Three in a row!

Three times in a row!  I’ve posted three days in a row! Okay, so I feel like I’m back on track with my posting…three times is a pattern right?!

Todays post is short and sweet: I went shopping this afternoon. Not for clothes, shoes, or accessories (who really has $$ for that anyway?). I bought….

For this project:
This is my favorite part of the year. I posted a little mini series on how to complete the icosahedron straw project, it is MY FAVORITE! Students ask about this all year!! This year, I’m going to make sure I take pictures of the variations projects students make, they look very cool!

Today has been the best day for multiple reasons:

First, it’s Cinco De Mayo. Which is fun!

Second, I’m ready for my projects! SUPER FUN!

Third, today should be called national Jack Bauer day. If you don’t know who Jack Bauer is, shame on you! Just kidding. I’m a 24 fan…it’s a TV show that’s main character is Jack Bauer. I just happened to name my dogs Jack and Bauer after this character. A brand new season starts in less than a half hour! The show ended a few years back but starts back up today for a 12 episode season.

Fourth, I got to talk to good friend and colleague today that I haven’t seen in a while.  I miss her and it was so good to hear from her!

That is all for today, wish my students luck on PASS testing this week. I know that they will ROCK THAT PASS!


20 Pointed Star Project {Extensions and Variations} Part Six

This post is part of my Stellated Icosahedron Project. See part one ,  part two,  part three , part four , and part five first.

As my series on the 20 pointed star project comes to an end, I thought I’d share some extensions/variations that I have students do during the project, depending on the time. The project itself takes about 5 days to complete it self, so these things are above and beyond that!  Sometimes I’ll have these extensions/variations ready so that students can do these for extra credit or to go above and beyond for the early finishers. Yes, some will finish on day four (or even day three!).  Have those students do the following or be helpers for others.


  1. Find the students surface area and volume of the figure.
  2. Create a net of the icosahedron.
  3. Watch videos on platonic solids.
  4. Complete packet with all of the information provided in videos, discussions, and with place for work on the volume and surface area of project.
  5. Create a web quest for early finishers to find out more information on platonic solids
  6. Have students create another 20 pointed star with a variation of the original.


I sometimes have the students create another 20 pointed start with a variation of the original. What do I mean? I have the students tell me what they think would happen and it would look like if they used 1/4 of a straw for pieces for the icosahedron and 1/2 of a straw sized pieces for the stellations (or 1/2 sized for icosahedron and whole straw pieces for the stellations).   Then I have them make it!

This actually ends up looking pretty cool! I don’t have any pictures of this off-hand, but I’ll be sure to add some later one when I do this project with my students this year. All the pictures provided are from May 2013…it took me a while to write the posts for the project! Yikes!

I hope you enjoy the project!


20 Pointed Star {Stellations} Part Five

This post is part of my Stellated Icosahedron Straw Project. See part one ,  part two,  part three  and part four first.

Did you make it through part four? I know that was LONG! The next part is much faster and also know that once you tell the students how to do the next part one time, every thing  is pretty much on auto pilot other than cutting additional string and fixing problems.

Today’s post is about the stellations, which are the points of the 20 pointed star. Let’s get started!

Step One: Cut off any left over ribbon from the icosahedron. You’ll want to change colors! Tie on your new color at any vertex.

Step Two: Add two straws to the new ribbon. Fold them down to create a triangle when attaching (by wrapping) to an adjacent vertex. Then feed it back up that same straw so it comes out the top.

Step Three: Add one straw and bring it down to attach it to the icosahedron! Notice how the point covers one face. It creates a tetrahedron (or you can call it a pyramid) for the point.

That’s one point! Only 19 more to go! Repeat steps 1 through 3 all around the icosahedron. As they get closer to finishing, students may notice that they may need feed their ribbon through other straws to get to faces that need a point on it. They can either feed it through to get to it or cut the string and reattached on the vertex of the remaining face.

Here are some pictures that show steps 1 – 3 repeated to create the other points:











And you can hang it from the ceiling or they can take it home:

Some students finish VERY fast, others take three days to finish the points.  I usually let them make another if time permits, but I usually have them do a variation! I’ll explain what I mean in the next post!


20 Pointed Star {Icosahedron} Part Four

This post is part of my Stellated Icosahedron Straw Project. See part one ,  part two, and part three first.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to make the center of the 20 pointed star. It’s a 20 sided figure (Icosahedron). Beware that there are lots of pictures!
SDC19557To start, know that you should use only one color on this part. The 20 pointed star looks best if the icosahedron is all one color and the stellations are another.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Take your long strand of ribbon and place five straws (note that I’m referring to the half straw pieces when I say straw!)

