Category Archives: mtbos challenge


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


This summer I read Making Thinking Visible and I am in the process of reading Creating Cultures of Thinking, both written by Ron Ritchhart. In the first chapter of Creating a Culture of Thinking, Ritchhart compares schools in the past (emphasis on rote learning and tests/grades) with what schools could become (emphasis on a culture of thinking). As I was reading about schools in the past, I could totally relate with it because that was how I was taught. And, I was okay with that. I didn’t know any better and I loved school! When I began teaching, I taught the only way I knew and felt that I was doing a good job.  Well…thank goodness for great research, books, conferences, Twitter, and the MTBoS!

“Learning is a consequence of thinking.” In his book, Making Thinking Visible, Ritchhart gives an extensive list of ways to visualize student learning. Not all of the ways will fit in my math class, but it made me more aware of the fact that I have to make student thinking visible. Even though there are many great ideas, Ritchhart cautions about making too many changes all at once. It is better to start with a few new ideas and have students get familiar with those routines so that they improve their responses, rather than not understanding what you are trying to accomplish and giving shallow responses.

I know that I need more writing and conversations to take place in my classroom. So, I set out to look at my 7th grade curriculum and evaluate what I am already doing and where I can make changes, even small ones, to get students engaged, not just passive participants in their learning.

To start, I needed a visual of what my units looked like. To make it easy, I printed off a blank monthly calendar and wrote in activities, assignments, quizzes, etc. for the first four units. Then, I color-coded each activity to see the common elements.

As I started this evaluation, I knew right away that I needed to make changes. On a sticky note, I started to write items that I wanted to incorporate into my lesson planning. This post-it sat next to me as I reviewed each lesson. Rather than scrapping everything I’ve used in the past, I revised pieces of lessons. Sometimes it only required a tweaking of my line of questioning; other times I made an activity to get the students to answer the questions instead of using direct instruction. In this way all students would be engaged in the inquiry rather than only a few.

FullSizeRender-2 FullSizeRender IMG_1926 IMG_1929

In a few days I get to put these changes up for the test. Bring it on! I will blog about the changes and the outcomes. More tweaking might be needed, but it is a start. Here’s to a great year!

20 Facts You May Not Know About Me


I’m jumping on the band wagon and writing about 20 facts you may not know about me:

  1. My favorite food is pizza.  I love to read about and try different doughs and toppings.  For my 50th birthday, I received a Weber grill and a KettlePizza insert.
  2. I have been married for 29 years to a Canadian.
  3. I have four children:  Rebecca (28 yrs. old), Rachel (26 yrs. old), Michael (24 yrs. old), and Hannah (20 yrs. old).
  4. I teach at the same school that my mother, my children, and I attended.
  5. Math is my second degree and career.  I have a B.A.  in Criminal Justice and I worked as a litigation paralegal.
  6. Several years ago I went skydiving and it was a blast!
  7. My favorite color is red.
  8. My husband and I love to camp.  Last year we downsized to a smaller pop-up camper but upgraded to one with a refrigerator.  No more coolers with everything floating in the melting ice!
  9. My husband and I are getting into wine tasting.  Whenever we go on vacation, we check out at least one local winery.  Last summer, we camped (see # 7) in the Finger Lakes area and visited some wineries on the Cayuga and Seneca wine trails.
  10. Currently, my daughter, Hannah, and I are hooked on Covert Affairs.  We have watched three seasons already this summer and we hope to finish season four before she goes back to college next week.
  11. Another show that I like to watch is Fixer Upper.  Can Chip and Joanna Gaines come and renovate my house?!
  12. My favorite season is Fall.  I love the colors of the leaves and the cooler weather.
  13. Most of my school wardrobe is black, gray, and maroon.  In that way I can mix and match the pants, capris, shirts, cardigans, and scarves to make my wardrobe look bigger than it really is.
  14. I began playing the violin in first grade.  I don’t play it as much as I would like, but occasionally I will play for church.
  15. I love to cook (and eat)!  When I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can usually find me in the kitchen making more food than we can possibly eat.
  16. I try to get to the gym three or four times each week (see #15).   I think I read that if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit.  Well, after four years of going to the gym, I still have to push myself to go.
  17. I was born on Friday the 13th.  No, I am not superstitious!
  18. My favorite number is 13.
  19. If I had the choice between doing a Suduko or a crossword puzzle I would choose the crossword puzzle.  Is that weird for a math teacher?
  20. I’ve lived in four different states:  New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Montana.