Monday, October 22, 2012

Inequalities and Converting Temperature foldables

Did you know?

Grading the quizzes from my algebra class today, I learned that if m>32, then the solution is "all real numbers"... Oh and if 11<6t, then there is no solution.  We may have missed something in that lesson I think... maybe.

Finished Equation Sandwiches Bulletin Board

All three classes' sandwiches up with my letters.  I really like this one :-)


My kids always check the Playlist to see if they are going to be taking notes.  Most days, we take notes.  This year I decided to go with a bound notebook with the foldables in the notebook instead of a foldable for each chapter like I've done in the past.  I've noticed that my students seem to understand that their notebook is a reference book.  I seem them referring back to something we wrote in our notes while they're doing they're bellwork and class assignments.

Here are a few of our latest entries:

Outside has the formulas

Inside has the examples
Outside has "key words" and graphing clues

Inside has an example
I really like how the graphing inequalities foldable turned out today.  I had them write the four sentences on a quarter-sheet of white paper, then they cut the sentences apart.  After that, we labeled the outside of the flaps, and I could already see them thinking about which sign each sentence was going to go with.  When we had finished labeling the outside, we discussed which sentences went with what inequalities and glued them on the inside.  Then we wrote and graphed an inequality for each sentence.  I had a kid tell me "you taught that the best I've ever heard!  It makes so much more sense now."  Have to love moments like that :-)

Friday, October 19, 2012

A new look and Favorite ways to practice

I finally figured out how to add a cute banner and background to my page!  Yay!  

Sometimes we're covering a topic in class and it just requires a lot of practice.  I'm not one for just giving worksheets or book assignments.  For most students, it's just not interesting and really not very effective.  Here are some of my students' favorite ways to practice, as seen from their excitement when they see them on the day's Playlist.

Add It Up

I first came across Add It Up on Julie Reulbach's blog ispeakmath.   Students are given a set of problems - I usually use our workbook and one students does odds while the other does evens - and an add it up board.  Students write their answers on the board and find the sum of the answers.  When they have the sum, they hold up their board, and I give them a thumbs up if it's correct, or a thumbs down if it's incorrect.  If their sum is correct, they move on to the next pair of questions.  If their sum is incorrect, they must work together to check and correct each other's answers and find the correct sum.  I have been really surprised at how excited they get when they see this on the Playlist!  Their so excited to have me tell them if they got it right, they don't even notice they've done 20 questions.


I have been using some form of Math-O in my classroom for the last five years, and students always love it.  It's a game, and they have a chance to win a prize (usually a small piece of candy in my room) when they get five in a row.  I use to make my own cards with the answers from whatever set of 24 problems.  In past years, I have just written one problem on the board at a time, and letting students work the problems one at a time, but this year I've started giving them a page with the problems ahead of time, this way if a student is finished with the problem I've called, they can go on.

Here's a sample of what the cards look like.  I print 4 to a page to save paper.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Applying scientific notation

A few weeks ago, my students were studying how to write numbers in scientific notation and then write them in standard form.  I love finding ways for my students to see how the math that we do can be used in the real world.  Scientific notation has so many applications, I couldn't resist letting them see some ways it makes sense to use it.

I let my students choose a partner, and each partner got a task card with a country, continent, body of water, or planet.  Each card also included a website where the information they were to find could be found.

You can purchase all twenty tasks on my TpT site
When the partners had collected all of their information and written the data in scientific notation, they then created a poster to display their information.  My classes made some really nice displays for their data!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life's a little better with edible equations

It feels good to blog again... I've been trying to get caught up from being very sick (strep, mono, and walking pneumonia at the same time) and missing a week of work.  

For the last few weeks we have been solving equations of every kind.  We finally worked our way up to multi-step equations with variables on both sides and parentheses.  My students have AMAZED me!  When I had some of these kids as seventh graders, I thought how much I dreaded having to teach them complex equations as eighth graders.  They have completely stunned me with how good they have gotten!  

So, last week I had my advanced class be my guinea pigs to make equation sandwiches inspired by this blog post.  They blew me away!  I put 30 equations in a bucket and had them draw one out, solve it, check their solution, make a plan for their sandwich, and then they went to the supply station and let their creative juices flow!  They made all kinds of sandwiches - smores sandwiches, pb&j, Big Macs.  Here are some of the results...

I went ahead and put the sandwiches from this class on the bulletin board around the corner from my classroom so that my other two classes can see some examples before they make their's tomorrow.  I'm going to cut letters with my cricut to say "Life's a little better with edible equations". 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Storage for Supplies

I have tried everything to try and have my supplies organized and accessible.  However, for things like glue sticks, tape, dry erase markers, and scissors, I was getting tired of passing them out because we use them everyday in our notebooks.  I don't have tables in my room... I don't even have desks that can really be grouped... So, I got creative!

