# 11 Prime Days to Celebrate Math Holidays

If you’re a math teacher, every day is a reason to celebrate math, but did you know that there are also a multitude of “holidays” centered around math? Using a math holiday as an angle to get students excited about math adds up to a whole lot of fun! We hope this list will inspire and energize your math teaching throughout the year.

### 1. e Day

If you teach any high school students with irrational math fears, then help them transcend their fears on February 7. Euler’s number, e, which is both irrational and transcendental, rounds to 2.7, thus we have e Day on 2/7. Show students the practical use of Euler’s number by introducing them to continuous compounding interest. A little lesson in financial literacy is always valuable!

### 2. 100th Day of School

The number of creative ways to celebrate this day is certainly not limited to 100! Ask students to bring in containers of 100 small objects and display them around the school. Have students create a list of 100 reasons why they love their school or community. Explore what life was like 100 years ago. Collect 100 food items and donate them to your local food pantry. Visit Help Teaching to use our 100 charts and lessons, as well as all of our counting worksheets.

### 3. Pi Day

Pi may be infinite, but Pi Day is not. Celebrate Pi Day on March 14 in recognition of its common abbreviation, 3.14. Plan a party with your students, but wait to sound the party horns until exactly 1:59 in the afternoon (3.14159)! Double the fun and make it a party for Albert Einstein, whose birthday is also on March 14. Be sure to check out Help Teaching’s worksheets featuring the number pi. Pi Day also kicks off World Math Week.

### 4. Mathematics & Statistics Awareness Month

Use all 1 + 4 + 9 + 16 days of April to celebrate the beauty and fun of mathematics. Focus on bringing math alive by making math relevant for students and connecting math and statistics to real-world problems. Elementary students can record daily weather data throughout April, then graph and analyze their results. Middle school students are at an age where decision making becomes more independent. Connect daily decisions making to probability with the game-based activity SKUNK. High school students have enough mathematical background to develop statistical questions on topics of personal interest, then collect, interpret, and present their data. Get started with this collection of statistics worksheets.

### 5. Square Root Day

The only thing square about Square Root Day is the date. When the day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits of the year, we have a Square Root Day. April 4, 2016 (4/4/16) was a Square Root Day, but the next one won’t be until May 5, 2025 (5/5/25)! Get radical and make these special days square-themed.

### 6. Palindrome Days

Palindrome days aren’t just for students named Bob or Hannah. Palindrome days fall on any dates where the numbers of the month, day, and year are the same both forward and backwards. For example, June 10, 2016 was a Palindrome Day (6/10/16), but only in countries where dates are written month/day! Challenge your students to formulate lists of future Palindrome dates. Start with five-digit Palindrome dates (M/DD/YY) and work up to eight-digit dates (MM/DD/YYYY).

### 7. Pythagorean Theorem Day

As proof that the squares don’t have a monopoly on the math holidays, Pythagorean Theorem Day comes around periodically. Also known as Right Triangle Day, recognize Pythagorean Theorem Day whenever the sums of the squares of the month and day equals the square of the last two digits of the year. August 15, 2017 (8/15/17) and December 16, 2020 (12/16/20) are both Pythagorean Theorem Days. Make sure to check out our self-paced lesson on Solving Right Triangles.

### 8. Math Storytelling Day

No need to divide your instructional time between math and ELA on September 25 (9/25), it’s Math Storytelling Day! There are many ways to teach math through storytelling. Start the day by reading Math Curse, The Grapes of Math, or Sir Cumference or any math story to your students. Try a math story lesson like The General Sherman Tree or Let’s Go to the Zoo. Then, provide a writing prompt and ask students to write and share their own math stories.

### 9. Powers of Ten Day

Although 10/10/10 has passed, each October 10 can still be used to illustrate the powers of tens. Show your students the power of magnitude by screening the classic film Powers of TenTM. Spend at least one-tenth of your class time this day doing hands-on decimal or base ten exponent activities.

### 10. Mole Day

No, this day doesn’t pay homage to the subterranean dwellers. Rather, it is a special day for anyone with an interest in math or chemistry. If you remember Avogadro’s number, then you may guess the date of this math day! Mole Day takes place on October 23 each year between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m. (6.02 x 10^23) during National Chemistry Week. Use Help Teaching’s Chemistry Lessons and this TedEd video to introduce students to mathematical moles.

