Monday, December 5, 2011

Scale Drawing {Mini-Project}

I LOVE this mini-project! I also love how it falls right before Christmas break to give the kids something to do during that "i-need-a-break" attitude that unfortunately accompanies any long break like Christmas or Summer.

- 1 class period (or longer if you want to extend)

- Comic Strips
- Card stock paper
- Rulers

I use this little mini-project to set the stage for when I teach more indepth about scale factors (which in my case is the next class day). Here's the procedure:

1. Assign for homework the day or weekend prior to bring in a comic strip. I assign a homework grade for this, but also have extra comics on hand incase someone forgets theirs.

2. Have students choose ONE frame to cut out and to enlarge for their scale drawing. I don't tell students what we are doing with the frame though as I don't want them choosing "easy" ones out of fear that they can't do it.

3. Students will construct a grid by measuring quarter inch squares along the width and length of the original comic. Remind them to use a RULER!!!

4. Tape or glue the comic to the upper left hand corner of the piece of card stock. This will be your "key" for checking.

5. Label the length and width with the number of boxes. Then create another box that is the same length and width, only using inches. i.e. if your original comic was 5 boxes long, then your neq box will be five inches long.  Mark off at every inch creating a similar grid out of inch squares.

6. Instruct students to then begin to COPY each box into the corresponding box of the larger grid. Remind them to use pencil for this.

7. Once complete, students will outline in black marker and then erase all pencil marks.

8. Color the comic as it is in the original.

9. Label the scale factor at the bottom. Laminate and set out for others to enjoy your talented students!

I love this project because it not only brings in the mathematical aspect, but it gives my students a confidence boost. Even if they think they cannot draw, at the end they see their finished project and it looks awesome!!!

Enjoy and share with your teacher friends! :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Customary System {Activity}

When studying about the Metric System, I do a whole day for a fun math lab. But for Customary it's a bit different since the students are a lot more familiar with it and we need to reinforce it just a bit rather than go so in-depth with it. So after our notes about how to convert within the Customary system, I give my students a challenge:

Using NO scissors, glue, tape or staples and ONLY the ONE piece of construction paper, they have to create the most aerodynamic paper airplane that they can. They have to write their name on their plane as well. I give them FIVE MINUTES.

I show my students a yard stick and we talk about how many inches and feet are in there. Then I have them estimate how far their airplane will fly from our classroom. Since my classroom is on the second floor, I tell them that if it goes under the overhang, it counts as zero.

I write their names on the board along with their estimates and then we head out to let 'em fly!
I stand on the bottom floor and have students fly them 4 or 5 at a time, depending on my class size. Then I estimate using my yard stick how many yards the planes flew. I call out the numbers and they write them down. The student closest to their estimate gets a "small-but-fabulous-prize" and a student who's plane flew the furthest also gets one.

This activity is a fun break if you have a long class period like mine, but can also be expanded to encompass more Customary system activities.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fraction Review {Math Lab}

One of my favorite things about teaching where I teach, is the freedom to go outside. 6th graders NEED to go outside sometimes, and this is a PERFECT math lab to get their never ending energy out, while maintaining their focus and keeping them accountible for learning. I do this at the end of our unit on fractions (which since it's 7th grade level math is working towards mastery, so they're pretty confident on these concepts)

Fractionopoly is a game-based math game that I created help get my students outside, and also have a fun way to integrate fractions, estimation, and integers. I guarentee your students will have fun playing this game just because they get to go outside!

  • Colored sidewalk chalk (or sidewalk paint)
  • Open space for creating life-sized game board
  • Foam dice (2)
  • 1 small whiteboard and whiteboard marker per team
  • Candy
  • Master Game Board (for answer key)

Time Period: 1 class period (30 + mins)


Select an appropriate place to create your game board. Depending on the size of your game board, you may need a lot of space, or not so much space. Also, if you have gravel, I suggest using chalk paint. I used regular chalk and the gravel pretty much ate my chalk!

Next, outline your game board and remember to count the number of squares you are using. I used white chalk to outline and colored chalk to write inside the squares.

Use your master copy of the game board (that has the problems and answers) to write in each of the squares. Be sure to include "fun" squares like "move ahead 3 spaces", "Go back to start", "Send one team to jail", "Candy" (like free parking) and plenty of problem spaces for students to solve.

