Math Doodles Fills Secret Gaps

Every year, I have a student that has a little secret. They made it past first & second grade without learning to tell time or recognize and count coins! By the end of my third grade unit on money, I will be expecteded to teach my third graders to solve word problems such the following:

If Sally has $11.58 and her sister has $1.85 less. How much will they need to save before they can buy a toy that costs $50.00?

Considering that a few have little or no background information on money, we have a ton of learning to do in a few short weeks! Obviously, I need to begin the unit by differentiating instruction so that students who came to third grade with previously-taught skills in money, like recognizing coins and bills, can move on. Those who need to become familiar with our system of currency deserve that lesson…and one that will stick. In both small classrooms and the largest, kids are eager to work in flexible groups, but are typically aware of what the other group is doing. This year, I found a great web application that made the brighter math students wonder what they were missing!

In years past, I tried to encourage students new to counting money to get some coins out of their piggy back and bring to class to identify, classify and arrange. Half wondering if they would every really use change in adulthood, I rushed through this concept so that we could make it through the unit in time. This year, I looked for a way to teach them to count change, but add more advanced math concepts at the same time. That’s when I found MathDoodles. This web demo, obviously still in demo mode, was written by a teacher for kids who like math, but want to have fun. Teacher-designed apps are always the best….too bad they typically have the least amount of free time to write programmes.

After fiddling with MathDoodles and argueing with my husband over whether the directions referring to a “neighborhing number” referred to physical location or location on a number line, I took it to the IWB during math class for some testing.


IWB_GroupWhile my math/logical learners stumbled through a few Singapore Math models (exampled above), I took my currency-illiterate students to the board and brought up “Connect Sums.” I set it to use coins instead of numbers or dice. I watched the students collaborate to understand the game rules and listened to them discuss the value of the coins. After fully understanding the goal of the game, they began to determine their strategy. As a group, they quickly gained understanding of currency value and began to develop the skill of counting on by various sums…5, 10, 25.

If your student(s) struggle to show understanding of math concepts learned 2 or 3 years previous, think before signing up for online programs/games that cycle through a database of math problems. While these programs can build foundational understanding of math, the built-in reward systems are there to keep students from burning out. If there are just a few concepts that your student needs to build a foundation upon, games like Math Doodles teach, build confidence, and develop higher-order thinking skills….and it’s FREE!

ads? No.

membership/cost? Demo is free. Carstens Studios may publish and charge a fee for a full-version at a later time.

navigation? Very precise. Excellent classroom tool for IWB.

sound? yes.

Physics from Harold and the Purple Crayon

A relatively young Finnish computing science student (@PetriPurho)was inspired by the traditional tale of “Harold and the Purple Crayon” Rather than write the sequel, he created a fascinating web application: Crayon Physics Deluxe.


Presented on a wrinkled-paper background, players navigate a ball to strike intentionally placed stars. The catch is that every object, blocks, platforms, balls and rockets will all succumb to Newton’s friend, gravity!

The most exciting component of Crayon Physics is it’s seventy levels, many of which can be mastered by a pre-schooler! A tech teacher friend, Bill Witt, introduced this to me and I embarrassed myself in front of 20 fourth-graders. Of course the ball would roll right off the side of the platform since I neglected to draw color a ramp to re-direct it.

The free demo is full of levels and choices. The upgrade buys you new islands and access to a “playground” where you can share user-created challenges. An i-phone app was released one year and ten days ago. Michaela’s favorite game by Purho is World of Goo.

ads? No.

membership/cost? Demo is free. Deluxe is $20 (PayPal accepted). Download by Kloonigames necessary. Not for Mac yet.

navigation? Very precise. Excellent classroom tool for IWB.

EdTech Images Labeled for Reuse

Bloggers love to add images to their posts, but pictures of students using tech is hard to come by. If you Google “EdTech” you’ll find thousands of images of conference speakers preaching technology integration.

As we share ideas online, we can share a library of media that will help get the “picture” across to readers. If you have a picture to share, email us by clicking on the email button at column right. View PhotoBucket Album here.

Remember that these images are labeled as “free for reuse” as long as you don’t benefit financially from their use. To protect yourself from free image license changes, visit ImageStamper….gratis @educ8ter.







Wait…Don’t Google That!


Midway through a unit of study on rainforests, my daughter was given an assignment to find out what side a farmer would take on deforestation. That night, I was feverishly catching up on emails, twitter and facebook when I saw Michaela (MT) peering at me through the glass doors, with the confidence to tell me to get off the computer because she had homework that needed to be done online.

Momentarily, her step-dad, my very own Mike Brady (MB), began a long, drawn-out Socratic session on what her assignment really entailed.

