Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mathemagic Monday 2: Tax and Discount

ne of the many reasons that I fell in love with teaching middle school math is that the material is super relevant.  Students are learning skills that will stick with them for years to come.  One of my favorite topics to teach is percent of change, specifically tax and discount.

One of the many reasons that I fell in love with teaching middle school math is that the material is super relevant.  Students are learning skills that will stick with them for years to come.  One of my favorite topics to teach is percent of change, specifically tax and discount.

This post is a continuation of the Mathemagic Mondays series (one day late).  A series of posts that shares shortcuts and hints that make math magical!

Here are some things to keep in mind when teaching tax and discount to your students:

1)      I begin with proportions since we review tax and discount right after proportion solving.  This helps students to see a meaningful connection to a recent skill.

2)    Compare and contrast strategies involving proportions and decimals.  Let students use a calculator.  Unless your students really need practice with decimals operations, they will be demonstrating their understanding if they can set up the problem, then use the calculator to help with arithmetic.

Compare and contrast strategies involving proportions and decimals.  Let students use a calculator.  Unless your students really need practice with decimals operations, they will be demonstrating their understanding if they can set up the problem, then use the calculator to help with arithmetic.


3)    Show the shortcuts and help them understand what they mean and why they work.  We spend several minutes practicing examples like:
“If you save 30%, you spend ___%.”
“If you pay 5% tax, you pay the bill plus the tax which will be ____%.”

4)    Continue to practice this skill throughout the year on Problem of the Days, exit tickets, and/or homework.  This is an important one to drill in, and practice makes permanent!

To help students build meaning, I use this discovery worksheet, which you can pick up for free in my store.
To help students build meaning, I use this discovery worksheet, which you can pick up for free in my store.



Of course, there’s more than just tax and discount when discussing percent of change.  This scavenger hunt is a teacher and student favorite!
Of course, there’s more than just tax and discount when discussing percent of change.  This scavenger hunt is a teacher and student favorite!



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Halloween in the Secondary Math Classroom

I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.

Halloween in a middle school classroom can be a nightmare.  Students are thinking about costumes, parties, and candy when you need them to be focusing on slope, rational numbers, and equations.

Do you accept the lost day and move on?

Fight it and assign seatwork to bore the excitement right out of them?

I have found a better solution that I love and my students love, too!

I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.

I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.


HOW IT WORKS:
1)      Set up the 8 stations around the room.  I typically tape them to the walls and give students clipboards to write on.
I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.2)    At each station there are two different problems – each leading to the same solution.  One student completes problem A and one completes problem B.  They are working independently, but can check their answer to make sure it matches their partner’s answer.
3)    Students show all of their work in the provided workspace.  At the bottom of the workspace, there’s a key that lists all correct answers and some answers to common errors (and some random numbers to fill in all spaces).  Each answer is matched up with a letter so that students “collect” a new letter at each station.
4)    Once students have completed all 8 problems, they unscramble the 8 letters to determine the themed code word.

During these activities, my students are super engaged.  They find the activities fun because they are working with a partner and moving around the room.  I am happy because they are practicing math – without complaint – on a holiday – and they ask for more… WHAT!  I love it.

For Halloween, I currently have these topics ready to go in my store:
I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.

I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.

I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.

I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.



You can also put in a request for a different topic and/or holiday.  I can work with very short notice.  Fill out a request form to share what you’re looking for.
I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.


And if these activities work wonders in your classroom, you can scoop up the entire bundle.
I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.    I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.
  

Try a worksheet version for free!
I have created a line of holiday-themed partner stations.  Students work with a partner and move around the room as they solve math problems.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

12 Budget Fixers

I hate when people say, “You’re so lucky you can afford to stay home.”  I can assure you there’s not much luck here.  It’s all about envisioning your goal and doing everything you can to get there.  I knew I needed to find a way to fill the gap that the missing income would create.  I had to find a way to make some money and do whatever I could to reduce our spending.  So if you want to stay home someday or get some more wiggle room in your budget or save for a personal goal of your own, consider these strategies that worked for me.

Many of my readers know that I taught eighth grade math for 5-1/2 years, but I haven’t shared much about what I’m doing now.  I LOVED being in the classroom.  I lived at school my first few years.  My life was work, eat, sleep, repeat.  It was wonderful.  Then I got married, moved 40 minutes away, and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  Sooo my life changed a little.  I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but my husband and I weren’t sure if we could swing it.  After all, my teaching salary accounted for about 60% of our income.  I really struggled with balancing it all and ended up resigning halfway through the school year when my son was 9 months old.

