Snowflakes Are Hexagons

Hi everybody. Let’s just put this out there right now.




In fact, I’m so adamant about that, that I’ve started a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe now Instagram called #SnowflakesAreHexagons, where I post pictures of products that use non-hexagonal snowflakes on their materials or advertising. Here are a few examples.








Please share ones you find with me using the #SnowflakesAreHexagons Hashtag!!!

That being said, feel free to read about why anytime you want to here, here or here. See?!?!

Related image

Now, here’s why I’m writing this. Many of you may be having your students make paper snowflakes in your classrooms for decorations, and many of those snowflakes WILL NOT be hexagons. That’s because your students don’t know HOW to fold them properly to make hexagonal snowflakes when they cut them out. 


For the love of all that is winter, DO NOT just give them instructions like these!!

Instead, make this a true learning opportunity using student creativity, productive struggle, and the Design Process.

  1. Have students take a piece of paper and make any snowflake they want using any type of folding procedure they want.
  2. Reveal to them that likely none of them are hexagonal, but in Real Life…ALL OF THEM ARE!! Even show them the hashtag examples now!
  3. In any good design process, after we develop our first idea, we get feedback, and improve our design. So the next step is to have them consider how they might make their snowflake hexagonal and attempt a redesign.
  4. Lather, Rinse, Repeat…always repeat. Until they’ve gotten to a point where they can make a hexagonal snowflake, all along the way tracking their attempts.
  5. The final goal, have them WRITE INSTRUCTIONS for making a hexagonal snowflake based on their experiences.

If you take this #MakeItReal approach to the #SnowflakesAreHexagons conundrum, your students will come out of it with more than just a craft to hang or take home, but potentially a deep understanding of geometry, the design process, and how learning happens.


Don’t forget to check out The Instant Relevance Podcast!


Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

Baby Shark: Annoying Song or Gateway to Learning?

Baby Shark: Annoying Song or Gateway to Learning?


If you haven’t seen this yet, you’re one of the last few people to be able to say that. But now you’re here, so:

Well, now that Baby Shark is stuck in your head, it’s time to deal with it. Walk into a room and just say “Baby Shark.” It’s a fun little game I play. Whoever is in the room immediately has a strong opinion about it, usually love or deep hatred. But because of that, the Baby Shark song stirs serious passion in people, so on Wednesday October 3rd, the #MakeItReal Chat topic was on using Baby Shark in class! Here’s the transcript for you to check out!.

And, because something that stirs this much passion quickly turns into a great opportunity for lessons and activities, I’ve put together a hyperdoc of

Baby Shark Ideas, Lessons and Activities!

gathered from excellent educators across the globe, to be added to your Lesson Bank! Share it widely, use it often, and more importantly, approach future experiences in your own classroom from this same mindset.

Move away from saying no. Move away from negativity. Move away from stifling curiosity.
The investment will pay larger dividends than you can imagine.


Because I Can

Because I Can


Yesterday at school, my wife spent the beginning of the day hugging a colleague whose best friend had passed away the day before. Cancer had taken the life of her friend, a 35 year old woman with a 5 year old son. No words needed to be spoken between them, my wife just held her while she cried. They spent first period together talking about her colleague’s friend. For a short time she’d been cancer free and decided to go back to work. When she was asked why she wanted to work again, she replied:

Because I Can

Seven years ago, yesterday, my wife was driving home from Milwaukee with our six month old son when she was hit by a dump truck. Our minivan was smashed and she was brought to the hospital with six broken ribs, a punctured lung lobe, a TBI and cuts all over her hands and arms. Our son was ok, luckily. She was in Milwaukee because she’d dropped off our friend, Jen, at the hospital. Jen’s son, Micah, had Leukemia and Jen had a cold so she’d been home so as not to potentially get Micah sick. She wanted to be back together with him, so my wife drove her to the hospital. On her way home after dropping Jen off, she was hit. The next day, Micah passed away. That was seven years ago, today. Jen has thanked my wife for what she did every year since Micah’s passing. My wife has always responded, “I would do it again in an instant.” How come?

Because I Can

Today, I implore you to think about the lives of those children you teach and colleagues you see every day, and of the lives of those you’ve loved who have passed. When I see my wife each day, and we see our son each day, we know we are lucky. Our friends lost their loved ones. How do we truly honor the lives of those we’ve lost, keep their memories vivid and act on the impact that they’ve had on our lives? By talking about them, sharing their stories, living an impacted life. Why should I honor the lives of those I’ve lost?

Because I Can

When Parents Want To Help

When Parents Want To Help


When it comes to math homework, parents often feel that they HAVE TO HELP their kids get everything right. Many parents take on the role of Untrained Math Teacher at home as well and can often undercut well planned lessons and units. This can often cause more damage, frustration and distress than we want. A major message of my book, Hacking Mathematics: 10 Problems That Need Solving, is that questioning is at the heart of learning mathematics, not answering. So here’s an infographic for you to share with parents who want to help their kids that will teach them how to promote questioning and will keep the learning in the hands of their kids and the teaching in the hands of their teachers.

