Tag Archives: mtbos challenge

Favorite math websites, blogs, and links



In the past year, my lesson plans and classroom activities have changed for the better!  The internet is chock-full of great ideas from creative teachers who are willing to put their ideas out there free for the taking.  I cannot say thank you enough to those teachers who have given my so many new activities, lessons, hooks, and more! I started a virtual filing cabinet on my site to keep all of these ideas organized and easily accessible.  As I read blogs, look at Pinterest, or communicate on Twitter, I am always linking ideas back to my virtual filing cabinet that I think will be helpful to me in my lesson planning.

One of the internet games that I have used this year that my 7th grade students love is Spider Match.  I had students get into groups of four and set up a private game on the site.  The object of the game is to find as many pairs of numbers whose sum is equal to the number in the square box in 60 seconds.  The challenge is to find them before your three opponents beat you to it.

I hope that at least one of these sites will help you as much as they have helped me.


Favorite Game


A favorite game for all of my students is the “Whiteboard Game”.  It is a game that I always use it the day before a test.  Teams are made upon the students in each row.  Every student gets a whiteboard, a dry-erase pen, and a paper towel.  I put a problem up on the board.  Students must work individually to solve the problem.  Students then raise their board so I can check the answers.  Once a board is up, the answer cannot be changed.  If everyone in the row gets the correct answer, the row gets a point.  The team with the most points at the end of class gets a piece of candy.  It’s amazing that students get very competitive, even though the prize is only a dum-dum lollipop.  I like it because I get to see if everyone is understanding the material.  It makes for a quick formative assessment.

Reflections on the First Week of School


Another first week of school under my belt!  I have already blogged about my first day of school here.  I was able to get all of the puzzle pieces up on a bulletin board.  Three students still have to hand in their pieces.  Students are already drawn to viewing what their classmates have put up.  It is great to have a small glimpse of what the students are like.


On Wednesday, the second day of school, I had my 8th graders work in groups of 3 – 4 students to do the Marshmallow Challenge.  This year, I noticed that a lot of groups had one idea and didn’t test it out until we were more than half way through the activity.  When they finally let go of their construction and it fell, they didn’t have enough time to try something else.  Or, they didn’t try to make changes to the structure, but tried the same idea again.  This made for great discussions afterward.  To introduce integers with my 7th graders, I had them do this internet activity.  For homework, I had them do the mathematical autobiography from Sarah Hagan.  Thank you, Sarah!  I loved reading the responses that I got!  I made this spreadsheet so that I can uses their responses throughout the year.

Thursday was a day to begin the first units with 8th graders and set up the interactive notebooks with 7th graders.  Eventually, I might make INB with 8th graders, but I have enough on my plate this year.

Friday (TGIF!) was a day to cover textbooks.  I want all textbooks covered first with a paper grocery bag and then with a book sock.  I find that the paper bag keeps the binding in better shape and the book sock keeps the paper bag from ripping.  It sounds like an easy task.  However, there are always quite a few students who have trouble following my one-step-at-a-time instructions.  I was exhausted after repeating the same steps for six different classes!  I found it was best to take one day out of the schedule to do this as a class.  Otherwise, some students never get their book covered and I end up covering way too many books because students don’t know how to cover a book (seriously?).

After reading 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, I tried to be more intentional in asking good questions to get the students thinking.  I waited longer for students to answer, I had students paraphrase other students’ answers, and I tried not to repeat a student’s answer.  I didn’t realized how many times I do that!  Eventually, I want students to talk more and carry the discussion.

Pictures of My Classroom and My First Day of Class


Today was my first day back to school!  This was the first year in which I didn’t feel as ready to begin school.  I usually have my room completed 2 – 3 weeks before school begins.  However, my room was cleaned last and it was’t finished until August 22.  At that point I needed to focus on getting my youngest daughter off to college.  We left on August 23 to bring her to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and returned on Tuesday, August 26.  Teacher meetings were on Wednesday and Thursday.  So, I was finally able to get into my room on Friday, August 29.  I got there at 7:30 am and left at 4 pm.  I felt some pressure to get everything accomplished and that always makes me feel uneasy.  