I hate when people say, “You’re so lucky you can afford to stay home.”  I can assure you there’s not much luck here.  It’s all about envisioning your goal and doing everything you can to get there.  I knew I needed to find a way to fill the gap that the missing income would create.  I had to find a way to make some money and do whatever I could to reduce our spending.  So if you want to stay home someday or get some more wiggle room in your budget or save for a personal goal of your own, consider these strategies that worked for me.
Less than a year later, my son is now 18 months old and I am a work-at-home mom.  I am happier than ever.  I work about 25 hours per week on a schedule that I created.  I enjoy the rest of my time with my family: going for walks, playing with legos, naming body parts and colors, making animal sounds, blowing bubbles, going on play dates, visiting with family, and taking care of our home.  You may have different goals and aspirations – maybe you even think I’m a little crazy.  That’s okay.  My main reason for sharing my thoughts today is because I hate when people say, “You’re so lucky you can afford to stay home.”  I can assure you there’s not much luck here.  It’s all about envisioning your goal and doing everything you can to get there.  I knew I needed to find a way to fill the gap that the missing income would create.  I had to find a way to make some money and do whatever I could to reduce our spending.  So if you want to stay home someday or get some more wiggle room in your budget or save for a personal goal of your own, consider these strategies that worked for me.  J

STEP 1:  Find some ways to make money.

1)   TpT Store
I started my store on Teachers Pay Teachers right after my son was born.  I had recently discovered the website and absolutely fell in love.  After all, curriculum design is one of my favorite parts of being an educator.  I hustled like it was no one’s business.  I often wake up at 3 or 4am so I can get work done while everyone is sleeping.  I stay up and work at night to meet the deadlines I set for myself.  Landon’s naptime is a great time to get some work done in the afternoon.  I’m really lucky that I have my parents and in-laws close by so they can help watch him while I get some work done, too.  I knew I wanted to – no, needed to – find success quickly if I was going to meet my goals.  And I knew that I had some unique, innovative ideas that others could benefit from.  Take time to reflect on your strengths.  Maybe it’s not TpT.  Maybe you’re creative and artsy and can sell on Etsy.  Or maybe you are a super bargain hunter and can buy and resell for Ebay.  Think outside the box and ask around to find out what others are doing.

2) Privately Tutor
When my husband and I decided that I was going to make the leap to stay home this year, I sought out private tutoring opportunities.  This is a great way to earn a little extra cash, and I love that I still get to work with kids.  Win-win!  Not a math or ELA teacher?  There are tons of parents and students looking for test prep assistance.  Become an expert and get your name out there.  Contact the guidance departments of local schools to see if you can get your name on their tutor list.  And check online for listings posted by parents.
I hate when people say, “You’re so lucky you can afford to stay home.”  I can assure you there’s not much luck here.  It’s all about envisioning your goal and doing everything you can to get there.  I knew I needed to find a way to fill the gap that the missing income would create.  I had to find a way to make some money and do whatever I could to reduce our spending.  So if you want to stay home someday or get some more wiggle room in your budget or save for a personal goal of your own, consider these strategies that worked for me.

3)  Math Interventionist
To help manage the gaping hole in our budget, I did take a job as a math interventionist in a middle school.  Wait, I said I was a work-at-home mom, right?  Well, I work a whopping 7 hours per week and I make my own schedule.  I’ve established a schedule that allows me to be home 5 out of 7 days per week.  It’s actually pretty nice to get some social time out of the house.  And I do love keeping one foot in education.  The needs of my students inspire more TpT products.  What a fun cycle, right?

4) Consignment
I recently discovered consignment stores.  I have a closet full of designer clothing that no longer fits.  I try to eat right and exercise, but nothing fits the same after having my little guy.  Goodbye sizes 4/6 – probably forever.  So I have been consigning my clothing for extra money.  I am glad someone else will be able to get some use out of my clothing articles that are in great condition.  Cha-ching!  What else do you have lying around the house?  Jewelry and purses that you no longer use?  Turn them into cash!

