One Good Thing: Volume 7

My students are starting to get into the play table more, and it’s like having a little piece of Math on a Stick in my own classroom!  Right away as they discovered these, they started doing things I never would have thought to do!  I love it!


We’ve been working on area in 6th grade, and I’ve shown students several GIFs to help them understand the formulas.  One student commented, “All of these GIFs are just so perfect for this!  Where do you find them?!”  I love when they appreciate things I’m sharing with them.


A pair of students called me over and asked, “Can you help us?  We’re arguing over here.”  Me:  “Arguing?  Over math?!  I LOVE it!”


I’ve done a worksheet like this in a couple different classes this week, and I LOVE how persistent my students have been.  I know that these types of worksheets can be frustrating because students are forced to get a correct answer rather than just move on, but for the most part, they’ve embraced the challenge.


We played the game linked in this post this week and a students’ comment as she left class, “PLEASE tell me we’re going to play that again.  THAT was fun!”



I’ve been sick this week, and one day my eyes get really watery several times throughout the day.  One student was in the middle of a sentence when she looked at me and with genuine concern asked, “Are you ok?”  These kids.  I just love them so much.


One of my lessons this week did not go how I hoped.  We were working on simplifying expressions.  Every year I’ve taught this I’ve forgotten where students are when they come to me.  When planning this lesson, I always think of where the prior year’s group ended -not remembering how much that group had learned over the course of the year.  Anyway, the lesson combined too many new things together too quickly.  As I was teaching, I knew it wasn’t going that well, but I didn’t know how to improve the lesson on the fly.  I made a slight change from the first class to the next class that helped a bit, but I ended the day frustrated with myself for forgetting how this lesson had gone the previous year.

We came back the next day and did an Open Middle (more on that later), reviewed briefly before going to the whiteboards for some Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces.  They ROCKED it that day!  They were so focused and worked so hard!  I was SO proud of them!


I introduced students to Open Middle.  Because it was the first time students were introduced to this type of problem, I wanted them to feel success without it being too easy.  I think this problem worked well with my goals.  At first students were confused, and I sensed some were hesitant to even get started because they were unsure of themselves.  However, once they grasped what was being asked and dove in, they were able to solve the problem, and most often come up with more than one solution.  Cheers of excitement could be heard throughout my room as students successfully solved the problem.

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We followed that one up with another one the next day and they dove right in.

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The 8th grade football players were practicing as I was leaving school one day this week. A few of my 8th grade boys noticed me leaving and started waving at me -it wasn’t just your typical wave.  It was the practically jumping up and down because they’re waving so big kind of wave.  What a great way to end the day!


A student as he left class, “Thank you for teaching me today.”


Friday High Fives have turned into a Friday hug with one of my 6th graders.  6th graders are just the sweetest.


I wore my Desmos shirt for the first time this year.  I got by far more comments on that shirt than anything else I’ve worn this year -both from current and former students.  Some students thought it was cool.  Some asked, “WHY do you have a Desmos shirt?” and now think I’m even weirder than I was before.  🙂  One girl asked, “Does Desmos sponsor you or something?”  When I told her no, she replied, “Well they should.”  Haha!


A couple of groups finished what they were working on earlier than the rest of the class. Without prompting, they started helping other groups.  It was like having 3 or 4 teachers in the room as these students walked about the room asking groups if they had questions.  These kids.  I tell you.  How did I get so lucky that I get to spend my days with them?

Math on a Stick

This past summer was FULL of wonderful math things!  I finished up my last two math grad classes (Yay!), went to TMC, and got to learn from Fawn Nguyen!  And if all of that wasn’t enough, I got to end my summer with Math on a Stick!

Math on a Stick started thanks to Christopher Danielson.  It’s essentially a math playground that is open every day of our State Fair.  You can read more about it here and here.


Tiling Turtles

You can also read a reflection from Laura’s daughter here.  I so enjoyed meeting her and the conversations we had.  Here she is running the spiral machine.


This was my second year volunteering, and it is always a great time, rain or shine!  If its rainy, that usually means more time to reconnect with the other volunteers, but if the weather’s great, Math on a Stick fills up quickly!

Above:  The Chris, Christopher, Annie, and Phil having tetrahedron building contests when it was raining.

