Math Fun in San Antonio – NCTM 2017 Annual

Next week is the NCTM Annual Math Conference in San Antonio, TX.  It’s a great time to go to Texas, as the weather hasn’t gotten too hot. I remember the last time NCTM was in San Antonio, when I was still teaching high school, and met up with all my teacher friends. We had such a great time, not only going to different workshops at the conference, but exploring the area (a trip to the Alamo was a must) and eating and shopping along the River Walk. I am going this year as part of the education team for Casio, where there will be a lot of fun to be had at our exhibit booth and sponsored events.  I have been going to NCTM Annuals for over 23 years (what?????), and as usual, I am looking forward to reconnecting with math educators and friends from all over the country, many of whom I only get to see this one time a year. So, it’s more than just a place to learn new ideas and collaborate with like-minded educators, it’s a time to renew friendships and share memories. I certainly am hoping to catch up with as many folks as I can, even if just to share a cup of coffee or a hug as we pass in the conference hall.

Naturally, the goal of attending a conference is to learn new things to bring back to your classroom or to the educators you work with. It’s one of the aspects of these conferences I love the most – the ‘renewed’ energy and excitement that occurs when you see a strategy that you want to take back to your class or you learn a new approach to a familiar concept that you know will resonate with your students, or you find that perfect resource for an upcoming unit. I always consider these conferences as a way to reaffirm why we teach math – seeing what others are doing, sharing stories and ideas, and leaving with at least one or two ideas that are going to spark your students creativity and understanding. For me personally, I always had a key focus (say Algebra, or Geometry or technology or manipulatives) to narrow down the workshops I went to, with the goal to find a few new resources, ideas and strategies to incorporate into my teaching over the summer so that next years classes would be even better. This type of focus helped to make ‘teaching’  a new adventure every year, even if I was teaching the same subjects, and it also made sure that as a teacher, I was always challenging myself to be better and find relevant strategies and multiple ways to help my students learn.

One aspect that I always look for is technology applications and resources. I am a firm believer in the idea that technology, whether it be a calculator, a tablet, a computer, a video, can be a valuable resource to help students both learn and develop mathematical understanding, but more importantly to visualize abstract concepts and explore ‘what if’s’.  I am sure there are many of you out there as well looking for some technology workshops as you attend NCTM this year, so I wanted to share some workshops from some of the amazing teachers that work with Casio, as these are always such great hands-on experiences.


  • Thursday, April 6 – 9:30 – 10:30, Room 213AB Conv Center: Exhibitor’s Workshop What’s New At Casio: Viewing Mathematics through a New Prizm (or Two) 
  • Thursday, April 6, 3:15 – 4:30, Room 217C Conv. Center: Polar, Parametric, Rectangular Graphs – Really See the Connections! with DeeDee Henderson
  • Friday, April 7, 11 – 12:00, Room Presido ABC (Grand Hyatt): Conceptualizing Polynomials with Jennifer N. Morris
  • Friday, April 7, 1:30 – 2:45, Room 224 Conv. Center: Conics – The Ugly Duckling of Algebra 2 with Denise Young & Tracey Zak Johnson.
  • Friday, April 7, 2:o0 – 3:00, Room 008AB Conv. Center: The Probabilities and Mathematics of “Wheel of Fortune” with Mike Reiners
  • Saturday, April 8, 8:00 – 9:15, Room 006D Conv. Center: Hands-on Activities + Technology = Mathematical Understanding through Authentic Modeling with Tom Beatini

We will also be having a fun time at the booth, Thursday – Saturday, playing games, having give-aways, talking and doing mathematics with our hand-held technology, so be sure to stop by and say hi (Booth #631) and come play with math. I will be there most of the time and hope to meet some new math educators and give a hug to old friends!!

The Power of the fx-991EX – It’s Not JUST Solar

I read the Casio Twitter feed and FB feed every day, just to answer questions and see what followers might be saying. Recently there have been some kudos shared about the fx-991EX solar powered scientific calculator that got me curious. In particular. that the fx-991EX does engineering problems so well and they would be lost without it (someone said he uses it in all his higher-ed courses). This was intriguing to me since I assumed engineers, with their complex calculations, would more likely use graphing calculators like the Prizm or ClassPad or even engineering software.  Naturally, I set out to explore some of the ‘engineering’ capabilities of the fx-991EX, since I hadn’t really spent too much time with this aspect of the calculator.

As I refreshed my memory of the menu and capabilities of the fx-991Ex, it kind of boggled my mind how
much this solar-powered scientific calculator can do, and with it’s QR code capabilities, it can even show graphs and printable spreadsheets and tables. (See my previous posts about Graphing & QR code capabilities). After looking a little more closely at all the menu icons and what each does, I understood why this one calculator would in fact be sufficient for engineers, or really anyone. I spent some time playing around with different features that I had not previously explored, and have shared a couple of my explorations in the video below.

For those of you who have not experienced or explored this powerful little calculator, I suggest you do. If you are at NCTM San Antonio this April, stop by the booth and get some hands-on experience, or just explore some of the videos, or download the free 90-day emulator trial and give it a go.  You can access our Quick-Start Guide to get you on your way.

