Thursday, December 30, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - Start... Stop... Continue... in 2022


Start... Stop... Continue... in 2022

This prompt has been one of my favorites for years.  What are 3 things you want to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing in the new year?

In 2022, I want to START:
  • Building a Love for Mathematics - As you've seen in the previous posts, I really want to start thinking about those weird and wacky math things that made me enjoy math beyond the "must-teach standards" and dry procedures.  
  • Getting out into the community -  As an introvert, this one is going to be REALLY difficult for me, but now that I live a short distance from my school, I want to do more to be involved in evening activities.
  • Focusing on healthy habits -  I got into some bad habits with my eating and exercising during the pandemic and that needs to change.  I know what to do, but stress and other issues kept me from caring enough to do it.  Now that I'm mentally and emotionally in a better place, it's time for me to focus more on my physical health.  

In 2022, I want to STOP:
  • The Teaching Rut -  I'll be the first to admit that my classroom has reverted back to the "sit and take notes" classroom of my earlier years.  There's a variety of reasons for this, but I need a shot in the arm to get out of the habit.  I've signed up for some PD in January that will hopefully help, plus much of my reading this break has been with this eye toward breaking out of my rut.
  • Focusing on what I cannot change -  This one will be tough for me, but sometimes I need to learn to redirect my focus to the 99 things that are going well and stop stressing about the 1 thing that isn't.  In the classroom, it's really hard to accept that I can't reach every student.  That won't stop me from trying, but I need to learn that it's not all on me either.

In 2022, I want to CONTINUE:
  • Celebrating Birthdays -  This has been one of those small pleasures this year that both the kids and I look forward to!  It's a little thing, but it helps show that I care about them as a person.
  • #EduRead -   This year, I've spent a LOT of time with my Kindle, but in the New Year, I want to get back to reading some professional books on how to better reach my students.  Feel free to share any recommendation!  (Same with podcasts)
  • Connecting with others -  From our monthly #MathTeachCollab meet-ups to a mini-vacay with friends, one thing we've learned in the pandemic is about how important those connections are.  It helps to know you aren't alone and there are others that can provide some great advice and a sympathetic ear.

What do you want to Start / Stop / Continue in 2022?

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - Challenges of Teaching in 2021


Challenges of Teaching in 2021

Talk to any teacher right now and you'll hear variations on the same story - teaching is difficult right now.  Every day, there are articles about teachers quitting midyear or about schools shifting to remote learning for a day or two because of the substitute or bus driver shortage.  I know that I am luckier than most as my school as yet to shift to remote learning this year and I've only had to give up my planning period once this year due to a sub shortage.  

Some of these challenges we anticipated - record numbers of teachers quit after the 2020-2021 school year, so many districts went into the year at a deficit.  We knew from last year that it was difficult to find subs and bus drivers as those populations tend to be at a higher risk of COVID due to age or other health issues.  We knew there would be learning gaps from the disruptions of the past 18 months.  But, I think it was the unanticipated issues that really got us...

  • Classroom Management
    This one is a biggie!  I've never had huge issues with classroom management - I've always believed that most classroom management issues were related to lack of organization and routine, a lack of knowing expectations, and a lack of a solid instructional plan.  This year proved me wrong.  Now granted, I've never had an entire day of freshman and sophomores, but one thing I realized this year is how important it is to learn how to be with other people.  I've never had to say things like "keep your hands and feet to yourself" or "don't throw things across the room" to high school students.  While I know some of these issues come from students trying to cover up academic gaps, most of it is just from the toll of 18 months of limited social interaction.  

  • Technology
    In 2020-2021, we all recognized the importance of technology.  Believe me, I was so grateful for Desmos, Loom, and other tech tools to help me make it from day to day.  But in 2021, I wasn't prepared for the level of (for lack of a better word) addiction to technology.  The students are almost conditioned to open up their Chromebook each day, even if we aren't using it and anytime there's even a pause, they grab their cell phones.  Don't get me wrong - I know plenty of adults who do that too (even me at times), but I didn't anticipate the need for the constant redirection of when technology use is appropriate.  However, on the flip side, I over-assumed (is that a word?) that students would be proficient at looking at our LMS to see what they missed.  This is something that I need to do a better job of in the future - teaching them HOW to use the LMS and stay caught up when they are absent.

  • Re-learning how to Teach and Learn
    I anticipated SOME of this issue, but not to the extent that actually has occurred.  When setting up my room last summer, I was so excited to have kids back in groups, to be able to move around the room.  But I went into it with the idea of jumping back to 2019 without adequate preparation on my part.  It was like getting my "sea legs" again - how could I prepare lessons that would capture their (very short) attention?  In thinking about the 2021 school year, I hadn't prepared enough for teaching students how to take notes again, transitioning between activities, or keeping them on task.  

One of the things I've loved about the monthly #MathTeachCollab meetings is knowing that I'm not alone.  I know these issues are not isolated to me or my classroom - they are issues that every teacher across the nation is facing, regardless of location, regardless of grade level, regardless of years of experience.  I'm very grateful that I'm not an entry year teacher trying to navigate these challenges and I'm also grateful that I have an amazing and supportive administration that helps any way they can.  

