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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.

ENGAGING Teens In Their Learning – A Year Long PD Experience

The Athena High School Math Department (an amazing professional learning community) focused this year on engaging students in their own learning and ensuring that all students learn relevant mathematics.  Using Dr. Vermette’s ENGAGING Framework, teachers (math and special ed) and an administrator (Mrs. Goodwine rocks!) collaborated and reflected on the various factors that produce high level learning experiences for students.  The eight factors are: Entice effort through positive relationships, Negotiate meaning, Group collaboratively, Active learning, Graphic organizers, Intelligence interventions, Note making, and Grade wisely.  More information on these factors can be found HERE.

Many Athena math teachers participated in a book study of Vermette’s (2009) book ENGAGING Teens in Their Own Learning.  The teachers met seven times throughout the year to discuss their thoughts and reflections on the book.  The book challenged many assumptions and beliefs that we had about education.  The book promoted lively discussion around what is actually practical in education versus the utopia of education, specifically in math classrooms.  Some ENGAGING activities that we discussed are listed here:

Earlier in the year, Dr. Vermette came to Athena to present to the Athena High School math and special education departments on the “ENGAGING Framework in Secondary Mathematics.”  The workshop was filled with collaboration, reflection, activity, and discussion about the aspects of his “ENGAGING Framework.”  Vermette also shared his thoughts on the age of standards, technology, 21st century skills, Common Core Curriculum, teacher accountability, standardized tests, and increased innumeracy.

In March, a group of Athena educators took a field trip to Niagara University to  participate in a custom designed professional development by Paul Vermette, Karrie Jones, and Jennifer Jones.  A general theme was to build with the knowledge in their heads, not yours.  Vermette said that teaching is not telling; teaching is “sparking thinking.”  One of the activities that we participated in was self-assessing a current lesson by answering the following questions:

  1. How do you build productive relationships with every student? How do their individual (and group) differences affect these efforts?
  2. How do you allow students to develop their own individualized understanding of the important content you teach them?
  3. Under what conditions would you use teams, peer interactions, cooperative learning and/or paired tasks? How do you do it?
  4. How do you use active learning strategies? How do you embed assessment into the instructional process?
  5. How do you use graphic organizers and reading strategies?
  6. How do you use multiple intelligences and other differentiation strategies?
  7. Note-making is one “writing to learn” strategy: what are some of the ones you use regularly?
  8. What are some of the factors that you consider in designing your grading system and determining individual grades?

It has been a great year of engaging professional development for the Athena High School Math Department.  It is our hope that our work this year will help us to implement the Common Core Standards.

Graphing Linear Equations–Common Core Style

Mrs. Marsh and Mrs. Vernon’s Pre-Algebra classes participated in many Common Core Math activities that focused on the following standard:

A-CED.2: Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales.

Their students worked on investigations (see below to download), discussed their findings verbally and on the SMART board, and applied their knowledge on the Buzz Math computer website.  Well done students!

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Math Common Core Update

It is official! New York State has adopted the national Pathway A from Appendix A of the Math Common Core Standards verbatim. Pathway A is the Traditional courses (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II) and is the one that is the most similar to the current NYS course setup. The current plan is that next year (2012 -13) Integrated Algebra would be replaced by Algebra I. The following year (2013-14) old Geometry would be replaced by new Geometry and then Algebra II Trig would transition in 2014-15. This plan is similar to the role out that has been used for the last two redesigns of the NYS math courses. The biggest difference, is that there will not be any overlap where multiple exams for the same level will be offered. As an example the last Integrated Algebra regents exam will be next January 2013 and that spring will be the first Algebra I regents exam. This piece is important for any students that are taking a pre-algebra or accelerated 7th grade course this year because they will end up taking the Algebra 1 course next year not the Integrated Algebra course. It also becomes important next year with students that do not pass the Integrated Algebra exams as there will only be an August and January chance for retakes before they have to take the new Algebra I exam.

Middle school teachers it will be important for you to note that in Appendix A there are even courses defined for 7th and 8th grade acceleration that have students ready to take the Algebra 1 exam at the end of 8th grade and still prepare students for 7th and 8th grade assessments.

Common Core Math Standards

Although there is nothing final as far as what the common core math standards will look like at the high school level, some things have been released that give us a taste of what we should expect.



  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.


Bill McCallum is one of the writers of the common core standards. His blog is found at On his blog, you will find news about tools that are being developed to support implementation of the Common Core State Standards. He often asks for feedback and comments on what is being created. This is a great opportunity to voice your opinion.

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