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. 🙂


One Good Thing

Every day may not be good, but there is one good thing in every day.

There is a collaborative blog within the MTBoS community for sharing and celebrating the good things that happen each day.  I think this is such a great idea, especially on those stressful, draining days.

A few years ago one of my students had this quote written on a bright green sticky-note on her computer. It stayed there the whole year. When I asked her about it she said it helped her get through math class – my math class! She told me the class was difficult but she loved the challenge and tried to find one thing she was proud of everyday.  This was an 8th grade student with maturity and poise beyond her years. At the end of the year, when she had to turn in her computer, she took the sticky-note off and headed toward the trash barrel. I asked her if I could keep it. It stays on my bulletin board to remind me to look for the good among the difficult and to remind me of this very wise student.


A Day in The Life… MTBoS #7

Clearly this is a very late submission… I found this in my drafts… written in March of 2014.  I’m not sure why I never published it.  Maybe I was planning to elaborate?  Who knows!  School is starting up soon and I’m attempting to re-boot my blog! 

5:15 Alarm goes off and hit snooze.

5:30 Roll out of bed, stumble to the shower … on the way to the bathroom stop to put eggs on the stove to boil.

After I’m showered and dressed (and more awake) I make breakfast sandwiches, coffee and lunch.  We leave the house no later than 6:30.

7:00 Arrive at school.

I unpack my bag, computer, lunch, etc and get ready for the day.  Today another teacher stops by for advice.  We chat for a little while and as she leaves my teammate come in and we go over our plans for the day.  I eat breakfast at my desk as I check email and update my website.

7:35 Kiddos start arriving for home room.

I greet the kids, ask about the hockey games, the basketball games, etc.  A few kids have questions about last night’s homework.

7:50 Pledge of Allegiance and announcements

Classes and meetings all day….

2:03 Students arrive for extra help.  Some are here just to do their homework, others have questions.

2:50 Kids pack up for the late bus.  I grab my painting clothes and head to the bathroom to change.   We’re in the middle of Tech Week.  I set up my sewing machine and greet one of the parent volunteers who has come to save me!  We work on the costumes until the kids go home at 5pm.  Once the kids are gone I crack open the paint.  I finish the last few painting projects and head home around 6:30.

7:15 Home

I eat dinner while I grade papers.


Head to bed to read for 15-20 minutes before I fall asleep.






MTBoS: Mission #5: Twitter Chatter, Subject Matter

This was the assignment:

  1. Write a blog post reflecting on your Twitter Chat experience.
  2. Tweet out your blog post. Include the hashtag for the chat you attended (#alg1chat) as well as the #MTBoS hashtag.

I sort of already did this last week (2nd blog post). Jumping back into Twitter has both re-invigorating and overwhelming.  I’m loving the chats – I’m new meeting new people and getting lots of great ideas.  I’ve found some great new blogs to read and it’s comforting to know there are others out there struggling with some of the same things I am.  Two chats are now in my calendar: #alg1chat and #msmathchat.

My new favorite find is the TweetDeck – thanks to Mission 5 and @jreulbach.  With the TweetDeck I am able to follow my own feed and multiple chats at once.  I can follow a chat and post without closing out of the chat.  Perfect!

As part of the Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere I have started this blog.  In some ways I’ve added more pressure and one more thing to my ever-growing, never diminishing to-do list.  🙂  I’m curious to learn how some of my favorite teacher-bloggers find/make the time to create such thoughtful and informative posts.


MTBoS Mission #2: Twitter Me This

I joined Twitter about a year ago and used it sporadically.  With the launch of Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere I have decided to re-immerse myself in the experience.

Tonight I participated in my first “chat” —–> #alg1chat.  It was very exciting and a little overwhelming!  People were very welcoming.  The amount of information flying through 140 characters at a time was impressive!

In about an hour I learned about:

I also found more math teachers to follow on Twitter and more math blogs to read!  Looking forward to participating next week!