Pragmatic tools and ideas for the classroom

Digital Magic #5

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #5

Here are 5 links for you to explore.


26 Learning Games to Change the World

To be honest, the only one I’ve tried is Free Rice, and I wrote about it here.

If you use and like another one, please let me know!

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2. GLOBAL ISSUES… continued

World on Fire – by Sarah McLachlan

A typical music video costs about $150,000. Sarah only spent $15 on her World on Fire video, and then she took $148,270 and spent it in ways that positively impacted the lives of thousands of needy people! (Donations list)

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The Math Playground

If you click on the K-7 Mathcasts you will get to see Voicethreads in action... (I linked to Voicethread in Digital Magic #2)

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R2D2 in the classroom?

OK Lawrence, this one is for you, although I have to say, “I want one too!”

Sorry to say there is no money in our budget to get these into our school.

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Academe’s Dirty Little Secret

This blog post is written by Darren Kuropatwa, a brilliant high school Math teacher.

Here is an excerpt:

“You can require your students to demonstrate their understanding of what they are learning by having them apply their knowledge analyzing and evaluating relevant novel situations or problems. Better yet, get them to create content that educates an interested learner and they will automatically incorporate all those levels of engagement while they make their learning sticky. I don’t need to tell you that there’s nothing like having to teach a thing to make you really learn it.

Darren walks the talk! His students will go home and spend hours helping to teach others, when it is there turn to scribe the class notes and post them on a blog for the other students in their class. You can see this in his Scribe Hall of Fame… or if you aren’t into Math, just check out the link to the article.

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Did you miss an edition of Digital Magic? Is there one you want to look back on again? Here are all the editions of Digital Magic in reverse order, (most recent first).

Have a great week!


May 4, 2008 Posted by | digital magic, learning, lesson idea, Math, Numeracy, social responsibility, Social Studies, teaching, technology, tools, web based | 1 Comment

Digital Magic #2

Welcome to Dave’s Digital Magic #2

Here are 5 links for you to explore.


Classroom Organization- Cooperative Learning Strategies

Nothing new here, but when I found this, it reminded me of some of the really interactive things I’ve done in my classroom, but didn’t use as much as I should.


Working in small groups

Group Size

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Learning Role Cards

Role of parents/carers in the classroom

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Teachers can get a FREE ACCOUNT! There are soooo many classroom possibilities.

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Click on a ‘crisis’ and find out more about it.
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National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Great for many areas of the Math Curriculum… and FUN too!
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How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise.

A Feature in the The New York Times, By Po Bronson. I will let the article speak for itself:

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.” Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.” Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart”kids took the cop-out.

Later, when given a much more difficult test, these results were magnified. It really is worth reading the whole article, but here is a key point about the research above:

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

More food for thought from the article:

Psychologist Wulf-Uwe Meyer, a pioneer in the field, conducted a series of studies where children watched other students receive praise. According to Meyer’s findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude. In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.

In a nutshell, praise effort rather than intelligence. The article goes on to mention the value this has on developing persistence when faced with failure, while praising intelligence increases the stress and reduces the desire to face such challenges. I will be thinking about this a lot over the next few days both at school with my students and at home with my own kids. – – – – – Po Bronson’s blog, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. From Part 4:

“A common praise technique that people use (I know I did it with my tutoring kids… up til a few weeks ago, that is….) is to use a present success to control future performance. For example, if a typically-sloppy child writes an essay that’s atypically legible, a parent or teacher may say, “That’s very neat: you should write all of your papers like this.” Even if it’s meant as sincere praise and encouragement, the research shows that’s not only an ineffective way to praise. In fact, like praising for intelligence – it can actually damage a child’s performance. Here’s what is going on…”

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Have a great week!

April 12, 2008 Posted by | across the curric., David Truss, digital magic, learning, lesson idea, Math, teaching, technology, web based | , , , , , | Comments Off on Digital Magic #2

Multiplying Integers: Why is -3 x -4 = +12?

Here are

‘The Rules’ and ‘The Reasons’,

‘The How’ and ‘The Why’

for Multiplying Integers.

I uploaded a couple pages of my Math Model Book for a ‘Pair-a-Dimes’ post, “Assessment & Rote Learning: Math Conundrums“… and thought I would share these very practical resources here.

The first page has The Rules for Multiplying and Dividing Integers.

