Coloring in High School

I love to have self-checking activities in my classroom. Although students can easily check their work when solving equations, few of them do. I find that if I offer an answer bank they will take more time attending to precision in their work. With this activity, I combined my love of answer banks and coloring into a fun activity. My students needed to practice solving equations with variables on both sides and using their prior knowledge of distributive property and combining like terms, but I needed something more fun than a traditional worksheet to hold their attention. So I created a coloring answer bank.
High schoolers are really just big kids so they loved this activity. I loved hearing them say, well I got 15, but that's not an answer choice, so I much have made a mistake. I also gave them the hint that no adjacent shapes would be the same color, so they had another opportunity for self-checking. Check out this activity in my TpT store for $2.

The other activity I use each year and love is the Solving Equations flower - perfect for the easier two-step equations.

Check out this activity in my TpT store for $2. 

Happy coloring!

Solving Equations Mnemonic Device

This phone was a great addition to our interactive notebooks and helped students remember the steps for solving equations. When you pass them out, be prepared for students to put them to their ear and actually try to make a call - oh teenagers! 

I have included two versions, the simple one shown above and one that gives the details of each step. I love sending students back to this page when they need a reminder later in the school year or when we do multi-step inequalities.  

We glued the phone all the way to the side of the page in their interactive notebook and did some multi-step equations right next to it. 
Here are some more ideas and activities for solving equations.

TEACH Conference

Today I led a breakout session at TEACH Conference about Hands On Math. It was so much fun to share the fun activities I do in my classroom with so many passionate educators. My absolute favorite go-to resource is Tarsia Puzzles. They are easy to make and super engaging for students. Here is the link to download the problem. I can't wait to see how this changes your classroom. Download Tarsia Puzzle Program here

Using the word wall

This week my students were trying to explain the relationship between the diagonals of a rectangle and square. They said things like - they are both 13.5 inches or they are the same thing, so I asked them to find a word on the word wall to describe the relationship. They quickly picked out congruent. It just so happened that I was being observed by a district specialist at the time and he said it was the first time he had actually seen a teacher use a word wall in instruction. 
At my school, the word wall is one item on a long list of required elements for dour classroom. Mine is completely student driven. They write the word and create a picture to go with it. Sometimes they choose to create a Frayer model or write a short definition. Sometimes I ask a student to add a word to the word wall and sometimes they initiate it themselves. When the students are involved, they take ownership and this word wall becomes a great resource to them.

Measurement Conversions

My students enjoyed this dominoes/ follow me activity for conversions. They were able to practice using the reference sheet and using different methods for converting measurements. 


I am loving my new VersaTiles. They are truly as versatile as the name would suggest. I create a worksheet with 12 questions and an answer bank (I have made lessons on scientific notation, slope, reading graphs, angle relationships). Students use the tiles to match the problem number to their answer. For example the answer to Problem #9 is A so they move tile 9 to slot A. They are able to self correct when they get an answer that isn't on the sheet or when they get the same answer for two problems. At the end, they close the case and flip it over and reveal the picture. Again, they can easily self correct if their case does not make the correct pattern. These cases are well worth $13 and with the Versatiles answer sheet, you can create your own worksheets on any subject. I am currently using them for centers, and students are working individually, but they could easily be used in pairs or with group work.


Here is the link to the page to purchase them and the answer template.

Here is my Slope Versatiles Activity.

Scatter plots sort

Today I tried this fun sorting activity for scatter plots: (PDF available for free)

When students have a graph to look at, they can easily see the correlation, but it's difficult when they only have the scenarios. We did a few examples together first and I helped them with the language. We talked about temperature vs sales of hot chocolate, ice cream, and ID badges (negative, positive, and no relationship). I made sure to model for them how to talk through these problems. There was some discussion about a few of them- the skaterboarders had a lot to say about the skating one. One student argued the jacket one was no relationship because students at our school wear jackets regardless of the weather to cover their uniforms. I love when students challenge answers and justify their ideas with reasoning - My students always amaze me!
Here is one students' ideas.