This should be done before your class starts. I did it before school and I think if I would have used chalk paint it wouldn't have taken as long, although total I spent about 30 mins. creating the board.

During Class:
Place your students into three or four equal teams and give each team a small whiteboard for working problems, and a whiteboard marker to write with. I remind my students that their grade for the day depends on their participation and behavior outside and during the game.

Playing the Game:
  • This is a classic-game in that each team takes turns rolling the dice.

  • The team that arrives back at "Start" safely is the winning team.
  • Students walk around after each roll to their designated spot.

  • Teams take turns rolling and must have a CORRECT answer to their problem by the time it is their time to roll again, or they forfeit their turn.

  • An incorrect answer warrants a loss of a turn. If a player rolls the die and lands upon an occupied square, they are required to more to the square directly behind and follow instructions on that square.
  • Students that land on the "Candy" square earn 1 piece of candy (or other small-but-fabulous prize).

I hope that you have as much fun as I did playing this game. It's a great way to review before a holiday like Thanksgiving!

Math Notebook {Notes}

Update (6/14/13): I have a complete version of this notebook for download here

After my post on Integers, I received a few emails and comments asking for more pictures on the "math notebook". So I've put together a step-by-step walk through on how I use composition books in my classroom to help train my students to take notes, use their notes, and of course not lose their notes. :)

At the beginning of each school year, I have my students but two composition notebooks (wide ruled and graph paper) instead of trying to keep track of loose-leafed paper for notes. I collect them at "Meet the Teacher" night and mark off everyone who has brought them in. I also have spare one incase someone is new, can't afford one, etc. They're really cheap during back to school shopping. Then I set up the first few pages for them to cut down on time in class spent and to ensure that it's set-up the way I want it.  It doesn't take long. here's what I do:

Page 1: This is the cover page. I leave it blank so that students can use their creativity and decorate it (appropriately!) Here's mine:

Page 2: Page 2 is folded in and taped to page 3 to create a "pocket". I do this for students as some of them have trouble doing this step and it's faster for me to just do it for them. I color the pocket opening so that it's easily visible. This is where any papers that we tape/glue into our notebook, etc. can be placed for easy transport to and from school.

Page 4: Pages 4 - 8 are used to set-up the table of contents. This is a great tool to help kids not only take better notes, but to help them learn how to use their resources when they get stuck. I mark off along the margains and title them in order "Date", "Title" and "Page #" (my date is left blank b/c I use mine from year to year). I made each chapter a different color so that it's easy to see where chapter breaks are.

Page 9 Page 9 is where the students will actually start their notetaking, so I start their numbering by writing a "1" on the bottom right corner. Here's two examples of some of the notes I give. The pen is what I write on the board, the pencil is what I lead students in "teaching each other" (I like to interact with my students)

This has worked WONDERS for me. I created each chapter's notes just before I started teaching that chapter. It makes giving notes for absent students easier too, as I just have to go down to the copier and copy it. Students that are absent then don't feel as if they missed too much and they copy my notes into their own notebook.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Area & Perimeter {Math Lab on Rectangles}

In addition to teaching middle school math, I am also teaching high school Geometry this year. I hated Geometry when I was in school, but now I like it almost as much as Algebra. So when we cover geometric concepts at the sixth and seventh grade level, I try to make it fun, interesting and challenging. I think this is one of my favorite labs, and I know it's one of the student's as well.

Area & Perimeter: Rectangles

Time Needed:
1 class period (60 - 90 minutes in length)


  • Bright DuctTape
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Area & Perimeter Math Lab

  1. BEFORE class starts, tape four rectangles on your classroom floor in different duct tape colors. Measure these in both customary (inches) and metric (centimeters)
  2. Students should be very familiar with how to find area by now, so notes should not take long. I reinforce the importance of using a formula to help set the stage for Pre-Algebra.
  3. Place students in four groups and pass out the math lab packet.
  4. Watch the discovery begin!
Here's a few pictures of my students in action during this lab:

Area and Perimeter Math Lab:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When I Grow Up {Project}

I try to do at least two major projects each semester to challenge my students to apply the math they've learned to the "real world". The most common question comment I hear is "When am I ever going to use this?" That's why I love this project. It shows my students that no matter what career they choose, they'll need SOME type of math to get there. Usually it's a whole lot more than they've anticipated!

