2016 MTBoS Blogging Initiative!

Happy New Year! I don’t really make resolutions, but I always goal-set! One of my goals for this year is to blog more! I will be participating in the Math Twitter Blogosphere Blogging Initiative.

I, Emily Hart, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

MTBoS Blogging Initiative


You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!


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How I long-term plan Part 1 – Prioritizing Standards and Units

I’m in my 7th year teaching middle school math and I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of what to teach, how, when, and why. This is the first time I wasn’t given strict direction on units and planning so I took the opportunity to create from the ground up a year long plan that made sense for me and for my students.

I know this is a challenging area for new teachers so I am going to try to share some things that have helped me throughout the years to long term plan without too much extra stress.

First up – (everyone’s favorite) – STANDARDS!!

So this year I am teaching Pre-Algebra. I have two sections of mostly 7th graders, a few 8th graders, and I have two accelerated 6th grade sections. There are no Pre-Algebra Common Core Standards so this was a bit confusing for me at first.

I received a curriculum map at the beginning of the year with “Power Standards” – not sure how or why they were chosen or from what standard set. In the middle of the first unit another Curriculum Map magically appeared with different units and standards, most from Algebra and Geometry CCSS. (If you’re like me right now you are thinking whaaaaaat.. stay with me)

My students are regular 7th graders, not honors, and they will be tested on 7th grade standards for PARCC, so my first goal was to realign the curriculum map with 7th and 8th grade standards (to add in rigor)

I made a google doc with the units listed first:


I looked at the essential learning’s from each unit and pulled out objectives that I knew were 7th/8th level. I then matched those skills to 7th and 8th grade standards. If there were no 7th or 8th grade standards, they are still on the map but greyed out. We’ll get to them if we have extra time (because that happens so often in middle school math…)


I also added an objectives column that deals more with how I will teach the skills. (ie ratios with a double number line) Some of these are repeated and may not be a useful column.

After getting a handle on what standards I was teaching, I prioritized them based on the Major, Supporting, and Additional clusters document here. I colored the standards on my google doc the same way (green, yellow, and blue) to see where I should spend my time.


*I teach blocks so 12 days isn’t as super totally unrealistic as it seems! (well maybe it still is…)

I then highlighted each unit as either green, yellow, or blue depending on what the bulk of the standards were. I left the units in order so far to match up with what other teachers in my school are teaching (for interim purposes etc) even though the last part of the year has more supporting standards and the middle is just additional. I plan to just take more time on the major units, and scaffold them back into lessons during the units with only additional standards.


I made a cheat sheet at the top of my year long plan document (above) for easy reference with an outline of the months I’d like to be in each unit.


Whew.. lots of work! But so worth it!


Next up… Unit and daily planning! woooo!


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7th Grade PARCC Math Practice Questions

I try to integrate PARCC questions and “PARCC-like” questions to my pre-algebra students all year long so there is not scramble in the few weeks before the test to prepare.

One thing I do is create a presentation with each released PARCC question for 7th grade math from the online practice test.

Each question has a calculator or no calculator graphic.

Each question has a calculator or no calculator graphic.

You can use this as bell-ringers, exit tickets, jeopardy style review, or just (my favorite) to reference when writing assessment and then lessons.

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I wanted to share the presentation and pdf because I think it’s much more user friendly than the site.

(*obviously none of this is original – screenshots from here)


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It’s Hip To Be Square…

This week in Pre-Algebra we are reviewing square and introducing cube roots. Many of the kids have a tough time visualizing why a number is squared (it really makes a square!) and why they are cubed (3-D cube!). I wanted to spend some time really linking exponents to roots.. squaring is opposite of square root, cubing is opposite of a cube root..

I started the lesson with a square root video from BrainPop (requires login) and had the kids fill in an organizer with their own definitions of words from the video.


Then I played the song “It’s Hip To Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News while they created a circle map of everything they knew already about squares.


Then with their shoulder partners, they had to draw the first three smallest squares and talk about their dimensions (1×1, 2,×2, and 3×3) in relation to the total squares.


After some discussion, they had to draw the first 15 (or as many as they could fit – then follow the pattern) perfect squares on a sheet of graph paper that they glued into their interactive notebooks. They used the information from their graph paper to fill in this chart:


We then discussed the relationship between length, width, and area of a square. We discovered that the side lengths will always be the same in a perfect square so we can say side x side = side squared.

After more discussion we filled in this organizer:


I really think the “if…. equals….. then…. is….” helped a lot of my students to understand the relationship between the two. I made sure to use the sentence framing for each of the examples.

I have a 90 minute block A/B schedule, so we then continued on to cube roots and approximations of square roots. For a shorter class this is a great ending point before practice/homework.

Cube Roots: I first had the students independently answer these two questions based on the diagram:


A lot of students didn’t understand how there were only 27 cubes, they wanted to count faces and answered 54. I had to show them layer by layer why there are only 27.

Then we discussed how cube roots are similar and different from square roots here:


Then I gave them the rest of the chart for independent practice:


We quickly talked about approximating square roots to what two whole numbers a non-perfect square lies between.


They all seemed to get this part fairly quickly:


Then I gave them a homework page with word problems and practice placing roots on a number line.

The file is available (for free) in my TPT store!!


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Wants vs. Needs Card Sort

Today in Personal Finance we talked about the difference between wants and needs as part of our budget unit. I modified a card sort from unicef with memes (that the kids said I was “not using correctly” and I said “I don’t care”).

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In their predetermined groups they first had to make a wants pile and a needs pile. Then they had to rank their wants and needs from most to least important and make a flow map.

wants needs

my example flowchart

Each group presented to the class and we tracked how our wants and needs were different. It led to some interesting discussion of how our values determine our priorities.

This is a great lead in for budgeting and (probably?) other activities as well!

The cards are here! (all memes are from the internet and not my creation AT ALL)


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