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Summer Lovin’ around here…

Wow, it has been some time since I have blogged and I truly hate that. I have been busy with work, doing some workshops and then just had some personal stuff going on as well. That personal stuff has made it where I am lacking my normal creativity and motivation to work. I hate that I am not working like I should but taking time for the personal life is just as important, if not most important for the well being of myself and others.

Starting next week I am on a roll for my summer workshops and conference presenting/exhibiting and it doesn’t stop until November! I have plans of so many things that I am working on (as well as finishing up some previously started items) and can’t wait to have them out to you. I’m not promising any dates right now because my schedule is crazy and won’t allow for that.

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9 Great Resources for Project Based Learning in the Math Classroom

Throughout the school year teachers all over (just like you) are looking for ways to incorporate multiple skills into a lesson while actively engaging their students. With Project Based Learning in the math classroom you can do just that. Not sure what PBL is or how to implement it? Read this to learn all about it, plus where to find nine great resources to implement it in your own classroom!

Throughout the school year teachers all over (just like you) are looking for ways to incorporate multiple skills into a lesson while actively engaging their students. With Project Based Learning you can do just that. What is Project Based Learning? Project Based Learning is a multi-disciplinary approach to learning where students gain knowledge by working for an extended perior of time (more than one class period) to investigate, research and respond to a given problem, challenge or question.

Bringing Problem Based Learning into your classroom can be extremely easy and the resources below will help you do just that.

Here in Texas our math standards have been modified to include Financial Literacy for every grade level. Not only has this thrown many teachers for a loop as the materials are hard to come by but it is also a new area to teach for all. In my classroom I LOVED using the "If I Had a Million Dollars" Project to help students realize some real-life situations where they would need to not only budget their money appropriately but also appropriately use a checkbook, ledger and more.

Here in Texas our math standards have been modified to include Financial Literacy for every grade level. Not only has this thrown many teachers for a loop as the materials are hard to come by but it is also a new area to teach for all. In my classroom I LOVED using the “If I Had a Million Dollars” Project to help students realize some real-life situations where they would need to not only budget their money appropriately but also appropriately use a checkbook, ledger and more.

Problem Based Learning to enhance Financial Literacy and Budgeting Skills for students with a real life situation

Teaching with A Mountain View has created a new project, The City of Shapes, that allows students to become a master in perimeter and area by building and designing many buildings and aspects in their city.

Teaching with A Mountain View has created a new project, The City of Shapes, that allows students to become a master in perimeter and area by building and designing many buildings and aspects in their city.

Are you ready to have your students become entrepreneurs? Sweet Integrations has created From Lemonade to Espresso to help students understand the ins and outs of becoming a business owner and how to look at all aspects to determine if you have a profitable business or one that will fail.

Are you ready to have your students become entrepreneurs? Sweet Integrations has created From Lemonade to Espresso to help students understand the ins and outs of becoming a business owner and how to look at all aspects to determine if you have a profitable business or one that will fail.

Another real-life project based learning activity is Party Planner, also by Sweet Integrations. Every year students attend or participate in many different parties so why not allow them to help plan one and determine all of the budgeting, planning and preparing that is a part of making something go off without a hitch.

Another real-life project based learning activity is Party Planner, also by Sweet Integrations. Every year students attend or participate in many different parties so why not allow them to help plan one and determine all of the budgeting, planning and preparing that is a part of making something go off without a hitch.

Who doesn't love cupcakes? Lindsey Perro's The Cupcake Shop allows students to apply fraction, decimal and percent skills with real-life situation of beginning their own cupcake shop. Students must work together to not only name their store but then choose the cupcakes they plan to offer, purchase the ingredients in the right amounts for the amount they plan to bake each day, and so much more. Now I'm definitely craving a cupcake!

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? Lindsey Perro’s The Cupcake Shop allows students to apply fraction, decimal and percent skills with real-life situation of beginning their own cupcake shop. Students must work together to not only name their store but then choose the cupcakes they plan to offer, purchase the ingredients in the right amounts for the amount they plan to bake each day, and so much more. Now I’m definitely craving a cupcake!

And for those of you who are looking for more information from books on Project Based Learning, here are some resources that will definitely help you get started in the right direction.

