Sunday, December 21, 2014

6th Grade Math Brain Busters!

I'm starting to think I have a problem. We are only two days into winter break (some of us at least) and I just got done spending close to twelve hours working on these new Math Brain Buster cards! I guess I figured I'd be sitting around watching football all day anyways, so why not watch football and get some school work done! Anyways, be sure to check these out if you teach math in the upper grades.

The set includes 30 individual cards that each have 5 math problems on them. The problems are sorted by the common core standards - Ratios & Proportional Relationships, Number System, Expressions & Equations, Geometry, and Statistics & Probability. Each card has one problem from each of these standards. It's winter break, so if you don't feel like doing the math, that's 150 problems! They can be used in the classroom however you would like...math centers, exit slips, for kids who are finished early, etc. However, I would recommend printing on cardstock, cutting out, laminating, hole punching, and clipping together for students to use. Just like in the picture...except I didn't have time to laminate yet!

Now, time to start my winter break for real this time! Enjoy the holidays everybody!

Friday, December 19, 2014

"I'm Finished...What Should I Do?"

If you've taught more than one day, than you have probably heard the question..."I'm finished, what should I do now?" I've found over the course of my first four years of teaching, it is extremely important to have something ready for those students who do get done early. It helps avoid behavior issues (stemming from boredom!) and can be a great opportunity for some additional learning to take place! I thought it would be fun to share some of the ideas and resources that I have used to answer this question, helping to keep those last minutes of class productive for students who finish their math work early.

Two of the options that I encourage my speedy workers to try when finished involve a challenge! One of these is my Challenge of the Week. I actually got the idea during my first year of teaching to help answer that common question..."what should I do now?"  My Challenge of the Week problem is usually the first thing my students go to if they have some extra time. I put a new problem up every Monday morning. Students have until the end of the day Thursday to submit answers. On Friday, we go over the problem and I announce the winners. You can read more about these problems on my Challenge of the Week page of my blog! other challenge I always have out and ready for students are my math enrichment cards. Since I use these with some of my students during math workshop rotations, some have already solved these problems. However, I still put out the cards that are from our current chapter so that any students who haven't had a chance to try them can give them a shot! 

My other option for students who have completed their work is to choose a game from a bank of fun math games that I have discovered over the years. I will usually pick a couple of these for students to choose from on any given day. One of my favorites is Math 24! Our school participates in a Math 24 competition in the spring and this is a great time for my students to practice. The double wheel Math 24 is new for my 6th graders, since in 5th grade they use the single wheel cards. If you haven't played Math 24 before, the object is to find a number 1-9 to go in the center. You must be able to get each side of the wheel to separately equal 24, using any operations and each number only once. I would definitely recommend finding a few sets for you math classroom!

Two other math games that I have found students LOVE are the Product Game and the Factor Game. In the Product Game, students practice their basic facts while trying to get four consecutive numbers circled on the board. I love the strategy involved in this one. It is fun to see whether students play aggressively and "Go for the win" or if they play defense by trying to block the other player. This is really a fun way to practice basic facts!

In the Factor Game, students practice finding the factors of different numbers. Player 1 circles any number and then Player 2 must circle all the factors of that number. Players go back and forth, alternating who picks the first number. At the end of the game, each player adds up all of the numbers that they have circled to see who the winner is!

Another fun game that I learned from once of my students last year is called Siega. This is such an easy game to set up and play. All you need is a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and some sort of colored counters or paper to use as game pieces. Unfortunately, it doesn't involve a ton of math, but it does involve a ton of great strategy! Students begin the game with three counters on their side of the board. The goal of the game is to get their three counters into a straight line (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal) other than the line they start in. Players take turns moving one piece at a time. Players can only move a piece to an adjacent spot (next to or diagonal) that is not already occupied. Kids absolutely love this one and are usually begging to play it!

In addition to the bank of games I've mentioned, I usually have one or two topic-specific math games that relate to whatever topic we are currently studying.

Finally, one of the last options I usually include for students who are finished with work are flash cards. I spent some time creating flash cards to meet the needs of all of my students. Whether they are still working on addition facts or have already mastered their basic multiplication facts, I now have a set of flash cards that will challenge them. Most of my students are working on either multiplication or division facts. For my students who already have these down, I created some challenge multiplication flash cards to stretch their mental math skills! If you need a set of flash cards, you can find them in my store at the following link. They are also available separately if you only need a set for a specific operation!

Flash Card Bundle

When I started teaching, one of the first questions I realized I needed to be able to answer was, "I'm done...what can I do?" These are just a few of the options I have created or found so that my students can use that extra time in a productive, fun, and challenging way. I hope you have been able take something away from this that you can put into use in your classroom! I'd love to hear any other great ideas that you have in the comments section below! Enjoy winter break everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Find Your Free Product!

