Sales, Issues, Lessons and a Little Bit of Community Love-PROUD

This is the coolest project ever, everything I do really matters, it’s so much fun too.

I am proud.  I am proud for so many reasons.  

I am proud of how the community of upper school boys year after year continue to support our on-site entrepreneurs by piling into the garage on sale days, dollars in hand, to purchase items in the name of micro lending.  It was an exciting first few days of sales in the garage, it was the kind of energy and noise that sometimes makes yourself say, "why do I do this to myself?" However, in the end I knew exactly why.   Sales alone we have made $237. Total loans were $332.50- at 71% we are not doing too bad:) Look at that math!

I am proud of the 6B trust group.  Out of the 3 companies coming out of 6B, one of the businesses is really struggling and was unable to pay back their loan this month. Using the comparison to the One Hen simulation we role played earlier this year, we had to have a community meeting to deal with this issue.  I wanted to use this as an opportunity to discuss similar issues in the real world and have the boys walk in the shoes of others. 

I posed the question, "How does it feel to not be able to pay your loan at this time?" to the members of Gako. The boy's responses ranged from "stressed", to "kind of funny", to "happy to be selling with my friends so I don't really mind".  I understand this range of emotions from my 6th graders, the reality is we are selling items to lend to others and their lives, houses, bills and medical care is not dependent on success.  With that though I pressed them a little more.  "How would it feel if I told you that your grade was dependent on it?"  A moment of panic set through the classroom.  The response was that they would be more diligent, committed and would likely do more.  The other boys in the class suggested that they would feel nervous, stressed out and a little guilty for depending on the other members of the trust group to pay their loan back.  I was accomplishing what I intended, getting them to see things from a different angle.  I  moved further and allowed them to recognize and acknowledge that the borrowers on Kiva feel the way they do.  However, it's not their grades, it's likely the opportunity to live a more dignified life.  They started to get it. 

As a response, the boys came up with a solution to the $7 that Gako needed. Fanimals contributed $5 as a loan and CMCX Sports contributed $2 as a loan.  Serious conversation using the mentality I was brought up on that "Fair is not always equal and equal is not always fair" found it's way in.  The boys conversed about how much money they had left in their bank accounts, how much they needed to purchase more supplies and what pay back in February would look like.  In the end they felt that this was a fair response at the moment.  It also led to further conversation about Gako's commitment to success moving forward.  With only $0.11 in the bank account they feel like they have their hands tied behind their backs.  We need more advertising, but we can't afford it.  They are beginning to feel that it takes money to make money.  

I am proud of 6A's group, Sports Balls.  Without being asked, without even speaking to Gako and the members of 6B, this group donated a set of advertisements to Gako to help them.  

Overall I am proud.  

The boys at the moment are:

  • Feeling good and ready to get new product
  • Excited to sell and make real money
  • Anxious to make loans
  • Relieved that they found success
  • Hopeful that the lower school will be equally as enthusiastic
  • Worried that new product won't be as successful

And so we move on.  It's going to be a big week of PERCENTS.  The math will be worked through project materials and the organization of KIVA.  I can't wait.  Using this non profit  continues to be a powerful means to use statistics and numbers to develop empathy.  It's really just getting started for this bunch and I can't wait to see where they go with it:)  

Winner of the First Kiva Raffle Prize of 2014-2015-FLYING SHARK

Winner of the First Kiva Raffle Prize of 2014-2015-FLYING SHARK

Fully Funded and it Feels So Good...

Kiva Kids 2014-2015

The past few weeks the 6th graders have been empathizing with borrowers from around the world. I want to take this moment to introduce you to my 2014-2015 Kiva Kids and share with you what they plan to accomplish over the next few months.  

Check out their business plans and gather more information here. 

However, filling out borrower applications, creating business plans and waiting for the funds to pour in is not the only "kiva" stuff we have been doing. 

First off, we had the wonderful opportunity to host Jessica from Bar Cacao, a real live Kiva Zip borrower. The boys enjoyed learning about the craft of chocolate, some of the finances of purchasing chocolate and the percentage of chocolate in the different kinds of candy they eat.  In addition the boys were able to ask questions about small business ownership and the global aspects of the chocolate world.  Most importantly on this day in December they were able to taste chocolate!  

