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MacKinnon MATRIX Grant

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The mathematics faculty at Wharton Borough Public School’s Alfred C. MacKinnon Middle School proposes to increase students’ achievement in mathematics through creation of Learner-Active Technology-Infused Classrooms TM. Learner-Active Technology-Infused Classrooms TM are a signature product of the educational experts affiliated with Innovative Designs for Education (IDE) Corporation, the school district’s partner in this project. These classrooms incorporate problem-based learning, differentiated instruction, technology-infusion and other principles of learning correlated with high student achievement. Through intensive training, on-site and remote mentoring, and summer institutes, IDE consultants will provide professional development programming designed to identify and promote curricula and teaching strategies that integrate technology effectively into the school’s mathematics program and maximize student learning.

In order to aide in the accomplishment of these goals, the MacKinnon Middle School applied for and received grant funding through MATRIX, a program affiliated with the New Jersey Department of Education. For details regarding the MacKinnon MATRIX grant and Wharton’s year one abstract visit: .

2004-2005 Events:

On March 22nd MacKinnon sixth graders took part in the Noon Day Project, sponsored by CIESE at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The purpose of the Noon Day Project is to recreate the work of the famous Greek librarian and mathematician, Eratosthenes. Over 2000 years ago this brilliant pioneer, using the simplest of tools and shadows cast by the noonday sun, successfully measured the Earth’s circumference. Today students from all over the globe are afforded the opportunity to reenact this historic event by collaboratively participating in hands-on measurement activities and on-line data collection.

The experience proved to be a smashing success! The sixth graders did a terrific job making their noon time measurements of the sun's shadow angle.

All of us at the MacKinnon Middle School are proud of our colleague, MATRIX participant and sixth grade math teacher, Betsy Riordan. Mrs. Riordan and her Learner-Active Technology- Infused Classroom™ are currently this month's Teacher Feature at Innovative Designs for Education. Take some time to check out Mrs. Riordan’s feature presentation’.you’ll be glad you did.


Participating MATRIX Team Members:

This year the MATRIX Team lines up with some of MacKinnon's best math teachers. Chris Herdman is not only the MATRIX Coordinator, he also teaches three sections of the participating seventh graders. Michelle Freeman joins the team as both a seventh grade and sixth grade math teacher. Betsy Riordan teams up with three sections of this year’s sixth graders. Our bilingual students are led through the MATRIX by their instructor, Karen Vaughan. Last but not least, Tim McGrail instructs special needs students in both the Resource Room as well as in class support.

We have a strong, knowledgeable team of veteran teachers and we look forward to some very exciting lessons!


Midevil Fair - The MacKinnon Class of 2007 enjoyed celebrating academics at the annual Medieval Fair. This is a day when sixth graders show off their learning through puppet shows, historical dioramas and an exciting catapult contest. As part of their MATH MATRIX activities, teams of students planned, designed and built catapults that they used to launch marshmallows! Catapults were judged on trajectory distance and accuracy. To prepare for this activity the Class of ’07 brushed up on their geometry skills in order to apply them to their medieval creations.

Can You Feel the Madness? - In Chris Herdman’s 7th grade math class, students participated in a math based Problem-Based Learning task about the basketball craze; March Madness. Students created graphs following the progression of the tournament and learned all about probability and statistics throughout the month.

Probability Games A Big Success! - Mr. Herdman's seventh graders are proud to report that their probability games were a big hit at this year's Senior Citizen Day.  Students recently received thank you notes from the Seniors expressing how much they enjoyed the games of chance the Class of 2006 shared with them.   Mr. Herdman introduced this lesson with a very cleverly designed problem based task. 


How the West Was One + Three x Four - This award winning adventure game allows students to put their PEMDAS skills to the test as they compete in a wild west stagecoach race against the computer or their classmates.  Published by Sunburst Technology the exciting, interactive software is being put to great educational use in the seventh grade math program.  Students are learning the intricacies of the game and its clever use of mathematical order of operations.  They will soon be putting their honed skills to the test in a round robin tournament to find the seventh grade champion of PEMDAS!


MacKinnon Seventh Graders Shop Around the World - Seventh grade students learned about world markets, price comparisons and currency conversions in an interesting online web quest, World Shopping Spree.  Students and teachers alike were often surprised by the tremendous cost differences on the same items in various parts of the world.  After making their online price comparisons, students displayed their results in PowerPoint slideshows that they shared with their classmates.  The project proved to be a great way to tackle the math skills involved and learn some world economics at the same time.


Where's the Best Weather? - MacKinnon Sixth Graders explored online data bases to determine which USA and World cities can boast the best weather.  Using the online web quest, Best Weather, as their starting point, the students researched major city locations, temperature highs and lows and rainfall. After defining what qualities constitute "best weather" the students groups compared their results and made their picks.  Click on the links below to download some samples of their results.

Getting Down to Business - Mrs. Freeman's seventh graders are busy learning consumer math concepts through business simulations and games. Some of the software and websites they are exploring include "Hotdog Stand: The Works" and MathScape's unit materials from "Getting Down To Business".

Click the link for a free trial download of the popular game: Hot Dog Stand Trial Download

Noon Day Activity - MacKinnon Sixth Graders wrapped up the Noon Day Project by using their Equinox measurements to complete calculations of the Earth’s circumference. All four classes did very well reporting circumference estimates with error rates between 3% and 12%. Earth’s actual circumference is about 40,076km at the equator. Polar measurements are slightly lower. All of the student groups estimated our great planet’s girth at anywhere from 40,000 to just under 44,000km. Excellent work using nothing more than a stick, a string and a protractor!

