Math = Love: March 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Organizing my Desk Drawer

I'm not sure exactly why, but a lot of my blog readers seem to get the impression that I'm super-organized.  I'm most definitely not.  (Though, I am trying to become more organized!)  

Here's a prime example of my disorganization.  Behold, my desk drawer!  

And, this picture was taken only a couple of weeks after I had done a complete overhaul/re-organization of this drawer.

I don't know if you can tell or not, but there are desk organizers in this drawer.  Obviously, they weren't working.  I had more stuff than would fit in the organizer.  Thus, the organizer was only taking up space.

One of the things I learned from reading The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark (affiliate link) is that I need to create systems that work for me instead of systems that are too hard for me to maintain.  I love that I can apply these same principles to help me keep both my house and my classroom clean!

I ended up ordering some supply baskets from the Achieva brand (affiliate link).

Here are (affiliate) links to the baskets I used for my desk drawer make-over.

I love that these baskets are all the same height.  This allowed me to make a modular design of organizers to take up as much of my drawer space as possible.

And, here's the finished product:

Now when I open my drawer, it's super easy to put stuff back where it belongs.  This means my desk stays neat and tidy.

Another perk of this system?  I can pull out my basket of pretty pens and set it on my desk when working on my interactive notebook pages.  Then, when I'm done, the basket slides right back into my desk drawer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Illustrating Different Types of Energy

My physical science class is currently in the middle of a unit on energy.  After discussing the different types of energy that exist, I challenged my students to draw an image that contained at least one example of each of the types of energy we had discussed.  This led to some great discussions between my students as they tried to find examples of each energy type that would work with the setting of their individual picture.  

Here are my students' creations: 

I can tell that the marble roller coaster activity we did stuck with students because there were lots of pictures including a roller coaster!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rationalizing the Denominator Practice Activity

I already posted about our recent Algebra 1 unit on radicals.  But, I just realized I forgot to share the question stack I created to help my students practice rationalizing the denominator. 

Question stacks are one of my favorite practice structures.  Students are given a double-sided deck of ten cards.  One side of the card features a question.  The other side features the answer to a DIFFERENT question.  

Students begin the activity by turning over all of the cards to reveal ALL of the answers.  I tell my students this is their answer bank.  

Then, students flip over one card of their choosing.  This will be their first problem to solve.  When students find the solution, it should be in the answer bank if they have done everything correctly.  They pick up the solution card and flip it over to reveal the next question. 

I love question stacks because they are self-checking.  This means I can focus my help on the groups struggling the most.  The answer bank gets smaller and smaller with each question which helps build student confidence.  

Here are the questions.  I put boxes around the questions to make them easier to spot. 


And, here's the answer bank.

 Here are some pictures of my students in action: 

I have uploaded the file for this question stack here.  

Want more question stacks? 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Marble Roller Coasters

I am so blessed to be married to a teacher because my husband doesn't even bat an eye when I ask him to do things like buy me some six foot long pieces of pipe insulation at Lowe's.  Note to self: pick a non-windy day to try and bring this into the building! 

Shaun also picked me up a couple of bags of marbles at Dollar Tree.  

Can you guess what these are going to become? 

Here's the first hint.  They can't be used as-is.  They need to be cut in half to make two long pieces.  

One side of the pipe insulation is already scored.  This is easily cut with scissors or a box knife.  I found that it was easier to use scissors to cut the rest of the pipe insulation in half.  

Each piece of insulation is 6 feet long.  My husband ended up paying $1.18 for each piece which will make 12 feet of tubing once cut in half.  These half pieces are perfect for making roller coasters for marbles.    

I used this marble roller coaster activity to kick off our discussion of kinetic and potential energy in physical science.  Each group received one six foot piece of tubing and one marble.  Using only these materials and tape, each group had to create a roller coaster that included one loop.  

Naturally, none of the designs worked perfectly the first time.  Students had to problem solve and refine their designs.  Once students had a one-loop roller coaster that was working successfully, that group earned a second piece of tubing.  This tubing came with the challenge to make a two-loop roller coaster.  When they had met this goal, they were given the challenge of making a coaster with three loops.  They expected to be given a third piece of tubing with this challenge, but I made them do the three loops with only the 12 feet of tubing they already had.  

My students quickly figured out that the marble needed to start out quite high above the loops.  They were discussing potential energy without even realizing it!  I also overheard students discussing how the loops needed to get progressively smaller.  Hello, kinetic energy!  

This really was the perfect way to learn what my students already knew/believed about energy.  I would like to formalize this activity more in the future.  I'm still waiting to get my scores back to see if I passed my chemistry certification test.  

Here are some pictures of the roller coasters they created: 

The one problem I've found with this activity is that I don't know how to store my tubing for future roller coasters.  The best I've found so far is this cardboard box that my hanger hampers (affiliate link) came in from Amazon.  The box is only about 3 feet tall, though.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Slants Puzzles from

In the last few days before Spring Break, a large portion of my students were gone for various reasons.  I decided it was not an ideal time to start a brand new unit in trigonometry.  So, I went looking for a new logic puzzle to introduce my trig students to.  Many of these students have been in my math classes since they were 8th graders, so they've seen almost all of the puzzles I have up my sleeve.  

I found these interesting looking slant puzzles from  I created a one-page introduction with the rules for these puzzles to give to my students. 

Then, I used my snipping tool to grab several puzzles for my students to try their hands at. 

Page 1 of Puzzles:

Page 2 of Puzzles:

Page 3 of Puzzles: 

Some of my students got really into these puzzles.  Others, not so much.  

If I was going to use these with my students again, I would make a MUCH bigger deal about the "Loops are not allowed" rule.  Many of my students ignored this rule...

Image Source: 

I enjoyed these puzzles myself.  I look forward to doing more of them in the future.

Interested in the file I created with the rules and sample puzzles?  I have uploaded it here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Recognizing Arithmetic Sequences as Linear Functions

As I posted before, this is my first year teaching sequences in Algebra 1.  The new Oklahoma math standards (OAS) include this standard: 

A1.A.3.5 Recognize that arithmetic sequences are linear using equations, tables, graphs, and verbal descriptions. Use the pattern, find the next term.

I succeeded in using equations and graphs with my students.  I didn't have them make tables.  And, I should have included verbal descriptions.  I definitely have some room for improvement for next year.  

I did exceed the standard by having students write a rule for the sequence that allowed them to find any term in the sequence. 

My students were a bit confused at first when it came to how to graph the sequence on the coordinate plane.  Many students thought that our first point should be graphed on the y-axis.  Now that I think about it, having students make a table with "Term" and "Value" as the two columns would have taken care of this because it would have turned the sequence into a set of ordered pairs.  I will definitely add a table to these notes for next year!

We examined the graphed points to find the slope of the line.  This value went in front of x.  Then, we used the slope to determine where the line would cross the y-axis.  This gave us the rest of our rule.

After doing a couple of these together, many of my students were working ahead without any prompting from me.

My students would probably have been perfectly happy to make graphs in order to find the rule, but I decided to show them a method of finding the rule that doesn't require making a graph.

I first learned about the DINO method for finding the nth term of an arithmetic sequence from the Miss Brookes Maths blog.  A google search led me to this free worksheet and poster set from Numero Maths.

Almost all of my students ended up using this method on their quiz.  So, I guess my students found it useful.

The files for this lesson are on my school computer.  I will upload them as soon as I get back from Spring Break!