Category Archives: math co-ops

Math Day

It is summer! We’re going to the beach as often as we can and spending our days outside as much as possible.

But I’m also hosting a math day once a month. It give me a chance to try out some fun math activities. And it helps my homeschooling friends fight the dreaded summer slide. Want to host one of your own? Here are some tips:

  1. Pick a theme. One concept is a good idea. I’m targeting first graders so in June we did addition and July we did subtraction.

2. Keep it light! It’s summer…no boring worksheets allowed. I’m using my own materials but you can find a ton of stuff on Pinterest. We played games, completed math fact coloring sheets, and always used edible manipulatives. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Snacks are a must 🙂 Snap cubes are fun but Skittles are better. And if you want to avoid the sugar rush go with Goldfish crackers or pretzels.

In the end, I think the key to the success is friends. Getting to try out these activities with their friends was the main motivation. And if you’re like me that means a mix of ages (see the group photo above). I had the older kids work as helper and the younger kids thought it was a blast too. Granted they didn’t understand the subtraction…just the Skittles.

More on Math Day favorites soon…


The Game of NIM

Do you have a pile of pennies or beans somewhere? And a child who loves to play games? Then you have everything you need to play NIM.

The game is ancient and there are many different variations. The beauty of it is with a little math you can figure out how to win every time. What I love is that by changing the number of pennies you can make the game age-appropriate for different children. Try playing as a family.

What You Will Need:

15 pennies

2 players

How to Play:

  1. Place 15 pennies between the two players and decide who will go first.
  2. Player one must remove one, two, or three pennies. They decide how many and they cannot choose to skip their turn.
  3. After player one, player two decides to remove one, two, or three pennies and so on.
  4. The object of the game is to be the player who removes the last penny (in some versions this rule is the other way around).

Play several times and see if your kids notice any patterns. Now it is time for some mathematical thinking. Can you generalize any patterns that you notice? Try changing the number of pennies or changing who gets to go first. How does that affect your strategy?

What if you change the rules and each player can pick only one or two pennies? How would that change the outcome?

The goal is to start a good discussion about the strategy. And students are motivated because the more they discover the more unbeatable they become!

MATHCOUNTS Problem of the Week

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research on prealgebra. Most of us don’t think about it as much as the high school math subjects but I’m starting to think a strong foundation in the content covered in prealgebra would eliminate so much of the stress many students experience in high school.

MATHCOUNTS is a middle school math competition that produces lots of great resources if you’re working on prealgebra concepts. One that I recently discovered is their problem of the week. Here is this week’s problem:


So many great skills are covered here. It is a great resource for a co-op or as a supplement. I’d try doing them on Fridays with your 7th or 8th grader.

Pixar in a Box: The Math Behind the Movies

Summer time is a great opportunity for some lighter math activities or projects connection math to the world. Pixar in a Box, a new course from Khan Academy, is a perfect fit.

You can find the course here.

Level 1 is appropriate for kids as young as elementary and level 2 often delves into high school math content. This would be an outstanding option for a math co-op.

Stained Glass Slope Activity

In my Algebra class we are studying slope. It is such an important concept, it is worth spending extra time making sure students really understand it. A fun activity to add some art into the mixture is this stained glass activity from

stained glass window- graphing linear equations

The first page gives you a list of different equations in slope-intercept from. The second page is the answer key. The fun part is coloring in with your own personalized design at the end.

stained glass example

To make it look even cooler tape a piece of tracing paper or wax paper over your graph paper. Draw the lines for the equations on top. When you are finished remove the graph paper and color in your design. Now you can tape the stained glass window graph to a window and the light will pass through.

Summer School?

My first teaching experience in Philadelphia was summer school geometry, an intensive 5-week program for students who had failed the class previously.  Two hours of geometry every day throughout July in a building with questionable air conditioning.  My biggest challenge was keeping my students awake!

Although I don’t think that was a very positive experience for my students it does raise a good question about math in the summer.  Our library is already promoting its reading programs and home school parents are assigning their kids summer reading lists so their brains don’t turn to mush.  But what about math?  If you take four months off from numbers completely it takes the whole month of September just to get back in the groove.  Yet even as I write this post I can hear the voices of the unenthusiastic math students.  Math in the summer? Noooooo!!!! What could be worse?

But it doesn’t have to be an agonizing 12-week calculus course with weekly quizzes and 50 practice problems a day.  Here a three ways you could incorporate some math this summer:

  1. Hire a tutor. The school year is winding down which naturally leads us to reflect on the year and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the year.  If you’re looking back and math is the subject that fell to the bottom of the pile now is the time to address that.  It is very tempting to sweep the problem under the rug especially since a student who struggled with math probably won’t be excited to continue it over the summer.  But if you address the problem head on you will receive double the benefits.  First, a tutor can go back over the material from the past year and fill in the gaps.  Second, when your child starts school in the fall they won’t have experienced the “summer slide” effect.  It will be fresh in their mind and that added boost can give them the confidence they need to start the upcoming year successfully.  For more on finding an effective tutor see this post.
  1. Study for the SATs. Suppose you had a great year in math, but you just don’t want to lose the momentum.  Also, the upcoming school year might be packed with AP classes, a fall sport, or a lead role in the home school musical.  Taking an SAT prep course in the summer addresses both of these issues.  During the summer you can set aside one hour a day to work on problems (first thing in the morning I hope) and you’ll be able to thoroughly review everything before the test.  No cramming needed.  When September rolls around with research papers, lab reports, and week night activities you’ll be so thankful the SATs are already out of the way.
  1. Start a math club. This can be an organized weekly meeting with other families or something you just do at home with siblings.  I participated in one when I was in school (nerd alert!) and it was really fun.  For me it wasn’t about the math, I was just excited to see my friends.  We played math games (set, 24, petals around the rose).  Keep the material lighter, work on logic puzzles and solve riddles.  I’ve posted lots of fun word problems on my blog that generate discussions and fun to solve.  Anything to help keep numbers in your mind.

There are many other ways you can incorporate a little math into your summer, but those suggestions should get you started.  Grab your shades and some sunblock and challenge someone to a game of 24 🙂

Kids Teaching Kids: The New Khan Academy

We all love the short, simple video lessons of Khan Academy…but what if there was a way to make them even more interesting?  A 6th grade class in California did just that by making the videos themselves.

Students love using the technology and acting as the director and producer of their own video lesson.  And as a math teacher I love the higher-order thinking skills they are developing as they decide on the simplest way to explain the problem.

So how can you incorporate this into your online class, local co-op, or home school program?

If you have an iPad you can use an app like Show Me to easily record.  Otherwise you need some type of screencasting software.

Try it out and make your own little math video.  It’s fun!


I’ve recently become a fan of the show Chopped.  The combination of crazy ingredients and a time crunch make for a thrilling 45 minutes.


But recently I stumbled across this blog post which describes a math version of the show that would be great in any co-op.  I also might do an online version for my students.  A quick summary of the activity is that students get certain  mathematical “ingredients” (paper clips, rubber bands, blocks, and a cup) and they have to use these to make a video that explains different functions.

The whole idea of students making mini-videos to explain math is a recent educational phenomenon.  Students love using the technology to make the videos and it forces them to really think about the mathematical concepts and vocabulary if they are explaining it to other students.  But I’ll post more on that in a future post.  For now, grab some mathematical ingredients and get chopping.