Fun and Rigorous Activities You Need to Try on Pi Day

I’ve never been shy about saying I think there are some Pi Day activities out there that are a total waste of your time. Heck, I’ve probably said that Pi Day, itself, is a total waste of time. If you’re honest with yourself about why you’re doing them, then you do you (no shame at all), but I knew that there had to be a better way to help students develop their love for math than just having a party day.

It might go without saying at this point, but Celebrating Pi Day in my classroom hasn’t always been at the top of my list, and at times, I’ve not even been a fan of it at all (please don’t revoke my math teacher card!). Most of the time it just seems like a party day that, ultimately, ends up being a waste of time that I could’ve really used as an extra instructional day. Here’s what I did to make Pi Day a totally fun, but also a super rich and rigorous educational experience for my students.

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Mystery Sum Activities – The Perfect Practice Structure + FREE DOWNLOAD

This winter, I’ve been working with my first ever student teacher. One of the first things that we did was make a list of different practice structures and the benefits of each one. He had definitely heard of some of them from his MAT program, but several of them were brand new. One of the newbies, was a “Mystery Sum” activity, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. I got to talking with the other math teachers in my department, and none of them had heard of it either!

Since Mystery Sum Group Challenge Activities are one of my favorite practice structures, I figured I’d share all of the details with you! Be forewarned, I will say it’s the most time-consuming of the practice structures if you’re making it from scratch.

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The DIY Christmas Tree – Surprisingly Mathematical

Oh, the sweet irony of living in a town that ships Christmas trees all over the nation (seriously, they helicopter them out by the bunch), yet I don’t have room for one in my house.

A few years ago, after seeing a few ideas of DIY space-saving Christmas trees on Pinterest, I was inspired to make my own (or should I say I was inspired to enlist my dad to carry out my vision?).

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How to Make the Most out of the Last Day Before a Big Holiday Break + GIVEAWAY!

Keeping engagement high the last day before a big break from school (like Thanksgiving or Winter break) can be difficult. Students can barely contain their excitement, teachers are beyond exhausted, and you’ll still find yourself surprised after all these years about exactly how many families decide to begin their breaks a day early.

Here’s what I do…

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20 Things to Do Before the New School Year: BTS Checklist

It’s that time of year again…you’ve had a bit of a break and now your mind is going wild with ideas for the new school year.   To keep your time and efforts focused (and your stress levels down), I’ve created a list of 20 things to do to prepare for the new school year.

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6 Things You Can Do to Stop Wasting Your Own Time in the Classroom

If you’re looking to regain some of your essential time, this is a post for you!  Many of the daily systems teachers have setup for themselves and students can quickly turn into time-sucks.  Now, I’m not talking about the ever-important relationship building part of teaching, but the nitty-gritty paper passing out, finding absent work, and making seating charts side of things.   I’ve found a few ways to streamline my routines and classroom practices so that I can stop wasting my own time by being inefficient.  Here’s my tips for you:

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Algebra 1 Interactive Notebook Pages | Unit 4 – Linear Functions

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the following tweet about a month ago.

gluing shame

You could say I got a bit behind on my semester 1 INB gluing and, as a result, my INB posts have fallen by the wayside.  Semester 1 ended the first week of February and I’m just now getting around to catching up on getting it organized, since I’ve had a few snow days in a row (I really thought this would be a snow-day free year, but nope!).

Without any further ado, here are my INB pages for Unit 4 of Algebra 1: Linear Functions. Note:  There were activity/quiz/review days built into this unit–the days listed out are for days that note-taking occurred.

