Monday, August 20, 2012

A Quick Tip

I just tried out a cool trick and I thought I'd share...

If you get Sharpie on your white board and can't get it off, try coloring over it with a dry-erase marker. Once it's all coated, wipe it off with a tissue, paper towel or rag and watch it disappear! This also works for clear plastic covers :)

Perhaps I'm behind the times and everyone else already knew this, but since it just saved my skin I thought someone else might like to know as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A little late...

So I probably should have posted this earlier, but TeachersPayTeachers had a Back To School last weekend. My store was offering 20% off all products, and then the site offered another 10% (totaling 28%). I didn't think to post because I was sitting by my phone waiting for updates as my sister-in-law was in labor with my niece. A very beautiful and chubby (9 lb, 12 oz) baby Scarlett joined our family Sunday afternoon!

Anyways, I worked hard to finish my 21st Century Skills Logic Puzzles and had them posted before the sale ended. My description is as follows:
This is a set of 40 number-based logic puzzles designed to encourage critical thinking in any subject area. This document contains three key components:
1) 40 printable puzzles ideal for printing for individual use or overhead teaching
2) Printable answer key for each puzzle
3) A teacher's guide explaining the logic behind each puzzle to aid in instruction

These puzzles are perfect for individualized or partner work during warm-ups, lengthened class periods, Fun Friday activities, or as an engaging filler activity if your lesson runs too short!

If you'd like to download a free sample of 5 puzzles, head over to the link above and check them out! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ways To Help Your Child Succeed In Middle School

A few years back I wrote a letter to my 6th grade parents titled Ways To Help Your Child Succeed In Middle School. It really was a great piece of work and so I decided to add it here for all of you to give to your own students/parents on the first day(s) of school. Then I remembered that my hard drive crashed a while back and that I no longer have said document. I have a few more years under my belt now, an international teaching experience, and have gained the "mom" perspective as well. Perhaps I can write an even better list this year for my faithful blog readers!

1. Color Code your child's supplies. Typically teachers tell students to color code by subject area (all math is blue, all English is red, etc.) Consider color coding by locker breaks. For example, if a student has: Math, English, *LOCKER BREAK*, PE, Art, *LOCKER BREAK*, Science, History, make Math and English supplies one color, PE and Art another, and Science and History a 3rd color. This way a student just needs to remember the daily color order to ensure he/she has all necessary supplies.
2. Write your child's schedule down on an index card and tape to the inside of the locker door. Middle Schoolers are sometimes so busy thinking about other things that they forget which class comes next.
3. If your school allows it, buy a lock for the locker and have your child practice at home PRIOR to placing it on his/her locker. Time your child to make sure the lock can be opened within 10 seconds. They will likely be rushed for time and will need to be able to open it quickly under pressure.
4. Buy a folder for loose papers. In an ideal world your child would get out the correct 3-ring binder, choose the best location for a paper handed out by the teacher, snap it neatly in place and return the binder to their bookbag. But in all honesty, not many students will follow through with this well-thought-out plan. The papers will be crammed in the bookbag, under binders, folded in their pockets and put through the wash, or left on the classroom floor. Have one folder where your child can slide all of these loose papers.
5. Each afternoon when your child gets home, have him/her go through the "loose paper folder" and decide what should be done with each piece. Then have them carry out their decision.
6. Unless a class requires otherwise, empty out all 3-ring binders at the end of each quarter or semester. Students should keep these papers somewhere safe at home in order to review for exams, but there is no reason to carry them back and forth from school.
7. Have your child pack his/her backpack at night before going to bed. Homework, projects, notebooks and supplies often get left behind in the morning rush.
8. Try to make sure your child gets an adequate amount of sleep. Most middle school aged children require 9-10 hours of sleep but are probably only getting 7-8 hours. With busy schedules, extra-curricular activities and homework sometimes this is impossible, but try to set "bedtime" and stick with it when possible.
9. Talk to your child about school. Ask what they are doing in class. Middle Schoolers won't often volunteer information about their day so pry when necessary. Drag it out of them, question by question. Not only is it important to know about their social life, talking about their school lessons will help reinforce what they learned and remember more details.
10. Help your child manage homework time. When they come home from school, make sure they have a good snack and a short break, then have them begin their homework. Students are not at their best right before bedtime and no one wants to work after dinner. If your child works well on his own in a quiet environment, working in their room might be a good option. If your child needs more supervision and help to stay focused, perhaps the kitchen table would be a better choice. As a hint, make sure all at-home school supplies are organized and easy to retrieve to avoid the wandering child!
11. Never, ever tell your child that you hated a subject when you were younger (even if it's true, keep that sentiment to yourself and just tell them you found it challenging). When you do so, many children believe they are doomed to fail at the subject, or that it's ok to hate it as well. And while you might think the antagonism is well placed, it won't help your child succeed. Also, do not tear apart a teacher in front of your child. If you disagree with a teacher, contact him/her directly. Do not involve your child. Your child has to sit in his/her classroom daily and has to show respect. If they feel you do not respect the teacher it will be difficult for them to do so. A child will not learn from someone they disrespect and your child only has one opportunity to learn the material presented.
12. Contact your child's teachers periodically to check on their progress. A quick email asking for an update is a great way to stay in touch with the school.
13. Make sure your child comes to school on time, stays the entire day, and misses only when necessary. If you MUST schedule appointments during school hours, try to schedule them during lunch or vary the times so they don't miss the same classes often. Also, if class time is missed make sure your child ASKS for missed work as soon as possible.
14. Attend all parent meetings to keep abreast of school happenings.
15. Encourage your children to fight their own battles. If they have a problem with a teacher, classmate, or staff member, help them come up with a plan of action but let them work it out without your interference. It helps them build confidence and learn that they can stand up against injustices. That being said, step in and take over for them if the fight is just too big.

