Math Groups 

I recently attended TMC17 and presented on setting up groups in a math classroom along with collaboration strategies. School starts back August 23 with students and I want to be prepared right from the start for group work.

I have groups of 4 desks placed together. On each desk is a Class Dojo monster with a letter. I will be using these as a way for students to know what job they will hold in their group for a week. These jobs will be posted on the board that will correspond with a monster at the desks. I am also going to use the monsters and letters as ways of having students talk and speak about problems with a partner. Lastly, the monsters will also tell students who have the exercise ball for the day.

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On each group of 4, I have a basket that has the following items in it: (pencils, pens, highlighters, erasers, notecards, cards explaining each job that a student will have for the week, and yellow cards for telling the teacher where their groups are on their learning for the day).

The yellow cards are cards that as students are working in their groups they can put up a card for when they need help, that they are done and have moved on, that they are stuck and so forth.

The orange cards inform students about their jobs (roles) for that day.

Here is a link to my job (task cards) for students. Job Cards

Here is the link for the yellow cards (I call them stand cards). Stand Cards

Now on to writing lesson plans for the first week of school.




I’ve been debating about writing this short blog for awhile. Do any of you feel guilty once school is out for the summer? You may ask what do I mean by that. 

Once school is out I feel really guilty if I just sit down and watch a TV show or do absolutely nothing. I feel like I have to be doing something all the time. It’s just this odd feeling and this summer it has been really bad and won’t leave. I feel if I sit down to work on school work or my presentation for TMC17 that I should be doing something outside or working on something in the house (since that gets put to the side during the school year and it’s nice out). Usually this feeling goes away after a few weeks in the summer but its been over a month and I am still feeling guilty! 

I know that to help the issue I could do a little of both each day but that is not even helping. 

Well, I better go find something else to do and get some kind of work done now. 


Fidget Spinner Activity

The school year ended with classes finishing our last unit with only a few days left and I couldn’t really start new material so, I thought why not try to find something that would incorporate fidget spinners.

I know that Teachers Pay Teachers is not the best place to find materials for the classroom but I found this activity, Fidget Spinner Spin-Off that sounded pretty good. I thought it would be a great hook for students in that they got to use fidget spinners and their phones as a stopwatch all in one class period.

I used this as a group activity of 3-4 students. I had the following roles for each group (spinner, timer, recorder, and keep on task). Students had to decide on one spinner to use and remember to use that spinner on both days (ended up that our first day of this activity was a shortened class day).

Students were recording how long their spinner would spin. Students first had to record information about their spinner and decide on how they were going to spin the spinner. They then had to decide on how many trials they were going to do. I learned real quickly in the first class that 20 trials would take way to long as we were seeing that some spinner spun for 3-4 minutes. (I was really surprised by this.) I also learned from the first class that I really needed to talk to students about what could and could not be done when spinning a spinner, like flicking it once and then flicking it again when it slowed down. Students had to only flick the spinner once when starting or twice right away, no flicks after that or blowing on the spinner to make it last longer. We talked about variables and how that could affect our data.

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In the end, we decided on 10 trials. After the trials were done students had to convert all their time into seconds and then make a bar graph of the data. I assumed students would remember what a bar graph was, don’t do that. We didn’t create bar graphs all year but line graphs so we had to review the difference.

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Students, then found the average/mean of their data, average/mean of their data without human error, and average/mean of their data without outliers. This meant that we needed to talk about what outliers were and what they meant.

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We then had a class discussion on what spinners they thought were the best for spinning the longest and why. We talked about what variables made the spinner spin longer or shorter too.

We were then out of time. I would really like to do this activity again with students but add another few days so that students could work in their groups and design their owe spinners on paper or in a 3D program. Then if I could get the 3D printer have students vote on what spinners should be printed and why and then print those.



Cover Up Activity by Frank Tapson

I love reading Sarah Carter’s blogs and getting wonderful ideas from her. She shared Cover Up by Frank Tapson a short time ago and I decided to use that activity in my classroom on the last day class day with students.

I started by modeling how to play the game with students. I had a board and the class had a board to cover up. We didn’t play a full game but played long enough so that they understood what was expected. Even though I modeled how to play the game and read through the directions with students there were still a few students in each class that said while they were playing, “We can do that?”. (Shaking my head) Thankfully other students around them said, “Yes, she told us that!” Thank you!!!

As students started to play they started asking:

“Can we add three numbers up and cover them up for the total on the dice?”

“Can we subtract numbers to get the total on the dice?”

Can we multiply numbers to get the total on the dice?”

I was so amazed that they were putting this much thought into an activity on the last day of real classes for the year that I was bummed that I didn’t do this activity earlier so that we could have some discussions on strategies and try different ways that we might change the rules to the activity.

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I am going to end this short blog by saying please try some the wonderful activities by Frank Tapson.


Solving Equations – Differentiated 

Student: Mrs. Martin when will the test be over solving equations?

Me: Why?

Student: Because I get this and I want to take the test already!!!

I have heard this from multiple students on multiple occasions in the last two weeks.

Many of us were only taught one way to solve equations. I was lucky enough to have been shown how to solve equations a few other ways a few years ago but a wonderful math consultant. 

One is what I call the cloud method because it looks like a cloud. I have had students call it the lip method because they thought it looked like lips and this year a few students have called it the butt method. (Remember I teach 7th graders) The top part of the cloud is just you re-writing the problem. The bottom part of the cloud is the inverse operation that you will be performing to solve the problem. 

