Obvious Mathematics

“Obvious is the most dangerous word in mathematics.”
E. T. Bell

For my blogger initiation this week, I want to talk about this great quote.  It is a huge problem I see all of the time in middle school- kids glance at the assignment, write down the first number they see, or use their favorite operation, write down anything then turn the assignment in.  Doesn’t even matter what the question was in the first place.  Unfortunately, students often don’t seem to mind a lot when I return assignments and tell them they are wrong.  I even have several students who write down IDK (I don’t know) for the entire assignment and turn it in!  How do we make students care?  How do we teach kids that they really do need to learn this?  I hope you are not reading this blog thinking that I have all of these answers and I am about to reveal them to you.  Because I don’t.

Maybe the solution involves showing students multiple ways to find answers and walking them through the entire process of finding the answer instead of focusing on answers.  I have seen a few posts lately on homework where teachers provide the answers for the student right up front so that students can focus on the correct work and not just the answer.  I love this idea!  Maybe this is the place to start…

Not sure this post will make any sense to anyone else as it seems to be a collection of random thoughts.  But I think it is a problem we all deal with and will continue to encounter.


Notebook Setup

Phew.  I am coming off of 3 full days of professional development and working in my classroom.  No matter how much I do every summer, I still feel like I am behind when I get back.  I have a huge pile of “things to file when I have time” and a closet full of things I shoved in there and quickly closed the door.  I am imagining I will get to those things somewhere around February.  Oh, the life of a teacher 🙂

So after today I feel like my classroom is finally as ready as I need it to be for the first day.  I also made a ton of copies today and feel like I am heading in the perfect direction for my first unit.  I planned out a few foldables after reading this super helpful post from Sarah over at Everybody is a Genius.  She walks everyone through her thought process on creating foldables and gave me the courage to plan a few of my own.  I love foldables but had only used other people’s ideas up until this point.  Check out her blog if you haven’t already!

I will post those foldables as soon as they are picture ready, but at this point they are still in the planning stages.  Today I want to show you my plans for the beginning of my notebooks.

At this point I am way too exhausted to upload all of the files, but please comment if you want something and I would be happy to upload it for everyone.

My first page with the notebook rules and guidelines:

Next I have our classroom expectations direct from the wall of my classroom, just scaled down.  Can’t ever tel them too many times 🙂

Next comes the class brochure.  Don’t mind the writing behind, I changed what I was going to put on that page.  All the basic class information in here.

So I have always felt like students don’t know how to use examples to help themselves.  We have them do examples then they can’t even use them.  So I am trying something new thing new this year.  I created a mini assignment where they kids will use examples to do problems that are unlike anything they have seen before.  I will update you on whether it works or not!

Then comes my activity on our SBG system.  I find students have a hard time understanding the system, and I want it to be really clear.  Another first that I will update you on!

Finally, my reference pages.  In here I have tools that the students can use.  They are on red paper and students can always use them on tests and quizzes.  They have things like number lines that students can use but won’t give them information they should know on their own.  Another first.

More info on the specific foldables and lessons later!

#made4math- Page Protector Whiteboards

I’ve seen this idea floating around and I love it!  I think there are so many possibilities for thing you can put in the page protector and I think the kids will be so engaged when they can use white board markers instead of pencil and paper.  I also think it will change a lot of what I do as far as assessment.  Instead of turning in papers, I will be able to walk around and see what students are working on and change my teaching accordingly.  I also plan to use graph paper for graphing equations and slope. 

So here’s what I did:

Step 1: Take page protector and put a piece of white card stock inside.  I did this because I wanted students to be able to hold their answers up when needed and it gives the whiteboards a little more stability.

Step 2: Cut off the 3 hole punch edge.

Step 3: Cut a length of fun duck tape (Yes, I know the old school silver stuff is Duct Tape, but the fun colored kind is actually Duck Tape).  I went with pink zebra stripes, blue jeans, and mustaches.  I folded the tape around the bottom edge first, then did the same for the sides.  I left the top open so I can slide different papers in there.

This was the point when I realized that it might take a lot longer than I thought…  But it really wasn’t too bad once I got a system.