Step 2: Tie it together to make a pentagon. Note: Make sure every time you tie it, it’s a double or triple knot and is very tied well. DO NOT DO THIS FOR THE STUDENTS! Students will ask you to tie it for them, DON’T! Make them figure it out and be independent. Plus, you’ll go crazy and waste bunches of time if you have to tie it for every student.  Another note: leave a tiny bit of wiggle room in the pentagon, you don’t want the pentagon to be stiff. It should wiggle (a little) with ease!

Step Three: Cut off the pentagon from the ribbon and repeat step two but don’t cut the second pentagon from the ribbon this time.

Step Four: Pre-build the next figure (steps are below) and show the students that we are transforming the two pentagons to look like the next figure. I usually place it on my wrist and say it looks like a giant bracelet. I try to have them see the patterns and have them give me the next steps with out telling them, this helps them visual the next step because the next step is the hardest. Doing this makes it easier for the students to visualize the next step in their head. To help guide them, I sometimes put the two pentagons in the air with one a little above the other and have them imagine how to make it look like the prebuilt figure.

Step Five: Put a straw on the ribbon and bring it all the way down to the pentagon. You will then attach the other side of this straw to the other pentagon, which connects the two pentagons. To attach them, you don’t have to tie a knot each time (that’s very time consuming). Instead you can wrap the ribbon around each vertex, if you do this method instead of a knot, make sure to wrap it tightly and twice (that’s what I do!). You’ll need to keep one hand on it so it doesn’t come undone at first, but once you start the following step, then there is no need to hold it any more because the next step keeps it together.



Note: Make sure that you are wrapping the ribbon around the ribbon, not the straw:

Step six: The next couple of steps are very similar. Place another straw on the ribbon, bring it down to the pentagon, then connect it back to the other pentagon. This creates a triangle connecting the two pentagons.


Step Seven: Place another straw on the ribbon, bring it all the way down to the pentagon and connect it to the other pentagon. Notice how the pentagons start to become tighter each time. This is why we left wiggle room in the pentagons.

Step Eight: Place another straw on the ribbon, bring it down to the pentagon, and attach it to the other pentagon. Notice how the pentagons are even tighter now. At this point, we need to make it ‘pop up’ and be more three dimensional.




Notice: the two pentagons are basically on top of one another and the individual straws we added are starting to zig zag between the two pentagons.

Step Nine: Keep adding one straw at a time and finish ‘zig-zag’ around the two pentagons.



Ta-Da! You made it all the way around. That was the hardest part and usually ends the second day of the project. From here on out, it’s easy! 🙂

What we have so far is what I like to describe as a large bracelet. I usually stick my arm through it two show the students where the two pentagons went to in the project. To finish the icosahedron, we have to fill in these two pentagons.

Step Ten: Add TWO straws to the ribbon. Attach the ribbon to an adjacent vertex of the same pentagon:



Step Eleven: We want to use the triangle that those two straws created to help fill in the pentagon. To do this we need the ribbon to be at another vertex. Feed the ribbon throw the edge/straw to get to the next vertex:


Step Twelve: Add a straw, and attach that straw to the triangle.
I turned over the project to make it a little easier to work with:

Step Thirteen: Add another straw (which will start at the top of the triangle) and bring it down to the pentagon.

Step Fourteen: Only one more straw is needed to fill in the pentagon! Before you add that last straw, feed the ribbon through to get to the next vertex of the pentagon:

In this picture, I’m adding more ribbon by just tying two ends together, but you can see the completely filled in pentagon in the background!
Five straws go from each vertex to meet at one point to fill in the pentagon. No more hole on that side! But now you have to turn it over and do the same thing on the other side.

Repeat Steps 10 through 14 to fill in the other pentagon. You’ll notice that you will need the ribbon to be on the opposite side of the project. You can either tie a knot, cut if off, and reattach it to the other side OR you can feed the ribbon through the straw to get to the other side:

Pictures showing Steps 10 through 14 repeated:






Wahoo! A completed icosahedron! 🙂 At this point, I’m usually in the middle of day three and show the students how to create the points. Some figure it out on their own though! Make sure to tie off the ribbon you are working on and cut if off. You’ll reattach a new color ribbon for the points.

As a side note, I want everyone to know that I have mastered typing long blog posts while covered in dogs. Yes, covered in dogs:
I enjoyed it. 🙂


20 Pointed Star {Getting Started} Part Three

This post is part of my 20 pointed star project series. See my part one and two. The first day of the project is usually just setting up and passing out materials. If you have longer than a 50 minute class, then you would probably have time to start the next phase.

To Get Started:

Give each student a zip lock bag and have them put their name on their zip lock bag.  The large box of straws from Sams already come separated into smaller bags, so pass out one bag to each group. Each student needs to count out 45 straws and take the wrappers of the straws.  This makes a mess, so make sure to have extra trash bags handy.