### 11. Fibonacci Day

Quick, what number comes next: 0 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 + ___? If you said five, then embrace your inner math geek and celebrate Fibonacci Day with your students on November 23 (11/23). Take this day to let your students explore the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio in nature. Mensa for Kids offers a nice selection of activities perfect for introducing students to the elegance of Fibonacci.

Visit HelpTeaching.com and utilize our growing library of K-12 math worksheetslessons, and math generators!

# Top STEM Competitions – Could Your Student Be the Next Winner?

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) contests and competitions benefit students in many ways. They can inspire students to pursue careers in STEM-related fields and challenge teachers and homeschool parents to take STEM education to the next level. Quality competitions provide students with hands-on practice and application of core STEM concepts they are studying and support project-based learning initiatives. Updated for the 2018 – 2019 school year, we’ve gathered a list of the top STEM competitions by age group to help you find the perfect opportunity for your students.

Before committing to entering any STEM competitions, consider the following criteria:

Curriculum Alignment – Does the competition directly support your curriculum and education standards? Do you have the classroom time to devote to working with students on their entries? If not, consider starting a school club dedicated to the project.

Cost – Many competitions cost nothing other than time, others require the purchase or donation of materials, and still others require travel and associated expenses. Determine your budget prior to selecting a competition to avoid student disappointment if funding is not available.

Timeline – Each competition will have a set competition timeline. In addition, some will require registration well before the submission deadline. Make sure the timeline works with your teaching schedule so students have ample time to complete quality projects.

Individual vs. Team – Science is collaborative and so are many STEM competitions. Decide if it is best for your students to compete individually, in small teams, or as a class, and then select a competition that fits those needs.

### STEM Competitions for Multiple Age Groups

America Computer Science League – The ACSL challenges students in grades 3 – 12 to solve computer science and programming problems in this international competition divided into division by age group and computing experience.

ExploraVision – The National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba ask small teams of K-12 students to envision what a current technology will look like in the future. The ExploraVision competition has refocused over the past several years to align with Next Generation Science Standards.

FIRST – With school teams and clubs worldwide, hundreds of thousands of students grades K-12 participate annually in FIRST’s hands-on robotics programs and competitions.

NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest – K-12 students design permanent orbital settlements. There are contest categories for students in each grade 6 – 12 and for individuals, small groups, and large groups.

National Science Bowl – Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Bowl challenges middle and high school students to face-off in a question-style science and math contest.

Science Olympiad – With competitions in all fifty states, the Science Olympiad is one of the best-established STEM competitions around for students in grades 6 – 12. Tournaments focus on teamwork and consist of standards-based challenges.

Team America Rocketry Challenge – Middle and high school students take part in designing, building, and flying rockets complete with “astronaut” eggs.

TEAMS – Middle and high school teams of four to eight students contend in this engineering-based competition that involves hands-on design challenges, multiple choice questions, and an essay based around an annual theme.

National Science Bee – This bee-styled tournament for elementary and middle school students covers science, math, and engineering topics and culminates in a national championship.

EngineerGirl Essay Content – Each fall the site posts an engineering related prompt for students grades 3 – 12 to write about. Despite the name, the content is open to all students in grades 3 – 12, not just girls!

Game-a-thon – From cards, to dice, to board games, games make for creative, hands-on learning. In this competition, students create games based on math concepts and submit videos of their games in action.

American Geosciences Institute Contests – In honor of October’s Earth Science Week, the AGI offers several annual contests for kids that celebrate Earth through visual arts, a nice option to support STEAM curriculums.

VEX Robotics Competition – Get student teams designing and building robots in this popular game-based engineering competition.

MOEMS – This Math Olympiad for students in grades 4 – 8, allows students to compete in teams of up to 35 via an online monthly math test.

### STEM Competitions for Middle School Students

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge – In this competition, students in grades 5 – 8 create videos on unique solutions to everyday problems. Multiple levels of prizes are given, including a \$25,000 grand prize.

Future City Competition – Middle school student teams use the engineering design process to create a city 100 years in the future that solves a sustainability issue. Competition elements include virtual city design, physical model construction, essay, and a presentation.

