A Math bulletin board that actually gets read!

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Here are pictures of my hallway bulletin board.  It's interactive and dynamic.  It's also a little more work than most bulletin boards, which typically get installed and then forgotten until they're stale.  But after the initial printing of questions and setup, it only takes a couple of minutes of daily maintenance.

At Maloney all teachers are responsible for a hall bulletin board or display case space for two consecutive months.  My beginning-of-year bulletin board is on August/September (and then October) in History and Current Events.  I look for events that I think students in Grades 3, 4, and 5 would find interesting and write questions for them, as shown.   

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There are pencils taped to yarn which is suspended from the top of the frame, so students don't need to have a pencil with them to answer.  I monitor the board every day and award a pencil to each student who first solves a problem correctly. I replace pages as the problems are solved.

The Math is not rocket science --  this is not instruction, with a few exceptions.   Most questions are assigned to specific grades to leave easier problems for younger students. The cost of the pencils is not great -- pencils by the gross are pretty cheap.  And it's rare to have a pencil disappear.

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There are variations...the Current Events section always gets read.  Sports can be the focus for lots of questions if your students are fans.  I like wordplay and I think reading punny license plates is great reading and brain twister exercise.   And sometimes I include a page that clarifies a math process -- for instance, measurement conversions, which students often get backwards at the start of school.

I illustrate each event with one or two images that I find on the Internet, an allowable practice under the Classroom Exemption, since these are displayed only and not copied and handed out to students.

A Ten Thousand Block

On Denise Gaskins’ excellent site Let’s Play Math, I came across a mention of a “Super Rod,” in response to a question about how we would visually portray the number 10,000.

The correspondent was talking about drawing blocks.  A 1 is a small square, a 10 a 10-long rectangle, a 100 a 10 by 10 square, and a 1000 a 10 by 100 rectangle.  It’s clumsy to draw 10,000 if you’re going to be consistent in the way you draw the different blocks.  But it’s do-able in actual blocks.

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This box is from Uline, Model #S-4511.  It’s 4” by 4” by 40”, or almost exactly 10 cm by 10 cm by 1 meter.   I taped the ends, spray-painted it, then measured out the 10-cm intervals on the edges and drew the lines in permanent marker.

By the way, if you teach 4th, 5th, or 6th grade and use Base 10 Blocks to represent decimals, as I do, this comes in handy.  Since the 5th grade standards require decimals to thousandths, the 1 cm unit cube is .001, the 10 Rod .01, the 100 Flat .1, and the 1000 cube is 1.  So this Super Rod becomes the number 10.  I’ve made several of these and use them in 5th as well as 4th grade.

3-Dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe

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There are lots of Tic-Tac-Toe (Noughts and Crosses, whatever) games and strategies out there, but not many truly 3-dimensional games.  There are variations which require players to stack a piece on top of a previously played piece, which changes the game.  There are games made with a 4-by-4-by-4 array, which eliminates the problem of the first player always winning on the third move, as happens with a 3 by 3 by 3 array.  And there are virtual games and formats to play on a single sheet of paper.  But there aren’t many ways to play Tic-Tac-Toe in three dimensions the same way it’s played in two.

Here’s a solution.  This is a 3 by 3 by 3 array that allows players to play in any space in any order.  The one rule change is that the center space is not allowed on the very first move.

The first player will always win even with that rule change, however, as long as the game ends with the first “three in a row.”  So it doesn’t.

Players continue playing.  Each time a player makes a 3 in a row, he or she makes a tally mark on the appropriate line of the score sheet.  When all 27 spaces are filled, the players count up their scores.  It’s fairly common to see both players with 4 or 5 tallies in a game.  This is a good exercise in transferring 2-dimensional perception into 3-dimensional space.

For Xs, I use large Jacks and for Os, 2-centimeter cubes.

Read more about 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe

Download the rules (PDF)