Halloween Goes Digital

Halloween Goes Digital


 Halloween goes digital blog post

Halloween goes digital! Are you ready to engage your students in a rigorous and engaging Halloween-themed math activity? Whether you are teaching in the classroom or working remotely, we've got you covered! Since 2015, Free to Discover's Halloween activities have been wildly popular because they engage students in relevant and rigorous learning activities, while embracing the excitement of the time of year. Students solve math problems, work collaboratively, and solve riddles.  

And now there's a brand new line of Halloween activities built especially for Google Drive! These digital activities provide students with clear directions on the first Google Slide so they know exactly what they need to do in order to complete the activity. Students solve each mathematical problem that is presented. Then they can drag and drop the answer to the indicated place on each math card. Each math card has a letter so that letters and numerical answers match up and can be used to decode the riddle!

Here are the 3 steps for students to engage in the activity.

Students solve each problem. They can type answers on the provided workspace slide or they can upload a photo of their work if they prefer to handwrite the mathematical steps. 8 possible answers to the 6 questions are available in the margin. Then students drag-and-drop each correct answer to the black circle on the appropriate math card.

Sample slide pictured here

Once students have matched up the 12 answers with each card, they can decode the riddle by substituting letters for the numerical answers. Once again, the letters can be dragged-and-dropped to the appropriate place. Not all answer/letter combinations will be used.

Sample riddle slide shown here

These resources are easy to implement and super engaging for students! Current math topics available include: Solving Multistep Equations, Solving Two Step Equations, and Calculating Slope Given Two Points. 

The resources include:
  • Teacher's Guide
  • Student Instructions
  • 12 Practice Problems
  • Student Workspace
  • Halloween Riddle Component
  • Answer Key
Bulleted list of included components

Click the images to learn more and shop:

Solving Multistep Equations Halloween Activity

Solving Two Step Equations Halloween Activity

Slope Halloween Activity

And while you're here, scoop up this newly updated FREE activity for calculating slope from two points! It includes PDF and Google Drive versions. Intended to work as a partner activity, each worksheet contains 12 practice problems. Although each worksheet has different pairs of coordinates, each corresponding question number will yield the same slope so that students can complete their own work and then compare answers with a partner. Download now, and then let us know how it went!

Slope Free Activity

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5 Tips for Learning Math at Home

5 Tips for Learning Math at Home


 

learning math at home

Have you found yourself with students or children learning math at home? Whether you're a classroom teacher, parent, tutor or specialist, let's look at how we can help increase student engagement and success. There are so many challenges associated with learning remotely, but by sharing these tips with our kids we can increase the levels of learning taking place while at home.

Create a workspace.

Designate a space where you can work in a focused environment. This is super tricky for many, but it is so important to identify one place where you can watch Zoom meetings, do your work, and complete assigned readings. This could be at a desk, kitchen table, your bed, your favorite chair, a corner somewhere. Find a spot and make it your workspace. If it is a shared space, be prepared to tidy up and remove your school items when wrapping up another successful session. Keep them in a backpack or box that can be tucked away, and then set them back up the next time you need to get to work. Be sure to do your best to select a location that will allow you to focus.

Stick to a schedule.

You do not need to create a super rigid schedule. However, you should know when you typically work on your school assignments. Make sure you write down any live Zoom calls you will need to attend. Then plan out when the other work will get done. First thing in the morning? Right after your live classes? Before dinner? Determine when you will best be able to focus and stick to it. It's not easy, but it's often better to work earlier in the day. Then reward yourself with a fun activity. In general, it's better to start with the most important and most complex tasks first. Get them off your plate, then you'll be able to work through the quicker tasks with confidence.

learning math at home tips for success

Remove distractions.

Distractions caused by smart phones and social media are out of control. To achieve maximum success, tuck the phone away while you are working. Give all your attention to the task at hand so that you can get the most out of your assignments. You'll remember details better which will prepare you for future assignments and assessments. If you are addicted to your phone, like many of us, set a timer or time goal for how long you will work uninterrupted. Then once you've met that goal, take a couple of minutes to check in and then reset. Make sure you spend enough time away that you can get into a state of flow and get some serious work done.

Ask questions.

Learning math at home feels so different, but it's important to stay accountable for your learning. You will need the knowledge your teachers are sharing as you move forward in school, work, and life. Work hard and ask questions when you don't understand. It's both beautiful and frustrating at times that math concepts build on one another. Don't neglect to ask questions only to end up with skill gaps and future struggles. Take advantage of any teacher office hours or seek tutoring help. Misunderstandings may not seem like a big deal but they can quickly compound if not addressed quickly and appropriately.