This morning I took some pictures of my classroom before the students came in.  Some of my bulletins are a work-in-progress. And I have left a few blank for student work to go up within the next week.


I try to keep my desk as organized as possible to keep my own sanity.  Since it’s the first day it still looks pretty good.


The view of the front of the room.  Every day I have a powerpoint slide on the tv screen telling students what we will be doing that day.


Above the door are the three different “bell” schedules for the week.  I guess I shouldn’t use the word bell since we do not have bells to begin or dismiss classes.


Here is one of the three bulletin boards that is a work in progress.  I got this idea from Matt Coaty and changed it a bit to meet my needs.  Today, I started out each class period with a quiz about me.  I put a question on the tv screen with four possible answers.  Students had to go to one of the four corners of the room that corresponded with the answer they thought was correct.  After they learned a bit about me, I told them that I wanted to learned a little about them.  For homework, I gave each student a piece of paper in the shape of a puzzle piece.  On the paper, they will have to put their name on it and four interesting/unique facts that they want me to know about them.  Tomorrow, when they hand them in, I will glue them onto the green paper to form a complete puzzle.


I found this poster idea this year, but I can’t remember where I found it.  Since all of my classroom rules fall under the category of respect, this fit in well.  So, after the four corners activity we discussed how to respect ourselves, others, supplies, and learning.


Next to the back wall is a bookcase where I keep extra math textbooks and student supplies.


The bulletin board at the back of the classroom has two empty sections for student work.  The middle section is Sarah Hagan’s mindset posters.  I started the day with only the fixed mindset sayings on the board.  After going over the classroom rules, I had the students get into groups of two and I gave them a set of the fixed mindset sayings along with the growth mindset sayings and I had the students match the sayings together.  Afterwards, we talked about having the right attitude for learning.


After school I stapled up the rest of the bulletin board.



This year I really want to be intentional about getting students to have a positive attitude about math, so I hung “This is a Positive Thinking Area” poster above the windows.

As a whole, I was pleased about how the day went. Students were engaged and were surprised at how fast the period went.  I hope that every day can bring those types of responses.

#MTBoS Challenge: Professional Books


This summer I was excited to read more professional math books.  However, the summer went by too quickly and I was only able to get through four books.  The key is to begin implementing some of these great ideas!

1. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is a great resource for hooks and different methods of engaging the students.

2. Powerful Problem Solving by Max Ray offers a lot of advice on how to help students become better problem solvers.

3. Implementing the Common Core State Standards through Mathematical Problem Solving (Grades 6 – 8) by Theresa Gurl, Alice Artzt, and Alan Sultan provides activities for each math standard for students to improve their problem solving skills.

4.  5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions by Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein gives useful strategies on how to promote good student discussions.

#MTBoS Challenge: 3-2-1


Since I’m still uncertain as to what I will be doing for the first 5 days of school, I decided to go with the 3-2-1 challenge.

3 professional development books that I enjoyed reading this summer:

1.   Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess

2.   Powerful Problem Solving by Max Ray

3.   Implementing the Common Core State Standards through Mathematical Problem Solving  (Grades 6 – 8) by Theresa Gurl, Alice Artzt, and Alan Sultan

2 things I’m excited about:

1.   Implementing new ideas that I read about in the above mentioned books.  I want to incorporate at least one rich task into each unit.  Books #2 & 3 gave great examples to start with and book #1 provided many ideas in how to make my lessons exciting and engaging.

2.   A new school year.  I always feel that a new school year begins with a clean slate.  I like to put past frustrations behind me and try to make this the best year possible.  A positive attitude is so important!

1 thing I’m nervous about:

1.  Falling back into my old ways when life gets overwhelming.  I’m excited about making changes to the way I teach, but when life gets busy, it’s easy to fall back on the familiar and comfortable instead of taking risks.