The Number Hunter

Stephanie commented on my blog the other day and shared with me a project she is working on called The Number Hunter.  Her goal is to create an online TV show that teaches kids about math in a fun and interesting way.  I checked out her video on kickstarter and I think it is an awesome project!  I hope you check it out too and support her and her team in their new adventure. 


Common Core

Sarah posted on my last post about sharing some suggestions with the upcoming transition that many of us will be going through as we move to common core.  I think this is a great idea and I certainly would love to see what everyone else is doing!

We currently use the Holt textbooks and I do not find them to be well correlated to the common core.  There are some things I can use, but I will need to supplement a lot.  I don’t use the textbook a lot in general anyway, but I do use it for examples and practice sometimes.

I also would love to see a bank of assessments that are more in the style of common core and the way it requires students to problem solve and think in way different ways about problems.

I have looked at the example problems on the Smarter Balanced website, and while those are awesome, there aren’t a lot of them yet, so I would love to see more we can work with.

If you have anything you have found, please share it here in the comments and I would be happy to get a list of things together!

Looking at Area the Old Way and the CCSS Way

Our school has designated next year as the yeard we are moving over to the new common core standards, but this year we are beginning the transition and are doing many things to start to get our kids prepared for this big change.  I am right in the middle of my unit on perimeter and area and wouldn’t you know it, we had a professional development session last week in which we talked about the old way of assessing area vs the new way of assessing area.  And while I already knew that the common core assessments will be different, and I have spent a lot of time looking at the smarter balanced example problems, the fact still remains that my teaching is going to have to change, as will my assessing.  These kids will just not be ready if we keep doing what has been ok in the past.  After our PD session, we had time to examine the new standards and work with them for a while.  I went back to the smarter balanced site and looked at the example problems they had again and found one that fit exactly with what I have been working on and assessing the kids on today. 

Old assessment-

Find the area and circumference of the circles. (Then I gave them several circles with the radius or diameter labeled.)

Skills needed:

          1. Knowledge of formulas for area and circumference

          2. Difference between radius and diameter and what to do if diameter is given.

          3. Ability to substitute a number into the correct formula


New assessment- (From the Smarter Balanced site)

An artist used silver wire to make a square that has a perimeter of 40 inches.  She then used copper wire to make the largest circle that could fit in the square, as shown.  How many more inches of silver wire did the artist used compared to copper wire?

Circle 2

Skills needed:

          1. Knowledge of the meaning of perimeter

          2. Knowledge that a square has 4 equal sides

          3. Ability/knowledge to divide the perimeter by the 4 sides to get the length of one side

          4. Knowledge that the length of one side would be the same as the diameter of the circle

          5. Knowledge that the “wire” in the problem would be circumference/perimeter not area

          6. Formula for the circumference of a circle

          7. How to find the radius after the diameter is found

          8. Ability/knowledge to subtract to find the difference between the numbers


Do the kids know all of those skills?  Absolutely!  And I showed them exactly this after I had them “take” the assessment.  We went through the entire problem and they all agreed they could do each of these skills individually.  The difference is that the common core wants them to all of this together. 

I refer to the students as “taking” the assessment because for most of them what they did was stare at the page for quite a long time, then picked their favorite formula for a circle- either area or circumference- and put the number 40 into the formula then solved it and turned it in.  Sigh.

Still, I am obsessed with this problem and I love what the kids have to do to solve the problem.  It will just take some hard work to get them there!  I think it is so much more valuable for the kids to do this kind of problem rather than being told exactly what to do.

What are you doing to get your kids ready for CCSS?


My Plan for Kids who are Falling Behind


One of the many amazing things about being part of this amzing twitterblogosphere is the “pressure” to push myself to do better.  For example, this week’s MS Sunday Funday topic is helping students who are behind in math.  Now, of course I want to push my students to do better, of course I provide opportunities to my kids to make up work they missed or didn’t understand or need help with, but could I do better at this?  OF COURSE!  So when I see this topic on the list and I read the amazing things that others are doing, I know it is time to come up with a better plan to do this in my classroom. 

I think the problem is that it is frustrating to put plans in place to help kids, set up times for them to get extra help, show up early, stay late, make extra copies… only to have the kids not show up.  I have tried several different things over the years, but nothing has worked so far for me and for my kids. 

Here is what I have come up with based on what has worked this year, what I think will work the best, and what I have read from the other blogs that have been submitted so far this week.  We have two 30 minute homeroom periods built into our day each day this year.  We have never done this in the past.  This time is designed for several purposes, but this exact topic is one thing that this time was built into our schedule for.  I typically have a few kids in during each homeroom period to make up or retake assessments or to ask questions on what we did in class if they were absent or didn’t understand.  But there are still more kids who I encourage to come in, but they don’t actually get to my room.  I think what I am going to do is set specific topics for each of those homeroom periods and post those topics outside my door.  For example, 4th hour today- area of triangles.  These will be current topics we are working on in class that unit.  I will also start to require students to come in for those days to get help then retake assessments when they are ready.  Students always have the option to do this, but I haven’t required it from them in the past.  I really just need to force these kids to get help, even when they aren’t advocating for themselves. 

