*See my Critical Thinking page as well. Problem solving is a HUGE aspect of being successful in the 21st world.

"Can you give me some good websites that teach Math concepts, especially for the PARCC test?"

This is an example of a question I get asked quite often. Instead of giving folks the sites, I like teaching them how to find sites on their own! This way teachers find relevant and current websites while also practicing key strategies in finding them.


FIRST things first, you must understand that search engines (such as Google) do not put the most relevant website at the top of your search. It's not about how much money the site gave to Google either. It is an algorithm that is constantly changing but it incorporates a few different things. The ones that count the most are:

  1. How many time the word(s) you searched for appear on the site.
  2. How many external sites YOUR site links out to.
  3. How many external sites link to YOUR site.

Knowing this helps you analyze a site before clicking on it SIMPLY by reading the short description below the link. Think about it, It's often why Wikipedia sites show up first for a search!

Also, realize that the words you choose to search by are critical. AND, it's how you organize those words for the search engine that matters.


The organization and presentation of the words you search is Boolean Logic. It's how the "web crawlers" search the World Wide Web for what you want. Just like you must understand the grammar rules of your language to create a sentence, speak, etc., you must also understand the "grammar" or operators of the web to truly use it correctly and get the results you want.

Although most people feel confident they can find what they are looking for by simply plugging in a question or words, most adults only look at the first 2-3 pages or results. Kids look at even less, only the first 2-3 SITES listed! Moreover, there really aren't that many rules! It's critical we start learning these rules AND teaching them to our students so we get the sources of information we need and want in those first few results.

  • ALL OF THESE WORDS - Imagine there is a + between your words.
    • You want census data from 1972
    • IN SEARCH BOX: census 1972
    • A space is seen as a +

  • THIS EXACT WORD OR PHRASE - This is the one MOST people have heard of or use.
    • You want information on equivalent fractions
    • IN SEARCH BOX: "equivalent fractions"
    • The key is keeping the words in quotes so the search is for the words TOGETHER on the site.

    • You want information on cats or kittens
    • IN SEARCH BOX: cats or kittens

    • You want information on bengal tigers but NOT the football team
    • IN SEACH BOX: "bengal tigers" -football

    • You want that census data from 1972 and you notice in your search most of the sites end in census.gov
    • IN SEARCH BOX: census 1972 SITE:census.gov
    • MAKE sure you have the colon and NO spaces so the web crawlers see it as one operator

    • You want to see what other sites link to a site to give you more information about the site's validity
    • IN SEARCH BOX: link:dhmo.org

    • You want sites on adding fractions that are Shockwave Flash files
    • IN SEARCH BOX: "adding fractions" filetype:swf
    • There are MANY file types Google can search for - xls, doc, ppt, etc.

    • You want interactive websites on adding fractions but you want to search schools across the country
    • IN SEARCH BOX: "adding fractions" filetype:swf site:k12.*.us
    • Since so many schools use the .k12.*.us format you can search across states this way instead of doing multiple searches on your own

These are the main operators. There aren't that many and you can use them in tandem with one another. As you use them more frequently you'll remember them; however, a GREAT site that spells them all out is Google Advanced SearchIt also showcases some other great tools as well. Plus, it lists all the filetypes you can search for too! Finally, it's a terrific resource when teaching all these operators for the first time to students.

For younger children I use Boolify. It does not showcase all of the operators, but it uses graphics and is a great introduction to information literacy.

This is a terrific page by Google that gives you some other examples of the operators - Search Operators

Just as learning English grammar can be boring and dry, so can learning these tools. Make it fun! As you use these through the year with students see who can find the information with the LEAST amount of search results possible or who finds it on the first hit.