Math for MLK Day!

mlk-dayThe following math problems were submitted by math educators for past blogs.  We hope they will be helpful to teachers wanting to tie MLK facts into their regular curriculum:

1. On 25 March 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators on a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. According to the American College of Sports Medicine the average step length of an adult is 2.6 feet or about 31 inches. There are 5,280 feet in a mile.

Can you determine how many steps were taken by someone marching the entire distance from Selma to Montgomery Alabama?  (To estimate, there are about 2000 steps in a mile)

ANSWER:  108,000 steps (estimated  109,662 (using 2.6 ft per step)

2. A court order restricted the number of marchers to 300 when passing over a stretch of two-lane highway.  However, on the final day of the march, when the road reached four lanes the number of demonstrators swelled to  25,000.

How many additional marchers joined in after passing the two lane highway?

ANSWER: 24,700

3. Of the estimated 250,000 people who attended the March, about 60,000 were white.  What percentage of the marchers were white?


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It’s Time to Turn Nationwide Attention to Math!

Fair warning!  I am about to vent.  Too often, when I have talked with district and school administrators about the need for helping students improve in math I hear “I know. But we’re focusing on reading now.”  We have been focusing on reading for decades.   Progress has been made.  Yes, there is still more to do but it is time, past time, to put a nationwide focus on math.

Every three years PISA (Programme for International Assessment) tests the skills and knowledge of 15 year old students in 72 countries and economies.  Their 2015 report was just released. Before, I share those findings here is a little background.  The following is taken directly from the 2012 PISA report:

“Among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in mathematics in 2012 and is ranked 27th (this is the best estimate, although the rank could be between 23 and 29 due to sampling and measurement error). Performance in reading and science are both close to the OECD average. The United States ranks 17 in reading, (range of ranks: 14 to 20) and 20 in science (range of ranks: 17 to 25). There has been no significant change in these performances over time.”

The 2015 assessments were again made in reading, math and science.  Guess what?  U.S. students scored slightly above average in reading and science.  However, they remained well below average in math!

For far too long U.S. students have ranked below those of countries like Russia, China, Australia, Canada and the UK.  For a quick look at 2015 worldwide results check the graphic at

For those who care to dig a little deeper, the chart below provides the trend in mathematics performance for these countries.  It is hard to look at it and not feel overwhelmingly frustrated.


What is the answer?  FOCUS.  Focus on the students that need help. That means giving them the extra time they need to improve.  Focus on what they don’t know so that they can catch up quickly.  Our study of Math Skill Gaps shows that 95% of seventh grade students identified for intervention have skill gaps more than one grade level below their current grade.  Skill gaps are scattered and it is rare for any two students at this stage to have exactly the same needs.

If we can focus on the individual needs of each math student starting now, I believe the next PISA will show U.S. students well ahead of the curve.

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Play Holiday Bears On Us

holiday-bearsHappy Holidays From Ascend Math

We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday break. Last year, we created a special game for Ascend Math students called Holiday Bears.  We’ve been asked by many to reissue this game for the holidays. Please share the link with your students, friends and associates.

To play, just scroll to bottom of the game screen, adjust the angle and velocity of the snowballs and press launch. See if you can choose the best trajectory for your snowball toss in Holiday Bears.

Play Holiday Bears

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Time to Ask “What’s Not Working? “

We’re midway through the school year. In business, many will be wrapping up another fiscal year.  Conventional wisdom would state this is a good time to ask “What’s Working?”  Knowing what’s working may lead to good feelings but rarely to improvement.

Asking “What’s Not Working” is the first step to ensuring next year or half year can get you better results.

Gil-Rey Madrid, a thoughtful hard working principal in west Texas said it best “We kept trying the same things and getting the same result.”  It’s like the old joke “Why do you keep beating your head against the wall? Because it feels so good when I stop.”  Four years ago, Gil-Rey decided to stop. Mid-way through the year he simply quit doing the things that didn’t work.  A year and a half later his students received the most improvement in math of any middle school in his region, and they continue to improve.

There comes a time to stop doing the same things that don’t work. Stop them immediately.

I urge you to pick that something you know isn’t working and stop doing it!  Even if you don’t know what to do in exchange.  Do it right now.  Don’t wait until New Year’s. Once this monkey is off your back, you’ll be surprised at the new ideas that may come. Be open. Try something new or two new things.

