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Updated Numb3rs Activities


In my math classes, I integrate the television show Numb3rs into my instruction to motivate and connect the students to real world mathematical concepts.  Numb3rs, a TV series that was on the CBS network for six seasons, is about an FBI agent and his mathematical brother who use math to solve crimes.  I have several activities that I have created for the various math courses that I have taught (I also included Simpsons and Goonies activities):

Unit 1+2 (intro to proofs) – NUMB3RS – Mind Games

Unit 3 (parallel lines) – Numb3rs – uncert principle

Unit 5 (transformations) – Numb3rs – graphic

Unit 6 (coordinate geometry) – Numb3rs – one hour

Unit 7 (various geometry topics) – Goonies Activity

Unit 7 (constructions & concurrency) – Numb3rs – burn rate

Unit 8 (solids) – Simpsons – 3d Homer

Unit 9 (logic) – Numb3rs – money for nothing

Unit 10 (circles) – Numb3rs – cause and effect

Numb3rs (scatterplots) – Sniper Zero (math 8)

GEO – Tri Proofs – NUMB3RS – Primacy

GEO – Coord Geo – NUMB3RS – Serial Rapist Hot Zone

ALG – Inequalities – Numb3rs – Blackout

GEO – Quads+Par – backscatter

ALG – Poly – Numb3rs – Janus List

ALG – Equ – Numb3rs – Hardball

*Geometry is the Regents level New York State course that most 10th graders are expected to take.  Algebra/Geometry Connections is a course preparing students to be successful in Geometry.

A typical Numb3rs Activity follows the following format:

20 minutes: students watch the first half of episode
5-10 minutes: class discussion of the mathematical ideas in show
30 minutes: activity worksheet completed in cooperative groups
20 minutes: students watch the second half of episode
10 minutes: class discussion of activity

Click here for the template that you can give to students during the episode to help facilitate conversations.

Not only are students watching an attention-grabbing crime show, they are actively engaged in mathematical thought for 40 minutes.  During the show, they are expected to write down mathematical ideas discussed in the show to share out later in class using this template.  The activity worksheet is completed in cooperative groups; students work together to discuss the math involved in the episode and connect it to the Regents topics that are currently being studied.

The integration of these activities has greatly impacted student engagement and learning in my classroom.  Students are more excited about coming to math class than they have in the past and their attendance has increased as a result.  In addition, my Algebra/Geometry Connections classes went from a 56% passing rate on the Algebra Regents Exam to a 91% passing rate.  I contribute this increase in part from the Numb3rs Activities.  My students have stated that this motivational lesson helps them to pay attention and learn topics that they may not have shown any interest about in the past.

Feel free to use any of these activities in your classrooms.  Please send me any questions or comments.

Intermediate Algebra Castle Learning Review Activity

Mrs. Magin, Mrs. Lagana, Mrs. O’Brien, Mrs. DiVirgilio, and Mrs. Benz engaged their Intermediate Algebra students in a review lesson on Castle Learning.  Students worked hard on finishing 12 multiple choice and 3 short answer problems that helped them to prepare for their final exams.  For more information on Castle Learning, visit

Well done teachers and students!

10 Ways to Ensure a Successful Credit Recovery Program

What happens when a student is not learning?  Athena High School has created a Tier 3 response to intervention (RtI) program called the “Algebra Opportunity Academy” (Click here for a blog about the specifics of this program).  As a result of this credit recovery program, 12 out of 12 students earned credit back for at least one quarter of Integrated Algebra.  These 12 students are now on track to pass Integrated Algebra.

In discussing this data with my colleagues, it was clear that there were many reasons why this program worked.  The following are a list of 10 ways to ensure a successful credit recovery program (in any content area):

