My All Time Favorite Middle School Math Lessons

I’m teaching high school now, but here are the lessons that I miss the very most.  These are my “Must Do” lessons.  I have a few friends who will teach middle school math (or Algebra 1) for the first time this year.  Thanks to Jami for the inspiration for organizing these lessons.  It’s been a walk down memory lane for me.  I really miss middle school.

My All Time Favorite Lessons

These lessons really kicked ass.  Not only did I love teaching them, but students had a blast.  Best of all, these are the lessons that students learned the most from.  They were totally engaged and the ideas stuck.  Of course my number one lesson of all time is Barbie Bungee.  And, I just realized that I never blogged about some of my all time favorite lessons!  Goals!

  1. Barbie Bungee (Linear equations), 2 – 4 days.  I can never, ever say enough about this lesson.  It is my students favorite every year.  The last year, I even bought cheap tiaras for the winning group.  YES, the boys wore them.  My only regret was not dressing up like Barbie after seeing Matt and Fawn do it.
  2. The Black Death (Ratio and proportions), 1 day.  This is great for a cross-curricular activity if your students are learning about the middle ages as well.  Be sure to play the turn off the lights and play scary medieval music during the lesson! Also, you will find out years later that your students memorized every word to the “Fleas On Rats” YouTube video you showed them and will sing it everytime “Hollar Back Girl” comes on.  Epic.
  3. Monster Math (Introduction to solving equations), 2 days and ongoing.  There is NOTHING worse in the world than trying to make 6th graders (read boys) write down every step when they are solving equations on paper for the first time, nothing.  This makes equation solving so fun and helps them understand what is happening.  Be sure to do the “Pass the paper” activity in the lesson so your students have no choice but to write their steps down.  But don’t worry, they will WANT to so they can draw extra monsters!  Protip:  Wear the hat!
  4. Army Men and Circle Stickers for Learning Integer Operations (Negative Numbers), 2 – 3 days and ongoing.  So, I know that army men killing each other is not “PC”.  BUT, it’s such a fun way to illustrate a zero pair that it has to be done.  I start with Army Men (days 1-2), then move onto Circle Stickers for a few days.  Let them use the men and the stickers on the first few assessments!  They won’t always need them, I promise!
  5. Paper Airplanes for Measures of Central Tendencies (Mean, Median, and Mode, and negative numbers), 2 days.  AND following directions, and negative numbers.  When students throw their plane and it goes backwards you get bonus math.  What is the furthest distance from the negative distance minus the longest distance?  Subtraction of a negative!!  This is the a very visual way to see subtract of a negative.
  6. Mathemagic (More advanced simplifying equations and equation solving), 2 days.  I love this because even beginner can do very advanced equations very quickly.  Plus, who doesn’t love magic?  The hook is when you guess their numbers, so don’t forget to do that first!
  7. The Pattern Function Connection (learning the connection between patterns, tables, and graphs and how to write a function from a pattern).  2 days or 2 weeks, however  much you want to use it.  It goes great with Fawn’s Visual Patterns.  I used this in 6th grade, and this year I will use it in Honors Algebra 2.  Classic.
  8. Square Root Cheez-Its (Square roots, perfect squares), 1 day.  I used this in MS and in 9th grade geometry.
  9. Playdoh and Cheerios for Volume  (Discovering volume formulas), 1 – 2 days.  Students know many of the formulas, but slicing playdoh helps them discover what the formulas mean.  You can also use marshmallows instead of cheerios.
  10. Algebra Tiles, Ongoing.
  11. The CLAW (Distributive Property), 1 day then ongoing.  Thank you Sean for introducing me to the CLAW!!  It’s so much fun and when we factor, we are retracting the claw!
  12. Ski Slopes and Slope Guy (Slope – Puff, puff positive), 1 day.  Don’t write off the video, I promise your students will love it.  And, it will help them!
  13. Equation of a Line Song (y = mx + b), 1 day then ongoing.  My students still sing this song and will never ever forget what a 0 slope or undefined slope look like.  I miss it!!
  14. Fraction Song, 2 days then ongoing FOREVER.  I have hs students who see me out and tell me they sing it all of the time.  Songs are a fantastic way to access their memory!  (I just read “Make It Stick”).
  15. Geometry Booklets, 1 unit.  This made the 1 million Geometry terms you have to go over in MS fun.  And they can keep it for later classes.
  16. M&M Percents (need to blog), 1 day.  Paper plates, M&M’s and percents.  I did this activity the first day of our percent unit.  I found the somewhere and loved it.  I can’t believe I never blogged about it.
  17. Kinesthetic Algebra (Introducing Variables), 1 day.  I still use this with HS students.  It is a short activity that gets a lot of ah-ha! moments.
  18. Turning Words into Math (Translating Algebraic Expressions), 2 days.
  19. Fibonacci Rabbits (need to blog), 1 day
  20. Factor Craze and Pascal’s Triangle (Factors and Exponents), 1 – 2 days
  21. Solving for Y with Cups and Kisses (Solving equations for a variable), 1 day
  22. Goldfish – Capture Recapture (Ratios and Proportions), 1 day
  23. Dominoes Pizza (Linear equations), 2 – 4 days.  This is a free Mathalicious lesson.

My Favorite Activities

  1. White Boards – Individual and Mega
  2. Problem Solving – Fawn is the queen, and her site will help you!  Kids love it!
  3. Math Stations – Great for review days.  I also did this with proof writing in Geometry.
  4. Trasketball – Awesome review game.  Kids can get too competitive.
  5. Speed Dating – Great to get kids working with different people all period. HS students will be embarrassed bc of the name and work quietly. lol!
  6. Flyswatter Game – Protip:  Buy sturdy flyswatters, and have extras!
  7. Draw It!
  8. Dry Erase Necklaces
  9. Mathalicious Lessons – my students loved these and they were very structured so they were easy for me to implement.

My Favorite Technology

  1. Desmos
  2. PearDeck
  3. Mathalicious
  4. Kahoot!
  5. Plickers
  6. Remind
  7. Socrative

11 thoughts on “My All Time Favorite Middle School Math Lessons

  1. Thank you so much! Putting all of this in one place is a wonderful idea! This resource will be such a help for my 8th grade and algebra 1 classes this year.

  2. After spending the past year searching your blog from time to time for MS activities (not to mention reading your new adventures in HS teaching), I’m ecstatic that I finally have all of your favorites in one place! Thanks Julie! Although it’s not mentioned above, I also wanted to say that the kinesthetic box plot activity is also a knock out for developing understanding of median and quartiles. Thanks again!

  3. You are amazing! I just spent the last 3 hours sucked into your world with laughing and aha moments! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I can’t wait to implement these ideas, tips, strategies and resources.

  4. Julie,

    I too spent about 2 hours sifting through some of this. Creating a database of things to use throughout the year for my 6th grade Math Skills class and 7th grade Pre-Algebra class. Have been doing this with the above resources as well as what I found at YouCubed.org and Dan Meyers 3 Act problems. Will tackle the resources at NCTM next. Thanks so much for being so reflective and willing to share 🙂

    Here’s my resource list / scope & sequence so far for my 6th Grade Math and 7th Grade Math Class:
    6th Grade Math – https://www.evernote.com/l/ARV5subFpx9NLJ9_S55FxSM-js37jQuhC2c
    7th Grade Math – https://www.evernote.com/l/ARXQCZR6AO9Gh4Qrd-HuN3CW2EPVfrit6uc

    Thom

  5. Pingback: My All Time Favorite Middle School Math Lessons | I Speak Math | Learning Curve

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s