MATHCOUNTS – Each four-student middle school team creates a video that teaches the solution to and a real-world application of a math problem selected from the MATHCOUNT’s handbook. MATHCOUNTS also offers “bee” style competitions and club programs.

eCYBERMISSION – This web-based competition, sponsored by the U.S. Army, is for teams of students in grades 6 – 9 and focuses on real-life applications of STEM.

### STEM Competitions for High School Students

SourceAmerica Design Challenge – High school students innovate workplace technologies that diminish obstacles standing between people with disabilities and employment opportunities.

Google Science Fair – Students 13-18 perform in-depth investigations of real-world problems in this competition that awards many prizes in different age categories.

Imagine Cup – Microsoft’s Imagine Cup challenges high school students worldwide to create software applications that help resolve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

Mathworks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge – A free, internet-based math challenge for juniors and seniors that addresses a real-world problem. The competition offers numerous scholarships to top-placing teams.

Clean Tech Competition – Individuals and small student groups research, design, and produce papers around a real-world environmental theme that integrates eco-friendly energy sources.

Regeneron Science Talent Search – Billed as the oldest U.S. science and math competition, this one is limited to high school seniors who submit original science research. The top 300 entries earn cash prizes and finalists will go on to compete for \$250,000.

Math Prize for Girls – This is a competitive math prize for high school girls, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology each fall. Only 300 students will be selected to compete and applicants must take an American Mathematics Competition exam prior to applying for this competition.

This is just a sampling of the many STEM competitions available. Many students also participate in local and regional science fairs that allow students to conduct and present authentic research and potentially compete at the national level in competitions like the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and Broadcom MASTERS. However, most students will not win a national competition, so before entering students in a competition, consider the intrinsic value of participation. Look for well-organized competitions that offer clearly defined rules and judging criteria, as well as constructive feedback for all participants.

Remember to check out Help Teaching’s collection of science worksheets and online lessons to support your science teaching needs. If you enjoyed reading this article, try our Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science.

# How to Write Higher-Order Math Questions

As educators, we expect our students to learn and apply math concepts using higher-order thinking skills that go beyond rote learning. With the adoption of the Common Core Math Standards, many of us must do just that, by focusing more in-depth on fewer math concepts. However, writing math problems that require higher-order strategies can be almost as difficult as solving them.

To get started, try writing a lower-level math problem then apply one or more of the following techniques:

Tips for Writing Higher-Order Math Problems

•  Have students determine and extrapolate a mathematical process or pattern and apply it to an unfamiliar problem or scenario
•  Ask students to identify and evaluate missing or incorrect information
•  Challenge students to solve one problem using multiple methods
•  Consider asking, “Given ____, what would happen if ____ changed?” questions
•  Give an answer and a mathematical concept, have students write their own questions or equations that produce the given answer
•  Ask students to justify their solutions or identify and justify the “best” or “most correct” solution from a selection of plausible choices
•  Write problems that ask for connections between more than one set of information, this could include charts, tables, equations, graphics, and data sets
•  Watch that answers for multiple-choice questions are logical and that the correct choice is not structurally different from the incorrect answers
•  If you are having difficulty writing a problem, start by constructing questions that incorporate these higher-order key words and concepts: analyze, justify, explain, apply, interpret, compare, estimate, predict, prove, formulate, modify

Consider the Common Core Math Standard 7.G.4

Know the formulas for the area and circumference of a circle and use them to solve problems; give an informal derivation of the relationship between the circumference and area of a circle.

A lower-order question for this standard could be:

What is the area of a circle with a radius of 5?
a) 5π
b) 10π
c) 25π
d) 100π

As presented, this question strictly tests student knowledge and application of the required formula. Instead, consider structuring the question using a “real-life” scenario that requires multiple steps to solve:

Official tournament play of Ringer marbles requires a circular game ring with a diameter of 10 feet. Alexis needs to construct multiple rings for a tournament using rope to mark the circumference of each ring. If she has 100 feet of rope, what is the maximum number of rings Alexis can make?
a) 2
b) 3
c) 4
d) 5

Finally, try constructing an open-response question that requires students analyze and evaluate the information in a non-routine manner:

Jackson explains to his classmate that doubling the circumference of a circle results in the doubling of the circle’s area. Is Jackson correct? Use the formulas for area and circumference to justify your answer.

This problem still satisfies skills posed in standard 7.G.4, however it now requires students not only demonstrate knowledge and application of the formulas, but also analyze the relationship between them.

