Sunday, March 4, 2018

Emoji Doku Problem Solving

I love these Emoji Doku logic puzzles by Krazydad.  If you like puzzles you should definitely check out his site.  It's amazing.

Emoji Dokus are a super fun way to practice logical thinking, but they also gave me my own problem solving challenge.  This last fall I was excited to bring them into my Puzzles & Mindbenders class at Village Home, but there was no obvious way to physically fill in the missing emoji icons to complete the puzzles.  I emailed Krazydad with my question, and he also wasn't sure.  He suggested using letters to stand for the different emojis, or drawing them in, for those who are artistically inclined. Even though letters are less fun, and drawings take a long time, the learners in my class liked the puzzles and used both these methods.

If you get stuck on a hard puzzle, sometimes it helps to put it aside and come back to it later.  Sometimes something else you're working on will give you an idea for an approach you hadn't thought of.  One day, sitting in a coffee shop working on lesson planning, it hit me.  Cardstock tiles.  Duh!  It was one of those ideas that seems so obvious in retrospect.  Isn't it funny how that happens sometimes?

Needless to say these puzzles are getting even more love in my classes now.  Big bonus - these puzzles turn out to be great for cooperative puzzle solving.  It is natural for the learners to help each other with the tiles, more so than with pencils or dry erase markers.

As you can imagine, these sets are time-consuming to make.  And even after switching to the heavy cardstock of recycled manila folders, I still wish they were sturdier and easier to work with.  So, Krazydad suggested a KickStarter collaboration!  I want to provide classrooms and families with nice cardboard tiles to go with these delightful little puzzles.  I'll be asking for your help as I get it launched, so stay tuned!  If you might be interested in helping with the Kickstarter or spreading the word, please follow this blog to stay updated, and share this post with your friends and logic-loving communities.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My sharing resolution

With the click of a button my ideas and knowledge can potentially reach millions of people.  But I haven't been clicking that button nearly enough.

If I do research, develop a lesson plan, learn a hard lesson in the classroom or put thought into a question, that gives me some amount of value.  It enhances my life and the lives of those around me a little bit.  But if I share my experiences and my learning with an online community, that value gains a multiplier.  A small amount of value multiplied by the number of people who read it and find it useful.  If some small fraction of those people develop the idea further and then share their new version, we've got a little exponential growth.  Iterated over many thoughts and experiences this can be incredibly impactful.

So day by day I'm building a habit of sharing.  This is day two.  I may be a lonely math teacher (great post from Dan Meyer) at the moment, but I'm on my way to connecting.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Designing a math class

I get to design my newest math class.  The topic is middle school math and it's meeting for the first time this week.  It's a small group of people so I'm excited to tailor it to the needs and interests of those in the group, once I find out what those are.

This project has me thinking: What is my ideal math class like?  I have the freedom to make it exactly the way it should be, given the resources I have.  So, what are the key elements of making a really great math class?

There should be choice, but not too much choice.  Keep the structure flexible, but make sure to have a strong concept of the "default" structure so that the learners and I have something solid to start with.

For this class this will mean having engaging activities to offer in class, and having high quality assignments for learners to work on at home.  The activities will be games, 3-acts, and other group problem-solving, and perhaps some peer-tutoring type thing.  One portion of the assignments will be engaging problems, probably from the Math Kangaroo sample questions.

I have a new idea to try out for the other portion of the assignments.  In the era of YouTube there is less need than ever for standing in front of learners and introducing concepts or giving in-depth explanations.  I want to offer learners the structure they need to acquire new concepts at home, and bring those concepts back to the math class for practice and refinement.  I will pick a video and a math task to go with it, and challenge the learners to invent ways of approaching the problem themselves before they watch the video.  My hope is that this will catalyze the kind of inquiry that makes math fun and exciting, and will help create a deep and robust understanding of the concepts.

Wish me luck! :)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Last Jedi Word Find

I thought it would be fun to have a Star Wars Episode VIII word search in my first class of the new year, but I couldn't easily find one so I ended up making one at  I tried a few other word search creators, but this was the first one that worked and created a puzzle I was happy with.  Here's a link to my document.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I found my people

Yesterday I woke up early like a kid at Christmas, excited for the Leap of Faith mystery activity.  Today I woke up even earlier literally sobbing tears of joy.  I found my people.

It's been two days at my first World Domination Summit, and I am completely blown away.  When I look at you amazing people I see in you a reflection of myself - and I have never felt so beautiful.

Here is what I see:

We're inclined to say "yes" to opportunities, invitations, and possibilities. So we end up with diverse spheres of interest, passion, and accomplishment.

We want to collaboratively solve problems of all shapes and sizes.  Problems with society, personal problems, intellectual problems. You name it. We want to discuss and trade information and advice as much as possible.

We just can't get enough challenges!  This was especially radiant as I joined a bunch of you swinging on ropes, navigating wobbly bridges thirty feet in the air and falling off tress.  What?  It's hard? Really hard? Count me in!, we say.

We are courageous.  Uncertainty and fear seem to rarely get in the way for us, even when most intense.  In fact, I suspect that we often thrive off those feelings.

There are those tears again.  I feel I won't ever be lonely again.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Activity - Relative Square Areas

I ran across this activity in the homework of one of my students and decided to make my own version for future use.  You're welcome to save the image and use it.

Learning to be Productive

Over the past year I've been doing a lot of self-development in the area of productivity.  How can I best order my days so that the things I really want to do actually get done?

The most important thing I've come to embrace is the power of habits.  Once you're in the habit of doing something it is vastly easier to motivate yourself to do it.  So when I really want to get something done I get in the habit of working on it at least a little every day.  I have been attempting to share this wisdom with my students but so far I have had little success when there is not already strong habit-forming behavior in place at home.

Lately I've been refining my habit system with an awareness of when I have the most energy and which things are harder or easier for me to motivate myself to do.  I have more energy during the day before dinner than any time later in the evening.  The mornings are even better than the afternoons.  So I've been focusing on doing the hard stuff early.  The hard stuff is anything I'm not yet in a solid habit of doing or anything that I'm particularly reluctant to do.  If I do that stuff first, then I'll still have energy to do the easy stuff later.

What methods have you discovered that help you be your most productive?