About this blog Subscribe to this blog

The Book on Math and Science

Shelter harbor booksIn an age where e-books, tablets and notebooks are trying to dominate science education, there’s still a place for the good book, or more precise, four good books. For example, Shelter Harbor Press’s Ponderables series provides not only a good look at the history of math, physics, astronomy and the elements, but includes wall timelines to adorn the typical classroom that show how each topic fits into our scientific and cultural history.

All four books are by science writer Tom Jackson and sell for $25, although you can get the set for about $70.  Each is organized around 100 small and mid-sized snippets of text along with lots of historical photos and illustrations. The set should be part of every middle and high-school classroom.

  • “The Elements,” not only provides a guided tour of the periodic table, but is organized by historical period so it can provide perspective on everything from the discovery of the electron to magnetism. The back of the book has brief illustrated biographical sketches of all the major players.
  • “Mathematics” is more abstract, dealing with the history and evolution of numbers and their manipulation. With sections that range from the Pythagorean Theorem to Pi, the book is a great companion to just about any math class. It’s up to date with the latest information on Mersenne primes that are key to current encryption techniques and fractals.
  • As its name implies, “Physics” deals with the physical world, from subatomic particles to string theory. Along the way, the book explains Newton’s laws, the Doppler effect and how the electron microscope works.
  • While the other three books deal with thousands of years of history, the “Universe” volume reaches back nearly 14-billion years to the big bang. A big bonus is that the back of its timeline has a star chart of the known universe.

Freebee Friday: Panel or Projector?

Display_Guide_LPWith interactive projectors, smartboards and touch-screen monitors around, how’s a school to choose? Mimio has a 28-page ebook that goes over the major questions and answers that deal with specific school and district needs. There are five buyer’s tips, a look at collaborative lessons and includes the factors for selecting a touch-screen over the competition. Be warned, though, you’ll need to register with Mimio to get the ebook.

Freebee Friday: Parent-Teacher Conferences, the Easy Way

Ptcfast scheduleWhether your school uses a physical sign-up sheet taped to the classroom door or the luck of the draw, PTCFast is an online app that can make putting teachers and parents together quick, easy and – above all – fair. The software centralizes the scheduling of all parent-teacher conferences and has an optional Web page for parents to sign-up. Just pick the time and day and if it’s available, the appointment is scheduled. Best of all, it’s a freebee.

Time for Time for Kids

TfkThe weekly print edition of Time for Kids is now supplemented by a digital one with a classroom app for iPads. The software and content are free until the end of the year. In addition to getting kids caught up on world and national affairs, TFK has a multitude of videos, images, maps and animated sequences. 


The Next Big Thing

Project-NextTech-w-Tag-LogoLearning.com’s NextTech is an ambitious program for getting high-school kids ready for the digital world with instruction in media literacy, technology and information. Developed with non-profit Generation Yes, the program has four nine-week sessions that include a week in each for the students to develop and create a real-world project.  

The Slate with Senses

Einstein tablet + bWhy take your chances by mixing and matching STEM equipment from different vendors when you can get it all with Fourier’s einstein Tablet+. Rather than just another Android slate, the Tablet+ stands out because it is stuffed full of sensors and includes powerful data acquisition and analysis software.

At 0.7- by 7.8- by 5.5-inches, the blue and black Tablet+ weighs in at just over a pound, making it one of the thickest and heaviest Android slate with a 7-inch screen. In fact, it is nearly twice as thick and 5-ounces heavier than Acer’s Iconia One 7.

Comparisons of size and weight miss the point of the Tablet+ because it is like no other slate on the market. It’s as if it were designed by science and math teachers to take advantage of the latest in STEM technology. The tablet has 8 built-in digital sensors that range from GPS, microphone, a three-axis accelerometer, ultraviolet and visible light to temperature and humidity and – with the included finger cuff – heart rate. Some of the actual sensors – like those for visible and UV light – are arranged along the top edge of the slate and visible through a window, which can be a great teaching aid in and of itself.

There’re also four ports that work with a wide variety of Fourier add-on sensors. The Tablet+ can accommodate any of 65 different devices, including a colorimeter, magnetic field sensor, rain gauge and a variety of voltage sensors. They self-identify and take just a second or two to be ready, but fall short of the more than 80 sensors that work with the LabQuest 2.

Einstein tablet + cThe tablet doesn’t have the latest Android 5.0 software but does quite well with the 4.1.1 version. It all comes together with Fourier’s MiLab app, which can take in the sensor readings, display them live and help analyze them. It can take in up to 100,000 samples per second, matching the data collection abilities of Vernier’s LabQuest 2. MiLab displays the data as a spreadsheet, graph or dial gauge, or all three at once, although it can get quite crowded on the screen.

Once the data is in place you can look for trends with its data analysis software that can map the numbers to a linear, exponential or polynomial function as well as calculate its derivative. When you’re ready you can export the data and take a screen shot that can be dropped into a lab report.

In addition to the expected Android apps, the tablet also includes a trial version of Radix’s Smart Class Student and Teacher apps. This nifty minimalist classroom management system lets the teacher take control of the class’s slates, chat and send a file to students. At any time, the teacher can set up a plain blank screen to work on.