Rules for multiplying & dividing integers

Next, using counters, I look at Why the Rules for Multiplying Integers Work*. I call this lesson “Why is a negative times a negative a positive?” and slowly build up to this at the end of the lesson. I enjoy seeing the a-hah moments in students when they finally understand this concept.

*It is very important to have pre-taught the concept of zero before this lesson, (the same negative and positive number together cancel each other out: together -4 and +4 = 0).

But what about division you might ask? I find this harder to show with counters so I usually explain that every multiplication question has two equivalent, related division questions:

If               3 x 4 = 12       Then        12 ÷ 4 = 3         and         12 ÷ 3 = 4

So if,     -3 x -4 = +12     Then     +12 ÷ – 4 = -3     and     +12 ÷ -3 = -4

This makes further sense to students when they realize that multiplying two integers with opposite signs = negative, and they can see that the same rings true for division as well.

March 24, 2007 Posted by | David Truss, lessons, Math, Pair-a-Dimes, teaching, tools | 18 Comments

Create a Graph

It doesn’t get much easier than this:


Create a Graph Screenshot

March 5, 2007 Posted by | learning, Math, tools, web based | Comments Off on Create a Graph

Numeracy Task 2 – Flipping Hidden Cups

Four CupsA round table has four deep pockets equally spaced around its perimeter. There is a cup in each pocket oriented either up or down, but you cannot see which. The goal of the game is to get all the cups ‘up’ or all the cups ‘down’. You do this by reaching into any two pockets, feeling the orientation of the glasses, and then doing something with them, (you can flip one, two, or none). However, as soon as you take your hands out of the pockets the table spins in such a way that you can’t keep track of where the pockets you have visited are. If the four glasses ever get oriented all up or all down a bell rings to signal you are done. Can you guarantee that you will get the bell to ring in a (maximum) finite number of moves, and if so, how many?

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You can find out more about Numeracy Tasks in my ‘Pair-a-Dimes’ blog.
I will tag all tasks like this with Numeracy so that they are easy to find in one location.

Please feel free to post questions or your best answer in a comment… but do not ruin the challenge for others by explaining how you got to that answer here! If you feel compelled to share your method, please do so by contacting me. Thanks!

January 27, 2007 Posted by | contact, David Truss, lessons, Math, Numeracy, Pair-a-Dimes | 1 Comment

Numeracy Task 1 – The Glass Orb Drop


'Sphere_2720' by doviendeYou have two glass orbs of equal strength and a 40 story building.
Your task is to determine the highest floor from which you can drop an orb without it breaking.
What is the least number of drops required to do this?
Both orbs may be broken in order to determine your answer.
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You can find out more about Numeracy Tasks in my ‘Pair-a-Dimes’ blog.
I will tag all tasks like this with Numeracy so that they are easy to find in one location.

Please feel free to post your questions or best answer in a comment… but do not ruin the challenge for others by explaining how you got to that answer here! If you feel compelled to share your method, please do so by contacting me. Thanks!

Image: ‘Sphere_2720’by doviende

January 27, 2007 Posted by | contact, David Truss, lessons, Math, Numeracy, Pair-a-Dimes | 1 Comment

Using Flickr with a specific tag: Math, (Geometry or Fractions)

With the tag, all project photos can be seen in a single space.

A description of the project by Cool Cat Teacher is here.

The Trig. assignment/Ruberic developed by Darren Kuropatwa is here.

What a great assignment to do for Fractions or Geometry!

The use of Hotspots is what really ties the photo to the learning!
(‘Add Note’ on a Flickr photo).

This is “Tenny’s trig” photo from Darren’s class. (With Hotspots Here)

This can be used in Art and quite frankly, across the curriculum, but I really like the potential for using it in Math. Congrats to Darren – this is brilliant!

January 3, 2007 Posted by | across the curric., Art, lesson idea, Math, Numeracy, web based, web2.0 | Comments Off on Using Flickr with a specific tag: Math, (Geometry or Fractions)

Google Sketchup

By Google, found at: http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/download?mid=7260955c15e5b481753ea31d732a49b0&rtyp=lt
What a great tool!
Imagine what a student can do with this for the Renaissance Fair… forget the cardboard Church in Architechture, or the lego castle in Warfare.

I can also use this in my on-line Da Vinci Project.

January 3, 2007 Posted by | Art, links, Math, Science, Social Studies, teaching, technology, tools, web based | 1 Comment