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Guinness Book of Thanksgiving Math

Enjoy these math problems with your students.  Want to learn more? Check out the Guinness site.

turkeysLargest gathering of people dressed as turkeys
Pictured above, the largest gathering of people dressed as turkeys (above) is 661 and was accomplished at the 44th Annual Capital One Bank Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot in Dallas, Texas, USA on 24 November 2011.

If your school or classroom wanted to beat this record, how many more people would you need to recruit?

Fastest Time to Pluck a Turkey

The fastest time to pluck three turkeys is 11 min 30.16 sec and was achieved by Paul Kelly (United Kingdom) of Kelly Turkey Farms, at Little Claydon Farm, Essex, United Kingdom, on 13 November 2008. This was attempted as part of Gordon Ramsay’s Cookalong and Paul went head to head against Gordon Ramsay, who plucked three turkeys in 11 min 31.78 sec.

What was the average time to pluck a single turkey?

Answer:  3 min. 50.053 sec.

Largest pumpkin pie
The largest pumpkin pie weighs 1,678 kg (3,699 lb) and was made by New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers (USA) at New Bremen Pumpkinfest in New Bremen, Ohio, USA, on 25 September 2010. The diameter of the pie was 6 m (20 ft), and the crust was made of 440 sheets of dough. (Other ingredients included canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin spice.)

If the average slice of pie were 1/5 of a pound how many people could you feed with this pie?

Answer: 18,495 pieces of pie!

Largest inflatable parade 

One of America’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions, the Macy’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, New York, USA, is the world’s largest inflatable parade. The parade features 30 larger-than-life balloon characters and millions of spectators lining the streets and watching on television. The inflatable characters included Big Bird (63ft x28ft x 46ft and 468lbs) and Curious George (46ft x 30.3ft x57ft and 433lb). Once in the sky, balloons can reach up to five stories (60 ft) into the air.

How much taller is Big Bird compared to Curious George?  How much heavier?

Answer:  Big Bird’s balloon is 17 feet taller and 35 pounds heavier.

Heaviest turkey 

The greatest dressed weight recorded for a turkey is 39.09 kg (86 lb) for a stag named Tyson reared by Philip Cook of Leacroft Turkeys Ltd, Peterborough, United Kingdom. It won the last annual `heaviest turkey’ competition, held in London on 12 December 1989, and was auctioned for charity for a record £4400 (then $6,692)

How much did the buyers of the record turkey pay per pound in US dollars?  How much per kg in British pounds?

Answer: $77.81 per pound,  £112.56  per kg.

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Be sure to attend this valuable live presentation!

Mark your calendar for Thursday, Nov. 11.  Educators from Bibb County Schools will explain how their Flexible Learning Program resulted in their most at risk students outperforming the rest of their students.


  • Date:  Thursday 11/10
  • Time:  3:00 Eastern, 2:00 Central, 1:00 Mountain, 12:00 Pacific

For more information and registration

The webinar will feature:

  • Dr. Lori Rodgers, Ex. Director of Special Programs, Bibb County Schools
  • Dr. Sharon Daniel, Instructor, Title 1 Flexible Learning Program, Bibb County Schools
  • Joanna Gittens-Summerow, Title 1 Education Specialist for Bibb County, will be on hand to answer questions.


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How States Could Improve the State of Education Starting Now!

essaA new federal law called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) hands more control over education to state leaders.  Rather than threatening them for failing to achieve certain test scores, the law provides money and guidance pursue new models of education.

This is an enormous opportunity for needed change.

“Notably, the law provides financial and regulatory support for policies compatible with “personalized learning,” a teaching method that gives students custom-fit lessons, the choice to pursue individual passions and the ability to move as quickly (or slowly) as needed to master skills and concepts. Similarly, the use of technology to enhance in-person lessons, known as blended learning, is also included in the law, with language that specifies that schools can use federal money to pursue that strategy.”

The Hechinger Report

Providing each student with an individual study plan is a perfectly achievable goal.  Great educational technology products can help teachers easily monitor the process of personalizing learning while quickly assessing students and providing truly individual study plans.

Let’s make this the school year in which education reaches out to use technology the way it was intended.  That is to make learning accessible and teaching to a diverse classroom of students manageable and enjoyable.