If you are just starting with Project Based Learning, or need a reference guide, then this book is PERFECT for you! Not only does it contain classroom tested advice, sample projects and step-by-step guidance but the PBL Starter Kit also includes planning tools, rubrics and other online resources just for you!

If you are just starting with Project Based Learning, or need a reference guide, then this book is PERFECT for you! Not only does it contain classroom tested advice, sample projects and step-by-step guidance but the PBL Starter Kit also includes planning tools, rubrics and other online resources just for you!

Project-Based Homeschooling gives some great tips for parents who are looking to integrate Project Based Learning into their homeschool program. Just because you don't homeschool your children doesn't mean this can't be a great book for you. Think about how the summer is coming up and your kiddos will soon be saying "I'm Bored!" How about playing into their interests and developing some week long (or even longer) projects that you can do together to develop their learning with real life situation?

Project-Based Homeschooling gives some great tips for parents who are looking to integrate Project Based Learning into their homeschool program. Just because you don’t homeschool your children doesn’t mean this can’t be a great book for you. Think about how the summer is coming up and your kiddos will soon be saying “I’m Bored!” How about playing into their interests and developing some week long (or even longer) projects that you can do together to develop their learning with real life situation?

If you are looking for specific Project Based Learning Tasks, then this is the book for you. Not only does it include specific projects that you can use right away but also includes grading matrices, detailed information on how to implement the projects and more.

If you are looking for specific Project Based Learning Tasks, then this is the book for you. Not only does it include specific projects that you can use right away but also includes grading matrices, detailed information on how to implement the projects and more.

And if you are like me and want to get all nerdy into reading more about what the ins and out of Project Based Learning are, then Project Based Learning- Differentiating Instruction for the 21st Century is just right for you! Not only do you learn how project based learning started but also the ins and outs of how teachers have seamlessly implemented it into their classrooms to help relieve your anxiety of trying something new. If you are looking for a book to read this summer, this is definitely one to put on your list!

And if you are like me and want to get all nerdy into reading more about what the ins and out of Project Based Learning are, then Project Based Learning- Differentiating Instruction for the 21st Century is just right for you! Not only do you learn how project based learning started but also the ins and outs of how teachers have seamlessly implemented it into their classrooms to help relieve your anxiety of trying something new. If you are looking for a book to read this summer, this is definitely one to put on your list!

Have you implemented project based learning in your classroom? What are some of your favorite resources?

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Throughout the school year teachers all over (just like you) are looking for ways to incorporate multiple skills into a lesson while actively engaging their students. With Project Based Learning in the math classroom you can do just that. Not sure what PBL is or how to implement it? Read this to learn all about it, plus where to find nine great resources to implement it in your own classroom!

Top photo credit here, last photo credit here.

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Using Interactive Notebooks in Multiple Subjects

Are you interested in using Interactive Notebooks in multiple subjects but concerned with the transitions that your students will lose them or they will fall apart? Check out these tips gathered from teachers who are proving they can work in their classroom.

Recently Emily sent me a message with a great question. I put that out to the fabulous teachers on my Facebook Page last week and we got some great responses. Emily asked, “Next year I will be working with a partner teacher to teach 4 subjects. Our kids are only allowed to carry binders and we want to use Interactive Notebooks for all four subjects. How do we encourage kids to carry them because 4 composition books is too much and spirals might fall apart?” Over the course of about 24 hours we had some great conversations and I know that Emily appreciated what other teachers shared with her.

Through the teachers responses it was determined that an overwhelming majority use spirals of some sort with multiple subjects. Mead Five Star (WOOT!) was recommended as well as using 3-subject or 5-subject notebooks to be able to keep things concise. That being said there were still a couple of teachers who use composition notebooks for the various subjects. But more than using multiple composition books there were a few teachers who suggested using a larger binder (or even a Trapper Keeper) to contain all of the information for various classes. There are benefits and issues with each of these types of organization and you really have to choose what is not only best for you as the teacher but also for your students. Cost might be a deterrent as well but you can always create a Donor’s Choose project to help with that!

Using Pronged Folders for Interactive NotebooksAnother suggestion that I would like to add is that you could easily use pronged folders for each subject. They are fairly cheap and once you finish a unit you can take out that unit information, place it into a binder and then start your next unit. Carrying 4 folders around would be easy for students and then having the other information in their binders (or a portfolio in the classroom) would allow them to reference the materials as needed.

