Thursday, September 23, 2010

Across the Hall

This idea is from the Algebra 2 teacher across the hall from my classroom. I will call her "Kerry." "Kerry" is teaching systemsof linear inequalities in her Algebra 2 classes. To answer the question, "When am I ever going to use this?", "Kerry" had her students solve a real-world problem using systems of linear inequalities. What a great way to include real world examples!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

As requested

I had a request for more Distributive Property Poster examples. These posters are from the two other math teachers in our department that also did the project. I only have one Algebra 1 class, so these teachers had a lot more posters than I did. Hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Few New Things

Our math department has totally redone our curriculum. The four of us have implemented new activities, new projects, new assessments, etc. One thing that I incorporated this year was the Word Wall. I read about the Word Wall in a book by Tom DeRosa. In my geometry class, the students are required to make a math dictionary using notecards and a loose leaf ring. The students write the important terms from the lesson on the notecards. The loose leaf rings allow the students to put their notecards in alphabetical order at the end of the lesson. Every Wednesday, the students have a quiz in which they define one word from the word wall. The students are not allowed to define a term they have already defined. So far, "Word Wall Wednesday" as I call it, is going well! The Word Wall also helps add some decoration to my classroom.

I also wanted to share this Distribution Property Poster project that we used in Algebra 1. The idea came from another teacher in our mathematics department who got the idea from a former co-worker. Here are the instructions and an example. If you are wondering, those are blue and orange cylinders. Most of the students had good ideas for the posters and several of them were able to show their artistic side, which I also love to see!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I have this obsession...

So, I have a little bit of an obsession with the color pink. If it made sense, I would have everything I own be a shade of pink. Unfortunately, that isn't possible so I settled for the important things in my classroom. The #1 rule in my classroom is, "If it's pink, don't touch it. It's mine." You name it, I have it in pink. Stapler, hole punch, tape dispenser, pencil sharpener, file folders, binders, bookcase, storage containers, and stackable file holders to name just a few items.

This year, I decided to branch out a little bit. I incorporated blue and green into my classroom. The blue and green items are things the students are allowed to use. Buying the blue and green items actually turned out to be fun! I have really enjoyed putting together my classroom this year. Everyone I teach with will also tell you that my room is organized! They can't believe it when they walk into my room. I'm quite proud of my room so I thought I would share! All of the blue and green items were purchased at Wal-Mart. I LOVE back to school time!

Although this doesn't exactly match the color scheme, I couldn't resist this mat! I keep it outside my classroom door. The students think it's so funny! I found it at Kohl's.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's about Time!

As you probably have noticed, it's been a LONG time since my last post. School work and graduate school work just got too much in the way!

Our math department has implemented some new teaching methods this year. It's been a little hectic. We have redone our curriculum, reordering topics and subdividing the topics into targets and units instead of sections and chapters. We have also included more activities in a lesson than we had previously. I incorporate several Brain Break activities in a unit. I also now require my students to keep a "math dictionary." The math dictionary consists of notecards, all hole punched, and kept together with a binder ring. The notecards included theorems, postulates, definitions, and other important information from the targets. The binder ring allows the students to keep the cards in alphabetical order. My goal for the dictionary is that the students will consult the dictionary to remember key terms and steps rather than automatically asking me (this also helps because we do not use a textbook). All of these changes have made a lot more planning than normal. I have to say, however, that things are going rather well! The students seem to enjoy the notecards and the activities that we do. I have also noticed how quickly the time passes in class and because of this, there also seems to be less discipline issues so far.

So, after a long absence, I hope to be back sharing the experiences of my new year. Thus far, it seems like it is going to be great!

If you are looking for great ideas for the beginning days of a school year, check out Miss Calculates blog!

Friday, April 9, 2010

They Do Like Math!

