Making them work in 40minute class periods
I taught elementary school for 12 years and I loved my math centers! They were great. Math class was always an hour, and we had five computers in the classroom, so having a computer center was always an option.
Then I moved to middle school. Math was 44 minutes (minus time for switching classes.....so more like 40 minutes). How could I fit more than two rotations in a 40minute period?? I longed for block scheduling (our district has never had it)...that would make it so much easier to complete center rotations! For the first year or two of middle school, I kind of gave up on the idea of centers...the activities I wanted students to complete took longer than 20 minutes. So, that would be enough time to finish 2 rotations, IF students started the second they walked in the door and then had no time to clean up/organize at the end of class. But eventually I needed to get my centers back, so I experimented with a few different setups before I landed on a structure that works.
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For Teacher Appreciation week, I created two FREE problem solving math wheels (they are in the same PDF file)  they can be used to teach problem solving strategies, be used as a center activity, or be used as a finished early activity. When complete, they can be added to students' binders/interactive notebooks to be used as references all year.
I hope you can use them! Just click the image to download.
Surface area is a such a fun topic to explore in the middle school math classroom! To really understand what surface area means, students need to interact with actual threedimensional objects. Before we talk about the math formulas or how to calculate, we spend time discovering how to find surface area in our own ways.
I give students everyday items to work with. Typically, we use product boxes (rectangular prisms) with different dimensions, and I ask the students to visualize and then draw what the boxes would look like if they were taken apart and laid flat. Most students take about 5 minutes to complete their drawings, depending on how detailed they choose to be, and for the most part, they do a very good job drawing the nets of the boxes. Next, I have them spend a few minutes comparing their nets with group members, deciding whether those nets are reasonable representations of the object (even if they are drawn a little differently), and determining whether anyone appeared to be missing anything (some students will draw only five sides, and their group members are able to help them figure out what's missing).
After drawing their nets, I assign the groups two tasks  to find the surface area of their particular box and to determine a formula for the surface area of rectangular prisms. At this point, we have already studied area, so the only thing we discuss before they set upon their tasks is the actual meaning of the term surface area....we brainstorm the possible meanings and agree on the defintion. Then they set off measuring and calculating.
What skills to middle school teachers need to have? The first skill many people think of is the ability to work well with preteens, as well as a degree in education. That's definitely a good start. But, I’ve discovered that to be successful as a middle school teacher, you need a certain skill set. While I learned some of this in school, most of it I learned through experience.
After all, working with middle school students for years teaches you a few things. 1. Persistence Honestly, I think this is a key skill for every single teacher, no matter what age group they teach. Students aren’t always happy to be in class or eager to learn. This means I have to be persistent and keep working with my students, no matter how stubborn they might be. Of course, sometimes persistence also means taking the time to figure out why a student’s having problems.
I know lots of people use beach balls in the classroom, but I haven't used them in such a long time that I thought I'd share my excitement about finally getting around to getting new ones! I have a little bit of a beach theme in my room this year, so that motivated me to get some beach balls again. I ordered a pack of 12 and am writing different math skills practice on them  so far I have multiplication facts, exponents, fraction/decimal conversions, and common measurement conversions. I have 12 beach balls to fill with math, so I need to decide on more topics. I think I'll do square roots, division facts, math vocabulary...I need to keep thinking:)
Our math classes aren't that long, but I figure I can squeeze in 5 minutes at the end of class once or twice a week to toss the beach balls around for some quick facts. With so many different beach balls, I could even differentiate and have 3 groups tossing at a time, depending on their needs!
Do you use beach balls  if so, how?
This post is from my old blog, and was written in April, 2015, but I thought it was worth transferring here and sharing:)
According to the Huffington Post (10/13/14), coloring benefits adults (and I would assume children as well) because it "generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity." In addition, psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala states that when we color, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres. "The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress."
According to PenCentral, coloring benefits adults in helping them to maintain fine motor skills this requires extra work by your brain to coordinate your actions and muscle control in your hands and arms. Coloring can help delay the loss of fine motor skills as people age. Coloring may also help fight cognitive loss, especially
if challenging pieces are completed every so often. I didn't necessarily find research to answer my student's exact question, but what I found was quite interesting! If anyone knows of other articles or published research to support the role of coloring in improving math skills, please let me know!
There’s no denying that middle school is a difficult time in kids’ lives. I remember my middle school years (actually junior high years  we didn't have middle school in our district back then:) and while they say the teen years are the worst, my tween years felt like the worst instead.
I see students struggling through so many transitions. It’s up to us as teachers and as parents to better understand the problems facing middle school kids today, so we can help. 1. Bullying Most bullying happens, or at least starts, in middle school. In fact, at least 25% of students in the U.S. say they’ve been a victim of bullying. I remember bullying growing up, but it’s become a much worse issue today. When students are having to constantly deal with bullying in school and online, it makes it difficult for them to concentrate or even care about coming to school. Sadly, the solution isn’t clear, but we just have to be there to help build students’ confidence and prevent bullying whenever we can. 
AuthorHi, I'm Ellie! I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels. Categories
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