Take a minute to follow my blog and my TeachersPayTeachers store and get one free product from my store! Just follow both and then email me with your choice of products! This doesn't include any bundles, but everything else is is fair game - including individual products from bundles!

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to winter break (only 5 days to go!). Enjoy your week everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Making Math Workshop Work

Time to talk some math workshop! I was inspired a few days ago by one of my Instagram followers, who asked if I had any ideas how to implement math workshop in a 45 minute class period. My initial thought was...NO WAY. There is no way you could squeeze in centers in that short of a time! Then I started thinking about it...and I thought it would be great to start a place to explore some of the different ways math workshop ideas can be implemented. Below I listed some of the structures I have either seen or thought of. Of course, these aren't the only options, but I wanted to at least get the ball rolling! If you are using math workshop, I'd love to hear any other ideas you have about how to structure your classroom in the comments section below! Also, check out some of the links at the bottom of this post if you are in need of materials and resources to get math workshop started in your middle school math classroom!

Every Center Every Day
Works for: Long length and large class size OR medium length and small class size

If scheduling makes it possible, I feel like this is the ideal math workshop set up. If you have 60 minute classes and small class sizes (like I do this year!), this can work. Students are divided into four groups, with four to six students in each group. Students travel to all four centers every day. I personally prefer a quick warm-up problem, a brief intro to the new lesson, four 10 minute centers, and a brief wrap-up at the end of class. Centers can vary, but I have been using a Teacher Center, Homework Center, Tech/Hands-On Center, and Problem Solving Center.

This also works with 80+ minutes classes and larger class sizes. You could split students into five groups to keep each group size manageable. For example, a class of 30 slit into 5 groups of 6 students. The five group option requires an extra center of planning, since students are in five groups and travel to 5 centers each day. I used this format last year and divided my centers into a Teacher, Homework, Technology, Hands-on, and Problem Solving center (same as above but I split up the Tech/Hands-on into two separate centers).

Lesson - Work Time - 2 Centers
Works for: Medium or long length and any class size

With this structure you would have a normal warm-up and lesson, as a whole group, to introduce your new concept (20-30 minutes). This would be followed by a work time (10-15 minutes), for the whole class, to start practicing on homework problems. After the short work time, students would then be split into four groups. However unlike the everyday every center format above, each group only goes to two centers each day (about 10 minutes each). For example, let's say we have students divided into groups A, B, C, and D. There are four different centers 1, 2, 3, and 4. If I am in group A, I would maybe go to center 1 and 2 on Monday and then center 3 and 4 on Tuesday. Here is a chart that shows a possible rotation.

This could also work with larger classes that are divided into five groups. The centers, like I mentioned above, can vary depending on the teacher and class.

Lesson - Work Time - 1 Center
Works for: Short or medium length and any class size
This would be similar to the two center format I described above, however students only travel to one station per day. This is one option if you have short class periods (50 minutes or less) and want to incorporate some of the aspects of math workshop every day. Students would have a quick warm-up and lesson on the new concept. This might take 20-30 minutes, depending on the day. The work time would be about 10 minutes. This would leave you with a 10-20 minutes for each group to go to one center and then do any sort of wrap-up or exit slip at the end of class.  A possible chart might look like this.

Regular Lesson 2 Centers Per Day 
Works for: Short length and small class size
This is another option if you have shorter classes (50 minutes or less). This structure would involve a brief warm-up and lesson on the new concept (20-30 minutes). Then students would travel to two centers. However, to be sure that all students have a center that is a work time to start on homework, it would be set up something like this.

Like I said earlier, these are by no means the only options if you are looking to incorporate math workshop into your daily classroom routine. I wanted to start a forum to hear some of the ways that math workshop ideas can be implemented in the classroom to help students succeed! I would love to hear ideas, questions, or how you are using math workshop with your students in the comments section below! If you are interested in getting some resources to get you started, I have bundles available for both 6th grade math and 8th grade math at the links below!

6th Grade Math Mega Bundle
8th Grade Math Mega Bundle

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review Jeopardy...and Bags!

As my sixth grade students near the end of another unit, that means it is once again time for our Review Jeopardy game! We have spent the last few weeks learning some introductory algebra concepts (variables, expressions, etc.) so that we have a solid base heading into the next two algebra units, which both really pack in a lot of material! Solving equations, solving inequalities, functions, and graphing are all coming soon! My review has evolved into a slightly new version each of the four years I have been teaching. Here is a picture of the game I created. This was from a few units ago when we were multiplying and dividing decimals.

