Category Archives: Subject Discipline Understanding

Take 5 to Make Math Meaningful


Mathematicians, researchers and teachers support a constructivist/problem-solving mathematics classroom. This design engages students in critical thinking, individual and collaborative thought and builds upon and improves on their current knowledge while solving the task in front of them. Check out the resources, in alphabetical order, that will help you in asking questions in the math class:





General resources for math teachers:


Get Techy w/Math and Nature

Each of these resources is easily used within literacy, science and/or numeracy stations and can also be part of a item list within Google Classroom, Edmodo or even a Hyperdoc for students to access whenever they need to.

  • Bunny Times – This fun game teaches multiplication facts 2X2 through 12X12 with the array model and by breaking the problem into two simpler products.

  • Expii – A free, open, and interactive platform for crowdsourced explanations and practice problems in math and science. 


  • ISS Live Stream – NASA Live stream of Earth as seen from space powered by cameras aboard the International Space Station

  • Nature Sound Map – Interactive map with recordings of animals and nature from all over the world.


Venture into the land of Polar Bears

Photo Credit: katieforeman2010 Flickr via Compfight cc

Whether it is winter time or not these majestic white arctic beasts are a fascination with young and old. They are also a great cross-curricular subject area in the classroom!

Content Collection by Discovery Education (Canada)

  • has 2004 items from videos, interactives, images, audio, text, and boards that will allow students to get a solid understanding of Polar Bears. You can create greenscreening (with DoInk app) opportunities where students could be reporters on a Polar Bear Excursion or they can use the images in a presentation. Discovery Education also hosts an annual Live Virtual Field Trip from Churchill, Manitoba at the end of October. It is definitely one to participate in if you have a DE subscription.

Here’s Frank’s Polar Bear video (19:17)

explaining not only his trip but also tidbits about Polar Bears. Although it is long, a teacher could show bits of it at a time to students.

The Smithsonian TweenTribune also has some differentiated resources on Polar Bears:

The town that polar bears built

Churchill, Manitoba, a sparsely populated town at the mercy of the Northern winds off Canada’s Hudson Bay, might be just another dot on the map if not for its seasonal inhabitants of the four-legged variety. But like clockwork every fall, hundreds of polar bears trundle through town on their way to the freezing bay, where they will hunt for seals after the ice packs enough to support their weight. More >

Lexile Levels: 690L 840L 1030L 1260L

Discussion Questions

These questions below could be put onto a Padlet, a collaborative Google Doc, or even TodaysMeet for students or small groups of students to input their ideas and responses.

Grades 3-4: Would you want to live in a town that was visited by hundreds of polar bear each year? Why or why not?
Grades 5-6: According to the article, polar bear tours have helped the town of Churchill, Manitoba, survive. In what way, if any, do you think the bears have benefitted from this exposure?
Grades 7-8: According to the article, some 10,000 tourists go to Churchill, Manitoba, each fall to see the polar bears. People are not a natural part of a polar bear’s environment. How do you think the presence of so many people has affected the way these polar bears live?
Grades 9-10: Knowing that the polar bears’ future is questionable, do you think many people who see polar bears in person will be inspired to find ways to help the bears survive? Or do you think most people will simply be happy to see the bears “before it’s too late?” Why?


Raise Awareness of Polar Bears
Students will create a product that will raise funds to help save polar bears.

Visual Resources: Polar Bears

Smithsonian Resources

  • Polar Bear Town  – Visit this site to explore episodes of the Smithsonian Channel’s series “Polar Bear Town.” The site features short videos, biographies and a map of Churchill, Manitoba. It also includes a playlist of related videos that can teach you everything you need to know about bears.
  • From Impact to Action: Wildlife Experts Share Data, Stories, and Responses from Young People – Invite students to view this webinar in which audience members and a panel of experts from the National Zoo discuss climate change, wildlife and what young people are doing to make a difference. The discussion, presented by the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, zeroes in on the specific impact of global warming on Arctic polar bears.
  • Save an Endangered Species  – Use this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to have students create a conservation advertisement aimed at saving an endangered species.
  • Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely  – Use the lessons in this National Museum of Natural History site to help students examine changes in the Arctic’s climate—which have been observed by both polar scientists and polar residents—and explore how those changes impact the Arctic’s wildlife and its peoples.
  • These Researchers Put a Camera on a Polar Bear  – Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a polar bear? Watch the video in this Smithsonian article to find out.
  • Climate Change at the Poles  – Read this article from the National Museum of Natural History to learn about the impact rapid climate change is having on polar bears in the Arctic.
  • The Politics of Viewing Polar Bears  – Tourists flock to a coastal Alaskan town to photograph the vulnerable icons. Read this Smithsonian article to learn why that is raising some hairy ethical questions.

World Wildlife Fund

has some fabulous cross-curricular Polar Bear lessons that are not to be missed!

LearnAlberta > Online Reference Centre

You will need to be an Alberta teacher to access unless your school division has subscriptions to these resources.


Instructional Strategies and Supports – Math Division I

We all love mathPhoto Credit: _Untitled-1 via Compfight cc

After reviewing, reading, sharing and even making conversations guides on the Making a Difference: Meeting diverse learning needs with differentiated instruction Alberta Education resource, I am excited to say that I have even further expanded its reach through developing specific instructional strategies and supports in the area of Math.

