Halloween – Fun Statistical Exploration Ideas

As I walk down my street and see the spider webs on the bushes, the witches and ghosts flying from the porches, and the glowing pumpkins, it’s hard not to think about Halloween. If you live on a street with lots of younger kids, it’s even harder! On my street, in a small town, Halloween is a big deal – all the neighbors come out, we build a bonfire, adults without kids hang out while those adults with kids walk around trick-or-treating with their children. There are hand-made costumes, adorable family costumes, lots of candy and a few ‘adult’ treats as well. I admit – I tend to dress up just for the fun of it, even though my own children are long grown. All of this has me thinking about the amount of money that people spend on this day of fun – i.e. the decorations, the costumes, the candy. Naturally, this had me out exploring…..

I found several articles, and let’s just say the numbers are pretty astounding:

From one article, it’s estimated that $2.6 billion is spent on candy and $2.7 billion spent on decorations. Wow!  That’s a lot. Though, after looking at the price for one bag of candy, I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Of course, I LOVE when data is displayed visually, since this really helps students in particular see data and make sense of it. Found this chart from Statista about last year’s Halloween and how the spending is divided across categories. The costumes for pets sort of cracked me up!

Infographic: The Shocking Scale Of U.S. Halloween Spending | Statista

As always, I like to think about how this type of information could be used with students. Especially as math teachers, where we are always looking for real-world problems that are in fact real world (not textbook ‘real’….i.e. contrived) and that engage students. Halloween is definitely something that engages students, so there are many ways teachers could incorporate some Halloween real-world data and questions into the math classroom.

There are several articles and places that have data about Halloween, so one way would be to collect data and create graphs of these for comparison. So perhaps comparing the trend of spending over several years and then maybe exploring what might have been happening in the years where spending seemed lower or higher and making some connections there.

Or, having students look at Halloween adds for costumes and/or candy and compare pricing and make some decisions on where they should buy their Halloween supplies, factoring in things such as sale prices, buying in bulk, type of candy, etc.

You could have some fun with candy as well – maybe estimating the number of candy corns in those small bags, and then collecting data (i.e. open several small bags, count the number, record the data, then find statistical measures and graph. Really, same thing could be done with any of those Halloween-size bags of candies, such as M&M’s, Skittles, etc.  A fun exercise in weight vs. quantity.

Students could collect data on costumes (i.e. survey other students in their school on what costume they plan to wear, and see what the trends are for costume type (see chart to the right, where for kids, Princess is #1 and then Superhero).

You could include some health statistics too – i.e. does the number of cavities found in people increase after Halloween?

And let’s not forget about pumpkins!! According to this article, $377.3 million was spent on pumpkins last year (for carving). So – how do farmers plan for the run on pumpkins? How many pumpkins are planted that are not used? Is there a state that grows the most pumpkins? Where are pumpkins grown in this country??There are lots of questions we could ask about pumpkins, so get your students thinking! And, there are lots of statistical plots reflecting the data on pumpkins (and more) that could lead to some really interesting exploration and questions and analysis.

Let your students generate some questions themselves and then help them explore finding information and then presenting the data and their conclusions. There will be a lot of different kinds of math going on, based on the avenue they choose to explore.

Have some fun!!!

Here is a quick video of some data taken from this article that I put into ClassPad.net (first as an image, and then I made my own table). Here’s a link to the CP.net paper if you want to use it.














You will find more infographics at Statista

Let’s Explore with Geometry and Start the School Year Off Right! (New Features with ClassPad.net)

I admit it. I am a geometry nut.  It is my favorite subject to teach, which I have been doing for the past 30 years (wow….said that out loud!!). Geometry to me is all about logic and connections and relationships of shapes. It should be hands-on, it should be visual, and with technology, is should be dynamic – meaning you can see and discover relationships through movement and manipulation. There are many good resources out there (for those of you looking for a ‘textbook’, Discovering Geometry has always been my go to – it’s all about learning geometry through hands-on discovery and connections. It’s on it’s 5th edition, and the ebook has dynamic investigation using ClassPad.net (formerly used Geogebra), and ClassPad.net has made huge strides in advancing it’s geometry functionality, which is what this post is focused on. My goal over the next few posts is to focus on specific geometry explorations using some of ClassPad.net’s geometry functionality, but today’s post is an overview of what’s new.