My jeopardy game consists of five categories that change based on the unit we are studying. Each category has five questions with point values increasing in increments of 10, from 10 to 50. My students are in 5 or 6 groups based on their row. During each question, only one student from each team is participating on behalf of their team (although I encourage all students to try the problems, even when it isn't their turn!). On the first question, the first person in each team is up, on the second question the second person, etc. Students who are "up" for the round must first write down their answer to the question before raising their hand. Once most or all of the students up for the round have their hand up, I take answers in the order their hands went up. The first to have the correct answer gets the points for their team! Whichever team gets it correct gets to choose the next category. Here is a link to all of the questions that I use for the jeopardy games!

Recently I started incorporating a bags game (aka bean bag toss, cornhole toss, or any of the other million names there are for it!) into the mix...the sixth graders have LOVED it! I went a little crazy a few years ago creating this baseball card covered bags set. It was originally painted for my wife and my wedding is me converting its original purple color into the card covered Brewers and baseball masterpiece! One is all Brewers cards (of course!) and the other are all other teams.

I went back and forth on how to incorporate the bean bags into Review Jeopardy. What I have finally settled on is for any team that reaches or passes a multiple of 50 to each get a shot at the bean bags. For example, if Team 1 is at 30 points and answers a 30 point question correctly, each player on their team gets one shot. I mark off three distances: short is worth 10 points, medium 25 points, and long 40 points. If a team passes the next multiple of 50 as a result of making a bean bag shot, they each get one more shot. That is the limit for that round though!

Before using the bean bags, I would take off 20 points if a student was talking out of turn. After starting the bean bags, I started having students miss their next shot if talking. I have found this very effective and I like it because it doesn't penalize the rest of the team as much since they still get to take their shots!

I also usually have a final jeopardy question ready for the end of the game. I give students one minute to come up with a wager for their team. They can wager as many points as they have. If a team has zero points, I let them wager up to the amount of the team with the lowest amount. During final jeopardy, I give each group about 5 minutes to work on the problem as a group.

Review Jeopardy has definitely been a class favorite...especially since incorporating the bean bag toss! However, I played it for two years without the bags set and it still was a hit!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Algebra Here We Come!

After a full three months of focusing on mostly numbers and operations, we are finally moving on to one of my favorites: ALGEBRA! It's funny how a lot of sixth graders get instantly scared and nervous when I say we are starting algebra. Most don't really know exactly what it is before we start and quickly realize it isn't all that fact, it can be kind of fun! In this post I plan to highlight some of my favorite activities, games, and lessons that I use in my classroom during our algebra unit. There is so much you can do with expressions and equations. I seems like every year I find some new idea, from somewhere or someone, that my students end up enjoying!

On Monday we started our algebra unit with a two day review of the order of operations. On the first day, I taught my normal math workshop lesson from our textbook. Most students remember PEMDAS right away. However I quickly tell them my one biggest fear of them using PEMDAS, which is that multiplication doesn't always come before division and addition doesn't always come before subtraction! When I have my students write their notes, I make sure that multiplying/dividing are at the same level and adding/subtracting are at the same level!

On the second day of our review I tried out a new activity that I created. I actually found the idea online somewhere, but don't remember exactly where! I copied and cut out a set of these order of operation cards for each of my students. For the activity, I gave students a target number and then they had to try to use their operation cards to create an expression that equaled the target number. Although it was very challenging for a lot of my students, they were very engaged and really enjoyed it. After we did five or six of these expressions, I had students work on this order of operations worksheet that I found last year. I don't give out a ton of worksheets in my class, but students seem to enjoy the mystery design aspect of this one!

After our two days of order of operations, we finally get to dive into our algebra units! On Wednesday we learned about variables: what they are, how and why we use them, and how to substitute a number for a variable to solve an expression. This is the lesson students come in nervous (when they hear we are starting algebra) and leave feeling like it's a piece of cake (plugging in a number and then just doing the math!). This change in attitude and confidence is fun to watch! Although, I make sure to warn them that not all algebra will be this simple! A few years ago I created this Algebra Top-it game for students to practice using substitution to solve algebraic expressions. It is similar to the card game War, but students must first solve an expression to get their number. Click on the picture if you are interested in a copy!

On Thursday and Friday started writing our own algebraic expressions to represent a situation. This can be tricky for students the first time around. I tried to really stress how important it is to define the variable first (pick a variable to stand for the quantity you don't know), before trying to write the expression. This is a topic we will definitely have to keep working at as we make our way through the beginning of algebra!
Over the weekend I got inspired to start creating some more Top-it games similar to the one I described above. I went a little equation crazy and created separate Equation Top-it games for solving addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and two-step equations. Each includes a beginner and difficult set of equation cards. I look forward to using these when we start solving equations next week.