But on January 3, when we head back to our classrooms, we have another opportunity to start semi-fresh.  Our students will have had 2 weeks off and it will be on us to re-train them regarding our classroom expectations and structures.  One thing I love about teaching is that we get these chances to start fresh each year and partially each semester.  If something didn't work 1st hour, then retool it for 2nd hour.  Don't like how that flow went?  Great - make a note and change it next year!  We have a similar chance in January as we re-acclimate to the classroom.

Make it a great day or not.... the choice is YOURS!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - Building a Love for Mathematics


Building a Love for Mathematics

Technically, I think this topic still falls under "Something I want to Try in 2022", but it also ties back to my Math Bookshelf post, plus it's just a Sunday rambling, so take it as a combo of all of those! 

As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite places to shop is at a used bookstore.  I never know what gem I might find and it's just that "thrill of the hunt" that keeps me going!  During our Winter Break, while we were out finishing up some shopping, I talked hubby into stopping at one of our local Goodwill stores that tends to have a pretty good book / teacher section.  

One of the books I walked away with for my Math Bookshelf, was "50 Mathematical Ideas" for $1.50.  I mean - who could turn that down??

Yesterday was Christmas Day, so we loaded up the car with gifts for my in-laws and set off for their house, which is about a 30 minute drive away.  I never go anywhere without a book, so I took this book along for the ride.  I didn't make it very far though, because the Introduction caught me and I just had to share an excerpt with hubby (and now with you!).  Those few sentences took over the rest of our drive and again sparked something that I've been wanting to try.

Here's the excerpt:
"... Of course, school mathematics is a different thing, often taught with an eye to examinations.  The time pressure of school does not help either, for mathematics is a subject where there is no merit in being fast.  People need time to allow the ideas to sink in.  Some of the greatest mathematicians have been painfully slow as they strove to understand the deep concepts of their subject."

This started us on a conversation about speed in mathematical computation, but then led us to some of the topics in the book - things that aren't traditionally taught in school mathematics such as fractals and the four-color problem.  Ideas that truly show the grace and beauty of mathematics versus the dry standards that make up "school mathematics".  Now, don't get me wrong - I understand that a solid foundation is necessary for many of these ideas, but how often are we able to just let our minds wander, to be creative with mathematics, and explore what it means to be a mathematician?  Instead, we ask our students to solve a problem written by someone else that has a right answer and then we repeat that for 180 days.

I've been looking back and trying to think - when did I first learn about Pascal's Triangle?  Or the Mobius Strip?  When did I start to see math as more than a collection of procedures?  I know from previous conversations with hubby that his struggle with school math was this lack of connection.  He believed that each chapter / topic / course was this separate thing to be learned and never figured out how they related to each other.  He's a computer programmer, but he'll be the first to tell you that school math didn't make sense to him, even though he uses math and logic every day in programming.

One of the things I want to try in 2022 is to develop some way to showcase some of these non-traditional math topics.  I don't quite know how to fit it all in - do I take a day every month to do something a-typical?  Can I start an after school "math club"?  What topics should be covered?  Will this idea totally flop?  Will I have the stamina to keep it up when classroom responsibilities seem heavy?  Does something like this already exist?

Ultimately the question comes down to this... what can I do to spark mathematical curiosity in my students beyond procedures and algorithms?   How can I help them see past "school math" and into the beauty that truly is the study of mathematics?  


Friday, December 24, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - Something I Still Want to Try...


Something I Still Want to Try This Year...

This year has been a huge time of change for me.  Beyond just changing schools, I also went from teaching juniors and seniors to teaching freshman and sophomores.  To be honest, this is the first year in my career that I've ever taught freshman!  I also changed from teaching elective classes to teaching Geometry all day, which brings its own set of challenges!

Like most of the #MTBoS, one of the books I read this past spring / summer was Building Thinking Classrooms.  I had first been introduced to Peter Liljedahl's work with Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) and Visible Random Grouping (VRG) back at TMC14, so when his book came out this past year, it was definitely on my must-read list.  

If you are looking for a professional read, this is definitely one I recommend!  The book is very readable and walks you through the research that Peter did around the 14 strategies in the book.  When I first read the book in the spring, I was enthralled with the idea of the Thinking Classroom and having my students up on the boards.  I had used whiteboards regularly until COVID protocols prevented us from shared supplies and I was so eager to get back to using them regularly!  I listed to podcasts, participated in book chats and Zoom meetings, and joined the Facebook group.  I was researching curricular and non-curricular tasks.  I read the book a second time and took detailed notes.

I won a set of Wipebook flipcharts on a giveaway and excitedly mounted them to my classroom walls.  I was ready - bring on the new school year!!

Then, reality hit.  Here I am, in a new school, teaching underclassmen, teaching Geometry all day, learning a new system, and I just couldn't do it (YET).  

