Online Math Lessons—for the Offline Classroom

You may have heard tales of hidden math treasure out there on the World Wide Web, but how to find it for your middle school classroom? Consider this blog post a treasure map, with X marking five sites that we’d like to recommend for productive digging. At each you will find activities, lessons, or projects that can be used directly as is, or easily adapted to an offline classroom. I include samples of the material as an enticement and encouragement to dig further on your own. Good treasure hunting!

If you have a site you’d recommend to other middle school teachers, add to the treasure trove by adding a comment to this blog post.

PBS Teachers
This site offers a wealth of multimedia resources for pre-K –12 educators!  From this page for math teachers, you can choose a grade range (say, 6-8) and a math topic (say, Numbers and Operations) to find 62 shovel-ready lessons on this topic alone. The Factor Game for example, begins with practice on factors, but through analyzing the best first move in the game, students move into discussion of prime and composite numbers and other ideas from number theory.

Illuminations
Illuminations was developed to provide materials that illuminate the vision for school mathematics set out in the NCTM Standards. While the Activities section depends heavily on Internet access, the Lessons Search returns 110 middle grades lessons that are, in general, independent of online access. One example under Algebra is Constant Dimensions. Beginning with simple measurements on a rectangle, students are led to consider an essential concept: the ratio of width to length remains constant, no matter the unit of measurement.

Ohio Resource Center for Mathematics, Science, and Reading
A unique collection of peer-reviewed lessons! The page for Math Educators allows you to search under grade level and topic for not only lessons but also assessment items, rich problems, and professional development resources.

Figure This! Math Challenges for Families
Here you have 80 problems created for middle school students. To get an idea of the material here, check out The Statue of Liberty: Is Her Nose Too Long? All problems are easily printed, provide complete solutions, and offer similar problems for further practice.

Middle School Portal 2: Math & Science Pathways
This site was developed for middle school teachers as a direct line to selected online resources. Some of these digital resources are interactive and, therefore, require online access during instruction. However, as a whole they offer an array of instructional ideas tailored to the middle grades. On this site I particularly recommend the Explore in Depth Publications which provide an in-depth exploration of a topic you teach. For example, you may enjoy Ratios for All Occasions and Triangles from Three Sides.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/16/2011.

Getting Dirty With Data

Data overwhelms our modern lives. How to make sense of the numbers in newspaper stories, in campaign speeches, in scientific experiments? Statistics offers tools to help us organize and interpret data. Even at the middle school level, students can work with statistics in real-world situations, whether actual or simulated. To actually apply statistics to real questions, nothing answers like a class project. Students can get their hands on messy, raw data. Collecting and analyzing data, displaying their findings and reaching conclusions — these may be your students’ best mathematical experiences of the school year!

Junk Mail
No one is immune from receiving junk mail, but just how much of it is really finding its way to your address? In this simple activity, data collection and analysis are a key part of a project to learn about the importance of recycling. For one week, students count and record the number of pieces of junk mail received in their homes. The display and organization of the data can be modified to address the data and statistics topics the class is working on.

Numerical and Categorical Data
In this unit of three lessons, students formulate questions that can be addressed with numerical and categorical data. They then collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer those questions. As they collect categorical data, they consider how to word questions and how to record and display the data. As they collect numerical data, they focus on how to obtain measurements and how to represent and analyze the data by describing its shape and other important features. The final lesson examines specifically the differences in representing and analyzing categorical and numerical data.

Population Growth
This series of activities explores the mathematical and environmental aspects of population growth. How fast is the population growing? Has it always grown at this rate? Are the populations of different countries growing differently? How can we predict the population in the future? How will a growing population impact the environment? Using archived census and demographic data as well as up-to-the-minute population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, students will learn how to model population growth and study the implications of a changing population.

Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble: The International Boiling Point Project
Be part of an annual event: Enroll your class in this free Internet-based collaborative project. Students discover which factors — room temperature, elevation, volume of water, or heating device — have the greatest influence on boiling point. Students boil water, record their data, and send it via email to be included in the site’s database of results. After gathering the data, activities focus on analyzing the compiled data to find answers to questions about how and why water boils.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/07/2012.

