I love reading math teacher blogs. And I want to contribute to the community. Finding the time and self-editing myself is proving to be difficult. I’m struggling at work and I think, I know, the others in the MTBoS can help. How honest can I be online? My desire to remain professional results in my being private and less visible on social media.


Math Stations

I borrowed these ideas from Julie and Kristen.

After reviewing solving multi-step equations, I wanted to give my students a day of practice.  Instead of just giving them a worksheet, I turned the worksheet into stations. I sorted the problems into six stations plus one challenge station. I retyped the problems so I could increase the font, printed them on colored paper and laminated them.  The colored stations were placed around the classroom.  The students were told they could start at any station, all work must be shown in their notebooks and they had to check in with me before moving onto a different station.  If their answers were correct and all work was shown, I would allow them to move onto a different station. If there was a mistake, they needed to find the mistake, correct it and label it according to this poster, borrowed from Sarah at Math Equals Love.  Kids could ask each other for help to identify mistakes.

My kids were busy and moving around the room. There was plenty of interaction with me and each other. My kids got some great practice in before the quiz scheduled for the next day. And they started to realize which types of errors they were making and became more aware of common mistakes.


Mushy Dice

Our first unit is Expressions and Equations. The first few lesson are mostly a review of what was taught last year – combining like terms, the Distributive Property, etc.  Because this was a review, I wanted a different, memorable way of discussing combining like terms.

Sarah at Everybody is a Genius wrote a blog post about having her kids sort school supplies at the beginning of class.  I borrowed this idea and put three plastic cups on each table. Inside each cup was a mixture of dice, octagon shapes and dominoes.  As the kids entered the room, I instructed them to sort the materials for me. I complained the other class made a mess.

Unsorted Materials: (can you guess what a possible issue with this will be?)*


My kids are awesome and immediately got to work.  Almost* all the kids put the yellow octagons into one cup, the dominoes into another, and the dice into a third cup. I asked the students why they separated the dice from the dominoes, etc. and I could almost see the light bulbs above the kids heads as they began to shoot “combining like terms”!

Sorted Materials:


*My mistake, or opportunity for a great discussion, was the colors. Some kids sorted the items by colors – all the red dice and red dominoes went into one cup.  The yellow octagons and yellow dominoes went into another cup. The kids that did this told me they figured this was another WODB and there would be more than one right answer.  Good thinking on the part of the kids!  Next time I will make sure to use one color for each item!

Next, I wanted to use the “orange-mallow” demonstration I read about somewhere within the MtBoS (if you know who had this idea originally – let me know and I will give credit and link!)  The idea is you have oranges and marshmallows. You put three oranges in a bag and ask the kids how many oranges are in the bag. You take an orange out and repeat the question, etc.  You then add a marshmallow into the bag and ask again how many oranges are in the bag.  The kids instinctively keep the oranges and marshmallows separate – there’s no such thing as an orangemallow.  Then, throughout the year, when kids make a mistake with combining like terms, you can say “no orangemallows”. We have a very strict no food policy at my school.  Even though the kids would not be eating (or touching) the food, there is still a great deal of paperwork and red tape involved so oranges and marshmallows were out.  Instead, I used what I could find in my classroom – dice and these adorable mushroom erasers.


I added three dice to a bag and asked, “How many dice are in the bag?” I took once out and asked the same question. I put four dice in the bag and asked the question again. I then added a mushroom and asked the same question. One student said “six dice”. Another added “and one mushroom”.  Perfect! I then asked, “Why didn’t you say we have seven mush-dice, or mushy dice?” The kids were able to tell me the items were different – and made the connection to combining like terms.  However, they didn’t seem all that impressed with my demonstration.  Some almost seemed insulted.  I was somewhat disappointed.  Maybe it’s because the idea of combining like terms was not new? Maybe mushy dice isn’t as cute or funny as I thought? Was this a waste of class time?

Flash forward a week or so – we’re practicing solving equations with variables on both sides. Kids are asking me to check their work and inquiring why an answer isn’t correct.  I point out where they have combined terms that are not alike and say, “You have mushy dice”. I get smiles. I start to hear the students say “no mushy dice” as they check in with each other.  Maybe the demonstration wasn’t a total bust. 🙂


Fantasy Football, Part Two

I blogged here about the Fantasy Football activity from Yummy Math.

To prep for the next class, I chose 4 players for each of the positions we previously wrote equations for: quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and running back.  I pulled each player’s stats from Week 1 and created a table for each position. Here’s the quarterback table:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 7.58.35 PM

I posted the information to my website with these directions:

  • Each table group needs to come up with a team name.
  • There are 16 players available representing 4 positions.
  • You must draft one player per position.
  • Download the pdf below to see the stats for each player. All scores/stats are based on Week 1 of the 2015-2016 season.
  • Use the equations from the Fantasy Football activity to calculate the points associated with each player.
  • You will have 10 minutes in the “War Room” to strategize and plan your draft.
  • Teams will be called at random and given two minutes to make a selection.
  • The team who drafts the players with the highest combined fantasy points wins!
Another teacher came to my class to help me run this draft – he acted as the commissioner. He had pulled pictures of each player ahead of time and created a slide within a Powerpoint presentation as each group made their selection. Here’s an example:
Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 8.04.15 PM
This was much better than trying to record each pick on the board. Being super creative, he also quickly found theme music based on each group’s name!
To keep this math-focused, and to avoid a football fanatic having an advantage, each group had to state their draft pick and the total number of fantasy points based on the equation.
At the end of the draft, thanks to the commissioner, I had a completed Powerpoint with every pick – labeled with the appropriate group name and fantasy points.
Almost all my kids actively participated – it was loud, fun, and filled with math talk! Win!
Next time I will not let the kids pick their own groups. The kids who are football fanatics and currently play in fantasy leagues grouped themselves together. Prior football knowledge was only minimally helpful since I required each group to state the fantasy football points when drafting.  But next time I will ask if anyone in the class thinks of themselves as a fantasy football expert and I will place one in each group. I think spreading out the “experts” will help spread out the excitement.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was what to do if a group got the math wrong. Do they lose their pick? Do they have to take a zero for that round?  In the moment, I just had the group re-do the math.  A few of my kids suggested if a group makes a math error, that group gets the player with the least amount of points in whatever category they were trying to draft a player from.
As I mentioned before, I am doing this lesson/activity during “Flex”.  This group of kids will rotate to a different teacher next week.  I’ll see a new group of kids on Wednesday.  It looks like I will have three days with my new group. I will use the activity from Yummy Math on Day 1 and the draft described above on Day 3. I’ve got something else in the planning stages for Day 2!