The finished product:

All 3 designs:



So last night I wrote a wonderfully witty post about how amazing pinterest is, posted it on twitter, then found out that the post had disappeared and all that was left was the title.  No clue what happened.  So for those of you who follow me on twitter or follow my blog, I am so sorry that you had to spend a sleepless night last night wondering my thoughts on pinterest.  I will do my best to recreate the post now. 

I love pinterest.  I have found so many amazing ideas for cooking, organizing, crafting, throwing a first birthday party, and tons of other random fun things that I had never heard of before.  I had no clue that there would also be so many awesome teaching ideas posted.  I initially posted all of the things I found into one main Teaching MS Math board, but have recently tried to reorganize my pins so that they are in smaller subgroups so that I can find what I am looking for better.  I would love for readers to share their favorite teaching or non teaching boards with me so we can continue to learn and grow. 

Some of my favorite pins are here:

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Mr. Potato Head– Great idea for probability!

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Barrel of Monkeys Rewards– Add a monkey every time the group is doing well.  Great idea!

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Number Ice Cube Trays– No clue what I would do with these, but they are so awesome!

Here are all of my boards, I would love to see yours!

Group Behavior Logs

For the blogger initiation this week, I have decided to blog about something I made that I am proud of.  I found this behavior chart that I made a few years ago for my three different sections.   While I wouldn’t say this was the very best thing I have ever made, it made me think about some rewards that I can still use for my class this year, even though I am doing something different for my class behavior.  Some of my views have changed since then.  I have since switched to SBG (my whole school/district has), so the 1 bonus point added to a test seems really silly to me right now.  After learning what I have learned about it, I can’t believe I used to give out bonus points like that, but we live and learn, right?  I also have mixed feelings about no homework passes.  While I think they are a great motivator for some students, I hate the message that homework is something that you can earn you way out of.  It seems like the meaning of homework is lost then.  “Here, student, here’s a pass so you don’t need to learn this.  Good luck on the test!”  I think I would do something like a late homework pass though.  The two rewards that I would definitely use again because I have found them to work amazing are sitting anywhere/using pillows and bringing and unhealthy snack to class.  There is something special about doing something that is out of the ordinary that middle school students love.  Hopefully some of you will be able to use some aspect of this too! Behavior Log

Random Documents

I made a few different things last night that might be helpful to some people, so I figured I would post them. 

First, I saw this on pinterest last night:

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It is clearly not for classroom use, but I thought it might be something that I could use.  So I changed it a bit, simplified the reasons, and added a writing section.  I think I will give these out to students who do smaller rude things to me or other students that might need to think about their actions a little more.  I’m not sure how it will go, but thought it might be worth a shot.  Unfortunately, when uploading it into scribd, the formatting is off because of the font difference.  Hopefully it is still useful to you guys! Apology

Next, I made this to use at meetings to take notes.  Most of my teammates have their calendars, lesson plan book, discipline pages, parent contact documents, meeting note pages, etc all nicely bound at the beginning of the year.  I wish I could plan this far in advance, but there are just too many things that I like to take in and out of my plan book.  So I found this:

It has a plastic cover that folds all the way around to the back and flexible three hole… bindings…?  I don’t know.  The things that you can open to put papers in.  🙂  It also comes with nice plastic page dividers.  I will put in all of the same things my teammates will, but I will be able to add and take away when needed.  So tonight I made this simple document to use at any meetings I have to take notes.  That way they are all kept together in my book. Meetings

Ahhh!  Pressed publish instead of preview. 

Back to the post.  Finally, I updated this form that I have used in the past for students who are absent.  One person from their group will fill this form out and put the pages into my missing assignment folders.  That way students have little excuse as to why they don’t have what they missed.  While You Were Out


Review Game

I missed the announcement that #myFavFriday last week was supposed to be about review games, so I thought I would add my favorite today!  It is very simple.  All you do is choose the problems that you want students to work on, and cut up small sheets of paper (I do 1/4 page).  Put a box in the center of the room with the desks in a circle around it.  Give out the problem, students complete the problem, then crumple their papers up and throw them to the box.  When everyone has finished, I check the box.  Your answer must be correct and show all work in order for you to get a prize (candy).  If it is incorrect, no candy for you!  Very easy to do, and students love throwing things and crumpling paper.