As students work on separating the wrappers from the straws, use this time to start calling one group at a time to pick out their first ribbon color. If you stretch your arm out wide, that’s how long I usually give for each student’s first piece of string. I know it may seem like a lot, but trust me it goes quick! Luckily, there is plenty of ribbon on each spool. The amount of ribbon I have here is a little excessive because I’ve been building up my stash over the past few years. I think I started the first year with 6 spools of ribbon. It was plenty for all four of my classes (approximately 120 students). The project takes multiple days, so just keep an eye on your stash and determine yourself if you need to get more ribbon later.

90 straw pieces are needed, but we cut the straws in half so that the projects aren’t so huge! After they take off the wrappers, have them cut the straws in half. Make sure you take time to stress to the students that every piece needs to be the same size! Talk to them about strategies of making sure straws are the same size. For example, fold one in half to get the exact middle point. Use that one as a template to cut each of the other straws. Some will try to cut more than one straw at a time. For your sanity, put a limit on how many they can cut at a time. They will start cutting huge handfuls at a time. Straws go everywhere AND they end up being cut the wrong size. It’s okay for them to take their time on cutting the straws, just stress that each should be as close as possible to the same size! This process will take the students the rest of the class period. When they finish, all of their straws should be placed in their ziplock bag along with their strand of ribbon ready to start building the next day!

Keep in mind that students need time for clean up and gathering up all their materials. I usually start the clean up process about 7 minutes before the bell rings, maybe a little more on the first day because of all the wrapper pieces that I have to ask students to pick up off the floor! 🙂


20 Pointed Star Project {Materials & Organization Tips} Part Two

This post is part of my Stellated Icosahedron Project. See the first post here!

One thing I LOVE about this project is that the materials are relatively cheap, specially considering that it covers EVERY student’s project!  The first couple years I spent about $40 out of my own pocket to cover the project, but over the years I learned to ask students/parents for donations or to bring a spool of ribbon.

Materials Needed:

1. One Large Box of Straws from SAMS! (a little less than $20)

SDC19584If you have students bring their own straws, make sure they are clear and not bendy straws.

2. Ribbon in variety of colors (about $3 a spool but ask for students to bring it in a head of time for donations!) These can be found usually in Walmart in limited colors, but I usually get mine at party city because Walmart is hit or miss with stocking them:

3. Scissors

4. Ziplock Bags (one for each student, use permanent marker to put their name on the bags!)

5. Boxes for storing ziplock bags (one box per class)

Organization tips

This is a HUGE project that will consume your classroom for at least a week. Want to keep your sanity? Use these tips:

1. Use an upside down chair to help store ribbon and pull the ribbon off the spool. If the spool is on the chair leg, it makes is super easy to pull the ribbon and cut! Trust me, you’ll be cutting lots of ribbon the first couple days and will want to make this go much easier! Put the ribbon you are cutting on top. If you are cutting ribbon that has some other ribbon stacked on top, then pulling the ribbon on the bottom will also turn the ribbon on top, which tangles the ribbon. Trust me, I learned the hard way and I’m hard headed, so it took me a couple of times to learn this. 🙂


2. Use ziplock backs to store the straws. Use a different box for each class! It makes it much easier to pass out materials at the start of each class if it’s organized neatly.


3. As the projects get bigger and no longer fit in the zip lock bag, hang them on a ribbon in your classroom. Keep them off the floor!

4. When you hang them up, make sure students have their name on them. I have them use a small piece of paper and tape it around a straw!

5. Do you best to make sure the strings don’t get tangled!

Get your materials ready to start building in the next post!

Stellated Icosahedron Project {20 Pointed Star Project} Part One

Every year I do this fun end of year project with my students. They love it, I love it, and it saves my sanity after testing.  Seriously, the first day or two is rough because the students don’t want to listen to instructions, but once they get the hang of the project, they pretty much go on auto pilot. It’s scary how quiet they get as they get as they work on the points of the star.  With the end of the 3rd quarter this week, I figured it’s the perfect time to share this project!  I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about all the things that have to happen as the year comes to a close!


Overall, the project will take the students about a week to complete because of the instruction and organization needed. It takes a lot less time if teaching someone one on one!  This project is perfect for 7th, 8th, or high school math classrooms. It is super fun and perfect for the week or two after testing that you end up not having much to do! Plus, we do talk about math concepts while we complete the project.

Example topics to cover:

  • Two-Dimensional vs Three-Dimensional
  • Regular Shapes
  • Review two-dimensional shapes and introduce names of three-dimensional solids with regular faces (called platonic solids)
  • Area (each face), Surface Area, Volume
  • Vocabulary: Edge, vertex, face
  • Euler’s Formula
  • Platonic Solids and this funny video and this video
  • Stellations

I usually create a handout/packet for them to complete as we build the stellated icosahedron to review topics previously taught.

I’m going to divide the project into a couple of different posts to create a little mini series. Plus, it’s too much to cover in one post. Here are the topics:

1. Materials and Organization Tips

2. Getting Started

3. Icosahedron (inside part)

4. Stellations (points)

5. Variations/Extensions

I hope you’ll join me on my first mini series!