The toll of the 2020-2021 school year hit me like a ton of bricks.  Issues I didn't anticipate prevented me from having the courage and energy to try the BTC model.  I knew I was at a disadvantage as the "new teacher" because I had lost the luxury of having a reputation with my admin and the community.  But what I didn't realize was that learning how to teach in-person again would be such a challenge.  I was dealing with classroom management issues unlike any I'd dealt with before.  There were gaps of knowledge from the disrupted learning of the past 1.5 years that at times felt unsurmountable. 

So I decided to put my BTC goals on the backburner for a while and focus on building the relationship and trust that I needed with my students.  While I'm not proud of it, I had to promote some "mimicking" behaviors to help students re-learn how to be students again.  For many of them, they felt "on their own" last year and I needed to get them to trust me that I would always have their best interests at heart.  I also needed this time to learn the ropes of a new system, to realign my expectations to my reality, to re-learn how to teach and engage students.  

At the beginning of the year, I felt like I was running around the room constantly as kiddos screamed my name for help / attention.  But as our classroom community grew, the kiddos were better about turning to each other rather than straight to me.  They got better about pulling out their whiteboards to do their work rather than trying to do it all in their heads.  As our relationships have developed and students are used to being in a classroom again, some of the management issues have decreased (thankfully!)

BTC is still something I want to try, although I'll be honest that I'm still not sure what it would look like in a Geometry class.  I'm still not 100% positive how to "thin-slice" the curriculum in a way that makes sense and promotes thinking.  I still have some kiddos that just have personalities that cannot be together.  I don't know how well my own personality will do with the chaos of having kids around the classroom all hour.  But like everything, it's about baby steps, so I want to try to get the kiddos up on the boards at least once or twice in January and we'll go from there.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - A book I read in 2021


A Book I Read in 2021...

If you know anything about me, you know I LOVE to read.  When we travelled as a kid, my suitcase usually had more books than clothes.  Even now, when going on a roadtrip, I usually take a book or two in my bag.  My tablet is used almost exclusively for the Kindle app and used bookstores are one of my favorite places to go.

I'm definitely a fan of "beach reads" - those novels that keep your interest but don't require much thinking, but I do enjoy reading professional books and nonfiction as well.  I've been on the lookout for books that I could use for my "Math Bookshelf" but would also provide some interesting stories for class...

Earlier this year, when I ran across Humble Pi by Matt Parker on Kindle for only $1.99, I snapped it up.  Sadly, it's no longer at that price, but I would still recommend the book for anyone looking for interesting math mistakes and I plan to add it to my used bookstore shopping list to get a physical copy.

I liked that I could read a chapter or two, then step away from the book without losing continuity.  More times than not, I found myself reading excerpts to hubby, especially ones that dealt with computer programming or video games, since those are his interests.  

One of the stories in the book is one that I had learned about this past summer while researching fun facts for my classroom about the USS Yorktown shutting down after a dividing by zero error.  Mathematically, I know you can't divide by zero and that it would give an error, but what I didn't know is what is going on at that time in the computer's brain.  Humble Pi explained about the idea of division as repeated subtraction and the continually subtracting zero would create this never ending loop and eventually an overflow error which shut down the system - How cool is that!

But honestly, it was the end of the book that really got me and I had to screenshot a paragraph to share...

As a math teacher, we often hear about how our brain grows when we make mistakes, but what we don't do well is really talk about those mistakes - we shove them under the rug and hope no one notices.  In Humble Pi, Mr. Parker talks about some of the big mistakes - bridges that collapsed, the O-ring failure with the Challenger, errors in unit conversion - but we all make mistakes and we can all learn FROM mistakes.  

In the quote above, there are a couple of posters that I want to make for my classroom.  I want to help my students see the beauty of math, the challenge, that with perseverance, they can achieve great things.  I want them to question and explore the "what if" questions.  I want to move beyond the state standards that say they have to learn the Triangle Congruence theorems and move into the big ideas of WHY we need a solid foundation in mathematics.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the look at how important math is to our world and how a slight change can alter the mathematics significantly.  Humble Pi is definitely a book that I will refer back to on a regular basis with its story-telling nature and compelling mathematics.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - Spreading the Joy of Reading


Something New I Tried - Math Bookshelf

Sometimes I have these ideas that work out super well in my head, but maybe not so much in real-life.  Earlier this summer, I shared about the Puzzle and Play Corner and overall, that is working REALLY well!

It took a while, but overall, I like how this corner turned out.  I have one young man who makes it his mission each week to figure out the puzzle of the week, even getting his work done early so he can work on the puzzle.  Other kiddos beeline over on Mondays to read that week's joke.  Others are quick to pick up a marker and add to the Mental Math board, including some kiddos last week that I don't even have in class!

But the windowsill is still a work in progress.

Right now, it's decorated for the holidays and I love how the "fireplace" turned out, but I know soon it will be time to turn it back over to the math bookshelf and I'm not quite sure how to make my vision work better.

I love to read.  Last year, a friend of mine was working on a math elective class for her school using books and literature related to math to spark math discussions.  I loved this idea and tried to figure out how I could use it in my classroom.