What is the question that you are being asked to answer?

Did your teacher specifically say that you needed to use the computer?

After Michaela fessed up that she wasn’t really asked to “Google It“, but rather come prepared to discuss her position on deforestation as a farmer, the air was cleared. I had infinite time to stay glued to the computer and Michaela got to enlist in a very productive session of Critical Thinking 101. Children tend to jump for the computer before thinking about what they already know and what they need the computer for.

MB: So, Michaela, what do you know about farmers?

MT: Well, they grow things for a living.

MB: Ok. And what resources do they need to farm?

MT: Hmmm. Machines or people. And water. And land.

MB: Right. Now, can farmers grow crops in a rain forest?

MT: Sure.

MB: Really? Don’t your typical food-producing crops need lots of sunlight?

MT: You’re right. And they wouldn’t want so many animals living amongst their crops.

MB: Getting closer. And, if you were a farmer, would you sell your crops to endangered monkeys and rare birds?

MT: No. I would want to farm near where people live and buy food. The rain forests would be in the way. I would need to cut down the trees to grow my crops and for roads to be built to connect me to my buyers. Now I know what side I need to take.

MB: Please go check online to see if you are right. And remember to think about what your opponents will say during your discussion tomorrow. Can you Google: poor farmer rainforest -save -donate?

At that instance, I realized the value of using the internet as a forum for sharing information, learning, and researching. But I realized that parents and teachers can help build critical thinking skills through conversation and asking questions to lead children to the place they need to be BEFORE they google. Had Michaela searched “rainforests” only, she would have reveled in opportunities to donate money, read sad stories and inspect every species of beetle known to mine the soil. By conversing about her search goal and practicing patience, all were happy. And Mr. Brady took the trophy for most patient.

To learn more about how Google is supporting young internet surfers, read this New York Times article dated December 25th, 2009. “Helping Children Find What They Need on the Internet”.

If your child is studying the rain forests, read my previous post on The Prince’s Rainforest Project.

Watch Out Akeelah! I’m Up on

There’s nothing better than an online game that has educational value. But when that game is completely customized to your child’s weekly spelling list and practice requirements, let’s just say 10 birds, one stone.

Spelling tests made easy

Start out by checking for a list of words uploaded by your school/teacher found under “find a list”. If none, just type in your current spelling words and get started. Parents, this is a great thing for you to do to avoid a situation where your student types in the initial list incorrectly and practices the wrong spelling!

Next, have your child click on “Teach Me” to listen to a thorough pronunciation and spelling of each word. You can also click to hear the word read aloud in context of a sentence. Regardless of whether teacher has your student study definitions, understanding a word within context gives kids the opportunity to recall each and every time they have seen, read or spoken that word. Recognizing its purpose helps students become better spellers as they make the connection between reading and writing.

Spice things up with a few games. Click on “Play a Game” to see a series of interactive games that include alphabetizing, scrambles, missing letters, audio word match and word search. A friendly grid allows you to determine how many words are required to make the game possible as well as whether the game can be printable and taken “offline”.


After a few rounds of games, it’s time to test yourself! Here, students are asked to spell each of the words they submitted as a list (or those chosen on a provided list). An audio button prompts you to type in each word and can be repeated as many times as needed. For extra help, they can click on a sentence button to hear the word in context (useful for homophones). After the test, your child can “Print a Report or Certificate” to take to school or hang on the fridge. The report is useful as it reviews mistakes and gives corrections. Carefully studying errors is a great way for some learners to focus on proper spelling. features many other tools to help build spelling skills. The “Resources” page features articles about how the brain learns to spell as well as popular spelling lists. If your student’s teacher uses a spelling program that will not integrate well with, use it as a supplemental tool. My daughter uses a Latin-Roots vocabulary/spelling program at school. However, some of her basic sight words are spelled incorrectly in daily writing. We will use the “Contractions” and “Plural Nouns” lists over holiday break to catch up on some missed spelling lessons.

Educators and interested parents can visit a “Forums” page to share lists, discuss practice tips and give feedback on games.

If your student is required to write their spelling list as a handwriting exercise, you can use a teacher-uploaded list and convert to a  handwriting. Here, you choose print or cursive and a size of print and writing guide lines.


Ads? Yes, right below the menu tabs and large, click-able image for “FreeRealms” chat and video download site on homepage.

Login Required? No. Students can type in name to personalize worksheets/certificates.

Navigation? Medium.

Audio? Yes and necessary to learn, take test and some games.

Membership? Optional for premium game(s) at $25 per year. Sample word lists available to try out premium games. Activity tracking.