Saturday, August 18, 2012

Goals for 2012-2013

I have done a lot of thinking about my goals for the year since I received the challenge for the week.  I wanted to come up with some goals that were challenging, yet attainable.  I have a tendency to try to do EVERYTHING at once when I learn about something new, and that is never smart! This is what I came up with...


  • This first one is stolen from Tina.  I need to stop thinking that I MUST follow the textbook in order.  I have to plan out the year in an order that makes sense for the standards I need to cover and the specific needs of my classes.
  • I also need to stop focusing on test results as the primary indicator of student learning.  I want to use more performance assessment tools.

  • I want to continue to find new ideas that will get kids excited about math and lead to better understanding and application of the skills.  This summer, I have discovered a small portion of what is available.  I want to keep learning!
  • Last year I started using some projects to cover multiple standards and let kids see how those math "skills" they are learning are really used in life.  I want to continue to find/create more of these to use this year!

  • As I mentioned in my first post, I want to start using interactive notebooks and foldables with my classes this year!  I am REALLY excited about this and can't wait to start!
  • I also want to use this blog to reflect on my progress (both good and bad) this year.   I also want to use it to share ideas and to connect with other teachers!
As summer comes to an end (meetings start this coming week), I am looking forward to the new year and new challenges ahead!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Math House Mystery

I have been going through all of my old files since I found out I would be teaching 5th and 6th grade math again this year.  I have only been teaching 7th and 8th for the last few years.  In the process, I found some activities I haven't used for quite a while because, honestly, they got buried, and I forgot about them!

Math House Mysteries were something I learned about at a NCTM regional conference YEARS ago.  The kids used to love them so I decided to update them a bit and use them again!  I thought I would post the information in case anyone else wanted to try it.

Math House Mysteries are similar to whole class logic puzzles.  You can create one to review any topics you want.  I currently have about five different ones.  Here is a link to one of them.

To play, each student is given a card (or more if necessary so that they are all used).  I put the blank chart on an overhead sheet and project it to the class.  I explain that these are four "houses" on a street and that as a class we have to fill in all the missing information about the families.  Each student has a piece of scrap paper, a pencil, and (maybe) a calculator.

I time them to see how long it takes to fill in the puzzle, and then I have them "compete" against other classes or even against themselves the next time we play.

There are "information" clues that need to be shared early and four "starter" clues that give a specific piece of information on the board.  The rest build on those four.  We talk about needing to get that information first.  The kids must raise their hands when they have a clue the class needs.  Someone else MUST use the information in their clue to fill in a box/boxes on the board.  They have to tell me exactly where the information goes on the board.  For example, "The family in house number 2 has a pet tarantula named Cylinder."

  • The students may not talk during the game (when not sharing their clues).  The only exception is to say "repeat".  I stress this rule because otherwise they tend to get very angry/loud with each other when there is a longer pause because someone doesn't immediately realize their clue is needed.  The class is given a 1 minute penalty for talking out of turn.
  • The student may not give an answer for the board obtained from their own clue.  Someone else must use their information. (2 minute penalty)
  • No guessing is allowed.  Clues must have been read aloud to support all answers given. (1 minute penalty)
If I have a class where one or two students tend to dominate the game, I add a rule that each student can only give 2/3 answers during the game.  I might give them two pieces of candy, and each time they give an answer, they can eat one.  When they are out of candy, they can't answer any more.  That sometimes leads to good strategy discussions afterwards when some of the stronger kids realize they should save their answers for some tougher parts.  I do allow those students to help if we get stuck.  For example they can't tell us that a family has a table 9 foot table, but they can tell the class "I know that 3 yards equals 9 feet."

We always have a discussion at the end about strategy.  They get better and better as the year goes on at working together.

It was difficult to put the directions into words so please let me know if you have any questions!  I hope someone is able to use this!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Excited (and Overwhelmed!)

Well, here it goes... My very first blog post.

When I found out a couple weeks ago that I was going to be teaching 5th-8th grade math this year, I knew I wanted to do some research into effective ways to teach math to middle school students.  I started reading a few blogs and very quickly became hooked! 

Now, I am following blogs, attending online meetings, and TWEETING!  I am really amazed by all the amazing teachers out there sharing awesome ideas!  I want to especially thank Julie Reulbach for encouraging me to get started!

I KNOW that I can't do everything at once so I want to start with an interactive notebook!  I plan to start it with my 6th-8th grade classes this year.  I think I will do a modified version with my 5th grade class.  I am so excited about using foldables for the first time.  Last night, I attended a video conference on foldables.  There are so many great ones available!  I am especially excited by the slope and systems of equations foldables.  I have a lot of reading and research ahead of me to fine tune my expectations for the notebook, but I am really excited to get it started!