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

Tremont 2014 – 6th Overnight Trip

I finally finished the video for the 6th grade overnight trip!  Our 6th graders go to the  Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont every year.  It is an amazing trip where they look for salamanders, learn wilderness navigation, learn about rock formations, take a hike to the waterfalls, meet new friends, and play lots of fun games!

Thanks so much to Mary and the entire Tremont staff for an amazing trip!



Carowinds Fun with the Math Club

We had such a blast at Carowinds on Sunday and even remembered to do a little bit of math!  I’m a coaster junkie had so much fun with my coaster loving students!  Thanks again to all of the students that went with us and especially to the wonderful parents that drove and chaperoned. It was a great day!

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And YES, I did the Ripcord bungee sky flying.  How could I NOT do it after teaching Barbie Bungee for the last couple of years?

Rip Cord – Jack, Alex, Wes

Students on the Drop Zone Tower

Drop Zone 2

Scream Weaver

Wind Seeker

Inside Out – 7th Grade Overnight Video

I finished the iMovie that I made of the 7th grade overnight trip with Inside Out and our visit to Full Moon Farm.  It’s 37 minutes long!  I took much more video this year and another teacher on the trip brought her amazing camera and took over 200 photos!  So, it’s a bit long, but really fun.  Enjoy!



Math Club – Carowinds Theme Park Trip


image-7Our Math Club is going to Carowinds Theme Park this Sunday!  We have been planning this all year.   The students talked about things they would like to find out at a theme park.  They researched roller coasters and even made a fun roller coaster presentation (see below).  Our big question is, “It the ride worth the wait?”.  The students will analyze wait times, ride times, and thrill factors of the rides in the park.  They created booklets to take with them and record all of the data they collect.  They even planned out their day!  We will analyze our results at the next Math Club meeting.


Ch ch ch Change

I feel a change, will do you good. I say a change, will do you good.

I am moving schools and changing jobs next year. I will teach upper school at Cannon school starting in the fall. I will most likely teach Geometry and Alg 2 with trig.

I have always taught high school or college level students until my last four years at Woodlawn. Before I started, I was afraid to teach middle school students, but I found that I loved every minute of it. I really love their energy!

I am sad to leave my current school, with all of it’s wonderful students and families. But I am also excited about the opportunities at my new school. After being the lone middle school math teacher for four years, I will be in a math department of eight teachers! There are two other new teachers coming in as well. The math teachers that I met had amazing energy and wonderful camaraderie with each other. We are even going on a math curriculum retreat this summer! They are very progressive, teaching all of their math courses through discovery learning. They even use all discovery learning textbooks! They are excited to learn all about the MTBoS, and I am looking forward to soaking up everything I can about discovery learning at the high school level from them. I teach through discovery exclusively in my current middle school position, all with lessons that I have either made up or adapted from the knowledgable teachers of the MTBoS. So this position will be a great next step for me. Also, I just found out that my bestie, Sam Shah, will also be teaching Geometry next year! I cannot wait to collaborate with him! And even though change can be scary, this was another sign that I made the right choice to move!

The hardest part will be leaving. Woodlawn has become my home and I have been blessed with a wonderful family there. But I think that a change will do me good.

Woodlawn is Your Home


I am in the Great Smokey Mountains with my amazing 6th grade students this week.

They are truly an outstanding group of young people. They are kind to each other and treat each other like family. They are respectful and follow the rules. They are not afraid to try new things and have been very adventurous on this trip. They achieve whatever they set their minds on. They are a powerful group. They have a dramatic flair unlike I have ever seen in a class of 6th graders. There is a larger class of 6th graders from another school here with us at camp. My students are not afraid to be who they are even in front of them. They are still being themselves, even in front of unknown peers. They are brave.


Love is in the Details

The middle school parents did this for all of the teachers at my school.  I was blown away and had to take pictures.  The parents brought in and set up the tables and even cleaned the room until it shined.  Their hard work was so evident in every detail.  In keeping with our schools spirit, they had apples brought in from a local organic apple farm.  The food was amazing, and so appreciated right now.

I have never had a teacher appreciation day like this one.  Thank you dear parents for the most beautiful teacher appreciation feast that I have ever seen.  Your kindness meant so much to me and others.   Love is in the details.

7th Grade Overnight – Inside Out at Camp Tekoa

Last week I went on the three day 7th grade overnight trip in the mountains of North Carolina. It was ran by Inside Out at Camp Tekoa.  I’m not sure what you do for your middle school trips, but this was an amazing adventure!  Inside Out does a fabulous job with the students.  Our focus for this year was team building.  We learned about water quality, caught stream critters with nets, hiked to waterfalls, rode the rapids, went rock climbing, built rafts, and played tons of games.

Inside Out

7th Grade Woodlawn Students with Inside Out Counselors

The water was pretty chilly (60 degrees), but that didn’t stop us!  I even jumped in the rapids with the students.  We also did the “Morning Dip”.  This is where anyone that wanted to could start their day by jumping in the lake at 7:15 am.  We all lined up on the dock and screamed, “WAKE UP!”, then jumped in together.

The Inside Out counselors were fabulous.  I have recommended that we extend our trip to four days for next year.  The students loved it and said they wished they could have stayed all week!  I have taught these students for two years so going on this trip was very special for me.  I cried when we had to leave on the last day.

Thank you Monica, Nicco, Emily, Jessie, Star and Wally for a life changing experience.