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Algebra 1 Unit 3 Interactive Notebook Pages | Solving Equations

Unit 3 of Algebra 1 is all about solving equations and their applications.  We start off with multi-step equations, because 1-step and 2-step equations were covered in Unit 1: Foundations of Algebrapic_Page_01

Day 1: Multi-Step Equationspic_Page_02pic_Page_03

In addition to the notes that went into our composition books, students were each given a full-sized flowchart over solving one-variable equations.  We did an example as a class, and then I also keep a class set laminated so students can use them with dry-erase markers whenever they like. Students referenced their notes and the laminated flowcharts while working on homework in class. Picture2

Day 2: Solving Multi-Step Equations with Special Case Solutions
To start off the lesson, we did a recap warm-up over the prior day’s lesson. pic_Page_04

We then went into a foldable that covers what special solutions are and when they arise. pic_Page_05pic_Page_06

To get even more practice, students did the following Types of Solutions Sort, which emphasized common student errors and misconceptions I’ve noticed in the past. pic_Page_07

Day 3: Writing Equations to Solve Multi-Step Equations
We started off the lesson with a recap warm-up that contained special solution types.  pic_Page_08

From there, we moved into our main set of notes for the day, with an emphasis on marking the text (NOTE: this is the same color-coding we used in Unit 1). pic_Page_09pic_Page_10

Day 4: Absolute Value Equations
Like usual, we started off the lesson with a recap warm-up of the previous day’s information. pic_Page_11

We started off the topic of absolute value equations by really thinking about what an absolute value means/does.  pic_Page_12pic_Page_13

From there, we used the information we’ve gathered to solve absolute value equations a bit more efficiently (without using the modified cover-up question mark method). Students had the even numbered problems as homework that night.  pic_Page_14pic_Page_15

In addition to the notes that went into the composition books, students were given a flowchart for solving absolute value equations to reference whenever they got stuck. Here’s an example of how they could use it!  Just like the others, I keep a class set of these laminated so students can use them with dry erase markers whenever they get stuck.  I like to color-code each type of flowchart to make it easy to grab the exact one that they need from that unit. IMG_1710

Day 5: Absolute Value Equations Word Problems
To begin the class, we started off by working backwards: writing the absolute value equation that could’ve produced the given solutions. pic_Page_16

From there, we went into story problems involving absolute value equations. pic_Page_17

Day 6: Ratios and Proportions
We started the day off with a recap warm-up covering the last two days of information (all absolute value equation related).
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The first thing that we talked about is what a ratio is and what it means to be proportional. pic_Page_19

We then used the definition of proportional to solve equations requiring cross-multiplication. pic_Page_20

After these examples, students filled out the other side of the flowchart that they were given on Day 1 with a more difficult example of solving for a variable in a proportion. Picture1

Day 7: Percent of Change
Percent of change is a funny topic to cover in Oregon…most of our textbook’s examples are about sales tax, and we have none.  If we go to Washington, we just flash our Oregon ID and presto, bingo, bango, no more sales tax (for the little stuff).  Anyway, we find other examples to try to make it more meaningful. pic_Page_21pic_Page_22pic_Page_23

After taking notes, we did this Percent of Change Scavenger Hunt. Students worked really hard on it and had a lot of fun.  For some of them, it was difficult to remember to put a negative sign on their r-value when it was a percent decrease!

Day 8: Literal Equations, Part 1
We recap percent of change problems and then move into basic solving literal equations problems. pic_Page_24

We discuss what a literal equation is, compare and contrast the difference between literal equations and regular equations, and also introduce the flowchart method of solving. pic_Page_25pic_Page_26

Day 9: Literal Equations, Day 2
We move into more complicated literal equations that require more than one step to solve.  After doing a few, students are able to choose which method they wish to solve with (I’m partial to the algebraic method, but some students love the flowchart way). pic_Page_27pic_Page_28

After notes, we play my favorite Connect 4 game for solving literal equations.  We only played until 6 people won, which allowed us to get through about 70% of the problems.  From there, students spent the remainder of class working on a festive Carving Pumpkins coloring activity for solving literal equations.  This activity was awesome because students were super engaged in the coloring (every last one of them–even the boys! PS: I have 22 boys in this one class…ay, yai, yai), and it was super easy for me to find common trends that I might need to readdress (the eyes for Pumpkin #2 were the most common error).  Also, for students, this activity is fairly self-checking, which is a great confidence boost for many of them.

