All posts by cindyflim


This year I am being more intentional about my warmups.  There are so many good things out there on the MTBoS, but I decided this year to focus on three specific areas.  The items that I am including in warmups are activities involving numeracy, workbook review, and what doesn’t belong.

In fact, as I create my lessons for the week, I am writing the warmups in my grade book so that I cover each topic at least once during the week.

1.  Numeracy:  When I think of numeracy, I think of adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, integers, decimals, fractions, order of operations, and the like.

I am starting out with Christian Lawson-Perfect’s 30 second challenges.  Rather than have students go on their chromebook, I take a snap short of the problem and put it up on my tv screen. Students work through the problem from left to right without regard to order of operations.  When they have an answer, they raise their hand so I can come over and check their answer.  I tell them it is correct or try again.

Also, I might start using Math Minutes.  I can print out the page and hand it to them as they walk in the classroom.  I will give them 3 – 5 minutes to complete the ten problems and then go over the answers as a class.

2.  Workbook Review:  In each of my classes, students have a workbook that is only used for DO NOWs and end of class review.  It is great to have access to specific problems that are similar to problems that they had for previous homework assignments or for homework assignments that night.  I can quickly pick a few problems from the page and have students work through them individually and have students put the work and the answers on the whiteboard before we go through them as a class.

3.  What Doesn’t Belong? I love this site started by Christopher Danielson!  In these types of problems, there is no right or wrong answer, but it is a great way for students to look for patterns.  It also leads to rich math discussions.  I give students one minute to think on their own about which expression, term, or number they think does not belong.  Then, I have students turn to their neighbor and discuss their answers.  Finally, we go over the answers as a whole class.  I encourage students to use proper mathematical terminology.  Students love, love, love to do these problems!  They are always asking when we will do it again.



Favorite Math Task

What is my favorite math task?  That is a hard question!  I like anything and everything that gets students out of their seats, working in groups, and keeps them excited and engaged.  One such activity that has been incredibly successful with my 7th Grade Algebra and 8th Grade Algebra students this year is 21st Century Math Projects’ Whodunnit –  Order of Operation Skill Building Class Activity.  There are ten order of operation problems of increasing difficulty that I copied, laminated, and hung around my classroom.

On each card is the problem and four possible answers, along with clues to help solve the murder mystery.  As students complete each problem, they can check off the players, last known whereabouts, and methods on the Whodunnit worksheet. The one remaining in each column is the solution.

All of my students are thoroughly enjoying this activity (they haven’t finished yet).  The problems are challenging and they want to figure out the solution.  This is definitely a keeper!


Emergency Sub Plans

I was very happy to see that this week’s topic was on emergency sub plans.  I have been wanting to update my folder for a long time and this gave me the incentive to do just that.  In the past I’ve had several different Math-O games (think math bingo) in there as well as FACEing Math pictures.


However, I think it would be easier on me and my sub if I used Math Minutes.


Then it wouldn’t matter which topics we’ve already covered and students would get a variety of practice.  Classroom management would be easy because all students should be quietly working on finishing the handout in the allotted time.  Students seem to be more focused when a timer is on.  Additionally, the directions are simple and there would be minimal direct instruction.  After the sub passes out the paper upside down to each student. the sub starts the timer and students have 3 minutes to complete the page.  The sub reviews the answers and then hands out the next sheet and repeats the process.

In addition to the Math Minute handouts, my folder includes my homeroom class list, fire drill instructions, and lock down instructions.  I have been fortunate that I have never had to use my emergency plan, but it is always better to be prepared.

Teacher Hack – First Days of School Notebook

This week’s Sunday Funday topic is on Teacher Hacks.  After 16 years of first days of school, this is the first year that I made a small notebook to organize my first days of teaching lessons.  Previously, I would put these lessons in the notebook of the first unit that I would teach.  Since I have five preps, that meant I was making five copies of this lesson and any handouts needed with it to go in each of the first unit notebooks.  What a waste of time and paper!  Each time I came up with a new idea for the first days, I would add it to the beginning of the first unit notebook.  The notebooks were getting bigger and bigger just for the different first day activities.  What was I thinking?!  Now I have one notebook that contains all of the lessons and activities that I have used to begin the school year.  Each year, I can choose from the many ideas I’ve already used or add another new idea without having to make additional copies for each class that I teach.  I guess an old dog can learn new tricks!  Hahaha!!

Classroom Organization

This week’s challenge is on organization.  I tend to see myself as an organized person, a trait I need to keep my sanity.  Here are a few of the ways that help my classroom run smoothly.


A shoe hanger is a great place to store calculators!  The calculators are numbered and every student gets a number at the beginning of the school year.  Any time we need to use the calculators, they must only use the number that was assigned to them.