Share and share and share!!!


And if you want this in another version, here you go!

Homework Help JPEG

Homework Help PDF

The Instant Relevance Podcast

The Instant Relevance Podcast

I’m excited to announce that Raymond Steinmetz (@blended_math) and I have begun the Instant Relevance Podcast. We will be sharing our thoughts on how to #MakeItReal for your students, your colleagues, your school culture, and more and are excited to welcome excellent guests to the platform to share their expertise and experience. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments here or on the podcast platform. 

The Instant Relevance Podcast is being published via Anchor, so you should be able to find it on Anchor, Stitcher, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, Spotify and more!

You can follow the podcast on twitter @InstantRel. Click the link below to visit the Anchor page and subscribe through your favorite platform!

So, for you podcast addicts or relevance seekers, here is the first episode of…

The Instant Relevance Podcast!


Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

#MakeItReal Moment Number 16: The Funnies

The Funnies

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait for my Dad to come home from the convenience store with the Sunday Morning newspaper. He’d start pulling apart the sections, making a pile of news, sports, store flyers, and then, like a slow motion moment in a movie, he’d pull out…THE FUNNIES! I’m not sure where you’re from or what you called the newspaper comics, but in NJ we called them “the funnies” (insert future #MakeItReal Moment on regional dialect here). I can honestly say that I LOVED the funnies, although I can’t actually remember a time when I laughed out loud at one. Come to think of it, they’re not that funny. But they were a part of a grown up thing, the newspaper, that a child could covet as their very own. And they did approach situations from a different angle, often trying to make a twist ending by the third frame.  Those Sundays of my youth have stuck with me, so now I visit gocomics.com every morning before I read the news to check out two of my favorite comics, Foxtrot Classic and F Minus.

Here is today’s F Minus Comic.


See? Not “funny” per se, but this time it made me think about something totally different. I realized we could use comics (funnies) like this as catalyst pieces for teaching students about the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning structure. You see, this comic makes a claim. To many, a totally impossible and outlandish claim. But it’s not outlandish to me, or to my wife. A few years ago we were having a philosophical conversation about why multiplying 2×5 does not equal 12. Her thought was that it only equals 10 because we start with zero. How come the expression 2×5 doesn’t imply that we’ve started with a 2, then brought in 5 more 2s? After a while, we decided to call this method “Mathematatics” and will put it on Wikipedia soon to see if people believe in it (suckers). 

So look back at the F Minus comic. There’s a lot there, and plenty not there, too.

Claim: For a short time, 2 + 2 = 5.

Evidence: missing

Reasoning: missing

It’s time to put this in front of your students to see what they can do. Can they debunk the claim? Can they explain how this could be possible in the real world? Can they create a system like Mathematatics that could explain it instead, all the while citing their evidence (showing their work for math), then sharing their reasoning? I think they can. And I think it would be a lot of fun. 

Let me know if you use The Funnies in your class for Claim, Evidence, Reasoning lessons, or other ways!!! 

Share your ideas and lessons with me at the #MakeItReal Hashtag on twitter!!!

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance

Laurel vs Yanny: An Educational Metaphor We All Need To Hear



Are you caught up in the new “Is it This or Is it That?” debate of 2018 yet? If not, someone played a computer saying the word “Laurel” with regard to the wreath of leaves worn on the head and heard the sound “Yanny” when they did. So, the new version of :is the dress black and white or blue and brown?” came on the scene in the inter-world.

Here, you judge for yourself.

So, if you’re wondering what it really is, the answer is Laurel. That’s not me being a jerk about it and forcing my opinion out there, but it actually is Laurel. Here’s a quick video on why, including the science of sound. 


Now, here’s what’s really important…that educational metaphor I mentioned in the title of the post. 

As teachers, we have an obligation to our students that is much bigger than our requirement to “Teach Content” to them. We have an obligation to listen to our students. When we listen to them, we’re assessing them. We’re assessing what they know and don’t know, how they feel about what they know and don’t know, if they can explain what they know and don’t know, and if they need us to teach or listen more.


What if they’re telling us “laurel” and we’re hearing “yanny” instead?

What if we’re convinced that what they’re trying to explain, question, or share is wrong when it actually right and we’re perceiving it incorrectly because of our priming, or our training, or our temporary distractions, or…more interestingly…their pitch and tone of voice and our ability to hear it? What does that mean for how we teach and assess our students?

Now, go back to the original sound clip and listen again, knowing that BOTH words are actually in there and try, really try to hear both, simultaneously, the same way we can hear harmony in music.  If you can hear both, awesome. If you can’t, keep trying. It’s our obligation to our students to hear BOTH what they are actually saying, and what we think they are saying and to meld them together into an opportunity that truly overlaps teaching and learning.


And, just for fun, here are a few lesson ideas people have thrown out there to me on twitter so you can #MakeItReal while the debate is still relevant!

Create a debate over which is correct and have students cite evidence for their standpoint.

