30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 17 MathPickle

Day 17: MathPickle

Today’s tool (website actually) goes out to all my Math Nerd buddies out there. (I say that with love and admiration.) Those folks who get excited about puzzling through a good mental challenge and those teachers who want their students to become the next problem solvers and mathematical thinkers. If that is you, then you need MathPickle.com in your life.

MathPickle.com is a website that contains standards-aligned puzzles, games, and problems for K-12 students. The original mind-bending, grade-appropriate puzzles, created by site founders Dr. Gordon Hamilton and Lora Saarnio, are designed to give all students the experience of productive struggle through challenging puzzles. According to the site…

 MathPickle gives every student – especially the top students – a regular experience of failure – starting in Kindergarten. This removes the stigma of failure from the classroom. MathPickle also gives every student a regular experience of success.


Puzzles by Subject

When you visit the MathPickle puzzle page, you can browse through the puzzles by grade level or by subject. Each puzzle includes a clear description, printable materials for students, and a list of related Mathematical Practices. (Sample puzzle – Pollinator Puzzle) I also love the fact that all the materials are Creative Commons Licensed so you can freely use them in your classroom and share the materials (with attribution, of course) with your students and colleagues.


The MathPickle Games page has a list of board games for home and classroom that build mathematical thinking and problem-solving. It is a great list of some fun games including the MathPickle 2017 game of the year Santorini, created by MathPickle’s very own Dr. Gordon Hamilton.

Inspired Mathematicians I MathPickle
Inspired Mathematicians

In addition to puzzles and games, there is an informational blog and (one of my favorite parts of MathPickle) a list of inspired people. Browse through the list of amazing mathematicians, educators, gamers, programmers, and more. Students can scroll through bios of some of the most inspirational problem solvers, thinkers, and dreamers of our time. The folks at MathPickle have also included pages of motivational quotes.

It is obvious that the MathPickle team is passionate about problem-solving, mathematics, and learning. Their puzzles are not just geared towards the high achieving kids but designed to support and encourage all learners to be problem-solvers and gain the skills needed to face wicked, messy, real-world challenges. Thier “About Us” page says it best.

MathPickle goes beyond arithmetic and computation and gets students into a pickle. Lessons are not nicely wrapped up. Students are left with raw and unresolved questions.

Keep up the great work MathPickle!





30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 11 Awesome Table

Day 11: Awesome Table

While working on a project for work this week, I was on the hunt for a way to take data from a Google spreadsheet and display it in a dynamic leaderboard. I know that I could have just spiffed up my Google Sheet, but I was looking for something more dramatic. My other problem was that it needed to be easy to set up and update without a lot of coding. It has been a long time since I have coded from scratch and I did not have the time or patience to teach myself on the fly. A colleague came to my rescue and suggested I try the Web app Awesome Table. So I did. I was rather pleased with the results.

Awesome Table integrates with Google Drive and links to a Google Sheet for the data source. To make the sheet compatible, you might need to tweak the format. The sheet headers must follow the given format (no special characters) and you must include a blank row under your header row. This row is reserved for parameters and filters. It sounds a bit complicated but if you follow the clearly written support documentation, it should be no problem to set up. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was.

I was able to create an interactive leaderboard from an existing spreadsheet in about five minutes. It even updates if my source data changes.

Leaderboard sorted by Brag Totals.

My leaderboard is not really pretty but if you are more tech-savvy than I, you can create an HTML template and Custom CSS to pretty it up. I might shake the rust off of my HTML skills and see if I can make my leaderboard a bit more dramatic.

Awesome Table has other templates for visualizing your data. From creating custom maps, photo slideshows, and data dashboards to visually pleasing announcements, product lists, and people directories. I have not played with these templates but if they are as easy as the leaderboard then I’m excited to give it a try.  I’m intrigued by the photo slideshows and custom maps.

Screenshot of some of the available templates.

I can also take this leaderboard (or any of the Awesome Table views) and embed it in a Google Site or other website. I used the new Google Sites and the app integrated nicely. As I mentioned before, the support documentation is fairly good. It was easy to follow and answered most of my questions. It looks like there is also an active G+ support community.

I know that I have just scratched the surface of what this app can do. I’m adding this to my “Explore Deeper” list. Definitely, one to check out if you want to take your data tables from “Blah.” to “Whoa!” or if you want to gamify your classroom with custom leaderboards. I’d also like to see what a data dashboard might look like. Oh, did I mention it’s free? Yea. That’s 50 bonus points right there.

