Thursday, July 31, 2014

Using Math to Investigate Candy Packaging

If you have never used candy as a manipulative in the classroom, what are you waiting for? The second you nonchalantly mention that you have candy mouths will drop. Literally.
Candy is a cheap way to keep your students engaged! I like to stock up on candy after holidays - Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc. Candy can be used as a manipulative for numerous math topics. I use math to investigate real life situations. At my house, knowing how many of each color candy exists in a package is important!

There are a lot of different types of candy that can be used mathematically. Skittles, M&M's, Runts, or my current favorite candy to use in class - Smarties (because ya know why not use smarties to help your "smarties" in class?). There are 6 different color smarties. Each individual packet has 15 smarties in it - which makes for a nice sample size. 

Generally here in America we seem to think that everything is equal. For example, when I purchase a bag of life savers, I expect to have approximately the same amount of each color. Likewise, when I open a packet of smarties, I expect to have just as many white lifesavers as I do purple. It is expected that each color will have equal representation. 

Candy companies do not necessarily work that way. A fun way for students to come to this conclusion on their own is to give them a sample of some candy, and have them determine the amount of times they find each color, record the percent that each candy is represented in their sample. I created an *editable* form for students to use while they investigate investigate color representation in a sample of candy you provide.


First students will write out how many times they expect each color to be shown in their sample. A package of smarties includes 15 pieces, so my students guessed that there would be 2.5 of each color in the packages. After they have written down their guesses, they count out each color and record the results. Once every student has figured out the results from their sample, they can get together with the students sitting around them to determine their group averages. Finally, as a class combine group averages to find a "class average." 

The chart can be changed so that it has as many (or as few) columns as you would like. You can also change the colors, and the items on the top bar. To download the sheet click on the picture below. It will take you to a Dropbox page where the document can be downloaded as a PowerPoint. 

An add on to this activity would be to have students create pie charts or bar graphs showing their personal results, along with the class average. It would be a fun, simple activity to leave with a sub or to do for fun after a test! Try it out and let me know how it goes! Do you have any other ideas for how you can use candy in class? Please share in the comments! I always have tons of candy around and love learning new ways to use up my stock!

**Just in case you are wondering and can't read the sample picture, my class showed that there are more pink and yellow smarties (on average) in a package than any other color! Purple and orange smarties are represented less than any other color! **

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Made It Week #9

I don't think I've ever been so excited for Mondays! It's Monday Made It Link Up Time again with  Tara from 4th Grade Frolics! Seriously browsing the links have been so much fun! This week I've been slacking a little bit and haven't made much. Lucky for you guys, the rest of my family has made up for my lack of creativeness this week! So without further ado.....

My daughter Dixie is 6 and really artistic! In last weeks "Monday Made It" post I shared that I follow a blog by Amber that I love called Crazy Little Projects. Amber recently posted a tutorial for a kids paper bag journal that awesome (and cheap!). We decided to follow the tutorial to make a mini scrap book! It was SUPER easy and so much fun! We took 5 brown paper bags (sandwich bags) and folded them in half (which you can see in the top left picture). Next ,we stapled the bags together at the fold. We logged onto Facebook (which sadly is where 90% of my pictures are stored) and Dixie picked out some pictures that she wanted to put in the book. After a quick run to Walgreens to pick up our prints I pulled out some old scrapbooking supplies and Dixie went to work. She mastered cutting with my paper trimmer, then matched up scrapbook paper and photos to create the pages shown below. I'm surprised at how sturdy the paper bags are - she puts loads of elmer's glue on everything, but it's stayed together nicely!
She figured out how to fit everything together all on her own. I love that she put the Ariel picture off center, and cut around the castle so she could add the heart stickers (does anyone else have kids who are obsessed with animal prints? Half of the stickers in her book are animal print! We went school clothes shopping this past week and no surprise, everything she picked out was animal print too!)