I might think of some more later, but here's a good list to get you started. Anyone want to add something to the list?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

13+ Things Your Child's Teacher Won't Tell You

I just read an article on Readers Digest with this title. I thought almost all of them were right on target. Thought some of you might appreciate it as well!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Treasure Chest

Just a quick post today...

While you're out shopping this summer start stocking up for your treasure chest. If you don't already have one, get a medium sized box, bowl, tupperware, or bag to keep little "treasures" you can give away when students do something worth rewarding. I try to keep things like pens, pencils and erasers, candy, little games, notepads, etc. Usually anything I can find at the Dollar Store or at Target's Dollar Spot. I also fill in with some items that don't cost me anything like Day Late Passes, Emergency Hall Passes, or an Untuck Your Shirt pass for schools with uniforms.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Decluttering: Desk and Files

Yesterday I talked about decluttering my computer, today I'm going to talk about the Teacher Desk area. My first year of teaching I had a horrible mess of a desk. There were papers everywhere! Graded assignments were binder clipped and stacked on the floor. Papers that needed to be graded were paper clipped and strewn (is that a word?) on my desk. Old transparencies and notes were falling on the floor. I even spilled a gallon of tea all over some notebooks that were precariously stacked on my filing cabinet. Looking back on my first year I wonder how much time, energy and headache I could have saved myself if I had been organized.

Enter Year 2 and two AMAZING math teachers with more experience than me. They whipped me into shape when it came to organization. What they started with me I have improved upon over the years and now will share my ideas with you. Just a quick should always customize your organization for the type of person you are. Some of the ideas may not help you at all. Don't force yourself to do something you hate.

1) Transparency Rolls - If you use these in your class you can write on them with Sharpie for things you want to be permanent and Vis-A-Vis for things you want to be erasable. I would often write problems on the overhead roll in Sharpie and solve them in Vis-A-Vis. Saves SO much time by not having to rewrite the problems. This can also work with transparency paper if you want to keep it for future years.
2) Student Table - On this table I keep all of the supplies students should need. Extra pencils (I don't like to supply these but any I find on the floor are fair game!), stapler, tape, scissors, etc. Under the table I have my Project Boxes.
3) Also on top of my table I keep my "trays." I have a set of plastic letter trays like the ones below, one for each class. The top tray is for 1st period, the next for 2nd period, etc. ALL papers get turned in to me here. No exceptions. I hate when a student says "I handed that to you but you must have misplaced it." The blame is fully on the students when they are supposed to put it in the correct tray. When I'm ready to grade a set of papers I can pick up a stack and know that they are all from the same class (well, at least most of them are). I can easily narrow down a nameless paper. I can clip and take home to grade without fuss. I love my trays.
4) Behind the student trays is an identical set of trays facing my desk. These are my trays for graded work. As soon as I grade papers and record the scores in my grade book I place them in the corresponding class tray on my side. When I am ready to pass back papers I know that everything in the class tray needs to be handed out. I can tell who was absent based on which papers are remaining. I also will often place quizzes that still need to be taken here so I don't lose them.
6) Also on my desk is a small hanging file box. I keep some hanging folders in there for things like my attendance book and my paper grade book (yes, I still use a hard copy). These are my day-to-day items I like to keep on my desk but want picked up as well.
7) My file cabinet - my file cabinet is kept much like my computer files are kept. Each topic is given a hanging folder and I keep one copy of everything in there (theoretically). I have notes, quizzes, classwork, homework, games, activities, projects, centers and just about everything else you can think of. They're arranged chronologically based on how I teach the topic. Some are thin. Some, like fractions, span two or three folders. I also have a drawer for my personal files and folders like "beginning of the year" or "coupons" or "holiday extras."