Writing higher-order problems takes time, but ideally, the additional time will help students further develop the critical-thinking skills we strive to nurture as educators.

For more examples of higher-order math questions, view these questions created by HelpTeaching.com members:

Example 1:  Problem Solving Strategies
Example 2:  Fractions
Example 3:  Logical Thinking
Example 4:  Area
Example 5:  Exponents
Example 6:  Ratios

Visit HelpTeaching.com to browse our collections of math worksheets and math lessons or create questions and worksheets that meet your teaching needs.

# How to Format Math Equations

Writing math problems can be time consuming, particularly when it comes to properly formatting mathematical equations. HelpTeaching.com offers the capability to create professional quality equations easily with our interactive math editor. With over 150 scientific and mathematical symbols to choose from, you can quickly generate equations ranging from basic exponents questions to the most complex calculus problems.

To format an equation, login to HelpTeaching.com and begin creating a question. Click on the “Insert a Math Equation” button located above the question field. A box will open in which you can enter an equation while selecting from a wide variety of math symbols available under the headings on the right side of the box.

Once the item is complete, select “Insert Equation” and you will return to the question creation screen. Special math tags will appear around the problem in this view, but the finalized format will appear after saving the question or when viewing in it “Preview” mode.

A simple way to get started is by visiting our section on “How to Write Math Equations” and clicking on any of the sample formulas shown on the page. The selected equation will automatically populate in the sandbox at the top of the page. You can then copy-and-paste the coding for this equation into a question you create and edit numbers or mathematical notation to fit your needs.

When creating items, multiple equations can appear in both questions and answers as well as in science questions. View the following links for examples of individual problems and free worksheets created with our equation editing tool:

# Mastering PARCC Math

Spring has sprung and with it comes testing season. Over the next few months, students across multiple states will be taking on the new, two-part PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Although PARCC’s computer-based administration and question styling may look different from previous tests, it still aligns to the Common Core State Standards, the learning goals for the majority of U.S. classrooms.

Below we’ve highlighted a sampling of PARCC-style items to help you familiarize students with the types of math tasks they will encounter this spring. Find more PARCC-style worksheets and questions at HelpTeaching.com and be sure to visit Test Room to administer computer-based practice tests.

### Multi-Select, Multiple-Choice Problems

Many of us grew up answering multiple-choice items that involved selecting one correct answer from four options. Today’s students will see multiple-choice questions that require selecting two or three correct answers from five or six options. For example, try your hand at this fourth grade PARCC style problem:

Students at this level should be able to compare fractions with different numerators and denominators. Multi-select questions assess student reasoning and allow for a more thorough evaluation of a student’s conceptual understanding. When it comes to solving these problems, encourage students to:

• determine the number of required answers

### Incorrect Reasoning Problems

Simply being able to calculate answers correctly no longer makes the grade. Students must now show mastery of concepts by explaining why mathematical reasoning is flawed, and then correcting that reasoning. Give this third grade PARCC style problem a try:

In order to receive full credit, the student must provide a valid explanation as to why the statement is incorrect; once she justifies her reasoning, she must then calculate the correct answer. This challenges students to delve beyond procedural fluency and demonstrate understanding of both the how and the why behind mathematical reasoning. To help students solve this type of problem:

• encourage to them to write narrative justifications of their math work throughout the year
• ask students to practice justifying a problem aloud in front of the class

### Multiple Part Problems

Multiple part problems present two or three questions based on a real-world situation that require students to show reasoning through modeling, critical thinking, and application of integrated standards. All three are core components of the PARCC assessment. Go ahead and try this fifth grade item:

At first glance, this problem may seem intimidating, but at its foundation, the item asks students to solve a basic length times width area problem. Beyond that, students must understand how to develop and solve expressions and equations, but within a real-world context. To help students solve this type of problem:

• scaffold lessons and practice opportunities to work up to this type of task
• challenge students to write modeling problems for their classmates to solve
• encourage creativity when developing and solving math problems

You will amazed by the quality of work your students are capable of!

Using these strategies to familiarize students with the style of questions they may face on the PARCC exam will help alleviate test anxiety. More importantly, reassuring your children that they have the knowledge to do well, encouraging them to just do their best, promoting a good night’s sleep, and eating a healthy breakfast will ensure they are ready to tackle the PARCC with confidence. After all, this is only a test.