ClassPad.net has all the tools you would expect a geometry software to have – i.e. points, straight-edge tools, polygon tools, display tools, expressions, equations, etc. It has some others don’t have – i.e. tools for conics for example. Below is a list of some of the added features as we continue to improve the functionality of the software (which is FREE, btw!!)

Quick List of New Functionality:

  1. Compass Tool
  2. Ability to add in images and use them as part of your geometry explorations
  3. Ability to create sliders for transformations (dilations, rotations, translations, reflections)
  4. Trace feature
  5. Multiple Grids, including isometric
  6. Ability to lock constructs
  7. Ability to create a rigid polygon (meaning it won’t change shape once constructed)
  8. Ability to add tick marks to sides and angles
  9. Ability to change the style of points – i.e. dot, square, x
  10. Ability to measure exterior angles explicitly and create angles 0-360
  11. Ability to construct a specific regular polygon (n-gon) by constructing one side and choosing n (number of sides)
  12. Ability to duplicate constructs without have to ‘reconstruct’ them.

I will be creating videos on each of these features and how to use them for future postings, but today, I wanted to show you where you can find the different new features. Be sure to visit ClassPad.net and sign up for an account (so you can save any work you do). Both the Free and Basic accounts are completely free and have everything you could need for a classroom (don’t forget there is calculations, graphing, statistics, financial tools, and text as well as geometry!). Below is a quick how-to on finding where all the new features for geometry are – stay tuned for future how-to’s on using the specific features. Meanwhile, why not try and explore things on your own? Have fun!!


Math In Motion – Creating Simulations with ClassPad.net

The beauty of dynamic software is the ability for objects to move in real-time and measures and other objects connected and/or controlled by those also move. Basically seeing change over time happen. This allows for the ability to create some interesting simulations – such as simulating cars moving at different speeds and directions to explore rate of change, or objects turning to explore rotational symmetry and angles of rotation. Many possibilities.

Obviously thinking of ways to incorporate simulations into the teaching of more abstract concepts can be time consuming. This post, I am sharing a How-to created by Ismael Zamora, where he shows how to create moving images (using cars) and also provides a couple related ClassPad.net papers if you are interested in the activity he created.

The idea of the activity, Math In Motion, is to have students first Notice & Wonder about the movement of the cars and how they are related, what the sliders control, and is it possible to answer the question of when they will meet?

Here are the links to the publicly shared papers:

Below is a How-to video that explains how Ish created the motion of the cars, involving images, and sliders.


Teachers Rock! Show Your Appreciation in a More Personal Way – Tell Them

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, for those of you not in the know. In schools everywhere, teachers are probably getting nice little ‘treats’ from parents and students, or having special lunches or breakfasts brought in, or being treated to free ice cream or nice messages or pep rally’s – lots of things to show how much everyone appreciates the work they do. Obviously these celebrations and expressions of gratitude vary around the country, but there is usually, based on my own personal experiences in middle and high school, some recognition for teachers at some point during this week.  Which is great. Teachers deserve to be told how wonderful they are and what a difference they make in students lives, because they do. They do every day, whether they or you realize it.

It’s the little things that teachers do every day, which often go unrecognized, that really make a difference in students lives and learning. That extra time put in to make a lesson really engaging, that eating in the classroom during lunch to spend time with students who just want to talk or get some help, the personal money spent on supplies and classroom decoration so all students have what they need and to make the classroom a welcoming place, the smile at the door as students enter, the late hours grading, the phone calls to parents to share good news about students (yes, teachers do that!)….there are too many to list here, but every day teachers are providing not only learning experiences, but emotional and physical experiences that help to mold and build students confidence and understanding. This is what I don’t think people who have never been teachers understand – teaching is unlike any other job. You can’t just come in, do the same thing every day, and go home at the end of the work day and forget about it. Teaching is more than teaching content. There is a lot of emotion and dealing with students on so many levels, and navigating that, along with teaching content, makes teaching one of the most difficult jobs out there.