Secondly,  the boys have been learning how to set up spreadsheets to organize their businesses. Using google spreadsheets the boys have successfully opened up their bank accounts.  The boys were amazed after some self discovery time at how wonderfully spreadsheets do the math for them.  They also had an opportunity to play with conditional formatting which allows them to easily see at quick glance how things are going.  

Lastly, the boys were each given a $25 kiva code from a thanks to a generous donor.  The boys each had the ability to choose someone to loan to under our Town School for Boys Friends and Family page (Want to join?).  We also experimented with reflecting on our choices using  Check out our lending Tackk (we are still working on how to use this as a group).

What's coming in the new year?  Stay tuned for watching the boys light up with excitement from receiving their goods, make advertisements that convey their product and overall mission, compute percentages using borrowers, put things in perspectives as we look at ratios, rates and proportions through the lense 

The fun has only begun!  

Busy Times Learning with Kiva

Excitement Abounds! The boys have spent the last few weeks getting to know a little bit better, answering the question, "How can we model micro financing in our own community?" and putting their intentions into action.  

The brainstorm went exceptionally well as the boys first identified the different components of micro lending (using the model of, and then identified all possible people or groups of people who could play that role in our simulation.  After much conversation and problem solving the boys came to a conclusion.  Check it out in our image below!

After coming up with our plans, we spent a lot of time brainstorming and working through what it would take to be a small business owner in our community. The boys worked through math lessons on interest, percent of number as it applies to taxes and unit rates before applying these concepts to their loan applications.  After their loan applications were submitted and approved, they continued to work on their business plans with the help of Humanities class.  Before we knew it were live on our very own Kiva Kids Town School Website.  

Currently, the boys are anxiously awaiting funding, writing thank you notes and learning to create spreadsheets that will ultimately keep them organized business owners.  Emotions range from excitement to nervousness to disbelief and of course a whole lot more.  Exactly the way I like it!    

Thanks to my wonderful colleagues for yet again supporting this endeavor.  We couldn't do it with out you!

Global Connections Everywhere!

It's been an exciting few weeks coming out of the garage and I am happy to share the following news from the Garage. Let's just say we are busy going global!

Kiva Council gathered Town School Swag left over from last year and set up sales. During our weekly meeting, the boys opted to make a new connection and with our profits supported an orphanage.  While our club rarely rears off course from lending, and never gives money to other organizations, we took a moment to incorporate Coiser orphanage into our recipient list.  The orphanage's goal is to create a poultry farm that allows them to be financially self sufficient.  Naming a chicken after our school? We are wishing the orphans at Coiser our best and give a big "Hello" to our new Town Garage mascot.  In addition to the $25 we used for our chicken, we raised $275 for  

I always ask the boys to make loans intentional and to really consider the money, the person and the business.  Here are some of the boys thoughts:

  • Richards is the head teacher of summit primary school. It is a mixed school in a rural area of Uganda. He wants to buy a uv filtration system so his students can get and drink clean water. I believe this is important because water is a necessity in human life and water has been a necessity forever.
  • I think we should loan to Caroline. Caroline will use this loan of 350$ to help pay for her fathers health needs. She is 51 years old and lives with her parents in Barra Puntod, Lopez Jaena. I believe this will really make a difference if she can help her fathers health.
  • We definitely should loan to the Nasommor Group so they can get a water filter. Access to clean water is extremely important so people don't get sick and it is definitely necessary in places that don't always have good water.


6th Grade Advisory has found a new set of friends in Kenya. We hope that this is a lasting relationship and that we will eventually introduce our friends to the 1st graders of Town School when they embark on their country study of Kenya.  I was introduced to Emmily via facebook and I couldn't be happier to engage with her.  My 6th grade advisory was excited to share "A Day in the Life of Morning Meeting" with the children fro Cheery Children Education Center.  While we have noted that a skype call may be difficult with the time zone, Emmily and I decided we could send some videos exchanges back and forth, get to know one another, and take it from there. I am excited to learn more from our friends in Nairobi, Kenya.  Here is a video about lunchtime at Cheery:) 


If you recall, last year's 7th Grade worked on statistics using the United Nations Millennium Goals and came up with some wonderful projects.  In the end they chose to organize a "Walk for Water" during our final week and we raised $300 for We just got word that our project is finished and the Coleb Primary School currently has clean safe water.  

The 5th Grade Boys spent last week learning about word problems and creating their own to share with others across the globe.  Check out what this year's group came up with!  We are always looking for partners to share problems with so please spread the word. We currently have a collection of problems that you can find here.  Look out for updates on places we discover through word problems throughout the year.