I suggest choosing an area of your room that you always feel is cluttered and coming up with a solution for that space this year. You will feel so much more at peace when your classroom is neat and tidy and you can walk around without the fear of tripping over something :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I recently found the Simple Mom blog online and have been reading up on the home management notebook. One of the tasks I'd like to complete (well, at least to work on) this summer is to declutter the house. We moved in 5 months ago and we still have stuff everywhere. I know I have three small kids, but I'm much happier when things are organized. I started thinking about what IS organized in my life and realized that my computer files are looking pretty good :) They haven't always been this way so I thought that maybe some others would be interested in knowing how I organize.

First, I have a major folder called "School" for all of the school related digital files. I do this so backing up the file is easy and I'm sure to always have a copy. I have lost 6 years of work before in a harddrive crash and am NOT interested in this happening again. I'll tell you a little more in a minute.

Under my School folder there are multiple folders that I think everyone should keep.
1) Lesson Plans - if you create these digitally (or can scan them in) save a copy!
2) Grades - If you keep digital copies of progress reports, make a folder for them. It's nice to have a reference when in a parent meeting. And don't just save the new progress report over the old want to be able to access ALL of them
3) Department Files - This is especially important if you are the head of a department. I keep things like meeting minutes, end-of-year reports, open house information, placement tests and summer math
4) To Print - If I need to find a file quickly to print once I get to school, I make a copy in this folder. At the end of the day I can "recycle" the contents of the folder to keep things clean
5) In the general School folder I keep documents that I need for every class such as Guidelines and Expectations, Ice Breaker activities, Class Rules, Coupons, etc.
6) Math Worksheets - This is my biggest folder. I keep every worksheet I have created, scanned, downloaded, *cough* stolen *cough* and might someday have a desire to edit, print or post on my class website. This file is broken down by topic so I can find things quickly for all grade levels that I teach. Some files (such as Geometry) are further broken down. If I'm looking for a file I can quickly narrow it down by topic.

A few tips:
- Make sure to give your files descriptive names but keep them short and simple
- Don't separate files by grade level or course. Sometimes worksheets can be used for more than one level of students
- Back up your files often! You can also sign up for Dropbox and store some of your files online. I do this with all of my TPT files and my most important school work. This ensures that even if I forget to manually back up my files I will still have a current copy in the case of a harddrive crash.
- Make a folder called "To File" and allow yourself to drop things in there occasionally if you can't decide where something goes or need to place it somewhere quickly. Go through your folder once a week if possible and find more permanent homes for these files.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Foxtrot Math (SuDORKu)

I love the Foxtrot cartoons about math. Here's one I came across a couple of years ago and just rediscovered while cleaning out my math files.
I'm honestly not sure if it really works as I haven't tried solving it. I think it would be a great idea for a math lesson though, maybe an introduction lesson? You could either have the kids solve the puzzle, or you could give them some sudoku blocks and have them come up with their own math expressions to replace the given numbers. You could require them to touch on certain topics such as fraction addition, square/cube roots, order of operations, etc. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Free Interim Reports

I was looking through my teaching files and I came across these Interim Reports I created to send home one quarter. I think it's always important to keep the parents informed of when their child is slipping in class. It helps to open communication and often helps get parents "on your side" rather than just defending their perfect little offspring!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Logic Puzzles

The last time I posted (minus my husband's jokes) I was talking about a file to keep in the classroom on logic puzzle activities. I've been gathering ideas to create a 40 puzzle packet that will (hopefully) be available on TeachersPayTeachers soon. While "researching" (aka doing a TON of logic puzzles) I came across a new one that I love. I was addicted to sudoku for a time, but they seem too tedious for me as I rarely have more than 5 minutes at a time. I feel like I have to sit down and work on a sudoku puzzle from start to finish without interruption. (Did I mention that I have almost 8 month old twins and a 2 year old? I can't even use the bathroom without interruption. I love crossword puzzles but I never can complete them. So my new favorite is called Hashi!

The puzzle starts out looking like this:

And ends up like this:

The goal is to draw as many "bridges" from each circle as the number within the circle suggests. You may not cross another line or circle, and every circle must be connected by a continuous line. Sound like fun? Oh, it is! The site I've been playing on tonight is'm not including these in my logic puzzles as I have NO idea how to create my own, but I find them very addictive.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A couple of jokes...

My husband would like to share some make jokes he made up for me:

Q1: I'm just a regular geometric shape but I'm important for your security. What am I?
Q2: I'm everywhere you look but often ignored. The easiest place to find me is in the corner. What am I?

A1: A pentagon (of course, this only applies to those of us in the US :))
A2: An angle

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Survey Reminder

This is a quick reminder, if you'd like a free copy of my Tic-Tac-Toe PowerPoint Template, go to and take the quick survey. When you finish, you'll see a link to download the file. Thanks!

