First Three Days of Awesome

Whoa! I am EXHAUSTED! Yes, we only had three days this week, but wow! Here are the highlights of the first week.

We completed the name tents (Sara VanDerWerf ) I added additional questions like

  • What’s your walk up song?  I have plans on playing their songs during passing periods as they come into class
  • What are the qualities you would like in a teacher?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are your strengths that you will be able to use in class?
  • Tell me one good thing about the beginning of school.

I can’t recommend using these enough. They give me insight into my kids and helps me see who follows directions (one student filled out the entire sheet the first day).  I enjoy communicating with everyone. I especially like when they share something with beyond  the I don’t know what to say kind of comments.  One student said that they hoped my reputation as a math teacher is true.  I hope I don’t disappoint him!

We don’t do a LOT of talk about procedures and rules the first days, we incorporate them into our lessons when they are appropriate. We did:

Downloaded apps I want them to use (mostly for homework) another idea I stole from Sara VanDerWerf .

  • Desmos
  • Remind can be used for students to ask a quick question on the homework or what’s coming up (and it looks like I can link the assignment through Google Classroom for students who are going to be absent)
  • Google Classroom
  • Google docs
  • Google Keep – to create lists of things they want to keep track of
  • An additional graphing calculator if they wish (but I think they’ll love Desmos better)
  • Quizziz to their desk top (I have them add the web address to their desktop – it seems to work WAY better than downloading the app (we have a lot of connection issues when students use the app instead of the actual web-address)
  • Photos – take pics of notes or anchor charts we create instead of lugging their spirals back and forth.
  • Calendar – I’m going to show them how to keep track of important dates, upcoming events
  • Reminders

And we did the following activities:

  • Dan Meyer’s Who Am I   Students were given this at the same time as the apps to download for students who did not have a phone or other device.
  •  100 Numbers (Sara VanDerWerf again – if you haven’t read her blog you need to!)
  • Zero to 24 (I think the game might have been called One to Twenty-four and it may be out of production and I added 0 for one of the solutions – students seem to get so freaked out when the solution is a zero.) Students are given 4 numbers and they can use them to create math expressions to equal 1 through 24.  I model a couple of problems to get them started then they work alone for about 2 minutes. Next, I have them work with a partner for another 2 minutes. We talk about what worked better and why. Then they work with their table groups for about 3 minutes.  I display the numbers 0 through 24 and invite students to go to the board and record one of their solutions.  When most of the numbers are displayed we talk about any errors they see and they add a correct solution. Then, we talk about how we made mistakes and it’s okay – we fix them an move on.  I usually add a talk about being a “brain bully” and how we are all respectful of everyone’s work – no snickering, smart-a$$ comments, etc.
  • Ken Ken  I use a notice and wonder routine here with a completed puzzle. Modeled a 3 x 3 and a 4 x 4 multi-operation puzzles then let them loose. They were able to choose 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 5 x 5 and 6 x 6 puzzles.  Most students started on the 3 x 3 puzzles and quickly abandoned them and choose ones that better matched their confidence/challenge levels.
  • A quick round of Skunk when they started dragging (we have double blocked math classes). Skunk gets some movement and blood flowing again. We’ll use this game again when we talk about probability.
  • Two Truths and a Lie about me. Students are invited to create their own Two Truths and a Lie to share with the class over the next few days.

Friday, we started setting up notebooks (spirals, composition books).

In my algebra classes  I gave a pre-test over equations to determine how much review / reteaching I need to do. It looks like we’ll quickly review one-step and two-equations and equations with variables on both side of the equal sign.  Out of 77 students only 1 student remembered how to solve all of these types of equations. I’m sure once we do a quick reteach on the basic algebraic moves, there will be lots of “oh yeah, now I remember” comments.


Back to School Cooking

I’m participating in the MTBoS blog challenge called Blaugust. If you want to see a full list of the bloggers participating in Blaugust, go here. My goal is to blog once per week for the month of August, then to continue blogging weekly throughout the school year. (ha ha based on the number of times I’ve started this we’ll see how it goes!

