Fixing the Math Problem

Sorry to take your time, but I just had to share this. When I went to the CUE conference, one of the presenters was Jo Boaler (look her up on youtube, seriously). She looks at how we can build a growth mindset for kids as it relates to math.

This quick video has kids sharing their thoughts on being dumb in math, and share their thoughts on what we often do in math. I do it most days. But man, what they shared is not a love of math, not a love of “read chapter 1, do this worksheet” type of thing.
When I first heard it, I was inspired to do better, then I mostly forgot about it and did what I often do. I ran across it again and thought I would share it. It is only about 3 minutes, but tell me it doesn’t make you want to try something different?
If you are doing that, awesome. Keep it up. If you do sometimes, awesome, keep it up. If not, man try something just a little different. Even once. Who knows? You might like it.
The good news is that if it doesn’t work the way you hoped (what new thing ever does?), you can always go back to the worksheets.
But, come on, how many of us wake up and say, “man, I can’t wait to get to work so I can give those kids some worksheets?”
Let’s continue to try and change some lives a little at a time. I don’t want to look at these last days, simply, as a countdown to freedom (don’t get me wrong, it is haha), but rather a countdown to the limited number of times I get to try and make a difference, knowing full well I may never know that I have done so.
Keep fighting, keep inspiring. Watch the video. Or don’t. But, seriously, watch it.

Solving The Math Problem from YouCubed on Vimeo.

Fixed Versus Growth Mindset

One of the takeaways I had from the CUE conference had to do with the Fixed versus Growth mindset. I have been learning about for a while, but it was one of those things that seemed to be on others’ minds as well.

Recently on the Creative Classroom Blog, he posted on the difference between the two. Worth your 2 minutes.

Check the rest of the post for some more thoughts.

Wednesday Links

Here are some links to read for today

Free Rice– This is a cool website that will donate rice through the World Food Programme. All students have to do is answer various trivia questions.

Math Is Fun– This website has some fun games and logic puzzles and different math lessons and such.

Rewordify– I don’t know that I would use this much, but you can type difficult passages into it and it will change the wording to be more simple. Kind of a cool concept.

Too High a Price: Why I Don’t do Behaviour Charts – The scenario at the beginning of the article is a great look at some of the inherent problems with how we use behavior charts. I have been trying this in my class…I still go back and forth a little, but I have worked hard to build my class so it runs well without it. Some days it works, and some days, I struggle.

Sometimes the Answer is More Obvious Than You Think “Maybe as adults we’re just so used to things being straightforward whereas kids get more creative with their thought process…”

10 Google Classroom Time Savers for Teachers– Matt Miller at Ditch That Textbook shares some pointers.

Wednesday Links

Here are this week’s links. Enjoy.

Penguin Authors Skype in the Classroom– I have not tried this one yet. It looks pretty cool. You can search for authors to Skype (video chat) with your students.

Homework Alternatives– Tim Bedley (Bedley Brothers Podcast) has compiled more than 250 ideas for alternatives to Homework. I’ll give you a hint- Be a kid

Stuck in a Rut or a Groove?– When we have access to see what others are doing, it pushes us to become better.

The Paralysis of Fear– George Couros talks about how our fear of being criticized and not getting it completely correct can hold us back from creating and being innovative.


Building Your Network- Trying Something New

“Sometimes, the most valuable thing you get from the network isn’t an idea but the inspiration or courage to try something new.” George Couros

Recently, a colleague at my school site, Ms. Paine, took on a new project. Ms. Paine does the drama club at our school. Instead of a traditional drama performance she decided to try something new. She still had the kids doing a performance, but it was recorded and turned into a superhero iMovie. It was a new thing, so it was not without some hiccups.

For example, I was helping her after school one day, trying to pull the movie off the iPad and make it playable in a different format. We were having some issues, to say the least. It was a great learning experience. By that, I mean that things that should have worked weren’t, so we tried something else, which only partly worked, etc. The deadline of “Opening Night” was coming up. Panic, stress, pressure was increasing. We were having quite the challenge trying to figure it out.


