Guest Blog Post: World Changers

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This week’s guest blogger is not only a rare high school math and physics teacher, but also my younger brother. Even though teaching was not something he originally planned on doing, he is quite good at it. (It must have been due to all those times we played school together and I was of course the teacher and he was one of the students in my class.) I had the unique privilege of teaching at the same school as my brother in Korea and I could tell that he was making quite an impact on their lives.

World Changers

By Brian Kim

As a certified nerd and non-certified math teacher for the last 5 years, I’ve realized quite a few things about my “oh-so-lovely” students.  The most important of these can be spelled out with a simple cliché: every single one of my students can change the world. I don’t mean this in a butterfly effect type of way where if they flap their barely post-pubescent wings now, it may cause a storm of ominous and unavoidable chain reactions leading to the complete, utter, and mass destruction of the world. But I mean this in a genuine way, where I’ve come to believe that I’m teaching the future leaders, policymakers, and trendsetters in a constantly changing and evolving world (that hopefully won’t end in mass destruction).  My students are world changers.

In my ‘selfless’ quest to prod my students along on this journey towards success and hopefully a share in their future billion-dollar corporations, I started off with some new classroom decorations. Realizing their need for good role models outside of their suicidal celebrities, largely absent fathers, and their overly sarcastic math teacher, I decided to post up pictures of my heroes in the math world for them. As I desperately tried to explain how Einstein, Gauss, and Euler are important to their future successes and why giving equity to past teachers is a good business decision, I didn’t get much of a response from my iphone-hugging, gangnam-styling students. A few blank stares, nervous nods, and a feigned laugh later, I realized I needed to change my approach. 


A bit discouraged, but still unfazed, I decided to turn the tables on my students. I gave them a simple homework assignment: Come to math class with 3 math quotes that are not from google (aka write them yourself!). The following class, we took time to share the quotes in class and we voted for which quote we liked the best for each student. And then we went for an impromptu photo shoot in our classroom armed with my DSLR, the bulletin board, and a pinch of creativity (aka adobe photoshop). I printed out the pictures along with their quotes, laminated them, and posted them on my back wall.

Now everyday when my students walk into the classroom or look to the back because they’re tired of looking at my handsome face, they see a wall full of world changers: Einstein, Gauss, and Euler, next to Bae, Kim, Lee, Nelson, Crystal, Jung, and probably some more Kims.

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Putting My IPAD to Use

At the beginning of the school year, I was thrown all types of technology, which was definitely amazing. I feel so privileged to have such access to technology. At the same time it was a bit overwhelming. Well now that I survived my first semester at my new school, I’m feeling a bit more settled and ready to try some new things. I am finally putting my IPAD to good use.

For professional development a few weeks ago, we had an IPAD slam, where numerous teachers presented on their favorite IPAD apps. It was a great opportunity to get to know about various education related IPAD apps. One of the apps I was introduced was called Show Me. It is a great app to use in math class. The students talk and it records what they say, while they use their finger to draw and write on the ipad. Afterwards, they have this neat little video clip that can be uploaded to your online account. Students can embed their video onto the student blog.

So I tested this out with my students last week. I gave them very little instructions and they were able to complete it independently during class. I only have 1 IPAD, so I had them pass it around. They recorded their video during our class time. The task I gave them was to come up with a “difficult” order of operations problem and explain how to solve it.

You can look at one of my student’s video here: Order of Operations

Here is another video by my other student: Order of Operations

After watching their videos, here are a few reflections I made:

1. Have a partner check their video afterwards for any mathematical errors.

2. Give more specific guidelines on how to “show” their work.

3. Have them introduce themselves and the task in the beginning.

What are some IPAD apps that you use/recommend in the classroom?


Kindergarten Number Activity

Even if/when I am on top of my lesson planning, I feel like my more creative or DIY ideas come to me during my walk to work the day I am teaching that particular lesson. I mean, this happens ALL THE TIME. Anyone feel me on this?

And such was the case today. My kindergarteners have been learning the numbers 0-9 since the beginning of the year. Now, they are trying to match the symbol of the number, with its word form. They are also learning phonics and how to blend letters together and how to stretch words apart, etc.

Yesterday, I made a worksheet for them where they had to match the right number to its word counterpart. Some of them really struggled, even though when I told them to write the word of the number out (before they got the worksheet), they were able to do it. I was confused.

I decided to create another activity to give them more practice, and it is one I will use during center time as well. It had me laminating during all of my break time today!

Basically, they had to spell out each word and place it with the right number symbol, they loved using their hands and the entire floor!

Sorry for the quality of the pictures, I left my camera at home today 😦

Anyone else willing to share number activities for kindergarten? I am all ears!

Probability Games

Two of my favorite probability games to play with my students are PIG and SKUNK. Yes, they are both animal names, but I’m not sure how they really relate to probability.

The rules are pretty simple for each of them and all you need are some dice and paper. The rules and board game sheets can be downloaded from this website:

When, I play PIG, I have my students play with a partner. All you need is one die per partner. For their turn, they can roll as many times as they want. However, if they get a 1, they loose all of their points. They can choose to stop rolling whenever they want. The first person that gets to a hundred points wins!

SKUNK is a little different, where each letter represents a round. I have each partner get a game board or they can just write it down in their notebook. For this game, they use 2 dice. If they roll a 1 on either one of the dice, they loose all the points in the round. If they roll double 1s, they loose all the points from the previous rounds as well. At the end of round 5, each partner tallies up all the points that they earned to see who won.




Have fun playing and may the odds be ever in your favor! 🙂

Guest Blog Post: Resources for the Teacher

Jane is a talented, creative, and experienced fourth grade teacher from Chicago. Among her many talents we are amazed by her font like perfect teacher handwriting!  It would make any teacher jealous. It’s been a privilege to work with her at our school here in Seoul as she has become one of my closest friends. 

