Brainy on a Budget: Paper Power

Today is going to be full-on crazy around our house, so I thought I’d share a super-quick, super-easy to put together STEM challenge with you before going into zip-around-like-whirlwind mode. :)

All you need for this one is:

  • paper (standard 8.5″ by 11″)
  • tape
  • a heavy book

I put about 20 sheets of paper, some tape, and an old textbook in front of Grace and gave her the following instructions:

  • Using only paper and tape, create a way to support the book at least 6″ off the table.
  • The entire weight of the book has to be supported by nothing but paper and tape.

Grace had to ponder for a bit. In fact, I’m pretty sure she thought I’d lost my mind. ;)

STEM paper 1

After giving things some thought and testing a few ideas out (and being told that, no, she couldn’t have more paper), Grace had her ah-hah moment. She figured it out!

Do you know what she did? If you want to find out, scroll down. If you want to keep twirling it around your brain thing, go no further. ;)















Okay, here’s the solution Grace implemented:

This was a great exercise, and Grace was very proud of herself for coming up with a simple and functional solution. :D

These were all materials that we had on hand, so there was no expense involved. If you didn’t have any of the items needed, you could easily do this activity for an investment of $3.00 – $4.00. (paper and tape at a dollar store; a large book from Goodwill or a thrift store)

So, what about you? Would you have used the same method Grace did, or would you have done something differently? Have you ever done this activity before? Could you support the book with fewer than four pieces of paper? What fun STEM activities are you up to recently?

Acts of Kindness: Providing Distractions

I’ll admit, I’ve gotten really slack about sharing kindness ideas and printables. Honestly, I just have too many projects going on to devote the proper time to creating monthly printables. Instead, I thought I’d transition to a monthly kindness idea.

And so I present to you, May’s kindness idea…hospital waiting room distractions!

Often when people are waiting to hear news about a loved one, be it good or bad, it’s nice to have a bit of a distraction to help with the anxiety and stress…and it’s so easy to provide that little distraction!

Here’s what I did…I grabbed some puzzle books from the Dollar Tree (I went for a mixture of types as different people like different things), wrote a little note in a note card with (what I hope were) encouraging words, popped the note in an envelope, and wrapped it all up with twine. Easy-peasy.

waiting room kindness 2

Now, all I need to do is visit our local hospital and leave this in one of the waiting rooms before scampering away. I’ll probably try to put a few of these together before I go and drop them in several waiting rooms. I’ll probably add a pencil in with each set before dropping them off. I’ve also been thinking about picking up some coloring books and small packs of crayons…because kids sometimes find themselves in waiting rooms, too.

So, what do you think? Is this something you’re likely to do? Is there some way I could improve on the idea? Are there other things that would be nice to leave for people in waiting rooms?


Three Things Thursday: May 28, 2015

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

This ridiculously large pile of books I checked out from the library:



No way I’ll read all of that before they’re due! What was I thinking? :)


This lizard friend keeping his eye on me:



Grace very contentedly reading a book:


(That one was originally intended for my swanky new Instagram account, but it turned out to be too wide…I’m learning, I’m learning.) :)

So, what made you smile this week? I’d love to see you share on your blog or here or on twitter! :D 

Don’t forget! You can use the tag #ThreeThingsThursday on twitter. It’s a great way to share your three things without doing a post or to let the world know you did a post. :)

I truly do encourage all of you to snag this idea (and some badges!) as you please. :D




I’ve Finally Joined Instagram!

Yes, after years of taking billiondy-trillions of pictures, it finally dawned on me that Instagram might be a thing to do. :D (I can be a little slow on these things sometimes.)

If you’re interested in following, you can find me HERE. Who knows what sort of goofy fun things you may see?!? ;)

A lovely place to hide. :) #buglife #bug #insect

A photo posted by Nerd in the Brain (@nerdinthebrain) on

I’d love to find some of y’all on Instragram, too, so let me know you’re there. :D

Our 8th Grade Reading List…So Far

Grace’s 8th grade year is rapidly heading toward its conclusion, so I thought I would use this, the traditional Language Arts day on the blog, to share the novels she has read for school this year…so far. Grace reads like a crazy reading beast, so I suspect we’ll get another two or three books in before the official end of our school year. :D

What’s your favorite book in the list so far? Your least favorite? What do you think Grace’s favorite is? (That was a bit of a trick question…there are actually four here that are all tied for “favorite.”) If we have time for two more books, which ones do you suggest she reads?