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 10 Parable of the Polygons

Day 10: Parable of the Polygons

Today’s tool is Parable of the Polygons, a playable blog post presented by the brilliant Vi Hart (one of my all-time favorite Math doodlers) and systems storyteller and interactive thing maker, Nicky Case. They have collaborated to create an adorable simulation with an important message about society and how our individual biases, and the choices we make based on those biases, shape the world around us. Even though the little triangles and squares are incredibly cute, the message they help to deliver is a powerful one.

“This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.”


Their story begins with an unhappy triangle who is slightly shapest and wants to be moved into a more diverse crowd. You, the reader, can drag the little guy around to make him happy. As the parable continues, you are faced with more complicated scenarios and interactive simulations that demonstrate the impact of individual biases on the segregation of this little polygon society. By changing the level of individual bias, you can see how quickly or slowly the segregation of their society shifts making those bias little guys happy, unhappy or just meh.


The simulations are simple but effective. I was shocked to see how quickly a society can change. You start to realize how individual biases lead to collective biases and those collective biases change the diversity of society.


Hart and Case do a wonderful job of mixing interactive simulations with informational text and explanations that are both easy to understand and entertaining. They have taken a heavy topic and presented it in a way that seems non-threatening and approachable. It gets you thinking about your own biases and how you, this little individual polygon, can impact the world around you. They leave you with the message that your demand for either more diversity or less can have a huge impact on your immediate neighborhood and the larger society.


Parable of the Polygons is a great way to introduce the idea diversity and bias into a classroom and start some amazing conversations. It could be a catalyst for a larger project-based learning activity on diversity in society or the tool a teacher uses to demonstrate an individual’s impact on society over time. At the end of the post, they share some fantastic resources, links to research, and other mathematical models used to describe institutionalized bias.  They have also included links to organizations that are working for diversity such as Black Girls who Code, Girls Who Code, and Code 2040.

What I love most is that Hart and Case shared their creation under a Creative Commons Open License. (In fact, I first stumbled upon their post while browsing the Creative Commons website.) They want you to share and use this powerful story. So, use it and share it.

If you love Parable of the Polygons as much as I do, be sure to check out Hart‘s videos  (I’ve shared a couple of my favorites below) and Case’s interactive things such as Explorable Explanations and Neurotic Neurons.

Doodling in Math Class: Snakes + Graphs from Vi Hart on Vimeo.

Doodling in Math Class: Dragon Dungeons from Vi Hart on Vimeo.


30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 8 Radial

Day 8: Radial App for Android

Yesterday I found myself sitting at the airport feeling a bit bored. Getting through security took no time at all (which was surprising). So, there I sat. Two hours early for my flight, looking for something to do. I read a little. (The Detective’s Assistant, a great middle-grade novel by Kate Hannigan.) But I found I just needed something mindless to pass the time. Then I remembered an app I downloaded on my phone a month or so ago and decided to play. I opened Radial and began to draw. It was mesmerizing.

Radial is a simple, free app that lets you create integrate mandalas and symmetrical radial drawings (hence the name). It’s intuitive controls have you creating beautiful designs in no time at all.

Opening Screen. 

When you open the app, you are greeted with a friendly screen that tells you to draw. Without any further instruction or too much thinking, you can create an amazingly detailed design.

One of my first creations. 

It really is quite addictive. I spent a good hour at the airport drawing new designs over and over again.

If you touch the color wheel icon at the top, you can change your brush and canvas settings. There are about eight different colors to choose from which is limiting but not too bad. Sometimes when I have too many choices, I spend too much time thinking about what color to choose and less time creating. So the fewer choices worked for me. You can also control the thickness of your brush, line smoothness, the number of times your line is replicated, and how your line is replicated.

Brush controls.

Once you have completed your design, you can save it on your device, or share it out through your social media channels.

Here are a few more examples of my art. Each one of these took very little time to make. I had fun changing the settings and challenging myself to try new line styles.


So, I know what you are thinking. “That’s great and all. I’m glad you found a new art calling. But what does this have to do with classroom technology?” OK, maybe only a few of you are asking that. My Math and Art friends don’t have to ask. I bet their minds are already spinning with ideas. This simple app could be a great addition to the STEAM classroom (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). Mandalas are a beautiful way to demonstrate the connection between art and math.

Here are just a couple lesson ideas about using symmetrical designs such as Mandalas, to teach mathematical concepts.

What seems like a simple, free app that helps you pass the time waiting for your plane, is actually a tool for unlocking the beauty of Mathematics through the intersection of the Arts. Download this one today and make something amazing!