Category Archives: Technology

Volume and Minecraft

We continued our work today reasoning about a prism’s dimensions when a volume is doubled. Instead of using our unit cubes, I thought the blocks in Minecraft would work and give students a visual of what is happening to the dimensions when we make a prism twice as big.

I first asked them to build a prism that was a 2 x 3 x 5 (of course I got this one….his sign reads “Math Man”) 🙂


Then I asked them to double their prism by adding onto their original and we recorded their new dimensions.


Then we tripled the original and recorded the dimensions.



Then they jotted down other dimensions they thought would work and we looked for patterns in doubling or tripling a volume.


And then some students tried starting with another original to see if it always works….

Photo Oct 23, 12 45 03 PMPhoto Oct 23, 12 39 31 PM


#ISTE2014 Reflection

This was my first ISTE conference so I was first completely impressed with the sheer number of attendees and organization of such a massive conference. Throw in the number of passionate educators present and it makes for an unbelievable and somewhat overwhelming experience. I wanted to jot down some of my overall impressions, takeaways, and random thoughts before summer work kicks in and I forget everything by the time school starts! I looked at the conference from two perspectives, first as a classroom teacher and then as a person responsible for the math professional development in our district.

As a teacher…

1 – I loved, loved, loved the number of educators on Twitter. The #ISTE2014 hashtag was blowing my phone up every minute of every day during the conference.  The amount of multitasking going on everywhere was amazing! I have never seen so many people engaging in technology, learning, spreading the word to others, and walking at the same time 🙂 I felt connected to the many sessions I could not attend or that closed before it even started due to capacity (that was a bit frustrating at times). It truly demonstrated the need to be a connected educator and the value of networking with colleagues around the world.

2 – I was excited to see the focus of my sessions more about the student learning than the technology in and of itself. The tweets reflected the same emotion and I loved that!

3 – I got SOO many exciting ideas to use for Open House, management, and  parent communication ( Thanks to Erin Klein:)  however I do find I struggled just a bit to relate some of my tech learnings into my math classroom. I am not one to use technology for the sake of using it and my classroom thrives on student discourse. I LOVE to hear the students talking about the math with each other and I am not a “flipping” fan. Don’t get me wrong I love to use Educreations, Minecraft, Aurasma,  Nearpod, and Padlet on the ipads, but even then, I need to improve upon using them to make the math more authentic for the students. The presenters at ISTE definitely provided the inspiration and wealth of tools I can look into when doing my planning. Teachers are doing AMAZING work out there and it was so inspiring to see that during the Sessions.

4 – As a presenter as well, I loved all of the support in the room! From sound to video, to ISTE representatives, to Apple Distinguished Educators, there were tons of people on hand to make sure it was perfect! Well Done!

5 – The Expo was packed with exhibitors. I was excited to chat with @Schoology as a new LMS for my classroom and for my K-2 teachers, I found a great new product from a company called Osmo ( Check them out! There were many more interesting ones I chatted with,  however after being in heels all day, my feet could not make the trek around to everyone 🙂 One thing I find intriguing at every conference I attend, is I always have to ask myself, do the vendors here convey the mission/vision of the conference organization itself. For example, at NCTM, I find vendors selling programs/products that, in my humble opinion, do not support the Mathematical Practices and vision of what best practice is in the classroom. In the case of ISTE, I saw a vendor with bubble sheet reading software that worked with any document camera (and of course his example was a math sheet…ugh) . Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing how fast it could read the bubbles and plop a grade into their accompanying grading system, but is that truly what we see as a vendor who should be at an educational conference? Just like at NCTM, do we want a timed test program to be supported by an organization who’s vision is to “…ensure equitable mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students…” I always just find that interesting.

6 – I had the opportunity to participate in a live #satchat. It was such an amazing opportunity to meet face to face with all of the avatars I chat with on many Saturday mornings! Definitely a highlight!!

From a professional development standpoint….

I was absolutely blown away by the organization and setup of ISTE. There was something for everyone and more! There were workshops, IGNITE sessions, lecture sessions (with some recorded so attendees could watch from the tv in the hallway in case of overflow), Playgrounds where teachers were encouraged to play with the technology and experience what it was like to be a student, and Poster Sessions which I can best describe as an overwhelmingly exciting “science fair” with tables set up and manned by teachers and students describing the exciting work being done in classrooms around the world!