Extended Periods

One of the worst things I can hear over the intercom at school is, "Teachers, we're going to need you to hold your students a little longer." The unexpected happens - testing goes too long, drug dogs come to sniff lockers, something is spilled in the hallway, the cafeteria staff is running behind. I don't like free-time in my class because middle schoolers get rowdy and unruly. I keep a file in my room of activities for times like these. My favorite are logic puzzles, riddles, and Encyclopedia Brown type books. My favorite site for logic puzzles is Here you can download/print logic puzzles or solve them online. A sample puzzle looks like this:

Using given clues, you fill in the upper cross-chart, then solve the puzzle using the bottom chart. Students can work in pairs/groups or can work alone if they need to be quiet.

On a side note - I also keep a Nerf ball in my desk drawer for Silent Ball. If you haven't heard of this game, and you teach middle schoolers, take note! All students sit on top of their desks. One student is handed the Nerf ball and they toss it (underhand) to any other student in the room. If the student catches it, play continues. If the player does not catch the ball because the toss is bad, the thrower must sit down in his/her chair and is "out." If the player misses a ball that is thrown well, he must sit down in his chair. Play continues until only one champion remains. A couple of notes: If you fall off your desk (thrower or catcher) you are out (you may get off your desk to retrieve a ball on the floor). Balls must be thrown underhand and anyone who talks (other than to QUIETLY discuss which player should be out) is also out of the game. I always encouraged the kids to police themselves and they often would just sit down when they knew they'd thrown poorly or missed the catch!

Good luck gathering activities for these type of extended periods!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sub Plans

Since we discussed Emergency Lesson Plans yesterday, I figured I should go over the contents of my sub plan folder (I think a 3-ring binder with labeled dividers works best). In no particular order, I include:

1. Class list for attendance purposes (with nicknames)
2. Seating chart(s) if applicable
3. Teacher schedule - for example, if you have a staggered lunch schedule you should include the exact time to leave/return for lunch
4. Important medical information - if you have a student with a medical condition that the sub might have to deal with, you should include any necessary instructions. This could include things such as diabetes, Tourette Syndrome, epilepsy, etc. along with a list of any students that leaves your room for regularly scheduled events (taking medicine in the office, psychologist apt, speech therapy).
5. Location of emergency lesson plans if the office doesn't keep them
6. Description of duty such as lunch, before school, or after school
7. For all of us math teachers - your calculator policy so your students do not convince the sub they can use them all of the time!
8. Behavioral concerns/consequences - I like to leave the sub a list of students they need to watch for certain behaviors. This might include your frequent bathroom visitors or kids to watch for "roaming eyes" during quizzes!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Today, July 2nd, is (typically) the middle day of the year. There are 182 days before today and 182 after! I say typically since during leap years there is an even number of days and therefore no middle.

Not only is it mathematically a wonderful day, it's also my birthday :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Emergency Lesson Plans

The first two weeks of school always has me scrambling around to get everything finished. Every year, without fail, I turn in my Emergency Lesson Plans late. This is always on the bottom of my "To Do" list because I rarely miss a day (I don't often get sick, and I hate the catch-up work so I don't play hooky). So if you're anything like me, vow to get this done over the summer this year!

You can download a copy of my sub plans here but I have a quick disclaimer:
1. These files do not have answer keys attached nor will I attach them because students can find them online
2. I cannot guarantee that all of the questions are correct - you should work through them before giving them to your students
3. These are meant for a 45 minute class period

These are geared towards the end of PreAlgebra, all of Algebra, or a review for Geometry students. Hope they help you design your own emergency substitution plans!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who Are You?

Ok, back to summer prep! Another task you can take care of over the summer is the "Introduction" letter. During the first day or two I like to pass out a letter to the students/parents to give them some information about me to help them see me as a person. I include places that I've lived and taught, hobbies that I have and my class expectations. Here's a copy of my About Me letter from 2009 (with a few personal details blacked out)...

Ok, I want to add one little thing here. I put together a packet of information for the students on the first day (or two) of school that includes:
     1. Introduction Letter (this post)
     2. Student Information Sheet
     3. Email Listserv
     4. Laptop Guidelines
     5. Syllabus (I haven't included this one on the blog because it is so course specific!)

I keep several of these packets stapled together in a file in my desk for when I receive new students. It will save you SO much time if you don't have to scramble around looking for all of these sheets of paper. Second little tip, run them on different colored paper so you can find them easily!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One down, ten to go!

And it's finished! Hot off the "press" is the first edition of my newsletter. If you'd like a sneak peek check this out:

I apologize for the large "Sample" printed across the front but we all know what would happen if I didn't include it. I'm working on the other 10 so I can package them together and sell them on TeachersPayTeachers. I will let you know when they are finished and posted for sale.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm still here...