I really enjoy the recipes that Audrey at Math by the Mountain shares. I’ve add quite a few of the recipes shes shared to my recipe rotation.  Check out her meal prep ideas here.   So, I thought I’d share a few of mine because you know, school for me started August 6 (students show up August 15) and I ain’t got time to cook!

I’ve started a B(Basic) A(Alkaline) LI(low-insulin) diet (Bali) this summer. Have to say I’ve never felt better and I’m still eating MOST of what I like with a few ingredient swaps. One thing I’ve gotten WAY better at is prepping once a week – I did this all summer (to develop a habit) because I knew that once school started, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Spicy Avocado Dressing

I got to try this amazing Spicy Avocado Dressing recently.  It IS a little thick so I add a little extra olive oil to make it more like salad dressing. Thick or thin, it is my new favorite dressing (or dip). We’re going to have a pot luck at school the day before students arrive,  I’m bringing this!




Budget Savvy Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning has a permanent place on my stove because it gets used SOOooo often.






Garlic Butter Steak Bites from The Kitchn. Okay, this is ONE meal I will spend time making after school. It IS quick and easy as promised in the recipe. Pair it with some roasted smashed new potatoes (I like purple potatoes) — YUM! I don’t mind eating this the next day.




Low Carb Keto Skillet Chicken with Bacon Spinach Feta Cream Sauce


Last one. Creamy Bacon Feta Spinach Chicken From All Day I Dream About Food. I don’t make this on the stove. I put it in the crock pop with some rice.  Add the spinach a few minutes before you eat. I take left overs to school for lunch the next day.

Getting Ready for 2018/2019


Visible Learning for Mathematics by John Hattie,

Making Thinking Visible by Ron  Ritchhart


Teaching Students to Communicate Mathematically by Laney Sammons. This fits nicely with Minds on Mathematics by Wendy Ward Hoffer. I’ve heard a rumor that my school is going to work on PEBC’s thinking strategies this year.

The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton, EdD. I’ve read this last year. We got this from our principal for summer reading this year.

Routines for Reasoning by Grace Kelemanik, et, al, This is the second reading of this book, to remind me of the routines and structures.

Comprehending Problem Solving by Arthur Hyde (parts for the 2nd time). A little hard to read, in my opinion – maybe it wasn’t what I was looking for.

Yep, there is a theme. I really want to work on students talking and writing about math this year.

Working On

Doing the activities to plan the order for themed bell ringers.  You can read more about themed bell ringers here,  herehere, and here.

Building Powerful Numeracy by Pamela Weber Harris

Lessons and Activities for Building Powerful Numeracy by Pamela Weber Harris

Wardrobe – paring down even more.  Think wardrobe capsules.

I joined the 40-Hour Teacher Workweek. Yes, even after 21 years, I don’t feel organized and that I spend way too much time with school work.


Reflection on Modifying Problems for Workshop – a PD Session

I presented my part of the district’s PD sessions for secondary math teachers today. It went pretty good – at least people had smiles on their faces and no one walked out (maybe they were being polite).

Aug 101.PNG

(Hmm my principal snapped this while I wasn’t paying attention to her in the room because I was too engaged with my participants.)

The Plan

My session was about how to take textbook problems and make it less sucky interesting for the students to engage with. I set the session up with a Workshop Model Lesson Plan so of course we had to have an IWBAT.


Referenced Dan Meyer’s talk at the 2016 NCTM Annual Meeting (here),  starting the video around 38 minutes until 43 or so minutes.  Three problems to choose from to practice taking away information to increase noticing and wondering. Then referencing Faun Nguyen’s Reversing the Question (here). A little practice.


I had the participants answer the question and come up with some of their own.

Then added we could combine them all and add in a writing component (not for an opening, but definitely as part of classwork/homework or close).

Gave everyone some ideas on who/what to Google for more ideas. LOTS of information in a short 50 minute presentation.