Here’s an example that one student colored!  She even named the pumpkins. carving_pumpkins_in_action

Day 10: Stations Review Activity Day
We did a recap warm-up over solving literal equations and then spend the rest of class doing a stations activity with my solving equations unit task cards. pic_Page_29

Day 11: Review Day
Day 12: TEST!

Algebra 1 Unit 2 Interactive Notebook Pages | Relations & Functions

Here are the notes I used this year for the 2nd unit of Algebra 1:

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Day 1:
We started off the unit with a classifying variables sort. This was a good way to jog students’ memories about their prior knowledge, and it also served as a jumping point into domain and range!
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From there, we went into what a relation, domain, and range is, and how it relates to independent and dependent variables. pictures_Page_03pictures_page_04.jpg

We then made the distinction that there are two types of relations, discrete and continuous, and we must pay attention to context to determine what type of relation we have. pictures_Page_05

From there, we started to talk about all of the different ways we could represent a discrete relation, and how we find the domain and range from each representation.  We used this foldable, which went over great with the students.  They caught on super quickly, and they mentioned that they liked having one example to do together, and one to do on their own for each representation. pictures_Page_06pictures_page_07.jpg

Day 2:
We started off with a word problem to review domain and range in a (discrete) relation. pictures_Page_08
From there, we filled out a Frayer vocabulary model for functions, to make sure that students really understood what they are and aren’t. pictures_Page_09

Then, using the definition for function we just wrote down on the Frayer model, we made a cheat sheet to refer back to that tells us all of the different ways a relation (discrete or continuous) would NOT be a function.  pictures_Page_10

We practiced classifying functions using a card sort from Amazing Mathematics.  Instead of cutting and pasting, we decided to color-code instead! Love it! (In the words of one of my students, this is the page that has “fourteen thousand graphs.”)pictures_Page_11

We then filled out another cheat sheet, this time for domain and range of continuous functions.  Students reasoned together through the inequalities and we talked about what a bound actually means (we used a lot of basketball references). pictures_Page_12
We practiced finding the domain and range for continuous relations (as well as determining whether or not they were a function), using the following set of notes.  PS: It took me a LONG time to figure out how to make a parabola or a trigonometric wave using Microsoft’s shape tools.  I feel overly proud of this set of notes! You can download them herepictures_Page_13pictures_page_14.jpg

Day 3:

We began with a recap warm-up on domain and range for continuous relations. pictures_Page_15
To make sure that students didn’t forget about discrete relations, we went back and did more practice with determining their domain and range, and also stating whether or not the relations were functions.  pictures_Page_16pictures_page_17.jpg

Day 4:
We started off with a reference sheet on function notation and how to read/say it. pictures_Page_18
From there, we did a lot of practice with function notation.  pictures_Page_19

Inside this set of notes, we really emphasized interpreting what we were being given in a problem (input or output value) and what the problem was actually asking us to find (input or output value), before starting the problem.  This helped students from making a lot of careless mistakes.  After we practiced function notation in both directions (evaluating a function, and solving for an input given the function’s output), we mixed up the problems and even threw a few variables and function compositions in there!pictures_page_20.jpg

Day 5:
Recap warm-up on function notation.  Problems 5 and 6 both spurred amazing conversations about order of operations. pictures_Page_21

After doing this recap warm-up, we did my function notation mystery sum activity, which was a blast.  It encourages students to collaborate together and it’s really high engagement each time.

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From there, we continued talking about function notation, but now in terms of a graph.  Interpreting what the function notation was telling us was such a huge part of the previous day’s lesson, that I wanted to see how they could do when we attached a context to the problem. pictures_Page_22

Inside, we worked on graphing functions, and using the graph to find an x-value.  Some students preferred solving for x, but others were impressed by my tracing over on the graph method.  To each their own–that’s the beauty of math, in my opinion. pictures_Page_23

Day 6:
Recap warm-up over function notation with graphs, and then we reviewed for the test. pictures_Page_24

Day 7: Test!