Sorry for the slight hiatus from blogging. I'm still around! At the moment I'm working on a monthly newsletter to sell on my TeachersPayTeachers site. If you're really up for a challenge, create a newsletter layout for each month while you're out for summer break and then just fill in a couple short paragraphs explaining what's going on in your class when you are ready to hand them out. I would love to post a picture here explaining what I mean, but I still need to fill a 2in x 2in square of space for my August newsletter before I'm finished. Hoping this will come tomorrow! :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Student Info Sheet

While you're working on your email listserv form to pass out during the first days of school, you should also create a student information sheet. I like to keep these in a filing cabinet near my desk so I can have them close at hand. My favorite use for these is pulling them out when a kid is disrupting class and saying "Does this phone number sound familiar?" and rattling off their parents' cell. This typically will rein them in :)

I always make sure to include a section for the student's schedule so that I can find them during the day. You might need to update this information quarterly, but it really is worth it in the long run.

Here's a copy of my Student Info sheet. You can create your own version or download mine from my TeachersPayTeachers store!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Email Listserv

I think communication with parents is one of the best tools a teacher has available. When there is an issue with a student in your class, if you've had open communication with the parent and they know what is happening in your class, they are more likely to be on your side. If they do not have open communication with you, however, they will almost always side with the student. For this reason I create an email listserv during the first week or two of class. I send home a sheet of paper and the parents may opt to receive updates via emails from me, or opt out of this service. After I've collected all of the papers, I set up an email distribution list in Outlook - yes, this is time consuming but so entirely worth the effort! I typically try to send out an email every other week updating the parents on what their child is learning in class, upcoming tests/quizzes/projects, items that should be coming home for the parents (such as progress reports!), and any special events that affect our class. I will also email individual parents to let them know if their child is struggling in math, has a behavior problem, or has significantly improved recently.

Most teachers likely will not be able to set up this email listserv over the summer as class lists have not typically been released, but I encourage you to create your letter home to the parents or download my pre-created one from TeachersPayTeachers. Also, take some time to learn how to create contacts and distribution lists in Outlook so this process will move quickly when you return to school.

Bonus: In my download I have included step-by-step instructions (with screenshots) of how to make your own distribution list in Outlook 2007!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I guess I still wasn't feeling totally back to normal yesterday as I never mentioned what you could do with bulletin boards over the summer to make back-to-school a little easier for you. Take a few minutes this summer to sketch a layout for your bulletin board(s). Gather all of the materials you'll need for your board...for example, if you're doing the SAT Problem of the Week board make sure you find the questions you want to use, type them all into a Word/Publisher document and print them out if you can. This way you won't lose steam once the school year starts to get busy and run out of questions! You also should go ahead and punch out the letters you'll need if you can.

A couple of tips I've learned throughout the years:
1) If you don't like paper bulletin board backgrounds you can purchase cheap fabric from Walmart (or Hobby Lobby, JoAnns, etc) and put that up instead. It doesn't wrinkle quite as easily. If you're afraid of the edges fraying you could always serge around them.
Note: Don't buy expensive fabric. You might think you can reuse the fabric every year but the sun tends to fade it out.
2) If you really want to use the bulletin board paper, use thumb tacks to hold it in place until it's straight, then staple it down once you're happy with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bulletin Boards

Today's post was supposed to be a gathering of some cool bulletin boards. I love the idea of bulletin boards but I hate the actual follow through of updating them constantly. What I have been looking for are boards that you can put up at the beginning of the year, you can alter weekly/monthly by just switching out a few pre-made items, and they can stay up all semester. What did I find? Practically nothing! Here's a quick list of the ones I liked, but I think I'll have to write up some of my own for TPT. Perhaps no one else is quite as lazy as I am and enjoys changing their bulletin boards often.

SAT Problem of the Week - ok, this one's mine so it probably doesn't count :)
Leapin' Larry's Rise for Flies - this one probably couldn't be left up for an entire semester but at least an entire unit. You could use it for the daily warm-up or "ticket out of class."
Math Hunt - I love this one and have used it in my PreAlgebra/Algebra classes. I printed my questions on cardstock, laminated them and affixed them to the bulletin board. The answer to each question was a single digit between 0 and 9. Once they answered all three questions they could attempt the lock. Instead of candy (since I like long-term bulletin boards and hate ants), I gave homework passes!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sick Day

Sorry for the break in my summer series - the kids and I are all sick. For those of you who don't know, I have 7 month old twins and a barely two year old. All four of us have head colds which translates into very little sleep for me. I'm working on gathering together some math bulletin boards but I doubt anything I wrote today would make much I'm taking a "sick day" or two and will return as soon as I can sit down at the computer without falling asleep!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Math Car Game

I'm going to take a break today from posting my summer math series and give you a fun game to play while driving around. The family and I were heading to visit my brother today which is about a 40 minute drive and I was trying to keep myself entertained. I've been playing a math license plate game since college so I taught it to my husband today. It goes like this...