5)  Yard Sale
We recently had a yard sale to sell a bunch of “junk” we weren’t using anymore.  An extra $100+ in the bank just by giving up a few hours on a Saturday morning to sit outside in the sun and chat with neighbors?  Sign me up!  If you have enough stuff you could even set up shop annually.  It feels so good to clean out and organize, too.  J

6)  Coins
I’ll write more about my cash budget in the next section.  But now that I have a cash budget, I end up with lots more coins.  I save them in a bank and then roll and deposit them every few months.  It makes me feel like I’m finding extra money!  My husband and I keep a spreadsheet of all of our income and expenses.  I typically wait for a “bad” month to roll those coins and give us an extra little boost.


STEP 2: Reduce spending as much as possible.

1)   Cash Budget
It’s so tempting to use credit cards with all the “cash back” they give.  We’ve always done a good job of paying off our cards in full each month.  However, I noticed that I always seemed to have a hard time keeping to a budget when I could just easily swipe for what I wanted.  Now I use a cash budget to help me stay on track.  I keep out enough cash for what I will use for groceries, miscellaneous unavoidable expenses, and general spending money.  I still use the credit card for gas… I get 3% cash back!  ;)  The cash budget has helped me to significantly cut back on what I spend, while still meeting all of our family’s needs.  I like seeing the physical amount I have left to spend.  Okay, I guess I won’t go get a medium hot hazelnut coffee regular from Dunks today.  Feel free to stop by with one though!

2) Make Some Calls
Feel like your cable bill is too high?  Call them and ask if there are any money-saving deals to help accommodate a tight budget.  We’ve cut back on the number of stations that we have, but we are also saving a ton of money.  Plus, we get HBO for free right now because it’s part of the deal!  We are definitely considering dropping cable all together, but we still need to find a good way to save on Internet.  It’s almost the same price to just have wireless Internet as opposed to our current package.  How is that even possible??  We were able to lock in special low rates with our propane company, too, so definitely try giving them a call.  My next step is to look into a new insurance company.  15 minutes or less could save you up to 15%... I’m brainwashed.  J

I hate when people say, “You’re so lucky you can afford to stay home.”  I can assure you there’s not much luck here.  It’s all about envisioning your goal and doing everything you can to get there.  I knew I needed to find a way to fill the gap that the missing income would create.  I had to find a way to make some money and do whatever I could to reduce our spending.  So if you want to stay home someday or get some more wiggle room in your budget or save for a personal goal of your own, consider these strategies that worked for me.

3)  Store Brands
Switching grocery stores and switching to store brands is saving me about $300 per month.  I would love to go to that awesome organic superstore down the road, but it is not in the budget right now.  And the truth is I have plenty of healthy, fresh options for my family at a fraction of the price right down the road.  I try to shop the sales and make healthy, but inexpensive, choices.

4) Hand-Me-Downs
Yes to all things secondhand!  We moved into our house three years ago and we still haven’t purchased much for ourselves.  Most of our furniture was donated by family and friends.  It’s a bit of a mishmash, and I do get a little envious when I see other beautifully decorated and coordinating kitchens and living rooms, but we are blessed to have a functional space.  And the truth is that decorating is not a priority right now.  We also love hand-me-down clothes and toys for our growing toddler!  When Landon was on his way, we wanted everything shiny and new.  Now we totally appreciate when things are passed along!  We may be doing some yard sale shopping of our own.  ;)

5)  Long Term Planning
When we bought a minivan this past summer, we focused on long term finances.  We put down as much money as we had been able to save so that we could have smaller payments for the next five years (+ we’ll save a ton on interest!)  It was a tough move for the short term, but as our bank account grows over the next few years, the car loan will remain small and manageable.  Super thankful for that.  {I don’t claim to be a financial expert, but this is what works for us.}

6)  Find Free [and fun] Activities
There are so many fun things to do as a family!  And family time is super important to us.  It’s kind of the point of all of this.  LOL.  We are becoming experts at finding free or inexpensive activities in our area.  Keep your eye out for activities hosted by the public library or other town departments; fun playgrounds, splash pads, and recreational parks; and local farms.  Pack your own lunch and bring some entertainment.  Enjoy being with one another – without spending tons of money on amusement parks, expensive classes and activities, and big meals out.



Everyone’s budget and situation is different, but please stop thinking you can’t make it work – because you can!  Don’t let that be the thing that holds you back from your dreams.  I really, really didn’t think we could do it.  I felt like I had to plow on, even when I wasn’t living the life I wanted.  60% of our budget, remember?  Get creative.  Find some other ways to make money and save money.  Make sure you are living a life that you LOVE every single day.  It may take some time and planning, but develop a goal and stay laser-focused.  Before you know it, you’ll be there!