I will let you know how it goes!

Why I Loved this Week…

My top priority in my class, seriously above teaching the material, is having a well run classroom.  When this happens, the teaching part is insanely easier.  I hate the beginning of the year when everyone is learning procedures and everyone has to ask me how to do things and where things are all of the time.  While the winter blues get us all down, I love this time of year when the kids just “get” it.  They know what I expect coming in to the room, they know what I expect when working, they know what I expect when I am demonstrating something… and I know exactly which student just talked out of turn even though my back was to the class 🙂  This week was ideal for this.  I am teaching area of shapes, and while I completely value mixing things up and having a little variety, the notes that I prepared for this lesson included the same basic set up and materials for each shape.  So while the kids were taking a quick assessment over the previous day’s work, I passed out materials, put my example notebook on the Elmo, and then the kids set up everything as soon as they finished.  And the best part was, I did not tell them to do this!  That is what I love.  Not that kids can follow the instructions when you tell them (we all dream of this happening), but that Ididn’t tell them.  They knew that if I wrote it in my notebook, they needed it in theirs, they knew that if I wrote that title down, they needed to write that title down… So then I was free to do other things rather than sit and explain what I wanted the kids to do next.  Then when everyone was done with the assesment, I gave them a 2 minute warning and everyone was ready to go when I was without me saying a word.  Ahhhh… one of my favorite teaching feelings…

On another note, I was hanging around pinterest last night and I saw something amazing… something pinned from my blog!  Now I know many people have pinned things, and that is the coolest thing EVER.  I can see that people have come to my blog from what others have pinned.  But last night I was on the main page looking at totally random things from strangers… and right in the middle of the crock pot meals and nail polish was a picture from my blog.  So crazy!

And on yet another note, thanks for the continued well wishes for my growing family.  I don’t think I mentioned this before, but we did find out that the twins are both BOYS!  So our 21 month old and I will need to band together as the only girls in the house.  We are beyond thrilled!


I got the idea for what I am doing for area from this post over at Jack of all Trades.  I love how Leslie writes the title on the top of the page with certain things drawn in to remind them about the formulas.  Like this-

So I am using her idea for each of the shapes we need to study in 7th grade.  Here is what we did for rectangles today:


I plan on using colors and highlighting the sides you need to find the area of each specific shape.  Hopefully it helps!

Here are the shapes I will be using for the notes in case you want them…

Transformations Project

As I posted before, my kids have been struggling with transformations, specifically rotations.  I created this project in the hopes that creating an actual template to move around as they transform would help them to understand it a little better.  Here are some of my favorite creations:






The kids had to create a template on the coordiante plane, then start with it in the same three spots and translate it, reflect it, and rotate it around.  I loved this project!

Here are the instructions I gave for the project.


After we created the awesome foldable the other day, I had the kids practice actually translating, reflecting, and rotating shapes on the coordinate plane.  As expected since it happens every single year, translations and reflections do not seem to be too difficult, but rotations are a complete mystery to so many students.  I wish I had a magical cure for this.  As I said to my kids, if there was a way that I would teach this better or explain it better, I would!  But this is just something you have to work on and practice.  I feel like so many kids are just looking for the easy solution and when something is hard they give up so easily.  Sigh.  So it was clear after the first day that they would need some more practice, I created another practice page (using the amazing kutasoftware!) and we just did a ton of practice the next day in class.  It was nothing special.  I think bells and whistles are great for many many things, but this was just one thing these kids needed to repeatedly practice on.

One of my students asked me, “how old is this worksheet?”  And I told him, “Well I made it last night when I realized that you guys would need more practice, so about 18 hours old.”  So then he asked me, “Well why would you make something new?  You said you taught this before, right?  Why not just use what you did last year?”  Great question!  So I told him:

I would like to think that I am getting better each year.  While I have taught the same basic concepts every time, when I look at what I did last year, I can always find some way to make it better, more engaging, etc.  I also have different kids each year.  Some kids need more practice on certain things, some don’t. 

I think when I sit back and just take out last year’s worksheet without thinking then I am probably ready to be done teaching.  That being said, I do take a ton of pieces that I have used in the past and move them around and rework them.  Every time I create something, especially huge projects, I think to myself, “How awesome that I won’t have to do all of this stuff again next year!  I will be so relaxed.”  Ha.  I do feel like what I am doing this year is so much more intentional, so I think this may be one of the years that I can actually use a lot more of than other years.

Back to transformations.  I still did not feel as though the kids were where I wanted them to be, and I thought it would help if they actually had something to manipulate.  So I created a project that I will post on more soon as we get into it.  We just started today.  The kids will be creating a design and translating, rotating, and reflecting it around the coordinate plane.  Hopefully doing this with the actual template they are creating and using the exact same shape will help them to understand how they are different and how to do them.

And, yes, my proudest moment was figuring out how to print the coordinate plane on regular graph paper.  And, yes, I know I could have just bought it.  But I already had this paper.