Working hard or hardly working?

Yesterday was Monday and that means I have a week until the 2017-2018 school year starts.  I spent from 9:00am to 7:00pm in my classroom yesterday and I feel like I don’t have much to show for it. I’m in the mode where I have a ton to do, but I can’t get started on any of it. It’s crunch time!

I had to unpack the three boxes I packed up at the end of the year when I switched rooms. It was stuff from my desk or the cabinet, so that meant unpacking and organizing the drawers and cabinet shelves. I got SUPER excited because I found my calculator caddy…which will take up some board space, but will be VERY worth it.  I don’t have a class set of calculators, about half (I think I have 1-2 at home somewhere)…but I look for them any time I am at the thrift shop.


I unpacked markers, highlighters & more and organized everything in the tall cabinet. I moved the shelves in that cabinet more times than I care to mention…I kept rearranging where I wanted things, which changed the size of the shelves.  I do like the way it is now, though I didn’t take a picture yet.

I moved the furniture around to start figuring out how my flexible seating will work best.  There are about 10 desks that I would like removed from my room, but storage space in the building is in short supply, so we will see what ends up happening.  It’s kinda of surprising to me that I seem to have MORE space in the room even though I have MORE seating options than students.  I haven’t taken any pictures yet because I am still in flux, but I got excited today thinking of which seating options would work best in the different areas of my room.  I have a cafe pub height table and four chairs that are en-route, hoping to arrive before the first day.

I guess I feel like I didn’t get much done because it was mostly organizing drawers and the cabinet, things that aren’t visible. And while I did start moving furniture around the room is still in a very messy state.  So to complete something visual, I decided to put together the bulletin board for outside my classroom. I saw the picture and post from Amy on Instagram and grabbed her editable blank template freebie to create my own. But then Jac (@jacrichardson) stepped in and helped with that because she was looking for something similar and needed it before it was a win win for both of us! I LOVE the way it came out and hope to reference them throughout the year (though I do plan to change the board out). The background is wrapping paper from Tuesday Morning that is more like a vinyl/plastic because it can be colored in.


Today I got my back to school hair cut and spent the day organizing my desk at home, doing laundry and cleaning the house.  Not the most fun, but it had to be done. Tomorrow will be another day at school with the afternoon spent with the new middle school math teachers in our district, I think there are four.  I will do a post about what we go over tomorrow!

First Day Plans


This is another installment of #MTBoS #SundayFunday blogging. This is a weekly blogging prompt that is hosted over at Julie’s blog and this week’s theme is “First Day Plans”

Every week, Julie will push out a new topic, you blog about it and submit your blog post using this Google Form.  On Sunday, there will be a huge list of awesome blogs to go read! 🙂 YAY!

Honestly, my first day plans are still in flux…I have it laid out in my head but need to find out when I will actually be with my students as math students for the first time.  We start on the 24th as our first day with students, but with lockers, book/chromebook checkout, drills, PBIS required lessons for each period, etc…I don’t know when I will first see them as math students.  I will find that out on the 21st, when my team meets and we plan out those first few days.

In the meantime, I am hoarding links to ideas of what I want to do on the first day and the first week, which I am calling Unit 0. I plan to build in team & community building activities along with growth mindset and more so I can build the classroom environment I want to have.

Once I finalize it all and stop procrastinating I will post my plans here! 🙂


Goals 2017-2018

I am so excited that Julie (@jreulbach) brought back #MTBoS #SundayFunday, which is a weekly blogging initiative. In years past the blog posts written about the given topic helped shape things I was doing in my own classroom, it’s great because they all get linked together…like a one stop shop for amazingness! It took me all week to look at everything I wanted to do this year and pull out what my main goals are, so my submission is a little late.


At the start of 2017, rather than set a bunch of resolutions I went with one word…Intentional. As I started reflecting on my goals for this school year, I found the word Intentional to be very fitting as well.

And as I was looking through my endless to do list to prep for the new year, I saw one simple theme…Building Community.  Over half the items on my to do list are related to the engaging community of learners I hope to build. Here are just a few of those things:


  1. Flexible Seating – Last year my intervention students wrote a grant to get flexible seating and I found out it was funded after I found out I was going back to teaching core math at 7th grade.  I talked to my Assistant Principal and got the go ahead to do it in my room this year.  So then I spent most of the spring and summer looking for items to help create an environment of flexibility and comfort. I LOVE a good challenge to be thrifty and find cute things for the classroom. I can’t wait to share pictures of what it looks like…that means I need to get it set up first though. 🙂
  2. #VNPS – Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces to allow students to work together while standing when doing math in my classroom. For table work, I have individual whiteboards and the group whiteboards from WhiteboardsUSA. I have the Standard-L Seconds and the students love using them. You can’t tell there is anything wrong with them…at all.  However #VNPS has been something I have been reading about on Twitter and because two of my walls are covered in CHALKBOARDS, I thought that would be a fun way to incorporate #VNPS and give students a different medium for working together. I bought chalk and magnetic chalk holders and erasers….we will see how this goes!
  3. Visible Random Groups – To go along with the flexible seating, I was trying to figure out how the students will choose their seats and how often we will change. I am going to incorporate visible random grouping in my classes this year. I haven’t decided how often I will be switching them, I think I need to see how they do working together first. I saw a Tweet from , and   where they posted a pic of these sticks in prep for . I have printed the following sorting sticks on cardstock and laminated them so they should last the whole year.  Click here for the file with the sorting stick guide shown below.
  4. Student Roles & Responsibilities – Funny that I am coming back to this…I had a conversation on Twitter back in August 2015 with Joy (@JoyKirr) about her classroom jobs for students.  She shared this document, though she says she has trimmed down and changed them since.  I never put it into place and my goal is to be intentional with student voice & choice in my classroom community. I’ve been brainstorming with Jac (@JacRichardson) about how to set them up and keep them organized for our middle school classrooms.
  5. Positive Peer Feedback Jar – Another idea from Joy, students fill out a feedback/recognition slip for a kind act/ responsible deed/risk in class, and it will be emailed to that student’s parent. 
  6. Friday Feedback – I am going to implement bi-weekly feedback google form where students can give input on how class is going and how to make it even better.
  7. Saturday Sunshine – Another idea from Joy, pretty simple because it’s two good news emails home, sent each Saturday. 
  8. Mindset Mantras – I am going to give this a go...see what happens!

There you have it! I am excited for all of the things listed above and how I can build the best community of learners that I can for this school year.  I have 15 days until our first Institute Day and 18 days until the first day with students. I have a lot to do before then, but I couldn’t be more excited to get all those things done! 🙂

Posters 2017

I love making posters (as seen here and here), it’s the design process and being creative that I enjoy.  I used to scrapbook, so it’s the digital version of that in a way. 🙂 I like making posters because it helps me create exactly what I want to say or how I want it to look.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to do ALL the work, so I also borrow a lot of posters that others have made that I love.  Those are from @mathequalslove, @msrubinteach, @mathymeg07, @SweetBlessShan and many others!​

At the end of this past school year, I bought colorful paper and I printed A LOT of posters that others made to start prepping for this year. I was even lucky enough that my LMC had time to laminate them, so they are already cut out and ready to be put on the walls for this year.  The posters I printed came from @mathequalslove and @msrubinteach.

I am very good at procrastinating.  I could write a book about all the things I get done when I should be doing something else. I am putting off planning the start to my year and looking at the first unit, so it was easier to turn to twitter and offer to make posters.

I also retweeted it the next day and got a few more responses. I had fun making the posters and totally avoided the work I should have been doing! Here are a few examples:

And here is the PDF link to the 25 posters that I made.  Enjoy!


Bookmarking all the things

It’s hard to know what to do with all the awesome activities, lessons, organizational ideas, classroom decor ideas and more that I find when I get lost in the internet rabbit hole of amazing things.  For a long time, I would just open an email and send myself links to the blog post or website that I wanted to check out when I had time.  What I found was that I rarely went back to find those things when I needed to.

So here I am with this haphazard way of trying to catalog things I want to come back to check…I have modified the system, but it still needs improvement…

  1. Facebook – if I see something I like, I save the post and I do actually go back and go through them in a timely manner.  Once I have done what I needed to with the post and information I saved, I archive the saved post and move on.
  2. Pinterest – it has gotten so spammy and and filled with TpT links, but I still scroll through it late at night when I should be sleeping.  I sometimes pin things to my boards, but if it’s really important or something I need to use in the coming weeks, I email the link to the pin to myself through the app. Typically because it is something I need to look at or download from a computer and not a phone.
  3. Blogs – I use feedly and I am SO behind on my blog reading, but if there is a blog I want to come back to I star it and will come back.  Or I will mark it as unread sometimes too.
  4. Twitter – I use the “like” feature on Twitter to save tweets I want to come back to or use another time.  It has been super helpful for me, except that I’ve been absent from blogging and twitter for a bit and they just sat there.  There are about 2,500 tweets I have liked.  🙂

I started tackling the tweets this summer…my goal is to get it as close to zero before the first day of school as I can.  Then I feel like I can keep up with the items I want to save as the year goes on.