We know that students greatly benefit from a variety of learning strategies, supports and levels which is dependent on their own strengths and areas of growth. I have taken the draft Mathematics Instructional Supports Division I (grades 1-3) document written by Alberta Education and added specific resources that are already available for our teachers to utilized when thinking about Universal, Targeted and Intensive/Specialized supports and strategies. It is my hope that this information will give teachers an opportunity to first become aware of the possibilities and then try some of these resources, supports and/or strategies in their classrooms. If there are other resources that you believe I should add to this information, please comment below!

* For professional reading

– Lockhart’s Lament (first six pages) –

– Walle, J. (2004). Elementary and middle school mathematics: teaching developmentally. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



·         Math Rubrics for grades 1-9 –

·         Develop mathematical language

– communication in math can occur while constructing a Foldable (cross-curricular integration) from Zike, D. (2003). Dinah Zike’s big book of math: grade levels K-6. San Antonio, TX: Dinah-Might Activities.

·         Build background knowledge

IXL software for supplementary support – as a warm-up or cool-down for the day’s Math activities or twice a week during a regular schedule, has a subscription cost per student.

Math Planning Guides at each grade level found in LearnAlberta (a step-by-step guide).

AAC Math Performance-based tasks

– Utilize this process of Think n Draw: Talk about it, Try something, Does it make sense? (example)

·         Reference and use models and exemplars

Big Book of Math (as referenced above)

·         Use manipulatives and pictorial representations to explore and express learning

– Manipulative kits

– SMART Notebook Gallery

– Problematize math by using Walle, J. & Lovin, L. (2006). Teaching student-centered mathematics (grades K-3). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

– Utilize for math and cross-curricular lessons

·         Participate in guided hands-on activities to develop conceptual understanding of number operations

– Work through questions and tasks from Small, M. & Lin, A. (2013). Good questions: great ways to differentiate mathematics instruction, 2nd edition. New York Reston, VA Scarborough, Ont: Teachers College Press MCTN Nelson Education

– Set up a Math reflections perhaps could be shared via the classroom blog.

– Review various performance-based assessments developed by AAC at  – need a subscription

·        Begin to use reflection to build conceptual understanding of number operations

–         Math journal (Sticking with Math Journals, Math Journal Sundays)

–         Mathematician’s chair where students take turns explaining how they know a number is even or odd, describing results of a survey or demonstrating a number operations strategy. The chair as well as demonstration tools (whiteboard, chart paper, iPad + Apple TV, etc.) provide a focus for thinking about mathematical ideas

·        Begin to recognize that numbers are connected to their real-life experiences

– challenge all students to a monthly or per unit question using Westley, J. (1995). Puddle Questions for Math: Assessing Mathematical Thinking, Grade 1,2 or 3. Chicago: Creative Publications to assess their mathematical thinking



·         Create scaffolded hands-on activities for students to work with a partner or in small groups to:

o    learn and use mathematical words

– word walls

– Frayer model


o    create connections between personal  experiences and new mathematical concepts

Numeracy Nets for each grade level (grades K-2, 3-8 by Pearson) which is an assessment and planning tool that uncovers students’ misconceptions, enhances instructional responses and improves student achievement. Appendices show correlation with specific approved Math resources!!

Leaps and Bounds (grades 3/4, 5/6, 7/8 by Nelson) provide interventions for various topics in each strand. Each intervention can be used for whole class/small group/individual. Use a diagnostic, choose a pathway, then an intervention which is either open-ended or guided. Teacher’s Resource and Student Blackline Masters cost around $300 together.

– Use Creative Commons images (The Big Picture, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr Creative Commons), take photos from around the community, mindmapping

– Think Pair Share Kagan Cooperative Learning Structure which provide students with food for thought on a given math problem enabling them time to reflect and share these ideas with another student.

– RAN charts


o    learn to use manipulatives

– base ten blocks, balance + counters to represent numbers and problems in a variety of contexts

o    use visual models and supports

– open number lines, hundred chart, rekenreks, place value mats, strings, LearnAlberta Gizmos, Discovery Education

o    revisit and review key concepts using a variety of learning experiences connected to real-life experiences at home, at school and in the community

– ShowMe/Educreations (iOS apps) demos by students/teachers

o    develop and apply personal strategies

– math journals, think alouds

– small group to whole class guided math instruction via Sammons, L. (2010). Guided math : a framework for mathematics instruction. Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education and Newton, N. (2013). Guided math in action : building each student’s mathematical proficiency with small-group instruction. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

– Math Daily 3 from

o    explore multiple ways to express learning

– math picture book such as building one from Read & Write Gold Vocabulary List, posters – paper

– use Growth Mindset Feedback (added comments) throughout. Originally from



·         Use direct teaching, repeated modelling and guided practice and small group and individualized instruction to:

o    Create hands-on multisensory activities to introduce and explore new math concepts and/or experiences

– iOS apps: Educreations/ShowMe

– LearnAlberta Math Gizmos

– National Library of Virtual Manipulatives –

– SMART Notebook Gallery

o    Support development of vocabulary related to numbers

– math journal/classroom blog

– iOS apps: Fotobabble, Wordfoto

– word wall

o    Explore, discuss and record how numbers are used in the physical environment at school, at home and in the community

– math station/centres

o    Have access to math materials and visual prompts that are modified for ease of use

– box of manipulatives at point of instruction

– embed visuals into lessons, introduction to concepts

o    Create and use visual records from previous learning experiences using photos, anchor charts and experience charts

– utilize specific graphic organizers to target thinking

– save parts of math videos (Discovery Education, LearnAlberta, or student/teacher-created) for certain students to review as many times as they need

o    Explore and record number operations and basic math concepts using visual prompts, concrete objects, pictures, photos and dramatizations.

– view (subscription) on specific math concepts and create own hip hop video explanation