I've blogged about the Magic Cards that I use to tell the kids that I'm Psychic. I have done this "trick" for a while in my classes and constantly the kids are asking me how I am able to tell them their number. I thought that the kids probably stopped thinking about it after a few days, but the other day, a student asked me about it again! I couldn't believe that he was still trying to figure it out after several weeks! He asked if each card had a value. I said yes. He then asked if a yes was worth more than a no. I told him, well, in a way. This was sufficient enough for the time. I was just so happy that he was continuing to think about the problem. Eventually, I think he'll figure it out. Especially if he stumbles across my blog! I'm just always glad when a student finds something we've done in class interesting enough to continue thinking about it even when it has been a while since we've discussed it. Maybe they really do like math...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review Games

I have been trying to get away from using worksheets for reviewing a topic. As I mentioned in other posts, I love playing games. I was excited when I saw that Sequence had come out with a new version of their game, Sequence Numbers. I love the original game Sequence, so I knew that the new game would be great to use in class! Using the same board from the Sequence game, I adapted the cards to meet my curriculum. So far I have made cards for solving one-step equations, area of polygons, and exponent rules. I made a game board for my SMARTBoard and used an infinite cloner to make chips. I also have game boards so that the students can play in groups of 3. My Algebra 1 class loves to play as a group using the SMARTBoard.

For more information on the Sequence Numbers game.

I am Psychic

I love to do this activity at the beginning of the school year. I tell the students that I am psychic and can "read" what number they are thinking of between 1 and 31 using these special "Magic Cards." I have the students think of a number and while scrolling through the cards, the students tell me whether or not their number is on the card (with a simple yes or no). Once I have gone through all the cards, I am able to tell the students their number. The students are amazed by this and think it is so cool! What they don't know is that it is so easy to do! All you have to do is add the number in the upper left hand corner of all the cards that the students say yes to. The Magic Cards work thanks to base 2. The students answering "yes" is similar to switching on and off in binary code. Try it out! Your students will love it!

In the past, I have used construction paper to make the cards. This year, I have a SMARTBoard, so I made this powerpoint: Magic Cards

Saturday, March 13, 2010

We have Spirit, Yes We Do....

The past few years, our math department has done a fundraiser for Mu Alpha Theta. To raise money for the club, we sell "Math Pep Club" T-Shirts (this year we also sold Hooded Sweatshirts). You would think these would not be a popular item, but each year we sell over 200 shirts (this is almost half of the student body!). The students seem to absolutely love these shirts! Here is the back of this year's shirt (Above the graph has the school name and mascot):

For Pi Day this year, the kids wanted to order shirts. Here's what they ordered:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quite Impressed!

Many of you may be aware of this "trick," but I thought I'd pass this along:

I like to "amaze" my students with my mad mathemagician skills. One way that I do this is with Pythagorean Triples. I have the students give me any odd number, and I can tell them two other numbers that satisfy the Pythagorean Theorem with the original odd number (the original odd number is the shortest leg of the right triangle). I did this "trick" with my advanced geometry class and of course, they wanted to know how I was able to do it. I don't tell them for quite some time. I let them try to figure out how I am able to quickly find two other numbers, with few calculations. After a while, I let the class in on my little secret. They asked me if I could do the trick with even numbers, and I told them that I did not know a trick for even numbers. Well, today, one of my advanced geometry students said that they had found a way to do a similar trick using an even number. We tried his trick and it worked! Every time! I was so impressed with him and his thinking process to figure out the trick for even numbers. Here's the trick:

Take any odd number. Square the odd number. Divide by two. Add 0.5 to the quotient. Subtract 0.5 from the quotient. The sum and difference of 0.5 and the quotient are the two other integers that satisfy the Pythagorean Theorem. Example: Take 11. Square it: 121. Divide by 2: 60.5. The other two integers that satisfy the Pythagorean Theorem with 11 are 60 and 61. So, 11, 60, and 61 is a Pythagorean Triple.

Take any even number. Square the even number. Divide by four. Add 1 to the quotient. Subtract 1 from the quotient. The sum and difference of 1 and the quotient are the two other integers that satisfy the Pythagorean Theorem. Example: Take 8. Square it: 64. Divide by four: 16. Add 1: 17. Subtract 1: 15. So, 8, 15, and 17 is a Pythagorean Triple.