The second method is what I called the ladder method because it reminds me of a ladder. You start by re-writing the problem doing down and then write the inverse operations that you will be performing going up to solve the problem.

The final method is the traditional method that we all learned which I called the step method. 

I find that most like the cloud, second is the ladder and a few will go with the traditional step method. 

We are just getting done with students having a 4 day weekend so I have made exit tickets to see what students remember for the coming week before we finally test over solving equations and inequalities. There is an exit ticket for each method so students just need to select the ticket with the method they use. 


Real World Math

I recently heard students in class talking about not wanting to attend their FCS rotation class for the day as they would be sewing. I hated to hear that but do understand that not all people love to sew just like not all people like sports.

I am one of those that likes to sew and thought I would share a little of the math that was involved in my latest sewing project.  This is also another way that I can show students how I use math in my everyday life. 

I recently made pillow beds for all my nieces and nephews for Christmas. The pattern or instructions for this project are pretty simple and entail that you can read a ruler. I read a blog that said that you could create a pillow bed for under $20. 

So, first stop was Walmart to purchase a twin flat sheet for $4.97 and five pillows for $2.37 each. I then ironed the twin sheet and layed it flat right side down on my dinning room table. Then you take one long side of the sheet and fold it in 19.5 inches. I eyeball this and then adjust using my ruler. You then move on to the other long side of the twin sheet and do the same thing folding in 19.5 inches. This then helps to create what will look like pillow shams, where the fabric over folds each other. From there I went to one end of the long folded sheet and measured in 19 inches and put pins down a line. I did this 4 times. I was then ready to go and sew. 

I sewed aong the line with the pins. This created the space where I would insert the pillows later. There is one final line that needs to be sewn and that it’s the end of the long bed pillow. I found that I pinned the line when I was done with all the other 4 lines. This then closes off the last insert for a pillow. 

When all the sewing is done it’s time to insert the 5 pillows. This can be a little bit of a challenge as the places where you are inserting each pillow is a little tight. Each place is like a little pillow sham. When you have all 5 pillows in you need to fluff the pillow bed and you are done. Your finished pillow bed should look like this. 

In the end the project cost me a total of $16.82 that does not include thread as I always have thread around.

As you can see my nieces and nephews really like the bed pillows. They used them as forts. Then even used them to go to bed each night while at grandma and grandpas. 


Scale Factor Candy Wrappers

My advanced 7th grade math class was at the end of their book, Stretching and Shrinking (CMP) and instead of having my students complete the normal book test I decided to have them complete a performance assessment. Performance assessments are something that my district is wanting teachers to incorporate in each unit if possible. The book Stretching and Shrinking has a unit project that involves having students enlarge or shrink a candy wrapper. So, I did a little research and looked on Pinterest to see what ideas teachers had posted there. The same idea of enlarging a candy wrapper was posted there.

I needed to wrap my head around this a little more so I talked things out with our art teacher, Mrs. Hart to get her take on this idea. The unit project and the Pinterest idea I found all said to have students draw a centimeter grid over their original wrappers and have them go from there. I didn’t want to use a centimeter grid so I wondered if I could tape the original wrappers on 1/4 inch grid paper and draw the lines through the copied papers. The art teacher, Mrs. Hart thought that sounded like a good idea. Below is what I started with. I decided to make 6 copies of each wrapper. 


From there I went ahead and wrote up some directions for this performance assessment/unit project for students. This is what I came up with. I then needed to decide on how many days I wanted to give students for this project. This class is longer than my other classes in that I get an extra 20 minutes or so with them. So they have about 65 minutes each day with students. At first I told students they would have Friday through Thursday to get their assessment/project done but ended up extending it one day. Two students needed the weekend to finish their work at home. So over all they had about 6-7 days to complete the assessment/project. 

I didn’t let students just chose which wrapper they got. I only made 6 copies of each wrapper and randomly drew students names to pick which wrapper they wanted. No one picked Air Heads and Mike Duds was the first one to go first. 

At first students were really excited about this assessment but as time went on they said, “Mrs. Martin you said this would be fun” they started to lose some of their enthusiasm but didn’t get upset about it. 

As students were working I did give them help if they asked and guided them back to their math binders to answer some of their questions. I was very happy with the conversations I heard between students while they were working and before they asked me for help they all asked their peers for help. 

While students were working I was walking around observing and taking notes. I noticed that only a few actually sat down and wrote out order pairs from the original wrapper. Most students just eyeballed where things went on their images. I heard students say, “This looks terrible”, “Can I change my scale factor”, “I’m a perfectionist so I can’t move on”. I saw students using a grid within a grid and some asked to use angle rulers. 

If I were to do this again I would expect students to find ordered pairs on their originals and show those to me before getting their grid paper to start drawing. I would also expect to see the new ordered pairs for the image. I would also restrict how large they could make their new image.

After students were finished this performance assessment I had them fill out a google form to give me some feedback on this performance assessment. All of them said that I need to do this again with students. Most of the students suggested that I restrict how large a student could enlarge their image. They also suggested that I allow students to bring in their own candy wrappers. 

Overall I am happy with how this performance assessment went. It did take longer to grade these than a normal test that I make. I also don’t like how much time it took out of class to get this performance assessment done so I need to look into that. 

This is what the final products look like. 


middle school math


middle school math

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