Ever since I started teaching I have always been attracted to the many teacher resource books you could find at teacher stores and bookstores.  I always wondered how it was possible that teachers could have so many great ideas to make learning so much fun.  I now realize that teachers probably have the most resources in books and now unlimitedly on the Internet (and each other of course).  Over the past few years I have been teaching in Korea I have not passed up the opportunity to pick up a few new teacher resource books while being at home during break.  It’s usually hard to determine in the few minutes you have whether the book will be really helpful to you until you actually start using the activities.  Here is one book and one Internet resource that I can genuinely say have been useful to me.

The Creative Teacher: An Encyclopedia of Ideas to Energize your Curriculum
This is a book that has something for every subject in short and long term project form for book reports, social studies reports, major math concepts, a random variety of science experiments, writing prompts, and even art projects.  What I particularly appreciate is that the templates can be copied directly from the book.  Although not everything that you will be teaching is included in this book, there are still a lot of creative and useful ideas.  Personally, I like to use the “Submarine Sandwich Book Report” and assign it for students to do over a longer break.  I also think these ideas can be used for a variety of grade levels and are a nice way to change up formats of reports and projects.

The Internet is also the home to an unending supply of resources, but I will share with you the one math website that I am always going to: Math Drills–  The math textbook we have been using is limited when it comes to reviewing or more practice with students which is why I find myself returning to this site.  It is very easy to print out these pre-made worksheets that are organized by the major math concept.  There are sites out there that can help you customize your worksheet, but I find I haven’t had any trouble finding the concepts I want my students to continue practicing with or review on.  The answers are also all available so no need for doing calculations!

Math Stories for Newbies!

Our first guest blogger for two apples a day is Joelle, who is not only fluent in English, but her native tongue is French. She has taught in elementary schools in Canada, before making the plunge to the international scene. She is currently teaching third grade at an international school here in Korea and happens to be our amazing co-worker. 

Let’s make Math Journals come alive…

Yes, math journals are great ways to communicate and see what your students learned during a particular lesson.  I will not argue the importance of math journals. However, what if I offered you an idea that not only got the students writing about math, but got them excited about math?

Turning Math Journals into Math Stories

Often math journals include a math problem where students create or complete a math question. Examples are; Jenny has 8 marbles, she gives Lucas 3 marbles. How many are in total? Another one may be, what is a fraction? There are so many questions we can ask our students to see if they really grasped a concept.

What if math journals were more than just a reflection or an answer to a problem? What if journals came to life?

What are Math Stories?

Math stories are written by the students about a particular concept you are covering in class. I personally use it at the end of my unit as a review of vocabulary and concepts. At the beginning, these stories may take your students 3 or 4 (50 minute periods) to write, however, the more the students do them, the easier it becomes and eventually may only take 2-3 (50 minute periods).  For teachers, the best part of Math stories is that there is absolutely no planning involved, as long as you keep a list of key words or concepts going on Word Wall or Math Wall. This way, students can refer to this “already made list” on the board when writing their stories.

Math Stories for NEWBIES!

Model! Model! Model! Choose a math story and do a read aloud. If you are not sure where to begin, here is an excellent website with book lists for every math strand:

Afterwards, discuss with your students the various components of the story. What makes a math story? This lesson should look no different than what you do in language arts.

Day 1-2: In groups of 2, have your students start brainstorming and writing out a draft of their math story. Since the focus is on ideas, I usually don’t give them more than a period and a half to finish this portion.

Day 2-4: Using chart paper, have your students start writing and illustrating their story.

Day 5: What you do on this day is completely up to you. What I have done in the past is have students rotate to different groups and read each other’s stories.

Benefits of Math Stories

  • Students are making connections with the concepts taught in class with real life examples
  • Students who don’t like math will often find this activity amusing and not realize they are working or reviewing
  • This activity can be adapted for any grade level
  • Cooperative learning
  • Easy to prepare
  • Assessments can be made both for Math and Language Arts

The Joy of Teaching Probability

I thought I would mix it up a bit and throw in a post about math. Now, if I am one hundred percent honest with you, I am not the biggest fan of teaching this subject. It might have something to do with my school’s math curriculum (I will let you know when I have the chance to teach a different one!).  I usually try to supplement the lessons from the curriculum with things I create or learn from other colleagues.

One thing I have started implementing this year is giving my students the chance to take notes at the start of every chapter. There is always new vocabulary to learn, so at the beginning of a new unit I create a handout of the key terms they are going to learn. During the first lesson I make them write down the definitions and examples to go along with each new vocabulary word. It helps them practice listening, and writing, and it gives them something to take home to help them with their homework. Win, win, win. They don’t always understand it when they are writing it, but as the unit progresses the light bulbs start clicking (my FAVORITE part of teaching? The light bulbs!).

This upcoming week we are starting our unit on probability. Here is a sample of the worksheet I am giving them on the first day:

Probability Vocabulary Worksheet

If you clicked on the worksheet you will see bags with circles, those are marbles that I am going to have them fill in with different colors, for example the square with the vocabulary word “certain” is going to have all red marbles and the sentence will be, “It is certain that you will pull out a red marble”.

I will leave you with my math word wall (because Jee Young and I just love pictures), which desperately needs to be updated… my bad!

Also, I thought it would fun to put in a plug for Jee Young ( and my ( personal blogs. Jee Young talks more about teaching and relating it to her life, and mine is more for my photography and life in Korea. If you like us here, you will LOVE us there^^ Also, why have we not gotten freshly pressed yet, (we are so all over WordPress)? I have no idea!