Bridge Disasters, Math and Literacy, and Will Christmas Cost More This Year!

[December 2012 MSP2 Newsletter]

Happy December! Thank you all for being members of MSP2. We want to encourage everyone to become an active member of the community and share your expertise and experiences by contributing to conversations, sharing resources, or joining one of our topical discussion groups. Thought I would get the ball rolling by sharing some resources that have crossed my desk in the last month. But first, don’t forget to take the Digital Readiness Survey and RSVP for the January Book Club online get-together!

With Best Wishes, Kim Lightle, MSP2 Team

Still Time to Take the Digital Readiness Survey
You can take a self-assessment that will help you determine how “digital ready” you are. The assessment was developed through an NSF grant with Project Tomorrow and MSP2. The survey will take 15 minutes, and you will receive your personalized and confidential results within 72 hours of completion. Three randomly selected participants who complete the survey will win $100 Amazon gift cards.

The self-assessment allows you to see where you are in your usage and perspective on digital content and also provides insight for MSP2 and the overall NSF grant to determine the types of professional learning opportunities needed by educators like you.

You can access the self-assessment at The Amazon gift cards will be awarded shortly after the deadline.

MSP2 Book Club January 2013 Selection: Twists in the Tale of the Great DNA Discovery – The Double Helix
A new annotated and illustrated edition of James Watson’s book “The Double Helix” adds interesting details about the rivalries in the race to decode the structure of DNA including information about Rosalind Franklin’s contributions. I read the original years ago and really enjoyed it. I’m really looking forward to reading the new edition and hope that you’ll join us on Wednesday, January 23 at 7-8pm EST to discuss the book. Click here to RSVP.


Middle School Science Research Models (from MSP2 member Della Curtis)
Are you exploring strategies and ready-made curriculum products for student short and long term research/inquiry?  You might like to investigate the BCPS portal of Online Research Models for grades 6, 7, and 8.

The Online Research Models (ORM), developed by Baltimore County Public Schools, represent an exciting way to guide student research toward higher-level thinking that fully utilizes technology and digital content resources. The research models were developed by teams of library media specialists, teachers, and content specialists at Summer Curriculum Workshops in the Baltimore County Public Schools since 1998. Students who use the self-guided online research lessons are challenged to employ thoughtful reading, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of information to create answers, not just find them.

The ORM are designed as web pages that present students with a clear research structure, including a research scenario, a learning task, rubrics and scoring tools, directions for use of various media resources, links to useful web sites, creation of a product or presentation, and reflection. Student collaboration is built in to the process. Internet access to the models serves to make curriculum information accessible to teachers, students, parents and the general public.

FabFems: Women in STEM
The “FabFems Spotlight” highlights women from the FabFems Role Model Directory. There are more than 100 FabFems profiles in the database and entries are added daily. FabFems are enthusiastic about the science and technology work they do and want to inspire a future generation of FabFems. Encourage girls to visit FabFems to search profiles, connect with role models, and find resources on career pathways.

Engineering Education “Today in History” Blog: Collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
On November 7, 1940, at approximately 11:00 AM, the first Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge collapsed due to wind-induced vibrations. Situated on the Tacoma Narrows in Puget Sound, near the city of Tacoma, Washington, the bridge had only been open for traffic a few months. This website, originally designed to document research on dynamics of a linear model of suspension bridges, has been expanded to provide a comprehensive history of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster, along with photos, videos and analyses.

I added this item because I’m amazed every time I see the video of this disaster. Might want to keep this handy – engineering will become an integral part of science instruction really soon.


Benton Books: Math Girls 2 – Fermat’s Last Theorem
Continuing Hiroshi Yuki’s young adult fiction that explores “the beauty of mathematics, the excitement of tackling hard problems, and happiness of discussing them with friends,” MG2:FLT follows the mathematical journeys of Miruka, Tetra, and new “math girl” Yuri (who is in 8th grade). Topics covered include number theory, modular arithmetic, the basics of abstract algebra (groups, rings, and fields), proof by contradiction and by infinite descent, and Euler’s identity. The author says the book contains math problems covering a wide range of difficulty. Some will be approachable by middle school students, while others may prove challenging even at the college level. You can download the first two chapters for free from the website. I really enjoyed the first two chapters. See what you think! (Thanks to the Math Forum for this resource and the next.)

Will Christmas Cost More This Year?
For the past 29 years, PNC Wealth Management has illustrated the cost of all the gifts involved in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This year, PNC has created a website to track down the gifts, because they have skipped town! Students go on a virtual trip across six continents, journey down the Amazon, battle the Loch Ness monster, and summon ancient Mayan spirits to find the missing presents. Along the way, PNC’s site covers concepts such as inflation and other economic trends. PNC’s partner, The Stock Market Game™, provides accompanying lesson plans in English and Spanish.

5 Dice: Order of Operations Game
I received an email from a middle school math teacher, Justin Holladay, asking for feedback on his first iPhone/iPad app. It would be great if you would provide feedback for Justin on the MSP2 site. I’ve started a discussion in the MSP2 Math group where you can add your feedback about the app.

You can read more about it here:
Download the app for free:

About the Game: 5 Dice: Order of Operations Game, is a math app for middle school kids that helps them really like practicing their order of operations skills. The math game requires students to use higher order thinking to solve the target number by working backwards provided the answer but not the equation. The best feature about this simple math game is that teachers or parents are able to receive immediate feedback of their students’ progress through email.