Unit Binders:


I have a binder for each unit.  Each binder is broken down by lesson with all of the handouts and supplies needed for that lesson.  The lesson shows my powerpoint screen, followed by the common core standards associated with the lesson, and then what my lesson looks like.  I include questions that I want to ask, specific problems that I want to go over, handouts or worksheets that I want to use, workbook problems that I want students to try, and the homework assignment.  I have this binder open on my rolling cart during the class.  I keep a pen handy to jot down any ideas I might have at the end of class, so that I can make those changes for next year.

Absent work:

Whenever a student is absent, I make a copy of my notes and attach it to any handouts that we used in class and put it in the file folder attached to my desk.



I keep all of my supplies organized on the bookshelves so that students can access rulers, scissors, glue, markers, etc. whenever they need them.

I’m sure I have more organizational ideas, but that’s enough for now.

Classroom Management

I think I speak for most teachers when I say that behavior management is a topic that not many teachers want to think about, but all teachers have to deal with. We want students to enjoy coming to our classes and be engaged with the lessons so that we can do what we love to do, which is to teach math. Yet, in reality, not every student likes math and students come with all sorts of baggage that gets in the way of learning. Consequently, they act out. So what do we do? After 16 years of teaching, I wish I had a complete handle on this, but I don’t. What I do know is that when kids are acting out, learning is not going on. When students are sent out in the hall, learning is not going on. When students are sent to the principal or dean, learning is not going on. So, my goal is to keep students in the class and try to bring them back into focus. Usually, I try to handle small infractions while I teach.  If possible, I will walk over to a student who is not on task and tap his or her desk or shoulder while I continue with class discussion. If I have to, I will quietly tell him or her to focus again. My last resort is to have a student sit outside the door until I can have a short conversation with him or her.

I don’t like having a bunch of dos and don’ts for students to remember. Rather I have summed up my expectations in one word: RESPECT. Within the first few days of school, I explain what I mean by that. First, we need to respect others in the classroom. I want to keep a positive attitude in the class and I want the classroom to be a safe place to ask questions and make mistakes without classmates laughing at them. Second, we need to respect supplies. For that, I explain that students are to sit only on the chairs, not the desks, write only on their paper, not on other students’ papers or on the desks, take proper care of their textbook, and put supplies back where they found them. Finally, we need to respect learning. That means students need to come into class with a positive attitude, be prepared and ready to begin when they walk through the door, and bring the required materials to class.

And I try to be the first one to model these expectations. I try to walk in class with the right attitude, with the required materials ready.  I want to be an encourager and show them that all students can do math. Not every class goes as well as I expect it. But each day, I start with a clean slate and do my best by leading by example.

First Day of School Plans 2017

I thought I had the first day of school figured out.  Then I started reading the Sunday Funday blogs on everyone’s first day of school activities and now I’m not so sure what I will be doing.  There are so many great ideas, but there is not enough time to incorporate them all in those first few days.  Since my school doesn’t start until August 30, I have a bit of time to finalize my plans.

However, I do know that I don’t want to start with the rules and expectations on the class.  I want the first day to be doing math.  I like the idea of starting out with Sara Van Der Werf’s 100 Numbers to Get Students Talking.  After watching Thom Gish’s video, I think I will start out having the students use pencils just so that they don’t see the pattern of numbers right from the beginning.  I will probably do three rounds of this activity.  Then I will take out a big poster board and have each student answer the question, what does good group work in math look and sound like?  We will discuss this as a whole class and hang it up so that we can refer back to it throughout the year.  Finally, I will assign her daily practice ( I love her idea of calling it daily practice instead of homework!), What is Math?

Day two will run similar to Sara’s post entitled, What is Math? What do Mathematicians Do? Hopefully this will set the groundwork for what is expected in my class: collaborating with classmates, staying on task, noticing and wondering, and articulating your thoughts in written form.

Here’s to a great year!

Goals for 2017 – 2018

This challenge could not have come at a better time.  Every year, I start out with great intentions of blogging more and participating in weekly twitter chats.  And that lasts until the going gets tough, which is usually around the end of November.  Last year was no exception.  In fact, it was an especially rough year with five different preps.  This year will be no different with five different preps, but I’ve had the summer to relax and refresh and have some good “me” time.  Just reading everyone’s goals has inspired me to get back into #MTBos and try again. I’ve also loved hearing about #pushsend because frankly that is my biggest hurdle to blogging!  I can agonize over how to even begin a post and worry if it is blog-worthy.  So, here are my goals for 2017 – 2018:

  1. Blog at least twice a month even if I don’t have something “big” to blog about.
  2. Change my approach in my 7th grade math curriculum so that I spend less time with solving equations and more time with rational numbers, proportions, and probability and statistics.  This should give me ample ideas for blog posts.
  3. Complete a full year of posts on  #teach180.
  4. Continue to allow time for me every day.  This summer I went to the gym six days a week, read at least one chapter each day in a book not related to math, found new recipes to try, and spent quality time with my family.  I know I will have to cut back on the amount of time I have each day, but I don’t want to forget about this important aspect of my life.

