This past month, I’ve been getting ready for teaching sixth-grade math standard by reviewing curriculum available online. I’ve found a lot of sites that were so boring they made my eyeballs roll back so far in my head I could see my brain. On the other hand I found three , or should I say 54, sites that got me really excited.
Ag in the Classroom – 1 or 52 great sites
Before you say to yourself, “1 or 52? You really need some math curriculum yourself!”, let me explain.
National Ag in the Classroom is a mostly terrific site where you can find resources for grades K-12 incorporating agricultural science into everything from art to math.
On the site, I found two great lessons for English Language Arts on the Scrambled States of Agriculture. Both the fourth-grader and seventh-grader thought the book and video were funny.
The Farming in a Glove activity teaches about both how plants grow and some new vocabulary, like “germinate”.
Although the lesson linked above is for K-2, I saw the same lesson used on another site for grades 3-4 where they used it to learn about measurement, as your child records the days each seed takes to sprout.
The fourth grader really liked the building a pig farm activity and watching the videos of family farmers, especially because there were a couple of young kids from the families talking about farming.
- There are a LOT of lessons on this site
- The site is free to use.
- While they often have classroom kits listed, many of the activities you can make free or super cheaply with objects you have around your house or can pick up at the store for under a dollar. The Farming in a Glove activity is an example. If you don’t have a food service glove, make one out of plastic wrap and tape , a pack or two of seeds, some cotton balls and you are on your way.
- You can save your lessons for later use in an online binder. Great if you are one of those people who bookmarks a thousand tabs to “read later” and then doesn’t. (Or is that just me?)
- Links to the state Ag in the Classroom sites. I found all 50 states and the District of Columbia here and went to a dozen of the sites. I have to say I really had fun doing it. Some of those sites, like Illinois, had a load of activities. Others were more sparse.
- The site isn’t as organized as I would like. For example, I’d like to be able to search for activities for a fourth-grader that teaches basic fractions, and I did not see a way to do that.
- Some of the activities required a LOT of equipment or supplies you had to purchase. That might be feasible if you are doing the activity for a whole classroom but for one or two students it seemed pricey. To be fair, though, there are a lot of free activities.
- Some of the lessons seemed heavier on arts and crafts than teaching the math or science concepts. They would be fun to do, like making a chicken coming out of an egg using paper plates, but it is probably limited educational value past kindergarten.
This is actually the site that lead me to the other two. The Growing Math site has a lot of videos and, linked to the lessons, activities and engaging slide presentations, mostly on math, reading, writing and history. You might roll your eyes at the idea of slide presentations but since a lot of these were done during COVID and designed for kids to be able to read and do the problems on their own they are a lot more interesting to kids than the typical PowerPoint you find on the Internet.
All of the lessons here are free although you need a login to get the games and teacher reports.
With a very little sleuthing, I was able to see that this project is funded by a grant to 7 Generation Games by the U.S. Department of Agriculture . Many of the games are available free on their site.
My two favorite things about this site are that it is very easy to search and that it teaches subjects in context. In life, we don’t have “math time” and then “history time” and you shouldn’t in teaching, either. (My bias is showing.)
The top search box will give you everything on the site for a topic, say, ‘ratio’ , which will give you videos, lessons, online activities – whatever they have. Or, if you want a complete lesson organized by standard, with a Google slides presentation, maybe a few videos, student activities and assessment all put together for you, you can click on the menus on the right to get, say, fourth-grade fractions or sixth-grade lessons that include agriculture.
I really like how the lessons include math or reading with other areas of the curriculum. For example, this math lesson on ratio and proportion uses baking chocolate cookies as an example, so students are also learning about measurement. And, who doesn’t like cookies?
For younger students, there are several games that teach multiplication or division and also Native American history, because there has always been math.
I found a lot of pros in the Growing Math site, a major one being it includes lessons for grades 3 through 8, so, if like me, you have some younger ones and a student doing middle school math, it is a go-to site.
I also was pleased to see they are continually updating it, with new lessons every week. This was in contrast to some sites I searched that seemed to be abandoned.
The two drawbacks were
- I had to search for the games on another site, because this is set up for teachers. I am going to email them and ask about links for homeschoolers.
- The site starts at third grade. My first-grader did like some of the Native American culture videos, but it is limited for K-2
Statistics in the Schools
This site, from the U.S. Census Bureau, I also found through the Growing Math site.
It uses data and reports from the U.S. Census to teach lessons like “What is a statistical question?”
I really like about it that the site includes both student and teacher versions of activities, for those of us who are too busy to look up answers to questions on radio ownership in the 1930s.
Statistics in the Schools is mostly focused on math standards for middle school students, that is, grades 6 through 8, with some good lessons for high school as well. They do have a few activities for K-2 but plan to spend time with your child helping him or her do these lessons. They are not something the average young child could do unassisted.
The history section of their site had a surprising (to me) number of lessons across grade levels. As with the other two sites, a major plus in my opinion is how the different subjects like math and history are taught as interconnected ideas.
Maybe because its focus is on the Census (duh!) and not education per se, this site does not seem to have as many lessons as National Ag in the Classroom or new lessons added as frequently as Growing Math. For advanced students, however we define that, I think it is great. For the average student, also great but I think their grade level estimates might be a little optimistic. If you are using this, plan to spend a little time explaining to your child how to read an area chart or what the word ‘vary’ means.