I decided that I could display various math books in the windowsill, hoping that my student readers might be drawn to them.  I know I had never really thought of math related books / novels, so why not?

I started out with some books I had gathered along the way, mostly statistics books, like The Lady Tasting Tea and some children's books, like Sir Cumference and Math Curse, then started scouring used bookstores and eBay looking for other titles that sounded interesting.  I've gotten books such as Math Curse and the Number Devil as well as various puzzle books.  I would eventually like to have enough that I can rotate them out regularly but I don't really know how to market them in a way to spark curiosity in my students.  

Do you have any great book recommendations for my collection?  
Any ideas on how to get students to be interested in the books?

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - A Success Story


A Success Story from 2021...

It only took me 23 years of teaching, but I have FINALLY found a way to recognize student birthdays that isn't really difficult for me!

For years, I've been secretly jealous of those teachers who could keep up with a birthday bulletin board or some other method to recognize student birthdays, but I've just never been that person - until now!

This summer, I had found these "positive affirmation" pencils in the Target Dollar Spot and bought 15 packs with the idea of hopefully doing birthday pencils (and hopefully not failing like every previous time I had tried to do birthday things!)

As part of one of this summer's #Made4Math posts, I made these little flags with some free clipart and a cute font and printed them on colored paper.  

Then, I set about to make this user friendly - I printed off enough flags to make it through the semester and cut them out.  I put the supplies in a "Birthday Pencil" tub right inside my closet and I printed off a monthly calendar.  Just before school started, I went through and wrote every student's name on the calendar on their birthday.  This calendar is on my desk in a clear folder so I can see the current month at all times.  Having everything ready to go was key to making this work for me.

Each Friday afternoon, I get my birthday pencil tub out of my closet where I have all of the pencils and pre-cut flags stored and I make the following week's pencils (and right now, the half-birthday pencils too for my summer birthdays).  On the back of the flag, I write the student's name, a Happy Birthday greeting, the date of their birthday / half-birthday, and the hour they are in and stack them on top of the calendar in order of the week.  That way, they are always on my desk as a visual reminder to give them out.

Overall, the kids have loved getting a little gift on their birthday and it's been a super easy way to show the kiddos that I care about them.  

Sunday, December 19, 2021

#MTBoSYuleBlog - Merry Math-mas!

Blogging challenges are typically fun for me, but it also gives me some "analysis paralysis"!  Since I haven't blogged at all this year, I have so many things that I want to share, but then when I sit down to actually write about it, my mind goes completely blank!  

Merry Math-mas 2021

This year has been kind of crazy, starting with me resigning my job in the Spring after 21 years with my district and starting a new job in a much smaller district.  There are challenges with starting over, of course, but one of the best features is that I get to teach with a good friend of mine!  In early November, we were texting back and forth and the idea of Math-mas was born!

We challenged the students to create math-related ornaments and can I just say that I was totally blown away by their creativity!

We presented the challenge to the students before Thanksgiving and they could turn in their ornaments anytime from Dec 1 to Dec 10.  The only requirement was that it had to be math-related and it had to be able to be hung on the tree like a traditional ornament.

To encourage participation, we gave the students 5 extra credit points on their semester final, plus we had prizes for the top 3 as chosen by the Math Department as well as the Principal and Superintendent awards.  We ended up with just over 100 submissions (out of approximately 800 students overall) and choosing our top 3 was soooo difficult!  We had ornaments made out of wood, paper, resin, yarn, clay, plastic canvas - you name it, we had it!  

While I didn't get photos of all of my favorites, here are some of them...

  • Pythagoras - This student hand-drew a portrait of Pythagoras and then wrote the Pythagorean Theorem on the back
  • Pi - Pi was probably the most popular ornament theme with several playing on the "pie" idea
  • Cardinal - This is our school mascot and the student included lots of math-y things they had learned this year!
  • 2/1 - This one is hard to see some of the detail, but there are even "square root" birds flying around!
  • Classroom - The detail in this ornament was amazing and ended up winning 1st place.  There were students sitting in desks and a teacher teaching some Algebra at the board, complete with a "Math is Fun!" poster on the wall
  • Ugly Sweater - This one just brought a smile to my face every time I saw it! 

Overall, I think it was a success!  The students enjoyed looking at the various ornaments that were added each day and I can't wait to see what they do next year!  

Saturday, December 18, 2021

2021 #MTBoS12days "Yule Blog" Challenge

Winter Break has arrived!  This year has brought about a LOT of changes as I changed schools and spent time re-learning how to teach in person, so I definitely want to take some time to reflect on this year and hopefully get back into a blogging habit!

Your challenge... if you choose to accept it... is to blog 12 times over your Winter Break.  There are prompts listed below, but don't feel like you have to blog in this order or even use the prompts at all!  You'll also notice that there are more than 12 prompts - that's in case you want to combine some or if you don't like one or more of them!  But again, the prompts are only there as a suggestion when you don't know what else to blog about! :)

Please share your post with us in the comments or via Twitter using the hashtag #MTBoSYuleBlog - we can't wait to read your reflections on 2021!!