A Pi by Any Other Name – Pi Day 2017

It’s that time of year again where math teachers and students get a little pi crazy on March 14 and celebrate that magical number, pi. It’s a fun day to spend focusing on circles and spheres and helping students discover pi or use pi or just eat pie!  Hopefully, of course, as math teachers, we are always trying to focus on the mathematics of pi…not just eating pies or circle-related food, though that certainly does add to the fun of the day.

Rather than reinvent the wheel (nice circle reference), I am resurrecting links from last year’s Pi-Day post to places with some fun ideas and added in a few new ones:

  1. Pi Day This site lists a million digits of Pi, and then, if you click on the links to the right, you can search the digits of Pi (for special sequences, like your birthdate), Pi puzzle (New York Times), or Einstein Rap.  There are lots of other links, so explore away.
  2. NCTM’s Illuminations:
  3. Exploratorium has a whole list of lessons/activities that explore Pi in many ways. One is the search digits one as well. Another one I think sounds very interesting is the Tossing Pi (scroll down the list to find this) – calculating Pi tossing toothpicks. Kids would love that!
  4. Project Mathematics This has videos you can choose about the history of Pi, uses of Pi, people explaining what they think Pi is.  Might be good to warm up your class with.
  5. Joy of Pi –  This page has lot of links to interesting articles about Pi, history, etc.  Lots of resources.
  6. Live Science – Has a video and other resources.
  7. Edutopia –  Lessons and activities for elementary students.
  8. Education World –  Lessons and activities around Pi – multi-grade level.
  9. Teachπ.org –  Lots of everything about Pi – books, activities, history, etc.
  10. NEA Resources for Pi Day:
  11. Geometry Gems
  12. Kathi Mitchell’s Fun With Pi Day:
  13. UTEP Pi Day
  14. SimplyCircle

Have fun and be well-rounded tomorrow!


STEM In Action – Science Fair Amazement

I had the honor of being a judge for the Bucks County Science Research Competition (i.e. Science Fair) at Delaware Valley University yesterday. This is a competition for students in grades 6-12 who submit research projects in STEM related fields such as math, physics, engineering, chemistry…just to name a few. This was my first time volunteering as a judge, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I found reinforced my belief that students can do amazing things if given the chance.

There were hundreds of displays, where students laid out details of their research projects on 3-paneled poster boards, including images, their research paper, their hypothesis, pictures, graphs, data and some even including the devices they created or used. I was assigned to the Engineering judging team, so my focus was the 22 Engineering projects, which we spent 3 hours reading/reviewing, and then 2 hours interviewing the students themselves. Let me tell you – if these 22 students are examples of future engineers, the world is in good hands! It was very hard to ‘judge’ and the ultimate goal as a judge was to get the students to talk about what they did and why, and provide them with suggestions and questions that make them want to continue their research and explorations. I would say the most impressive part of the day was the interview time we had with each of the students, where they gave us their ‘elevator’ talk about the why, the what and the how of their research. These students were articulate, passionate, and most impressively, able to explain the math, the science, the technology, and the engineering behind their creations and findings.

There were too many impressive projects to be able to list them all, but I will describe a few standouts.

  • One sixth grade girl created a robotic hand that she programmed as well as a ‘human-like’ hand out of gel and straws/string (that she notched joints in so she could move the fingers) and compared the force of the finger compression.
  • A seventh grade girl compared the prepackaged program of a drone to her own programming of a drone to show her commands were more efficient and smooth.
  • An eighth grade boy developed a laser beam cane for the blind to help them ‘hear’ objects in their path.
  • An eighth grade girl, trying to solve the fresh water problem in 3rd-world countries, tested 3 natural  ways to filter water to help provide an affordable way for these countries to use their own resources to filter the water.
  • A junior in high school is in the middle of a 3-year project to design a 1-rotating platform 3D printer that he hopes will be a more efficient 3D printer than those currently out there. And he printed the parts of his new printer from the 3D printer he already made a couple years ago…..(of course?!)
  • A senior girl was using 3D printing to develop prosthetic for lower legs and ankles.
  • Another senior girl created her own biodegradable implants for meniscus tears that she believes would be stronger and more durable than current implants.
  • There was a senior boy who was building a water desalinization machine that uses de-ionization to get the salt out of the water and would be, if he is successful, a cheaper alternative for 3rd-world countries than current machinery
  • Then there was the seventh grade girl, spurred on by her parents and siblings diabetes, who built an artificial pancreas.
  • And finally, the middle school boy who tried to show that ground solar panels were more efficient than roof solar panels, and if nothing else, proved to his parents that their decision to invest in solar panels was a good one.

I was blown away by the creativity, the interest, the dedication, and the knowledge these students demonstrated both in their displays, but more importantly in the communicating of their ideas and hopes for future research. A big part of the science fairs is to encourage these students to keep exploring, to keep asking questions, and to continue to pursue these STEM related interests into the future, and hopefully into future STEM-related careers. It was so encouraging to see the number of girls at this event as well.  I left the day inspired and hopeful about the future – these students are already thinking and exploring ways they can improve it and if their projects were any indication, they are well on their way to doing so.