  1. Colleague support:  This was the most essential piece of this program.  This credit recovery program was highly dependent upon the math teachers of these credit deficient students.  If the math teachers did not trust the rigor or the objectives of the program, we would not have been able to adjust student grades.  Colleague support was also important in the selection of students and in the selection of the power standards that were taught in the program.
  2. Administrator support:  As with most programs, administrators can either be a help or a hindrance.  The administrative team at our school supported the math departments efforts and assisted in contacting the students and parents.
  3. Parent/Guardian support:  All students in this program had parents that set the expectation that attendance was mandatory and supported the teachers in their efforts.  They also drove or arranged rides for their children when necessary.  The transportation component helps to ensure parent commitment.
  4. College student help:  There were 12 students enrolled in the program.  Some might argue that a 12:1 student to teacher ratio is acceptable.  Perhaps, but a 2:1 student to teacher ratio is better and offers much higher instructional intensity.  We arranged six math education college students to come in to assist us in the program.  Many of these students needed a much smaller group to fully master a topic.
  5. Quick and specific feedback:  As this program took place over a short amount of time, it was important to give the students as much feedback as possible to ensure that they were able to “correct” their mistakes.  The Castle Learning website assisted us in providing quick and specific feedback.
  6. Multiple modalities:  This program offered students an opportunity to experience many instructional models: direct instruction, small group activities, computer programs, SMART Response Clickers, Dry Erase Boards, and other lessons that required them to move around the classroom.
  7. Goal Setting:  All students knew their current grade in the course and set a specific numerical goal that they wanted to achieve.
  8. High expectations for behavior and academics:  Clear behavioral and academic expectations were given to students and parents verbally (each parent was called individually) and in written form.
  9. Targeted assessments:  Assessments focused on the essential understandings of the first 2 quarters of Integrated Algebra.  The assessments were a combination of written and electronic (Castle Learning).
  10. Food:  All students were given snacks and a lunch.  Some could argue that this is not needed, but the food resulted in higher student morale, greater student energy, and a positive motivator to work hard.

For more information, please E-mail or Tweet @AndyMaillet.

Algebra Students are Back on Track

The Athena math department continues to ask the question “What happens when a student is not learning?”  In response to this question, we have created a response to intervention (RtI) system (see diagram below).  This system consists of 3 tiers, with the 3rd tier being the most intensive.  A Tier 3 intervention that we recently implemented was a combination of after school and February break sessions.  This program was titled the “Algebra Opportunity Academy” (AOA).

As a result of this program, 12 out of 12 students earned credit back for at least one quarter.  The average student increased each of their course quarter grades by 7 and a half points!  Also, most students liked it, were engaged, and gave positive feedback about the program (see data below from a survey given on the last day).  These 12 students are now on track to pass Integrated Algebra.

The following sections are a brief outline of the program:

Screening Process

Students that have an average of below 65% should be placed in this Tier 3 intervention support class. 1st and 2nd quarter grades will be examined, along with teacher recommendations.

Assessments/Progress Monitoring

As a goal of this program is to recover credit that was not earned in quarters 1 and 2, students will be assessed on AMSCO chapters 1-8.  They will be assessed through Castle Learning and written tests.  Using Castle Learning, students will have the opportunity to complete extra work at home/off-campus.

Instructional Arrangements

Two math teachers with algebra experience will co-teach this program (Maillet & Shoemaker).  Teachers will be in close contact with the students’ current Integrated Algebra teachers.  Maillet and Shoemaker will select, monitor, and schedule these students in this support class (with assistance from assistant principal).


Teachers will use GCSD approved Integrated Algebra curriculum.  In addition, teachers will prepare additional activities that will engage our targeted students; Students will participate in problem solving groups and the Castle Learning program.

Desired Results

Targeted students will increase their average in Integrated Algebra to at least a 70%.  These students will build confidence and ideally pass the course and Regents exam (not take this course/exam in summer school).


8th Grader is Double Accelerated in Math

Athena Middle School 8th grade student Xiaoning Guo has been double accelerated in math.  Based on his proficiency score on the Scholastic Math Inventory and overall math average, Xiaoning was recommended for this challenge.  He will take both Regents Integrated Algebra and Regents Geometry at the same time.  Participation in this double accelerated math will allow him to take additional math classes in high school or begin dual credit courses at an earlier date.  Mrs. Dionisio, Mrs. Gross, and Mrs. Obrien have been working with Xiaoning to provide him with a successful and enriching math experience.

We are proud of Xiaoning accomplishments in mathematics and willingness to undertake this challenge.

