This post is transferred from my old blog  I can't believe it's been nearly three years since
I wrote it (Jan 13 of 2015)! I'm glad to say that I'm just as dedicated to my workouts as I was when I wrote this:)
I don’t know about you, but I love my workouts. They do so much for me, mentally and physically, and I really miss them when things come up that cause me to skip them. I miss them so much that I often get up at 4:30 am to be sure I get some workout in, just in case my day ends up having other plans for me.
Why is it important for teachers to work out (besides the usual health reasons)? These are my top 5: 1) Exercise is a great stress reliever. How many days do you come home stressed out over the events of the day? Still thinking about things that kids (or parents, or administrators) did that got you worked up? Do you bring that stress home with you or leave it at school? I know I have trouble leaving it at the door, but when I can go jump on the treadmill or the elliptical and pound that stress out, my mind definitely becomes more free. 2) Working out can renew your energy level for the rest of the day. This is especially true if you can do it right after school. I usually have some grading (or planning) that I bring home, or I need to help my daughter with homework during the evenings; when I take that exercise time right after school, I get recharged for the evening. 3) It helps you avoid snacking. I don’t know about you, but when I get home, I feel like eating EVERYTHING I can get my hands on, (and I'm often tempted to choose foods that aren't very healthy!) When I work out, I don't have the same snacking urges. 4) Creativity Research shows that exercise helps memory and stimulates creativity. It's a great time to run lesson/activity ideas through your mind; somehow that extra physical activity gives your brain the boost to make those lessons more engaging/exciting/interesting! 5) Sleep better! Extra physical activity helps me sleep better. What teacher doesn't need to get good sleep? Who else loves their workouts??
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Updated August, 2020
Do you believe that one of the best ways to learn is by using a variety of activities, including games? If so, then we agree! It’s just more fun and students don’t even realize how much they’re learning. While any game that helps kids learn is a winner in my book, I have some wonderful middle school games and activities I’ve created to use at home or in the classroom. Truth or Dare Math (and ELA) Games Do you remember playing Truth or Dare when you were younger? Well, I’ve brought the concept to the classroom by taking math (and ELA) concepts and creating questions that are: 1) true or false and more fact based (Truth question) or 2) multiple choice or openended and more applicationbased/more challenging math or ELA questions (Dare questions). To play, students are in groups, and they can choose a Truth or a Dare question. They get one point if they answer the Truth question correctly. If students choose a more challenging Dare question, a correct answer will boost their score faster; Dare questions are worth 2 or 3 points. I've converted all my paper Math and ELA Truth or Dare Games to Google Slides, so students can have fun with these versions too! Truth or Dare is one of my favorites middle school games; it really gets the students excited and engaged. AND, it can be used in any subject area!
Decimal Dice
I’ve always loved the dice game Yahtzee!, so I decided to create my own little spin on it. In this case, middle school math students practice converting fractions to decimals. They love rolling the dice and creating the fraction pairs. The challenge comes when they have to convert those fractions into decimals or whole numbers. This activity can be a little challenging to start, but it only takes a few turns before students learn the rules and get the hang of this math game. It’s an incredibly engaging math activity for small groups, and could even be played as a whole class, allowing different students to roll the dice and decide which fraction pairs to create. It's also great as a center activity!
Footloose Task Card Games (Math and a couple ELA)
With Footloose Task Cards, students answer various types of questions about math (and ELA) concepts  sometimes they are basic knowledge questions, sometimes they're simple word problems, and sometimes they're quite challenging. It's easy to differentiate using these cards:) Students move around to get a new Footloose task card each time they complete one, and they write all their answers and work on their Footloose grids. It's a great way to keep students practicing and moving  and it's amazing how quiet they can be during this time! For more details about how to play Footloose, check out this blog post.
Math Color By Number
Coloring for adults is a big trends at the moment, and it's become a great activity to incorporate into math class:) Color by number activities are great as review before a math test, as homework, as assessments, as math center activities, for sub days, and for fast finishers. Recently, I've created several digital color by number activities! Although these don't offer the same benefits that physical coloring offers, they still provide engaging math practice:) A couple other math activities I love arePentomino Exploration and playing Equivalent Fraction Go Fish! We could list middle school games and activities for days:) What are some of your favorites?
