? Or What questions do you have?
Take the questions from students (all of them, write them on the board).

If the question: How long is the string? does not come out from them, pose it to them and say you would like to solve that one first!

Ask them to guess the length of the string, record guesses on the board.

Ask students to discuss with a partner and then share with you what information they would need to find the distance.

After they ask for the dimensions of the room share with them (one at a time) these pictures.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.07.44 PM



Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.07.57 PM


Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.08.10 PM

After each picture get the students to guess the lengths….then reveal the values. This part will be engaging for all! Hopefully they cheer or boo when after you reveal the lengths.

and the reveal……







Once the lengths are revealed, either discuss or teach the Pythagorean Theorem. Give them time to develop the answer!

Reveal the answer after students find the length.