It's hard to believe there are only two more weeks of school left before a full two weeks of winter break! If you haven't been able to tell, I am excited to spend those two weeks introducing algebra to my sixth graders before we get into some more depth after the break. Hope you all have a great week!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Math Workshop - The Problem Solving Center

After posting recently about the first three centers of my math workshop (Teacher, Homework, and Hands-on/Technology), we are on to the fourth, and final, center: The Problem Solving Center!

These problems of the month, from Inside Mathematics, are amazing and have saved me a TON of time. Instead of creating my own problem solving problems, I almost always pick one of these to use as a center. They are well thought out, interesting for students, and challenge every student regardless of what level they are currently at! Not only that...they are FREE!

Each problem comes with multiple levels, starting with a Level A problem. For sixth grade, I usually print of Level A through Level D for my problem solving center. I laminate six copies, so that each student has their own copy (my largest group is six). Level A begins pretty easy for sixth grade, so most of my students breeze through the first one. I still like having them complete Level A, even though it is usually pretty simple, because it gets them warmed up and gives them some confidence! Each level gets progressively more difficult. I love this format because every students can work at their own pace and is challenged. My students who take a little longer to grasp the concepts might be focusing on Level B for some time, while my higher students are being challenged by Level C or Level D.

From time to time, keeping students focused on the problems at this center can be an issue. I am still working on finding the best way to hold students accountable for their work at this center! At the beginning of the year I had students recording work in their notebooks (we made a section in our notebooks for Problem Solving). Those became tedious to check, so I am going to start having a packet ready for each student where they can record their answers. It is a packet, or worksheet, that lists the questions from each level and gives space for them to show their work.

The time table on these problems of the month can vary, but I usually give students about one week to work on one set of problems (Level A-D). With each rotation being about ten minutes, that gives students about 50 minutes total to work on each problem during a week. Depending on the problem, I sometimes give a few extra days on a problem.

Most days I have students working on one of these problems during this center. However, this is also a center that can be flexible. If I have a great new hands-on idea or math game for my students to try, and it is a day where we have iPads in the technology/hands-on center, I might have students try out the new idea at this center. I really enjoy having that flexibility with both the technology/hands-on center and the problem solving center! As always, please leave any questions or ideas in the comments section!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Math Workshop - The Technology/Hands-on Center

It took a cup of coffee like this to get back into the swing of things today after a relaxing Thanksgiving break! Now that I've had a day to get back on track, I feel like I'm ready to tackle the three weeks left before winter break. My previous two posts focused on the teacher center and homework I will continue on to one of the students' favorites, the technology/hands-on center.

This center is probably the most flexible center in my math workshop. Typically on Thursdays and Fridays each week, I check out 6 iPads from our school IMC for students to use. On the iPads, they can choose a math app from a list I give to them. There are a lot of great math apps and all of mine are sorted into three broad categories...Logic, Visual Reasoning, and Strategic Planning.

When we don't have the iPads, I often use the technology/hands-on center to incorporate math games into the class period. There are hundreds of great games to use in the classroom! I used to teach with the Everyday Math curriculum and still use a lot of their ideas for games. I usually try to have the game correspond to what we are learning at the time, but will sometimes mix in an old game as a review for my students. I have created some of my own math games to use in this center as well. Below are some of my class favorites!  Equivalent Fraction Memory and Percent Scramble are both free in my TeachersPayTeachers store, so be sure to get a copy! I also have some bingo games that I use in small groups at the center. Click on the pictures to find them in my store. I also love using the Factor Game and Product Game, which I found through NCTM. The strategy involved in the Product Game is great and kids absolute love it! Having a bank of math games to go to has been very helpful when planning for this center.
Students find the percent of a number in Percent Scramble!
Turn squares and square roots into a game!
Students can practice substitution with Algebra Top-it!
Equivalent Fractions Memory is FREE and comes with an easy and difficult set of cards! 
If it isn't iPads or a math game, I usually come up with some sort of hands-on task for students to complete. For example, while working on multiplying fractions, I had students flip over a fraction card (from my Equivalent Fraction Memory game) and roll a die to create their own multiplication problems. This is my center where I can get creative and try to think of fun new activities for students to try! Tomorrow I am going to be experimenting with the order of operation cards pictured below. Students flip over a "Target Number" and then need to use their numbers and operations to get as close to the target number as possible. I recently saw someone else post this idea an love it! (Sorry I can't remember who it if it was you let me know!).

All in all, this is a fun center for both my students and for me to think of new ideas to experiment and try in the classroom. It can sometimes eat up a lot of prep time creating these activities, so I would recommend finding activities that are easily reused as a center! I'd love to hear any questions or ideas in the comments section below. Enjoy your week everyone!