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).
Boxandwhisker plots are a brand new concept for my 6thgraders, and when students are first introduced to them, they seem a little scary. However, with some structured directions, students catch on very quickly.
I break down the boxandwhisker plot into 5 steps, in order to plot the 5 points needed to create the box and whiskers: 1) Order the data set from least to greatest. 2) Identify the smallest and largest values; place those points on the number line (above the number line). 3) Identify the median and place that point on the number line. Students need to remember that if there is an even number of numbers in the data set, the median will be the mean of the two middle numbers  even though they've found median in the past, many students tend to need this reminder.
Have you ever thought about how ping pong helps kids practice math?
I love playing ping pong! I played it a lot as a kid and I play occasionally as an adult....we have a table in the basement:) I would never claim to be a SERIOUS player, but I'm not bad!
I was playing with my daughter the other day, and it occurred to me that playing ping pong is a great way for younger children to practice their addition facts and some multiples of 5 (good for older kids too, if they don't know these facts very well). Now, this idea is based on the "serving rules" that we used when I was growing up. It appears (after I searched for info) that these are not the official rules any more, but since I'm not a professional, I'm ok with playing by the unofficial rules! The way we played is that the server switches every 5 points, and we played to 21 points. So, here's where the math comes in....when you're playing, you need to know when to switch who's serving, so you need to know what adds up to the multiples of 5. When the score is 50, 41, or 32, serving switches. To switch servers at 10 points, players need to know that the score would be 100, 91, 82, 73, 64, or 55. When serving switches at a total of 15 points, the score possibilities are 150, 141, 132, 123, 114, 105, 96, 87. At 20 points, the score would be 200, 191, 182, 173, 164, 155, 146, 137, 128, 119, 1010. The repetition of these facts throughout many games can really help kids learn them. Over the years, I have noticed that students (in general) seem less aware of, and less automatic with, the digits that will add to 10. Playing ping pong is a great way for kids to practice these facts without thinking that they're practicing math (math in reallife!). This is great for parents to do with their kids, but also  a mini ping pong table in the classroom sounds like fun!!
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. 
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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