Fish and Math

Teacher improved math results using Fishy as bait

“I’ll knit you a Fish Hat – and you pass your Math test!”

This winter, a lot of students at Richmond High in California can be spotted wearing a unique Fish hat. These hats are their rewards for hours of math study – and passing their CST exams proFISHiently. Math teacher (and avid knitter) Lisa Holmes tells about how Fish hats did what tutoring projects and correcting assignments couldn’t: motivating students to take mathematics more seriously. It’s a story about how crafts can bring a community together .


Not for sale
“One day I was on my way to class wearing my crazy fish hat just for fun. I ran into a couple of soccer players who declared, "Wow! That's raw!” One of them asked me to make him one. I told him that it takes a lot of time to knit a fish hat. "But I'll pay you!" he said. I told him that a hat like this is not for sale,” tells math teacher Lisa Holmes of Richmond High in California USA. “He would have to win one by scoring proficient or higher on the Mathematics CST. My hours knitting a fish hat would cost him some hours studying for this exam. That seemed like a fair exchange. “

Math teacher Lisa Holmes used fish hat as bait

How to motivate math students?
Richmond High School is an urban school in a city that has one of the highest crime rates in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like several urban high schools throughout the country, educators look for new ways improve the academic performance of their students, especially in Mathematics. Those results will show, a.o. in the CST Test, the California Standards Test (CST).

“To students this CST is not very important. It is not the Exit Exam, so they don’t need it to graduate. Nor does the CST get students into the college of their choice. It doesn’t even affect their grades. So our students don’t necessarily put forth their best effort,” Lisa Holmes says.
That attitude doesn’t please teachers and school board at all. To the school the results of this test are very important. It does affect a School’s Average Yearly Progress (AYP) and its Academic Performance Index (API) and consequently its funding. So every year teachers and educators put a lot of effort in motivating teenagers to score proficient or higher on the CST.
They do so by developing tutoring programs and correcting assignments. Also match coaches are hired to help improving the academic performance of the students. But none of these efforts really motivate students to take their mathematics more seriously. What would?

Full Blown Fishy project
“ I wanted to come up with a new and different solution; one that would get the students on board. I thought about this constantly. The deal I made with one of the soccer players rang a bell, ” Lisa says. “I told my knitting group, the East Bay Knitters about it. Before I knew, these fabulous women offered to knit some more fish hats, so we could turn this isolated deal into a full blown project. A project with a name, Pro-FISH-iency campaign.”

The knitters estimated that they could produce about 30 hats. So they decided to limit their prizes to geometry students. But soon the news about this project spread. Ellen Graves, the owner of yarn shop K2tog in Albany, expanded the project to the Richmond knitting community at large. In the K2tog newsletter she asked knitters to join in. The knitting community really got into this and a new goal was set. 84 Hats were to be knit, to encourage all student to pass the CST.
Students could even decide on the colors of their personal Fishy. They would color in a fish pattern and sign a contract stating that they would put the same amount of time in their math studies as the knitter in knitting a fish hat. Knitters would select one of the colored patterns and write some encouraging words for that particular student.

Fish Count
“As the hats started rolling in, we began a "Fish Count" in the shop window. Fifty down, 34 to go…” yarn shop owner Ellen Graves says. “The shop became more colorful then ever. At first, fish hats were hanging from the ceiling and were placed on walls throughout the shop. As the number of fish hats increased, we created a wall of fish. K2tog employee Emily was put in charge of this display.”

Fish Display at K2tog

This autumn a special party, Richmond High School’s first Math CST ProFISHiency Celebration, was organized to hand over the fish hats to the students who succesfully passed their CST. It was a tribute to the students and the knitters who put in so much effort. A lot of knitters met with ‘their’ students at this celebration.
“The students were very excited about receiving their fish hats. As we called their names, you could see the anticipation on their faces as they eagerly awaited their turn to select their unique awards. The following day was fun. Several “fishes” were spotted on campus. “ Lisa says.


Message of perserverance
This is not where the story ends. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors contact Lisa Holmes to find out how they too can ‘score’ their own fish hat. She tells them they have a chance to win a fish hat next spring, as new fish hats will be knitted for them.

“The hats are a hot commodity, and that’s what I had hoped for. Its message of perserverance, strength and community touches both students and knitters in a way that only Arts and Crafts can. Thanks to the creativity of all those who participated in the celebration this year and to those planning to participate in the next one, I expect to see even greater numbers of students achieving a score of proficient or higher on the next Mathematics CST.”

This article is an adaptation of the article match teacher Lisa Holmes wrote about it herself. Click to read the  Original article .


Fishy Newsflashes 

Februari 2013

Buy a fish hat. Help an animal
Fishy loves to help other animals. That's happening thanks to Jane Jenab. She knits items for sale. All proceeds go to Angels Among Us Pet Rescue inc in Georgia. One of the patterns she uses, is the fish hat pattern. Fishy is so proud of that! 

The pet rescue is a non-profit volunteer-based organization dedicated to rescuing dogs and cats from high-kill shelters in north Georgia. It operates through a network of foster homes in the north metro Atlanta area. Look about the good work these people do on their website. 