  • A success story from 2021...
  • A challenge I faced in 2021...
  • My favorites of 2021...  (lesson, activity, tool, strategy, memory, anything)
  • How to build student relationships / SEL needs...
  • Something unexpected that I faced / learned...
  • Something new I tried (or still want to try) this year...
  • Start / Stop / Continue in 2022...
  • A tool or strategy from 2021 that I will continue to use in the future...
  • 3 good things from 2021...
  • A look back at my professional growth in 2021...
  • What I learned in 2021...
  • My favorite lesson of 2021.... or one that totally flopped...
  • Intervention strategies for helping the struggling student...
  • Read 3 - 3 books, blog posts, tweets, or podcasts that impacted me in 2021...
  • What worked (and what didn't) in 2021...
  • What I'm looking forward to in 2022...
  • My goals / #OneWordChallenge for 2022...


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Welcome to Room 511!

 Kids come back to school tomorrow!  Moving school districts has been a challenge and change can definitely be difficult, but change can also be really good for us as it pushes us to learn and grow.  At my new district, there aren't many teacher workdays at the beginning, but I had already set up my room as I moved in, so I didn't have a ton to finish up.  I will say that one thing I LOVE about my new district is that today was a non-contract day, so after a couple of days of meetings and last night's "Meet the Teacher", it was so nice to have the day off, go out to eat with a friend, and just relax before kids come tomorrow!

But before the chaos of school starts, I wanted to share my new room with y'all, so Welcome to Room 511!

At the door, you'll notice the awesome Welcome sign from Sarah Carter and the Math Person sign from Scaffolded Math.  Also on the door are some curtains that my older sister sewed for me out of the remnants of my bulletin board fabric.  I love that my doorway reminds me of my family, my friends, and the MTBoS!

You'll also see the beginning peek of the classroom with Wipebook Flipcharts on the wall.  That was an adventure and I'm super grateful for a friend's help today to get those all hung and mostly level! :)

Moving on into the room, you can see a better view of the Wipebook Flipcharts as well as all of the tables. :)

My class is currently seated in groups and I hope that can continue.  They didn't tell us any directive about having students all facing the same direction this year so I'm hoping I can keep them in groups because I really missed those interactions.  Our directive is to keep the kiddos 3 feet apart and my tables are 3 feet wide and the kids can spread 3 feet side to side, so I'm hoping that works out okay!

Right now, my class sizes range from 18 to 28, so when I left yesterday, I had 6 tables of 4 and 4 extra chairs.  I had emailed the principal asking for another set of tables and when I arrived this afternoon, there were actually more tables than I needed!  I set up the last table and now every student has somewhere to sit... hopefully :)

As you enter the doorway, to the immediate left is one of the student areas with the calendar, turn in trays, pencil sharpener, etc.  The file cabinets are PACKED with school supplies because I apparently have a huge spending / buying habit when it comes to good deals on school supplies! LOL  

A few of my favorite things here..
- Team Cup Posters (Thanks Sarah!) - I LOVE using the Red / Yellow / Green cups and so glad they are back this year!
- Ladybug Welcome sign was a gift from my mom and it just makes me smile
- Problem Solver pillow made from a t-shirt I found in the girls section at Target several years ago

Along the front wall is the agenda board, the "main" whiteboard, and the puzzle / play corner.

This year, I'm teaching two levels of Geometry - regular and honors.  I've taught Geometry for years, but not two levels of it, so I'm a bit nervous about that.  I've already posted about the play area, but I do love the books in the windowsill!  I've been adding a few new books thanks to eBay, so I'm excited to have several books to swap in and out throughout the year!  

Back at the door, to the left, you'll see the row of cabinets with my second student supply area.  In this area, you'll see markers, colored pencils, patty paper, the group folders, and cleaning supplies.

Two favorites here...
- The Women of STEM posters look fabulous against the blue cabinet
- I LOVE the jigsaw puzzle!  In June, a friend and I had gone to Half Price Books and saw this Cardinal puzzle.  Since my new school mascot was the Cardinals, I decided to pick it up for the elderly neighbor man.  He loves doing jigsaw puzzles, especially in the winter and he was delighted to put this one together for me.  It really looks awesome in my new room!

The last area is my desk area and this was the MOST challenging area of the room for me!

First off, on the metal bookcase, you'll see my individual whiteboards and the cool holders my sister had made for me.  You'll also see the dry erase table tents that I had to have from Target Dollar Spot but haven't quite figured out yet! LOL

The red and blue back here was really hard for me.  I did better with the blue because I already had some ideas, like the yellow "Believe" sign from Ted Lasso (Thanks Meg!), but what do you do with a tomato red wall?  I knew I wanted something back there - a whiteboard, a bulletin board, something, but what???

Then, last weekend, I'm on Facebook Marketplace and up pops this yellow ladybug bulletin board - OMG - PERFECT!!!  I had already picked up the Home Sweet Classroom sign from Hobby Lobby, so now I had an anchor point.  I already had made a photo with my word of the year (Lego) and the photo of our bracelets, so throw in some quotes, a few more decorations, and my desk area is finally done!

