I am ready to welcome students to my classroom next week with a piece of chart paper where they can sign in to being a part of Room 302 this year. (I’m glad to welcome you virtually to my room. Feel free to sign in using the comments.)

The interactive whiteboard moved to a new wall! It was a great time to revision the room. But it also left an unsightly area on the wall painted a different color. I partially covered the area with a reminder of vertical and horizontal. Amazing how hard these words can be to remember.

I now actually have less whiteboard space than before. I moved learning goals, homework, and test notices to a magnetic chalkboard. I purchased a set of CCSS cards from Carson Dellosa that slip right into the magnetic holders from Lakeshore Learning. This area is near the door and easy to see from every location in the room.

This year, I want to focus more on the Mathematical Practices. To remind me and to help students understand them, I posted a set I found on TeachersPayTeachers with the important information.

I’ve also posted a chart for classroom jobs. I need the students to do more to keep our environment workable; plug in the Chromebooks, put the materials away, and help handle the papers.

To help tame the paper dragon, I am using my turn-in boxes I got for 90% off at the Container Store last spring. I love them because when they are empty, they appear to glow. To help students that are absent, one of the classroom jobs will be to place a paper in the appropriate folder on the bulletin board.

The “back wall” of the room is where all the “mathy” resources are posted, a word wall for 7th grade and 8th grade math, hints to the math that is invisible, and a poster for YouCubed.org.

Also by the 8th grade word wall, I have place a student supply area. One of the classroom jobs will be to see that all the calculators are returned to their appropriate slots and that **10** teacher pencils are sharpened and returned at the end of class. I purchased a classroom electric pencil sharpener that is supposed to be quiet. Let’s hope as I hate when students try to sharpen pencils during class discussions.

In my guerrilla efforts to make math cool, I have put a few posters outside my room. The “bluish” ones have quotes about math. They were free from MapleSoft. Others highlighting how math is used in everyday life and the work of women in the field of mathematics were provided by the American Mathematics Society.

Finally, my favorite addition is “How to be a Math Person.” 1) Do some math 2) Be a person. This image is available for free on TeachersPayTeachers. I printed it using Staples online print services for color blueprints for just $2.99. It was a bargain.

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One of the easier ways to make a worksheet into a game is **Connect – 4**. It requires 16 questions with unique answers; no two question can have the same solution.

Using a 4×4 table, I copied 16 questions directly from a worksheet into individual cells. These become the “task cards” to solve before covering one of your squares.

Then in another 4×4 table, I put the solutions to each question, scramble the order and make 2 more answer cards. (Two examples below.) I am sure there is an algorithm to ensure there is no combination that will result in two winners at the same time, but I just randomly moved the numbers around.

Students were put into groups of 3 and played for 30 min. Since every solution is an answer square on every card, the students all need to solve each question and everyone covers something on each turn.

If you would like to try this game with your class, click here for Google Doc.

]]>To help students see a “term”, identify like terms, regroup like terms, and then combine them, I used the “Join the Club” cards from Illuminations. I enlarged them by 125% and printed them on yellow card stock. This was about 20 minutes to copy and cut 10 sets of cards.

In pairs, students drew 5 cards and recorded them in order on a work space I provided. Click here for the work sheet. The sheet had a box to record the term on each card. By using the cards and boxes, students were better able to see each term.

Then the student rearranged the cards to group the x-variable, y-variable, and constant terms. Even the most writing resistant students, rewrote the expression with the like terms grouped. That was a pleasant surprise to the workspace set-up.

Once the terms were grouped, students were able to practice their operations with integers and combine the like terms. Throughout, I modeled the use of vocabulary, using term, like-term, and constant.

The most important part of this activity was every student was actively participation and engaged.

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*Examples of topics to use this game*:

- Converting between fractions, decimals, percents
- Switching between roots and squares
- Complementary or Supplementary angle pairs
- Continuously adding -2 or multiplying by -2 (or any other number)
- Slope of a parallel line
- Practicing state capitals
- Conjugating verbs in foreign language class

Once you have selected a topic, you will need about 9 basic questions to start. For my example, I will choose finding the supplementary angle. Click here for file.