Unlike many other jobs, teachers often never know the impact they had on their students. Sure, we can see grades and scores on tests, but that is a moment in time in a students life, and we don’t often ever know if what we did as teachers has long-term impact (which we hope) as students grow and move on. We think it did. We hope it did. But often, we never know. Unless a student comes back and visits, (or, we are now friends on FB, years later!) – we never really know if the things we thought would make a difference did in fact make a difference. Which makes teaching different from many other professions, who can usually see immediate results or impact of their job. Teaching is a profession of faith – where we believe our efforts are the best we can provide and are something powerful that contributes to our students potential future selves. And though we often never know, we do believe.

What I think would be a really powerful way to show appreciation during this week is for students, current and past, to let a teacher know what it is they are doing or have done that has an impact on them or helped them. Reach out to that Spanish teacher who made class funny, and embraced your obnoxious sarcasm, and influenced your decision to become a teacher yourself, or write that math teacher who helped you survive Calculus and helped you become an engineer, or that teacher who smiled at you every day and gave you a hug so that you loved coming to school. Get your kids to write a note to a teacher (now or in the past) that made school exciting or turned them on to reading or helped them perfect their dunking. It’s those little recognitions’, those personal recollections that really make a teacher feel appreciated and know that what they do is making a difference to someone. Those of you who have been out of school for a while, it’s pretty easy to locate a former teacher via FB or LinkedIn. Those of you still in school, write a note, even if anonymously – it will brighten that teachers day and reaffirm their commitment to teaching.

The U.S. Department of Education has shared some really great videos of teachers sharing what makes them feel appreciated, so I am providing links to those here:

  1. https://youtu.be/dLZXKu8fxnc
  2. https://youtu.be/eqi_kE31tZU

My favorite is what students say about their teachers though, so I am sharing that video here:


The Soggy GrassHopper – A Twist on Zeno’s Paradox

This month we are going to highlight an activity called “The Soggy Grasshopper”, which comes from Fostering Mathematical Thinking in the Middle Grades with Casio Technology Ish Zamora (@seemathrun), one of Casio’s ACE math teachers has created a whole lesson package centered around this activity, which includes a ClassPad.net paper, a YouTube video on using the activity, and I am attaching the PDF of the activity for those of you who want things written out and might be using a hand-held device. Though don’t forget, ClassPad.net is a free web-based software where you can do all the math – i.e. calculations, graphing, statistics, writing out explanations….all of which are needed as part of this lesson.


The Problem

A grasshopper is on the ground and notices that it is beginning to rain. It wishes to hop to a spot beneath a tree to get out of the rain. It aims for the tree, but finds it can go only halfway on its first hop. As the grasshopper gets wetter, it finds that it can only hop half the remaining distance each time.

In this investigation, students will explore the grasshopper’s journey.

The Math

This problem involves collecting data, so setting up a table, to collect the numbers of hops and distance traveled and the distance left. Students will look for patterns and write formulas for the fraction of the distance remaining. Students will create scatterplots of their data and use the table and graphs to answer questions about the grasshoppers journey.

The Resources

  1. You can find the PDF of the complete activity here: The Soggy GrassHopper
  2. You can find the ClassPad.net paper here: The Soggy Grasshopper (created by Ish Zamora)
  3. You can find the YouTube video on the activity, narrated by Ish Zamora, here: ClassPad.net How-To Activity: The Soggy Grasshopper

Women in STEM – Celebrating Women’s History Month

Yesterday it was announced that mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck . from the University of Texas at Austin, had been awarded the Abel Prize 2019 “for her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.” Impressive in itself, but more impressive because she is the first woman ever to be awarded the prize (The Abel Prize was established on 1 January 2002. The purpose is to award the Abel Prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics. The prize amount is 6 million NOK (about 750,000 Euro) and was awarded for the first time on 3 June 2003).  A fitting tribute and accomplishment during this month, which happens to be Women’s History Month, which celebrates women’s’ contributions to society and history.