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Best of Halloween Math Problems

Here are a few of the best Halloween math problems sent to us by teachers and others:

  1. pumpkin 2An adult skeleton has 206 bones. There are 27 bones in a hand and 26 bones in a foot. How many bones are not in the hands or feet?

2. Count Juan Toothree is giving a party at his haunted castle. Throughout the evening guests come and go. 10 guests go in.  2 come out. 12 more go in. 3 come out. 6 go in. 8 come out.  10 more go in. 1 comes out. And just before midnight 2 go in and 8 come out.  How many guests are at the party at midnight?

3. Punkin Chunkin is an event in which machines such as catapults are used to hurl pumpkins the greatest distance.  One of the goals of the WCPCA (World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association) is to hurl a pumpkin a full mile. The current record is 4,484 feet.  How many more feet do they have to go?  The pumpkin would need to travel at 1000 mph in order to make it the full mile.  How long will it take to reach it’s goal?  Once you’ve solved this trick, treat your students to one of the punkin chuckin videos on the Science Channel’s website.

4. Anoka, MN is the Halloween Capital of the World.  They created the first Halloween parade in 1920. How many years will it be before they can celebrate their 100th anniversary?  How many months?  Think that’s scary, now try to figure out how many days?

5. After scooping out and carving the Jack O Lantern, the class counted 162 pumpkin seeds.  Their teacher roasted the pumpkin seeds for a tasty treat.  She wanted to divide the seeds up evenly among all her students. There were 18 students in the class. How many pumpkin seeds did each student get?

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More Students Graduating High School? Great! But then what?

graduationGreat article by Education Week this week. Recently, the White House announced the national high school graduate rate has reached 83.2 percent. President Obama called it the “highest on record.”  However, the Ed Week article brings up some important questions. For example:

“The question is what those gains mean. How do you make sense of the idea that more students are walking away with diplomas, when the National Assessment of Educational Progress suggests that they’re not learning any more these days than they were years ago?

And what about this pesky problem: Many states award a variety of different diplomas, some of which connote strong preparation for jobs and college, and some of which, um, don’t. How much should we rejoice in more teenagers graduating from high school, when some of them have most certainly completed a watered-down course of study?”

Don’t get me wrong. This is progress and worthy of everyone’s attention.  Couple it with students improving in key skills like math and it would be great news!  Let’s keep working and when we see NAEP scores improve as well we’ll know we are on our way!

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Your Math Vote Counts! Electoral Math for the Classroom

voteSeveral educational blogs and publications are focusing on the Presidential election and creating ideas for learning opportunities.   Our staff and friends have created these historical election math problems to share with your students.

A Bully Math Problem

In the election of 1912, former Republican president Teddy Roosevelt came out of retirement to lead a brand new party known at the Progressives.  Below is the electoral vote count.  It takes 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency.

Woodrow Wilson, Democratic Party        435 votes

Theodore Roosevelt, Progressive Party 88 votes

William H. Taft,  Republican Party              8 votes

If Roosevelt had been the Republican party nominee and received the 8 votes in addition to his own how many more would he need to get the 270 votes needed?

Who Says One Vote Isn’t Important?

In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel J. Tilden by a single electoral vote! That’s the closest in US history. To complicate things further, Tilden won the popular vote by over two hundred thousand votes—one of four times in history someone won the popular vote but lost the presidency. There have been 56 contested U.S. Presidential elections. (George Washington ran unopposed)

What percentage of times has the popular vote been greater than the electoral vote? 

Dewey Want Him or a Truman?

In 1948, early polls showed Thomas E. Dewey the winner over then President Harry S. Truman. However, east coast votes had not been counted when the Tribune went to press, and Truman pulled off one of the biggest upsets in American election history. He ended up winning with 303 electoral votes to Dewey’s 189, and was famously photographed holding the paper that announced his defeat.

What percentage of electoral votes when to Truman?  What percent to Dewey?

The Winner by a Fraction!

John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were evenly matched going into the presidential election of 1960. Kennedy received 49.72 percent of the vote while Nixon received 49.55 percent.  The difference between them was only 112,827 popular votes!

What was the difference in the percent of vote between the two candidates?

Can you determine how many popular votes each candidate received?

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