Pretty cool, huh? It also lead to an interesting conversation in class as to why the square of every even number is divisible by 4. I just love it when a student finds math interesting and wants to do math outside the classroom!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Our math department has been using the individual white boards in our classrooms for the past couple of years. I really like using the boards, but found it to be a bit of a hassle to pass them out and have the students get markers and erasers. This hassle was the main reason that I did not utilize the whiteboards in my classroom as much as I should. That's why I made these:

I used velcro to stick the eraser and marker to the whiteboard. The whiteboards are kept under the students' desks so that they are ready to use whenever needed. At the beginning and the end of each hour, the students check to make sure that they have both an eraser and a marker. The students were told that it is their responsibility to check for these items. If an item is missing, it's the responsibility of the student that sat in the seat the previous hour. So far, it seems to be working. Guess we'll see.....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Surface Area

I thought I would try a "hands-on" approach to teaching the surface area of cylinders today. So, last night, I go to to store and buy all things that are packaged in cylinders (Pringles, Slim Jims, Raisins, Fried Onions, packets of Crystal Light, etc.). During my geometry classes, I had the students come up and grab a cylinder and ask them to find the surface area of the cylinder using any of the provided tools (scissors, string, scotch tape, string, and a tape measure). Some of the tools I put out just for fun to see what the kids would do with them. I discussed with the students that surface area is the area of the surfaces of the figure. I then asked them, using their cylinders, what figures we would need to take the areas of to find the surface area of the cylinder. I also told them that the cylinders they were using were not "precious memories" to me and that if I didn't get them back in the exact shape I gave them out, it would be okay. I hoped that with this statement, the students might get the idea to cut the cylinder to separate the "middle part" (as they were calling it) from the two circles. I thought they might see this early on, but no. Some of the kids were wrapping the tape measure around and around and around the cylinder to find the surface area. Others were taking actual measurements. These kids were at least trying out their idea! Finally, one student decides to cut the rectangle from the two circles. When the other students saw this, they started cutting their cylinder the same way. After a few minutes, I hang the parts of the cylinder (in this case it was a Pringles can) using magnets so that the students can see the three distinct parts to the cylinder. First, I ask, "What figures do you see?" Students: "2 circles and a rectangle." Great! So, we have to find the area of these three figures. How do you find the area of a circle? Students: Pi times the radius squared. Excellent! How do you find the area of the 2nd circle? One student even replied, "The same way, so 2 pi radius squared." What a reply! Then the tough part: the area of the rectangle. I asked the students, "How do you find the area of a rectangle?" Students: Base times height. At this point, I thought we were on a roll. Now, the big question, "What is the base?" Students: The base of the rectangle. It's what we multiply by the height." Finally, a girl in the back says, "It's the circumference of the circle." YES!!!! After all of this, we were able to get the formula for surface area of a cylinder!

Was it great? Maybe. A lot of kids enjoyed trying to find the surface area of the cylinders I had brought to class. Some of them just like cutting them up. Next time, I want to have cylinders for every student. Guess I better start eating Pringles now.

For surface area of a sphere, I did this activity. I think the students enjoyed this activity more than the previous cylinder one. It was very interesting and I recommend trying it in your classroom!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Place Value Game

I forgot to post this game with the other games I mentioned earlier. The Place Value game is quick game to play in class and doesn't require expensive game pieces to play. It only requires one 10-sided dice (or the use of a 10-sided dice on an interactive white board). The goal of the game is to be the team that either produces the highest number or the lowest number, so there are two winning teams each game. To play, divide the class into teams. Next, designate an area on the chalkboard for each team's number. Whenever I play this game, each team is creating a number in the millions, so I write 7 blanks (including commas) on the board for each team. Each team takes turns rolling the dice. The team then tells the teacher, using the correct place value, where to place the number. For example, if a team rolls a 9, the team might tell the teacher to put the 9 in the millions place or the tens place, and so on. By doing this, students are practicing place value and number sense. The only catch is that 0 cannot be placed in the millions UNLESS it is the last roll. Play continues until every team has completed their number and again, the team with the highest number and the team with the lowest number wins. Another way to play this game is using decimals instead of millions. A spin on the game might be to have the teams decide if they are going to pursue the largest number of the smallest number.