Lastly, 6th grade boys are actively discovering micro finance.  The project was launched last week with a 40 minute simulation from One Hen.  The boys used the simulation to discuss community issues that may exist in rural sub saharan Africa. It was interesting to see them address education for all, healthcare, jobs and opportunity, low incomes, lack of access to banking, and gender inequality to name a few.  All the while they were supporting one another using an informal trust group model.  Today, we had the opportunity to brainstorm how we can model micro-lending in our own community.  Check out what we came up with and discover how you can support the 6th graders upcoming entrepreneurship adventure in the days ahead. 


It's going to be one HELK of a year! THIS is what makes it REAL.

During a committee meeting, I was asked by a member of my teacher leader team, "why do you stay in this career?"  I could sit here and write my packaged response about how excited I am about how education and the teaching profession is changing for the good, but I would much rather share my stories from this week, which will clearly prove just that.

Launching the advertising PBL this week, I reflected back to my blog posts from last year so that I could put into perspective how the boys may react.  I was nervous. I reminded myself that morning that these boys will need to be taught/shown/exercised to become dedicated to the overall concept of helping alleviate poverty. I reminded myself to be patient and understanding and that they are 11 and 12 year old boys living in a privileged area of the US, many with very little experience or knowledge about the concepts to be introduced.. 

I walked into class and announced that it was a project launch day.  One of the boys immediately said, "Is it Kiva?". With a grin and a wink, I let the boys know that this project would involve Kiva, but it was not in fact the project of "Kiva" that they were imagining.  And as I do every year, I also replied, "and be careful boys imagining what you think the "Kiva" project is all about".

Immediately J raised his hand:

"I think the Kiva project to us is like watching a movie. We have seen this really great and exciting product from the outside, but we have no idea all the work that goes on behind the scenes".  I couldn't have said it better myself.  

The boys began their Think, Puzzle and Explore Activity. It went really well.  As I reflected with fellow Kiva U folks that evening, "Kiva is a non-prophet?" While giggling at the spelling, I actually think it fits right into a part of the definition for prophet. "A spokesperson of some doctrine, cause or movement" Kiva you inspire us to make change at Town, and many others. 

Using two different methods, I had the boys reflect after the initial brainstorm and after 10 minutes of KIVA.ORG, unguided inquiry as well. One group in Edmodo and the other one on Padlet.   It was wonderful to see some of their of mind-shifts, but I was already pretty inspired.  




The boys completed the vocab sheet for homework which enabled us more time to chat about it the following day.  Unbelievable mathematical conversations about credit, lending, credit scores, bank cards vs credit cards and access to money.  We could have gone on for days, but I knew we would go back to it.  

I announced the driving question, "How can we make advertisements for Kiva that best represent the organization and convince new and existing customers to loan to particular geographic areas?" 

The boys began asking confirming questions: What would they be graded on? What was the criteria? Those are the questions I get every year. But the enthusiasm quickly grew? Who is our public audience? Can we share these with other schools in the area to convince them?  It wasn't fear in their eyes when I told them that I was quite sure that we could do all of that and more, and that likely Kiva would share our work with other schools and their twitter page, it was pure EXCITEMENT!!  One student said, "Wow, we better do a good job!  We have a lot of people to inspire."

The boys were anxious and excited to discover what groups they would be part of and where their geographic region would be.  I was already so jazzed about where their minds were going so we moved quickly into this. I figured we could come back to clarifying questions as needed.  My final words of advice, "You can't sell a product you don't know.  If you have never tasted a snickers bar it would be hard to convince me to eat one.  Remember to spend some time on the site." And I handed off their proposal sheet.  

One of the changes I made this year was that I told the boys that they could choose to do anything they wanted within their geographic region.  It was exciting, with only a little help, to see what they came up with.  With less than 30 minutes on Friday to start filling out their proposals I already had one group deciding to concentrate on areas of civil war, and diving into the facts and history, the Africa group deciding to focus on countries affected by Ebola and another region deciding to focus on an area that lent to 100% woman.  I asked that group, why do you think more micro financing institutions focus on woman? The first response, "Men don't like to ask for help as often".  But the second boys chimed in quickly that access to funding is likely easier for men to get than woman. These boys are on to something! 

