Opening My Eyes to Math Around Me!

Since sites like @estimation180 have began popping up and adding all these amazing resources to our bank of routine math activities I have found myself looking for math opportunities more often in the world around me. Two amazing math coaches (Joe Swhartz and Graham Fletcher) whose math blogs and twitter I follow have wrote about this and also shared some of their ideas. Graham Fletcher calls it mathematizing your world. Now, I must admit, I am already a math geek but since I have started showing the teachers I work with these resources I find myself looking for these situations constantly. What are these situations you ask? Well they can be anything from pictures I take of cool situations, pictures/videos I find on the web or videos I make myself. The potential is limitless once you start seeing them and realizing how cool these opportunities can be for student learning.

Most of these math situations are being used to create math discourse in class, which we all know is absolutely critical in creating a quality math program. Sites like @estimation180 allow students to work on estimating but also create quality math discussions in class while building students ability to reason and prove. They also hit many other math processes but I feel reasoning and proving is front and centre. Looking at @estimation180 as an example, I feel Andrew Stadel only started the conversation. I believe he wants us as teachers to start seeing these opportunities and create our own situations to use in classes. These math situations that we capture in our world also can have a specific math focus such as: a concept, a key understanding or a math process.

I used @estimation180 as an example but there are many more like it for example,, and! All of them are to get kids talking, agreeing/disagreeing, explaining and building on each others ideas. Ideas to use for these situations appear around us all the time, once you start seeing them and capturing them you may not stop!

Here are two I have captured in the last week or two. I have many more on my phone but thought these two are good examples to share.

I found  the above picture as I was reading an article on yahoo about ice coverage on the great lakes. I used a photo editor to cut out the information on the bottom with the answer creating one picture that just shows the lakes and ice coverage and then the orginal picture for the answer. If I was using this for a number talk I would show the picture on the left first and ask this question. How much more ice is covering the great lakes in February than in January? The photo on the left has the answer to show afterwards. The answer is listed as a percentage but I didn’t ask the question as a percentage question. This would leave it open for students to use fractions, decimals or percents. They might also use add in units, for example square kilometres could be an option. There is just so much math here to get students talking. This is an excellent number talk for fraction reasoning or making the connection between fractions, decimals and percents. It also could be used to look at fractions as an operator. Students could be given the total area of the great lakes and then using  February’s percentage ask: What is 40 hundredths (which is close to 40.4 percent) of the total area?

Here is the second image I want to share. (The treadmill odometer is in miles)


This came to me as I was doing my run last week. My goal was to reach 5 km (3.15 miles) in 26 min. Showing the students the image you could ask: Using the info provided do you think Mr. Stamp will achieve his goal of reaching 5km (3.15 miles) in 26 min?  Students can use their fraction sense to help solve this, but it also involves number sense (operations, decimals, fraction sense) and measurement (time, distance). Depending on what grade level, this could be a number talk or an actual task.

These opportunities pop up all over the place when you are out in the world. I bought a pound of finishing nails at the hardware store on Saturday, as the lady was scooping them into the scale that hangs from the roof I was trying to get my camera out in time to snap a picture. It would have made a great number talk or estimation talk. I think back to last summer when my father-in-law and myself were squaring up the playhouse we built (he built mostly! LOL) for my kids.  We used the pythagorean theorem to do it, it would have made a great picture prompt to help students discuss its use in real life. Once you start seeing these situations you may never stop! Teachers ask me all the time where do you find tasks, or prompts etc. They are everywhere, just have your camera ready at all times!

About stamp36

Instructional Leader for Trillium Lakelands District School Board
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11 Responses to Opening My Eyes to Math Around Me!

  1. mrgervais says:

    Great mathematizing Mark. The connections to real life situations will certainly engage your students.


  2. Dian VS says:

    I love math. (For the contest with rightbrainedmom.
    But I also found this post really interesting. It seems so simple, math is everywhere.
    You have pointed it out really well in this post.
    I also remember in highschool wondering when on earth I’d ever use Pythagorean theorem again but you can!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. stamp36 says:

    It so important to bring contexts into math and allow kids to see it lives everywhere. Square if up a bulding is an excellent way to demonstrate the pathagorus T. Thank you for the comment.


  4. Melissa Slack says:

    “I LOVE MATH!!!!”………….As a kindergarten teacher I am always learning new things about math some self taught others through my students. They inspire me to be an inquisitive learner. Play-based learning is the best way the create an inquiry based learning environment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. stamp36 says:

    Play based certainly is the best way to learn in early years. I think it is also important to remember that there is still a place for guided math activities and tasks even in FDK. If you have never seen “counting collections” there is a great blog post about it. I also think really making sure to explore and know your Ss understanding of the counting principles, subitizing, quantity and early operations is key. Sometimes that is best in play based but also in guided activities too, like number talks, FDK 3 Act Tasks etc. Thanks for commenting.


  6. Stephanie Rino says:

    I love math!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jeanette says:

    I love Math…..and would love to hear more of your thoughts about guided activities in K. I am very play based but agree sometimes guided inquiries are great too! Could you give some examples or ideas for play based and guided inquiries about patterns?! I really enjoyed reading a couple of your posts and will share your blog with other teachers at my school, here in South Korea 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  8. stamp36 says:

    One great example is to use the cusinaire rods (some people call them relational rods). Give each student or pairs of students a set and allow them to explore. Have them build with them and ask them: What do you notice? They immediately start seeing they can represent numbers. They will start calling out “The orange equals 10, blue is 9 etc.” I create an anchor chart for them that shows all the values of each rod. Then another list of all the math they think they can do with the rods. You won’t believe the lists kinder’s come up with. That can be the first lesson. Then next time guide them through a lesson that explores combinations to ten. Ask them to pick the orange and find two rods that equal it and length. Then share out as group what the discovered. It creates math discourse but also builds decomposing numbers to ten, starts operational sense etc. These can also be used for fractions, measuring objects the list goes on and on. This is prime example of a guided activity. It’s somewhat play based but has a more intentional guided activity part.


  9. Janelle Gray says:

    I Love Math. Jx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Staci DuBosq says:

    I love math!!!!
    Your whole site will be something we now visit regularly but this article in particular caught my attention! Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

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