Project Description: Career Project - "When I Grow Up" (grades 5 - 7)
*Students will reflect and investigate the career path they are interested in and find what it takes to get there and make a sample monthly budget off their proposed monthly income and present their findings to the class. (PDF of project is available at the end of blog)

Time: 3-4 weeks

Purpose: To allow students to investigate what they want to be when they grow up and see that math is involved in every career path they choose at some level. Students will also get a better understanding as to "where the money goes" each month and hopefully have a better appreciation for what their parent's do.

I really enjoy doing this project each year with my 6th graders. Especially when I had the same class for three years in a row. We did a 1950's project, then this, then a compound interest project. I dare say those kids are prepared for real life!

Here's some pictures of my precious students in their presentations:

PDF of Career Project: CLICK HERE!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Metric System Mini-Olympics {Math Lab}

Living in America, it's hard to teach the metric system to middle schoolers and get them to understand, have them realize how important learning it is.I used to teach this very straight-forwardly, but in a creative mood, I compiled this math lab and have been quite pleased with the results and the kids seem to have a BLAST too! I usually do this lab AFTER introducing the metric system so students know how to convert within the system first.

Time Allotment: at least 1 hour, if you do not want students to have homework. Each event can be modified to fit within teaching time period. I also do not do a warm-up on the event day.

  • Paper Plates (1 per student)
  • Straws (1 per student)
  • Cotton Balls (1 per student)
  • Sponges (1 per team)
  • Graduated Cylinder for measuring water - in mL (1 per team)
  • Bin for holding water and sponges
  • Marbles - each marble should weigh about 1 g. *I found most craft stores have these (about 50)
  • Bin for holding marbles
  • Meter Stick
  • Duct Tape or Masking Tape - used for marking out the distance before events

*Before class, mark off about 6 meters with duct tape or masking tape and mark on the tape every 10 centimeters. This will be used for three of the five events.
  1. Place students into equal teams (or as equal as you can make)
  2. Explain each event: Paper Plate Discuss, Straw Javelin, Cotton Ball Shot Put, Sponge Squeeze, and Marble Grab.
  3. Have students estimate how far they will toss a paper plate (in cm), throw a straw (in cm), throw a cotton ball (in cm), how much water they can squeeze into a graduated cylinder with their NON DOMINATE hand(in mL) and how many marbles they can grab with their DOMINATE hand (in g).
  4. Go out to the taped area for the paper plate discuss, straw javelin, and the cotton ball shot put.

Paper Plate Discuss:
- Each student has a paper plate and writes his/her name on it so it won't get lost when we "throw" them.
- Have about a 6 meter long duct taped (or masking taped) strip out marked with every 10 centimeters. - Explain to students the distance markings so they can "see" how long a decimeter is in relation to a meter.
- Have each team line up and the first member of each team throws their plate. Repeat until each student has gone.
- Measure the distances and have students write them on their paper NEXT to their estimates.
- Have students SUBTRACT their estimate with their actual distance. This is their score for the event. The student that is the closest gets a small but fabulous prize. The student that threw the furthest, gets a "gold medal" that I made.

Straw Javelin:
- Complete the straw javelin in the same manner that the paper plate discuss was done, measuring from the BACK of the straw.

Cotton Ball Shot Put:
- Also complete in the same manner that the paper plate discuss and straw javelin was completed.
- Upon completion, go back inside the classroom for the sponge squeeze.

Sponge Squeeze:
- Have a bin set up with water in and enough sponges for each team to have one. Also set out the graduated cyinders (I used flasks b/c our chem lab was using the cylinders)
- Have students elect one person from their team to compete in this activity.
- Students will take their NON DOMINATE hand and grab a sponge and squeeze into the cylinder as hard as they can in ONE SQUEEZE. Any "resqueezing" or shaking will result in a disqualification.

- Measure the amount of liquid in each cylinder in mL and have students record on their paper, comparing to their estimates.
- Award students with the closest estimate and actual as well as the student who squeezed the most mL of water.

Marble Grab:
- Have students elect a different student to compete in this event.
- Students will grab as many marbles as they can with their DOMINATE hand (no scooping!) and place on a plate to count them.
- I use marbles that weigh close to 1 gram each, so it makes this event really easy, but you can also use a scale and have students weigh their handfuls too.
- Have each team record their amounts on their sheets and again find the difference between estimate and actual.
- Award prizes for the estimation winner and the student who was able to grab the most marbles.