A big step forward for Fourier is its einsteinWorld, an online store for getting STEM content. There’re lots of in-class activities and the Activity Store has a bunch of free apps that teachers have put together. The pickings are slim at the moment, but this could develop into a valuable source for teachers.

Inside the tablet is a dual-core Rocket processor that runs at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of solid state storage; at any time you can add a micro-SD car that holds up to 32GB. Its 7-inch screen can show 976 by 600 resolution, which pales in comparison to the One 7’s 1,280 by 800 or the Nexus 7’s 1,920 by 1,200. Plus it can work with up to five independent touches, rather than the expected ten.

Screenshot_2014-10-23-14-41-20It’s got all the creature comforts of modern computing, from Bluetooth and WiFi to a headphone jack and an HDMI port for driving a projector or large monitor. There’re cameras front (640 by 480 resolution) and back (1,920 by 1,080 resolution) for documenting lab work with stills or a video. Unfortunately, the system is charged with a proprietary AC adapter and plug, rather than a conventional USB one.

The einstein Tablet+ is a reasonable performer that won’t let you down. It scored an 18,967 on the Antutu Performance 5 benchmark, putting it just ahead of the One 7 and well behind the Google Nexus 7’s class-leading 26,069. In other words, it won’t lag when you’re capturing 1,000 temperature readings a second and it is an excellent general purpose tablet for kids to do Web research and write up labs on. Its 5,000 milli-amp hour battery was able to run for 4 hours and 8 minutes on a charge, just enough for a school day of on and off use.

If your school isn’t into Androids, Fourier also has the LabMate+, a self-standing plug-in device for PCs, Macs, iPads and even Linux-based computers. It has six sensors built-in (heart rate, temperature, humidity, pressure, UV and visible light) as well as four ports for other Fourier sensors. The best part is that it can connect via a USB cable or Bluetooth. It costs $199.

Either way, Fourier Education has your class covered with integrated sensors for science and science classes. While its $299 price tag puts it above its Android peers, none of them have built-in sensors for creating a chemistry or physics lab. Plus, it’s on a par with the $329 Vernier LabQuest 2 interface which has fewer built-in sensors and isn’t a general-purpose computer for all sorts of other schoolwork.

All this makes getting einsetin Tablet+ slates just about as smart as its namesake scientist.


Einstein tablet + a

Fourier Education einstein Tablet+


+ Built-in STEM sensors

+ Full Android 4.1.1 tablet

+ Data acquisition and analysis software

+ Four ports for external sensors that work with 65 external sensors

+ Online services


- Big and heavy

- Non-USB charging

- Low-resolution display


Six-Finger Board

MimioboardThe latest interactive MimioBoard uses the company’s Touch 360° technology to enable up to six touch points, perfect for collaboration, student competitions or just finger painting. Students or teachers can write, draw or just doodle on the board in a variety of colors and line weights to annotate an image or freehand to sketch a map or math problem. The wide-screen MimioBoard is available in 78- and 87-inch versions that are made of steel with a heavy-duty porcelain surface that resists scratches, stains and classroom abuse.


The Tablet that Projects

Yoga 2 w projectorFlexibility and strength are the watchwords for yoga as they are for Lenovo’s second-generation Yoga convertible tablets. The Yoga Tablet 2 uses Android 4.4 software and is powered by a quad-core Atom Z3745 processor that runs at between 1.3- and 1.9GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage. Its 13-inch screen is about as detailed as they get these days with the ability to show 2,560 by 1,440 resolution. It has Bluetooth, 802.11ac WiFi and can be a standalone tablet, a traditional notebook or a presentation machine, yet weighs 2.1-pounds.

It may be bigger and heavier than other tablets, but the Yoga has a secret for teachers: in the thick cylindrical hinge, the Yoga 2 Pro has a micro projector. It can create up to a 50-inch image in wide-VGA resolution, but is rated at only 50 lumens, so the lights need to be off. It costs $500.

Freebee Friday: Red, Blue and Green Letter Day

AbcEvery day can be letter day with ABC PreSchool Playground because this Android app can help preschoolers learn their letters with a trio of games. Your school’s smallest students can match letters with words, trace dots to form letters, listen to the letters’ sounds and color any of them.




3-D Shop Class

Hp sproutKids, put down your saws, hammers and other tools of 20-th century shop class. The future will be built around 3-D printing because of its ability to made physical objects from computer files. You don’t have to wait because it’s all here now with HP’s Blended Reality system that combines a powerful workstation, dedicated peripherals and a multi-jet 3-D printer.

HP's 3-D printing scheme starts with the $1,900 Sprout desktop computer, a powerful Core i7-based system with top notch graphics and a built in 3-D scanner to turn physical objects into computer files for manipulating. There’s also a 23-inch touch screen, a unique tiny DLP projector that can show you what you’re making and a large touch pad to make changes or design something from scratch.

Hp 3-d printerOnce you have what you want, the data is sent to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printer. It’s a bit bulky but the thermal inkjet printer is 10-times faster than conventional devices, can make bigger parts and you can change the physical and mechanical properties of the final piece. HP is working on imparting color but that is likely to be added at a later date. The printer is expected to be available sometime, although the Sprout computer is here now. 



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.