To Read Next:
Fraction Division in Middle School Math
How often have you taught fraction division to the students in your middle school math classes, only to find them "flipping" the wrong number? You may have taught them to "skip, flip, flip," "invert and multiply," or "multiply by the reciprocal." You may have listed out the steps, or taught them a nifty song, but somehow they still flip the wrong one or they forget to flip at all. OR they change a mixed number into an improper fraction and seem to subconsciously think that since they did something to that mixed number, the flipping had already occurred...and then they don't flip anything. Why does this happen? I'm going to say that it happens because they don't see the sense in it  it doesn't mean anything to them.
Fraction Division Using Common Denominators
So, I started using another way to teach fraction division  perhaps you've heard of it, or you use it. I never learned it this way as a student, but I like it and it makes more sense to some students. I learned this method when I had a student teacher a few years back. She was teaching the fraction unit, and when her supervisor came in to observe and discuss, she asked if I had ever taught fraction division using common denominators. Having only learned (and then taught) to multiply by the reciprocal, of course I said no. The next time she visited, she brought me a page from a textbook that explained dividing fractions using common denominators. These are the steps: Step 1: Find common denominators, just as when adding and subtracting and then make equivalent fractions (students are already used to doing this  hopefully). Step 2: Create a new fraction with the numerator of the first fraction over the numerator of the second fraction...this is your answer. Done (unless you need to reduce)! I was shocked  it seemed SO simple!
Check out this example  it's a simple one, for starters:
5/6 divided by 2/3. 1) Find the common denominator of 6 and 3, which is 6. This gives you 5/6 divided by 4/6. 2) The first numerator (5) becomes the numerator in the answer. The second numerator (4) becomes the denominator. Then reduce.
Let's look at another one, with mixed numbers:
1 and 4/7 divided by 1 and 3/4. 1) Convert the mixed numbers to improper fractions, which gives you 11/7 divided by 7/4. 2) Find the common denominator of 28 and make equivalent fractions. This gives you 44/28 divided by 49/28. 2) The first numerator (44) becomes the numerator in the answer. The second numerator (49) becomes the denominator. No reducing, in this case.
Student Response
I've shown both methods to my sixthgraders. Some really like it. Others stick to the flipping method  but I don't know if this is because they like it better or because it was the first way they learned it.....most of them had been taught something about fraction division in 5th grade. Fraction Division Using the Reciprocal As far as teaching multiplying by the reciprocal  if students are going to use it, I think it's important that they understand WHY it works. It may be tough for them to understand, but if they learn the common denominator method first, the proof may then make more sense to them. I found a great article on the NCTM website that uses the common denominator method to prove why multiplying by the reciprocal works  check it out!
Fraction Division Math Wheels
Recently I made two math wheels, to use to teach both methods of dividing fractions taking notes will be more fun! What do you think? Do you see any advantages or disadvantages to teaching fraction division using common denominators?
Grab this free fraction operations math wheel!
To Read Next:
Teaching Fraction Multiplication
I love teaching fraction multiplication in middle school mathparticularly multiplication of mixed numbers. Why? Because we have fun exploring why multiplying mixed numbers DOESN'T work a certain way. Inevitably, when we start multiplying mixed numbers, some students want to multiply the fractions by the fractions and then multiply the whole numbers by the whole numbers. And I can see why they might think that's ok  after all, when you add and subtract, you deal with the whole numbers and fractions separately. (Sometimes, I think they don't want to be bothered with making improper fractions, because it's "easier" to just do 2 x 3 and then 3/4 x 1/2.)
So, every year, we end up having this discussion about why that just doesn't work. I enjoy showing how multiplying 2 3/4 by 3 1/2 means that ALL parts of 2 3/4 must be multiplied by ALL parts of 3 1/2. On the board, we make a list of the problems that would need to be completed: 2 x 3, 2 x 1/2, 3/4 x 3, and 3/4 x 1/2.
Now that we have all four products, we go through the process of adding them all together (finding common denominators, equivalent fractions,etc) and then reducing.....quite a bit of work to get to the answer:)
Then we compare that to what we get when we convert the mixed numbers to improper fractions. The detailed example of completing four multiplication problems and adding the products proves not only that converting to improper fractions is necessary, but also that it's a lot faster! So, Tip #1 is to show students WHY what they're doing isn't correct is to show what the multiplication really means .This may also mean bringing out the graph paper and showing what 3/4 groups of 1/2 looks like, etc, in addition to doing the computation.
