Friday, July 20, 2012

Math Creations with Chick Peas

Here is a fun activity I do with my kids when we review over 3d figures.  I like to do this before we get into surface area and volume.  Let's face it!  If they don't know which figure they are dealing with then the surface area and volume will more than likely be wrong!

Chick Pea Activity

Materials Needed:  Chick Peas, toothpicks, baggies or cups

Preparation:  You can purchase the peas in a can or dry in a bag like black eye peas.
The ones in the bag are much easier!  Just let them soak in water overnight.  The ones in a can stink!  Drain the water out, and they are ready to use.  Before each class, put about 1/3 cup of peas in a cup or baggie with some toothpicks.  Keep extras at the front for the kids to come up and replenish if necessary.

Objective:  Create 3d figures using chick peas and toothpicks.  The peas are used for the vertices of the figure, and the toothpicks are connected through the pea.  The students are able to create the figure, using a hands-on activity.  They are also able to make connections between the prism and pyramid. 

Square Pyramid
Rectangular prism (remember a cube is still a prism)
Triangular Pyramid
Triangular Prism

After creating the four figures, have the students:
List the similarities and differences (at least two) between:

Triangular Pyramid and Square Pyramid
            Triangular Pyramid and Triangular Prism
Triangular Prism and Square Pyramid
Triangular Prism and \Rectangular Prism
Rectangular Prism and Square Pyramid
Rectangular Prism and Triangular Pyramid
Identify the shapes of the faces for each
Identify the shapes of the base(s) for each
Calculate the number of edges for each
Calculate the number of vertices for each

Extension:  If time allows, have the students create a different pyramid and prism.  Tell them they must be able to correctly name the figure.

Conclusion:  Discuss some of the similarities and differences as a class.  Make sure you go over the shapes of the faces for the pyramids and prisms.  Remind them how each figure is named for the shape of the base.  Also, the base is not necessarily what the figure is sitting on. 

Clean up:  For less mess, have the students dismantle the figures.  Place the toothpicks and unused peas back in the cup, and the used chick peas can be thrown away.  Keep a couple to use for examples.  Some kids will want to take at least one of the creations with them!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Arrays can do so much

Do you use Arrays in the math class?  We do!  With arrays, you are able to accomplish so much:
  • Identify dimensions
  • label fractional parts
  • Calculate Perimeter
  • Calculate Area
  • Create Equivalent fractions with scale factor
  • Model the fractional parts
  • Compute the four basic operations

By the time I get the kids in 8th grade, we review over the arrays, but they are already familiar with them. I do not make the kids model every time they do a fraction computation, but it is a tool in their toolbelt.  Some of the kids do model each time because they see it that way.  Fractions are tough!  Modeling with arrays offer so much.

You can model with arrays with graph paper or you could use the color tiles.  In 8th grade, I focus on graph paper. 

The most difficult fraction computation is division!  We do not teach the short cut of "keep it, change it, flip it!"  We teach them how to divide the fractions.  The arrays do allow for a model to be created in which the kids get a better understanding as to what division of fractions means.  When you teach the shortcut, the understanding is lost!

Arrays are a great tool to arm the kids with. 

Happy Modeling!


My name is Candy Keller and I teach 6th grade math. I'm joining Jamie on the blog and contributing lower grade ideas. We are a collaborative math department and I'm excited to branch out to collaborate with other teachers in other districts. We are in Houston, Texas this week at CAMT (Conference for the Advancement of Mathematical Teaching). We are presenting a session this afternoon on projects. Projects are such a great way to engage students and extend learning to the real world. I'm always looking for great projects for my students. I'm trying to attend as many sessions on iPads and technology as I can. Hopefully I can blog about some new and exciting activities or apps for the classroom. I attended a session yesterday on Edmodo. I have many plans and ideas to use Edmodo this year in the math classroom. I will blog more on Edmodo as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm not just your math teacher...

"Why are you teaching me this?  This is math class".  How many times have you heard this?  I wish all teachers would get on board with the concept that although we may teach one subject, we are still teachers.  I think it is great when we can do cross curricular activities, and it helps the kids to better understand it.  I add history and science questions in my bell ringers.  You can always find something in every subject that you can link back to math. 

My biggest thing is correcting the grammar of my kids!  "Why is you always correcting me? This is Math".  REALLY?  Maybe that is why. 

I have my kids write in math all time.  I incorporate a 4 step plan, and the 4th step is to Justify what they did and why they did it.  The kids do not like to justify, but it is such a great tool.  I not only check for the math part of the justification, I check for the grammatical aspects as well.  I think all teachers should incorporate writing in every subject, and we should all grade spelling, punctuation, and grammar. 