The curiosity, interest, desire to share and excitement filled the garage.  I was smiling all week.  The paragraphs I just wrote, they are the takes of the "movie" that my student described.  While the thousands of invested dollars on from Town School Boys and the fun of sales that are to come are what most people see, it's all of this that makes it possible

This is what makes coming to the garage each day worth it.  This is what makes me stay in this career. No really, it's not the oriental trading boxes:)  

Back to School Night - Year 17

Despite some major technology issues that made me a little frantic going into Back to School Night, I feel that I was able to provide the right information to my parents and be able to send them away with information to support what's happening in my classroom.  Next year, I would love to share this Blendspace (likely revised in some way shape or form) so that the parents can look over it beforehand and I can provide more time for their questions.  

As I continue to transform my classroom using blended learning techniques while integrating global education I find it important to be very transparent.  If we aren't moving with the times, we are falling way behind.  I am looking for balance in my classroom, a place where we can creatively learn math, not be overwhelmed with tech tools, learn about and engage with others from around the world and laugh and have fun .  We ARE back to school.  Feels good to be back! 

Excited about the possibilities! How far will we go?

Breathe....Work. Sleep. Work More. Sleep Less.  The start of any school year for me starts like this. Doesn't matter how many years you have been in the game (for me this is 17), the beginning of the school year always brings about its challenges.  The sense of unknown surrounds everything. How much math will they know?  Will they get this concept in one day?  Can I really accomplish all that? How many parents will I be talking to?  Another meeting?  

Alongside all that, it's too easy to forget that what we can accomplish with a certain grade in May is way different than what we can accomplish with the new students of that grade level in September.  This can lead to a very draining feeling. I mean, we do have to address that pencils are not to be sharpened while others are talking and practice daily that a circle of chairs can be created in under 30 seconds if we put our individual needs aside and look out for the team.  

Isn't that exactly what September is about? Revisiting what it means to be on "our" team? Whether for the boys it's their new classmates in section A or  B, and for us teachers to remember what it's like to put the mission, values, children and time of school before our own personal needs (don't know about you but the laundry didn't seem to pile up so much in July), transitioning back to the school year is hard on everyone. 

But then their is the moment, just before the dust settles, that reminds you why you are here in the first place. And just before I settled in to math journal pages and preview and review problems, it was a bunch of 12/13 year olds that reminded me that this year is going to be one helk of a ride.  


How far can I take the 7th graders?  Well I wasn't sure. So I took a lesson on histograms "global" to see what kind of output I would get.  Using this link on the 20 poorest countries (I loved it because of the pictures), I asked the boys to find a way to create a histogram with the material that had a minimum of 4 ranges.  The boys spent the first 10 minutes just trying to get their heads around the data, which is why instead of traditional "math" homework I had them take a deeper look at the page and I simply asked the following: 

Take a look at the data link from today and point out 3 things that really pop out at you or that you learned and didn't know. Write a full sentence for each of them. Please try not to repeat unless you are adding insight.

Please read the edmodo refections. You will be as ready to go global in math class with these boys as I am.

Breathe. I have a feeling it's gonna be a good one, my friends.  I guess I will sleep sometime in June:)   

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Walk for Water: Town School for Boys Commit to 3 Miles

Do you recall how the 7th grade math class used the United Nations Millennium Goals to study, histograms, graphs and stem and leaf plots and box and whisker plots?  Yes, it was December and January and the boys developed interest and empathy for the world they share with so many others.  And while demanding course work, the dreadful SSAT's and outdoor education trips crowded our schedule, the boys never lost site of what they wanted to accomplish here at Town School.  A WALK FOR WATER.  

While it's been a few weeks since we planned and participated in our walk, I wanted to share what the boys pulled off.  For a week before we cruised down to the Marina Campus and after their final exam the boys split off into 4 groups.  Logistics, Fundraising, NGO Search, and Education.  So what did we come up?

Logistics-The boys decided that the 1.5 mile walk from the Exploratorium to the Warming Hut and back would be the route (3 miles total).  All the 6th and 7th graders would join us on the walk.  6th graders were welcome to sell their new Town water bottles filled with lemonade before the walk and 6th and 7th graders were encouraged to walk with signs or pamphlets to help raise awareness to both global access to water AND the current drought in California.