I have used pronged folders for students as an accommodation before when spiral notebooks were too overwhelming. They are able to keep just what they need together in one folder. Definitely a great way to help out some of your learners who get easily overwhelmed.

So, what have you done to aid in using multiple Interactive Notebooks in your classroom or across multiple classrooms?

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Spring Math Resources Round Up!

Looking for ways to survive Spring with your students? They're probably already squirming in their chairs, wishing recess lasted longer... and maybe you are too! Add in standardized testing and oh boy... no one wants to learn!   Grab these Spring Math Resources to help save your sanity and keep your students engaged – they're all fun, and a nice break from your usual routine.

Looking for ways to survive Spring with your students? They’re probably already squirming in their chairs, wishing recess lasted longer… and maybe you are too! Add in standardized testing and oh boy… no one wants to learn!

Grab these Spring Math Resources to help save your sanity and keep your students engaged – they’re all fun, and a nice break from your usual routine.

Scale Up a Picture Project

I love this class project to work together scaling up a picture – piece by piece! It comes together at random, surprising everyone with the result!

A quick paced group math activity that requires them to work together!

This project can be easily adapted to any grade level – students work together in groups to add up a math problem as fast as they can…. on balloons! They have to think fast while keeping the balloon steady enough for them to write on!

Spring themed math problems for sixth and seventh grades!

In the Spring Word Problems Solve and Snip students will read a word problem and then solve the problem by showing work in the show work area. All the problems are spring themed and fun!

Another great example of math meets art – but in 3D! Have students use proportions to scale up their favorite candies.

Another great example of math meets art – but in 3D! Have students use proportions to scale up their favorite candies.

This page has ALL SORTS of great middle school math center ideas that are creative and engaging!

This page has ALL SORTS of great middle school math center ideas that are creative and engaging!

Grudgeball is a fun review game that students actually beg to play! Even if they've mastered whatever concepts you're currently covering, this game helps get the cabin fever epidemic under control.

Grudgeball is a fun review game that students actually beg to play! Even if they’ve mastered whatever concepts you’re currently covering, this game helps get the cabin fever epidemic under control.

This hands-on measuring activity involves 3-d objects in different sizes, kids love it!

This hands-on measuring activity involves 3-d objects in different sizes, kids love it!

In this activity, students cut out 24 puzzle pieces with different representations of slope (graphs, tables, equations, coordinate pairs, right triangles) and fit same-slope pieces together.

In this activity, students cut out 24 puzzle pieces with different representations of slope (graphs, tables, equations, coordinate pairs, right triangles) and fit same-slope pieces together.

This game LOOKS so much like an average game from Target that kids wont realizing they're learning while having fun! Sumoku is like a crossword game, but with numbers.

This game LOOKS so much like an average game from Target that kids wont realizing they’re learning while having fun! Sumoku is like a crossword game, but with numbers.

Kids LOVE hands-on activities, which is why interactive notebooks are so awesome for the classroom! But need something outside of the notebooks? Try this collection of hands-on math activities.

Kids LOVE hands-on activities, which is why interactive notebooks are so awesome for the classroom! But need something outside of the notebooks? Try this collection of hands-on math activities.

The Sir Cumference books are popular with all grade levels – they introduce geometric math problems in a real life application!

The Sir Cumference books are popular with all grade levels – they introduce geometric math problems in a real life application!

Kids tend to dislike word problems for good reason, but with this book – word problems are more engaging! It's done in a way that students get excited to solve a mystery... they just have to use math to solve it!

Kids tend to dislike word problems for good reason, but with this book – word problems are more engaging! It’s done in a way that students get excited to solve a mystery… they just have to use math to solve it!

Want more? Check out my Pinterest board for more spring math resources!

Follow 4mulaFun’s board Spring Math Resources on Pinterest.

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Data Collection in Middle School

Data collection in middle school can be a hard thing as teachers are moving from class to class. Check out these different methods to use today.As you are teaching each year there are always various reasons that we have to collect data on our students. What types of data do you collect? Do you vary them from student to student and year to year? Do you collect a wide variety of data to make sure that you have a well rounded picture from each student?