I also have my students post discussions on the class wiki.  I list a problem that they need to solve.  They log in and write a discussion as to how to solve it.  Since I am not able to see their written calculations, they must write in detail what they did, why they did it, and what the answer is.  For some kids, this is a building process.  The writing becomes more meaningful when you have discussions on the correct way to write.  I do not count off points for the grammatical aspects of the writing every time they write, but I do at times.  Maybe eventually, the corrections will sink in, and they will become better writers which will help them become better students....not just math students.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Project Based Learning

I think projects are a great way to learn and understand a concept.  Projects usually take a little time, and they allow the students to take ownership. 

This week, I am at the CAMT math conference in Houston, TX.  On Thursday, a colleague and I will be presenting a session on Projects in the classroom.  Throughout the years, we have come across some fun and interesting projects.  Under my "Goodies" tab, I have the links to my wikis which goes into detail for the projects I use.  Some projects have been borrowed and tweaked, and I have created some projects. 

This past year, I brought BizMovie into my classroom.  This is a great project that includes business, finance, and technology.  The kids create a movie production company.  They applied for the various positions in the company.  They must keep up with all the financial aspects that go along with running a business.  They use kerpoof to design an animated commercial and movie.  At the end of the project, I had my kids present their marketing campaign to other students.  We opened the box office, and the kids were able to "purchase" tickets to the movies they wanted to see.  We then showed the movies, and the kids were able to see if they made a good purchase.  It was GREAT!  The kids learned so much.  It is also great for team work.  A few groups wanted to fire a member for them not doing their job.  How much closer to real life can you get?  I will definitely be doing this project again!  Here are couple of links to the commercial and movie.

I really need another project that deals with 3d measurement.  Currently, I have the kids create a commercial that deals with a 3d figrure.  The commercial can either be selling their product (whatever they turn the figure into), or a movie promo like "Attack of the killer cubes".  They must discuss how to calculate volume and surface area of the figure.  I like this project, but I also need one in which the kids are actually using a 3d figure.  I am thinking about this:
  • the kids are assigned a 3d figure (the figures we discuss will all be assigned)
  • the object will be to create the figure using the materials I provide
  • Each material will have a different $ amount, and they will be allowed to be spend x amount of money
  • they will be assessed on durability, creativity, and the object must meet the criteria for the 3d figure
  • to add technology, they will do a write up on the class wiki that details the volume and surface area of the figure.  They will then create a qr code that will link to the wiki, and the qr code will be displayed with the figure. 
I am still working it out, and I haven't typed up the project info yet.  Hopefully, I will work the kinks out.

I think a project over similar figures would also be good.  Proportions are a difficult concept to grasp. 
For this, we could use life-size models of different objects, and the kids could scale it down or up and then create the object.  I am trying this out in my Percent Baseball digital menu board under "build it". 

Last year, I came across an activity using CSI math (this activity can be found at my middle school math wiki).  The kids created a perpetrator.  They had to draw it to scale.  This worked out pretty good, but I think an additional project would be good to help with similar figures. 

I think projects are great, and I am constantly adding to my project list.  Not all projects need to take a long time to complete.  I incorporate individual and partner projects in my class.  Hopefully, I will pick up some more projects at CAMT.  Maybe some of you did, as well!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Middle School Centers???

I am thinking about doing centers in my math room this coming year.  I am not sure how this is going to work out with middle school kids, but I am anxious to see.  I am going to design my centers around the big topic we are discussing.  Last year, I was able to have a laptop cart in my room, so we had some laptops for the kids to use.  They were used every single day.  I have a class wiki, and they are responsible for doing different things on the wiki.  I am hoping that I get laptops again!  Oops....I got off track a little bit.  Back to the centers!

I am wanting to get away from regular book work.  Now, I have always incorporated projects and activities, but there are some good problems in certain books/workbooks.  I have never believed that kids need to do 100 problems over a certain topic.  If they cannot do 10, then 100 is not beneficial, and if they can do 10, then they can probably do 100. Anyways, I have always chosen certain problems from the book.  I have learned that I must give my kids a time limit.  I set a timer, and at the end of the allotted time, we go over the problems (so they get instant feedback).

Now that I have set up the background, here is what I was thinking for the criteria for my centers.

  • I want to have 5-10 different stations (depending on how many laptops are set up).  
  • They will rotate through the stations in groups of three (I am big on partner work).
  • They will get 15-20  minutes per station (different topics may require more time).
  • This could take two-three days to complete the Centers.
  • The kids will have a log sheet for all the centers.  Since we are just practicing skill, I am not really concerned with a certain grade for each activity.  Many of the centers will really be focused on practice and a daily grade for participating and completing.

Here are the centers I want.  Again, this will be focused on a particular topic.