Fundraising-The boys decided on a penny drive.  84,480 pennies or $848 dollars was their initial goal.  While working drop off for 3 mornings the boys quickly discovered that they were willing to take any coins or dollars they could.  In the end the boys raised $400.  Given the time frame and constraints they were proud. Even if they fell short of their goal:)

NGO search-The boys decided to donate the money from their fundraising effort to The Water Project.  After carefully looking at many organizations the boys felt that the mission of this organization was most closely in line with the mission of our project.  The boys also like that they can track their dollars with this company and they look forward to hearing updates in the future.

Education-Lastly it was the job of the education group to gather sites and information to share with the 6th and 7th graders so that they could be reflective on their walk and in their creation of posters.  Together we came up with this presentation to share with the other classes.  

Kiva Celebration 2014

Another year of lending at Town School.  School total to equate to $7773 by the end of the week.  Happy Lending!

Boys reconsider goals for products and for lending while working through a chalk talk. Everyone has voice as they write their responses and respond.

Boys reconsider goals for products and for lending while working through a chalk talk. Everyone has voice as they write their responses and respond.

Not a bad total for a school that only began lending less than 3 years ago. Here's to another year of making a difference!

The sixth grade boys of 2013-2014 at Town School for boys embraced micro lending like those before them.  Excited and nervous all the same.  They put their heads into running businesses that would further promote global education, lead them to an understanding of global citizenship and allow for them to think way beyond the doors of 2750 Jackson Street.  This experience of course had it's ups and downs.  With half the campus in another location, the boys at times struggled to keep momentum going with just upper school clientele.  But they powered through, collaborating, problem solving, empathizing, and mostly enjoying themselves along the way.  And while it wasn't perfect, is running a business ever going to be?  

From stress balls, to fat dots, to silly puddy, custom t-shirts, erasers and more... the boys held weekly sales and convinced peers to embrace the movement!

From stress balls, to fat dots, to silly puddy, custom t-shirts, erasers and more... the boys held weekly sales and convinced peers to embrace the movement!

I am proud of these boys.  I am proud of what they have accomplished.  I am proud of the money they earned for entrepreneurs around the world.  And mostly I am proud to know that each one of them has accomplished and contributed to something greater than themselves. Perhaps it's true that one sixth grade class in San Francisco, California cannot possibly solve the issue of global poverty... but then again we can try.


Sharing our mission with other classrooms around the world. Check out the youtube video from our friends:)

Sharing our mission with other classrooms around the world. Check out the youtube video from our friends:)




Please take the time to learn from these boys as they reflect on their experiences in a variety of ways.   Here's to another year of "kiva'ing" as we call it in the garage. $899 dollars strong for these young men!  





Here are the media components to our celebration.  Well done boys.  As a community we will have a total of $7773 in loans to kiva once I get each of you to make those loans!

Town Toys Inc.

How have we successfully or unsuccessfully simulated microfinancing?  


Thingamajigs for Less

How has our experience with microlending changed our outlook

on poverty around the world?


Kustom Clothes for Kiva

What is the hardest part of being in a business?


Novelty Toys

Who’s lives have we changed through and how?


GTS Aerial Products

How can we encourage other students to be good global citizens?


Tiger Swag

What did we learn about being both a borrower and lender using microfinance?















It's the little things. #globalmath

While many of the global projects and activities I write about are large and may be overwhelming to other educators just starting their journey to becoming a global educator, other times I create lessons that simply touch on global as I transform lessons from my traditional math class into something with a global twist.  

This week the 5th graders are practicing powers of 10 and scientific notation.  After having them watch a video at night on the concepts #flippedclass, and working through a few traditional warmups with buddies, I handed them this worksheet and allowed them to discover a little bit about the world we live in for further practice.  This lesson proves that you don't have to sacrifice core elements of your curriculum to go global, but rather you simply use the statistics of the world to practice concepts you are teaching.  Why couldn't they discover more than 5?

Using geohive the boys worked through this document.  I have imaged it here too.

The boys started to choose countries that many of them had never heard of.  And within their inquiry they also discovered population growth and how it differs from country to country.  This led to informal discovery to "why", with small conversations about disease, poverty etc... It was fun for them to look around the room and relate this to the millenium goal posters my 7th graders had made.  The real fun was then watching them use google earth, 360 cities and www.ifitweremyhome to learn more about their chosen countries. Rewarded with this 10 minutes of inquiry, they had no problem heading home to practice their skills a little more.  #balance #blendedlearning

While I continue to hear people say that it's hard to make math global, while reading this recent blog post by Homa Tavangar the following really resonated with me:  "As practice is built around the integration of global themes in everyday learning, you will begin to find that you no longer have to make a difficult either-or decision between test results and global know-how, or between fulfilling mandated curricular requirements and bringing the world to your students. Successful implementation of global education can expand what you thought was possible and create a more fulfilling, productive, life-long learning process for your students and for you—before you even buy plane tickets".  

