I’m very excited to share with you our newest Family Math Night product line designed around hands-on projects in math. We’re calling it our Project Series and the first one, just released, is Project: Bug Box.

Here’s how we describe it on the website:

Hands-on and super fun, this Family Math Night Bug Box station will get the creative juices flowing! Participants choose one of their favorite (plastic!) bugs and use 2- and 3-dimensional geometry along with number skills to create a rectangular prism. Participants will walk away with a custom designed box for their bug which they get to bring home and share with others.

It’s the perfect STEAM Station!

The idea behind our Project Series is to get participants involved in math in a fun way that results in a project they get to take home. These projects are designed to take 20-30 minutes to complete and are the perfect complement to our Family Math Night kits.

Here’s what it looked like at several recent events:

Family Math Night Collaborative Project: Space Invaders

I’m excited to share with you my latest Family Math Night Collaborative Project: Space Invaders. Here’s a photo of the final result. (There are actually 3 aliens to choose from in the lesson plan. This is alien #1).

Here’s some of the background information I include in the lesson plan:

In 1978, Tomohiro Nishikado, a Japanese video game developer, released his video game Space Invaders. It was such a popular game that it helped catapult video gaming into a global industry. The pixelated aliens in the game became a popular icon.

Pixels are small single-colored squares that make up images in computer graphics. These pixels are displayed as a bitmap, a rectangular matrix of dots. These pixels, sometimes called dots, are each assigned a specific color and are arranged along the horizontal axis (x-coordinate) and vertical axis (y-coordinate) of the matrix.

Computer graphics have come a long way in the last decade and look much more sophisticated today than they did back in 1978. But back when graphics were first being designed on computers, they had a “boxy” look. That’s because the screen displays (screen resolutions) were not as good as they are today.

Note: For the purpose of this activity, each pixel does not need to be represented by a single color.

Some of you may know that I always put together a video of my collaborative projects describing in detail how to do the activity and offering additional tips. I’ve included the video below for you.

If you’re not familiar with my Family Math Night Collaborative Projects, take a peek at some of the previous ones I’ve done. I include one of these projects at each of my Family Math Night events and leave it behind as a “gift” to the school for inviting me to host an event. They’re often one of the most popular stations at the event.

We often think of math as the exact-answer subject. But the kind of math that we do most often during the day doesn’t require an exact answer. We use this particular math skill when we need to figure out how much time we need to get ready in the morning. Or whether we have enough gas in the car to get to work. Or whether $50 is enough to cover the items in our shopping cart.

The math skill we use the most is, of course, estimation. And estimating accurately requires a high level of math. That’s because it’s abstract which means we need to tap into our number sense and reasoning skills.

One way to provide our students with opportunities to work on their estimation skills is during computation practice. Instead of diving right in to figure out 15 x 12, have students come up with an estimate…about what the answer will be. In fact, periodically I ask students NOT to determine the exact answer and, instead, have them turn in their work with only their estimates recorded. This is hard for them to do in the beginning because they are so used to working out arithmetic problems, but they soon learn the value in thinking about the problem first.

A fun way to get students to work on their estimating skills is through the estimation jar. I’ve included two of my estimation videos below. The first video describes using the estimation jar in the classroom as a way to develop, not only estimation skills, but place value and number sense, as well.

The second video is filled with tips on setting up your estimation table at your Family Math Night event. It includes something I’ve been adding to my estimation tables recently – the use of a referent.

You’ll find in both videos that there is a heavy emphasis on getting students to think about and make sense of numbers. I discovered an example of this in action one day while cleaning up after a Family Math Night event. It was such a powerful example of number sense that I’m now including “thinking” paper at my estimation stations. If you missed the newsletter where I describe this priceless find, check it out here. And click here to get the pdf of the thinking paper I’m now using.

A Twist on the Estimation Jar – Classroom Version

Setting up the Estimation Table at your Family Math Night event

The estimation jar is a huge draw at a Family Math Night event. In the following video I share tips on setting up your estimation table. If you are interested in using the estimation jar in your classroom, click here for a great video that focuses on using the estimation jar to develop number sense.