Monday Made It #2 is courtesy of my husband. He is an engineer by trade but for the past year has been dabbling is woodworking. He's had no formal training but has taught himself how to do amazing things by watching YouTube videos. You have no idea what large deliveries are until the UPS man starts dropping off multiple 70lb. boxes full of wood! This is a box he just completed.
This box is made up of 11 different types of wood. The base is made of walnut that his grandfather cut down and kept in his shop for 60+ years. Box hinges are crazy expensive (my husband spent $60 on hinges for the first box he made!). Instead of putting hinges on this box, he inserted magnets in the lid and base of the box which keeps it together. It is a really pretty box!

Made it #3 is another product update. A few weeks ago I decided I needed to work on updating the products I have in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The bulk of products were created last summer - I have learned a lot about presentation since then! The 2 products I updated this week are my "working with exponents task card sets". I have 2 sets in my store because my students needed a lot of practice when it came to exponents. Set 1 is what I call the "easy set." Students only need to know basic exponent rules to complete this set. The expressions are fairly simple ones to simplify. Set 2 is a more difficult set. It has much more complex expressions for students to practice. This updated version of the cards features chevron backgrounds, cleaner font, and a much nicer looking recording sheet for students to use!
These task cards work great with a game I came up with to play in my own classroom called "Speed Math." I plan to blog about this game soon, but for now if you are interested you can download free instructions by clicking "Speed Math" above. It's a great way to use task cards for any subject, and with any grade!
Anyways though, that concludes our families "Monday Made Its". Thanks for stopping by!
 I am off to check off the other Monday Made It Projects now, and you should too. To check out the other projects visit 4th Grade Frolics Page!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Day of School Activity AND Blog Hop

On my way to the grocery store this morning I drove by our local high school. I was rather shocked to see that the parking lot -which has been empty for the past month or so- was packed full of cards. Seeing that parking lot made me realize - it's that time of year again. The time of year when stores stock up on #2 pencils, scissors, paper, notebooks, binders, glue, and more! The time when all of the great children's clothing stores (yes, I'm talking about Target, Kohl's & The Children's Place!) send out coupons and advertisements trying to convince you that your children's wardrobe needs updating. It's.....drum roll please.....BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!

Here in Alabama kids start back August 13th. That's just a little under 3weeks from today! Eeeek!!! A couple of friends and I decided that in honor of this *special* time of year, we would have a blog hop. This hop is dedicated to first day of school activities. Hopefully we can make your first day of school a little easier! This hop is hosted by:

Now to the good stuff! I am a strong believe in getting students used to YOUR teaching style ASAP. Part of doing that is introducing your students to the procedures you expect them to follow when class time includes activities. Like I've said before, I am a huge fan of task cards! I use task cards all the time in the classroom. I use them as centers, as whole group activities, or for individual practice. Every student sitting in my classroom is going to see task cards at some point in time. Well, what better time is there than the first day of school to expose students to task cards? I created a set of task cards called "Getting to Know Your Math Students" which can be found as a free download in my teachers pay teachers store by clicking the picture below. (If you don't teach math - keep reading for an editable version!!) 
Obviously, there are a lot of secondary teachers who do not teach math. I wanted to share this back to school activity with everyone, so I created an editable version of these cards for you too! They are not as colorful (because clip artists do not like us to share their clip art that way) but they still make a great back to school activity! These are in a PowerPoint presentation that allows you to edit the questions. To download the file click on the link below. A file sharing site called DropBox will open. and you can download the editable PowerPoint to your computer!

So, now everyone should have access to the cards (yay!!) There are 16 cards in this set and a recording sheet. The cards ask students things that will help you understand them better. Questions include:

  • what was your favorite class last year?
  • what do you like about math?   ***you can change this to ELA, science, social studies, etc
  • what did you like the most about the math class you were in last year?
  • what did you like the least?

I feel like the easiest way to introduce task cards that are open ended like this is to use them in centers. When class size is large, but classroom size is small, taping things to the wall creates easy, usable centers. Depending on how your administration feels about students working in the halls - you could even tape a few outside of the classroom!