To me, it's strange not to go global on even the simple things anymore.  The more you immerse yourself in it, the deeper you get, the more you will realize that their is no turning back. Start with a passion and transform it into practice, it will be rewarding for all. 

Where in the World is Sierra Leone? Hmm... I Wonder?

Where is Sierra Leone?

Let's start there. When I was 12 years old, I likely couldn't even answer that question. In fact, I might not have even known to ask it.  But in the last few days I have had the unbelievable opportunity to expose my students and allow them to think and wonder about life nearly 7,000 miles away.  With a little help from, wonder they did...

  • Why is there more of a class divide?
  • Why do they live shorter lives? Why is the chance of dying in infancy so much greater?
  • If they spend so much on health care, what is health care like there?
  • What is it like to make 98% less money than the US but have 2.8 more children?
  • What would it be like to live without electricity?
  • Why is the average annual income only the equivalent of $900 while in the US it is $46,000. 
  • What causes people to die sooner?
  • Does birth control even exist is Sierra Leone?
  • Is their a class hierarchy? 

And to sum it up, I wonder if all of these things are related?  

We had the wonderful opportunity to have the boys listen to Jennifer Klein talk about her 3 week journey to Sierra Leone and address some of their wonders.  We are just at the beginning of our journey, but as we embrace global word problem solving we are sure to dig deeper about the world we share with so many others and challenge our minds.  

Thank you Sierra Leone for sharing these wor(l)d problems with us.  We can't wait to learn more about you, your community and your country in the future!  Word Problems Here:)

Disclosure:  We received these word problems on lined paper and Jennifer was able to lend her camera for the pictures.  I scanned them and placed them in this document to share with others.  Enjoy!




Eureka! Rhode Island: Hope

When I started the wor(ld) problem project at Town School for Boys I didn't really plan on how fun it would be to have the boys learn about places in the US.  But I have to admit, learning about Rhode Island (a state that I grew up 30 minutes from the border of) and through the eyes of 5th graders and in the greater context of statistics and math has been a lot of fun.  Today, during our "I wonder, I learned, and I connect with activity" we discovered this fun site that compared our two home states.  Check out their problems here:)

What else do we wonder?  

  • How much of the coast line of Rhode Island is accessible for swimming? 
  • How deep are the bays?
  • What is the weather like in Rhode Island?
  • How many islands in Rhode Island?
  • How many "Alcatraz" size Islands would fit in Rhode Island?
  • Are water sports popular? and if so which ones?
  • How many bridges in Rhode Island and which one is longest? 

And cheers to the city of East Providence for providing some great math on their website about carousels.  A great add on to what we have already learned from our partners.  Math, it's everywhere.  Join us.  We love learning about your world through math!


See below: Boys were excited to learn about the longest game in history, 33 innings!  AND I was excited to be reminded of all the baseball greats that played in THAT game:)

Ratios, Rates, Proportions Help with Intentional Learning

It's Spring Fever!  Spring break is days away, it was 70 degrees in San Francisco the past 2 days and the boys are excited and anxious about many things-puberty will do that to you.  Front line and center is next week's spring break followed by 4 days in the mountains of Santa Cruz.  I on the other hand am anxious about the amount of money stirring in the bank accounts, the increasing "capital" without intent and that our current ratio of lending on Kiva is 9 to 4.  

Begin Chapter 8. My Everyday Math curriculum states that it is time to work with rates, ratios and proportions. This has always been a great unit in my mind.  It let's us play with REAL WORLD math.  Now, alongside finding how many chocolate chips we need to make 3 1/2 of the recipes, we can discover more about the world, our lending styles, Kiva borrowers and develop empathy.  This is what makes math real and exciting.  

Getting the boys to stay focussed with spring break on the brain, I had the boys answer the following questions for me using  As they discovered an individual we listed the country they lived in so that we could gather borrowers from across the globe, and 20 different countries. 