Have students return to their seats and add up their "scores" (differences between actual and estimation). The student with the LOWEST score is the overall winner and usually gets some sort of larger, and fabulous prize like a few points extra credit, or something like that.

I usually attach a few metric system worksheets to this lab as my class period is 90 mins in length, and it gives them good practical practice. Plus once we complete the lab, they have a pretty good grasp on the system and can complete these pretty easily.

Have fun!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coordinate Graphing {Math Lab: Centers}

If you're caught teaching a grade level like me where your students know about coordinate graphing, but need to "polish the edges" with it and practice, this math lab is super fun. I do it every year with my 6th grades and modify it for my pre-algebra students. I got the Nerf gun idea from a good friend of mine, and came up with the centers on my own. I'll upload a PDF of the lab for you - just please site my site or name if you use it. :)

  • Nerf Dart gun (shoots 6 - 8 darts)
  • Suction cup darts
  • laptop or computer with internet access
Time Allotment:
  • 1 class period (60 mins) after quick refresher notes

Place students into four groups, as equally as possible and rotate every 10 - 15 minutes. Allow enough time for each group to complete the Nerf Gun center. All other centers can be completed at home.

Center #1: Nerf Guns
Have one student be the "shooter" and shoot the coordinate graph. Another student is the "recorder" and records on the shooter's paper the ordered pairs. A third student will pull off the darts from the board after the shooter is finished shooting and call off the ordered pairs for each dart. Additional students may help pull off and record. Rotate within the group so that each student has had a chance to do each job.

Center #2: Coordinate Graphing
Students will complete in their group the coodinate graphing hidden picture. Remind students how to complete these and that they need to connect points as they go to create the picture.

Center #3: Internet Resource
Students will collectively complete 25 problems on the IXL website. I have a trial subscription, but students were able to also complete this at home without a subscription and it is a GREAT resource for math!

Center #4: Word Problem Practice
Students can collaboratively complete the problems on the provided Word Problem Worksheet (by Glencoe - Lesson 2-3)

Wanna help Math-n-spire remain free to reproduce? You can support the site by donating on the right through Paypal. :)

PDF of Math Lab: {Click Here}

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Integers {Notes}

Ever wonder how to make integers not only practical, but fun? I know I struggle sometimes with trying to get the importance across to my young students that these "little" negatives are SO important! I had inspiration though the other night while planning a science lesson.

I've discovered this one true fact.

Middle Schoolers like LOVE Post-It notes!!!!

Here's how I taught the lessons of integers. It took a few days to complete the four operations, BUT we not only had fun, we learned our rules and can now look back at them any time we need to!

  • 4 different bright colors of Post-Its
  • Sharpie
  • Math Journal
**Before class, I had pre-written on each post-it to save time, but you can also have students write on their own during class too.

  1. Write one operational symbol on each color of Post-It. (i.e. + on pink, - on yellow, etc)
  2. Have them grouped ready to be passed out following the warm-up so that each student recieves four Post-Its.
  3. Students will place ALL FOUR Post-Its on ONE page as shown:
  4. Have students trace around each Post-It to give a defined space when removing each note to write the integer rules underneath.
  5. Add appropriate rules under each note and complete examples on following pages.
  6. Once all Post-Its are complete, have a page dedicated to "Mixed Review" as most students get confused between (- 3)(- 4) and (- 3) - 4
Here's a close-up under the "Subtraction" Post-It;

Happy integer note-taking! :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Math Properties: BINGO GAME!

Is it me, or is teaching "The Properties of Math" kinda difficult? I mean, teaching it so the students will not only remember them, but understand them.....

I found a GREAT game to help reinforce the properties of math once you've introduced it in your math notebook. It's Math Properties: BINGO!

Here's the materials you'll need:
  1. Visit the website and printoff your BINGO cards (I mounted mine on colored paper and had them laminated for longer use)
  2. Cut up index cards or post-its to use as "markers"
  3. Place students in groups of two

 **Modification to the game that I did - Instead of calling out the properties on the call sheet that came printed, I wanted to challenge my students by giving them an example on the board and then having them mark the corresponding property on their boards.

This game was surprisingly fun to play and the kids have done really well at remembering the properties in the weeks since we've played. A good reinforcement tool!