Monthly Archives: January 2017

Learning How To Learn: Barbara Oakley at TEDx

Barbara Oakley is a top educational researcher and a professor of engineering. But she wasn’t always a math person. Originally interested primarily in languages and cultures, she made a career change at age 26 (reminds me of myself…I pivoted from French to mathematics when I started college). In this video she explains what she learned about her brains through that process.

The video is a great resource for parents or homeschool students. Learning how we learn makes us all better students.

Borax Crystal Snowflakes

I’ve heard of tried several crystal growing science experiments in the past but this one was my all time favorite for several reasons. First, it was cheap! I bought a box of Borax and some pipe cleaners at Walmart for $5 and now I have enough supplies for a co-op. Second, it was fast! The crystals started growing within an hour and the snowflake had formed in 4-6 hours. Yours might take longer, but you’ll definitely see the results that same day.

I did learn a lot from trying it out so here are detailed instructions with some notes and tips.



  1. Borax
  2. Pipe Cleaners
  3. A jar or container with a wide mouth
  4. popsicle stick or skewer for hanging the snowflake
  5. string
  6. scissors

Cut the pipe cleaner into 3 pieces and twist them to make a snowflake. You may want to trim it to make sure it is even. It is easier if you make your snowflake smaller so that it easily fits into the jar without touching the sides.






Bend down one pipe cleaner and attach a piece of string. Tie the string to a skewer or popsicle stick.

For the Borax solution mix 3 tablespoons Borax per 1 cup of hot water. I ended up using at least 3 cups in order to completely cover my pipe cleaner snowflake so you might be better off mixing 1/2 cup Borax with 3 cups boiling water. I needed the water to be boiling for it to dissolve the Borax. Also, be careful when measuring the Borax it spills easily as it is very light and powdering.

You can also add food coloring, although mine didn’t really show up in the final product.

Suspend the snowflake in the solution and wait.

5, 10, 15, 20! A Resource Roundup for Counting Practice

In first grade one of the big goals is to learn to count. Many kids will come out of kindergarten with a strong grasp of counting by ones, but learning to count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s will prepare them for telling time and even multiplication. And remember kids need to practice counting starting from the middle too. Counting by 1’s starting from 22 is harder than starting from the beginning.

Below I’ve linked up some fun ways to practice counting.

Complete the pattern worksheets. This website has some great worksheets that range in difficulty. The one I picture below is one of the hardest because you have to determine if the numbers are increasing by one or ten before filling it in. There are also much easier patterns on the site as well so you can work your way up.

Connect the dots. This is genius! Have kids practice skip counting while discovering the secret picture.

Image result for Counting by 5s connect the dots

If you search “skip counting connect the dots” on Pinterest you will be able to find just about anything (from Mozart to Christmas trees!). But if you want a specific site try this one. They have links to 50 or so puzzles with skip counting ones at the bottom.

The Caterpillar Ordering Game. This game allows you to decide if you want to count up or backwards and you can adjust the difficulty so that it is 5s, 10s, or something else. It is also kind of cute 🙂

Number puzzles. The idea and photo for this came from the blog that I’ve linked up to, but you can find example of this all over the internet. They are a great way to reinforce the ideas of skip counting while also letting kids do some problem solving. It helps them practice counting by 1s and 10s, but they have to be able to count backwards and forwards. Here’s what a completed puzzle looks like:

Basically, think of it as cutting a number crossword out of times table. The rows will be increasing by 1 and the columns increase by 10. Cut all the numbers a part and put them in a baggie. The student has to arrange them and solve the puzzle by figuring out the order.

Business Project for 1st thru 3rd Graders

I’ve been thinking a lot about math projects as a way for kids to wrap up a unit in math and try out some of their newly learned skills in a real life situation. I was looking for something for lower elementary that utilized addition and subtraction with 3 digit numbers. I trolled around Pinterest but couldn’t find what I was looking for. So….

I came up with my own.

The idea is for kids to have fun creating their own business. They have to figure out what they are selling and design their own logo.

They have to predict and list their costs and Uno cards are used to model their projected sales. Then they have to add it all up and find their profit.

The free download is here.

Business Project for First thru Third Grade

Try it out and please leave feedback below. Coming soon…a similar project for 4th-6th.