K-6 Math in the News: Censuses, Counting People and Math

The Australian Federal Government recently conducted a survey; have you completed your form yet? Or are you waiting to see whether the Australian Bureau of Statistics website gets attacked again?

The recent national census really caught the attention of the Australian populace, mostly for all the wrong reasons. The official website couldn’t cope with the traffic to the site on “census night”, which was entirely predictable, and at the same time it was subjected to several “Denial of Service” (DOS) attacks.

But apart from that, what can we teach children about censuses? Here are a few ideas:

  • Governments use censuses to find out how and where to spend money on schools, hospitals, rail lines and highways
  • School math includes taking surveys, collecting data and analysing the results, just like in a census
  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem partly as a result of a census conducted by the Romans
  • People expect survey-takers and governments conducting censuses to protect their privacy


What do you think?

Do you have favourite activities for teaching children about statistics? Share a comment below.

Reference Articles

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K-6 Math in the News: Schools Failing to Recognize Kids Who Don’t Fit In?

Are there kids in your class that you just don’t “get”? Do you teach students who you feel will never amount to much?

The video that prompted this week’s blog post came across my newsfeed in Facebook. It also appeared in YouTube: it’s an interview between Larry King and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Gary Vee, as he’s known to his followers, is a serial entrepreneur with hundreds of thousands of followers, who regularly speaks at large conferences about business, social media and entrepreneurship.

Chances are, you’re not much like Gary Vee. And nor am I.

If you’re like most teachers, you were good at school, you were good at following the rules, and you worked hard to figure out the educational system and succeeded at it. The system is designed to reward such behaviour, with academic awards, good grades and ultimately a pathway to a good job.

But that path doesn’t suit everyone, and that’s what Gary Vee is talking about. He reckons that schools are failing kids that don’t fit the “mould” that school recognizes, kids that are like round pegs in square holes, the kids “marching to the beat of another drummer”.

Famous People Who Failed at School

Lists like the one following list scare me, in a way. I think to myself “What if I’d been this person’s teacher; would I have treated him or her differently?” Or even more scary is the question “What if the next genius the world is waiting for sits in my class every day? What if I don’t recognize genius or ability and it goes undeveloped?”

  • Albert Einstein: dropped out of school at 15; didn’t speak until 4, or read until 7
  • Thomas Edison: teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything”; failed 10,000 times to create a viable incandescent lightbulb
  • Richard Branson: dyslexic, dropped out of school at 16
  • Benjamin Franklin: 15th of 20 children; left school at 10 to work with his father
  • John D. Rockefeller: dropped out of high school, went on to become history’s first recorded billionaire
  • Walt Disney: dropped out of school at 16; fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”
  • Charles Dickens: left school at 12, worked 10-hour days in a boot-blacking factory
  • Aretha Franklin: dropped out of school to care for her child at age 15

What can a teacher do to truly help kids who don’t seem to be fitting in, who just might be the high achiever the world is waiting for? The video includes some suggestions you may find thought-provoking or helpful.

What do you think?

How do you recognize every child in your class? Do you have a method that allows for different approaches to life within your classroom structures? Share a comment below.

Reference Articles

► More Lists of High Achievers Who Failed at School:

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► Photograph credits from Flickr, used under license:

K-6 Math in the News: Supermarket Math Fails

Do your students believe that math is irrelevant to their lives? Sadly, all too many of them do, especially as they reach high school.

The article I discuss this week lists 10 occasions in which major Australian supermarkets got the mathematics behind their special offers totally wrong. Sometimes the “offer” was worse than the standard price, sometimes it was exactly the same. And occasionally the offer was better than the staff member who put up the marketing ticket realised.

I love this article for its immediate relevance to students. Very few people don’t enjoy finding a bargain, but no-one wants to be ripped off. The examples here provide lots of examples for students to figure out what each offer is, what it’s really worth, and suggest a better, more honest offer.

Buyer beware! Even though stores are using computers to create special ticket offers, human beings are required to think up the actual numbers in each offer. And sadly, some staff members don’t recognize their own mistakes before letting customers find out about the specials.

What do you think?

Do you do “shopping math” in your classroom? Share a comment below.

Reference Article

10 Times Aussie Supermarkets Failed at Math

► Worksheets connected with this week’s video:


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K-6 Math in the News: Pokémon Go and Math for Kids

Are you a teacher who uses Pokémon Go? Are you looking for ways you can tap into the Pokémon Go craze to connect with your students?

Pokémon Go is the latest in the Pokémon franchise, and has broken records at the Apple iTunes store, where it is now the most-downloaded app in the first week of release in the store’s history.

