Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013


Videos of inventive problem-solving tasks should be aimed at kids

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: The puzzles and games emphasize problem-solving over rote memorization of math concepts.

Cons: For such an ambitious topic, the site itself is fairly bare-bones; you'll have to dig to find activities aligned to your standards.

Bottom Line: Teaching reasoning skills over memorization is laudable; a more interactive, kid-focused version of the site would be better.

While the videos have great ideas for teachers, they're not intended to be shown in a classroom. But teachers can certainly watch them to get ideas on how to excite kids about math. Don’t show your kids the video of someone else making the Batman logo with an equation; challenge them to try to figure it out themselves. Many of the activities here would be great if introduced to the whole class but worked on in small groups. Some of the "$1,000,000 challenge" problems might be best used to motivate advanced learners. Slideshow files (PowerPoint, Keynote, .pdf) and worksheets are available to help teachers provide these experiences for their kids.

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MathPickle is a collection of ideas for teachers who want to engage students with problem-solving puzzles and games. Each lesson idea comes in a short YouTube tutorial for teachers. The lesson ideas cover a variety of topics, and they're all designed to “Put your Kids in a Pickle” to engage their problem-solving skills. Many math concepts from the Common Core Standards are covered, but the site doesn't help you find them, as it's based in Canada.

Aside from some companion books, the site is free and encourages anyone to use and share the resources, as long as they only share exact copies and don't do it for profit. While concepts covered here are thought-provoking and complex, the site itself is bare-bones; basic navigation can be a bit confusing.

MathPickle is the creation of Dr. Gordon Hamilton, a mathematician who believes in teaching math through problem-solving, not memorization. This philosophy is MathPickle's greatest asset –- the puzzles and games are fun, and kids will want to figure them out. Puzzles are thought-provoking and designed to have many potential solutions. In one game, kids are challenged to place a certain number of skyscrapers on a grid to make sure that no three line up in any way. The puzzle is tough, but by using manipulatives, kids are motivated to figure it out.

Content here is organized by math concept and grade level, but it's not Common Core-aligned. Games and puzzles address a variety of high-interest themes. One such example, however, may raise some eyebrows for appropriateness: Under the heading, "War Death and Nastiness Engage Students," one video explains an addition game for kids called "Termite Terrorists," where students are challenged to calculate termites by the "number martyred." Overall, though, most themes here are good-natured and unobjectionable.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

MathPickle's puzzles and games are fun and really make kids think. Compared to memorization, many kids love problem-solving. However, the videos here are meant more for teachers; you might not want to show them to a class.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

It's great that kids are challenged to find patterns and figure out problems themselves. However, MathPickle misses a big opportunity to help teachers connect with Common Core Standards alignment.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There are great ideas here, and the PowerPoints and printables are free. However, better guidance for classroom use would be helpful. Site navigation leaves something to be desired. On the plus side, the YouTube videos can be translated.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Keith S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Bedminster Township School
Bedminster, United States
Problem Solving At Its Core
Math Pickle is a site aimed at teachers, and is not designed to be navigated by students. Problem solving and fun with math are at the core of this site. Many of the suggested activities, which are well supported with video instruction and necessary ancillary materials, do need direct teacher instruction to be carried out well by students. The activities are clear in their goals, but no attempt is made to align them with CCSS or any other standards. Also, as mentioned above, there isn't really a student ...
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