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.  🙂

One Good Thing: Volume 5

I’ll admit, my expectations for today weren’t too high.  I had a final for my grad class last night until almost 8:00, so yesterday was a long day.  Teachers have inservice tomorrow, so my students have a 3 day weekend.  It’s May.  The weather is finally nice.  I felt like I had so much going against me today, but man, today was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

My day started with one of my 6th graders working on some Yohaku style puzzles I created.  I hadn’t used these before, so I had no idea what to expect.  Would it be too hard?  Too easy?  I didn’t know.  It was the perfect level of challenge for my students.  I wish the eraser marks showed up better in the picture below.  My students were SO persistent when solving these.  There was cheering when a solution was found, and when they found a solution, I challenged them to find another solution.  And then another using fractions.  My students were engaged in these puzzles for well over 20 minutes.  It was fantastic!  I plan on writing more about this portion of my unit soon.

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Class was over and a student said, “Could you make more of these for next week?  Maybe nobody else thought they were fun, but I thought they were really fun.”


My 8th graders are working on solving systems of equations.  We were getting into systems that have no solution and infinitely many solutions.  My lesson plan wasn’t anything special, at all.  Some of my 8th graders have been struggling to focus lately, but both classes worked SO well, the entire hour.


My other 6th grade classes were testing today.  One student left this note on her test, and then left little notes/jokes throughout her test.  She most definitely made my day.



My 7th grade class was shortened today, and over a third of my class was gone for track and many others were leaving partway through the hour for softball.  While my students were taking a short quiz, I this thought, “Maybe today would be a good time to try Dan Meyer’s Taco Cart 3-Act…”  I’d never done a 3-Act before, but I’d been wanting to try this one for over a year.  I decided now was as good a time as any, so we did.  I let my students know that I’d made a last minute decision on what to do.  That I hadn’t done this one before.  I could be great.  I might not be, but they were going to be my guinea pigs.  One student’s response, “Yay!  I love being a guinea pig.”  Students are so awesome.

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While the math involved for this 3-act was from a prior unit, the conversations students had while doing this task were so much better than the lesson I had planned.


My final for my grad class was yesterday.  That means I didn’t spend today after school working on next week’s homework for that class.  Definitely a good thing.



One Good Thing: Volume 4

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my “One Good Things” from the week.  Here’s volume 1 and volume 2.  It’s been a challenging few weeks, so I thought focusing on the good at the end of the week would be a good thing in and of itself.

My first hour students were working on “Number Muncher” the Monday after Thanksgiving break.  When I said it was time to be done, their response was, “What?? Can’t we just stay in math all day?”


One of my students shared with me about his first Black Friday experience.  He was NOT impressed.  AT ALL.  Even though he got this huge thing of gum balls, he would be perfectly happy to never experience Black Friday shopping again.  Ha!


We did an activity called Balance Points in 6th grade this week.  It’s always a highlight for the students AND me.  I don’t think there’s a single person in the room who isn’t smiling when we do this.

The second day we did this activity, this grouped asked if we could have an question with an answer of 5 because, “we want to do that one we did yesterday.”  🙂



A student came to class with this shirt on.  I don’t know why I found it so funny that day, but I did.



I used Desmos Point Collector for the first time with students.  I’m a fan!  I had a student do this for the last challenge.  Later on during the class period he was telling his friend about it who goes, “Oh, so you cheated the system.”  😉

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High school basketball games started this week.  My dad coaches and many of their games are streamed online so I can watch from home.  It’s the best!  I’m convinced that God made basketball a winter sport to help us get through Minnesota winters.

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A little Mathketball is always a good way to start a Friday.

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We were reviewing for an inequalities quiz and at the end of class someone asked how many questions would be on the test.  I said “8 questions tops”, and a student replied, “You should make us write an inequality for that.”  So we did.


I was explaining to a group of 8th grade boys that if they do better on the test on a skill than they did on the quiz earlier in the unit, I will replace the quiz score with their score for that portion of the test, but it doesn’t work the other way.  I said, “If you ace the quizzes but bomb the test, I won’t replace your test score with 100%.”  After saying they understood, I walked away but overheard one of the boys say, “I always though ‘bomb’ was a good thing.”  I went back to ask about this and explain what “bombing a test” meant when I was in middle school and that I must be old.  They said it reminded them of a conversation they had with the art teacher this week about the word “dope”.  Did I mention that this art teacher is just a couple years away from retirement?!  I’m not THAT old!


I finally got to use a couple of Open Middle problems I made and was overall happy with how students did with them.

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More “One Good Things”

Today was another day where the “One Good Things” just kept piling on.

Don’t get me wrong.  There were plenty of things that would not classify as “Good Things” that happened today.  Plenty of them.  However as I drove home today, the Good Things are what stood out to me.

