Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Fun Fact - All About Feathers

Birds are the only animals with feathers. Feathers are important for flight, camouflage, mating, regulation of body temperature, and more. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Different types of feathers have different functions. But where did they come from? Check out the video below for some answers.

You can learn more about bird feathers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Feathers and Plumages.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why Do We Learn Mathematics? - Calculation, Application, and Inspiration

I love this TED Talk by Arthur Benjamin on The Magic of Fibonacci Numbers. I particularly like the introduction. Here's how it begins.
"So why do we learn mathematics? Essentially, for three reasons: calculation, application, and last, and unfortunately least in terms of the time we give it, inspiration. 
Mathematics is the science of patterns, and we study it to learn how to think logically, critically and creatively, but too much of the mathematics that we learn in school is not effectively motivated, and when our students ask, "Why are we learning this?" then they often hear that they'll need it in an upcoming math class or on a future test. But wouldn't it be great if every once in a while we did mathematics simply because it was fun or beautiful or because it excited the mind?"
I've been a puzzle-solver and game player for as long as I can remember. I love to do math for fun. I wish more teachers saw the value of puzzling through non-traditional problems and the long-term benefits it brings.

Learn more about these ideas and the beauty of Fibonacci numbers in Benjamin's talk.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Friday Fun Fact - Inspiration From Nature

Have you ever thought about some of the amazing things in our lives that were inspired by nature? If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, think about velcro, adhesives, medical tape, synthetic shark skin, the bullet train, and much more.

Here's a cool video from the Smithsonian magazine on how biomimcry is inspiring human innovation.

If you are interested in exploring more about how nature inspires scientific innovation and invention, check out these two books.
Nature Got There First, by Phil Gates
In this book Gates shows readers earn how much of human technology was inspired by, or copied directly from nature. Packed with information, this one is good for older students.

Nature Did It First, by Susan Goodman
This book for young students includes a series of photgraphic puzzles where readers must look at a photo of a human invention and try to guess how it was inspired by nature.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Math Freebie - Arctic Animal Races

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Towards the end of the semester my students and I spent some time on probability and data analysis. I made a set of spinner activities to look at the notion of fair and unfair. They were pretty boring and focused on color, so I decided to dress them up and create a lesson and resources using Arctic animals.

In this set of activities, students:
  • experiment with fair and unfair spinners
  • tally and record the results of their spins
  • graph the results of their experiments 
  • determine what makes a spinner fair or unfair

Probability does not appear in the Common Core standards until middle school. However, students can still use probability activities to collect and analyze data. With this in mind, these activities can be used to meet the following Common Core Standards for Math.
  • 1.MD.C.4 Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
  • 2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph (with single-unit scale) to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems1 using information presented in a bar graph.
  • 3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one- and two-step “how many more” and “how many less” problems using information presented in scaled bar graphs. For example, draw a bar graph in which each square in the bar graph might represent 5 pets.

Here's what the packet and resources look like.

I hope you get a chance to use this activity in your home or classroom. Please let me know if you try it and how you like it!