Then students used their phones to take pictures of their answers so they could easily compare them to their peers.

FACEing Math

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but all I did was find a link to it in Pinterest. It combines math and art. Students have to complete the face based on the answer they get for the first 12 questions. Here is an example

Then they color the picture based on the answers to the next 15 questions.

Here is a link to the freebie with Solving one step equations. I printed it and changed the equal signs to inequality signs so my 8th graders could practice solving inequalities.

This is a great assignment for centers because students can work independently or to leave with a sub. The Web site has options for all levels of math to purchase.

Gumball Competition

This is a fun way I found to create some healthy competition between my classes. We are working on Island 10 in Carnegie Mathia. Every time someone finishes a section, they get to add a gumball to their class's machine. The winner will get - GUM! I am also going to color code for sections. Right now they are all red for Section 1. Then they will get a blue one for Section 2. The kids love it so far!

Exponent Dominoes

I thought my introduction to exponents lesson would be a breeze, but students had a difficult time when parentheses and negative signs were involved. I saw lots of students with the same misconceptions, so I knew I needed an activity to help them differentiate between the two. I created Exponent Dominoes. The students loved this hands on activity. It led to great discussions like which of these match:

Before this activity, they could not see a difference between these expressions. They had to really understand what the parentheses mean to be able to correctly match the pairs. And they knew when they made a mistake because the end did not connect back to the beginning. Then they had to discuss where their mistake could be. Here is another one that really got to thinking. First a lot of them tried this:

One group tried this, but then decided since the two expressions were not equal that would not work. Nice try though - I may have to add a problem like that for next time.
 Ah yes, that's a match.
 My favorite part about this activity was it took only one piece of paper per group (I actually printed them on cardstock), and it led to very active engagement and great discussions. They all know the difference now between expressions inside parentheses and outside. Now on to Laws of Exponents ...
Here is the link to my Exponent Dominoes. Give it a try!

Free Upgrades: My pencil management technique

The classroom can never have enough pencils. Every period at least one student doesn't have/can't find/dog ate their pencil. I used to fuss at them but it never really helped the situation. Then one day I overheard a kid talking about how he couldn't wait to upgrade his cell phone and my idea for free upgrades was born. I keep a stash of brand new pencils with perfect erasers. When a student tells me they don't have a pencil, I take a perfect one from my stash. The pencil-less student is momentarily excited, thinking he is going to get a perfect new pencil. But that wouldn't be fair, would it. Instead I tell the class I am offering a free upgrade and I let someone with a shabby pencil with a worn down eraser trade it in for a sparkly new pencil. Then the pencil-less student gets the traded in version. Everyone wins- kids who bring supplies are rewarded with a new pencil and the students have an incentive to bring their pencils because they never know when I will offer an upgrade special. My middle schoolers love it and they often ask if I have any upgrades available.

For more fun ideas, come visit me in my TPT store anytime!


Pencil Update!  {July 2017} I wanted to share a little more about what this looks like in my classroom ...

I regularly walk around and look for pencils in need of upgrades while students are working and switch them out. I have this straw holder that I made into a pencil holder for the freebie pencils that students have upgraded. Students who come to class without a pencil know to go directly there and get one, and many of them return it at the end of the period. This system works so well for me because I don't have to get involved. If the cup is empty, I will ask if anyone wants to upgrade.

Of course I very highly value building relationships with my students and I know that some times it's better to just give a kid a new pencil, and I do that regularly too. But I think teaching them responsibility is important too, and often a student will bring back a pencil the next day and ask to upgrade it.

I have also only ever attempted this strategy with middle and high school students. A lot of elementary teacher have commented on how this would not work for their students, and I completely agree. I have a son about to start kindergarten and he would forget to put on shoes if I didn't remind him. But pre-teens and teenagers who are used to switching classes regularly and seem to always remember to bring their cell phone every where they go can also be expected to see track of a writing utensil.
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