Here in NC our standard license plate has four digits. The goal is to use those four digits in any mathematical way to reach the number 10. You can:
- Add, Subtract, Multiply or Divide
- Use powers/exponents
- Use factorials
- Change the order of the numbers

You may not:
- Use any number more than once
- Leave any number out
- Place a decimal between digits

In the example above you can find more than one solution.

Solution 1: (3-2) + 1 + 8 = 10
Solution 2: (1^3) * 2 + 8
Solution 3: 8 + 3 - (1^2)

If you'd like to use these in the classroom you can design your own license plates using this site:!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Project Boxes

I was going to hold off on this post until closer to the end of summer break, but I was walking by a Michaels Store today and saw a great deal so I had to share.

I like to keep boxes of supplies for each group of students in my class. These boxes include supplies for in-class projects such as rulers, colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors, protractors, compasses, construction paper, etc. I've found that when these supplies are already gathered together, it cuts down on the time required to hand out materials and students have more time to focus on the assignment at hand.

I chose to store my supplies in scrapbook boxes because they hold 12 inch paper and therefore will hold a standard ruler :) Michaels has these on sale right now for $4.99 (regularly $8.99)! If you head to their website ( you can download a coupon for 15% off your entire purchase, or 50% off one item. While you're already at Michaels, pick up a tower that will hold these boxes.

As you're out shopping this summer, look for Back-To-School sales to stash up on some of these supplies at super cheap prices!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reading Homework

By now you're likely out of school and about to hit the beach (or some other vacation place for a little R&R)...hopefully! School is probably the last thing you want to think about during your summer vacation, but reading wouldn't be so bad, would it? Grab a copy of Danica McKellar's Math Doesn't Suck and read a chapter a night.

If you're 30+ you most likely will remember Danica as Wendy on The Wonder Years. She went on to graduate with a degree in Mathematics from UCLA and write three bestselling books. Math Doesn't Suck is really geared towards middle school girls but it actually has some interesting ways to think about (and therefore teach) math topics. My personal favorite is the "birthday cake" method for finding GCF/LCM! I typically recommend this book to students entering Pre-Algebra.

Here's a list of Danica's books in case you want to do a little more reading:
1) Math Doesn't Suck - geared towards ages 9-12
2) Kiss My Math - for Pre-Algebra students aged 11-13
3) Hot X: Algebra Exposed - for ages 13-15+
4) Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape - set for release in August 2012!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Today Only!

I just found out that Mathletics is holding an On Your Marks Maths Challenge for the next 24 hours (until 10am EST tomorrow!) If you're still in school and would like to register your students, go to and click on the "Register" button near the upper right-hand corner. They should have you all set up in less than an hour. The challenge is a one-time only event to celebrate the upcoming 2012 London Olympics.

Laptop Guidelines

Most teachers now have students using laptops/iPads/tablets in class whether they like it or not. Although they are a great tool for learning, they're also an opportunity for being off-task. I decided that my students needed to have a handout with the guidelines for using a laptop in my math class. Here is an excerpt from my list:

3) Teacher should be able to see your screen at all times
4) Laptop volume should be muted unless otherwise told
7) Wallpaper and themes should be SCHOOL APPROPRIATE
10) Using the laptop calculator is not allowed unless otherwise told

If you'd like the complete list, or would like to download a copy of my handout to give to your students you can get it from......that's right; my TeachersPayTeachers store!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cutting down on time out of class...

It drives me nuts when kids miss class to use the restroom, go to their lockers, or get a drink of water (or wander the halls under the pretense of one of these activities). I have developed two ways to cut down on time spent out of class.

The first is an Emergency Hall Pass. Each quarter I give my students one of these slips of paper that allows them to leave the room in an "emergency" for a reasonable amount of time. Once they use their two free passes they have to remain in my room during the entire period. (In a true bathroom emergency, and you can tell by the look on a kid's face, I'll still allow them to go even if the passes have been used!) They first ask permission to leave, then fill out the information on the front, and hand the pass to me to sign. No pass, stay in class :) You can make your own in Publisher/Word or you can download my free version on TeachersPayTeachers.

For some classes, the Emergency Hall Pass just doesn't work. Maybe the kids are too forgetful. Maybe you feel bad holding them to just two bathroom breaks a quarter. Maybe you're just sick of hearing them whine that they are out of "emergency" breaks. For that, I created a second way to cut down on time outside of class. I have a notebook close to the door with a sheet of paper for each and every student I teach. On the front side is a sign-out sheet. Whenever a student needs to leave the room they tell me where they're going, I give permission, and then they have to write the date, time out, reason for leaving, and the time returned when they get back. Since most students are inherently lazy, they'll actually remain in class so they don't have to sign the book. I like having the record to see how often students are missing class which is exceptionally helpful for certain parent-teacher conferences! (If a student is absent for an entire class period I will also write the absence down on sheet.) On a side note, I keep a behavior log on the back side of this sheet. I don't have a copy of the Student Log online for download but if you're interested I'd be happy to send you a copy via email. Just drop me a comment or an email!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