The format of each element was genius and definitely something I want to bring back and use in my school/district. I think starting our opening district meeting with and IGNITE session showcasing district happenings would be an amazing, invigorating way to launch the school year. I also love the feel of a Playground in which teachers just play with the math and can choose the topic that best fits their needs. A district/school hashtag where we can easily share resources and ask questions would be amazing…now to just get everyone on Twitter:).

Overall it was a great experience and I still continue to learn on the #ISTE2014 hashtag! It is full of passionate educators focusing on learning, not simply the technology. Thank you all for a wonderful conference! Looking forward to Philly 2015!

iPad Garden Problem

The Garden Project:

Over the past couple of weeks, my 3rd graders have been working with our new set of iPads on a Garden Project. Since our school has put in learning gardens this year, I thought it would be an applicable project for them.

The premise of the problem: The school wanted to build a garden with the most space to plant our vegetables. Each group was given 18 feet of fencing (18 toothpicks) to use as their perimeter. They were to design each garden, record the dimensions, and take a picture to save in their photos. After they designed all possible rectangular gardens, they had to create a presentation in Numbers to show me which garden they wanted to build.

The instruction page looked like this (Since this was our first project, I put the app pic next to each direction to help them along the way):


I am always amazed how fast the students can pick up the technology and run with it! They were collaborating and discussing perimeter and area like pros! We are sharing presentations tomorrow and then we will be extending our thinking by looking at the relationship between area and perimeter!

Hard at work:


I will post their presentations when I get them uploaded tomorrow! Here is the GardenProject pdf if you want to try it out!

Mathematically Yours,


Brainstorming with Minecraft…

Like many teachers right now, I am starting my Winter Break “To Do List.” One of the things at the top of my list is planning for our upcoming math unit.  Since we have recently received our iPads, I am constantly trying to find a way to use them as a learning tool in my classroom. I don’t want them to just be a “paper replacement” but instead a part of the learning process.  Our upcoming unit is Measuring Polygons which includes work with area and perimeter and as I read Fawn’s AMAZING Hotel Snap task the other day, I got inspired!

In case you haven’t seen it:

I love SO many things about this task: the collaboration, the challenge, the math, the Math Practice reflection, all materials to go along with it, accessibility for all students…and I could go on and on….it is awesome!

For my 5th graders, I am going to try to recreate this task using Minecraft, since the app is on their ipads and they are just dying to use it in class. I think it has such potential for some seriously amazing math and creations…not to mention the engagement factors of a competition and Minecraft…they will be in math heaven!

I am in the beginning planning stages, but to keep my thoughts organized (and get some feedback), I figured I would just start typing my initial thoughts and/or questions I am having…

1 – To start, our next Social Studies unit of study is Economics so I had the students price out the materials in Minecraft today.  It was great conversation of durability and availability. If a material was difficult to “find” or “craft” in the game, the higher the prices. Here is an example of a piece of the students’ work:


I plan on creating a spreadsheet in Numbers for them to keep track of their block usage during construction.


2 – I am thinking they will build a resort instead of a hotel because of the options to put in sidewalks, pools, petting zoos and such to increase revenue and include volume into the equation. Question: How do I factor in profit of having extra amenities? Does a bigger pool bring in more money? How in the world do I price a petting zoo (because they so want to put animals in there)?

3 – The rooms of the resort will still follow the window guidelines in Fawn’s original task, but the rooms will be 3-D so I am going to allow them to put beds in each room. That would change the pricing of the rooms not only by window, but by accommodations (single vs double vs king).  Question: Will the bed and window pricing be overwhelming and time consuming and take away from the challenge of finding most profit? Should I make it one or the other?

4 – Love the scoring, keeping that exactly the same.

5 – Question: Do I give them a block limit or spending budget? Is there an advantage of seeing who can make the most money with the same number of cubes vs who can make the most money with the same budget?

6 – I would like to incorporate area and perimeter relationships here so I am thinking it has to be a “gated” resort. Possibly: What would happen to you cost of gating if you doubled the area of your resort? or How could you arrange the resort to keep the area you would like but keep your gating cost the lowest?

I would first like to thank Fawn for the inspiration and amazing resources! I would love any and all thoughts additions/deletions on the task. I always have my cubes bagged and ready for use if this is a bust!





Math & Minecraft Day 1

After many days of discovering my HUGE learning curve with Minecraft, I am finally starting to feel relatively comfortable in Creative mode…I can build a house without flooding it, planted a few trees and I no longer have random blocks floating in the sky around my world!  My class has been staying with me during recess to teach me how to play and I am amazed at how fast and detail-oriented they are in their designs, such as putting lava rocks under the water blocks to form a hot tub and putting glass windows in their new greenhouses. I just kept thinking that I would love for them to use this same precision and perseverance in math class.