Seems only appropriate to dedicate this post to other significant women and their contributions to STEM, especially as there is still such a need for more women in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The more young girls and women see what others have done, the more they are inspired to pursue futures in these fields. I’ve done a little research and pulled together a few names to share in this post. By no means is this an exhaustive list, rather a list of women that sparked my interest, particularly in mathematics, since this has been my personal passion for most of my life. There are many more out there, but the idea of celebrating Women’s History Month is to realize how important, and often unknown/hidden, women have been in many of our STEM advances and historical events.

  1. Marie Curie the only woman to have received TWO Nobel Prizes (one for Physics and one for Chemistry).
  2. Gertrude B. Elion another Nobel Prize winner in Physiology, whose work contributed to many new drugs, including AZT, the aides drug
  3. Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace – credited with being the first computer programmer!!  Very cool.
  4. Barbara McClintock – Nobel Prize winner in Physiology, credited with showing that genes turn certain physical attributes on and off.
  5. Rachel Carson – credited with creating the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as a result of her writings and work.
  6. Radia Perlman – commonly referred to as ‘the Mother of the Internet” for her algorithm (STP) that basically allows the Ethernet to handle massive networks
  7. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper – credited with creating the programming language C.O.B.A.L
  8. Lisa Meitner – part of the duo that discovered nuclear fission (fascinating history here about her being ignored in the awarding of the Nobel Prize)
  9. Katherine Johnson – her mathematical computations influenced every major NASA space project – wow!! (See the movie Hidden Figures)
  10. Florence Nightingale – helped pioneer the field of applied statistics and created a version of a pie chart called the ‘coxcomb‘. Totally new information for me!!

I could go on and on – it is amazing once you start looking, how many women have been pioneers, ‘firsts’, and influencers/contributors to math, science, engineering and technology. It’s exciting that so many are finally being recognized. Inspirational. There are lots of interesting articles and synopses out there that can spark student interest and maybe inspire some of our youth as well. Maybe spend some of this Women’s History Month exploring with your students or just on your own. I know I have been really surprised and amazed and plan to keep researching.

President’s Day – Sample Lesson (Statistics and Measures of Center)

In honor of President’s Day this coming Monday, it seems appropriate for this months’ lesson feature to be center around information about presidents. There is a lot of data that you could explore with students about presidents – age, number years in office, age when they died, number of children, etc. But, I simply chose one statistic – i.e. age at inauguration, to make this really a focused lesson on using a set of data to explore data representations and measures of center.

The Lesson

The idea of this lesson is to help students look at different ways of representing data (table, dot plot, histogram and box-and-whisker plot) in order to make some conjectures and observations. And depending on the representation, really thinking about the information you are able to glean. Can you estimate measures of center from visual representations of data? Is one representation better than another for a given set of data.

ClassPad.net is a great tool for a lesson like this because it allows for students to see all representations in one spot,  continually add on representations, and also provides a place to write down observations and conclusions. You will see that the shared paper (the complete lesson) has explanations, questions, directions all in the one place, and students are doing the math and making their conjectures after each step. It’s an all-in-one, multiple representation activity. Here is the link to the shared paper, that you can use freely with students. If you want to create a duplicate copy to save, you must create a free Classpad.net account and ‘duplicate’ the paper there once you open it. This will create your own copy that you can modify and then share with your own students. Either way, the idea is that students can do multiple representations and measures of central tendency very quickly and make some mathematical connections and conclusions about the given presidential data.

ClassPad.net Lesson In Action

I’ve made a short video that explains the lesson a bit more and walks through the how-to’s of creating the different plots and shows the different aspects of the lesson (i.e. the text stickies, tables, plots, etc.). As usual, you will notice a lot of questions built into the activity, where students are asked to observe, notice, compare and write down their observations. My suggestion for this activity is to do each step and really pause after to allow students individual think time, but then also bring them back together (pair up first, then whole class) to make sure everyone is on the same page before moving to the next step.

Again – here is the shared paper link: ES/MS President’s Day Lesson