A trip to Home Depot later, and here is what I had...

For $0.77 each, I got aprons that I then tied to the sides of the chairs just below the book racks! I put all the things we use on a daily basis (glue stick, scissors, dry erase marker with flannel erasers that I made from left over baby blanket fabric, and one purple and one red/orange colored pencil - what I let the kids use to grade each other's papers) in the pockets.  Hopefully this will cut down on time that gets wasted with passing out and taking up supplies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Discovering and Teaching

"Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics"--Siméon Poissonbeen 

Recently my district had in-service days for each middle school grade level focusing on the new CCSS (Common Core State Standards).  I have already been applying some of the CCSS practices in my classroom the last few years, but this in-service really brought up some interesting ways to do problem-based learning.  

One thing I've started incorporating in my classroom this year is a "Parking Lot Question".  It's really just an Exit Ticket on a post-it note that they "park" in the parking lot on the board.  After all their answers are in, I take the post-its down and stick them to a sheet of paper with the question and date written at the top of the page.  Then, I put the sheet of paper in a sheet protector and put it in the Formative Assessment notebook for that class (each class has its own color for organization).

For now, the parking lot is just a 5x6 grid I drew on board, but the lines keep getting erased, so I'll probably make a permanent one on butcher paper soon.  I've been using some more challenging questions and my questions are creating some incredible questions and discovery.

Recently, we have been studying the rules of exponents.  I love having my students write out (a^5)(a^6) as (a*a*a*a*a)(a*a*a*a*a*a) so that they have a reason to want to find a way to multiply monomials that is shorter.  My amazing students have discovered the rules multiplying and dividing powers with the same base, powers of powers, and powers of products all by using this discovery method!  And they're owning it, which is my favorite.

Here is one of my favorite "Parking Lot Questions" here recently:

About half of my students answered this question incorrectly on their post-it.  However, as I was listening to them discuss it as class ended, I got really excited to discuss this question more!  So, today, as soon as we had gone over Warm-Ups, I put this question back on the board.  Unsurprisingly, when they answered the question a second time, they all got it right... some of them changed their minds, based on the discussion they had with their peers!  I love when they discover these things on their own, even more than I could possibly love just showing it to them.

So, I see more "Parking Lot Questions" in our future, and lots more discussion and discovery!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Proud to Make them Practice

It's week 2 of the "new blogger initiative"! 

1) Find one worksheet or activity or test or unit or question or powerpoint slide or syllabus or anything that you are proud of. Share it.

My five years as a teacher have been quite a journey. I honestly cringe when I think about my first year. However, one thing I have always loved doing, and started doing my very first year, is creating my own material for my students. My favorite types of worksheets to build are riddle puzzles and problem sets to use with VersaTiles.  

If you don't have a set of VersaTiles in your classroom, I highly recommend them! I will admit that the first time our math coach came to me and said "look what I bought you" I was a little skeptical. But I figured I could give anything a try (since nothing I was doing during my first year really seemed to work anyway), and not only did I love them, but the kids thought they were pretty cool too. You can buy kits for whatever grade-level and subject area you teach, but sometimes I found that what was already there wasn't exactly what I needed. So I found the book with the patterns and started making my own - most of which are on my tpt store.

In the midst of switching standards over the last few years, some topics were hard to find anything for extra practice, and that's why I made most of my VersaTile worksheets. Best of all, the kids can check their answers when they are finished!

I know I'm only supposed to share one thing I'm proud of, but I can't resist sharing about my riddle puzzles. When I was a kid, i loved puzzles and riddles. I decided to use my love of puzzles and riddles to make worksheets that would be more fun for my students. I found some jokes (usually animal themed) and created my own puzzles! Each correct answer led to the answer to the riddles! They were my main tool a few years ago, and I still like to pull them out to use.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching

I'm joining the "new blogger initiative" sponsored by mathtwitterblogosphere

Here's the prompt I chose:  
3. Talk about one or two specific things you plan on doing differently this year... and how specifically you are going to implement them/get the buy-in. Why do you want to do these things?  (If you are a new teacher, what are two specific things you plan on doing this year?)

We had a our first week of school in my system and it's been a little bit crazy.  I mentioned some changes that our school went through in this post.  We've gained a grade in a little corner of the building, and a lot of classrooms got moved (thankfully mine didn't).  It's been a little bit stressful, but we're getting into the swing of things.

I LOVE my 8th graders.  I had about half of them as 7th graders last year, so learning their names has been pretty easy.  The other thing that's helping me LOVE these kids is the behavior plan I'm trying out  from Whole Brain Teaching.  I first heard of Whole Brain Teaching when I saw the video below on pinterest.

