Friday, October 13, 2017

End of Quarter Things

The end of the first quarter came so quickly. It has been a whirlwind of Eclipse, team building, Barbie Bungee, and ended today with the AUCTION and Paper Plate Awards! I give purple "JRICH Dollars" for doing more than expected, being a good classmate, and being brave with math. At the end of each quarter, students use the dollars to bid on items in the auction. I run it like a real auction with bidding and the highest bid winning. It is a great incentive and my students love it!

I also give out Paper Plate Awards to 4 or 5 students in each class. These Paper Plate Awards are for anything and lots of things! They are unique to the student and class. Some examples of awards given today are: Seize the Sarcasm, Talks Least - Says Most, Ray of Sunshine, Person I Want With Me During the Apocalypse, Math Like a Boss, Stick To It-ness, Handwriting Like A Doctor, Best Dressed Bitmoji, and Designer School Supplies. They act like they are not impressed but other teachers tell me how excited they are and how they show them off.

Several years ago, I started using Math = Love's Keep, Stop, Start, Change. I thought it was so awesome, I added doing some kind of survey at the end of every quarter instead of just at the end of the year. The feedback I get from the students is so valuable as I reflect on each quarter. I put this together last year quickly for the end of the first quarter. It was a wake up at 4:00 am and realize I forgot to make it kind of survey. But the answers given were so spot on that I kept it and did it again this year!

Here are some of the answers the students wrote, their words!

My teacher says ____________ the most.

Tape people get tape
You can do it
Little tape
Ask your notebook!
Try your best
Do your best
Do your work
Be quiet
So ok

My teacher thinks __________ is important.

Everyone in class
Math (given a lot!)
The student
Us learning
When you have fun but still do your work
Taking your time

My teacher doesn't like it when ___________ .

We yell across the room
We rush on our work
You do 2^3 like 2x3
We talk over her
We use a lot of tape
Don't try
People say they can't do it

My teacher loves to _______________ .

Help us and talk to us
See us work
Watch football and drink mountain dew
Do math and have fun
High five
Laugh and have fun
Help and teach
Mountain dew (more than one person)
Paint her nails
Smile and decorate
Teach math

The moment I will remember from Quarter 1 is ___ .

When the fire alarm went off and Mrs. Richardson jumped a foot in the air
When we played with Barbies
Getting helped and having fun
Barbie bungee
When I met everyone in class
When we got our notebooks
That she says thank you everyday when I take attendance for her
Working on the newspaper
When I realized me and my teacher like some of the same things
When I achieved stars on things I didn't get at first

Teachers love feedback as much as students do. Especially when your students make you feel like a rock star!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Modeling Approximate Square Roots of Nonperfect Squares

Approximating the decimal of nonperfect square roots was dreamy using modeling with tiles. This is by far my favorite way to introduce and teach it! After learning about perfect square roots, I challenged my students to find the square root of 11 without a calculator. They racked their brains and went through their multiplication tables 47 times before saying they didn't think they could. I gave them algebra tiles and graph paper and told them to use eleven tiles and make a square. Group by group started saying it wasn't possible.

I then had them remove tiles to make a perfect square and count how many that was. We talked about how the square root of eleven had to come after the square root of nine. Next, we replaced the extra tiles with a different color and wrote that number as our numerator.

Tiles were added until they had a perfect square. They counted and we discussed where on the number line it would fall. The number of tiles for the next perfect square was used as our denominator.

Include the perfect square and approximate the decimal. I had them check to see how close we came using the calculator and it was all "oooohhhs, ahhhhhs" around the classroom! It was exciting and my students felt like mathletes!

I gave them graph paper and they begged for more! I have used the number line with fractions of the distance between perfect squares but modeling the fractions took this to the next level. Students understood why they needed to use the perfect square before and after and where it fit on the number line.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Math Teachers At Play: Blog Carnival Edition #111

Welcome to the Math Teachers at Play Blog Carnival Edition #111! I was included in the 77th edition and have wanted to contribute ever since then. So I am super excited to bring you ways to play math with children and students. You are going to want to play right away, but first, here are some fun things about the number 111 (Eleventy-One)!

We have to start with NASA, in honor of the Total Solar Eclipse we just experienced! STS-111 was a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station flown by Endeavor.

111 would be the magic constant for the smallest magic square composed only of prime numbers if 1 were counted as a prime.
A six-by-six magic square using the numbers 1 through 36 also has a magic constant of 111.
Numbers like 111 that appear the same under 180 degree rotations are called strobograms. Fun!
If you concatenated three copies of 111 and then squared the result, you get 
(111,111,111)2 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

For more information or to host the MTaP go here. You can host at your blog or submit posts!

