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. 

Flare up

I feel like I need to say hi as its been awhile since I have blogged about anything. School started and life got a lot busier so blogging was put on the back burner. 

I have been managing my fibromyalgia pretty well and the weather has been pretty warm so I have not had any major flare ups until this weekend. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had mini flare ups this fall as I have but they have been minor compared to the one that I am having this weekend. 

I have found that sometimes instead of getting sinus infection or the flu I get a major fibro flare up. I’m not really sure which I would prefer to have, none really but that’s not life. 

Anyway this weekends flare up started yesterday while Tim and I were out trying to get the last major part of Christmas shopping done. It started with a minor headache and just having the fibro fog. Then last night the headache turned to where I couldn’t have any lights on so I was in bed by 7:30 and didn’t get up till 8:30 this morning. The headache is gone but the pain in the upper half of my body is insane. Like normal it’s starting in my arms, and neck. It will probably be in my back by tomorrow with lingering pain in my arms and will move into my legs by Tuesday. At least that is usually what happens. 

I hate this as I don’t think I will make tonight’s Turkey Shoot at church and tomorrow I will cringe at work whenever someone comes near hoping that they don’t try to hug me or touch my arms or back. 

Just typing this blog is a chore taking me time to write with mini breaks to rest my hands and arms. Thankfully my son is great at helping out around the house when I can’t do much. Tim is too asking what needs to be done and taking on extra duties. I was really wanting to get some things sewn today for Christmas presents but I guess that will have to wait until next weekend. 

More later



I am really struggling with what I believe about giving homework or not giving homework right now. 

I have read a lot of Twitter conversations about homework and some blogs. I have always believed that students need practice in math that is outside of the classroom. I have never believed in assigning 1-30 problems to students but a few problems as meaningful practice.

This is what I commonly hear from parents since Common Core has come out, “I don’t know how to do this math anymore. The math I see my child doing in middle is math I did in high school. I can’t help them at home anymore.” I totally get that but the work that I have always assigned is work that students should already know how to do. I try to never send home work that is new to students. 

The majority of my students around 75% do their homework the first time assigned. 

I am also a parent of a struggling child who sees how homework affects our lives at home and wonder if it’s the same for some of my students. Do you my students parents find that it’s a struggle to get their child to do my assigned homework? Is it stressing out their family life? Is is not allowing the student and family to have time together at home? 

These are all the questions that are going through my mind right now. Along with more that I just can’t remember right off hand. 

We will be starting our fourth week of school tomorrow and for the first time in my teaching career I have only assigned homework twice so far. 

One new thing that I have done is given two exit tickets to students in class. 

I am throwing around the idea of giving more exit tickets this year than homework. The one obstacle that I am trying to get around is finding enough to time in class for students to complete the exit ticket. It’s not that the exit ticket is too long (so far 4 questions on one). I teach using Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) and I am lucky if I can get through one lesson in one class period. I need more class time (even 10-15 minutes would be GREAT). 

So this is what I am thinking. I will try to continue with exit tickets given every couple of days. I will also need to make sure that I plan time for students to complete the exit ticket during a 5-10 minute period in class. I want to then use the information I get from the exit ticket to call students in for more one on one help with topics they haven’t fully grasped. 

I would love to hear feedback from people on their ideas for homework and about giving homework. I would also love to hear feedback about my idea for homework this year. 


First Week Back = PD

This week we had three days of PD. I was pretty surprised with how much time we were given to work in our rooms. 

First Day:

The day began with the mandatory teacher meetings which took up most of the morning. Then we had our union meeting. Did I say that I am co-president this year for my local teacher union? If going back to school was not enough stress I also have to deal with this but at least I have a great partner in crime working with me on it. We then had the afternoon to work in our rooms. 

Second Day:

This was a full day of meetings. To get more funding in Iowa schools pretty much had to create a teacher leadership program that is where TAP comes into play. This is our first year implementing TAP so we spent the morning learning about it as a district. The school board then provided lunch for us. (Thanks) After that we had building meetings to see how TAP would work in our buildings. It all comes down to having a master teacher observing us, then a mentor teacher and finally our princpal. Along with that we will have cluster meetings where we will work on implementing strategies in our classrooms. Over all it was a pretty stress free day.

Third Day: 

Our final day this week was yesterday and we started out by having the morning to work in our rooms. I worked on getting all my student Chromebooks plugged in. Then worked on some computer work. I went to lunch with two great friends/coworkers. After that we had building meetings. The first meeting was making sure everyone knew how to set up their grade book which was easy! Then we moved into curriculum groups to review Iowa Assessment data, the grading rubric for SBG and discussion on how we are going to work with students in need of assistance (those that didn’t score high on Iowa Asssessments). This was all fine. There was one thing that did make this afternoon very stressful and is still on my mind today but I can’t share it now. 

We have one more day of PD on Monday and then students start Tuesday. 



middle school math


middle school math

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