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.
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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.
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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