There are four major areas of data collection. These areas include Student Artifacts, Student Interviews, Classroom Observations and Classroom Videos. Each of these types of data collection involve many different methods that you can use to collect information from your students formally as well as informally.

Student Artifacts

The easiest type of data collection has to be Student Artifacts. An artifact is defined as “something created by humans usually for a practical purpose.” In the classroom the different types of student artifacts that can be gathered are (but definitely not limited to) student portfolios, observations, performance tasks, journals, surveys, formative or summative testing, family history and demographics.

Ins And Outs of Exit TicketsEach of these different student artifacts can provide different information about the knowledge base of your students. As a teacher I know that I was constantly pulling work samples from students to determine where my students were on different skills. I tried to limite the use of summative assessment as student artifacts because I know the amount of test anxiety my students have. Thankfully with the use of Interactive Notebooks it is really easy to have a portfolio of student work. Interactive Notebooks also allow me to quickly have access to perfomance tasks, journals, student observations and even formative testing. Another great method of formative testing is Exit Tickets. Like I said, this is the easiest data collection method but also one that must be extremely organized. Keeping tracking of student performance is easy with my Formative Assessment Data Trackers that are organized easily by each strand for math (Common Core and TEKS).

Student Interviews

The next type of data collection is Student Interviews. The key to getting the most out of student interviews is building a relationship that fosters a positive environment and allows for student learning. When talking with our students we can tell a lot by their body language, vocabulary usage (formal and informal), depth of knowledge about a topic, feelings portrayed  and connecting themselves to the subject matter.

When we listen to the vocabulary our students use and they choose to use formal words they show us whether they understand the material to use it correctly or are attempting and not succeeding. This is a great teaching moment. The depth of students knowledge is easily discovered within their conversations with peers as well as interaction in the lesson because the details they provide directly connect with their understanding. When students are discussing a topic and they take time to relate it to themselves and talk about a relationship with something they enjoy they will definitely remember the learning experience.

Student Observations

Data collection in middle school can be a hard thing as teachers are moving from class to class. Check out these different methods to use today.Another regularly used data collection method we use in the classroom is Student Observations. With student observations you are tracking their behaviors, social interactions, on task time, work habits, classroom participation, performance success, vocabulary usage, strategy usage, and student interests.

Several of these methods go hand in hand with methods from the student interviews approach for data collection and that is okay, in fact it is a benefit. Student behavior is an important thing for all teachers to track because you never know when you are going to need the documentation for actions you have taken to prevent such behaviors in your classroom. Having the documentation can save your butt more than you know.

Social interactions with peers and visitors in the classroom can tell you a lot about your students. Monitoring students on task time and work habits is a critical component for many. I know that my students who had 504 plans and even some with IEPs had accomodations and modification that tied into their on task time and work habits and it was important for me as a teacher to take note of what they were and were not doing.

When it comes to students using strategies in class this is an important area to document. We have all had the students who were anti-strategy use and I’ve been the teacher who was a hard-ass about it but then I have also been the teacher who was understanding and allowed students ot not use them as long as they could explain to me their thinking at any time. You as a teacher have to determine where you want to be on that spectrum.

Classroom Videos

Finally the last area of data collection is Classroom Videos. This is defintiely a more difficult way of gathering data because you must have the materials. When I was teaching second grade I wrote a project for Donors Choose to get a Flip Camera for my classroom (I know, old school now). Since I was teaching all subjects at that time I used it to document fluency of my students. I also used it during small group time and filmed students working with manipulatives and reflecting on their learning.

Other ways you can use classroom videos is to film instructional videos for your classroom. This is not only great for flipped classrooms but also to provide a different way of learning for students. They can watch a video in class and complete “preacher notes” in their Interactive Notebook based on what you have taught in the video. “Preacher Notes” are what I call fill-in-the-blank notes. I give some of the information but it requires students to actively listen to what is going on so they can complete their notes. I started calling them this because that is exactly what my preacher hands out on Sunday’s in our worship programs as he wants all of the congregation to pay attention to what he is saying.

While there are many other methods of data collection in middle school, I hope that these have sparked some ideas for you to use in your classroom as the year continues or even to start to mull over as you are organizing for next school year. When it all comes down it remember, “If you don’t record it somewhere, it did not happen.” So document, document, document!

