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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 15

Length: 15 min.

Grade Levels:
Kindegarten, 1, 2

Mathematics and Technology

Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


Math Monsters

The Math Monsters series is an entertaining gateway to in-depth mathematical thinking and reasoning involving meaningful problems. It is an educational opportunity for both teachers and students.

Teachers will become familiar with the recently updated national standards and practices which fuel the curiosity of young mathematicians.

Young students who are beginning to develop their own understanding of mathematical concepts can find support and comfort in the humorous and questioning approach the Monsters use to solve their mathematical problems.

The Math Monsters series was developed in cooperation with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and is designed to meet and support NCTM Standards for K-2 mathematics process and content instruction. In each episode, the mathematical content is referred to as the “Big Idea” and includes topics such as data collection, patterns, or measurement. Mathematical processes are interwoven into every episode, including problem solving, mathematical connections, mathematical communication and reasoning.

Episode Guide

1. Data Collection — The Monsters decide to open a pancake restaurant. To decide on what type of pancakes to serve the monsters conduct a survey of the neighborhood and ask what pancakes the local Monsters like best. Each monster takes down the data differently and now must figure out how to combine their various representations of data to determine which pancakes are the favorites of the most monsters. Our field trip takes us to the zoo where we see how data is collected from the various animal houses and used to order the weekly food supply for the animals.

2. Standard and Non-Standard Measurement —The Monsters decide to build an addition on to their castle, but must let the carpenters know how big they wish the new room to be. The program explores some of the ways children can gain accuracy in measurement taking and in communicating their results. The Monsters progress from describing a room that is “sort of long” to pacing it out and figuring out the number of steps. The contractor, Annie Ant, has her own idea of the size of a step which leads to the development of a standard “Monster Step” for actual and repeatable measurement. Our field trip is to visit a carpenter who explains how human beings use standard measurements in construction.

3. Number Conservation, Transformation and Equivalency — The Monsters decide to plant two gardens, each with the identical number of monster melon plants. When Aunt Tulips arrives to deliver the seeds, the Monsters are out collecting gardening tools. She leaves two piles, each containing the same number of seeds. However, one pile is stacked high, while the other is spread out. The Monsters argue about which pile has more seeds and then they proceed to develop strategies to discover the truth. This provides an opportunity to explore number conservation and one to one correspondence. Our field trip is to a bakery, where we find out how a batch of dough that creates six rolls can actually be the same size as a batch that creates only one loaf of bread.

4. The Making of Tens — The Monsters decide to send boxes of fruit (gollywomples) to their relatives for presents. Gollywomples come in green and blue. The Monsters want to send out boxes of ten to each relative, but decide that no two boxes should contain the same combination of fruit. They spend time figuring out all the different combinations of ten that they can make. They begin to notice patterns forming in the different combinations, i.e. as one number goes up, the other goes down. Once the packages are made they need to be labeled and so addition and subtraction are used to help determine how many fruits of each kind are in each box. Our field trip is to a bank, where the making of tens is shown in a variety of ways.

5. Geometry — The Monsters decide to create a model of their town and call it Mini-Monster Land. But in order to make an accurate model they need to take a good look at the different shapes and sizes of neighborhood buildings. The Monsters explore concepts of perspective and then visit the town to see buildings up close. They encounter a triangular prism, cube, cylinder, and octagonal prism and discover information about the characteristics of these shapes. Our field trip is to an architect who shows us his process for drawing, computerizing and modeling his new constructions.

6. Mental Math and Their Neighbors — The Monsters are going to perform in a circus. This provides a context for exploring doubles and their neighbors. One Monsters practices juggling and doubling the balls. Another Monster lifts a barbell with equal, and sometimes unequal, weights placed on both sides. Yet another Monster does magic, doubling birds and currency in her “doubling hat” Our field trip is to a shop keeper who explains how she uses mental math to help in her calculations.

7. Mapping — The Monsters are throwing a party and have sent out invitations. One of their guests, Binary Bill has no idea how to get to their castle from his computer shop. Multiplex draws a free form map with just a curving line and emails it to him. This doesn’t work and Binary asks for landmarks. Multiplex quickly adds a few things that can be seen on route – but he doesn’t draw them in the right order. This leads to confusion and a further refining of the map. Ultimately the Monsters leave the castle and go on site to label all the streets in their neighborhood. Then Mina flies up above Monster Land to compare the map to the actual territory. Our field visit is to a school bus driver who explains how he works with maps in order to pick up children.

8. Time and Money — The Monsters go outside to play and fly a kite. There is only one kite, so to be fair they need to have a time limit for each turn. At first they try to time by counting, but not everyone counts at the same speed. Then they hit upon the idea of a water clock (actually, drips from holes in the bottom of a juice cup) but not everyone has the same size holes in their cups. Next they standardize the hole in the cup. But what happens if they wish to time something shorter than one cup full? Now they must learn how to break up the time into shorter and quantifiable amounts. Our field trip is to a clock maker who introduces us to the way human beings use analogue and digital clocks to tell time.

9. Patterns — In this episode, the Monsters learn to recognize, describe, extend and create patterns. They have decided to paint a border around their living room. One Monster starts and asks the next to continue – but what exactly makes a pattern, and how can it be extended? The field trip is to visit a naturalist who can help us understand more about patterns in nature.

10. Counting and Symbolizing — The Monsters are invited to help Cousin Digit do an inventory of fish at his fish store. Because the fish are moving around, it is difficult to get an accurate count. To help the monsters get an accurate count without double tagging a variety of counting strategies are explored. This helps them come to understand one -to – one correspondence. Their first attempt is to actually draw pictures of the fish to represent those in the tank. Another attempt involves the use of colored tally marks. Once the exact number of fish is determined, the Monsters explore ways to symbolize the information. The field trip is to a museum where we learn how other cultures and peoples who lived in earlier times symbolized their numbers.

11. Computers — A brand new computer, sent by Binary Bill arrives at the castle. The Monsters set it up, plug it in and turn it on – only to discover certain challenges before they can log on. These challenges are in the form of exploratory math questions that get the Monsters (and viewers) seeing some of the playful sides of math. Once the questions have been addressed, though not necessarily with the “one and only correct answer”, the monsters are treated to some of the wonderful variety of communication and learning possibilities the computer provides in the form of email, the internet, calculations and games. The field trip involves a visit to a working mathematician who explains how she uses computers and other math tools in her work.

12. Teacher Utilization Tape — This tape will feature segments from the various shows along with suggestions and guidance on how best to use the series in the classroom.

13. Landmarks & Number lines — The Math Monster’s Castle is located on the highway between Positivity City and Negativityville. They develop a strategy to place MonsterMeter signs at regular intervals in both directions along the highway. A television weather specialist discusses temperatures above and below zero.

14. Estimation — The Math Monsters must pick and box all the gollywomple fruit in Aunt Two Lips orchard. There is no way to count all gollywomples, so the Math Monsters must learn to estimate. A Forest Ranger discusses how estimation is used to monitor wild animal populations.

15. Area — The Math Monsters have just built a rocket and now must design a launch pad. But how many fire-proof tiles will they need to cover the area? Visit a tile shop whose employees work with customers to determine the area of various floors in their homes.

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