Bridging the Math Gap - Mrs. Freeman's seventh graders also participated in a mini problem-based learning task recently. The students used pictures of famous bridges to discover the mathematics and geometry behind bridge building.

Today's Townsquare - The Sixth Grade MATRIX team is in the process of developing a geometry unit whereby students use their geometry skills and knowledge to plan and design "teen towns". Students will present their projects in MS PowerPoint slide shows. More about this exciting lesson will be coming soon!

Fraction Monster's - Sixth Graders in Mrs Riordans math classes learned that fractions can be a lot of fun. The students used fraction manipulatives to create Math Monsters which they labeled, colored and displayed. Students also played fraction addition games in which they had to identify classmates monsters according to the sum total of parts used. What a neat way to learn about and use fractions!!

Bulletin Board:

Mrs. Riordan says...
"I believe it is my responsibility to not only prepare students for life, but to make good memories. We all have that teacher that we remember because they either gave us a reason not to succeed or a memory from a teacher that gave us a reason to learn and make every effort for excellence. I insist on being a good memory for my students and creating a reason to strive for the best."

Singing Math Masters!
For some time now Mrs. Riordan's math students have enjoyed singing the math memory songs their dedicated and talented teacher composes on their behalf. Math students everywhere can benefit from Mrs. R.'s musical creations.

Monitoring Successful!

MacKinnon Middle School is proud to announce that MATRIX monitoring went very well.  Coordinator Chris Herdman and the MacKinnon MATRIX Team successfully realized the first year's goals and are already gearing up for summer workshop days.  All would like to express our thanks to IDE Consultant, Sally Wassell, whose guidance and encouragement helped tremendously in achieving our objectives towards technology enriched learner active classrooms.

Webmaster and Technology teacher Debra Leary thanks all of the MATRIX Math teachers and Sally for making the development of this site such a pleasurable learning experience.

"I am really looking forward to continuing the process next year.  Please email me over the summer with your thoughts and ideas on tech enriched math lessons for the new school term."

MATRIX 2005  looks forward to welcoming MacKinnon eighth grade teachers, Mrs. Cunha and Mrs. Pillsbury, to the team.  Our expanded team will meet for MATRIX training workshops August 29th through September 2nd.  Tanya Bosco from IDE will be facilitating the summer workshop which will run the week of Aug 29-Sept 2.  In this, teachers will be working on creating web quests and learning the aspects of a learner active classroom



Math Links:

Math in Daily Life
The first thing students need to understand about math is… IT IS USED EVERYDAY! This is a great site for ideas to help students understand the connection from skills learned in the classroom to daily life.

Do We Need Mathematics?
A great resource for parents and teachers to explain to students the correlation between math and why they need to know math in today’s society.

Math Glossary – 6th grade
A sixth grade interactive math glossary. Easy to use and gives examples of many functions that are defined.

Math Glossary – 7th grade
A seventh grade interactive math glossary. Easy to use and gives examples of many functions that are defined.

Fraction Game
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics created this a great interactive tool allowing students to understand size and equivalence of fractions. The site also provides suggestions for collaborative work.

Fraction Math
Harcourt School Publishers provides this interactive tool for students to review basic fraction operations.

Bar Graph
How do you divide your day? Students enter the data of how they spend a 24 hours in a day. The focus is on the input and analysis of the data in the bar graph rather than on the technical aspect of building the graph.

Circle Graph
How do you divide your day? Students enter the data of how they spend a 24 hours in a day. The focus is on the input and analysis of the data in the circle graph rather than on the technical aspect of building the graph.

Pentominoes is the general name given to plane shapes made by joining squares together. Note that the squares must be 'properly' joined edge to edge so that they meet at the corners.

These are brain teasers obtained when digits in numerical calculations have been replaced by letters. Cryptarithms are a great way to reinforce or introduce concepts of problem solving while promoting group collaboration between peers. Some of these are also available in Spanish.

Links for Teaching Bilignual Math:

Math Lessons in Spanish
This site gives ideas for teaching middle school math for bilingual or ESL students.

Interpreting Graphs in Spanish
A site written in Spanish for ESL students in middle school math to understand and decipher graphs.

Spanish Math Resources
From the Internet Math Library, this site is provided in Spanish for ESL and bilingual teachers.


Richard Bitondo, Superintendent Schools
BOE Office 973-361-2592 FAX 973-895-2187

William Petrick, Principal MacKinnon M.S.
Main Office 973-361-1253 FAX 973-361-4805

Alan Bocchino, Curriculum Supervisor
973-361-1253 x224

Chris Herdman, MATRIX Coordinator
973-361-1253 x809

Jay Raynis, Technology Coordinator
973-361-1253 x280

Betsy Riordan, Teacher, Grade 6 Math
973-361-1253 x875

Tim McGrail, Teacher, SE RC Math
973-361-1253 x872
Debra Leary, MATRIX Webmaster
973-361-1253 x388

Michelle Freeman, Teacher, Grade 6/7 Math
973-361-1253 x832

Karen Vaughan, Teacher BiL/ES
973-361-1253 x836