Today marks the last week of "school" for the teachers here. The students have gone home and the teachers are required to work for the next three days. If you're also sitting around looking for ways to make August easier and having trouble getting motivated, try making a Book Scavenger Hunt. A Scavenger Hunt is a great way to help students learn how to use their math textbook as a resource. Many kids now can't tell you where to find the Table of Contents, Index, or Glossary, or even what they're used for. Textbooks now have so many useful pieces of information that students should know how to use. Click here to see a copy of my Book Scavenger Hunt for Algebra. I suggest using the Scavenger Hunt the day you pass out your textbooks in class. You should discuss each question with the students when you finish to help clear up any points of confusion. You might also want to review the Hunt after the first couple months of school or hand out a copy to parents on Open House night!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

SAT Bulletin Board

I love putting up bulletin boards at the beginning of the year but after three weeks in to the school year I lose steam and forget to update/change them. A couple years ago I tried an SAT Problem of the Week board and it worked out great! Over the summer I found Math SAT practice problems and typed them all up in Word using the equation editor. During the first days of school I printed each question off on a single sheet of cardstock, laminated them, and stuck them in a file folder. Each Monday I would (be reminded by a student to) replace the question. The folder (shown at the bottom left in the picture) held the paper where students had to show how they solved the problem and the blue paper on the bottom right listed the rules and rewards for students who solved it correctly. If you'd like to make your own board, start collecting SAT problems over the summer so that you have enough to last through the year. Head to this website,, or sign up for the College Board's daily email to have them delivered to your inbox. I believe the problem is math related every 3rd day. Make sure you check your answer...sometimes they're pretty difficult!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day Late Pass

I'll admit it...I'm not a fan of Homework Passes. I don't give homework as "busy work" and in math the students REALLY need daily practice to improve. But I also know that sometimes students (not to mention teachers) forget to do their work. I decided to create a Day Late Pass which allows students to hand in a homework or classwork assignment one school-day late without penalty. I do put some restrictions on the pass, however:
1) The pass cannot be used on tests, quizzes, or projects unless the student has prior permission
2) The pass is not "transferable" to other students
3) The pass needs to be turned in the day the assignment is due, and will not be returned in the event that the student forgets their homework a second day

I typically have a stack of these in my desk drawer to hand out for Christmas presents, rewards for good behavior/work, or prizes for my Stamp Activities (which will be discussed in a later post!). Have some of these on hand to show the kids in the first week of class. You can create your own in MS Publisher/Word or download my free pdf file from TeachersPayTeachers here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Class Rules

For the next couple of weeks I'll be posting ideas that teachers can work on through summer break to make August/September run much smoother and easier! I've decided to start with classroom rules. All classrooms need them, and although most teachers have them sometimes they need a little revision or just a new way to present them. My personal favorite is a poster that can remain on the wall throughout the entire school year. Here are the rules I came up with for my first year of teaching:
My blank rule of RESPECT, written down the left side of the page, helps the students remember the other rules. The kids always ask me if they can get punished for ignoring the last rule which opens the class up for some fun discussion about how not thinking can always cause you trouble. :)

Monday, May 28, 2012


I was looking through my blog stats tonight and I found that I've been pinned on Pintrest (one of the pictures from my teaching portfolio) and mentioned in an education blog (3-6 Free Resources)! I was just a little excited and wanted to share :)


I just finished a survey to help me understand better what types of material teachers are looking for. If you'd like to give me some feedback you can find it at As a little incentive, anyone who completes the survey can download my fully customizable Tic-Tac-Toe PowerPoint Template for free! This is the same template I'm selling for $2.99 on TeachersPayTeachers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Teaching Portfolio

About 6 months ago the husband of my good friend got a job in California and she needed to look for a new teaching job in that area. I had hired her about 4 years previously when I was the Head of Middle and High School Math in Puerto Rico and she asked if I could help her put together some information for an application in the States. I convinced her that she really needed a teaching portfolio and she took my advice and allowed me to create it for her. I was quite proud of the work. A couple weeks ago she gave me a call to let me know that she'd received two job offers and one was from her "top choice" school (!) She also mentioned that every school she applied to LOVED the teaching portfolio.

