Celebrate Black History Month with Fun Math Problems

In honor of Black History Month we’ve provided a few fun and challenging math problems. Try these out.

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)

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.

What was the percentage of increase?

3.  An African-American and son of a former slave, Benjamin Banneker rose to fame as a brilliant scientist, scholar and mathematician.  He wrote and collected mathematical puzzles written in verse.  Here is one that can be a lot of fun to try and figure out. See how close you can come to answering the question “How many leaps did the hound have to make to catch the hare?

When fleecy skies have Cloth’d the ground
With a white mantle all around
Then with a grey hound Snowy fair
In milk white fields we Cours’d a Hare
Just in the midst of a Champaign
We set her up, away she ran,
The Hound I think was from her then
Just thirty leaps or three times ten
Oh it was pleasant for to see
How the Hare did run so timorously
But yet so very Swift that I
Did think she did not run but Fly
When the Dog was almost at her heels
She quickly turn’d, and down the fields
She ran again with full Career
And ‘gain she turn’d to the place she were
At every turn she gain’d of ground
As many yards as the greyhound
Could leap at thrice, and She did make,
Just Six, if I do not mistake
Four times She Leap’d for the Dogs three
But two of the Dogs leaps did agree
With three of hers, nor pray declare
How many leaps he took to Catch the Hare.
Just Seventy two I did Suppose,
An Answer false from thence arose,
I Doubled the Sum of Seventy two,
But still I found that would not do,
I mix’d the Numbers of them both,
Which Shew’d so plain that I’ll make Oath,
Eight hundred leaps the Dog to make,
And Sixty four, the Hare to take.

For hints on solving this complex verse problem see John F. Mahoney’s excellent discussion of this and other Banneker puzzles



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Your students will love these holiday math problems!

Happy Holidays from Ascend Math!

Here are some festive math problems to share with your class as you celebrate the holidays.

  1. Santa’s reindeers Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blixon, and Rudolph were helping in wrapping gifts. Dasher can wrap 1,000 gifts in 3 hours. Prancer can wrap 300 gifts in 1 hour.  Prancer can wrap 500 gifts in 2 hours.  Vixon can wrap 1,200 gifts in 5 hours.  Comet can wrap 1,000 gifts in 4 hours.  Cupid can wrap 800 gifts in 4 hours.  Donner and Blixon together can wrap 3,300 gifts in 5 hours.  Blixon can wrap 1,200 gifts in 4 hours.  Rudolf can wrap 1,600 gifts in 6 hours.

    There are 30,000 gifts to wrap.  How long would it take all of these reindeers together to wrap all these gifts together?  How many gifts did each of the reindeers wrap during this period of time?

  1. Each bag of Hanukkah gelt has 8 pieces in it. Joseph collected 12 bags of Hanukkah gelt. How many pieces of gelt does he have altogether?
  1. The song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ has many presents:

    A partridge in a pear tree
    Two turtle doves
    Three French hens
    Four calling birds
    Five golden rings
    Six geese a-laying
    Seven swans a-swimming
    Eight maids a-milking
    Nine drummers drumming
    Ten pipers piping
    Eleven dancers dancing
    Twelve lords a-leaping

    Throughout the entire song, including all twelve ‘verses’, which present(s) shows up most often?

  2. Lila is making baskets of fruit to decorate for Kwanzaa. She has 22 apples 19 bananas, and 7 oranges. If she puts an equal number of fruit into each of 3 baskets, how many pieces of fruit will be in each basket?
  3. After the trip on the Polar Express, it was Christmas morning. Santa left 13 presents each for Sarah, her brother, her mom, and her dad. How many gifts did Santa leave for the family?



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Excellent advice on helping students below grade level succeed in math

Math Interventionist Brian Wessel provides helpful advice on how to instruct eighth grade students with math skill gaps several grades below level.  Brian shares several of his findings including suggesting a scaffold approach in this video recorded during a special lunch session at a recent National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Regional Conference.

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Thanksgiving Math Problems

download (1)I thought you might want to share these fun Thanksgiving math problems with your class. 

Three covered baskets were brought to the Thanksgiving dinner. The first covered basket has two pumpkin pies. The second covered basket has two apple pies. The third covered basket has one pumpkin pie and one apple pie. The baskets look the same. You reach into one without looking and pull out an apple pie. What are the odds that the remaining pie in that basket is also apple?

Turkeys have more than 5000 feathers.  How many feathers on a flock of 4 turkeys?