Below:  It was so fun to see how many people came to play!

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Every day there is a visiting mathematician with some activity for people to do.


The math bus that Christopher and his crew put together when he was the visiting mathematician.


The visiting mathematician this day was from the Fractal Foundation.

It’s so fun to see all the different things people create throughout the day.

Casey flew in from California for Math on a Stick!  When we weren’t volunteering, we went to a few “must sees” at the State Fair.


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I was so fortunate that I was able to see so many people from the MTBoS community  that flew in for math on a stick as well as reconnect with many MN friends.

It is always so fun to meet Twitter friends in real life!


I’m already looking forward to next year!  The last weekend of the fair is Labor Day weekend.  Come visit!!

First Days Good Things


On day 1 I used Sara’s 100 Numbers Task again.  Every year I am reminded of how much I love it!  It leads to great discussion on group work and how math is the study of patterns.  My classroom looked like this on day 1 with middle schoolers!


I also got to try out the new version of the task that I created.  I definitely liked this version better than the one I created last year.  It’s also fun for me to see that I’m able to make improvements to things I’ve done in the past.



As my first class was close to finishing, I remembered being reminded of Glenn’s high fives at TMC and decided to give it a try.  That’s not a typical thing for me to do, but it was easier for me to do with my 6th graders -give a high five and say “Way to go!  You made it through your first class of middle school!”  (One 6th grader, “If I didn’t have my hands full of my books, I would hug you right now.”  They are the best!)  I debated whether or not to do it with my 7th and 8th graders later in the day.  I decided since it was the first day to just go for it.  Some of them acted too cool for it, but I was sort of surprised at how many students smiled because of it, and because of that I decided to make it a first week thing and plan to make it a Friday thing after that.  Today was day 2 and more students waited for their high five rather than trying to rush out the door and less students acted too cool for it.  🙂


I had a student thank me as he left my room.  I know that is the norm for some places, but it is definitely not the norm in my school.


I have bigger classes than I’ve had in the past and was a bit worried about how that would go.  So far so good!


I used Fawn Nguyen’s Noah’s Ark problem and had students thank me for making them do some work on the first day of school, use “challenged” and “fun” in the same sentence, and ask why it’s my favorite.  After learning from Fawn this summer, I realized I need to let my students know when I’m excited about something we’re doing.  I don’t always do a good job of that and want that to be something I work on this year.



I debated whether or not I should use Sara Van Der Werf’s name tents with my 7th and 8th graders since I had them already as 6th graders, but in the end I decided to.  I was reminded day 1 that they are still a great way to learn about my students.  I’ve already learned a ton of stuff I never would have learned without them.


It felt like I picked up with my 7th and 8th graders right where I left off.  I loved having them come in and already know my expectations and procedures.  (They even remembered the goals for math talks!)


I have prep 5th hour this year, and only have 2 classes left after that.  I’m used to having 3 classes after my lunch or prep, and my afternoons are going so much quicker!


Twitter to the rescue when it comes to hanging up posters!  I threw this out there and thought someone might have an idea for me and was shocked at how many people did! Many of the responses I got are for brick walls, and my walls aren’t brick. However, I will still have plenty of other things to try!


I introduced one class of 6th graders to Set today!  I used notice/wonder to introduce the game for the second year in a row, and it went so well!  I also had a few students already familiar with the game!  I don’t know that that’s happened before!


We were working on the Noah’s Ark problem again today, and a student said, “I was working on this last night at home…”  It wasn’t assigned.  🙂  I nearly hugged the student.


I recently moved and when I was talking with a coworker yesterday it came up that I don’t have a microwave yet.  She had an extra one from her kids at home and brought it for me today.  My coworkers are so great!


I was finally able to make a play table happen in my classroom.  So far, not many students have engaged with it, but I’m excited for more students to start playing!  I didn’t last year because I wasn’t quite sure where to put it, but I was able to find a place next to my desk.  I’m really excited about that because I hope to be able to connect with and chat with students while they are playing and I’m sitting at my desk.



A former student emailed me tonight asking if I would proofread her English essay.  Making connections and forming relationships with students is the best part of this job.


Finding “one good things” is easier now than it was when I first started writing these.  🙂