Not every one is able to offer a foster home to an animal. But maybe you want to 'foster' a fish hat. You can buy one through Jane's facebook page



Fishy in Hebrew!
A new translation has been added to the list. Yana from Israël tranlated the Fishy pattern in Hebrew, after knitting it several times. You can find the translation on her blog. (It will show after the ad has disappeared). Mind you: the translation is for the baby-version Zephyrama made. If you want to make the grown up version, you can use the numbers on the original pattern.

 December 2011

Teacher improves math results by using Fish as bait 

“I’ll knit you a Fish Hat – and you pass your Math test!”

This winter, a lot of students at Richmond High in California can be spotted wearing a unique Fish hat. These hats are their rewards for hours of math study – and passing their CST exams proFISHiently. Math teacher (and avid knitter) Lisa Holmes tells about how Fish hats did what tutoring projects and correcting assignments couldn’t: motivating students to take mathematics more seriously. It’s a story about how crafts can bring a community together. Swim here to read the full story of this wonderful achievement.  

A fish hat for every student who passed the math test! Richmond High Pro-FISH-iency celebaration.


December 2011
Fishy went to Russia!
Another language has been added to the list of Fishy translations. Russian knitters can knit it now too, without having to use the English version. Elena Belskaya made the translation and placed it on her site It's a site with a lot of free patterns for babies and children, all in Russian.

This is how: Fish hat (dead or alive) looks in Russian:
Шапочка-Рыба (она живая или нет?)


November 2011
Pesce cappello, morto o vivo?
If you know any Italian, you'll understand this titel means there's an Italian translation for Fishy now too. It started with an e-mail Thelma got from 3 Italians who wanted to have their own fish hats. One of them was a knitter, but didn't know how to knit from English patterns. On Ravelry Thelma found the Italian Translators group (Traduzioni da Ravelry). Aurelia (a.k.a. Lana-Luna on Ravelry) offered to translate the pattern. Thanks to her, the italian e-mailers can have a go at Fishy now, as can any Italian speaking knitter. You can find the pattern at Aurelia's website (together with other translated patterns) or here at Fishy's own site.
The fish hat's translation led to another one. Italian Raveler Trappy offered to translate Small Hills hat. Here's the Italian version of that pattern.

The fish hat Aurelia knitted for a little boy, Pietro.

August 2011
Another crochet Fishy
There was a crochet version of the fish hat already, but Wendybird wrote down a version of her own. Visit her website and check it out! (It's a free pattern of course).

 June 2011
Ab jetzt gibt's hier auch eine Deutsche Tote Fisch !

I'm so happy (sehr Froh!)  to announce that my German neighbour-knitters now also have a Fishy pattern in their own language. German knitter Diane Roschinsky  made the translation. You can find it here in the fish pond, and on Diane's own website. Ist die Uebersetsung irgendwie unklar,  bitte frage es Diane. Mein Deutsch reicht dazu nicht aus!


March 2011

The Danes can knit Fishy too! 

Danish knitters don’t have to understand English knitting terms anymore to knit Fishy. Thanks to Laura, who made a Danish translation. A good thing! You can find it here on Fishy’s own website, and of course on Laura’s blog too. You should really take a look there, because she added some instructive video’s!  Laura is just learning to knit – but don’t worry about mistakes in her pattern. A more experienced friend checked it.




December 2010


Charity time!

Christmas time is Charity time. The dead fish hat can be a great fundraiser. Quite regularly knitters ask Thelma permission to sell the Fish’s at charity fairs and usually she agrees. It’s really heart-warming to know that some knitters knit their fingers blue to help others. 

Kim Stavert from Ottawa, Canada is one of them. This year she made 11 hats and made $ 165 for the food bank. That way she doubled the earnings from the year before, when she made $ 80 with four hats. Both years the hats sold out in half an hour. Here’s the picture from last year.


 Not only in December, but in the other 11 month of the year too there is need for charity. Please feel free to knit the fish hat for fundraising. When you plan to knit the fish hat for charity, please inform Thelma. She just loves to know! (Also make clear by a tag or so that the hats are her design and that the pattern can be found for free at Knitty.)


Knitting for Friendship Mukwano
Inspired by the charity knitting of Kim and others? But still looking for a fund to contribute to? Then think about Mukwano Uganda. Mukwano (meaning ‘friendship’) is a Dutch organisation that helps to improve the live of Uganda people, by providing better education and health care. The main project in 2010 was building a school for primary and secondary education in the Bushenyi district.
The founder of Mukwano was a young Dutch woman, Joanne Noordink, who fell in love with Uganda after working as a volunteer in an orphanage for six month in 2007. She really wanted to help improving the lives of poor people of Bushenyi region. Back in the Netherlands she started Mukwano Oeganda. Tragically she was murdered shortly after. But her good work goes on. 

 Unfortunately the website www.mukwano.nlis only in Dutch. More info about Joanne in English can be found on the up with people website. Joanne is one of there every-day-hero award winners. Also her former American boyfriend wrote beautifully about her.  It isn't clear how people from outside the Netherlands can donate money to support Mukwano Oeganda. Dutch people can send their gift to 1029.61.557  St. Mukwano Oeganda, Aalten. 


September 2010 
Newest catch: worlds largest fish hat! 
A lot of special Fish hats were knitted since the pattern apeared on One of them is extra special. It’s the ginormous Fish Hat the people from Lindstrom (Minnesota, USA), knitted in an attempt to make it into the Guiness Book of World Records. Place of action: Miss Elsie’s Yarnery.

 Read the full story here.


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