1.     Choose a borrower on that appeals to you.  Summarize who they are, what they are asking for and how much their loan is.

2.     What is the average annual salary of that country? 

3.     What is the currency of that country?  How much does $1 USD equal? 

4.     How much was your initial loan on



After working through that worksheet we circled up to share.  I was excited to hear the reasons to "why" they would lend to these individuals and I wasn't disappointed.  From countries of turmoil to, to people with lots of children, to the kinds of businesses  and lenders previous success, the boys took the time to think intentionally about how they would spend their money.  In the end the message was clear that when asked to make the right decision they can.  

However, what I soon realized is that the boys of Town School were choosing to lend to men more than women.  When I brought this to the attention of the boys they came up with some interesting thoughts and ideas.  

"Wow!  Our goal in the beginning of the year was to focus on women. Where did we go wrong?" -Jacko

"Likely we identify with men more, we are young men" -Henry

We spent some time discussing the traditional roles of men vs women and challenging ourselves to consider to identify with lenders for other reasons.  I told them that I wouldn't force them to lend to any group or gender but I thought I should inform and remind them why lending to women is as important if not more.  The boys understood, in fact they recalled the reasons they had decided at the beginning of the year to focus on women. When one of the boys mentioned that in the green category the ratio of men to women was male dominated, I decided to take the lesson to another level.  We pulled up the Kiva Website and looked at the different categories ratios while teaching the boys how to simplify and write ratios from the data.  Before using the sorting button, the boys would vote if they thought it would more more favored to men or women and then we would convert it into a simplified ratio.  

Green 4:1   Clothing 1:5   Construction 2:1  Education  4:1  Food 2:7  Retail 1:3  Housing 3:4

Gender stereotypes, conversation about roles in communities, and overall interesting dialogue that had the boys really thinking, this was exciting and real.  While they were able to guess correctly on most of the ratios, they were stumped on education.  They see educators as mostly female and so I challenged them to spend some time in the future to consider both that and the kind of education loans that were online.  Women or Men? That's the question.  

Boy do you recall, "The ratio of women to men's wages in the US increased to $0.82:$1.00 in 2013."  -The Wage Project?  

So where will we go next with this unit of proportions, rates, ratios and percent? Converting currency, comparing and contrasting annual salary, and looking at what our class loans would look like on kiva and what percent of that nations annual salary we are "playing" with here in class on daily basis.  

Wow it's an exciting time, Spring Fever and ALL. Who said you couldn't bring global to math class?  Try it, I promise it's fun for both you and them. 

See Worksheet Here

A Letter to Belmont Day

Dear Ms Grossman and Belmont Day School,

We want to thank you for taking the time and energy to work with us on a mystery math skype call.  It was a great opportunity for us to review our measures of central tendency and create a fun poster/double line graph that showed our March weather.  We love sharing and getting to know others.  

While debriefing our day we came up with a few "I wonders" about not just the call itself but about Belmont Day School and some of the individual interests of the 5th graders.  We thought we would share in case you had some time to write us back. 

I wonder...

Do you have to bring/make your own lunch? Or does school provide it?

Do you switch from class to class or is Ms Grossman your only teacher?

What does your school look like?  (We'd send a picture of ours but it's a mess as it's undergoing major reconstruction).

When it snows do you still get outside recess?  

What kind of school breaks do you  have? 

Do the kids of Belmont Day School like to ski?

What sports do you play at school?

How many kids at Belmont Day School?

Were you scared during the Boston Marathon last year?

Will we get to skype with Belmont again, how about other schools? 


Ms Goggin & 5th Grade Core Math Class

photo 8.JPG

Wor(l)d Problems Live from South Africa

The 5th graders from Town School for Boys waited patiently to learn more about where our word problems have travelled and who has been completing them.  It was an exciting day when Ms Karen Kirsch Page visited our classroom with pictures from South Africa.  Our friend, Mr Amani, invited Karen into the classroom to share the problems and to assist the middle school students from Langa Township to complete them.  As Karen shared her story our boys listened intently.  Karen allowed the boys to notice and wonder from the many images she collected from her math lesson and told the boys about education at Moshesh primary school.  

With a huge smile on his face Thomas exclaimed, "Wow, they are completing my word problem on the board!" as he watched video of a teacher explaining the process. The boys were excited to see the students completing their problems and to hear that Mr Amani, who rarely has an opportunity to work through projects, asked for multiple copies of our "Book" to use for years to come.  As we wait for the next round of word problems to come from Langa Township, we embrace our new local partner, Wheeler School, and the problems they sent from Rhode Island.  