First divide your paper into thirds vertically. At the top of each column write an angle measure, so let’s just choose to could by 10s, so 10, 20, 30 … until I get to 90-degrees. For the first few times you play this game, you should also make horizontal lines to indicate where to put their answers.

Then make copies, so you’ll have enough for each student to have 1/3 of a sheet to start. Cut them into thirds and you’re ready to go. **Easy prep! **

**How to play**: (*Teacher tip*…practice passing the papers without any writing until you see they can do this without thinking. It might take 5, 6 or even 10 times.)

- Look at the angle measure at the top of your sheet.
- On the next line, write the supplementary angle.
- Then fold the original angle to the back of your paper, so only your answer can be seen.
- Pass the paper according to the pattern you practiced.
- The next person, writes the supplementary angle, and folds back the angle above.

After you have passed the papers about 10 times, stop and have the students unfold their paper. It should reveal a repeating pattern.

For instance:

Original Angle: 30-degrees

150-degrees

30-degrees

150-degrees

And so on down the page

If there are any that do not repeat, such as my jokers who started with 50, but wrote 69, so the next answer was 111, then 69, then 111, you can talk about why there was an error. I called this a judgement error. Sometimes there are math errors or misunderstandings to correct.

Most importantly, it takes a boring repetitive task and turns it into a fun fast based group activity.

]]>First, I had to clear out the room. There were several teachers worth of stored and stuffed things, 2 VHS players, textbooks from 15 years ago, you get the idea. This was too much of a task for one year! This will be ongoing.

In the process, I uncovered a shoe holder, that will double nicely for holding some “essentials.” A pencil, a pen, a calculator, a multiplication chart and an reminder for solving equations. I have numbered the pockets. Each student will receive a number that will be associated with their pocket. They will also use this same number for getting and storing their Chromebook from a cart and their workbook from the rack shown further below.

The picture also shows the mistakes posters from Sarah Carter’s Math = Love blog. ** **I plan to display student mistakes that highlight common misconceptions on this bulletin board. Think “My Favorite No” but as a bulletin board.

One of the challenges with middle school students is remembering to bring all their materials. As luck would have it, I found a travel agent downsizing his office on Craigslist. He sold me a spinning brochure rack that we’ll use to store our workbooks.

Next, after taking the Mathematical Mindsets course from YouCubed.org this summer, I reflected on the students’ comments about freedom. They commented how they were free to get whatever supplies they needed. This year, I repurposed an organizer from our former playroom to make supplies available. My co-teacher loved this idea!

In case you were getting the impression that I am very organized here is my system for storing all the activities I make is pictured below. All my card sorts, board games, file folder games, integer cards, etc. were in a one draw in a filing cabinet. They have moved to a box that I rummage through when I want them. Hopefully, someone will post a great tip to organize these things.

Lastly, the stupid cellphones, spinners, flipping bottles and other annoying things will all be located on one table near the door. The purple distractions box is from a post I can’t find now. I loved that the teacher has them practice placing things in the box with a smile on their face at the beginning of the year. Please deposit your cellphone, Cheetos, 1/4 full single use water bottle, etc. at the door. If I need to ask you, please place it with a smile!

The sign-out sheet is in a notebook with a pen attached to a leash from Amazon. I have had the same pen for almost a year. It never gets lost! You can replace it with ANY pen that fits a standard cap. Having this in a notebook is essential for when they come to collect the sheets to determine who might have been in the bathroom when something happened. (Why is it always the bathroom?)

Here are other picture of my room.

Students start school on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. They will be the real test of if these organizing strategies work!

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Students always ask, “*Is this the right answer*?” of “Did I do this right?” If I respond, “Yes,” their thinking is over. They have found the answer, their work is over and now they can forget about it.

My response to their question, “Is this the right answer?” is usually **“Are you sure that’s correct?”** When they answer my question, I am able to hear them walk me through how they got their answer and at what point they feel they may or may not have understood. From there, I can either affirm what they know or help them to modify any misconceptions.

Trust me, my students complain that they asked me the question. I should not answer them with a question. They accuse me of making everything a riddle. They insist that I should just tell them if they are correct. But I don’t!

