Thursday, April 27, 2017

Differentiation 2.1

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroom

Differentiation IS for every classroom.  However, the degree to which you differentiate is up to you.  This series is all about getting started.  Catch up on these other Free to Discover posts from my first series about differentiation for additional ideas.

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroomOk, so where do you start?
If you teach middle school math, you probably do some degree of note taking.  In eighth grade, I taught Accelerated Algebra I and Algebra I Part A (Standard Math).  There are a lot of differences between the two courses, but a big distinction is in note taking procedures. 

Students in accelerated math spend a larger amount of time taking notes.  The majority of these students are motivated, organized, and able to keep up with a fast pace of instruction.  In addition, they take their own notes – meaning they copy what I write on the board.  I keep my format structured and organized and spend the first week or so emphasizing directions for how to take good notes.  Here's a basic example of how notes look in my Accelerated Algebra I classes:

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroom

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroom

This would not fly in my standard eighth grade math class so I differentiate how I present and organize notes.  The first difference is the amount of time we spend taking notes.  In this course, I stick to 15 minutes or so.  More than that and it seems there is probably too much new information for one day.  These students generally need plenty of class time for practice and check-ins.

The second difference is the format of the notes.  I almost always provide skeletal notes for my students in standard math.  This allows students to worry less about organization and more about the math concepts involved.  The hope is to avoid common pitfalls that can occur such as copying the wrong problem, leaving too much or too little space between problems, and keeping up with the pace of the class during note taking.  Notice in the image below that only basic information and problems are typed out, then students fill out the rest.

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroom


One way to differentiate for students who are very organized and perform exceptionally well is to offer them the opportunity to practice organizing their own notes.  They can skip the worksheet and copy everything they need into a notebook.  This is great preparation for high school math.

For students who require teacher notes or have accommodations on a formal or informal document, I provide the examples written out with blank space for practice problems.  This is an accommodation that is common for students with hearing disabilities or fine motor difficulties.  It is at the teacher’s discretion and/or specifics of a student’s plan to determine whether the student should try the notes first, then be given a filled-in version or whether they should start class with a filled-in version.  Some students may highlight or underline as you go over the notes and others may just listen to absorb the information.  {Note: The lesson shown in the image below is available for free here.}

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroom


What if students have been absent?  For my students in advanced math, I check in about the missed sections and ask them to copy the notes from a classmate.  For students in standard math, I try to have a copy of teacher notes ready for them so they can use it for reference when completing the missed homework assignment.  The image below is an example of completely filled in notes.  These are great for reference as students work through the practice they missed.

Differentiating note-taking in the middle school math classroom


Thanks for reading!  Next time I’ll share ways to easily differentiate in-class practice and homework assignments.

8th grade math teachers, let me help you differentiate in your classroom!  When I was teaching full time I never had enough time to keep up with everything on my plate.  I used to get frustrated when students required “teacher’s notes” because, honestly, I didn’t always write out my notes ahead of time.  I knew what and how I wanted to teach and in my busy schedule I skipped the step of writing them down.  So it became more work for me to have to write them out – neatly – for a student or two.  Now that I have taken on a supporting role for teachers, I have the time to meticulously create differentiated notes for every topic in 8th grade math.  Save yourself A LOT of time and headaches by investing in my 8th Grade Math Differentiated Notes and Practice Bundle here.

8th grade math differentiated notes and practice


Now it’s your turn to join the conversation!  How do you organize note-taking in your classroom?  Any tips or tricks for differentiating instruction?


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Teaching Transformations

Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.
Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.

Consider introducing the topic using manipulatives.  To be able to hold a polygon and then move it, flip it, or rotate it can make a big difference for students.  They don’t have to “envision” something happening to the polygon, they get a concrete answer to their “what happens if” questions.  Try this free lesson in your class:
Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.

Allow students to discover the big ideas.  A few months ago I was working as a math interventionist with a small group of eighth graders who were learning transformations.  I asked a few questions at the start of the lesson to gauge what they already knew.  They could recall some of the “rules” and “formulas” for what happens to coordinates given different transformations, but they didn’t really remember which rules pair with which transformations.  The discovery lesson that I brought was a perfect match for their needs.  We practiced rotating polygons around the origin 90, 180, and 270 degrees.  However, we accomplished this not by stating some rules and trying to follow, but instead by turning our paper, visualizing, and using logic to work our way through the problems.  The goal of this lesson was to make meaning out of the rules that we summarized at the end.  My discovery lessons for Rotations, Reflections, Translations, and Dilations can be found in my store.

Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.


Engage students in hands-on learning.  Once students have played with the ideas and taken notes on the concepts, allow plenty of time to practice using different activities and strategies.  Task cards are great because they allow students to focus on one transformation at a time.  Card sorts allow students to work collaboratively to divide transformations into categories.  Cut and paste activities are also really engaging for students!  Also, click here to read about how Brigid from Math Giraffe uses plastic plates to engage her students in hands-on learning such a neat idea!
Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.

And, of course, my favorite play a game!  My students and I love to play Old Math Guy to practice matching graphs with the type of transformation shown.  Visit this post to learn more about how to play Old Math Guy in your classroom. 
Transformations can be so difficult for students to visualize.  It’s really important for middle and high school students to engage in hands-on activities that facilitate a concrete understanding of the topics, without simply memorizing some rules.  Here are four strategies to consider when planning your transformations unit.

Thanks for reading!  You can also scoop up a discounted bundle of all of the resources mentioned in this post here.  Now it’s your turn to join the conversation!  What are your favorite activities when teaching transformations?  Any tips or tricks to share?


For more ideas and resources, subscribe to the Free to Discover blog!  You’ll receive a free resource via email just for signing up!



Friday, February 17, 2017

Teaching Two-Way Tables

Teaching Two-Way Tables: Strategies and Resources for the Middle School Math Classroom
When I taught eighth grade math, we used the Glencoe McGraw Hill Algebra I (2010 edition) textbook.  It was awesome for solving equations, writing linear equations, and evaluating with exponent rules!  However, it was missing three-dimensional measurement, transformations, repeating decimals, estimating radicals, and of course, two-way tables.

When two-way tables was added to our standards I spent a lot of time relearning the topic so that I could create meaningful, accurate resources that would help students really understand the importance of the skills they were developing.

First, I started with a review of percent proportion because I needed my students to be able to write ratios and convert to percents.  Here is a free resource you can use in your own classroom:
Teaching Two-Way Tables: Strategies and Resources for the Middle School Math Classroom

A discovery-based approach can really help students see connections between concepts.  When I design an inquiry-based lesson, I want students to do more than just copy and example and try something just like it.  I want them to decipher the meaning behind what they are doing and reflect on these connections.  In the discovery-based worksheets that I designed, students first spend a day constructing and interpreting two-way tables then spend time determining relative frequency in two-way tables.  Scoop up these lessons here: 
Teaching Two-Way Tables: Strategies and Resources for the Middle School Math Classroom


I do believe it’s important to summarize the big ideas in the form of notes once students have had exposure to the concepts.  The notes I use in my class are always differentiated based on the needs of the students.  Most students get regular fill-in notes, but others get a copy with the examples already filled in so that they can focus on listening the lesson without having to write everything down.  The final copy has everything filled, and is perfect for students who have been absent.  The corresponding practice sheets are differentiated by ability level.  There is an advanced version and a basic version.  I also include a one-page version of the basic copy that has less problems but meets the standard level.  Check out notes for Constructing and Interpreting Two-Way Tables and Calculating Relative Frequency here!

Then it is time to practice, practice, practice!  Those of you who are familiar with my store know that my students and I love to play Old Math Guy.  I have a game that is perfect for interpreting two-way tables and calculating basic relative frequency.  This is a great game to use as review once students understand the main ideas!
Teaching Two-Way Tables: Strategies and Resources for the Middle School Math Classroom

These two-way tables task cards from Mrs D’s Classroom were a lifesaver!  My students loved the practice and appreciated the connections to Venn Diagrams.

This two-way tables scavenger hunt from Teacher Twins is very fun and gets students moving around the classroom!

If you're looking for some St. Patrick's Day fun, scoop up these awesome set of partner stations!

At the end of the Bivariate Data unit, you can use this fun BINGO game to review the big ideas!  This format is my favorite way to review and my students love it, too!
Teaching Two-Way Tables: Strategies and Resources for the Middle School Math Classroom

What are your favorite activities when teaching two-way tables?  Any tips or tricks to share?


For more ideas and resources, subscribe to the Free to Discover blog!  You’ll receive a free resource via email just for signing up!