The Reality

The laptop was missing quick time, couldn’t get a borrowed I-pad to connect and there were no speakers (lesson learned/rookie mistake: bring my own stuff). So no video (which I thought was the most powerful aspect for them to hear), so I had to talk about it instead. So, monitored and adjusted discussed and tried the strategies on the PowerPoint and THEN did the practice with the problems.  Some sessions, people jumped right in and did an great job (choose from 6 problems) and had a good discussion. Some sessions needed more scaffolding. So we took the first problem and discussed all the ways we could modify each part of the problem. Again, in one session we only got to the table of Elevations of Atmosphere Layers and Ocean Zones — just like in classes – some groups get farther than others – but it’s all good. Lots of ah-ha moments = a good thing.  I think, judging from participants they really liked the Which One Doesn’t Belong aspect the best.

Lesson learned:  I’ll cut back to 3 sessions (the fourth one wasn’t a good as the first 3).

I attended 2 other sessions on Backwards Planning by friends at Bowie and Mann Middle Schools and a session with my friend Cornia (here) on growth mindset and we looked at a pattern of numbers and found some I hadn’t noticed before.

We have another day with secondary math teachers today (Thursday) to work on common lessons and tests by unit. My group will be working on surface area and volume unit – I’ve got some great resources for us to check out.





Modifying Problems for Workshop – a PD Session

Today I found a post on  Drawing on Math  by  Tina Cardone (here) .  Talk about timing!  She was talking about getting ready for a PD presentation she did in July and asked twitter  what they liked and didn’t like about PD.  Yes! Yes! and YES!

I’m presenting 4 sessions next Tuesday (August 10th), 50 minutes long for our district about how to make textbook problems less sucky for students. The real title is Modifying Problems for Workshop. As I was working on this I really tried to keep things I hate about PD in mind. I have my aaughfactors indicated 1 – 5, 5 is  the W.O.R.S.T!

Pet-peeve number 1 — someone reading the slide to me. Dang it! I’m an adult, I learned to read a L O N G time ago. You read to me, I’m not thinking about what you’re saying anymore – I’m thinking about #1 where I’m getting lunch, #2 who I’m going to get lunch with, #3 what I need to get done in my classroom  and #4 my lessons, INB ideas, or working on a math problem I’m thinking about using.  Yes, in that order.  aaughfactor 5.

No, I am not going to read the slides. I have copious notes on talking points about each slides – but I’m not going to read those suckers.

Pet-peeve number 2 — get up and … . I’ll do it, but I don’t like it. I’ll speak but only as much as I absolutely have to.  (Unless I know you, then we’ll talk about the topic and then about what we want). Presenters usually give too much time for this. They say a minute – but it’s usually 3 minutes. (Yep, I can tell time too!)  aaughfactor 3.

Truth be known, I WAS going to have my participants get up and move to another group but I took it out. Teachers will come in a sit with their friends, people they recognize. That will be good enough.

Pet-peeve number 3  — Think-Pair-Share.  If I’m sitting with people I don’t know, again, I do the minimum.  If I’m sitting with friends (same course or not) and I think the question you’re asking us to talk about is good – we’ll discuss it, if not – we’ll talk about what we want.  Yes, it is obvious when presenter’s just throw a semi-related question in there to have a Think-Pair-Share.   aaughfactor 3.

Pet-peeve number 4— Work on the math. If I’m sitting with people I don’t know – I’m really intimidated (I know my math and I shouldn’t be, but I am).  If I’m sitting with friends – I have no problem working on the math, asking questions and for help — zero intimidation. aaughfactor 2.

I have two times where teachers will be working on changing a  problem to be less sucky. They have 3 choices of problems (7th/8th grade math, algebra and geometry). I don’t care if they work on their own or with their friends and neighbors. That’s their choice too.

I have one place where I want them to Think-Pair-Share but I’m going to tell them to “talk to their paper or to their neighbor.”  Give participants a choice!

I am going to have them share out what they came up with (1 from each grade level) to wrap up the session.

I have a slide that has resources I think are important such as MTBoS, Global Math and others, because I want them to join in the fun! The presentation and other documents used will be in Google Drive shared by a

I think I’ve taken care of most of the aaugh factors in my session. I’ll see what the feedback is next Tuesday. Wish me luck!