Algebra Teachers Differentiate

For the past two weeks, algebra teachers have been teaching their students the concepts of greatest common factor (GCF), difference between two perfect squares, and factoring trinomials using the grouping method.  Recognizing that these topics tend to be difficult for students to master, they tailored the design of their unit to accommodate for these multiple levels of understanding.  They accomplished this by using the computer program Castle Learning.

Most days of this seven day unit, students went down to the library and worked on several Castle Learning Problems.  This worked well for students because they were given instant feedback and explanations for any incorrect answers by Castle Learning.  Teachers examined the data from Castle Learning after every lesson.  A sample of a data analysis is shown below.  A check means that the student was correct on his or her first attempt, a check with an X means that the student was correct on his or her second attempt, and an X means that the student was incorrect for two attempts.  Based on those results, some students were pulled into a small group for a reteach lesson.  Student learning was increased as a result of teachers ensuring that what a student learns, how he/she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he/she has learned matched that student’s readiness level (Tomlinson).  If a student was not ready to move on to the next lesson, immediate intervention took place until he or she was ready, and then he or she was able to continue with the rest of the class.

Making Word Problems Come to Life

Ms. Ruggeri and her Integrated Algebra class transformed a word problem that many students may describe as “boring” or “difficult” into an exciting 30 second movie clip.  The problem on this video is a systems of equations problem that asks students to figure out the cost of one slice of pizza and one cookie.  After a couple students created the video, Ms. Ruggeri showed it to the entire class.  She plans to share the video in her other classes and with her colleagues.  After watching the movie, Ruggeri’s students were better understood what the problem was asking and they were more engaged in the problem solving process than they would have been if they just read it on paper.  Ms. Ruggeri plans to create more math videos with her classes using real world scenarios as a strategy to better engage in mathematics.

Using the ENGAGING Framework, this lesson demonstrates the use of Intelligence Interventions.  Students in Ms. Ruggeri’s class were engaged in an activity that was kinesthetic and visual/spacial.  They participated in creating an authentic video to help them solve complex math problems.


Graphing Linear Equations Full Body Style

While some may have been tempted to show a movie before a break, Athena teachers continued instructing and engaging students in mathematics.  In Ms. Ruggeri’s Integrated Algebra class, students continued learning about graphing linear equations–Full Body Style.

After receiving a tweet from the Teaching Channel, I discovered an activity that fully engages students both physically and mentally (  Students were divided into groups of 3 or 4.  One member was the y-intercept and the others were the slope.  Each group was given an equation to graph.  The y-intercept student started the graph, then the slope students continued the line.  When each student was in place, they connected their arms to ‘draw a line through the points’.  Click below to view photos or watch a part of this lesson.

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BuzzMath Helps Students Achieve Mastery

Today in Mrs. Davis’ Algebra class, students continued learning about graphing linear equations using the web program  As a result of this additional instruction and practice, all students in her class demonstrated mastery of the topic earning a gold star.  On, the gold star is earned by getting all 10 questions completely correct.  This program allows students to learn from their mistakes, make corrections, and demonstrate their understanding by giving them different problems.

When Mrs. Davis and I attended the 2011 Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State (AMTNYS) conference in Rochester, New York, back in October, we talked with representatives from  They showed us their program and explained how it differed from other online programs, such as Aleks and Castle Learning.  Impressed with what we saw, we decided to try it in her class.  According to, “BuzzMath is the best way to practice your middle school math skills.  It’s fun, it has immediate detailed feedback and examples that allow you to progress at your own pace.”  It should be noted that it has many topics that are in the High School Algebra Common Core Standards.

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Using Data to Inform Instruction

In the Greece Central School District, most secondary classrooms are required to give a midterm or benchmark as a common formative assessments (CFA).  A CFA is an instrument that is used to inform both the teacher and the student of the student’s progress (DuFour et al., 2010).  Using CFA data, teachers are able to determine which students need additional time and instruction and to identify the teaching strategies that proved to be effective.

Mr. Mock and Ms. Ruggeri used the Integrated Algebra midterm that they gave their students to inform their instruction and diagnose what topics they needed to review.  Selecting specific “most missed” questions, the co-teaching team used this opportunity to reteach certain topics.  Then, students were reassessed using the SMART response clicker software.  The SMART software provided a visual data model for students to see.  The use of this technology also kept the entire class engaged in their learning.  Great job students and teachers!

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