But for teachers, how could the game be useful? Google as indexed over 15M pages on “Pokémon Go education”, reflecting the creative efforts of teachers thinking up ways to incorporate current trends into their curriculum.

Are you thinking of incorporating Pokémon Go into your teaching? How can enjoyment of computer games inspire our students to study math at school?

What do you think?

Will you be using Pokemon Go at all in your classroom? Do share a comment below.

Reference Articles

Main Article: August 2016: Pokémon Go in the classroom

► News articles about Pokémon Go:

► Other math-related articles about Pokémon Go:

► Education articles about Pokémon Go:

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K-6 Math in the News: Everyone CAN Succeed at Maths

What do your students believe about their abilities in mathematics? Do they say “I can do this”, or “I’ll never get this”?

Original article link: How ‘Everyone Can’ Succeed at Maths – TES UK, 6th July 2016

I’m sure all teachers know about the idea of the “self-fulfilling prophecy”: if you start off believing that you have a high achieving class, they are more likely to do well than if you believe from the star that they are a “weak” class.

This article focuses on the message that “Everyone Can” succeed at math, urging teachers and students to believe in the students’ success.

I recommend that you watch the video linked in the article, which has a really nice performance by a young girl taking the role of teacher “Miss Rose”, teaching a class of adults acting as the students:

Maths: Everyone Can from White Rose Maths Hub.

What do you think? Is simply being positive about students’ abilities and capabilities really going to make a difference to the results that they achieve? And are some people simply born “with a maths brain” and others not? Please leave a comment below; I’d love to hear what you think.

K-6 Math in the News: Facebook Flower Math Puzzle

Have you seen this math puzzle? Do you know what the correct answer is?

Original article link: Can You Work Out This Mind-bending Flower Puzzle? – News.com Australia, 17th June 2016

If you teach math, like me, your friends probably sent you this math puzzle, thinking you’d like it “because you’re a teacher”.

As a general thing, that’s fine. In fact, I welcome math puzzles especially if they have some actual math in them, something to work out.

This puzzle looks great when you first see it, but ultimately it’s more of a tease than a proper math puzzle. In fact, I find it downright frustrating.

Why? If you’ve seen it on Facebook, a news article, or elsewhere on social media, you’ll have seen people arguing about whether the fact that the final blue flower has 4 petals, rather than the 5 on other blue flowers, makes any difference to the result.

My take on this: the question is ambiguous, and the correct answer isn’t what it appears at first.

You’ll need to watch the video above to hear my full response. Keep watching until the end of the video, where I offer an alternative math puzzle, one that has an actual, bona fide correct answer.

Think you have an answer to the flower puzzle? Do you have the answer to my square puzzle? Leave a comment below.

Asian Kids Beat Out the West in Math Again

Why do western nations like the US, Australian and the UK struggle to compete on the international stage when it comes to school mathematics?

A couple of days ago, the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) results from OECD countries were released. I encourage you to go over and have a look.

If you’d rather read someone else’s summary of what is shown in the results, try one of these articles. It’s fascinating to see the different interpretations put on the results in just these few media outlets:

The big majority of visitors to this site are in the following five countries. Check out the position of each one on the mathematics test, out of 65 in the PISA rankings:

  • USA – 36th
  • Australia – 19th
  • UK – 26th
  • New Zealand – 22nd
  • Canada – 13th

What can educators in the West do about the relatively poor showing of their students in mathematics?

Teach Measurement Using a Rain Gauge

Standing in the Rain, Teaching: Video

Rain gauges measure rainfall by collecting a small sample and measuring how deep the water is. The trouble is, we are interested in very small units – in the metric system, rainfall is measured in millimetres/millimeters. How can you accurately measure such small amounts?

How can we use everyday examples to teach measurement?

Watch the video: I explain how a rain gauge amplifies the depth of water collected to make it easier to measure.

Helping Kids Prepare for Third Grade

Do you know of young children who are apprehensive about the new grade they will face after the summer break?

Check out how some Minnesota teachers have used a custom website Almost a Third Grader to address this issue.The results are, I think, quite brilliant. No wonder the project has been picked up by local media and even the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ daily SmartBrief.

Some features I really like:

  • A new theme/topic every couple of days over the summer
  • Free access without having to sign in
  • Engaging teaching videos made by teachers
  • Web links to other sites
  • Age-appropriate content
  • “Poll of the day”

With all the free tools available today, I doubt the teachers behind this project had to pay more than a few dollars for this entire site. The only real cost was their time, and the payoffs should be great, not just this summer but for years to come.

What could you do to help your students using free web tools like this?