You can read the blog of other people’s One Good Things here and here is my “One Good Thing” post from last week.

I had to leave my classroom for a short time between homeroom and first hour.  When I returned to my classroom my 6th graders were quietly at their desks working on their Which One Doesn’t Belong? warm-up.


One of my students was called down to the office at the end of the hour.  I actually heard this student groan at having to leave class.  This is a student who I have a feeling has not felt very successful in math in the past, but today that student was working hard and was feeling success in math and because of that didn’t want to stop working!


I’ve been encouraging my next hour’s class to participate more.  I had students who are rarely willing to participate and raise their hand, participate today!


I had a 6th grader raise his hand to ask a question during work time, but then he said, “Wait, I should look it up first.”  And he used his Chromebook to look up what he needed.

I realize that these are small things, but to me these are things that will have such a big impact moving forward, especially since I am seeing these things in my students so early on in the year.  My students are starting to get used to routines I have in place in my classroom.  My students are willing to be brave and participate, even if they may not be super confident in what they are doing.  My students are starting to see that if they engage in what we are working on and try, they can be successful.  My students are starting to become more independent and figure out how to find the answers to their questions without needing me all the time.

A Day Full of “One Good Things”

I love reading the One Good Thing blog.  It always encourages me to find the positive in my day, regardless of what kind of a day/week I’m having.

Yesterday was one of those days that was full of One Good Things.


I started with the following Which One Doesn’t Belong in my first 6th grade class.  The conversation was SO good, and I loved hearing all the vocabulary my students remembered.  The conversation went equally well in my other two sections.

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Then we used this Desmos activity.  It was the first time this group of students used Desmos.  It was love at first Class Code.  The groans when I paused the activity were music to my ears -I even gave them a 5 second warning.



In my 8th grade classes I used Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (#VNPS) for the first time this year.  Whenever I do this, I ask myself why I don’t do this more often.  I’m always amazed at how much more engaged students are and how much more they participate when we do this compared to seat work.

After grouping students randomly for this, I saw that two students who I struggle to get to do anything on a lot of days ended up partners.  I had my doubts about how their group would function, but the 20 minutes those students worked together was by far the best either of them had worked all year!



When it came time for my 5th hour class, I logged in to Desmos to find that none of my custom activities or history showed up in my account.  What could have been a disaster (my 30+ minute lesson plan with 6th graders, gone), ended up going just fine.

For whatever reason, my students were crazy patient and quiet while I tried to log in to Desmos and figure out what was going in.  Then I finally realized what happened.  My school email changed over the summer, and I had been trying to change my Desmos account to my new address.  I had contacted Desmos earlier in the week to help with this and saw in an email that they were able to make the change for me just before 5th hour.  The change didn’t quite go as expected, and I needed to change my password and wasn’t able to do this.

We had just set up something else on my students’ Chromebooks, so I had them work in that while I emailed Desmos to try to figure out the issue.  I spent the next 10 minutes or so emailing Denis from Desmos -we may as well have been live chatting for as quick as Denis was to respond to my emails.  (Have I mentioned that Desmos is awesome!  After my initial split second of panic when everything in my account was gone, there was never a doubt in my mind that Desmos would be able to fix the issue.)

The hour ended, and I still wasn’t able to get my stuff back in my account.  However, I tried the same thing I had been trying during class one more time, and it worked!  I was ready to go for 6th and 7th hours.


After school I was able to go and support a colleague whose family is going through a difficult time.  While the situation isn’t a good thing, I was glad I could be there for her during this difficult time.

One Good Thing: “I think we need to clap for that.”

I really enjoy reading Rebecka Peterson‘s posts over on the One Good Thing blog.  It’s encouraged me to look for my own good things after a tough day.  Today’s was easy.

Last week in one of my classes we played “Mathketball”  (I think most people call it trashketball.)  A student made the comment that we should play “Mathket-war”.  I said if someone wanted to create the game, we could play this week.


I honestly had forgotten about that conversation until Tuesday.  A student walks into my room and hands me a piece of paper,  “Here are the rules for mathket-war.”  Then, “And here are the cards for it.”


Yes, one of my students spent Memorial weekend creating mathket-war.  I wish I had a picture of my face when she shared this with me.  She told me her older sister who is in one of my other classes helped check her math for the problems.  Yet another reason I love this -her sister helped her out.  As an only child, I LOVE to see siblings get along.

Today she read the rules to the class and showed them the cards.  This was out of this girl’s comfort zone, but she did a great.  Hearing the other students appreciate what she had done was good for her.  They were excited she created this so they could play it and were impressed with all the work she had done.

At one point another student made a comment suggesting something that should happen in the game.  She replied, “Just wait.  That’s in the bonus points.”  She truly thought of everything.

When she finished a student raised his hand, “I think we need to clap for that.”

And they did.  🙂