World Ocean Day

The Ocean Project, a network of aquariums, science museums, and conservation organizations, has designated June 8 as World Ocean Day. The network’s web site offers resources for these institutions to use in making the public aware of the significance of the ocean. In the resources below, you’ll find background information and lesson plans to help your students understand the importance of the ocean.

Ocean Explorer
This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration site provides standards-based lesson plans, multimedia presentations and learning activities, descriptions of careers, professional development resources, the history of ocean exploration, and much more.

NOVA Online: Into the Abyss
This site chronicles the ambitious expedition that occurred in June and July 1998 a mile and a half beneath the sea off the Pacific Northwest coast where scientists attempted to retrieve several black smoker chimneys from the seafloor. These chimneys are home to bizarre life forms that thrive far beyond the reach of the sun’s light.

International Year of the Ocean
Created for the 1998 Year of the Ocean, this site has a wealth of features in the Kids’ and Teachers’ Corner. Included are an educator’s guide, fact sheets, unit plans, and poster.

Visit to an Ocean Planet – Classroom Activities
More than 40 classroom activities from this web version of the Visit to an Ocean Planet CD-ROM are grouped under climate, oceanography, and life in our oceans. Each activity is correlated to the national standards. Among the topics are properties of fresh water and sea water, deep ocean circulations, wind-driven currents and bioluminescence.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.

Sunshine, Rainbows and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Summer brings us many pleasures: a long break from school, vacations, lots of sunshine, and the occasional rainbow, all against a background of electromagnetic radiation! Despite the negative connotation “radiation” sometimes carries, it’s often more useful to us than harmful. Here are a few resources to enlighten you and your students.

Electromagnetic Spectrum
Students will enjoy the colorful illustrations accompanying the text, which vertically follow the spectrum from radio to gamma rays. Teachers will appreciate the link to related lesson plans that will reinforce the learning.

Electromagnetic Spectrum: Waves of Energy
In this lesson, students will (1) understand that the sun energy is transferred to Earth by electromagnetic waves, which are transverse waves, (2) understand that there are eight main types of electromagnetic waves, classified on the electromagnetic spectrum according to their wavelengths, and (3) understand how each of the types of electromagnetic radiation is used or found in our everyday lives. This would be a suitable activity for small groups.

Sources of Radiation
This interactive activity from the NOVA web site explores sources of radiation, both harmful and beneficial, natural and man-made.

Everyday Radiation
This video clip explains natural sources of radiation, including rocks and food.

Special Frisbees Detect Ultraviolet Light
This experiment helps students understand that ultraviolet (UV) radiation is present in natural outdoor light and that the intensity of the light varies with season and time of day. After completing this activity, students will be able to demonstrate that UV radiation can be blocked or filtered by various substances.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/03/2012.

The Wide, Wide World of Geometry

As the social studies, art, and music classes in the middle school widen students’ horizons, some of your students may become fascinated with the art, costumes, and customs of other peoples in this and other times. The NCTM Principles and Standards calls for middle school students to be able to “recognize and apply geometric ideas and relationships in areas outside the mathematics classroom, such as art, science, and everyday life.”

Here are some resources that can help you connect your teaching to geometry past and present.

Culturally Situated Design Tools: Teaching Math through Culture

This applet software is designed to show students how African, African American, Native American, and Latino cultural designs, as well as modern-day graffiti, are based on mathematical principles. Students can use mathematics to re-create existing patterns and structures, or to make their own designs. Standards-based lesson plans, evaluations, and other teaching materials are provided.

Native American Geometry
This web site focuses on Native Americans’ use of the physical, proportional geometry that originates from the simple circle. Aimed at fourth- to ninth-grade teachers, the site is divided into four sections: foundations, anthropology, designs, and education. You will find some 25 relevant web site links and 50 published references.

Ethnomathematics Snapshots
This web site has 12 short descriptions of the influence of mathematics on culturally relevant activities and products from around the world. These include lunar calendars, African counting words, Mozambican methods of laying rectangles, global three-in-a-row games, Native American petroglyphs, Amish quilts, Inca and Maori strip decorations, Inuit drawings, and Angolan sand drawings. Geometrical themes include iteration, recursion, tiling, symmetry, repetition, reflection, and rotation.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/07/2012.