Coloring Activity {FLASH FREEBIE- May 20}

I hope you are enjoying your last few weeks of school (or maybe even your summer vacation!). I have just uploaded a new product I would love for you to try - so I am making it a FLASH FREEBIE!
I used this activity this week and my students really enjoyed it - the coloring is simple enough that it isn't too time consuming but allows for the "brain break" and extra engagement students need (especially this time of year). It's great for end-of-the-year review or even at the beginning of the next school year.  I will only be free today, so download it now!
Solve Multi-Step Equations Coloring Activity: Practice solving equations with Distributive Property, variables on both sides, combining like terms and all the properties of equality.

Please leave a rating on my product page and let me know what you think or how it worked in your classroom. Thanks for your support!
If you like it, check out my other Solving Equations Coloring Activities

*You missed the freebie, but you can still get this item for $2 from my TpT store. Thanks for your support!


Probability has to be one of my favorite units. There was no much time for it built into the learning schedule, but after the End of Course Exam (given six weeks before the actual end of course!), my students needed something lighthearted and fun - and this was the perfect unit. I started looking for something fun but different than the traditional "roll the dice and collect tally marks" activity, and I came across this post from Sarah at "Math Equals Love" that linked me to "Beano," which is described as "probability-based Bingo using legumes and a pair of dice." A few weeks ago a student found some dried beans in a board game, attempted to eat one and complained about how gross it was: A. why would you ever put an identified object from a board game box into your mouth? B. what would make you think dried beans would taste good? Needless to say, I ruled out the "dried legume" part, but the actual concept for the game sounded fun. 

I had plenty of one centimeter cubes in a variety of colors, so I modified the game board with a fun font and a new name, and I decided to try it. To say this was a hit with my students is an understatement, they LOVED Blocko!
I never once mentioned that the game had anything to do with math. I just told them we were going to play a fun game and explained the rules:

In the first few rounds we played with only six blocks. I rolled "virtual dice" and called out the sum and the students removed their blocks when the sum was called. Several of my students didn't understand how this worked until they actually experienced a few rounds. Once they understood the rules, we played with all 12 blocks, and the winner won a Dum-Dum! I liked having groups of up to four students share one board (this is how the desks or arranged) because they can easily see how their strategy compares to others' strategies. Some of my students dropped their blocks onto the board to make it random, some spread them out onto each space every single time, and some students figured out which numbers had the highest probability of winning and won a lot of Dum-Dums. Everyone had fun!
We played this game in the last 10 minutes of class each day during our Probability Unit. During class on Thursday, I started collecting experimental data. I recorded the results of 10 games. During class today, we played the game again and I asked students if this data would influence how they placed their blocks. Some changed their strategy and some did not.  One student said, "It looks like a mountain if you turn your head to the side" (great observation!) One student even collected his own data to see if it matched the class' data.
Several students stopped putting blocks on 2 and 12 and I asked them why. Some pointed to the experimental data, but I probed them to explain it in terms of outcomes. We then filled out a chart of possible outcomes and translated that to a dot plot

Student used this data and the experimental data to answer questions about their strategy, observations during the game, and how their strategy changed. I used some of the questions from the original "Beano" materials and added some of my own.

As students developed a strategy, the games finished much quicker and they were more competitive. (Each game took about four minutes - two minutes for block placement and two minutes of dice rolling)  It was definitely a highly engaging game that I will look forward to each year. I hope your students like it too! Download materials here. 

Scientific Notation Puzzle

I recently discovered Tarsia Puzzles and they are my new favorite go-to activity for practicing math problems. In this lesson, I used them to practice Scientific Notation. This puzzle has problems with negative and positive exponents - several have the same coefficient so students really have to think about the function of the exponent. The students had to correctly work out 30 problems to piece the puzzle together and they had way more fun practicing this way than a worksheet. I overheard some great discussions about the rules and misconceptions (which they can self-identify when they don't find the answer they are looking for).

Here is the link to my Scientific Notation puzzle in TpT.

K'Nex Roller Coaster

For Christmas 1994, my brother and I got a K'Nex Roller Coaster set. My dad and I put the whole thing together in our living room (it took up a large part of the room). Now I have it in my classroom. The box was sitting in the corner building anticipation and now construction is underway. I teach two elective classes and one of the classes got to spend part of a period beginning to build.

I saw students using team building skills to work together and create a plan. I also saw them thinking spatially about the directions and how to connect pieces. I saw students who are usually not interested in anything math related take an interest in this activity. (I love when this happens).

 The directions are definitely not as clear as Lego directions, and allow for some interpretation. Students used ideas of symmetry to interpret the instructions. Day one of construction ended with a solid foundation and several jealous students who did not get to participate (only one of my six classes had the privilege so far), but I will definitely make more time for this in the FOUR weeks of school we have left. I sure how the coaster is complete by June 10, 2016!