Canceling, or "Crossing Out"
Tip #2  Teach students to cancel, or "cross out" (or whatever you might call it), and show them why it makes life a little easier. I love teaching this aspect of fraction multiplication. It's hard for some students to grasp at first, but when they repeatedly see that if they don't cross out, they have to reduce at the end of the problem (with larger numbers, like 168/12), they start getting excited about finding how much they can cross out. In recent years, I've found that students aren't learning this in earlier grades as often as they used tofor many, the discussion we have in my classroom is the first time they've encountered it. Once I teach them the idea of reducing first, and we explore why it works, there are some that still want to stick with what they learned in earlier grades and reduce only at the end, while others get superexcited about the concept of making the numbers they're working with smaller at the start. I may be wrong on this, but it seems that the students who embrace it first are those who know their multiplication facts better and can more easily find the relationships between the numbers in the problem....a student who knows that 15 and 24 can both be divided by 3, for example, is more likely to go ahead and divide them by 3 than the student who can't see it because they can't remember/don't know what 15 and 24 are divisible by.
Multiplying Fractions and Mixed Numbers Wheel
Tip #3  Give students a graphic organizer to help them remember the process. Some will need this and some won't, but it's handy to have in their binders to reference throughout the year. I recently created a fun math wheel, which is a great way to have students take notes about the concept, practice it, and then add their own personal, artistic touches. Do you have any special methods you use to teach the multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers?
Grab this free fraction operations math wheel!
To Read Next
Basic Math Skills?
I’ve heard this debated, and both sides make great points. So, do students need the fundamentals to be successful in math? The answer isn’t quite black and white. Overall, the answer may be no, they actually don’t. However, it also depends on the fundamentals in question. The Bare Basics It’s not so much that students need to know math before doing math. It’s all about their thinking processes. These are the fundamentals that students need. For instance, it’s what Common Core is based around – learning the processes for thinking through math versus just memorizing. While some students already have those processes, others may still need some guidance. For example, a child that struggles with counting isn't quite ready to comprehend addition. Or, a child struggling with language skills may not be able to reason through a word problem just yet. This is where the bare basics come into play. Studies have shown that it takes multiple areas of the brain to do math. I love telling students this, so I can prove that math helps make the brain stronger – which is a great reason to learn it. It takes language, memory, temporalsequential ordering, spatial ordering, attention and more to reason through math problems. Much of this is learned at an early age. For instance, when kids are stacking blocks by color or talking to you about the book you just read together, they’re building the fundamentals they need to do math and of course, a wide variety of other things. Building Upon The Basics Adam Sarli showcases the perfect example of why children don’t need more than the bare basics before doing math. While it does help students to know more, they usually reason things out. It may not be the approach you and I would use based on what we know now, but for the kids, it’s a learning experience that helps them figure out why and how math works. Sarli talks about one student, Yarieliz, and how she learned to go from addition to scaling up by addition to multiplication without learning the fundamentals first. This happened as she reasoned through word problems. Students were encouraged to find their own way, and it worked. Fundamentals are important, but perhaps not always necessary in the way we might think. With the right problems, games and activities, kids can do math by using logical thinking to get from Point A to Point B, or in Yarieliz case, addition to multiplication:)
I know the kneejerk reaction answer to this might be no. After all, there are millions of distracting videos to make students forget all about school.
Yet, I do believe YouTube has a place in middle school. While it’s full of distractions, it’s also filled with educational videos. When used for educational purposes, YouTube is an invaluable resource for students, parents and teachers. Pick Out Videos Ahead Of Time Asking students to just search for a video is a major mistake. I’ve been there. My advice is to find the videos you want students to watch. Give them the links or just show them in class to help get a point across. Middle school students love watching videos, so it’s more engaging to let them see concepts in action in a YouTube video. To them, it may be much cooler than their teacher. Of course, incorporating YouTube helps make you the cool teacher. Show Concepts In A Fun Way As you know, I’m 100% for finding fun ways to educate students. I’m always on the hunt for games and activities. YouTube is filled with those. Even if I don’t show them the video, I learn new ways to teach to better engage my students. It’s always amazing to me how people on YouTube are able to create such entertaining videos about things that most middle schoolers would consider boring. Finding The Right Content This is where I struggled most at first. After all, there’s a reason so many schools actually ban YouTube. I did have to do a bit of searching to find the type of content I wanted, but it was well worth it. I was thrilled to run across the Education category. It covered everything and set me on my way to finding unlimited resources for teaching middle school. The NEA has a great resource on using YouTube in the classroom, even advice on creating your own videos. I could list numerous YouTube channels to help you get started, but this post simply isn’t long enough. Here are few sites to start your search:

AuthorHey there! I'm Ellie  here to share math fun, best practices, and engaging, challenging, easyprep activities ideas! Archives
December 2020