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5 Math Books to Enjoy for DEAR

Here are five great math themed books to enjoy for Drop Everything And Read!

Did you know that today is DEAR Day? It’s time to Drop Everything And Read! Here’s five math books that are great reads to enjoy any day!

Math CurseMath Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith – “Did you ever wake up to one of those days where everything is a problem? You have 10 things to do, but only 30 minutes till the bus leaves. Is there enough time? You have 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants — can you make 1 good outfit? Don’t worry — it’s just the Math Curse striking! An amusing book about dealing with numbers in everyday life.”

Math Doesn't SuckMath Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail Paperback
by Danica McKellar – “From a well-known actress, math genius and popular contestant on “Dancing With The Stars”—a groundbreaking guide to mathematics for middle school girls, their parents, and educators

As the math education crisis in this country continues to make headlines, research continues to prove that it is in middle school when math scores begin to drop—especially for girls—in large part due to the relentless social conditioning that tells girls they “can’t do” math, and that math is “uncool.” Young girls today need strong female role models to embrace the idea that it’s okay to be smart—in fact, it’s sexy to be smart!”

Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis – “Is this poetry? Math? A brainteaser? Yes! It’s all that and more. The poet J. Patrick Lewis has reimagined classic poems—such as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Langston Hughes’s “April Rain Song”—and added a dash of math. Between the silly parodies and the wonderfully wacky art, kids will have so much fun figuring out the puzzles, they won’t guess they’re learning! Answers appear unobtrusively on each page, and engaging information about the original poets is included. Math games and concepts, poetry and poet biographies—it’s all so cleverly put together. This funny book is a treat for fans of words and numbers alike.”

Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne GeehanSir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan – “When Steward Edmund Rounds and Sir Cumference notice that there are strangers camped nearby, Rounds II decides to investigate despite being involved with the task of learning how to make accurate counts of the castle’s stores of food, supplies, and weaponry. When he reports back that an enemy is lying in wait, everyone moves quickly to defend the castle. But wait! Will Rounds II be able to figure out how many bows and arrows they have to create an appropriate battle plan? Using rounding techniques to figure out the totals more quickly, Rounds II is just in time to help stave off a potentially disastrous attack.”

Why Pi? (Big Questions) by Johnny Ball

Why Pi? (Big Questions) by Johnny Ball – “This entertaining follow-up to DK’s popular Go Figure!, Why Pi? presents even more mind-bending ways to think about numbers. This time, author Johnny Ball focuses on how people have used numbers to measure things through the ages, from the ways the ancient Egyptians measured the pyramids to how modern scientists measure time and space.”

I hope you and your students enjoy these books! Happy DEAR Day!

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Comprehension of Math Skills with Interactive Notebooks

If we spend all the time creating our Interactive Notebooks and our students asemble them, can we guarantee they understand the content?

Recently I received a question from a follower; “Is the assumption that if kids glue the stuff in and follow the directions, they understand?” This is a great question that I can see as something that not only concerns teachers but also parents and administration.

With interactive notebooks our students are spending time in the classroom taking notes about a specific topic as well as reflecting on what they have learned (output) in some way. Just as with any other form of taking notes there is no guarantee that comprehension is taking place. Granted with the interactive nature of Interactive Notebooks it does create a depth of knowledge when students are actively engaged but that alone doesn’t guarantee they understand the material.

As with any other lesson that you teach in your classroom you must follow up what you have taught with activities and assessments to determine understanding. Typically in my class each lesson was followed up with an exit ticket. Exit Tickets allowed me to immediately determine the level of mastery based on the learning that day. Each of my students were able to use their notes from that day and therefore they were reading over the material once again. With the follow up on output activities for each lesson it allowed students to connect with their learning. These output activities were regularly changed and allowed students to build their personal connections to the learning.

Exit Tickets and Output Activities aren’t the end to determining student’s understanding. Spending time to incorporate interactive learning (interactivities) within your classroom allows you to monitor and assess informally the learning of students. These interactivities can span from task cards, learning games, project based learning, and more.

Some resources for Project Based Learning can be found via the links below:

 Project Based Learning TasksPBL Starter Kit