To be honest, I thought "great if you're dealing with little guys, but could it really work with my not-so-little people?"  The answer is YES!  I introduced the five class rules on the first day (which was a half-day) and explained class-yes.  I also went over procedures for entering the class, bellwork, make-up work, etc. so that when they came in Tuesday, they would know exactly what I expected.  Tuesday, I was pretty strict about all the procedures and rules, and I made it clear how teacher/class points would be awarded.  Because most of what my procedures were new, I got several points in each class on Tuesday, but by Wednesday  my first class was determined to get more points than me.  By the end of the week, every class had either tied or beat me and so to keep up with their good days, I started making paper chains color-coded for each one to match the class color (I'm obsessed with making every class have it's own color for organization purposes) so that they could see how awesome they were doing.

The only modification I think I'm going to have to do is get a push light like this one on pinterest. The class I have after lunch is unsurprisingly my most talkative class.  That class also has two of my most challenging students, and one of them really tested me last year.  However, for the most part these two students have really just wanted to talk to me - nonstop.  So my idea is to get a push light and let them know they can't talk during a lesson.  Hopefully they will "see the light" :-)

I have a feeling this is going to be a great year!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Welcome to a new year

Well, it's that time of year again... time to start back to school.  My room is set up and "cleanish" (more organizing will surely come later).  I know basically what I'm doing for my first day of classes (our first day of school is only a half day) and just have to get the specifics down.  I'm ready to go!  Check out my room set up this year:

My MC Escher display that I kept from last year and one of the tables for workshop.

Front of the room with my "Do mor math" cow and "Playlist"

Close-up of the math cow and smart board

Close-up of the Playlist and my Make Up Work board (which went crazy on pinterest last spring).

I also reused three of my bulletin boards from last year.

My computer center and reference wall.

I covered the fronts of my filing cabinet drawers with contact paper I found at Dollar General. 

For the first time, I have a dedicated teacher area.
Well, hopefully all will go well!  Good luck to all who are starting back to school!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A BIG project to end our year...

Wow, I can't believe it's time to start back to school already!  We had a really crazy end to our year with 3 schools closing and lots of teachers moving around.  Thankfully, I didn't have to move this year, but there was still plenty going on and I completely forgot to blog about our last BIG project.  Sadly, it also ended up being my last project as a seventh grade teacher since I'm getting moved to full-time eighth grade for the new year.

For our final project, I teamed up with another seventh grade teacher to have the kids make scale drawings of Matchbox cars.  I've always wanted to do this project, but never really had the space.  To be honest, we had a hard time finding the space this time.

We were very blessed to have some very large (over 5 feet wide) paper donated to us by a local paper plant.  We divided our classes into groups of four, gave each group a car, rulers, and measuring tapes and let them work.  It took about three days for the cars to be completely finished, in full color, but they did an amazing job!

You might notice an anti-bullying theme on some of the cars, this was because our guidance department was using the cars as part of an anti-bullying campaign.  Needless to say this was a pretty big project for me to say goodbye to seventh grade with.

And one last announcement!

Coming soon...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Building Rafts... Part 2

Due to rainy weather, we had to postpone floating our rafts until today.  I filled 3 Rubbermaid tubs with about 4-5 inches of water, and had small buckets with enough pennies for each group.

Students started by placing their first raft in the water, and then placing pennies, one at a time, into the dixie cup, until the raft sank. 


Students collected their data into a table, and then created a scatterplot of their data.  Then, they found the line of best fit for their data.  In the future, I will definitely be using this activity during our unit on scatter plots and lines of best fit.

Aside from my person injury (most of my toenail got destroyed when someone slipped into me), I felt like it was a very successful activity, and one that the students definitely enjoyed! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Building Rafts, Part 1

We are done with testing, and wrapping up the year.  In my seventh grade classes, I have a few things i want to do with them to get them as ready as possible for eighth grade (especially now that I've taught eighth grade for a year). 

On the other hand, my eighth graders are DONE!  So, today we began the first of our projects. 

Earlier in the year I stumbeld across the Building Rafts Project on TpT.  I actually wanted us to get to do it before testing, because it looks like it's going to be great for creating scatterplots and lines of best fit, but it will be a great activity to do with the nice weather.

Today, the groups built their five rafts, according to the specifications.  I had my students do this a day in advance because of some experience I had with glue and popsicle sticks not being very sturdy earlier in the year.  It was interesting to see them interpret the directions in their own way.

Tomorrow, they are going to see how many pennies it takes to sink each of their rafts... One group decided to try and "water seal" their rafts with extra glue, they might not sink haha!