Now, all that is left is for kids to fill those chairs tomorrow and we'll be ready to kick off the 2021-2022 school year!

Monday, August 9, 2021

#Made4Math - Birthday Pencils and Planner


It's my last Monday of summer, y'all!!!  How in the world does July go so fast?!?!

I'm changing schools this year, so I officially report on Friday for new teacher orientation and I'm so not ready for school!  My room is mostly done, but I have yet to even think about lesson plans!  Part of that is I don't know yet what the COVID protocols will be for this school year - will I be able to get back to group work?  Using my INBs?  Just so much unknown.  But I did get a chance to meet the rest of my department last week, so that was fun!  I am excited about the change and to try something new.

Since this is my last Monday of summer, I have soooooo much on my to-do list and very little is actually ready to show you, but here we go...

In case you are new to #Made4Math, it is a weekly blog challenge to share a project or creation for your classroom.  I love reading your posts, so please join in the fun using the hashtag #Made4Math on Twitter, IG, or blogging about your project. 

Here are last week's posts in case you missed them:

Farica (@Nerd_QED) shared about a lesson plan revamp

Jane (@extraneousroot) shared about assessments and math songs

Elissa (@misscalcul8) shared some photos of her classroom revamp

I shared an update on my Play Table and a few new puzzles to print

We would love for you to join in the #Made4Math fun - Post your creations on Twitter, blog, or IG with the hashtag #Made4Math!

Now on to this week's projects!

Project #1 - Birthday Pencils

In early July, I found these pencils in the Target Dollar Spot and I just LOVED their positive affirmations! I honestly have no idea how many students I have this year, but I quickly purchased all of the packs that I could find.

I've always been really bad at the whole birthday thing, but going to a new school, I really want to try harder this year to recognize student birthdays and I thought these pencils might just do the trick! I pulled up my trusty PowerPoint, made a few shapes, added some free clipart and a cute font and I was on my way!

I made 6 flags per page, printed them out on various colors of paper and then I'll cut them out, snip a spot near the top and poke the pencil through!  I've not cut them all out yet because my pencils are at school and I really don't want to transport hundreds of little flags - I have made an example here for you though! 

On my first try, I decided to use a hole punch to make holes, but the snipped lines were easier and worked better, so snipped lines it is :)

If you want a copy of the Happy Birthday flags, click here to download a PDF.

Project #2 - Lesson Planner

This project isn't quite complete, but I'm working on it!  If you've been around for a while, you know that I love making my own planner for the year.  Last year was the first time I tried using a Junior sized planner and I found out that I LOVED it!

Here are some previous posts on the planner:
- Junior Planner Reflection

With the return to school, I need to get my act together, so I've started working on my planner...

One thing that I love doing is making my own covers out of plastic pocket folders.  Here, you will see that I cut down a blue / silver folder from Dollar General and I'm using pink discs and pink cardstock for my dividers (not pictured).  I LOVE discbound notebooks and if you've never tried one, I HIGHLY recommend that you give it a shot!

Here's a copy of the 2021-2022 monthly calendars if you want your own - print them two to a page, flip on short edge, cut them apart and use the Junior size on your punch to make your calendar!  The rest of my planner won't change much, so you can use the links in the posts above if you want to make your own planner!

Okay, that's it for me today... Until next time, keep creating and sharing!

Monday, August 2, 2021

#Made4Math - A Play Table Update


This past week FLEW by and now it's time for another #Made4Math Monday post!

I'm telling you - the month of July has to be the shortest one of the year for teachers... so much to do, so little time to get it done :)

August is now here and school will start soon, so this past week was spent working on my classroom.  It' STILL not done, but it's closer than it was last Monday, so I'll take that as progress! :)

In case you are new to #Made4Math, it is a weekly blog challenge to share a project or creation for your classroom.  I love reading your posts, so please join in the fun using the hashtag #Made4Math on Twitter, IG, or blogging about your project. 

Here are last week's posts in case you missed them:

Kim (@LogicalPoetry) shared some new labels for her classroom

Jane (@extraneousroot) shared how to do a Geometry Make-Over

I shared about some new labels and clipboard stands for my classroom

We would love for you to join in the #Made4Math fun - Post your creations on Twitter, blog, or IG with the hashtag #Made4Math!

Now on to this week's projects!

Project #1 - A Made4Math Update
A few weeks ago, I shared about the Puzzle and Play Corner in my classroom, but at that time, I hadn't finished it. It's now done! :) On the left is the original photo I shared on that post.