Back To School Shopping

What have I gotten for my classroom?  Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We have a new principal at our school and the crazy woman (said with the utmost love) changed  90% of the teachers in the school to different rooms. So, instead of doing back to school shopping, I’ve been boxing up, moving and unpacking my classroom.  AND, during our PD days I’ll be presenting a session to math teachers about making textbook word problems less sucky a la’ Dan Meyer ,  Open MiddleEstimation 180,  Visual Patterns and Which One Doesn’t Belong. Anything to get students thinking and talking more and teachers talking less is a win-win in my book!

So I still need to get:

  • Shoeboxes. My desks are arranged in groups of 4 (how else can I pack 37 – 40 students in a small room?). Each shoebox has a set of 4 calculators, highlighters, scissors, glue sticks, protractors (mostly for the straight edge, I didn’t want 12 inch helicopter blade going) and colored pencils.
  • A set of highlighters for me – cause I like clean and new ones.
  • A set of pens – don’t know which ones I’ll use for notes (pen shows up better on the doc camera – I’m thinking erasable pens but there aren’t that many colors.
  • Pencil lead
  • Bulletin board paper or something to back the bulletin boards  and border (I’m thinking plastic table cloths cause I don’t have time to go shopping for material).
  • A set of mason jars. I’ve read about layering in your salad fixins on Sunday and the salad will still be fresh on Friday. I don’t know if that is really true but I’ll see. Making lunch for a week on one day verses making lunch everyday – once a week definitely wins.

Am I going to be ready for students? One way or another I will be.

Before I go, I’d like to welcome Corina Srygley, my friend. Corina used to teach at my school and is a great mentor, how do I get my TI calculator to do question answerer, sounding board and innovative teacher. Check our her blog at  and give her a warm encouraging welcome to MTBoS!


Okay, I’m Gonna Do This Blog Thing.

I am a stalker lurker. I have been for over 5 years. I read tons and tons math blogs. I keep thinking I should blog, but what would I talk about? I’m not creative or innovative or anything like the rest of the MTBoS group. I am not worthy!

(how do I add a meme from Wayne’s World here?) (Got it!)

I'm not worthy

Our district is going towards a Math Workshop Model, which is really about the students collaborating, thinking, writing, having productive struggle and way less teacher talk. Just what MTBoS has been talking about for years. So, that’s what I’m going to reflect about.

Katrina Newell,  at Mrs. Newell’s Math, talked about her class sizes. Hmmm.  I could do that.

I teach 7th pre-ap, 8th on level, and pre-ap algebra 1 in the Texas panhandle. We have about 650 students (at least we did last year). 94% free and reduced lunch, and 30% English language learners. Student demographics are almost 55% are Hispanic, 24% Asian, and about 12% each African American and white.  So far, (and they are still working on scheduling) I have 140 students. About 45 more than the other math teachers — but I’m not complaining I have better classroom management with larger classes.  I really do not like classes less than 20, but I’ve had a high of 42 in a class. It looks like my largest class this year is 37. I like groups of 4, so I need 1 student to be added to this class or moved to the other class — hopefully moved to the other class because my classroom is on the small size and that will reduce the number of desks I have crowding the room. (Dang! I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, I’m not…. I just would like there to be room to walk between groups.)  Anyway, approximately 14% are English language learners, 2% with IEPs, 20% gifted and talented.  Working above grade level in 7th pre-ap are 9% of my students and 48% of them are in algebra.  Thirteen percent are in an 8th grade math class, but half of the did not pass the state mandated test (which in Texas they have to pass the 8th grade test to move on to high school). So I have gaps to fill in all the classes (except for the algebra students, I had them last year a 7th graders– but there may be a gap or two I didn’t catch).

What do I need?  I need to feel more comfortable with (in no particular order) number talks/number strings, blogging, and how to do a book study in addition to the math I have to teach.  Oops, can’t forget I also need coffee and dark chocolate.

I’m signing up for MTBoS Blaugust.  You can join here and find  a list of participants here.