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Big Learning News 9-21-05

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 3:27 September 21, 2005

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Table of Contents

Math Moment: Letter Frequency for Code Breaking
Activity: Spy on African Animals
Book Review: Tricky Pix

Web Site: Old Time Radio

Hurricane Relief

If your family would like to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, try these links:

American Red Cross: www.redcross.org

Network for Good: http://www.networkforgood.org/topics/animal_environ/hurricanes/: This site has links to lots of other relief organizations.

Math Moment

Letter Frequency for Code Breaking

Next time your kids want to play "Spy," offer them these tools for making and breaking letter-substitution codes. They'll get to practice with simple functions, graph reading, and statistics.

Code a message: This site lets you create coded messages by typing or pasting your message into the box and choosing one of several methods for making the letter substitutions.


Break a Code: You can use letter frequency to decode a message. The letter that appears most frequently in the coded message is likely to be one that is frequent in English, like "E". This tool will analyze your message and help you find the frequent letters.


If you want to see a graph of how frequently each letter appears in English (on average), there's one on this page:


More math resources and our Math Moments archives on our Fun Math for Kids page on BigLearning.org - http://www.biglearning.org/big-learning-math-activities.htm


Activity: Spy on a watering hole in Botswana


Big Learning the size of Africa here. This is a live web cam that sweeps over the shoreline of a watering hole in Botswana called Pete's Pond. At peak viewing hours, you'll see zebras, wildebeests, impalas, giraffes, and lots more wander up to the pond to take a drink - all in full-color, smooth-motion live video. You can even hear them! It's an Internet miracle at its best.

There's a lot more on this beautifully-designed site. You can print a checklist of animals that frequent the pond and check them off as you see them. Click on the name of an animal on the checklist, and you get a trading-card style card about that animal, complete with video of the animal in motion and facts about the animal. Or go to the animal gallery to try to identify an animal you spot drinking at the pond.



Book Review

Tricky Pix: Do It Yourself Trick Photography With Camera by Paula Weed and Carla Jimison (Klutz, 2001)

Ages 9-12

Not being much of a housekeeper, I'm a big believer in teaching-by-leaving-interesting-things-lying-around. This book about trick photography projects, Tricky Pix, has been lying around for a long time, so imagine my joy when one of my kids' friends picked it up last weekend and asked if they could try some of the ideas. I was happy to hand over the digital camera (the book comes with a 35mm camera, but who wants to wait?).

They were able to set up and shoot several of the optical illusion ideas in the half-hour or so before my son's friend had to go home. They paid attention to the hints and their photos produced the desired illusion on the first try - a boy inside a sneaker, a tiny kid in the palm of of another kid, a kid holding another kid's body-less head. They loved it.

Buying Information


Web Site

Old Radio Shows


I was trying to find that old radio routine, "Who's On First" to play for my baseball-obsessed children, and I found this treasure trove of old radio shows you can download for free. Hold onto this one for fireside winter nights.


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Big Learning News (c) 2005 Karen Cole
All Rights Reserved.


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