Math Play for Littles 

I had a professional development opportunity this summer where Kent Haines was my trainer. I quickly found out we were in the same circles on Twitter. I have enjoyed reading about how he plays math with his children. He has extended that math to other children in his community through sessions at his local library. Read more about how he created his own set of polyhexes here.

Bedtime Math is a website that offers parents and kids number fun at home. It has different levels of daily fun facts and riddles. Use this website daily to spark conversations with your children from little to big!

Making Sense of Math in the PYP is a collection of number talk transcripts between a teacher and student. After setting the stage with the script, Lee C. Dawson asks us to think about what makes sense about what the student did, what the students work tells us about their thinking, and what we would say or do next with the student.
Table Talk Math is a website and weekly newsletter, that comes straight to your inbox, that includes math prompts and pictures to help guide the math conversation at home. The prompts are meant to be used around the dinner table to help increase math fluency.

Math Play for School

Number talks are an amazing way to play math at school! Tina Cardone's post about using images and simply asking "How many?" will be something I implement in my classroom this year. The rich conversations that she showed us from doing this is important to students' number sense building. She linked to her collection of photographs as well as the collection of this number talk site.

Denise Gaskins' post "What Number Am I?" could easily be adapted to a mental math number talk. I have also seen this used as a 20 questions type icebreaker with the number on a name tag on students' backs.
Christopher Danielson hosts Math On A Stick at the Minnesota State Fair. It is described as twelve days of mathy fun! The booth is set up for math play with different activity tables. Christopher also makes amazing tiling turtles, pentagons, and more. They are beautiful and you should go to his store and browse. You can also #tmwyk on Twitter to get ideas about how to talk to kids about math.

Math On-A-Stick
Play With Your Math is a website with a collection of attention grabbing problems to play with. Problems are adapted so everyone can play and explained with just enough words that students can discover the solution through productive struggle.
Sara Van Der Werf said I needed to get a play table for my math classroom and so I did! I have only had students for a week and that included the Eclipse day so they haven't had a lot of time to play. I have already had a couple of groups stop and play though. No instructions, just tiles that they can play with however they want!
My Play Table
I hope you enjoyed this MTaP collection of MATH PLAY! If you know of other awesome links, add them in the comments!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Solar Eclipse First Day of School's app Eclipse Safari Interactive Guide
My first day of school is the TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE DAY! We have the whole school geeking out over this quirk of cosmic geometry!

My first day of school plans are part of this week's Sunday Funday. Click the photo for all the details!

Although I wish we had a few days with kids before this huge event, I am super excited for an unforgettable first day of school! There are so many great activities and resources out there for the total solar eclipse but I was limited because we will only have students a couple of hours before the viewing. I suggested skipping lunch but the powers that be think they need food! Even though we are making solar ovens to cook hot dogs! We are going to start the day with an assembly to welcome them back to school and to show a quick video on what makes a total solar eclipse so amazing. Then the Solar Eclipse Fest will get started!

One of our awesome math teachers was able to sweet talk Pizza Hut into donating 400 pizza boxes for our solar ovens! Thank you Pizza Hut! A local restaurant donated a huge roll of tin foil. We will have students put these together first thing so they can be put outside to cook their hot dogs.

Other activities include a human sundial using sidewalk chalk, art with sun art paper, making bracelets out of UV beads, and constructing paper pinwheels.

We will also have solar experiments set up so they can collect temperature data. We will take data from things like a solar panel with a voltage meter, white/black paper, black and silver cans filled with  rocks, soil, water, and sand.

We will be using NASA's Globe Observer app to observe the clouds and temperature during the eclipse. This is part of NASA's citizen science project to record observations. The data collected by students will be used worldwide by scientists to study the effects of the eclipse. How cool!

NASA's website has an enormous amount of information, activities, guides, and lots more.

Make sure your glasses are NASA certified and get outside to view the Great American Total Solar Eclipse! Happy first day of school! Hope you have the best year ever!


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sunday Funday Goals

This post is part of a weekly blogging challenge #SundayFunday hosted by Julie. She provides the topic, you provide the fun! Please join us!

This week's topic is goals. I love the summer! Not just for the sunshine but for the time to {stay} in the rabbit hole of Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! I can read books and peruse the internet at leisure or on the beach!

Building a community and student relationships in my classroom have always been my top priority along with engagement. The later is easier once students know they matter to you. I feel like I have student engagement down with flexible seating, interactive notebooks, crazy activities, and keeping up with all the things they are into. But with all of that, it is still about me. How I set up the lesson, activity, or notebook. How I want to assess them and what I want a finished product to look like. I knew there was more I could do to give my students a voice and I found it in this book. I want to EMPOWER my students! I want my students to be driven by a sense of purpose and meaning. To create curiosity so they want to learn.