Use the Virtual Oscilloscope online to record your voice saying Laurel and Yanny, then screenshot it and compare graphs!

Do a statistical observational study (survey) stratified by age, sex, known musical ability and primed introduction (say laurel or yanny first) and present the findings.

Use the New York Times sound slider to identify when the sounds change for you.

Study how sound has been used in the past as a means of confusion, argument, and deterrent (this one’s fun. Back in 2008 a high pitched sound was played outside stores to drive away loitering kids because adults couldn’t hear it!)

Share your ideas and lessons with me at the #MakeItReal Hashtag on twitter!!!

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance


Why Relevance Matters

Didn’t Think Ahead…Did You?

Check this out! It’s the Winter Olympics and the New York Times Graphics department is posting amazing pictures of the events, like these!


I’m loving seeing these images posted, because they reveal so many of the things math and science teachers try to demonstrate for our students about motion, gravity, quadratics, trigonometry and more. So I graphed them, which I like to do 🙂


This one is my total favorite!!!


If only there was a good way to model this…hmmm…WAIT!!!!!


Last year we used this same model to engage students in their momentary passion…bottle flipping. Did you?

So here’s the biggest point I have to make…

Relevance matters because when students use real life to engage in learning (bottle flipping) they will answer to the question “When am I going to use this in real life?” all by themselves. I know this because it was as student who said to me “snowboarding looks like bottle flipping.  Cool.”

Instant Relevance is more than just Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons…it’s using those lessons to inspire future connections. There’s still time! How will you #MakeItReal for your students every day?

Share your ideas and lessons with me at the #MakeItReal Hashtag on twitter!!!

Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at Denissheeran.com

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

Read Instant Relevance


Winter Olympics 2018 Lessons and Resources

20+ Winter Olympics Lessons and Resources

The Winter Olympics are upon us! And unlike Fidget Spinners, not very many teachers are banning them from their classrooms! So if you’ve been looking for activities in Math, Science, Stem, ELA, Music and more, I’ve compiled many excellent ones for you here. Click the link below for the Hyperdoc of lessons, or scroll through the embedded doc!

NOTE: If you’ve got an excellent activity, share it with me on twitter @MathDenisNJ and I’ll add it to the lessons doc!


Hyperdoc Lessons and Resources Link


#SuperBowlSnaps II Challenge

Are You Ready For Some Football?!?!?!?!

It’s #SuperBowlSnaps II: Snapchat vs Football!

A Co-Blog Post Co-Written and Co-Posted by Co-Educators, Denis Sheeran and Tara Martin.

Denis: Last year, right around Super Bowl time I started to notice the prolific tweeting of something called #BookSnaps. My Twitter besty, Tara Martin, had started a movement in education where teachers and students would use Snapchat to share their thoughts, assessments, feedback, and comments on what they’d written, read and seen in books! This is an incredible hack of a social media tool for GOOD, not evil (like my kids use it for).


I suggested to Tara that we do live #SuperBowlSnaps during the game, taking and annotating pictures from the game, the commercials, the fans, our families and their reactions. It would be a fun way to incorporate the game into our lessons for the next day. At the time, Tara wasn’t a big football fan, but she was a Snapchat FREAK!


Tara: Yes, it is safe to say, I was a bit hesitant because I typically make a ton of snacks for the Super Bowl party and pay little attention to the game. However, by adding my passion for visual, digital creations to connect with content (that was not so appealing), I learned a new appreciation for the game of football. Ok, I was immersed entirely from start to finish.  As an educator, I couldn’t help but think… How might “relevance” to the delivery of instruction, or method of learning, encourage students to learn more about topics that were once of no personal interest?


Denis: What I found to be outstanding was that we both left with a new skill and a new perspective. I loved football but was skeptical about Snapchat. After the game, I was ready to snap and snap often!


Tara: And I loved Snapchat but was skeptical about football, despite my husband’s attempts to interest me in the game. Now the Super Bowl is rapidly approaching, and I haven’t even thought about the menu items I need to create. Instead, I’m messaging Denis via DM to chat about Super Bowl snapping! Are you guys ready for the 2nd Annual #SuperBowlSnaps Challenge?!


We have two calls to action for you.


1: Join us for the  #SuperBowlSnaps II Challenge on Sunday, starting…whenever you start thinking about the Super Bowl!!! Tweet pictures through snapchat using this hashtag and my #MakeItReal hashtag, too. Because really…what’s a better way to find Relevant Learning Opportunities than by becoming part of a national event that most of your students are probably watching?


2: Think about this. Consider the content you’re teaching that your students may not be all that interested in. How do you communicate it to them? Through your language, or through theirs? #MakeItReal for them!!


Click the Padlet: 2017 #SuperBowlSnaps  for examples from the Inaugural #SuperBowlSnaps.



Check out Instant Relevance for more ways to connect students to your content in meaningful, relevant ways.
Visit R.E.A.L, Tara Martin’s blog, and become inspired to grow as an educator as you read her experiences and share her growth. And if you’re interested in #BookSnaps, check out this post!