Last Monday, a friend came to help me unpack and she was amazing in helping me unpack all of the puzzles and games and neatly organize them into the Sterlite drawers! I had also laminated a title and put up a border on the Cartesian plane. You can see the binders hiding in the corner. I had ordered a table skirt from Amazon to hide the clutter, but it took a while to get here. My friend and I went to IKEA on Tuesday, so no work got done that day, but on Wednesday, I was back at it by putting up the Mental Math board and installing that table skirt to hide the Sterlite drawers. In the windowsill, you can find some mathy books to read, including my favorite "Introductory Calculus for Infants" Project #2 - Some New Puzzles!
Of course, with the play table now done, I decided I needed some new puzzles.  Pre-COVID, I had one of those Page a Day calendars with Mensa Puzzles and I kept several of them to create for the table.  Of course, I couldn't have my table last year, so my Mensa Calendar stack stayed on my desk until this summer.

You can print them here:

Don't forget to share your creations on Twitter, IG, or blog! Until next time - keep creating and sharing!

Monday, July 26, 2021

#Made4Math - Clipboard Stands and Labels


I swear that Monday just keeps getting here quicker and quicker each week that we get closer to school!  How are we already at the end of July???  I have just under 3 weeks before I officially go back, but between now and then, we are hosting a math conference, so in reality, summer is pretty much over and I have a TON left to do!

So I guess that means that I need to get my act in gear and share out the #Made4Math projects from this week! 

In case you are new to #Made4Math, it is a weekly blog challenge to share a project or creation for your classroom.  I love reading your posts, so please join in the fun using the hashtag #Made4Math on Twitter, IG, or blogging about your project. 

Here are last week's posts in case you missed them:
Jane (@extraneousroot) shared this amazing Geometry Aerobics dance activity that I really want to try!

Kim (@logicalpoetry) shared some classroom decor on the habits of mathematicians - totally printing this one out for my classroom!

Sandra (@sandramiller_tx) shared this beautiful piece of fractal art for students to cut and make!

I shared my "Play Learn Grow" Corner with my Puzzle table

We would love for you to join in the #Made4Math fun - Post your creations on Twitter, blog, or IG with the hashtag #Made4Math!

Now on to this week's projects!

Project #1 - Clipboard Stands

I wish I could say that I actually created these, but I didn't :)  

Over the years, I've had situations where students have made makeshift stands or easels for group problems so that everyone could see them easily but they were flimsy or would fall over easily.  Earlier this summer, I had this thought of making a stand for my small whiteboards to create an "easel" but I didn't have the tools to make it.  I looked online and found some instructions for it and also found that I could purchase a similar setup for about $10 per stand.  Ummm - I'll pass!  

I was talking to my sister about it a few weeks ago and she said she thought she could do them - sounds great to me!  This weekend, she popped into town and brought me a box of these stands.  They will work with clipboards or my individual dry erase markers and I have enough to go on each table - yay!

Project #2 - Label ALL THE THINGS

Like every classroom, mine has a lot of Sterlite drawer storage :)  However, with a new room, things are in new places and needs new labels!

My bigger drawers weren't labeled at all and my smaller drawers were a very dated black and white pattern, so it was time for something new :)

Thanks to some free digital paper and my trusty Aldi laminator, I now have new labels for my classroom when I go up later today.  Sadly, I don't have an "after picture" yet because they were waxing the floors!

That's it for me!  Until next time, keep creating and sharing!!!

Monday, July 19, 2021

#Made4Math - Play Learn Grow


It's Monday again and what a week it was!  This week was one of those where I was busy every single day, so the week flew by.  This typically wouldn't be a problem but summertime is already on warp speed after July 4, so add in a busy week and it was on triple time or something.  We're now down to 4 weeks before school starts and my garage looks like I haven't made a dent with regard to moving into my new room.  This week, they will be waxing the floors, so maybe that will force me to start thinking about the first days of school since I won't be able to work in my room.

In case you are new to #Made4Math, it is a weekly blog challenge to share a project or creation for your classroom.  I love reading your posts, so please join in the fun using the hashtag #Made4Math on Twitter, IG, or blogging about your project. 

Here are last week's posts in case you missed them:
@pamjwilson shares a TMC throwback with Mirror, Mirror: Tools for Teacher & Student Learning Reflection

@extraneousroot shares some documents she created to support Building Thinking Classrooms - I really really love her Geometry notebook idea!

I shared a first look at my new classroom 

We would love for you to join in the #Made4Math fun - Post your creations on Twitter, blog, or IG with the hashtag #Made4Math!

Now on to this week's project - Play Table

This week is a continuation of one of last week's projects. In my new classroom, there was a green cartesian plane in the front corner of the room.

My goal in that corner is to bring back my puzzle / play table! If you've never tried having a play table, I urge you right now to go read Sara Van Der Werf's post on why you need one, then go to Sarah Carter's blog to start your Puzzle Collection

When I first saw my new room, the cartesian plane was covered in square cork tiles.  After removing them, you can still see on the photo at the left all of the white foam adhesive squares.  

I asked on Twitter (of course) about how to remove the adhesive without damaging the board and several people suggested Goo Gone.  I happened to have a bottle at home, so I tried it.  

After several hours of using Goo Gone, plastic putty knives, and a LOT of elbow grease, the squares were mostly gone, but due to some residue, the board still isn't fully functional.  However, as you can see in the photo above, it looks a TON better than it did before!  

