Celebrate Earth Day with these Fun Math Problems

Earth day 3Welcome to the Ascend Math Blog. This is the third year we’ve had the privilege of sharing the best Earth Day math problems sent to us by teachers and students.

Please use these math problems to help your students better understand recycling and reuse.

  1. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour! Most of them are thrown away! Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. How many bottles are recycled an hour? How many more would be recycled if the percentage rose to 30%
  2. It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill.  If you buried a plastic bottle today what is the soonest date that it would be broken down?
  3. Five plastic bottles recycled provides enough fiber to create one square feet of carpet. If the carpet in your classroom is 50 square feet how many plastic bottles would need to be recycled to make it.
  4. In 1997, the U.S. recycled 13 million cars, which conserved 32.5 billion pounds of iron ore, 18.2 billion pounds of coal and 1.5 billion pounds of limestone. If in 2016 we recycle 18 million cars how much iron ore will be conserved?  How much coal will be conserved?
  5. In the U.S. approximately 3,000 pounds of food goes to waste each second. How many pounds will go to waste in one minute?
  6. The National Recycling Coalition reports that recycling has created 1.1 million jobs and $37 billion in annual payroll.  If we increased our recycling by 10% how many additional new jobs might be created.
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Prepare for Earth Day with these math problems

Earth Day 2This week we will devote the blog to math problems celebrating Earth Day, Friday April 22. For starters, here are a couple of our favorites:

If each person uses an average of 700 pounds of paper products per year, how many pounds of paper does your family use a year?  Your class?

Americans buy 29 billion bottles of water a year, more than any other nation.  It takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make this many plastic water bottles. How many billion bottles can be manufactured from one barrel of crude oil?

Extra Credit:  If Americans only bought 10 billion bottles next year how many barrels of oil would that take?

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Ascend Math Gold Medal Nominations Are In

Gold medalIn just a few weeks we will reveal the 2016 Ascend Math Gold Medalist Schools.  So far, six schools have been added to these honorary ranks. Math Intervention students at all six have made amazing progress this year. The nominated schools thus far include:


Long Beach Elementary School, Montgomery, IL

Oneida Elementary School, Oneida, TN

Giddings Elementary School, Giddings, TX

Desert Edge High School, Goodyear, AZ

Delta Middle School, Delta, OH

Mountain Ridge Junior High, Highland, UT

Nominations will continue to be accepted over the next three weeks.

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Intrinsic or Extrinsic motivation? Why not both!

Base CampIn past articles I’ve written “Interactive engagement, not entertainment, is at the core of a computer game’s ability to motivate.  Finding ways to make math more interactive and more engaging is the key to making math software better as well.”

When students play a game they expect to face a struggle of some kind at which they may need to try multiple times before succeeding. In an app or mobile game this is sometimes referred to as “the grind.”  At the end a reward is expected.  They level up, acquire a new tool or coins in which to purchase something of value to them.

Having monitored students using Ascend Math, it is clear to me that students are more willing to accept the math grind, if like their games, they see an appropriate reward.  Intrinsically, success measured by moving up in levels in math is its own strong reward. Providing virtual badges and tokens commemorating the success is consistent with gaming but also supports the intrinsic reward in learning.

The addition of extrinsic motivation at the time of success can add further incentive. Base Camp is a virtual world with fun games and activities added to Ascend Math this school year. After spending time on task in Ascend and successfully completing post-assessments a student gains access to explore Base Camp for three minute increments.  In Base Camp they can visit the Treasure Room containing the honors and accomplishments they’ve earned in the Ascend Math program. They can also spend the three minutes playing games like Hungry Bears that require logical thinking and an understanding of geometry.

Since the launch of Base Camp, students are more active than ever this year in Ascend Math.  Their usage, gains and growth have all increased completing more objectives and moving up additional grade levels.

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Final Four Math

Final FourDon’t Call Them for Travelling

This week, four teams will travel to Houston, TX to play in the Final Four of the NCAA National Championship. Oklahoma is the closest and will fly just  432 miles. Syracuse is the furthest away and will fly  1439 miles.  How many more miles will the Syracuse players be flying? 

If there planes cover the distance at an average speed of 320 miles per hour how long will it take each team to arrive?

Final 4 X 19

North Carolina has been in the Final Four more often than any other team, 19 times. In fact, the other three teams combined do not have as many appearances. The tournament has been played consistently since 1939, 77 years.  What is the percentage of times North Carolina has been in the Final Four?

