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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.

Follow my New Blog!

My position has changed this year and I have created a new blog.  I am the coordinator of the Middle School Re-Engagement Center.  Please follow my new blog at to keep updated on active and creative instructional methods (math and other content areas), as well as the many events at the Re-Engagement Center.

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!

Differentiated Circle Geometry Lesson Video

Lisa Gross and Monica O’Brien co-taught an engaging review lesson for a Geometry unit on Circles.  In this lesson, Gross and O’Brien differentiate using a combination of the parallel and alternative models of co-teaching.  Students were grouped based upon their most recent formative assessment.  The groups were as follows: an independent Castle Learning group, a mostly independent worksheet group, a guided worksheet group, and a highly guided worksheet group.  The guided groups were assisted by Mrs. O’Brien and a student in the class who has mastered the material.  Mrs. Gross rotated throughout all groups to ensure high quality work and to answer questions that came up.

A video summary of this highly engaging differentiated lesson is below:

Using the Movie “The Goonies” in Geometry

In my Geometry classes, I use the movie “The Goonies” as a fun and engaging activity to review topics toward the end of the school year.  This is an example of using math AND the movies.  There is not necessarily direct mathematics explained in the movie, but the movie can be used for its interesting scenarios, challenging students to think about math in different ways.

In “The Goonies,” a group of kids embark on a wild adventure after finding a pirate treasure map.  Using their your knowledge of the movie and mathematics, they need  to answer specific math questions.

The format of the lesson (and worksheet) can be found by clicking the following link: Geometry: GOONIES ACTIVITY – Logic, Locus, Solids, and Coordinate Geo

In this lesson, students watch a series of clips from the movie (a few minutes each) to hook them into the problems and answer related state test questions.  The actual DVD start and stop times are written on the worksheet.

Sample of the Goonies Activity

I hope you enjoy the lesson.  Please comment below.

Check Out My Wordle

A few months ago, I explored a website called  As the website describes, Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide.  The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.  You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.  The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.  You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

I love using for math vocabulary activities!

I encourage you to check it out for a creative activity, project, presentation, pre or post vocabulary lesson, or assessment.  You can type in words into the wordle website or copy text from an article.  A sample of a wordle that I created from my favorite education topics is below:

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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Using “The Simpsons” to Teach Solids

In my Geometry classes, I use the television show “The Simpsons” to teach volume and surface area. In the 10 minute episode titled 3D Homer, Homer goes into a world filled with Geometric solids.  In the episode, Patty and Selma visit the Simpson family and Homer, desperate to avoid them, looks behind a bookcase and enters an eerie new world in which everything is in 3D.

The format of this lesson is as follows:

  1. Have the students watch the 10 minute episode.  It is part of their annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween shows (e-mail me if you want the clip).  You may want to have student write down math related things they see in the show.
  2. Discuss the episode and the math topics.
  3. Have students work in groups (or individually) on the SIMPSONS ACTIVITY WORKSHEET.  The tasks of the activity include naming 3D solids in the episode, calculating the height of a pond in the 3D world, and finding the volume, lateral area, and surface area of various solids.
  4. Discuss and/or collect the activity.

I hope you enjoy the lesson.  Please comment below.

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).


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