More March Mathness Problems

march mathnessHere are some fun math problems to share with students:

1. NBA games have 4 12-minute quarters.  College games have 2 20-minute halves.  Which games are longer, NBA or College, and by how much?

2.  The tournament started with 64 teams. Of those, 48 have been sent home. How many teams are left?

3. College players use a basketball that is 9.4 inches in diameter.  The hoop is 18 inches in diameter.  If a ball passes exactly through the center of the net, how much space will there be between the edge of the ball and the hoop?

Check back regularly for more March Mathness problems.

Submit your March Mathness math problem to

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Upsetting Mathness!

Gopher lossI am from Minnesota and yes, I am a graduate of the University there.  And I am upset. I’m upset at the upset of the #5 seeded Golden Gophers at the hands (large hands) of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

It was one of two upsets in the first day of the tournament.  It won’t make me feel any better but let’s do the math anyway.

Xavier 76 over Maryland 65.

Middle Tennessee State 81  over Minnesota 72

Which team won by the most points?  What was the average of points put up by the losing teams? What was the average points put up by the winning teams? 

Check back regularly for more March Mathness problems.  Submit your March Mathness math problem to


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The Math of the March Mascots

MascotAs we prepare for the actual games, some folks out there are having special fun with the 68 teams.  USA Today presents a ranking of the teams according to their team name and mascot. We figured why not add a little math to that fun.

Share the link with your class and ask these questions and a few more of your own:

What is the ranking for the Virginia Cavaliers?  What is the ranking for the Maryland Terrapins?  What is the difference in their rankings?

Which of these teams is ranked in the top 25%, Oregon Ducks, Minnesota Gophers, Michigan Wolverines, North Carolina Tar Heels?

If names alone show strength and speed we like 1. Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 3. Xaviar Musketeers, and 4. Seton Hall Pirates.  What is the average of their rakings?

Ranking all 68 NCAA tournament teams by mascot

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Announcing March Mathness IV

march mathnessSome of the most popular posts of the past three years have been those celebrating March Mathness, the math behind the sport of basketball!

Many of you sent in your own math problems for posting. These included  scores, records of teams, distance teams have to travel, the basketball court itself, even the numbers on the player’s jerseys.  Math plays into this annual event in more ways than you might think.

So check this blog regularly for more fun math problems. Send your ideas for March Mathness math problems to

Meanwhile, here is a favorite updated from last year:

A basketball court measures 94 feet by 50 feet. What is the perimeter of the court? What is the area?

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What Companies Can Learn from the Best Schools in the World

IntrnEdu_coverA recent study by the National Conference of State Legislatures has concluded that world-class education systems have a few common elements that we can learn from: a strong early education system, a high-quality professional teacher workforce, robust career and technical education programs, and strong alignment between K-12 and college/career goals.

These common strengths have parallels in the business world as well.

  1. Strong Early Education System = Strong Onboarding of Employees

Having a strong education system for a new employee during the first months is critical. Ensuring the best onboarding experience pays dividends years and sometimes even decades later.

  1. High Quality Professional Teacher Workforce = Hiring “A” Players

A high quality workforce is our biggest asset. We’ve all heard it. Hiring is the most important business decision we will make. Still, the process is too often rushed or compromised. Start by knowing what qualities are truly needed for the position and perform a rigorous, in-depth interview of any final candidates.  Always check references meticulously.

  1. Robust Career and Technical Education Program = Commitment to Ongoing Development of Employees

What work’s best for students who are preparing to enter the workforce also works best once they are there. Your team needs a robust education program in the form of ongoing personal and professional development.

  1. Strong Alignment between K-12 and college/career goals = Strong Alignment to Mission and Strategic Plan

Every employee must know how his or her actions fit into the mission and culture of our company.  Share your vision consistently so your team knows how the strategic plan relates to their personal objectives.

In many ways, the best education systems are following a path blazed by the best companies in the world.

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Math for President’s Day

Share these fun math facts about our Presidents with your students.

Mount Rushmore

  1. The four Presidents featured on Mount Rushmore are often considered our greatest. What were their total years in office?

  George Washington, 1789-1797 (8 years)

  Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809  (8 years)

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 (4 years)

Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909 (8 years)

2.  The youngest person to enter the office of the Presidency was Theodore Roosevelt (43 years old).   At 70 years old, Donald Trump is the oldest person to become President of the United States.

How many years separate these two?  What is the mean age of a President?

3.  There have been 14 Presidents from the Democratic Party 19 from the Republican Party. What percentage have been Democrats?  What percentage Republicans?

Extra Credit:  Determine the proper percentages for all parties.

Federalist Party  2

Whig Party  5

Democratic-Republican Party 4

Union 1

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Valentines Day Math Fun

Our records show that math intervention and enhancement students working in Ascend Math are making fantastic progress this year.  We offer this Valentine’s Day math fun for them and you.

V Day candy1.  The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.)  How many years have passed since that first valentine?

2. According to the Hallmark Corporation, 132 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. This total does not include packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges. Packages of 25 Valentines are on sale for $5.00 each.   How many could be purchased for $20?

3. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the National Confectioners Association (NCA)  Americans overwhelmingly prefer chocolate over flowers on Valentine’s Day by a margin of 69 to 31%.  When asked what was their most popular flavor in a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates here’s how they voted:

34%  Caramel
24% Chocolate-covered nuts
13%  Cream filled  
13%  Chocolate filled 

What percentage said something other than these top choices?  What do you think was the next most popular chocolate?

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The Most Important Educational Research of 2016!

Growth MindSet is working. We at Ascend Education will continue to promote it and use it’s tenants to improve our products and services. “(This study) explores the relationship between incomeand mindset for the first time, to our knowledge, finding that students from lower-income families were less likely to hold a growth mindset than their wealthier peers but that those who did hold a growth mindset were appreciably buffered against the deleterious effects of poverty on achievement. These results suggest that mindsets may be one mechanism through which economic disadvantage can affect achievement.”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

This may be the most important educational research to be released last year!  Although, I cannot say I am surprised by the findings, it does confirm that which I have already witnessed first hand.  Nonetheless, it in no way diminishes its importance

Let me give you just a few of the many examples I’ve encountered.

Valley High School, Sanders AZ supports one of the poorest student populations in the country. Many are without running water or electrcity.  The turnaround in their school appeared to be nothing short of miaculous. It was in fact, a belief in growth mindset and a focus on individual student need that brought about he improvement.

Bibb County Public Schools, Macon, GA a Flexible Learning Program (FLP) in 2015 for students who were most at risk of failing math (in the lowest 25 percentile). The first year off the program 44% of students moved up two or more grade levels.

Fort Stockton Middle School, Fort Stockton, TX  did not make AYP. In less than two years, they were honored by the state for having the most improvement in math in their region. It should be noted that 65% of Fort Stockton students are economically disadvantaged and a large percentage are English Language Learners.

Growth MindSet is working. We at Ascend Education will continue to promote it and use it’s tenants to improve our products and services.

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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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