Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tower Challenge - A Community Building Activity for Any Grade

When planning the first few days and weeks of the school year, a few things always stick out as important to me. First, is building routines and laying out the structure of what class will look like. For my 6th and 8th grade students, that means filling out assignment notebooks, starting our daily check routine with some simple questions to start class, and learning how to work together. Second, I try to place a great deal of emphasis on making math fun and exciting for my students during those initial class periods, so that they leave feeling engaged and wanting to come back. Diving deep into challenging math concepts can wait a few days. I believe the very beginning of the year should include some simple math tasks to build confidence and lots of fun, engaging, and hands-on activities. The past couple of years, I have grown to like one team building activity in particular... the Tower Challenge!

Setup: I break the class randomly into groups of 3-4 students. Each group starts with the materials pictured above: 2 pieces of card stock, 2 pieces of large construction paper, 2 Popsicle sticks, 4 paper clips, 1 ruler, and 15 inches of tape. One of the great things about this project is you can really use any materials. This is just what I used last year... it has changed pretty much every year based on what I have available!

Planning: Tell students they will have approximately 13-15 minutes total to build the tallest free-standing structure using only the materials provided. Their tower cannot be attached to any wall or table, but they can tape to the ground. They can only use the materials provided! They will get 2 minutes to talk as a group and come up with a plan (without touching the materials!). After the planning time is up, they will get to start, but here is the kicker... for the first 4 minutes of building, they won't be able to talk to each other.

Round 1: For the first four minutes, students must work together without talking. They can sketch, write, or use any other form of nonverbal communication. I usually come up with some sort of penalty if I hear talking. For example, they must take 3 inches off their final height.

Round 2: After the first four minutes is up, I have them freeze. The next four minute, they will be able to talk. However, for this next round, they can only use one hand. I would suggest having them put one arm behind their back, since it is very easy to forget and accidentally use two hands! It is great watching the teamwork involved with this round!

Round 3: After the round of using only one hand, I usually walk around and give each group an additional piece of construction paper and about another foot of tape. Then, for the final 5 minutes, they can use all of their resources. You probably want to forewarn them that this is it... after these 5 minutes, the must let go of their tower. If it falls it falls!

Measuring: I usually have students go back to their seats, where they are a little bit less talkative, while we measure. I walk around and measure each tower to the highest point. Even if it fell, they highest point is usually at least 3-5 inches. As I measure, I usually have a student record each height on the board. Even though we don't cover it until later, I usually find the class average and we have a little friendly competition between class periods!

This activity has been great for a couple of reasons. For one, it promotes a ton of teamwork and working together. I tell the students going in that working together is our number one goal of the activity. If their tower falls that is fine, I am looking at how they are able to work with their group! Second, students LOVE it! I want students to leave math the first few days saying that math was awesome. This is one of those activities that can help do that.

Hope you are all off to a great start to the school year! For another beginning of the year activity, be sure to also check out this Math is Everywhere project. It is one of those easy, low pressure math activities that gets students off to a great start in math and also gets them thinking about where they see math in the real world!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Moving into 8th Grade Math

This school year is bringing some big changes! In addition to teaching a couple of my usual sections of 6th grade math, I will also have the opportunity to have one class of 8th grade math this school year. It can be a little nerve-racking to switch grade levels, but I am excited to get started! Since I am planning on using a math workshop structure (similar to what I do with the 6th graders), it has been a summer busy with creating materials and resources that I can use in 8th grade math. I thought I'd highlight a few of these 8th grade math resources in this post!

I started by creating task cards. My 6th grade math task cards have worked so well for me to use at the front table during workshop, I knew I had to start by creating an 8th grade version. Pictured below is a free unit of these 8th grade task cards that focuses on Units of Measure. You can click on the picture or the title to grab a free copy! :)

You can also grab the full year bundle of these math task cards at the following link. The bundle includes 12 different units, 91 topics, and over 275 problems!

To go along with these math task cards, I also created a more challenging set of task cards to push my higher students. At the front table during math workshop, I always start the students with the task card from the set above. If they are able to easily finish those problems, than I give them one of the enrichment task cards. I'm excited to have a full set of these ready to go for my first 8th grade math class! As you can see, I've spent a bunch of time this summer printing and cutting these task cards! I'm hoping I can get around to laminating them before the year starts!