  • Smartboard activity over the topic
  • One-two laptops used for a wiki discussion over the topic.  This may in the form of a discussion post or a project on the wiki in which students will build upon what the other students have already written.
  • Word problems (5-10) on cards.  This center will involve a hot dot pen in which the student will use the pen to select the answer.  The pen will tell them if the answer is correct or incorrect.  
  • Skill/word problems (10-20) on cards.  One student will read the question and be in charge of the answer.  The other two will have buzzers.  They will buzz in when they know the answer.
  • Two-three laptops set up for online practice from qtopia and similar sites.
  • Book work (I firmly believe paper and pencil is still crucial).  5-10 problems from a book or workbook.

All of the centers will provide instant feedback.  At the end of the Centers, I will give a short quiz to assess and see if any reteaching needs to occur.  These are my thoughts so far.  The first big topic we go through is Proportions.  This includes: scale factor, similar figures, and proportional relationships.  Hopefully it will come together.  It all sounds great in my head!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

QR codes

I recently came across the use of QR codes in the classroom!  These little codes are everywhere.  I think it will be a great addition to my math class.  I am always looking for new things to do with my students.

There are many sites available to create the codes.  QRvoice allows for an automated description to be given once the code is scanned.  The code generator with Kaywa allows for the scanner to be taken to a particular location (website, etc).

Here are some ways I was thinking I could implement them:

  • students will add a code to a project that provides more detail about a topic
  • students will write word problems, and they will create a code with the answers.  they will share their problems, and the students will check to see if they are correct.
  • answers provided for an assignment
  • posted on different documents hanging by my door, and the code will provide a link to more information

I am anxious to see how well the students respond to the codes.  I think they will like it.

Scan the code for a little goody!

Happy scanning!

Inventive Incentives

I am a big believer in giving kids incentives to complete their work and do the best they can.  Some people disagree with this thought, but let's face it.  Kids are different today.  Many kids would gladly "take the zero".  When that happens, no learning of any sort has occurred.

Zeros are not an option in my classroom.  I gladly give up my lunch to have lunch detentions.  If the kids have not completed their two big assignments for the week (and test corrections when applicable), they will eat lunch with me until they have the work completed.  Some will argue that we are not preparing them for college, etc when someone is not there to stay on them to turn in work.  My thought is that what are they learning now by not doing the work in the first place?  At what point do we stop "teaching" them to be responsible and just "assume" that they should already be that way?  It is better to get a good foundation on completing work now, so they can be responsible with being on time in the future, and I am instilling the art of being responsible for their learning!

At the end of each six weeks, our math department offers an incentive party.  We do a really big party for the first and last six weeks.  The criteria to attend the incentive party is simple:

  • all work must be turned in
  • 100% effort must be given on benchmarks (this includes working every problem and writing a justification)

The kids live for these parties.  I always have a missing work list hanging outside my door, so I do not get the constant questions of "what do I owe".  I give them the deadline for the work  If they have any missing work as of the deadline, they do not get to participate.  Work will come flying in from the kids who never would have done the work to begin with.

For the first and fifth six weeks, we rent two bounce slides, and we set them up in the gym.  The kids slide and play and many will bring basketballs and footballs.  They have the option of being "tuned in", and they can bring their electronic devices to the party.  The party takes place during their math class for the one day we have designated.  We are double blocked for math, so they get about 90 minutes to relax. That is our way of saying, "thank you for doing your work and trying hard".
In order to pay for the bounce slides, the math department will host different fundraisers throughout the year:

  • dances (sell concessions and glow items....easy way to make a profit of at least $900)
  • sell tattoos (during football season on game days)
  • water balloon dodgeball (sell water balloons and we go out on the field one afternoon and have a battle between teachers and students.....make at least $500)

For the other six weeks, we do smaller incentive parties in the classroom:

  • movie and popcorn
  • wii or xbox and play games (the kids love to play "just Dance")
  • go to the gym or outside 

For our final incentive party, the kids will bring $5-$7.  We take the kids off campus for this incentive party, and it lasts the whole day.  We always schedule this after ALL state testing has taken place (usually third week of May).  For four years, we took the kids to a skating rink and park.  We no longer have any skating rinks in our area, so this past year, we took them to the movies.  The theater opened just for us!  We watched a movie, and then we went to the park.  The kids cover the cost of their ticket, and we cover the transportation costs (due to our fundraisers, we still have money). For many kids, this is the only time they experience any type of special outing like this.

Regardless of the party, I tell the kids that the biggest reward is not doing math for a day and to enjoy being a kid!

In my classroom, I also offer other incentives:

  • turn work in on time
  • A's on tests
  • helping other students
  • great comments or suggestions
  • improvement in any area

I have a star chart for each class period.  When a student accomplishes the things above, they get a star on their chart.

Once they get 5 stars, they get to participate in "incentive roll", and they get their name on a big star that hangs in the hallway.  For Incentive Roll, they roll two dice, and they get the prize that is listed.  The prizes are simple and cheap, but the kids are excited to participate.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I love finding new activities and seeing new ideas.  I look forward to sharing!

You can follow my class wiki.

I present at CAMT each summer.  You can also follow that wiki.