Engage in extra practice.

The best way to learn math is to do math. You can make up additional math problems for practice, use available school resources, or ask someone in your household to quiz you. As a curriculum writer, I've created a special section in my TpT store with resources appropriate for students who are homeschooling or learning math at home. Check out these resources for extra practice for middle school math.


Teachers and parents, remember that this is an especially challenging time to be a student. Share these tips with your students, but remember to allow space for grace. As long as we're all doing our best, we'll continue to make progress and work toward our longterm goals.

I'd love to hear from you. What is particularly challenging for students learning math at home this year? What else would you like to learn more about? Comment below!

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5 Summarizer Strategies for Math Class

5 Summarizer Strategies for Math Class


5 summarizer strategies for math class

 
Last week we discussed the importance of a strong and consistent opening routine. Today we'll focus on bring closure to your math class. In this post, we'll highlight 5 summarizer strategies for math class. Notice the theme throughout each strategy: use the data you collect to plan for future lessons. Stay in tune with what your students know and what they don't know yet, and use that data to meet the needs of all learners.

5-4-3-2-1

IN-PERSON: Running out of time at the end of a class period, but you need to evaluate where your students stand in regards to learning new material? Ask to students to show you with their hands how confident they feel with the content. 5: Super confident, 4: Really good, 3: On my way, 2: Still need another day of practice, 1: Feeling pretty lost. With a quick sweep of the room, you can gauge whether you'll need to spend more time on the same topic, to differentiate the next day, or to pull some students in for extra help.

REMOTE: This can also be done remotely. If your students have video up, they can show the same 5-4-3-2-1 fingers. If not, they could use a chat box to post their number. Or you could even ask them to post one word describing how confident they feel with the lesson. By asking students to type their response, you can save the chat and use the data more specifically to plan future lessons.

Thumbs Up/Down/Sideways

IN-PERSON: A similar strategy to 5-4-3-2-1, Thumbs Up/Down/Sideways can be used to get more clear and general data. Ask students how they feel about the math they practiced that day. Good? Not great? So-so? With a quick glance, you can get a sense of how students are fairing with the content and use the information to plan for the next class.

REMOTE: This strategy could be used in the exact same way remotely or you could use the chat box. What's one thing you feel confident about? Type in the chat box. What's one thing that you're still working on understanding? What's one thing that you don't understand yet? OR you could list specific topics and get a thumbs up/down/sideways. How do you feel about solving equations with the variable on each side? What if there are special solutions? What if there are fractions or decimals? Observe how answers change, and use that data to plan your next steps.

thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways

Exit Tickets

IN-PERSON: Exit tickets are slips of paper with math problems that students complete at the end of a class period and turn in. They are not typically graded, but instead are used to drive future instruction. They DO NOT need to be fancy. When I taught classes of 25+ students I would grab a pile of scrap paper, tear it up using a ruler, pass out the paper, and have students copy a problem or two from the front board. I spent NO time planning this ahead of time. I just chose a question or two similar to what we had practiced in class that day. Then, as students were exiting the classroom, I would sort the tickets by correct, almost there, and incorrect. I would use this data to determine who to work with during advisory extra help the next day, then recycle the paper.

When I moved to alternative education and taught classes of 5-8 students I pre-planned and used the data a little bit differently. With so few students I found it manageable to create an excel spreadsheet and track exit ticket results each day. I used this data to monitor and measure student growth and shared this data on my teacher evaluation. The big idea being DO NOT overthink this process or spend too much time on it. You can get a free set of 8th grade math exit tickets in my 8th Grade Math Teacher Starter Kit. You may also want to check out Middle School Math Man's free exit ticket samples: 6th grade math, 7th grade math, 8th grade math.

REMOTE: I highly recommend checking out Teacher Made for help with digitizing your exit tickets. Teacher Made is a free website that can help turn all your paper worksheets into digital activities. It even includes features like auto-grading!

8th grade math teacher starter kit

Partner Summary

IN-PERSON: In order to increase retention, students should be given opportunities to hear, see, say, do, and teach the content. In the Partner Summary strategy, students talk to one other peer. You could ask the "student on the right" to summarize a concept to their peer.  Then the "student on the left" can summarize another concept. Every pair talks at the same time so students feel more comfortable sharing with the increased noise level. As the teacher, you can listen in on a conversation or two to gauge understanding.

REMOTE: Remotely this could be a little bit trickier. Consider utilizing tools such as breakout rooms in Zoom so that students can have intimate conversations summarizing the big ideas of the lesson.