At one point, she made a comment that we’ve all made in the midst of something like this…

“This is why people don’t try new things.”

She was half-joking, but how true. How much easier just to do the same thing “we’ve always done. So much less trouble, less stress.

How often do we help our students feel this way by giving them something that pushes them into uncomfortable territory (AKA New learning)? How often do they feel like giving up?

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I refer back to the original quote.

“Sometimes, the most valuable thing you get from the network isn’t an idea but the inspiration or courage to try something new.” George Couros

Change is hard. Trying new things is hard. But if we want our kids to try new things, take risks, be creative…how much more do we need to do those same things? It is uncomfortable, but I want to be willing to learn and try new things even if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped.

Be inspired, be encouraged. Try something new. Way to try something new, Ms. Paine. Next time will be even better.



CUEsday- Prodigy Game

Today, I will briefly look at a ‘game’ I use in class. Many of you have heard of it, have tried it, have a love/hate relationship with it.



Prodigy Game is a math focused, game-based website. It is designed for grades 1-8. It plays like a role playing game where students create an avatar and name (it is very unlikely that they get a name that is their real name (they have a limited choice for first name and a fantasy last name- ie…David Hightower or Sally Strongbow) and they can explore the world within Prodigy. While they are on quests or exploring, they have an opportunity to ‘battle’ others. What this means is there avatar can ‘attack others’, cast spells to defeat them. The graphics are not graphic in their battles.

The way students win their battles is they have to do math. 🙂 This is the fun part, for teachers. If they get the question right, their attack is more powerful. If they get it wrong, the attack is weak or it misses the opponent.


Students have the ability to find other students in their class by going to a specific world and looking for them there. I had many students coming in at lunch to battle, AKA do math. Muahaha. They never knew. 🙂

Teachers can assign standards for the kids to work one. So, if you are working on adding 2-digit numbers, you create an assignment and the next 5 questions the students have to answer are based on adding 2-digit numbers. Then, you can generate a report on how well the students did. The cool thing is that you can see how your class did on each question, and what they answered if they got it wrong…so you can see the thinking (or lack of) on each problem. Pretty handy.

Setup is pretty simple. Create a class and print out login info for kids.


  • It is fun.-No, learning doesn’t have to be the opposite of fun. 🙂
  • They are practicing math
  • Teacher can set the grade level for students to practice
  • Teacher can give specific assignments, based on a standard
  • It’s free.


  • It is fun.– Any teacher knows that sometimes fun things are a little more high energy. So, you will have to have some procedures in place so it stays a good tool.
  • When creating an assignment, it does not have a Common Core standard next to it (ie..NBT.2). It DOES have that info on a report showing what standards the students were working on.

More could be said, but I have to get going. If you have not tried it, now is a great time. After testing our kids could use a brain break. This could be a good option…plus they are still working on skills.

If you have tried it, what are some tips/tricks you’ve learned to help manage it?

Use it or don’t.


Video- Why Good Teachers Want School Choice.

Here is a thoughtful look at school choice. I have heard some reasons why it would be bad for kids, and here is a look at why it might be good for parents to get to choose where to send their children. (It’s also a reason I think it is good that my district has a form of school choice.)

Competition does good things in other areas of our lives; why not schools? I don’t think I am alone in striving to make my school the best I can make it, each and every day. I want our “product” to be something we can be proud of…for one, independent critical thinkers ready to take on the world. Healthy competition helps me get better. Would it work to make schools better? Considering all the hulabaloo over the new Secretary of Ed…we may find out like it or not.

Here’s a 1995 interview from Steve Jobs on the subject.

This is not a case for school choice per se. I think there are some challenges that need to be dealt with. But I find it important to look at the other side of things. I have been hearing how evil and destructive Betsy DeVos and how wrong Charter schools and school choice are, but I am not convinced she is as evil or dumb or any other ad hominum attack as some are making her out to be.

She seems well spoken and passionate about this. As I said in a previous post, since she is in this position to help children, don’t we want her to succeed? And is demonizing her the way to ‘defeat’ her? It almost seems like some are being intolerant and bully-like toward her. Should that be so?