Four Strikes and You’re Out

Several times a week I see one of my math class at the start of snack time. Because we are a 1:1 laptop school, I can’t have my kids use their computers while they eat snack. On these days I use something for a warm-up that encourages conversation and does not require technology use from the students. Sometimes I project a picture from Which One Doesn’t Belong, sometimes I pose a question, etc. I recently added Four Strikes and You’re Out from Marilyn Burns’ blog.  It’s a quick game that starts with guessing and quickly demands the use of number sense.  You start with a basic frame like this:

____ ____ +  ____ ____  = ____ ____      0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9

Students guess a number. If it’s part of the equation, I write in the number.  If not, I cross out the number from the list on the right.  Think Hangman but with numbers. Once there are a few numbers in the equation, kids start to reason through their guesses.  This sparks great conversation.  I tell the kids they are playing against me – this causes the kids to work together and explain their reasoning (MP3):

“No, don’t guess nine – it’s too big – look at the numbers in the one’s place!”

“It has to be five – see the zero?! 

“Can I come up to the board to explain?”

The kids are engaged (while noshing on delicious looking snacks) and talking about math – I call that a win!


Fantasy Football

My kids have a “Flex” period during the day which is used for different things.  Sometimes the class is used for remediation or extension, sometimes the minutes from the class are incorporated into other classes to lengthen them, sometimes the time is used for an assembly, a band/chorus rehearsal or a fitness class.

My school operates on trimesters – 60 days each. For this first trimester, my kids will have a fitness class every day during Flex for the second 30 days.  The schedule for the first 30 days is somewhat mixed up due to all the beginning of school activities – team building, opening assemblies, picture day, etc.  So my teammates and I decided we would use whatever Flex time we had during the first 30 days to design mini-units of something fun/interesting.  Something to incorporate the 4 C’s and/or 21st Century Skills. The kids are cycling through by home room, seeing each teacher for about 5 days.

One teacher is focusing on areas of history we never seem to get to – the Alamo, Battle of 1812. Another teacher is having the kids research a current event and put together a brief presentation for the class – the refugee crisis, Hilary and her emails, the Donald, etc.

I chose Fantasy Football. Yummy Math has a great activity designed to highlight the math behind the “game”.  From the Yummy Math website:

In the midst of another NFL season, we introduce students to Fantasy Football. Students first calculate football points given touchdowns, yardage gains and interceptions. They are then challenged to generalize an equation for that gives a player’s total fantasy points. Students solve equations as they try to find the number of passes, touchdowns, or interceptions that yield given point totals.  Students can also compete in their own fantasy football competition within the class.  This lesson is ideal for teachers that want to work on equations with their students or for a group of football fans.

The website has a kid-friendly introductory video to explain the basics: https://youtu.be/4Pm2pkxbYYU

I wish I could have captured the look on some of my kids’ faces when they saw a Fantasy football video projected on the screen.   “Sweet!”     “Are we really doing this?”    “No way!”

My kids were so into it – I think they were also somewhat surprised with my personal football knowledge. Although I am certainly not an expert, it’s difficult not to pick up on a few things with 10 years of marching band experience. Attending a Big XII school in Texas, well – football is king.  Hook ’em Horns!

I have one more day with this group. Two of the kids in my class are in a Fantasy Football league online and they are going to show the class their accounts.  I toyed with the idea of starting a classroom league but, understandably, the websites are blocked at school.  The Yummy Math activity has a section to track stats over the weekend but I made that optional considering it was a holiday. My idea is to pull the stats of 5 quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers from this weekend and hold a mini-draft in the classroom. Then have the kids use the actual player points and the scoring rules from the activity to determine the number of fantasy football points their “team” earned over the weekend.  Thoughts?


High Five Friday!

As people start to return to school, mentions of implementing “high fives” have been popping up all over Twitter. I think it stemmed from a sharing at #TWC15 (http://blog.mrwaddell.net/archives/1431).  My favorite quote might be, “How can you NOT be in a great mood getting 35 high fives several times a day, every day.”

I dubbed today “High Five Friday” and instead of greeting my kids with a high-five, I stood at the door as my kids left for lunch and high-fived each one of them. So many smiles and giggles –  one student even came back in the room so he could leave and get another high-five!  This was a great way to end class. I think next week I will greet my home room kids this way.

At some point at my school there was a rule made prohibiting high fives. I can’t remember why the rule was instituted (probably something about kids ‘high five-ing’ each other with more force than necessary) and I’m not sure if the ban is still in effect. We have a new principal starting this year who is very focal about creating connections with kids so I’m hopeful my implementation of “high fives” will be celebrated. 🙂