Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Freshwater Access Game

Aquation is a free iOS, Android, and web game offered by the the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The game, designed for students in upper elementary school or middle school, teaches students about the distribution of clean water and what can be done to balance global water resources. In the game students select a region to explore its current water supplies. Based on the information provided students take action in the form of building desalination plants, conducting further research, reacting to natural events, and attempting to move water between regions.

As mentioned above, Aquation is available to play on Android devices, on iOS devices, and in your web browser. If you try to play it in your web browser, be patient as it takes a while to load. 

Applications for Education
Aquation isn't a fast-paced game so it probably won't grab your students' attention when they open it. But if you can push through the initial "blah" reaction from your students, the game contains some valuable lessons about the global distribution of freshwater resources and the challenges that face the regions that have less than others.

See the Elements Present in Common Products - The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words is an interactive site that shows students how each element is used or is present in familiar products. When students click on an element in the interactive display an image of a familiar product or object appears along with a description of the element and its characteristics. For example, if you click on aluminum an image of airplane appears along with a description of aluminum, its uses, and its characteristics.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words was created by Keith Enevoldsen. He also offers free PDFs of The Periodic Table, in Pictures and Words. Should you choose, you can support Keith by purchasing a poster of the table.

Applications for Education
The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words could be a great resource for middle school science classrooms. It also provides a nice model for an assignment in which you have your students pick an element and then try to identify as many products as possible that contain that chosen element.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Three Places to Find Fun and Interesting Math Problems

Giving students some clever math problems that tie-in a "real world" situation or topic can go a long way toward helping them see how math skills are skills they'll use for a lifetime. The following three websites all provide good math challenges to use with your students. 

Would You Rather? is a website maintained by John Stevens for the purpose of sharing quick and fun math challenges for students.  Would You Rather? presents a picture with a mathematics problem that asks "would you rather?" Most of the questions have a financial aspect to them. One of my favorite examples is this challenge that asks "would you rather go on a 5 minute shopping spree in the store of your choice or get a $2,000 gift card to the store of your choice?" Would You Rather? offers a simple worksheet that your students can use to analyze the choices presented to them in the challenges.

Math Pickle is a free site that offers dozens of fun and challenging math puzzles for students of all ages. The puzzles are designed to foster collaborative problem solving over the course of 45 to 60 minutes. Almost all of the puzzles are presented as a series of small, connected problems that students need to solve to complete the puzzle presented to them. The puzzles can be viewed as slides and or downloaded as PDFs.

Expii Solve is a series of seventy sets of word problems. Within each set there are five problems aligned to a theme. For example, the most recent problem is about cell phones and distance that radio waves can carry. The problems within each set on Expii Solve vary in difficulty so that you can pick the one(s) that best suit your students. Or you can let your students register on the site and self-select the problems that they want to tackle. In fact, that is how the site is intended to be used. Students can get instant feedback on their answers to the problems that they try to solve. Students who need a bit of help solving a problem can use the hints and tutorials linked at the bottom of each problem page.

Changing Search Predictions

Google has a lot of help search tools if you know how to access them and use them. Just opening the advanced search menu often shows students a new world of search refinement possibilities. However, Google also has a couple of search options that sometimes do more to distract than to help. Those options are "autocomplete with trending searches" and "personal autocomplete predictions." Fortunately, you can turn off both of those options. 

To turn off "autocomplete with trending searches" simply head to the Google search preferences page while you're signed into your Google account. Then scroll down and select "Do not show popular searches."

You can turn off personalized autocomplete predictions by going into your personal results page then unchecking "Show personal results." 

Applications for Education
Neither one of these features is inherently bad, but they can contribute to distracting students from their intended query.

Short Lessons on the Value of Money

Last week TED-Ed published a new video lesson titled Why Can't Governments Print an Unlimited Amount of Money? The purpose of the video is to explain how governments, particularly the United States federal government, were able to spend trillions of dollars on COVID-19 economic relief programs in the last year. The video explains the role of central banks in controlling the money supply and the concepts of inflation and quantitative easing. There is also an explanation of government bonds, why they're sold, and who buys them. Overall, it's a solid video for middle school or high school students. 

Why Can't Governments Print and Unlimited Amount of Money? is the latest of many videos about money and economics that TED-Ed has published over the years. A couple that dovetail with the latest video include What Gives a Dollar Bill Its Value?, What Causes Economic Bubbles?, and What Causes an Economic Recession?

Applications for Education
Before showing either Why Can't Governments Print an Unlimited Amount of Money? or What Gives a Dollar Bill Its Value? I'd ask students to think about some products they purchase and what contributes to the price and or price increases of those products.

All of the videos are suitable as introductions to larger lessons. To that end, I may have students watch the videos in EDpuzzle where they can answer some questions about the videos as an assignment.

Here's an overview of how to create an assignment in EDpuzzle.