After having my two sets of task cards ready to go, I knew I would need some resources to use at the math centers where students were working in small groups! I decided to start with one of my most engaging, class-tested 6th grade games... Connect Four. I use my 6th grade Connect Four games all the time and it seems like students don't ever get sick of playing! I use them a lot as math centers, but also with my math intervention groups - they have worked great in both settings. Theses games don't take long to print, cut out, and have ready to use! Each topic comes with 6 different game boards, 16 problem cards, teacher instructions, and sheets for students to record their work! You can try out Connect Four: Area, Volume, and Surface Area - 8th Grade Math, which is pictured below, for free if you want to get an idea of how it works!

All 10 of my 8th grade math Connect Four games are also available as a full year bundle!

I hope you are all off to a great start to the school year (or about to get started like me!). I'm sure I will be looking to create and find some more 8th grade math resources as I start this new adventure into the upper middle school grades, so be sure to stay tuned for more! :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Final Math Dollar Deals of the Summer!

It's almost here... the final Math Dollar Deals Tuesday of the summer! For the last several weeks, a group of math teachers and I have been posting a $1 math resource every Tuesday. Tomorrow will be the final day to grab these great deals... and to cap it off, many of us will be posting two $1 resources!

These are the two resources that I will be posting for $1 (and just did if you want to head over there early and grab it tonight!).

There are a couple of ways to find all of the other great resources that are available as a part of these deals.

(1) Head over to the Scaffolded Math and Science blog to see the links to all of the deals.

(2) Search #mathdollardeals in the TpT search box.

Hope you are all enjoying the final weeks of your summer and/or getting ready for the new school year!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday Math Dollar Deals - Here Again!

Once again, there are some amazing Math Dollar Deals today on TpT! All you have to do is search #mathdollardeals in the Teachers Pay Teachers search box and then check out all of the middle school and high school math resources that are marked down to $1 for the day! There is really some great stuff from some fantastic math teachers.

This week, my math dollar deal is this Connect Four: Two-Step Equations game. I have found these Connect Four games to be extremely effective at engaging students. A lot of students get so wrapped up in the game that they forget all of the learning! I especially like using these with my math intervention groups. The game includes six different game boards and sixteen different question cards. This one focuses on solving two-step equations, but there are plenty of other Connect Four games in my store if you are looking for another concept! Enjoy1

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Math Dollar Deals for Middle School/High School Math!

It is Tuesday, which means our dollar deals are back! I have teamed up with an awesome group of middle school and high school math teachers for these Math Dollar Deals! Every Tuesday this summer, we will each be putting one of our math resources on sale for just $1.

The activities on sale are easy to find! Just search #mathdollardeals in the TpT search box and all of the dollar deals should come up!

Or another option is to check out this Pinterest board, which will feature all of the math dollar deals each week.

This week, my dollar deal is this entire unit of Math Task Cards (Volume and Surface Area). These are great for 5th/6th grade math or possibly for 7th grade intervention groups. For those of you that have downloaded my Math Enrichment Task Cards, the Math Task Cards cover the same topics but are more basic problems. I use both sets every day during my 6th grade math workshop!

The following topics are included in this set of task cards: Volume of Triangular Prisms, Volume of Pyramids, Volume of Cylinders, Volume of Cones, Surface Area of Cylinders, and Volume of Composite Figures. Enjoy and don't forget to check out all of the other great math dollar deals by other math teachers using the hashtag #mathdollardeals!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Exciting news! After starting my summer Dollar Deals last Tuesday, some other middle/high school math teacher friends and I have decided to team up to provide some great deals on math resources for the rest of the summer!

Every Tuesday from now until July 26, a bunch of great math teachers will be providing one of their resources for just $1. You can search #mathdollardeals on TpT OR just stay tuned here at my blog for links to the various resources. Unfortunately this week I am on a road trip and won't be able to get all of the links on this post, but it is easy to find the deals by searching #mathdollardeals in the TpT search! This week, my Dollar Deal will be this Area and Perimeter Sort for 6th grade math. Although I created it for 6th grade, they could also be pretty useful with 5th or 7th graders!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Dollar Deals" are Coming this Summer!

This summer, I have decided to try something a little different. Every Tuesday, I will be posting a different math resource in my TpT store for just $1!

With it being the first Tuesday of summer, I figured there is no better day to start than today! The first resource up are these Exit Slips: Perimeter, Area, and Volume - for 6th grade math. Each of the nine topics included have four problems, which increase in difficulty. These exit slips could be used as a check as students leave the class, in math centers, small groups, or in lots of other ways! Check them out and stay tuned every Tuesday for the new deal!

To make sure you don't miss out on the future Dollar Deals, follow my Instagram and Facebook pages, where I will be posting updates!

Instagram: @middleschoolmathman
Facebook: Middle School Math Man