Once you have your stations situated try this: 

  • Give each student a recording sheet
  • Divide students in groups of 2-3
  • Give students explicit directions on what they are expected to do
  • Assign each group a starting point (Group A starts at question 1. Group B - question 2, etc)
  • Set a timer for a minute, and tell students to begin answering the question in front of them
  • When the timer rings, each group moves on to the next card

If you time is limited this could easily be made into a 2-day activity. Simply have students complete 8 questions the first day, 8 the second. 

Be prepared for a little chaos! This may be new to your students. Sadly, not every teacher is as cool as you and let's them move around the room with a partner. Things may get loud and you may have to remind students that moving does not mean talking loudly - quiet, controlled talking/reading is good! Loud noise may bring unexpected guests into the room (and no one wants that new AP to catch them with an out of control class!) Remind students that in order to do fun things in your class they need to respect each other and follow directions. 

At the end of the day this activity will hopefully allow you to get a better understanding of who your students are, what they want to be, along with more importantly letting you know how they feel about your subject matter and how you can help support them this year! An added bonus is that your students were able to experience task cards right away in a relaxed environment. When you pull some out the 2nd week of school on trigonometric ratios they wont have a "what are those?" reaction - they'll recognize them and already understand some of your expectations for using the cards. In other words -- they'll be partially trained already! Woot woot!!  

If you have any questions, comments, problems downloading the editable version, please let me know either by commenting below, or emailing me at: I truly hope this helps you at least a little bit! I hope everyone of you have a wonderful, interactive & fun school year! Check out the links below for more first day of school activities!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Made It Week #8

When I decided to start a blog I got excited about the prospect of participating in linky parties. My current favorite linky to browse is Tara from 4th Grade Frolics Monday Made It posts. There are so many creative ideas out there!

Last year for my birthday (which is in August) my husband bought me a sewing machine because I wanted to learn how to sew. I am definitely not an expert but I try! I've made a lot of clothes for my daughter (mostly shorts, dresses & skirts - because they are easy!). It seems like everyone I know right now is expecting, so I thought it'd be fun to figure out how to make baby things. This week I started on making a blanket for a friend that is having a baby boy soon.
The rectangles that are all gray & the ones besides the gray that are light blue with clouds are flannel so they add softness to the rest of it. The backing is going to be light blue minky. It is definitely not perfect, but I think it's pretty good for being the second time I've created a blanket like this!
Another friend has a birthday coming up this week. She is really family oriented & has a house full of small children, so I thought a journal would be the perfect gift. The journal I purchased is a 5yr journal. It has a few lines for every day of the year for 5yrs where a mom can jot down little things to remind her of fun times the family had or cute things the kids said. To go along with the journal I sewed a fabric bookmark. I used a tutorial from a craft blog I love, Crazy Little Projects and I'm excited with how it turned out.
I printed the saying shown on one side of the bookmark on iron on fabric paper. This friend and I both work with children in our church primary, and that is the saying for the year. My husbands family has decided that this Christmas adults are only allowed to give each other homemade gifts. These bookmarks will definitely be handed out in our homemade gift packages! The bookmark took about 5minutes to make - 2pieces of fabric that were 3"x7" & 7" of 1/2" elastic. As my 6yr old likes to say, "easy peasy lemon squeezy!"
My final made it project is one I am really excited about! Last year I spent a lot of time creating posters that had all of the secondary math common core standards on them. While I liked the quatrefoil pattern last years version had, this year I am really into chevron. I have had requests for a chevron set so I figured I better get at it! I've finished the middle school posters and am working my way through the high school standards. I LOVE the way they turned out! They will definitely spruce up some math classrooms (or hallways!) this year!


Check out the other other Monday Made It Projects over at 4th Grade Frolics Page and have a wonderful week!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Making math Interactive & Fun: Part 2

In the post "How do I make math fun & interactive Part 1" I shared that I feel the first big step one must take to create a classroom environment where students interact is movement

The second big step is to allow students to talk. Talking should not just be "allowed" in a classroom it needs to be encouraged!
There are many reasons students should be encouraged to talk but here are my top 5 reasons:
1) The move involved students are in a lesson, the more ownership they feel! After approximately 15 minutes of listening to a teacher talk students lose interest. The best way to keep students interested is to involve them!

