Browsing the Math Mania category...

KidzClix is planning new projects in the future, including a stock market game for kids. We’d love to hear your opinions and ideas!

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Golden-Apple-Award.jpgAn interview with math specialist Carol Fisher, who creates challenging math activities for KidzClix.  Carol is a Golden Apple Award winner and has worked as a math teacher and curriculum creator for Chicago Public Schools over the past 35 years. 

 1.Tell us about yourself.  Why did you become a math teacher?

Well, first of all, I really enjoyed solving problems as a child.  Sometimes I got frustrated when my teachers wouldn’t or couldn’t answer some of my questions (apparently I was quite annoying).  Even in elementary school I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  By the time I got to college I realized that many of my friends didn’t like math because of their teachers, so I knew that being a math teacher was what I wanted to do…. I wanted to be the teacher who would answer all the questions and make everyone like math.

2.You’re a Golden Apple Award Winner.  What is that?

The Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching  was established in 1986 because its founder felt that excellent teachers did not receive adequate recognition for their contributions to building a stronger, better-educated society.  Each year since 1986 (I won in 1989), teachers have been nominated for this award.  Thirty semi-finalists are selected, and those thirty are observed in their schools and interviewed.  Ten finalists are selected and publicly recognized on a Chicago PBS broadcast each year.  The winners also receive a computer, a one-semester sabbatical, and a cash award.  More importantly, they then become a member of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators and work with other members on a variety of programs to ensure a better education for all.

3.Did you like some kinds of math better than others?

As a child, I really liked the computation problems because I could solve them quickly (and that’s mostly what we got, anyhow).  In high school, I discovered geometry and how much fun that was.  Now, I especially enjoy sharing problem solving and art-related math with others.

My secret is that I don’t like Suduko!

4.What do you tell teachers who are learning how to teach math to kids?

The first thing is to find out if they themselves enjoyed math in school.  If they didn’t they have to figure out why.  Then they have to realize that they can find the fun in math and share it with their students.  Allowing students to dialog before, during, and after math lessons is critical, so is using multiple modalities.  Manipulatives at all grade levels help bring understanding to a variety of topics.  Mathematics is both content and process, the process being necessary to understand the content.

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5.What advice do you have for kids who think they hate math or aren’t very good at it?

First, realize that there are many reasons possible… a teacher who doesn’t understand how you want to learn, competition from others, etc.  Then I would look to outside sources.  There are several books that can show you how math can be fun.  Try:

The I Hate Mathematics! Book and The Book of Think by Marilyn Burns

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka

Fractals, Googols, and other Mathematical Tales and Math Stuff by Theoni Pappas

Anno’s Math Games (I, II and III) by Mitsumasa Anno

Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar

Obviously, www.kidzclix is a great website and has wonderful activities that are fun!!!!

Once you find some area of math that you enjoy, you may find that school math is more tolerable.

6.What advice do you have for kids that are so good at math that their math classes are too easy and boring?

If you can’t get any additional materials or challenges from your teachers, you have to look elsewhere.  In elementary school, you might look for “workbooks” that are sold in “teacher stores” that are at a higher grade level so you can learn more advanced computation skills.  There are some great books that have a variety of activities that you may find challenging:

The Book of Think by Marilyn Burns

Fractals, Googols, and other Mathematical Tales and Math Stuff by Theoni Pappas

Anno’s Math Games (I, II and III) by Mitsumasa Anno

An excellent source for purchasing challenging math games is .

Center for Gifted offers wonderful programs for many age groups in a variety of communities.  Check them out at

Obviously, www.kidzclix is a great website and has wonderful activities that are fun!!!!

While in school, you may want to take the work you are given and dialog with yourself (in your head) about how this math “fits in” with other math you have done, or have discovered in outside sources. 

You may want to think about how you could make this work more challenging – changing the questions, adding information, etc.

Your parents might ask that you be allowed to work on other materials once you have completed the assigned work.

7.  How do you create activities for KidzClix’s “Math Mania”?

I was a teacher for a REALLY long time, so I look at all the things my students enjoyed doing throughout the years, and I see which ones might work for KidzClix.  Then I write up how I would teach them, and other people at KidzClix see if they would work on the website and decide if they might be interesting.

8.  There are lots of tangram puzzles in Math Mania.  What’s special about tangrams?

Tangrams are an ancient Chinese puzzle that has been around for a very long time.  Tangrams can be used to show many relationships in geometry.  Look at the five triangles.  They are all right triangles, they have one right angle.  The two small triangles can be put together and they are congruent (equal) to the middle-sized triangle.  The middle-sized triangle and the two small triangles can be put together and they are congruent to the large triangle.  The small triangles’ long side (the hypotenuse across from the right angle) is the same length as the non-hypotenuse sides of the middle triangle.  Likewise, the hypotenuse of the middle triangle is the same length as the non-hypotenuse sides of the large triangle.  The small, middle, and large triangles are similar triangles, because they have the same angle measurements, but different length sides.  The sides are in proportion to each other.  The triangles are all isosceles triangles, the two sides adjacent to the right angle being equal.  Therefore, the measurement of the two other angles of all the triangles is 45⁰.

If this hasn’t made your eyes cross yet, the square is geometrically related to the triangles, also.  The length of the side of the square is equal to the length of the hypotenuse of the small triangles and therefore, equal to the length of the non-hypotenuse sides of the middle triangle.  The two small triangles can be put together to form a square that is congruent to the tangram square.  You can use the square and the two small triangles to make a shape congruent to the large triangle.

AND… the parallelogram is another geometric partner to the other tangram shapes.  The two small triangles can be used to form a shape that is congruent to the parallelogram.  The shorter side of the parallelogram is equal in length to the non-hypotenuse side of the small triangles.  The longer side of the parallelogram is equal in length to the hypotenuse of the small triangle and, therefore, the non-hypotenuse side of the medium triangle.  The two acute (less than 90⁰ angles) of the parallelogram measure 45⁰, making them complementary (adding up to 90⁰) with angles on the triangles.  The obtuse (greater than 90⁰ angles on the parallelogram) measure 135⁰, making them supplementary with angles on the triangles. 

The puzzle outlines on KidzClix are a fun way to put the different pieces together, utilizing spatial visualization and problem-solving skills.  All the geometry of angles and sides does not need to be understood to solve the problems, but by just using the shapes, you will naturally understand many of the relationships.

9.  Can math games help kids learn math and improve their test scores?

There are many studies, both by game manufacturers and mathematicians, that indicate games can indeed help children learn math and increase test scores.

Personally, I feel that the use of math games FIRST lays the groundwork by having children ENJOY mathematics.  When you are involved in an enjoyable activity, it is easy to absorb the mathematics involved. 

I do want to make a distinction between learning math and improving test scores.

Mathematics is process – reasoning and proof, problem solving, representation, connections, and communication.  Learning these processes naturally occurs in games.

However, much of our standardized testing focuses on content ONLY – computation mostly, with vocabulary and some number sense.  Some standardized tests include problem solving.  Specific computation operations, like division of fractions, is not going to be learned through “general” math games, but only through a game specifically involving division of fractions.

If you know the specific skills that are tested at a particular level, you can seek math games that incorporate these skills.

As more activities are developed for KidzClix, more content can be included.  The processes are already included in all of their math activities.



toby-tangramDiscover your power of logical reasoning; confound your nimble number skills via math games, puzzles and brain-teasers. Create Escherian designs and kaleidoscopic visuals; build various polyhedral with string, straws, paper, etc. Discover the principles of chance and probability; maneuver pennies, dice; invent your own math tricks and number systems.

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