Thanks for the support and for pushing me to be a better teacher!

Making Thinking Visible with a Card Sort

I am a firm believer that students need to practice math concepts again and again for them to become proficient.  Some students may need more practice than others, but everyone benefits from the review.  Worksheets are good when there is not a lot of time, but they can be quite boring!  However, give a student a pair of scissors and some glue and now they are engaged.  That is what I like about Jacquie’s Expanding and Simplifying Card Sort.  There are six problems for students to simplify using the distributive property and combining like terms.  The problems are similar enough that you must do the work to figure out the answers.  I wanted the pieces to be bigger so I retyped the problems in Keynote and put a border around each expression.  (Don’t worry,  I first purchased Jacquie’s set and I am not looking to sell my version.)


I thought this would be a great activity on a day that I wouldn’t be at school.  I gave instructions for the substitute teacher to read to the students, along  with all of the materials.  Unfortunately, students seemed to glue pieces in random order.  By just looking at the papers and not knowing what went on while I was away, I’m not sure if the students did not fully understand the directions or they just didn’t want to do the work.  I do not fault the substitute teacher or the students.  Rather it got me to thinking, what could I do better to keep all students accountable for actually doing the problems and for me to see the students thinking?

So, I re-ordered the cards on the handout so that the problems were in the first two rows, the middle steps were in the next two rows, and the final expressions were in the last two rows.

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Instead of giving students all of the pieces at the start, they would only be given the initial problems to cut out and glue on their paper.  Then they would have to work out the distributing and show me their work before getting the next set of cards.  Students would be able to check their answers when they cut and glued these cards underneath their work.  Finally, they would combine like terms and show me their final expressions before getting the last of the cards.

In the end, students still get to use the scissors and the glue.  However, I can quickly glance at each student’s work to see who understands the concepts and if not, where they are making mistakes.


Introduction to Combining Like Terms

Last week my 7th grade students looked at combining like terms.  As a visual introduction, I handed each student one of three different colored  “tickets” to a Giants game.  I presented the students with this scenario: “An anonymous donor bought tickets for the entire class to go to a Giants game.  Unfortunately, not all the seats are in the same area.”  I put a map of MetLife stadium on the board showing the different seating areas. The different colored tickets showed the seat number, level, and the price of the ticket.   Green tickets were seats in the upper level, yellow tickets were seats in the mezzanine level, and orange tickets were seats in the lower level.  After getting in groups of four, I had the the students find out how much the donor paid for all of the tickets.  Each group had to write their answer on a small whiteboard.  After about 4 minutes, I had each group put their whiteboard on the front ledge so that we could discuss it as a whole class.


The conversation went something like this:

Me:  What did the donor pay for all of the tickets?

Student: $4200.

Me:  How did you come up with that amount?

Student:  The oranges tickets cost $2400, the yellow tickets cost $1200, and the green tickets cost $600.

Me:  What do you mean?

Student:  There are 6 orange tickets, 4 yellow tickets, and 6 green tickets.  Orange tickets cost $400, so $400 times 6 is $2400.  Yellow tickets cost $300, so $300 times 4 is $1200.  Green tickets cost $100, so $100 times 6 is $600.

Me:  Why didn’t you just add the total number of tickets and multiply that number by $400? or 300? or $100?

Student:  Because the different colored tickets are worth different amounts.

Me:  So, why can you only combine the yellow tickets with other yellow tickets?

Student:  Because they are all worth the same amount.

Me:  And why can you only combine the green tickets with other green tickets?

Student:  Because they are all have the same value.

Me:  And what about the orange tickets?

Student: You can add the orange tickets together because they have the same value.

At this point I introduced combining like terms with variables and constants.  Each time a student tried to add something like 3x + 5 + 2x to get 10x, I reminded them of the different colored tickets.  For instance, the 3x and the 2x are like the green tickets and the 5 is like the yellow ticket.

After we worked on a few problems in our interactive notebook, students worked with a partner to play a Combining Like Terms Dice Activity.  I put stickers on a pair of wooden dice.  On one die were different coefficients (positive and negative)  with the variable x and on the other die were different coefficients (positive and negative) with the variable y.  Students had to roll the pair of dice twice and write down the terms in the squares on the handout and then combine like terms.  After completing four problems like this, they had to combine the answers of #1 and #2 together, and the answers for #3 and #4.

ctymsjdwgaiv37nPartners would work on the problems independently and then check answers with each other.  If they got different answers and could not agree, they could raise their hands to ask me for help.

After these two activities, I felt students were ready to tackle similar problems for homework.  I wish I could incorporate visuals and games with every new concept!

I would love to hear about anyone else’s way to introduce combining like terms.  Please share!