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Family Math Night Project Series: Bug Box

Family Math Night Project Series: Bug Box

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:


Power Packs and Math Homework

Power Packs and Math Homework

Everyone loves to play games.  They’re engaging, motivating, and fun.  And from an educational perspective, they can be a powerful learning tool.  Here’s what games can do:

    • reinforce skills learned in the classroom
    • develop mental math skills
    • encourage strategic thinking
    • foster mathematical communication
    • build confidence
    • engage parents

But one of the best things about games is that they offer meaningful practice in a way where kids actually want to do math.  That’s because games, by their very nature, are fun.  It’s not too hard to entice a child to play a game.  And because of that, games offer important practice in a way that worksheets can’t.

When it comes to homework, we need to tap into the innate interest and motivation that games provide so that we can help parents sneak in some important math reinforcement.  It’s no secret that the more engaged parents are in their child’s education, the better their children do in school.  And current research says that homework can be effective when it piques students’ interests, doesn’t take too long, and allows repeated exposure to master new skills.  Games fit the bill on each of these.

So let’s make it easy to engage ALL parents in their child’s learning by periodically sending home games for homework instead of worksheets.

This is where our Power Packs come in.  These Power Packs are filled with engaging dice games created specifically for parents to play with their children.  Not only are the games fun but we took great care to design them around the skills students are learning in the classroom.

Each Pack comes with the games and game pieces needed so all you have to do is pop the Pack in students’ backpacks.  It’s as simple as that.  Soon, parents and kids will be enjoying the games together – not to mention each other’s company!

To give you an idea how this might work as a part of your classroom routine, we put together an introductory letter and weekly game take-home slip (2 pages) that you can send home to families.  And with conferences coming up, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce the game packs to parents.  In fact, you may also want to share this fabulous TED Talk that underscores the importance of practice – or what the speaker calls the learning zone.

Of course, the Power Packs are also perfect for your Family Math Night event.  Here’s how we use them at our events.


What Do You Notice? poster – Crossed Lines

What Do You Notice? poster – Crossed Lines

Here’s my latest What Do You Notice? poster.  All you need is inch graph paper, a black sharpie, and small circular stickers (or two different colored sharpie pens to draw in the circles).

Title:  Crossed Lines
K-2:  colors, counting, even/odd numbers

3-5:  multiplication, even/odd numbers, multiples of 3, square numbers

Background Information
Crossed lines is an easy strategy for learning multiplication facts.  The horizontal and vertical lines represent the factors in the multiplication problem.  For example, in the problem 4 x 3, students would draw 4 horizontal lines and then intersect them with 3 vertical lines as is shown in the last example above.  The intersection of the lines is the answer to the problem.  So for 4 x 3, there would be 12 intersections.

To make the strategy more visible, I used colored dots to highlight the intersections.  I was deliberate in the colors I chose.  The green dots represent an even product and the pink dots represent an odd product.  Notice how all the products are multiples of 3.  At a higher level, older students may notice that 3 x 3 makes a square and 9 is a square number.

Here’s what it looked like at the event:

What Do You Notice? poster – Fractions on the Geoboard

What Do You Notice? poster – Fractions on the Geoboard

I just hosted my sixth fabulous Family Math Night event of the school year and with it came another new What Do You Notice? poster.  Here are the deets:
Title:  Fractions on the Geoboard

K-2:  shapes, counting, area

3-5:  congruency, area, fractions, equivalent fractions

Background Information: This is similar to the Squares and More Squares poster.  Like that one, this was designed around fractions but at a higher level.  The dots for each square represent the dots on a regular geoboard.  Each square is made up of 5 by 5 dots.  If lines were drawn connecting each of the dots, the larger square would show 16 small squares (4 x 4 small squares).  Each of these small squares represents one square unit.

I divided each of the large squares into fourths.  The third and fifth squares on the poster are the easiest representations of fourths.  It is also easy to see equivalent fractions such as ½ = 2/4.

Upper elementary students can figure out the area of the sections by counting the square units.  Just like in the Squares and More Squares poster, I deliberately made different shapes with the same area because sometime students will think that because the shape is different, the area must be different, as well.

Some students may notice congruency.  For example, in the first square, two of the sections are identical (congruent) even though the orientations are different.

Here’s what it looked like at the event:

Family Math Night Collaborative Project: Space Invaders

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.