I want my students to be confident in their answers because they can defend them with reasoned explanations. When they can do this task, there will be no reason to ask me, “Is this the right answer?” They will already know the answer is correct.

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Not having jelly beans on hand, I put 195 unifix cubes in a container that had been hanging around in a back closet.

My students were excited to find this “game” as their warm-up activity first thing on a Friday morning. In under 3 minutes they all had their guesses written on an index card for me to review. I was somewhat gleeful that all but one guess below the actual number of cubes.

Then I asked them to calculate the difference between their estimate and the actual number of cubes. (We were able to preview that vocabulary word, difference, as the expressions and equations unit is coming up next.)

Then I started a number line with 195 in the middle, indicating it had a zero difference. 195-195=0. We started to record their guesses, -61, -103, … then came -98. Where does -98 go on the number line? As we went through each guess, determining which negative integer was larger allowed me to assess who had mastered this concept and who still needed some work. Finally we got to the one person that over-estimated with 400 and a positive 205 difference.

The students could tell the estimate of 165 with a difference of -30 was the closest to zero. It had the smallest distance from zero.

Then the connection was made, absolute value measures distance from zero. It’s not an abstract concept only found in math homework, it’s something we use!

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A post about my favorite thing is impossible! I love many things; how could I pick just one?

Kakooma by Greg Tang

My middle school students labor over multiplication facts. They count on their fingers or reference a multiplication chart. While both of these methods can be effective, not knowing the relationships between numbers make other math tasks laborious (think fractions, ratios, roots, etc.)

We are currently working on the easy multiplication pentagon puzzles from a printed Kakooma book I picked up at a used book store. Students are beginning to recognize the fact families that make up the 12 x 12 multiplication chart. Even more importantly, they are persisting in trying different combinations to find the solution to the puzzle.

One bonus to our current puzzle, I get to say pentagon and 5-sides over and over. Hopefully by the time their geometry unit rolls around, they’ll know a pentagon from a hexagon.

Like Kakooma, these puzzles appear simple but challenge students to persist and use algebraic thinking. KenKen puzzles are available on-line or through a weekly e-mail newsletter.

Depending on the level of difficulty, these puzzled work with the four basic operations. They also play like Sudok, in that each number can only be used once per row or column. Students must find the combination of numbers will combine to make the necessary sum, difference, product or quotient.

Learning to plot points in the 4 quadrant plain can be tedious not to mention boring. The on-line game Game Over Gopher teaches the skills for plotting (CCSS 6.NS.C.6) in a way that students want to keep practicing at home.

Students become caught up in the game, the forget they are practicing placing points at specific coordinates. To advance in the game, they must become adept at quickly moving to the correct location.

By far, this game is one of my most requested games to play.

What are some of your favorite things?

]]>I have been challenged this week to write about one good thing. Fortunately this one is easy.

As part of my job as the Math Intervention teacher, I get the opportunity to go into other teachers classrooms. For 6th grade, this means once a week, we divide the students into 4 small groups with 3 groups getting direct instruction with the teacher. Our 4th station is for computer learning, either a game or a practice questions on-line specific to the unit.

What makes this the one good thing? The students love this day! When I go into the room the are excited because they know it means small groups. It means manipulatives and movement.

This week I was reminded how important this day is for students when on boy asked the special education co-teacher when it would be station day again. Knowing this one student was looking forward to stations day made it special for me too.

What did we do? Walked the number line using masking tape number lines created by the students. Students started a zero and moved positive 5. Then they stepped 5 in the negative direction. They answered the questions, “Where are you now?” The repeated several of these additive inverse walking activities. One by one they started to notice, they always ended at zero. Then they started to predict, if I walk negative 4, I need to walk positive 4 to get back to zero.

By breaking into a small group, we could let students discover additive inverses for themselves using their minds and their feet. They were engaged in their learning. That makes it my one good thing.

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```Walking the number line to find additive inverses. We always end a 0! #Teach180 @deblucey @JoanneMaino1 #MTBoS pic.twitter.com/7vU09pr9Xc

— Michelle Bailey (@MichelleBinMA) January 9, 2016

For more pictures of my classroom, follow me on Twitter @MichelleBinMA.

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