Let's take a second and figure out how to involve them. I am a big fan of grouping students. I like to sit students in group of 4, so that I can have students work in pairs or as a whole group. Let's say you have your students grouped together in groups of 4. You are discussing two step equations. To start out you put a problem on the board. 2x + 3 = 7. You explain that the point of solving equations is to isolate x. The first step is to find a way to get the term with the variable all alone. At this point rather than show students, you could tell students to turn and talk to their partners about how they can isolate the term. After a minute have each group write down how they can do this on a piece of paper (or a white board) and hold it up to show you. Some groups will have the correct idea written down, some won't. You will be able to quickly access who does and who does not. You can then call on one of the partnerships and have them explain their idea. OWNERSHIP! Simple as that. Your students are not going to fall asleep when every few minutes they are required to talk to their neighbor, group, or possible the whole class. They are going to stay interested and their brains will stay on!

2) This is an extension of number 1! When students explain content to one another, they develop a deeper understanding of it. While answering x = 3 when you see a problem that says: x+4=7 may make sense in your head, explaining it takes some thought (especially when one step equations are new to you!) Being able to explain the problem and solution comes from having a deeper understanding of the concept which comes after taking the time to think about explaining it. An extra plus to developing a deeper understanding is that it makes the concept more memorable! 
3) Students are more likely to ask their peers questions. As an adult with a teaching position/college degree, students know you know the answers. They also know that you are the one who determines their grade, and decides what happens in class. Your students don't want you to think they are stupid! They don't want you to tell their parents that they had a problem understanding a simple concept. However, they think nothing of asking the kid who copies their English homework a math question, because they feel like they are on a level playing field. Make sure you students have opportunities to discuss math with one another! The more you allow these types of conversations, the more lightening bulbs you'll see go off! Everyone has their own individual learning style. The way you explain something may not click for Bobby. The way his best friend John explains it may click!

4) An awesome benefit of encouraging students to talk in the classroom is less work for the teacher! How many times a day do you have to ask someone to stop talking? If you are like me, a lot! When you throw out the "no talking in class" rule you no longer have to waste time enforcing it! If Jessica knows that she will have time to talk with Emily at some point in your class, she's not going to try to whisper to her the entire class period. Why would she? Also, grouping students up and having group discussions on class topics makes it so students have someone other than you to bounce ideas off of. You will no longer hear all of the questions Amy, Kelly, Michael, Zach, Timmy, and Tommy have. Amy will ask her partner Mary first, and when Timmy and Tommy (who are partners) can't figure out the answer, they'll ask the group sitting beside them before they ask you! Many of your students questions can and will be answered by their fellow group members.

5) Have you ever spent a time creating what you believe is a wonderful, well thought out presentation for your students, only to get through it and realize many students did not understand the first step which led to them not understanding the entire thing? Worst. Thing. EVER! When you insert spots into your presentation where students are encouraged to discuss and share with one another you end up not having those stressful situations! Assigning students a few minutes with a partner to discuss, can give you insight into your students thought process. It's a low stress way to access the level of understanding each student is at. If you catch two students arguing about who is right and who is wrong, and listen in as they explain their point of views to one another, you can catch what misconceptions are being made (or have been made) and correct them immediately!

Words are Powerful! Especially when used in the classroom! 
Have any tips for making math interactive in fun? Any comment on this post? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How do I make math fun & interactive? Part 1

The first thing you need to make math fun, is the desire to do so! Since you are reading this, I am going to assume you have that desire!

Next, you need to find a way to change the way your students think. Many of your students are used to sitting at their desks, taking notes, and keeping their mouths shuts. They consider that the norm. If you want your class to be interactive and fun, you need to throw out some rules! Wait you might think - how do I do that? Here is part of 1 of "creating an interactive secondary classroom"

You know that piece of you that wants your kids to always stay in their seats? Take that part of you, wrap it up with rainbow paper, and throw it out your classroom window. Throw it out NOW! Does sitting in uncomfortable chairs for 50 (or more!) minutes, multiple class periods each day sound like fun to you? Of course not! It's not fun for your students either!