P.S. – Don’t forget to check back next Wednesday for the big Summer Reading & Writing Program reveal! It’s gonna be awesome. :D

Adventures in…The Symphony

Last weekend, John and I had the lovely opportunity to go to Pops on the Plaza. It was a fantastic performance and a beautiful evening! Here, I’ll show you what it’s like to enjoy the symphony outside in the middle of our little town. (Yep, this is totally getting filed under Life & Death in a Small Town!) :)

First we packed the picnic basket with a ridiculous amount of food…

symphony 1

After adding even more deliciousness to that accumulation of yum, we grabbed our lawn chairs and headed to the Plaza. The jazz band was already in full swing as we walked from our parking spot, but we were still able to find a wonderful spot just in front of the fountain…

symphony 2

The jazz band played on as kids ran all about the place and grown ups chatted and families nibbled on picnic-y goodness…

symphony 3

And then it was time for the main event! The orchestra began with the national anthem (and we had the pleasure of being next to a group of senior citizens who sang with the most beautiful voices!) before moving into a spectacular series of songs…

symphony 4

As the symphony played, John and I took a few minutes to enjoy the view of our little town…and pet some dogs. :) I didn’t get any pictures of the pooches, but I did get a couple of shots of town with its nifty buildings and memorials and gorgeous magnolia trees (which are just starting to bloom).

symphony 5 symphony 6

With full bellies and happy ears, we headed back home from our awesome evening out…but not before getting a program for the new symphony season. More concerts are certainly in our future!

What about you? Any awesome town events recently? Any fantastic picnics? Are there parts of your town that you just absolutely adore? 

Brainy on a Budget: Graphing Equations in an Artsy Way

***Brainy on a Budget is all about fun (mostly educational) activities that won’t destroy your budget like Godzilla trompin’ through a city. While these activities are great for home school, they’re also great for family time, classrooms, rainy days, or “just because.” Enjoy!***

The activity for today’s Brainy on a Budget idea is very similar to something Grace and I have done before, but I’ve made a couple of tweaks here and there and thought it would be nifty to present the whole thing again. :)

So, what’s the idea? Graphing linear equations and creating some lovely pieces of art while you’re at it.

What I Purchased:

  • nothing

Other Items:

  • paper
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • graph paper
  • an assortment of markers, crayons, or colored pencils

Total I Spent: Nada. :D

Total Needed If You’re Working in Some Strange Land Where You Have No Paper or Markers: $5.00? (If you don’t want to buy a whole pack of graph paper, there are several places online that allow you to print the number of sheets you need.) :)

What did we actually do? This activity does require a bit of preparation from one of the parties involved, but it’s an easy and quick preparation. All you have to do is cut a couple of pieces of paper into little strips and write a linear equation on each one. Like this:

equation art 1


The person who will be playing with the equations needs to gather up graph paper, a ruler, and coloring devices. Once supplies have been gathered, the art creator(s) need to pick 8 of the equations at random. We just sort of shuffled ours about and placed them face down on the table, but you could also toss the equation strips in a bag or box and draw them out that way.

equation art 2


The next step is the gooey, mathy, delicious center of this whole activity. It’s time to graph the equations! (Of course, it’s always fun to sneak in questions about the value of the slopes and steepness of the lines…and the slopes of any parallel or perpendicular lines.)

equation art 3


And now comes the art part! It’s time to color! :D Grace and I had been discussing the four color map theorem, so I chose to go about things with the fewest number of colors possible without having two sections with the same color share a side. That, of course, is not necessary to make a bee-yoooo-tee-ful piece of art. :D

equation art 4


Tada! :D


You will totally be spending more time coloring than graphing equations. :D

So, what do you think? Have you ever used an art project for teaching and/or learning math? Are you likely to try this with your kids, your class, your pet hamster? Would you like to see Brainy on a Budget activities for a particular topic in the future? Let me know in the comments!