Learn more and join us!

Equation Writing: Connecting Algebra to Kiva Project

While math is everywhere in our micro lending project, it's a this point in the year that I am really excited to work through equation writing, solving multi-step equations, proportions, ratios and percent increase and decrease. This is some of the material that I find it so easy to connect to our project and it challenges the boys in new and exciting ways. Every year I create new problems using the financials of the companies within the class.  During the next few weeks I hope to share through "Stories from the Garage" some of the ways I use our project to help teach these math skills and empathy as we use these math skills to explore what other places in the world look like.  

Todays lesson is to introduce simple equation writing and solving.  See it here.


Good Morning Premal-The Delivery of the Jumbo Check and Reflections from the Garage

Premal Shah visits Town School for his JUMBO check!

Premal Shah visits Town School for his JUMBO check!

Teaching 5th and 6th grade for so long, I am no longer surprised when the 7th and 8th graders cruise through the hall without the intention of acknowledging me.  The same boy that last year met me with a daily high five or (hush) a weekly one armed side hug, is now too busy or embarrassed to say "Good Morning Ms Goggin".  So when I discovered the news that the 7th and 8th graders on the Kiva Council had decided that this year the school fair would benefit I was over the moon.  Take your daily high five, fist pump or "hollah".  This was the kind of "hug" I wanted.  

The school fair made over $6500 and we now have $500 in our Kiva Council account so that we can spread the love to lower school and allow each class to make a loan.   It was really exciting to have Premal Shah come to accept our $6000 check that will benefit overhead costs for  During his time, Premal introduced the boys to a math lesson related to the reality of kiva overhead funds: "If for everyone $1 donated to Kiva's overhead we are able to generate $10 that impacts borrowers, what impact will this $6000 have on the global community? If we were to make $25 loans with that "impact" number, how many could we make?" In addition, Premal told stories from the field in Sierra Leone and asked the boys what criteria they use when they make loans.  When one of the boys noted that they like to lend to countries in turmoil, Premal acknowledged that many lenders don't feel the same and that it worries some.  In the garage a few hours later, the 6th graders spoke from the heart:

"It's completely illogical not to consider loans to countries in turmoil.  While we have to get the sense that they are trustworthy, we do know they may need it the most".  

"It will empower them to find a good way out of this state turmoil, let's do it!"

"We aren't talking people in turmoil, we are talking people who are in countries that are in turmoil.  Our loan could make even more of an impact"

"How can we convince others outside of our class to loan through kiva or donate to kiva?" 

I ask the boys the same question Premal did when they make loans using this form, it helps to drive intentional lending which to me is an important part of our growth as global citizens.  I want them not to just give for the sake of giving, but to learn how to make those decisions and to believe in them.  This voice and choice is important and also makes lending on pretty fun.  

Here are a few recent reflections from the loan process.   

Pakistan LoanOne of the reasons I chose to loan to this person is because my mom is originally from Pakistan.  In addition, we chose to loan to Shazia because she has three children, and her husband is the only person in the family that has a job.  Finally, we chose Shazia because she was 95% funded, and the $25.00 that we gave her would make that 100% loan USA:  The juice she is selling can make people healthier and it is a local company, and our group thinks that it's good to loan to local companies.  Her juice company helps people who have "lyme disease, cancer, and other debilitating diseases, because they are too weak to cook their own food and supplement their bodies with the much needed vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for them to survive and beat these diseases." 

Gaza, Palestine Loan:  1) he has six children that he needs to provide for  2) he is in a group that have been discriminated against (muslims)  3) he is starting a business instead of expanding. Which will make more business in general a the area he is working in.



How do we know that the lessons we are teaching these children through our global work is worthwhile? It's hard to quantify. I notice kinder hearts.  I notice kids willing to go the extra distance because it matters. I notice kids making decisions that are less egocentric (which developmentally can be tough) and more about the greater good of our community whether it be Town School, San Francisco or the world.  I have this gut feeling it's worth it.  Try it, I bet you will too!

Our partnership with KIVA will continue to grow, I know.  Did you hear that Kiva U was recently recognized for an international sustainability award and featured in Forbes after just 6 months. Cheers to that.