3 Student Summary

IN-PERSON: In this summarizer, take a minute at the end of the lesson to have 3 students summarize the big idea. "Student A, how do we calculate slope from a graph? {response} Student B, how do we calculate slope from a table? {response} Student C, how do we calculate slope given two points? {response}" OR "Student A, what does the Pythagorean Theorem tell us? {response} Student B, restate in your own words. {response} Student C, repeat what Student B said. {response}" Everyone in the class is hearing the big ideas multiple times, which further cements the concepts in the mind.

REMOTE: The same strategy could be used remotely. If you have the time, you could have every student share one word, phrase, or formula that sums up the lesson.

5 summarizer strategies for math class

Thanks for reading! Not every strategy will work for every class. Try a strategy or two and see what makes the most sense for your class and your students. Have other ideas you use? Comment below!
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5 Reasons to Implement a Strong & Consistent Opening Class Routine

5 Reasons to Implement a Strong & Consistent Opening Class Routine


 

5 Reasons to Implement a Strong & Consistent Opening Class Routine

Let's talk opening class routine. In other words, how do you begin your math class? You can call it a Problem of the Day, Do Now, Warmup, Opener, Quick Check, or something else, but you should begin every math class with an activator. This is important whether you're teaching in-person or on an online platform like Zoom. In this post, we'll discuss the benefits of a strong opening class routine.

Settle Students into Class

IN-PERSON: Having something for students to work on from the moment they walk in the door encourages your class to get in, sit down and focus. The expectation is set from the moment they enter your room that they should not be goofing around. Students focus on the math problem projected on the front board and get right to work. This settles their bodies and minds and gets them in a frame of mind needed to be open to learning new things.

REMOTE: Students have tons of distractions at home, and sometimes it's hard to make it feel like "school." By having an assignment that they must do from the moment they log in the your online platform, they turn their focus from whatever is happening around them to the math problem or problems you have chosen for your students to complete.


Send the Correct Message

IN PERSON: When students begin working on math right when they enter your classroom, they understand that they are there to learn. As the teacher, you are sending the message that they are there to focus and learn and grow - not fool around. To complete their work, they'll need to have their learning materials ready to go so they'll use the opportunity to take out their binder, sharpen their pencil, etc before class technically even begins.

REMOTE: By starting with an activator, you are sending the message that they are in class and they will be held accountable for their learning. Right away they must get in the correct mindset, focus, and prepare their materials and technology to be successful.

Free Activator Templates

Check Homework

IN PERSON: It can be tricky to find time to check homework without feeling like time is wasted. As students work on their activator, I walk around and check homework. So part of the routine is that students sit down, take out their binder and have homework ready to show me, and work on the problem or problems on the front board. Then we can quickly "begin" class by going over the activator, taking homework questions, and getting right into the lesson of the day.

REMOTE: Teachers, you are sharing that you have overloaded plates and you're exhausted and working more than ever. Is there a task that you can allocate to complete during the first 5 minutes? While students are working on their activator, use the time to check who completed virtual homework, organize your workspace, or maybe even just meditate for a few minutes before crazy online learning ensues. Be creative with this time for yourself.


Content Review Opportunity

IN PERSON: Be really selective in choosing your warmup problem. I try to choose math problems that include prerequisite skills they will need for the day's lesson. It could be material from the previous day, week, or even school year. What do they need to recall in order to be successful with that day's math lesson? Start there.

REMOTE: 2020 may be the first time you have found yourself remote teaching. It's much more difficult to gauge student understanding when students are not directly in front of you in-person. How can you use the activator to pinpoint what your students recall or not before beginning the next lesson? You could use problems related to the previous lesson. Google Forms may be a good resource here because you can gain instant insights about what the students in your class know when each student submits their answer. Kahoot could be another great resource to use here. If you teach high school, check out these video warmups from Algebra and Beyond.

5 Reasons to Implement a Strong & Consistent Opening Class Routine

Consistent Expectations

IN PERSON: More important than anything, be consistent in the expectations for your students. When are students allowed to sharpen their pencil, go to the bathroom, ask a question, etc? Know what you need in order to smoothly run a class, and make sure your students are clear on those expectations.

REMOTE: Be consistent in expectations and routines. Does their video need to be on? Are there consequences for being late? How will you monitor and encourage participation? Make sure students know what is expected of them and follow through. Depending on the age of your students, you could consider encouraging participation by having students rotate who tracks it. The student in charge of participation for the day, has a Google Sheet of student names and adds a checkmark every time a students contributes positively to the class.


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