Scoring Scales

At my school we have a district wide SBG system that we call scoring scales.  It is a 4.0 scale with 3.0 as grade level and 4.0 as above grade level material.  While I love almost every thing about scoring scales, my biggest problem with them is that students don’t generally understand that a 1.0 is really not a good score at all, and neither do the parents.  Yet if a kid brought home a D or F on a test or report card, parents would most likely be very upset.  One of my goals this year is to communicate better with students and parents about what their score actually means.  Then I read Sarah’s post over at Everybody is a Genius.  She talked about the open ended scoring rubric she made for her wall.  I got the idea to do a matching game with my students.  My match has our scoring scale numbers, the approximate grade in the letter system, a description of the scoring scale number, and what that scoring scale number looks like in my math class.  I plan to have students work on this during the first week and glue it into the front of their notebook.

Here is the document if you are interested.

#made4math #3

So every year for as long as I can remember, I have strugged with calendars.  I really don’t like weekly calendars because I am too much of a big picture person and need to see the whole month at  a time.  But a one month calendar isn’t enough to write what I need to write.  I do unit plans that have much more detail, but I still like to have a place to plan out short notes for each day.  This year, I created this calendar that will span 2 pages but still contains the whole month.  I like it, but I still don’t think it is exactly what I want.  If anyone else has great ideas, let me know please! 

I am also trying to embed something and use scribd for the first time.  We will see how that goes. 

Feel free to use it and change it if you want!  Calendar

Classroom Tour


I am more excited about my classroom this year than I ever have before.  Entering the blog world (as a reader and writer) has inspired me to make a lot more for my classroom. 

One of my favorite things in my room is my clothes line.  This is where I hang students’ work.  Simple clothes line rope and clothes pins.

This is one of my bulletin boards in the front of my room.  I will use the whiteboard to record table points for each group using this system.  I love that I will be able to do group points along with individual points, and it also includes algebra.  Along the side of the whiteboard are my 4.0 opportunities.  My whole district has a uniform SBG scale where 3.0 is mastery of the subject.  4.0 represents students whose knowledge goes above and beyond what is taught in the classroom.  I offer 4.0 opportunties in a few ways.  Each unit assessment that I give has several questions that  students can earn a 4.0 on.  I also have these assignments on the board that students can take and work on at any time to earn a 4.0.  These assignments can’t hurt your grade, even if you get them wrong.  Students can earn 3.5 or 4.0 on these questions/assignments.  Along the top of the board, I am going to add the 100s charts in the next picture.  I will use these for whole class rewards.  Each time the whole class is doing well, I will choose a student to color in one square.  When 10 in a row are filled in, they will get a reward.  I am so sorry, but I can’t find the blog where I read this idea.  If it is yours, let me know and I will give you credit!


The other bulletin board up front has my classroom expectations and noise level rubric.   On the front table are some things for the students.  On the left is a hanging file box.  I stapled a page protector to the front of each file.  All extra papers go in this bin with one copy in the page protector.  Students can get any pages they need from this bin, and if there are none left they bring me the master to make copies.  Next I have mini trash cans from Five Below that students will use in their groups whenever we are cutting things out to keep the scraps so they aren’t everywhere and students aren’t up and down throwing things away.  Then on the right I have trays for students to turn in papers.  No paper ever gets turned in on my desk or handed to me.  Each class has a tray where they turn in everything.  That way no student can ever use the excuse, “I put it on your desk” or “I gave it to you”. 

Hanging from the ceiling are origami shapes that I made a few years ago and covered in mod podge.  They are kind of hard to see, but are pretty cool.

My desk.

Each month, I have an activity for students who get finished early.  Most of them have to do with math and art, some are puzzles, all of them are pretty simple and fun.  I get many of the ideas from the math cats website.

Finally, the shelf where student materials are kept.  I have bins of books, markers, scissors, glue, manipulatives, and games.  Each student has a pencil box under their desk with some of these things for daily use, but there are extras here and things we don’t use as often.

Thanks for reading!