You can see the table below the board which is where the puzzle of the week will be... the blue bulletin board will host the Mental Math Challenge and I wanted to use the cartesian plane as an area to highlight some weekly tidbits about math...

So I started out thinking about what all I wanted to include.  I knew I really liked the idea of the Math Joke of the week from Sarah Carter's blog but that left me 3 more quadrants to go!  What should I do??

I settled on these 4 topics:
  • Math Jokes (See link above)
  • Math Fun Facts  (Click to download)
  • Math Quotes (Click to download)
  • Mathematician of the Week (See link below)
So then I spent time scouring the internet for facts and quotes, dumping them into a Google Doc until I had enough for one each week.  By the time I found enough and then made them into a printable format, I really didn't want to go through all of that for the mathematicians too, but thankfully Nathan Day had already made a set and I was able to go to our local office supply store to print them in color.

Now that I had all of my sets printed, I put them in binders / sheet protectors, hung up some titles and some small command hooks and I'm mostly ready to go!  I still have to title my display, which I think will be Play - Learn - Grow (thanks @pamjwilson for the title idea!)

I still need a few finishing touches, but my play table area is almost done!

Until next week - keep creating and sharing! :)

Monday, July 12, 2021

#Made4Math - New Classroom!

Wow - how is it already Monday again?!?!?

#Made4Math is a weekly challenge to create something for your classroom.  I love seeing each of your posts as it helps motivate and inspire me to work on projects for my own classroom!

Last Week's #Made4Math Posts:
@pamjwilson shared about the hypsometers for indirect measurement - I know these will come in handy for Geometry teachers! View the post here:… @extraneousroot explored some options for VNPS for those of reading Building Thinking Classrooms! View her post here:… I finally made a set of Quarantiles (although I did mess up and had to make some more! LOL) - Read my post here:

We would love for you to join in the #Made4Math fun - Post your creations on Twitter, blog, or IG with the hashtag #Made4Math!

Now on to this week's creations....

This week was a whirlwind with getting the keys to my new room, then leaving for a short vacation, then coming home to sheer exhaustion! :)  

Project #1 - Welcome to my New Classroom!

As you may (or may not) know, I am switching schools this year!  After 21 years at my previous district, I am jumping to a smaller district that is closer to my house.  Part of the reason for bringing back #Made4Math (other than much needed motivation) was due to this switch!

While this project is definitely NOT a completed project, I wanted to show off my new space and what I was able to get accomplished prior to going on vacation!

Upper Left - This was taken when I toured the room right after accepting the job.  

Upper Right - This was how I found the room on Tuesday morning - carpets cleaned and the tables were stacked.  Getting the tables placed into groups was one of my first tasks!

Lower Right - I also wanted to get rid of the blue paper on the bulletin boards as well as the cork board tiles - the front already looks better!  

Lower Left - Tables are set up, new fabric is on the boards and all the cork board tiles have been removed!  My next goal is to put up border and clean the adhesive residue off of the Cartesian Plane.  Hopefully that will happen this week!  

Project #2 - Word of the Year Bracelet
After working in my room, it was time to leave for vacation!  I had a delightful long weekend with some #MTBoS friends and it was just the rejuvenation I needed!  Four women from four different states who originally met on Twitter and linked by our love of math - does it get any better than that?

A few years ago, I stumbled across the One Word Challenge, which was the idea of using a word to guide your year instead of making New Year Resolutions. Of course, for teachers, our "New Year" is more tied to the school year rather than the calendar year, so why not come up with a word to guide your school year?

During our trip, one of our adventures was to visit the botancial gardnes and they were having a Lego exhibit. Hubs is a HUGE Lego fan and we have more Lego sets around my house than I care to admit. But what I didn't know was what the word "Lego" meant...

Lego is an abbreviation of two Danish words 'leg godt' which means "Play Well". In Latin, the word "lego" means to put together or connect. My goal this year is to make connections with my students and colleagues and to help my students make connections with math. I also want us to find the joy and beauty of mathematics by playing with math.

On our last night together, we made some bracelets to remind us of our time together. The beads on the sides are the initials of the amazing #MTBoS math teachers I spent the weekend with, written in Morse Code, to remind me of this trip and of the amazing math teacher community that turned into life long friends.

Project #3 - New Office Chair!
After working in my room earlier in the week, I had put in some Amazon orders that arrived while I was away.

Of course, after the equivalent of a multi-day slumber party, I was pretty exhausted and so my productivity this weekend was mostly limited to naptime!! LoL

But while I was away on vacation, my new desk chair was delivered and during my nap on the couch yesterday afternoon, the cats decided to play "Queen of the Mountain" and chasing each other off the box, which woke me up. Obviously that meant it was time to put the chair together and take it up to school! I was pretty impressed with how easy it was to put together, so hopefully it lives up to the reviews! I liked that it was the same color blue as my new school colors!
And like any good cat, Kenzie had to be the first one to try it out... I think she approves :)

So there you have it - another #Made4Math in the books!

Don't forget to share your creations on Twitter, blog, or IG!