I must have Minecraft on the brain, because I as I was planning this weekend for the upcoming week (multiplying fractions w/arrays), all of the scenarios were about planting on an acre of land.  For those who may not know, Minecraft is based in cubes that can be planted in the ground to show a square, perfect for our gardens. I came up with this scenario…


I honestly lost sleep last night anticipating student responses because I knew some students would look at it as fraction of a group of blocks in this scenario, when I wanted it to be fraction of a one whole. Ideally (whatever that really is) I students would build the garden, split the fourths and divide 3 of the fourths in half to result in 3/8 of the garden (being the whole) being melons.  But as they got into groups today, hopped into each others worlds and went to work it was quite a variety of outcomes.

As I expected, many students did it as fraction of a group of however many squares were in their garden. Here is an example of this:

This one was interesting because they did a combination of staying with the garden as a whole and then in the end went to the number of blocks were planted with melons:

This one was great because they brought back the fraction bar model we had been previously working with and had it next to their Minecraft garden. (Plus you have to Love their answer):

Ignore my loud voice in the background on this one, but it is a very great build (and with a key):

When they completed their garden, I gave them a square and told them that it was one acre and I wanted them to represent the same scenario but on the open square.  I immediately saw confusion in the students who had saw the garden as 16 blocks vs the students who saw it as one whole garden.

Here are a few example answers:

This one has some interesting talking points (a little long). You can forward to minute 3:00 for the blank array:

*We also had some great conversations about deciding about the dimensions of the garden and the denominator being a factor of the dimension since we couldn’t split the blocks. For example, many students built a 5 x 5 and went to break it into fourths. They said, “four is not a factor of five so we can’t.”

Lots of sharing to do tomorrow and discussing strategies, notation and the whole in the problem….stayed tuned for Minecraft Day 2…


Fraction of Fraction Day 2

As I mentioned in my previous post: 
I had wondered about fraction multiplication being introduced without a context when the students were coming from lessons in which a fraction of a whole/mixed number had a context. Feeling like the students had a solid grasp on how to find a fraction of a fraction on a fraction bar, I thought I would try having them develop a story context for fraction multiplication problem. They had free reign of the fractions they used and context they chose. Needless to say, it was a learning experience for me. Some showed understanding of what they were doing when finding a fraction of a fraction of something while others unveiled some things I need to go back and revisit.

I have included clips from some of their videos and what I learned from each…. (turn your volume up bc they whispered on these)

This one was SO interesting (and a little humorous) because she cut the fraction bar to find 2/3s of 1/2, however when she is explaining her reasoning she used the commutative property. Saying that the answer is 2/6 because that is half of 2/3 was something I had never thought of exploring with students when reasoning about whether the answer made sense. I loved it and definitely added to my lessons for next week!

When she introduces the scenario, she says “1/2 of 1/4” so I don’t know if she misspoke or not really understanding the context. I can see she has the process but I don’t know if the understanding is there. I do love how she says “He wanted to find how much of the whole bread stick that was” because she is relating her answer back to the whole. This was difficult for many students. Maybe picky on my end, but I would have liked for her to label the pieces 1/8, 2/8, etc instead of by whole number, even though I know she is counting the pieces.

I was impressed how she used a class of students as the whole and did not get confused with the fraction of the class as opposed to the number of students. Many others got caught up in “How many students…” instead of “What fraction of the class.” One thing that just bothered me in watching it was the empty seat in the class! I just wanted to draw a person in for her!

This one has such a great context and division of the Hershey Bar that I was so excited, until the end. She seemed good with the context, decontextualized to solve, but then struggled to recontextualize to explain the answer.

I could post and comment all day, but needless to say there is other work to be done and papers to be commented on! It was a great first day with our 1:1 iPads using Educreations! I learned so much that now I must work on readjusting my math plans for next week!


Blogging About Blogging….


How could I resist a tweet like this??

First, Congrats Kate on being a featured speaker at NCTM and second, I am sure there is no way you could suck! That being said here is some data for your presentation….

1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?

I can honestly say that until I joined Twitter last January, I had only read the occasional random blog post when looking for various lesson ideas.  After an Ignite session at DCTM (Delaware Council for Teachers of Mathematics) on Twitter, I joined and now have more favorited blog posts in my account than I can keep up with!  Being a 5th grade departmentalized math teacher, it is a lonely world. It is difficult finding someone who wants (and is able to) chat math, bounce lesson ideas back and forth with me, or hear about the great math things my students said that day. The blogs have opened that door to hear from people who are passionate about the same things I am. I find myself reading blog posts and nodding in agreement, laughing because I have experienced the same things, buying books I need to read, and going “OH, Why didn’t I think to ask that question?”!
2. What keeps you coming back? What’s the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?

