Monday, February 24, 2014

Three acts by Dan Meyer (taco cart)

       I discovered math blogs for the first time last year when I was getting my masters and doing research online. I couldn't believe I didn't know all these resources were available. One of the first bloggers I found was Dan Meyer. How did I not know about him? If you are new to reading blogs or you lived under a rock like I did, I want to introduce you to Dan Meyer (watch his video) and his 3 act lessons. Watching Dan teach this lesson is exactly what I needed to see. Now I can model and practice this teaching strategy myself. I need to slow down my questioning, increase the wait time to give students time to process the information, and then have them share.
     The kids love these lessons and they are amazing. The lessons are broken into 3 parts. The first part is a short video that sets up a problem for students to think about and predict what they think will happen. The second act is giving some of the information that they will need to solve the problem. You give them this after some discussion in class. Then the third act is the reveal or answer. But really, watch his video because it is so much more than that. I am going to use Dan Meyer's three acts taco cart lesson for my Pythagorean Theorem unit.

Click here Dan Meyer's taco cart acone

    I can't wait to use this lesson with my 8th graders over the course of a few days.  I would love to hear from teachers that have used this lesson with their classes. Any tips or suggestions are welcome.
     This is a link to Dan Meyer's 3 act spreadsheet. You are not going to be able to stop watching them! Enjoy!
                                                       Til next time,

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pyhthagorean Triples Interactive Notebook page

     Does anyone else collect and save the scraps of colored paper that are left over from making foldables or am I the only crazy person who does this?  This is my scrap basket. Yikes! Looks like it's time to take out scraps to use for our interactive notebook.

My scraps basket. I just can't bear to throw away all these colors.
      We are going to make freehand,  (I just show them how to cut the shape under the Elmo), matchbook foldables for our Pythagorean Triple page in our interactive notebooks. If you don't want to make freehand matchbooks there is an unbelievable site at Home School Share that has a Lapbook template section that is amazing. Check it out, you'll love it.
     So, the last time I tried to have the kids make a foldable freehand, we had some very interesting results. It reminded me of the Bill Cosby Himself  bit where he keeps telling the kids, "come here, come here, come here, no come here!" I kept saying, "cut here, cut here, no cut here not there! UGH! " Finally my students just started making their own shapes and they turned out great. Here are some pictures of the pages my students made. The examples are from when we were working on combining like terms.

These shapes were much easier than the hexagon I was having them cut.

These were adorable.

When you open the foldable there is a list of like and unlike terms in each one.

     The Pythagorean Triples foldables are going to have specific dimensions to make it easier for the kids to make them. First they will need to find the 4 different colored scrap pieces of paper. They will draw rectangles 5 in. by 2.5 in. This shouldn't be hard for them to do.

Then have them fold the matchbook almost in half. Leave a small lip for the tab at the bottom.

This is a copy of the INB page. They list three numbers on the outside of the matchbook.

And on the inside they show their work to check to see if the numbers are Pythagorean Triples.

These are the matchbooks with completed examples.

My next post will include another page for Pythagorean Triples made from scraps of paper for the left side of their notebooks..

Til next time,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Getting ready to teach Pythagorean Theorem (Part 1)

      After spring break I will be starting Pythagorean Theorem. I'm really excited about this unit because in the past I have had to teach it quickly and move on. I would spent 3 days max on it, but this year I am going to spend much more time and go into the material at a deeper level than I ever have before.

The learning targets that I need to cover are:

 Prove, model and explain Pythagorean Theorem.
 Use the Pythagorean Theorem to test a right triangle.
 Identify Pythagorean triplets
 Find unknown side lengths of right triangles.
 Use Pythagorean Theorem to find unknown lengths of right triangles to solve
volume and surface area problems.
 Use Pythagorean Theorem to find the length of slanted lines on the coordinate
     There is a lesson on Pinterest where kids use Cheez Its to model Pythagorean Theorem. I think I am going to use Starburst candies, (by Pam Lucken), instead for this lesson. Less crumbs and not as messy. Believe me when I say my eighth graders can make a huge mess in my room. I am sure some of the candies will mysteriously disappear so I need to see where I can buy a massive amounts of Starbursts. There are 150 students in my classes so I will need a lot of candy even with students working in groups.


       I've also seen this modeled with other manipulatives but candy is so much more fun! Don't you think?

      I've decided to get started on my Interactive Notebook now so it will be all ready go and I won't have to work on it over break. I will be posting my unit in bits and pieces as I finish them. I was looking for a foldable that was a little different than the ones that I have done with the kids already. I have not used a brochure foldable and I saw one similar to the one below and added some of my own problems.