This game was given to me by my high school mathematics teacher, who also happens to be my father. Being a high school math teacher myself, he has become a great resource!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why I love Blogs!

My student teacher introduced me to blogging several months ago. Since then, I have become a follower of several blogs on teaching mathematics. I have learned so much from these blogs and also have gained so many new ideas that I have tried, and loved, in my classroom.

Elissa, my former student teacher, is doing such an awesome job in her first year of teaching! I have learned so much from her, both during and after her student teaching. Several weeks ago, she posted about having her students create Facebook pages for famous mathematicians. I loved this so much, I had my senior statistics class do this. I told them that they could be creative, and a bit silly, but they had to include factual information in the About Me and include the mathematicians major contributions to mathematics. They also made me a Facebook Profile. Apparently, part of my job is deciding who is cool and who is not. I also am captain of a Murderball team. Whatever that is.

Today, while reading Kate Nowak's blog, she mentioned an article titled, "Building a Better Teacher" that appeared in the New York Times. What a great article! Not only that, the online version included several example videos of other teachers teaching that were fantastic and offered me some great ideas. Kate's blog also has some great ideas for group work, worksheets, and much more on her blog. I read her blog everyday for new ideas. It's great!

I also have been following the blog, I Want to Teach Forever. This blog is also a great resource for any mathematics teacher. In today's "Five for Friday," Mr. D posted a link for 10 Things to Do When You Only Have 5 Minutes Left in Class. So many great ideas in this post! I'm always looking for things to do in those last 5 minutes of class. I especially love the Toilet Paper Game. How fun!

I LOVE Games!!

I love playing games and I love playing them in my classroom! Whether to review or use to increase critical thinking skills, number sense, etc., games have a huge place in my classroom. Some of my students' favorite games include Pentago, Blokus, SET, and Racko.

With Pentago, the goal is to get 5 marbles in a row. The catch is that after your turn, you have to rotate one of the four playing areas on the board. What a great way to further study rotations! There is also an online version of this game. Great for an interactive whiteboard! Below, a picture of my students playing Pentago.

Blokus is a game where students place Tetris-like blocks on a game board. Students practice reflection and rotation to place their game pieces so that they may continue to play while
their opponents from continuing play. The game is available in two player and four player. There is an online version of this game as well that, too works well with an interactive whiteboard! iTunes has an application similar to Blokus called Kibosh. This is one of my students' favorite games!

The goal of Racko is to place your 10 cards in sequential order, but watch out! Prime cards mix up the game by allowing other players to switch any two of your cards, switch one card with you, or to take multiple turns. Great for number sense! Would also make a great game to adapt to include negative numbers! My seniors LOVE this game and always ask to play it!

The game SET is a personal favorite game of mine. I have this game on my cell phone and my iPod Touch. I also play this game everyday to try and beat my personal time on the SET Game website. The website includes a brief description of the game (a much better description that I could give). There is also an online-version of this game that my students absolutely love playing on my interactive whiteboard. Below is a student playing the online version of the game using my IWB.

There is also a SET Cubed version which is a Scrabble type version of the original game. It really takes the original SET game to a whole new level!

Blink! If you have never played this game, you should! The rules are simple enough: match cards based on color, shape, or the number of shapes on the card, but you have to be FAST! This game takes just minutes to play. My students absolutely love to play this game. It's great for all ages and all levels.

Another personal favorite of mine is the game PrimePak. PrimePak has several different types of card games that you can play with the deck. My favorite is Rummy. Like Rummy, with PrimePak you are looking for runs, but instead you have a composite number and a "run" consists of other composite numbers and/or primes that are factors of the composite number. Helps with multiplication facts and factors. Great game! Hope to post a picture soon!

24 games are a great way to review basic facts and much more. There are several different varieties of the 24 game. The object of 24 is make the numbers on the cards equal 24 by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. Great for practicing the order of operations! My favorite 24 game is the variable version where the students must find the missing number that makes both "rings" equal 24. My students love this game, even the ones who think they aren't good at math!