Tarsia Puzzles

I love word problems and multi-step problems, and I have been focusing most of my effort on these higher-level questions that students need to pass the Algebra FSA. But every once in a while, you need some good, old-fashion practice. My absolute favorite way to accomplish this is with a Tarsia Puzzle. And once they figure out how to put them together, the students love them too. I have lots to check out in my TpT store, including a free one to practice Pythagorean Theorem!

One of my favorite things about this type of practice is the self-checking aspect. If students make a mistake, I don't want them to continue - I want them to stop and fix their mistake. If they continue to practice incorrectly, their misconception will be more difficult to correct. Students know right away if they don't find a puzzle piece with their answer, they have made a mistake or maybe someone else made a mistake and has their answer piece, which leads to my next favorite part of these puzzles.
This student noticed his mistake when he tried to solve another problem and his answer is already matched -
leading to great discussion of what the coefficient in front means. 

This activity forces students to work together. They have to develop a team-work strategy to get the puzzle correctly assembled. They also have to check in with one another when they do not agree one the correct answer or when someone already has the puzzle piece that they need. This aligns perfectly with Mathematical Practice 3: "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others." They also have to work together on a strategy for actually putting the puzzle together to make the shape. I hear some great conversations when students are working together on these assignments - conversations I never heard when students practiced with worksheets. Kinesthetic learners especially benefit from this tactile learning activity.

Some tips for using these puzzles in your classroom:

  • Store the pieces in plastic bags. I originally used envelopes, but they fit so much nicer into sandwich size bags. When I am finished with the lesson, I put the answer key, table and all the bags in a page protector to store for next year. 
  • Print on colored paper. I have used some of these puzzles for three years now and they hold up just fine on regular paper, there is no need to splurge on cardstock.
  • Print the table and solution picture. When students need help, it is much easier to find the correct problem and solution on the table than on the solution picture.
  • Use a piece of showerboard in the middle of the desks so that students have a common flat surface to work together.
  • I also like to show a copy of the outline of a finished puzzle as they work, so they can strategize. 
I hope your students enjoy this fun way to practice math!

A circle banner - and Einstein's new look

"I think Einstein probably wore a chain," my student said as she proudly decorated her circle banner. I love the creativity!

My students had a great time with this activity.

I used it as kinda an exit ticket for our lesson on circles, with each student getting a different problem. It was easy to differentiate with the variety of complexity of the problems. Some students solved for circumference given radius of diameter and some found the circumference given the area. Several got very excited to decorate their banner piece, then we voted on a winner, and everyone hung it on the class banner.

I am so excited to try out the Algebra ones as an end of the year review project. I can't believe we still have four weeks of school left 😜 

Making Notes FUN!

I am slightly obsessed with this new resource I found on Pinterest called Doodle Notes. I was immediately intrigued by the colorfulness of the notes and purchased a few from TpT to try out in my classroom. My students loved them as much as I did ...

These doodle notes fulfill two of my main objectives for interactive notebook: active engagement and having a valuable reference resource.  I love to see students taking pride in their work , which has been my focus with interactive notebooking this year. Earlier in the school year, an assistant principal came into my class for an informal observation and one of my students asked him, "Do you want to see my notebook?" He commented on that during my follow-up conference because it was the first time it had happened to him. I love that students are so proud of their notes that they want to show them off!

I also love to see students engaged - even if it means coloring, because they are much more likely to remember these notes than any that they copied down on notebook paper.

Taking inspiration from these Doodle Notes, I've tried to make my daily notes more engaging. It's amazing how adding some clip art, a fun font or giving students an area to color or personalize their notes helps with engagement.

I saw so many students coloring this Ferris Wheel as they read through the problem, while they were creating a strategy, or when they finished.

This clip art helped a few students remember this "trick" for turning rational exponents into radicals.

I created my own version of interactive notes for introducing Polynomials. It gives students a few places to add color and personalize their notes. Check it out for free in my TpT store.

Show Your Thinking - and Every Step

This year I tried to focus on making math make sense. My students still struggle with integer rules and it really showed when we were multiplying polynomials. I loved the box method for both multiplying and factoring, and using the same technique for both reinforced the ways the two operations are connected. I like the organization of multiplying with the box because it insures each term is multiplied by each term, without anyone being left out. When it came to combining like terms, some students struggled with the integer operations. I resorted to my middle school tool box and pulled out the idea of zero pairs. This helped students have a concrete method to use while they formulated their own algorithms. 

Writing with dry erase markers on the desk somehow always gets students to show more work. They are much more willing to take risks in this medium than with pencil and paper, plus it's different than all their other classes. Anything to keep them engaged 👍🏻

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