            I usually spend one day on the types of problems on the left where the kids have to look at the sides and determine whether the sides form a right triangle. I'm still looking for activities to add to this section.

In their notebooks I will have them make a list of steps to follow. 

Click HERE to download the Pythagorean Theorem foldable.

Enjoy! Til next time,Jan

Friday, February 14, 2014

Student Reflections

     I know how important it is for me to reflect on my teaching.  I can change my instruction when I understand what worked well and what didn't. Students need to reflect on their learning as well. How often do I have them really critique their work? Something I have been using for several years are portfolio reflections. All students have a file folder in my classroom where we keep all the tests, quizzes, project grade sheets and homework assignments. After students receive their quarter grades we have a portfolio reflection day. I hand out the cover portfolio sheet for them to fill out. I read it out loud and have students fill it in.

We discuss as a class what the topics were that we covered last quarter.
This cover page is placed in their portfolio's for their parents/guardians to review.

    Next they cut out "tags" and pick tests, quizzes, projects or homework assignments that they attach the tag to. The tag needs to be filled in for all of the 10 tags. The tags include phrases such as, "I am most proud of this because ..., This was most difficult because..., I learned the most from this because...," and so on. The portfolios are taken home and the students need to review them with their parents/guardians. The parents need to tag an item and comment as well. I have found this to be a wonderful communication tool between home and school. It is also nice to have for parent-teacher-student conferences. I use them in student lead conferences as well. I do have to be a lunatic about getting all the folders back. The kids know if they don't bring them back it is a detention and a call to the parents so I usually get them all back.

Here is a copy of the Portfolio tags and cover sheet. The request to retest is from math = love, request to retest.   I didn't realize how much I would like retesting the students. It has been a great learning experience for the students.

I would love to hear from teachers as to what types of reflections you have your  students do in your classes. I am always looking  for new ideas.

 Til next time,


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Geometric Art

     State testing is coming up soon and it is time for me to pull out my geometric art project. My students test in the morning for 4 days and are just exhausted for the afternoon so I do something fun and relaxing. When my daughter was in 5th grade she did this project and her teacher gave me a copy of it. I have been doing this project every year for over fifteen years and the kids still enjoy it. You will need at least three 45 minute periods to complete two pictures.

To do this project you need to have the following items:                                                       
  • Black poster board cut into squares to fit templates (construction paper is too thin)
  • Tapestry needles (you can buy these at any fabric store, they have a blunt tip and large eyes so the string can go through.) 
  • Crochet string (buy at the fabric store)
  • Copies of templates for each student.
  • Copies of directions for each student. (I laminate these and use them over and over each year.)
  • Masking tape (Place two long pieces at each desk.)
  • Push pin thumb tacks. (They are easier to hold on to.)
  • Scissors.
  • You can also order other products that are similar from mini math projects. (See the circle picture below.)
     I always start with the triangle, it is the easiest one and even my basic level students can do this one successfully. All of my students complete this one first. Then they are allowed to choose one more to work on. I try to direct them to one they will be able to do independently.

  • Pass out template and cut out on the dotted lines.
  • Have the students tape the template on the back of their poster board with masking tape. Do not cover the numbers,
  • Pass out the thumb tacks and have students punch a hole in each of the numbered dots on the template. Tell them to place it on the desk and hold it away from where they are punching. Have bandages ready, someone always punches their fingers. 
  • The students have to give me the thumb tack back before I give them a needle. (Believe it or not they will walk off with them and start sticking each other. (UGH.)
  • Then have them pick a color string they would like to use and take a long piece, cut it and thread the needle. Do not have them put a knot at the bottom. It will just go through the paper. 
  • Tape the end of the string to the template in an area close to the beginning number. Do not cover the numbers.
  • Follow the numbers on the directions. When they hit the word CUT, cut the string and tape to the back and pick a new color if they like.

When the students are working on the pentagon they gasp and announce, " It makes a star." and "There is a  pattern to this and I don't even need to look at the numbers." Imagine that.

The hexagon takes longer and students who have patience will need to do this one. The hardest part is to start with the correct  points. I have to help them get started but once they understand the pattern they can work independently. 

The apple is another one for my basic level students. I ran out of red string so this student used blue. Sometimes they will do the apple red and the stem green.

The circle is from mini math projects. They sell several kits of string art that are reasonably priced. They also sell neon thread which I haven't been able to find at the fabric stores. With each template there are 15 different designs you can make. The circle below is made with the crochet string I used for the other pictures.

I hope that your students enjoy this as much as mine do.

Download Templates Below:

Triangle Template

Love Template for Valentine's Day

Hexagon Template

Apple Template 

Flowers Template 

Til next time,


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