I keep coming back because of all of reasons I am hooked. It is like a unbelievable math reality show that I cannot get enough of! I think the biggest thing I get from reading from blogs is continuous professional development. Whether I agree or disagree with what I read, I look deeper into the topics that intrigue me. When something challenges my thinking, I research and read more to deepen my understanding. It is self-guided professional development that allows me to build my own colleagues in which I surround myself.
3. If you write, why do you write? What’s the biggest thing you get out of it?

I just started writing last spring and it was a tough process. After reading so many great, open and honest posts, I was afraid mine would “fall flat” and not sound as reflective as the ones I have read. I am slowly getting over that hurdle and write when I am inspired by things my students say or do. I write to reflect and document the great things the students say/do, whether it be brilliant or misunderstandings, I find I learn from all of it. I also write because I want others to share in my excitement. I respect the math/educator opinions of the people that I follow that I would be lying to say that I don’t love it when they comment or retweet something I have blogged about….it is reaffirming to me as an educator.
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to’s? Stories?

I think as a current (more novice than experienced) blogger, I would love to hear about the challenges new bloggers face…open and honest. There are issues that I think I would like to hear addressed by an experienced blogger: When you work for a school district in which people read your post, I feel it puts some limitations on what you can blog, is that true? Some posts elicit comments more than others, what makes that happen?  What has been your best experience with a blog post? Worst experience?

I think the hardest thing will be addressing the various needs in the room. There will be people who have been blogging and others who have not started! I know people like to be engaged, so maybe examining a few blogs together as a group, chatting at tables about things you notice/wonder would get all levels involved?

Good Luck! I will be at NCTM as well, so I hope to be at your session! Can’t Wait!


Math in a Movie Trailer

Last Wednesday at a PLC meeting, our district instructional technology specialist did a presentation on Blended Learning.  She did a beautiful job of demonstrating apps and web-based activities at various entry levels, so each teacher could participate. One of the fourth grade teachers expressed an interest, and a bit of fear, in trying to use ipads as part of her classroom routines. Since I had been in her room doing some math coaching the previous week, I offered to help her design an activity and give her a hand in the classroom with the ipad piece if she was not comfortable.

We met the next day to start our planning! She was just ending her 3D math unit in which students had been identifying 3D shapes by their silhouettes and attributes and finding volume of a rectangular prism. As a culminating activity, we decided to have the students create a movie trailer in iMovie that “told a story” about the unit. I sent the teacher home with one of the ipads to “play around” with iMovie, since she was not very familiar (or comfortable) with it.  I was so excited to come in the next day to see a trailer she had created at home that night! I LOVE when people jump right in!

This is how our lesson played out over the next two days…

– We created a room in “Todays Meet” on their ipads and had students go in and do a test post.

– We posted the question, “What is the purpose of a movie trailer?” in the TM room and let them type as we showed two movie trailers (Percy Jackson 2 and Despicable Me) on the SMARTBoard. When the trailers were over, we switched back to TodaysMeet on the SMARTBoard to go through their comments and have them expand on them. Here is a clip of the conversation:

TodaysMeet– Next we asked them to continue chatting about things they learned during this math unit. We noticed they were just writing one or two word things so we asked them to expand a bit and use more of their 140 characters. Sample clip:

TodaysMeet2– As a class we scrolled back through and had them stop and ask questions of each other if they didn’t understand what someone had posted. They were so engaged and they all kept asking if they could do this at home?!? YES! Next time I will leave the room open for a longer time frame so students can post as they think of things at home! What a great way to open class the following day!

– We took them through a brief “tour” of iMovie and let them move to a place in the room to look through the themes and storyboards and start brainstorming ideas for their trailer.

– To help them organize their thoughts, I had put a template of the storyboards: in the Dropbox that was on each ipad. The students exported the PDF to UPad Lite: Upad

and let them play around with how to write on the document with pen width and different colors.

– The following day, students got in their groups (of 2-3 students) to plan out their storyboard and decide on pictures they need for their trailer.

When we meet on Monday, we are taking them around the school and outside to take pictures they need for their trailer. They are working this week finishing up the project, so this story will have  To Be Continued…

Mathematically Yours,