Space Camp was an amazing experience for me this summer. Doing missions and creating a team badge were a couple of the things that got my head swirling with ideas of how I wanted this school year to look. Speakers at Space Camp said many times that the students coming into our middle school classrooms this year are the students that are going to Mars! I have always felt the enormous task of having the future in our classrooms...but they are GOING TO MARS! They will have jobs that require them to be self-directed, innovative, and creative. Even if they are not entrepreneurs, they will have to think like one. I want to EMPOWER them.

I want to empower my students to be self-starters. Last year, when I was video-ing and writing for National Board, they were vested in the whole process. They wanted to know what I wrote and were a big part of the planning. They were showing signs of being self-starters as they prepared the class to video, did the video, and wanted to reflect after. The process was for me but it empowered them. I had a true student entrepreneur who refinished and sold spool tables after being inspired by the one in our classroom. He was empowered.

I have never been scared to experiment or take creative risks. I watched my daddy do just that with each house he built. He was innovative and took creative risks like with the underground house he designed and built for us. I saw this article where the owner of Big A Fans discussed how "when you hire bright, entrepreneurial-minded employees who take initiative, and add to the equation people with the natural inclinations toward curiosity, transparency, and being contrarian, you've got the makings of a great workforce." The article's author described contrarians as "people that push against the status quo by doing, thinking, and behaving in unconventional ways, at the speed of innovation." After reading the article I labeled my daddy a contrarian and I want to be a contrarian in the classroom! I want to empower my students to be contrarians too, ready for the workforce!

So I am giving up a lot of control and giving {my} classroom to them. I want them to have real and meaningful math problems and true collaboration. I am also going to use classroom jobs. I think this will be a great way for them to start taking ownership of the class. Some of the jobs will be collaborative and some will be for managers or support personnel. One of the jobs will be a collaborative team that runs our classroom Google site. It will have information about the class, calendar, surveys, whatever else mathy-y they put on it, and a section for a family newsletter. Students will run the site and write the newsletter. I am super excited and super nervous about this! But I know that it will be awesome to empower these young people, who are going to Mars, to blaze a path of innovation and have a mindset of an entrepreneur.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Snapchat Geofilter for the Win

Snapchat is the social media platform most of our students use often every second of the day! I try to stay current on the things they love so I can do math with what they are interested in. We were planning our last cross-curricular field trip of the year and I had the idea to make a geofilter for the students to use while we were there. It was super easy to make and the students loved using it while we were geocaching! They were super impressed with me! So if you haven't heard of geofilters, it is just a filter that is overlayed on photos that gives your location or event.

See how fun they are! I love using them everywhere we go. They also have them for special days, holidays, big events. We haven't been to a city that doesn't have several options. You can make one for your event too! Start by creating an image. You want to think about the size because you don't want it so big it covers your face!

I clearly made mine too large! I would also think about making it more transparent. Next, I used to resize it and make it transparent. You can check Snapchat's website to make sure you have all of their criteria met!

After you have your photo ready, you get to draw the map boundaries of your geofilter. The geofilter will only work within that boundary and during the times you set.

My own kid thought it would be cool to do his promposal using one. I think she loved it! And so did the rest of the school! He received a lot of snapchats that day saying yes from his friends!

That's it! You submit it to be approved and earn big time cool points with your students! Seriously fun and easy!


Monday, July 31, 2017

File Folder Icons Makeover

Get rid of your MacBook blue file folders on your desktop! Upgrade to super cute file folder icons! Not a mathy post, but it will make your math files happy! It is so simple, I wish I had known about this long ago. Maybe you did! But if not, here are the steps to dressing up your desktop! If you would rather watch, scroll to the bottom for a video tutorial!

I use PowerPoint for all of my publishing. Back in the day I used Publisher but MacBook doesn't support it so I had to switch. They are very similar so use whichever one you have. Create an icon making sure it fills the entire page.

Make sure all of the images and text boxes are grouped together. To group, make sure all the images/boxes are selected or highlighted. Right click and copy the entire image directly from PowerPoint.

Then right-click the file folder you want to edit. Select "Get Info."

Click on the small folder icon first and then hit paste. Watch that plain blue folder change to your design!

No more ugly blue file folders! The fonts I used are Amatic from and Better Together from I am a font-addict!

Speaking of being a font addict...another trick that has saved me hours time when trying to find the perfect font! You can go to and it will display your text in every font that is installed on your computer! I know! Take a minute! Hope this folder makeover will bring your back to school desktop some happiness!

I have noticed that sometimes the images are blurry. I created a tutorial that has a fix for this! Hope it helps!

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