You will always need to have some time (particularly when you are introducing brand new material) where students do sit, listen and write things down. The time spent doing this should be kept to a minimum! The bulk of your class period should include student interaction and movement. Students may be moving around creating pages to stick in their interactive notebooks, or moving around to different centers while they work on mastering various concepts. Movement is key! It keeps them (and you!) from falling asleep, and keeps their brains switched on at all times! Students should also have the opportunities to interact with one another, and with you!

Now that we have that settled, how do you incorporate movement into the classroom. Elementary school teachers use centers, and those of us teaching secondary math can too! My go to centers include task cards, scavenger hunts, and puzzles. I could go on and on about each of these (and will at a future date) but for right now I just want to share this amazing ebook: Task Card Handbook. Task cards can be used for literally anything. This handbook (created by the task card queen herself, Ms. Rachel Lynette - over at shares what a task card is, and how to use them. They are one of the simplest items to use and there are many ways to use them!  

When I first incorporated movement into my classroom, I was afraid of losing control of my students However, I have found that it is much easier to keep control of the class when students enjoy what they are doing. When I primarily lectured I wasted a lot of time remind individual students to stay at their desks and keep quiet. When you remove the "stay seated" requirement you have one less thing to monitor for. 

Now it is question time: Have you ever used task cards? How do you feel about letting students move around the classroom? I'd love to hear from you!

Check out Part 2 of "how do I make math fun and interactive" here: Part 2

PS I used Graphics From the Pond for this post:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let's Get This Blogging Thing Started!

Hi, I'm Randi! I grew up in South Florida, and now live in Alabama (roll tide!!) One day after my original college plans fell through - I was going to be a nurse but, nursing is NOT a good career for someone who faints when they hear a story that involves blood or sees blood - someone advised me to think about what I love and pursue a career that went along with it.

It took me about 5minutes to realize I love math. I love that math can be basic enough that a toddler can understand it, but also difficult enough that there are problems that are unsolvable. I love that 6+6 is always going to be 12 -- Kindergarten teachers don't ask students to interpret what 6+6 "could mean", they ask what it is! I love that math is fun! We get to use imaginary numbers - and we have a definition for those imaginary numbers!

I truly love math and everything it can be used for. So, I decided my "calling" in life was to be a math teacher. When I was in college and told my friends that I was pursuing a degree in math so that I could be a secondary math teacher I faced a lot of criticism. There are a LOT of people in the world who say or think that they hate math. I quickly realized that my friends and fellow students didn't truly hate math - they hated math class while they were in middle and high school. Why did they hate math class? I believe it was because their teachers didn't try to share a love of math with their classes. All teachers have subject matter they are required to cover. Some teachers choose to relay information to their students through lecture only. Students sit in a classroom in straight rows, keep their mouths shut, take notes, and complete practice problems out of a book. This style of teaching is boring! Students lose interest. They daydream. Then, they grow up thinking that sitting at a desk with their mouth closed is math. I mean hello! of course that makes math seem boring!

You do not have to have a boring math class! You can be the math teacher EVERY student HAS to have! I have lots of ideas on how to share a love of math with students, which is why I decided to create this blog! I plan to share resources and ideas that I have, and hope it will help make your life easier! I've taught 8th grade math, Algebra, Algebra II and Geometry (Algebra is secretly my favorite!) Planning fun activities, and creating interesting notes can be difficult. I understand, promise! But, the smiles, and excitement you will see from your students when you take the time to make math fun is so worth it! 

Extra tidbits about me:  I have the sweetest little girl - who is growing up way too fast! (1st grade this fall!) My husband is an engineer and a saint. He puts up with way more from me than he should! We also have a dog named Ziva (yes after the NCIS Ziva!) My favorite color is purple and I currently LOVE chevron :)