Defense or Offensive?

Both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Villanova Wildcats beat the number three and number one seeds in their divisions to make it the Final Four.  Use the scores below to determine which team held their opponents to the lowest combined score.  Which team put up the highest overall offensive score?

Oklahoma won 77-63  and 80-68

Villanova won 92-69 and 64-59


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March Mathness Continues

basketball 4Here is are the latest fun basketball themed math problems that have been submitted. Enjoy them with your class:

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

The jersey numbers for the 13 Duke players are 2, 3, 5, 12, 13, 14, 21, 30, 34, 40, 45, 50, 53.  What is the maximum? What is the minimum? What is the range? What is the mean?

Gonzaga and Syracuse will play each other in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday.   In the last round Gonzaga beat Utah 82 to 59.  Syracuse beat MCTU 75 to 50.  Determine how many points each team won by.  Which team won by the greatest margin?

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Announcing March Mathness III

march mathnessThe past two years, we devoted the march blog posts to 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 marchmath@ascendmath.com

Meanwhile, here is a favorite updated from last year:

A study released by Sports Illustrated magazine last year reveals that colleges with “bird” mascots have done better than those with animals, fantasy figures, or humans for mascots. Here is how it shapes up

Mascot Winning Percentage
Birds 58%
Fantasy figures/inanimate objects/weather 52%
Canines and felines 47.9%
Other Beasts 46.5%
People 41.1%

According to this study alone which of the following first round teams should win?   What is the difference in the winning percentages for their mascot types?

Kansas Jayhawks vs Austin Peay Governors

Duke Blue Devils vs UNCW Seahawks

Seton Hall Pirates vs Gonzaga Bulldogs

Miami Hurricanes vs Buffalo Bulls

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Common Mistakes Made in Math Intervention 5: Not Expecting Better Results

Belknap slideOnce an intervention program is in place, it can be tempting for schools to leave it in place if students are making at least some progress. But how much progress is enough? If an 8th-grade student began the year at the third-grade level, is it enough to advance that student one grade level by the end of the year? Can you expect a struggling student—one who has slid further behind each previous year—to suddenly begin to grow multiple grade levels in a single year? The answer is an unqualified YES. If a student’s specific skill gaps are accurately identified and addressed in sequence from the bottom up, that student will be armed with both the knowledge they need to make progress in math and a new confidence that they can in fact succeed. If students are instead faced with material that is misaligned, too difficult, or inadequately presented, they may not be as likely to invest in their own growth. If you do not expect students to make impressive gains, chances are they won’t.

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Common Mistakes Made in Math Intervention #4: Using Programs Not Well Designed for Intervention

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series on Common Mistakes Made in Math Intervention by guest blogger Jeff Hartman.

Mistake 4: Using a Program Not Well Designed for Math Interventionmiddle school

Precision matters. The math software market is saturated with programs that provide practice problems for students behind grade level, and a select few of these programs offer some kind of instruction or assessment. But what is almost always missing is the ability of a program to automatically identify and address individual student skill gaps without the instructor having to manually make assignments.

A drill-and-kill math software program may offer a quick assessment that helps identify students who are behind grade level, but it usually stops well short of identifying the precise below-level skill gaps that are holding that student back, or even providing an accurate assessment of what level to begin instruction. When using an inferior math program, teachers have to constantly spend time making more accurate assessments themselves. Even then, they still have to devote more time to pairing students with resources over and over again because the program itself can’t automatically do it. An effective math intervention software program should always be able to automatically assess exact skill gaps and guide students through their unique learning paths without constant tinkering by the instructor.

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Common Mistakes Made in Math Intervention #3: Using Teachers as Data Clerks

Teacher data 1Editor’s Note: This is the third in guest blogger Jeff Hartman’s series on Common Mistakes Made in Math Intervention.

Mistake 3: Using Teachers as Data Clerks

Data is a necessary pillar of intervention, but when the need to document progress consumes the available time of instructors who would otherwise be working with students, the time spent gathering data detracts from any one-on-one teacher time that students really need. If a school is using a large number of separate tools to assess and monitor students, teachers have to master the art of compiling and interpreting data from multiple sources. Using a streamlined program to both assess students and monitor progress liberates classroom teachers from spending too much time managing data, especially when real-time data is consolidated into easy to read dashboards. To quote a happy teacher from one of our Ascend Math partner schools, “There’s more of me for my kids instead of me sitting behind a desk… and my aide teaching my class.”

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