If you're looking to switch teaching jobs and want to stand out (and let's be honest, in this economy we all need to stand out) I would suggest creating a portfolio. I've uploaded my own, and the one I created for my friend with any personal details altered to protect the innocent :)

If you'd like to have your own teaching portfolio you can contact me and I'll be happy to design one for you. If you'd like to make your own I have listed some of the items I feel are most important:

  1. Attractive cover page with a theme that is carried throughout the portfolio
  2. Table of contents
  3. Resume
  4. Teaching Philosophy
  5. Work Samples (lesson plans, bulletin boards, worksheets you have created)
  6. Projects (I highly, highly suggest a section on 21st Century Learning because this is BIG in schools right now!)
  7. Extracurricular Activities (schools like to see that you are going to go above and beyond)
  8. References

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Multiplication Quizzes

Two of my cousin's kids are staying for a visit this summer while she's working on the new Harrison Ford movie. Like all kids, they have some areas they're struggling in and my aunt and I have been working to help them improve. The oldest boy is working on timed multiplication tests so I thought I'd post a freebie quiz. It has EVERY multiplication fact from 1x1 to 12x12 all mixed up. There are actually only 78 facts since I've removed duplicates (3x5 is the same as 5x3). Here's the freebie and if you're looking for more worksheets I have a set of 10 available on my TPT store for $1.50. (For the flashcards cut on the solid lines and fold on the dotted lines!)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

50 Great Ideas For Use After State Testing

Need some ideas to use after End-of-Grade or End-of-Course Testing? I put together a list of 50 ideas that you can download here. These are not just for math teachers so feel free to share with your colleagues!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Great Software

To a math teacher, a worksheet generator can be a lifesaver. Sometimes you have the kid who always finishes everything fast and needs more work. Sometimes you have the kid that needs more or less challenging problems. Or the kid that wants extra practice for a test. Sometimes you forgot to write that test or quiz you were supposed to write the night before...a worksheet generator can help you with all of those problems.

 My favorite generator out there is produced by Kuta Software ( Right now they have four programs (Infinite Pre-Algebra, Infinite Algebra 1, Infinite Algebra 2, and Infinite Geometry) and are anticipating Infinite Calculus in the fall of 2012. All you have to do is choose the topic you want, choose how many of those questions you'd like, and choose the options you prefer (size of numbers, variable letters, use positives/negatives, allow zero as an answer, etc). You can opt for open ended or multiple choice questions! The only downfall, in my opinion, is that the answers to the multiple choice answers seem to be random. I'd like to see the answers calculated with a "common mistake" formula that students would be likely to use. But, on the positive side, you can always go in and change the answer choices if you're willing to spend a little time.

From their website you can download sample worksheets or a trial version of the program that's good for 14 days!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about my favorite online math program. It's called Mathletics produced by an Australian based company, 3PLearning. The program consists of several parts:
  1. Live Mathletics - 60 second, rapid-fire, basic math questions where students go head to head with other kids around the world (or a computer if they prefer). It covers addition and subtraction to 99, multiplication and division of facts up to 10.
  2. Practice Tests & Activities - These are based off the US National Curriculum but can be altered by the school's Mathletics contact. Typically the students have 10 question activities where they can practice their skills answering questions. Results are logged for the teacher's use. They also have pre- and post-tests for entire units.
  3. Challenger Tests - I never had this feature while I was teaching so I'm not sure how it works in the classroom. In theory, however, you should be able to set tests and compare the students with the US National Standards.
  4. Workbooks - Printable workbooks for every grade level and multiple topics. Again, this feature wasn't available when I was teaching but I've since had the opportunity to browse through the workbooks and they're as good as any I've purchased in the store!
  5. Demonstrations - See the Mathletics page just like a student would see it to show them what is expected. Also can be used to work through sample problems in class. 
  6. Teacher Toolkit - Again, a lot of this is new but they have some lesson planning ideas, an interactive dictionary, teaching widgets, and video presentations. 
This program WORKS. My most successful case was a special needs student who, at the beginning of the year, could answer four questions in a 60 second game. By the end of the year he had improved to answering 70 questions in the same amount of time. Kids love challenging other students, especially kids in other countries for some reason. They can't talk to the kids, they can't see pictures, can't see last names, so they're safe and they're learning math. If you're a Math teacher that has access to the lab and are willing to ensure that your students work with the program, I highly suggest that you contact them for a free trial!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cheeze-It Math

I was thinking about the Cheeze-It Math activity where students use the crackers to study Perimeter and Area. Really cool idea but if I'm going to spend the money to buy students a snack I want to make sure it's going to make them do a fair amount of math work. I was thinking that I'd use the Cheeze-Its as a review activity to cover Perimeter & Area, Square Roots, and Division/Factorization. The Square Roots are pretty easy (see how many crackers are needed to make a square, then count a side) but the division would probably be the most helpful in my opinion. If the students are trying to factor 24, give them 24 crackers and have them place them in a rectangle (This could be done with 1x24, 2x12, 3x8, 4x6). Each of the dimensions is a factor of the whole number. I think I might write the activity for my TeachersPayTeachers site!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Welcome to my blog for all things related to teaching math. It might take me a few days/weeks to get things up and running but be sure to check back for new things I've updated. I can guarantee some links to my TeachersPayTeachers storefront, some freebies, and hopefully I'll eventually get my act together for some giveaways!