What type of math activity do you most like to have your middle school math students work on?
For me, it's almost always been problem solving. This could include word problems that apply specific math concepts, word problems that incorporate a variety of math concepts, logic puzzles, or word problems that focus on problem solving strategies (create a table, make an organized list, find a pattern, work backwards, draw a picture, etc). I love using problems that have more than one correct solution, so students can share the thinking that leads to different answers. Cooperative Groups When we work on problem solving activities, I often have students work together, so they can model for each other and share/listen to each others' thinking and reasoning. I wrote the "Party Planning" problem to give students practice with decimal operations and with solving problems with multiple solutions. To solve the problem, students worked with one or two partners to come up with combinations of foods that Reggie could buy for a party. To find their solutions, students needed to add decimals; multiply if they were going to include several of one item; and possibly subtract, if their total was over $50. Student Conversation and Feedback I loved listening to the kids' conversations as they worked on this problem. I heard comments like, "No one eats pretzels," or, "I'd choose candy and chips over pretzels," and so on. The students had a few important questions for me, as they were pretty serious about this planning. They asked: "Is this a "regular" party or like a sleepover party, because the kind of food would depend on how long the party is." "How big is the container of ice cream?" "How big is the bag of candy?"
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Tip #1: Establish a morning routine  for YOU
Establish a morning routine  not just in your classroom, but as part of your 'personal' morning. Some of us are morning people, and we like to get up extra early, do our workouts, read, walk the dog, make a big breakfast, read to the kids, etc, before we head off to work early, to prep at little at school and then share our day with the students in the classroom. But others of us are NOT morning people, hit the snooze button five times before slowly rolling out of bed, getting ready as fast as physically possible, getting our kids ready, grabbing our morning coffee (and maybe a bagel or something), and getting into the classroom right on time....about 5 minutes before the kids arrive. Which one of these scenarios sounds like you? USING SLIDE MASTERS Does This Sound Familiar? You're close to finishing a resource for your classroom, or for TPT, and then you decide you want to rearrange/move elements, add/change the clip art, or change the font. That may not be a huge deal if your pages are all designed differently, have no repeated elements, or there aren't many pages; but if you're creating task cards or multiple pages with the same elements over and over on all the slides, making those changes can be a pain! Slide Masters Can Help! All those little changes can be made more quickly and easily if you create your resources using slide masters (in PPT or in Google Slides). Slide masters make some parts of resource creation a bit faster  using them can definitely save you time! Before we look more closely at how they work, check out a few benefits of using the slide masters:
What Exactly Are Slide Masters? According to the PPT description, “Slide Masters control the look of your entire presentation, including colors, fonts, backgrounds, effects, and just about everything else. You can insert a shape or a logo on a slide master, for example, and it will show up on all your slides automatically.” So, slide masters are basically a way to control the elements on your slides.
Bingo  an oldie but goodie!
This post is from my old blog (and adjusted some:), sharing how I used algebraic equations bingo in my 6th grade math class. Even in middle school, math students have a great time with bingo! We've used the algebraic equations bingo to practice and review for an upcoming test and to revisit the concept of solving equations before we tackled solving equations with fractions and decimals. The Algebraic Equations Bingo set has 11 different bingo cards (printable sheets). Students solve the onestep equations found on their cards before we play, so they know what numbers they're listening for instead of scrambling to figure out answers once we start calling numbers. When I use this activity, I don't laminate the cards, because I like the fact that students can solve and write their answers right on the cards. This makes the numbers a bit easier for students to find when I call them. However, if you have good dry erase markers so students can solve on the cards and then completely erase the ink, laminating would be great for reusing every year  it would definitely cut down on the copying!
Back to School Activities
Always looking for new ideas for the beginning of the year? Me too!
I've got a few for you and your students, for when you head back to school!
The Name Game
I used this game for many years.....many times I'd plan not to, but then I couldn't stand not knowing kids' names right away, so we'd play:) Students and I get into a big circle, and I ask students to come up with an adjective that describes them and begins with the same sound as the beginning of their first name, like 'Energetic Ellie." The first student to my left shares his/her name; the 2nd student repeats the 1st student's name and then shares his own. The third student repeats the first two names/adjectives, and adds her own. The activity continues in this way around the circle until we get to me, and I get to repeat all the names. This game helps me to get to know all the students' names during the first class session. It also helps me learn about the students  it tells me who seems to have a good memory and who has more difficulty. I can see who appears to be confident and who is more hesitant; who's willing to accept help (I always prompt if they want/need) and who isn't. And of course, their adjectives usually tell me something about them:)
Getting to Know You Truth or Dare
Truth or Dare  kids are intrigued when they hear the name! “Math Truth or Dare – Getting to Know You” is a set of 30 questions you can use to get to know your students and to help your students get to know each other. There are 15 “Truth” question cards and 15 “Dare” question cards. Most of them do not have a “correct” answer, so if more than 15 students choose to answer a “truth” question or a “dare” question, then the questions can be used again. The Truth questions ask about the students, while the Dare questions ask students to complete math computations (some of the computations are based on facts about the student, so these can also be used again, as students’ answers may be different.) You can grab this freebie on TPT or as part of the free download if you opt in for my email updates. How do you help your math students retain concepts? How do they remember the meanings of certain terms? How do you help them prepare for those standardized tests? Spiral review helps with all of these. I've been using spiral review for a long time, but never wrote about it before  so here we go:)
How does spiral review on a daily basis help students?
I've been using daily math with spiral review since 2013. I created my own daily math at that time, because I couldn't find a resource that really helped my students. With this spiral review, I found these benefits:
Ideas for How to Use Daily Math
1) Cut each page into the separate days for students to work on as their bell ringer or warm up. 2) Have students keep the daily math pages in a binder so they always have them available (my favorite). 3) Display the pages for students to see as they enter the class. They can complete the problems in their notebooks. 4) Use the pages as homework. 5) Have a weekly/monthly/quarterly quiz, allowing students to use their daily math pages as a resource  I love doing this because it helps students to make sure they don't lose their pages!
Goals?
It's the beginning of the year (semester, quarter)  let's set some goals! Have you done this with your students? If so, how did they do with their goals? Did they achieve them? Or, as happens with so many adults, did they try really hard for a few days and then kind of forget about them? Why do we have difficulty achieving goals? As adults, we often fail to stick with the actions needed to get us there. Or we set goals that are 'too big' or require an incredible change in our behaviors. And it's hard to change behaviors! I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in behavior and change. But according to sources I've read and listened to lately, our brains resist change  they really want to keep us in the same patterns, with the same behaviors, because it's comforting and safe. If that's the case, then it's a little easier to understand why students have difficulty too. If their young brains also want to keep them in the same patterns because it's comforting and safe, how can we, as teachers, help them to break out of those patterns to meet new goals? 
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