The Pilgrims are planning a big Thanksgiving for friends and family. They are expecting 18 adults and 40 children. For dessert, they will bake apple pies and pumpkin pies.  Each apple pie will be cut into 6 pieces for adults. Each pumpkin pie will be cut into 8 pieces for the children. How many of each pie do they need to make?

Turkey is higher in protein and lower in fat than other meats.  A 3-ounce portion of turkey has 170 calories with 70 of those calories from fat.  By comparison, a 3-ounce portion of chicken has 200 calories with 100 of those calories from fat.  What percentage of the turkey’s total calories comes from fat?  What percentage of the chicken’s total calories comes from fat?

A turkey can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and fly at up to 55 miles per hour. If a turkey runs at top speed for one hour and flies for another 2 hours how far will he have traveled?

Here is one of my favorite resources for fun holiday math problems, activities and more: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com


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Next Week is American Education Week

Next week is the 96th annual American Education Week, celebrated in our country since 1921.  Every child deserves to receive a quality education. American Education Week provides all Americans an opportunity to celebrate and support the individuals who provide quality education to all our youth. I want to thank Ascend Education’s present, past and future school partners for the great work they do to help our children and younger generations graduate high school and succeed in life.

For more information about American Education Week, visit http://www.nea.org/grants/19823.htm

Here are some great ideas to help you celebrate your local educators: http://www.nea.org/grants/60943.htm

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Blended Learning for Math Intervention

I was thinking this week about all the different ways we are helping students through a Blended Learning model in and out of the classroom.  Blended Learning as defined by Christensen has three imperatives.

Students learn:

  1. at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  2. at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  3. with modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject that are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

What type of Blended Learning model are you using in your classroom or school?

We have built great partnerships with schools using the station rotation, lab rotation, flipped classroom, flex and sometimes even the a la carte models.  The schools most successfully implementing the a la carte model have a designated block period.

If you are interested in learning more about these models, here is a helpful link:

If you are interested in learning more about successful math intervention models, here is a helpful link:

blended learning model

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Frighteningly Fun Halloween Math Problems

  1. Share these frighteningly fun Halloween math problems with your class.


  1. Stumpy the skeleton goes for a bike ride every night in the cemetery. He rides 1/2 way around the cemetery and stops. Stumpy then bikes 3/4 of the way around before stopping again. He finishes his ride by biking another 3/8. How far around the cemetery does Stumpy bike?
  2. An 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?
  3. 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?
  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. 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?
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5 Awesome Teacher Apps. Number 2 is One of Our Favorites.

Ascend Math, Top 5 Teacher AppsMany of you have heard the old adage, “A teacher’s work is never done.” There are always assignments to grade, lessons to plan, and parent-teacher conferences to attend. Anything that can save teachers time is a great investment, and the recent app revolution has provided many helpful apps for time and classroom management.

Take a look at this list of five must have apps for teachers in 2017 compiled by Teachers With Apps.  Tell us which you like. Our team uses Slack every day.  It increases our productivity, improves group collaboration and saves time.  Leave a comment on our blog.


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Your Brain on Math

Your Brain on Math

Business Insider put out a fascinating story with pictures of scans showing what happens in the brain when solving a math problem.  They indicated four distinct steps: encoding (reading and understanding the problem), planning (strategizing how to tackle the problem), solving (performing the math), and responding (typing or writing the answer)


The steps themselves should come as no surprise to anyone who has taught math. Our lead instructor, Elayn Martin-Gay, has been teaching these steps in our award-winning videos for over 20 years.  Science is just starting to describe what great teachers have known for decades and probably centuries.  In teaching math, we add a fifth important step of checking the answer. I would like to see what the brain looks like during that step.


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Are Hope and Engagement Key Student Success Indicators?

Engagement is driven when students know how to apply what they know.

Have you seen the 2016 Gallup Student Poll?  According to Gallup, the Student Poll will track for 10 years the hope, engagement, and well-being of public school students in grades 5 through 12 across the United States. But what do these measurements really tell us?  Are student’s hope, engagement and well-being truly the leading indicators of their success in school and graduation rates?

A report released from ASCD sums it up best.

“Student test scores alone do not meaningfully track student learning and growth throughout the school year, nor do they provide the information necessary to address nonacademic student needs crucial to student success. A primary goal of measuring students should be to assess their learning progress on an ongoing basis so that instruction can be designed to further enhance their academic performance throughout the school year. Schools should ask not just what students know, but also what they know how to do with what they know.”


Watch for the 2017 Gallup Student Poll.

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