Tonight, while I was clearing out my liked tweets, I came across this tweet I saved from Kelly (@LebbyDoo)…

So I followed my saved tweet to find the link to the awesome folder labels and it wasn’t there! 🙂 Ha…so I googled Kate’s Classroom Cafe and found the blog and up popped the labels and freebie to download.  Here is the link to the post with the freebie and directions on how to use it for your own filing cabinet:

I plan to use the labels to color code and organize my filing cabinet in my classroom and in my office to start the school year!

Seeing that saved post actually brought me back around to how I organize all the things that I come across and I made myself a goal to really work to use Google Keep instead of my current method which isn’t really working and isn’t efficient.  I HAVE been using Google Keep, but not to the extent I could be. I can’t wait to learn to use it much better than I have been! If you have tips, trick or hints for using Google Keep, toss me a comment below!

Becoming a connected Math Educator

Many times in blog posts, in facebook groups or at face to face conferences, people suggest Math teachers should jump on Twitter and check out the #MTBoS to find helpful people and info. I couldn’t love that idea more.  Creating a blog and joining Twitter have had the most impact on my teaching, my lesson planning and my reflection than anything else in my career.  That’s because of the people whose blogs I read and activities I used, who would respond to my questions and share their ideas freely. And because of the people who I followed and interacted with on Twitter by asking for help or feedback on something I needed.  You don’t have to have a blog to read others blogs and check out their activities and ideas.  You don’t have to have a Twitter account either because you can find information through the blogs as well; though I do highly recommend joining Twitter to connect with others and create your online PLC.

I started reading blogs in 2005 starting with @ELanghorst‘s US History blog ( because I was teaching US History and wanted to find better resources.  Then I started finding and reading math blogs in 2007 (like and fell in love (stalker-ish style) with @misscalculate when she started blogging in 2009. As I started to read more blogs, I would find more blogs to read…recommendations and favorite blogs listed on the side on the blog I was reading lead me to so many amazing people and resources. I had a blog reader set up and would spend time reading blogs newspaper style at night. I have 145 blogs in my blog reader that I follow now and I have a bunch more to add of educators I just started connecting with. I would email myself links of blog posts that had activities I wanted to try or ideas I wanted to incorporate into my classroom. (I still do this today, but I am working on using Google Keep instead.)  I became the crazy math teacher at my school because I was always saying things like “oh on this blog they did this activity.” or “I found this online and it looks awesome.” or “Let me do a google search for a blog post I remember.” or “I just watched this presentation about this topic, let me send you the link.” I used google, blogs and online resources like crazy to transform my teaching. And then I wanted to participate more and give back, so I started a blog and joined Twitter and the rest is history. 🙂

Teaching can be a lonely career because we are in our classrooms all day and while we may connect with our teams of teachers in our buildings, it’s usually about scheduling or behavior so we don’t get a lot of time to share and connect during the day the way we need to about curriculum, lesson planning or building rich tasks and activities. Therefore teachers have to look for it in other ways, through meetings outside of the school day, reading books, math conferences and connecting online with other math teachers, etc. It’s through these connections that I have learned the most and I have made amazing friendships to boot.

I think the key to become a connected Math Educator is to look for people, resources and help outside of your school, your district, your state.  At first maybe you just read, save helpful links or activities and try them in your classroom, but over time you will find more and more resources and (I bet) you will eventually want to give back or explain how a lesson someone shared was used in your classroom.  My evaluation system uses Danielson, which focuses on teacher reflection, creating my blog helped me learn how to reflect before it was part of my evaluation. Through Twitter and blogging I came across Global Math Department, which is a weekly webinar about tons of amazing math teaching topics. It started in August of 2012 and has SO many informational presentations!  The past two years I was on the board and for many of the weekly meetings you will hear my voice as a host and I’ve even done a few presentations. 🙂 I try to make it in person so I can interact and ask questions as needed during the presentation, but if I can’t the best part is they are all archived for future reference and easy sharing with teachers via email! You can find them all archived here, .

Here is a little more to explain many of the things that are out there online for Math Teachers to help you start your journey to becoming a connected educator.

  1. Check the graphic below for a great explanation of #MTBoS
  2. Watch this video for even more info:
  3. Welcome to the MTBoS site was created to welcome teachers new to the #MTBoS. It gives them support, some guidance, as well as helps them find some good tweeps (Twitter peeps) to follow and get to know.
  4. Find & connect with other Math teachers in your 2017-2018 subject area:
  5. The MTBoS Directory lists teachers who are self-identified as members of the #MTBoS. Want to join? Just submit your name. That is all it takes. It has a map of members to help you find local math teachers, as well as multiple ways to sort and select people.
  6. Exploring the MTBoS is a site created by math teachers to help organize, explain, and yes, explore the MTBoS.
  7. Have you ever wanted a lesson on XXX, but googled it and came up with a bunch of crap? This search engine searches only math teacher blogs, K-12, and will pull up lessons that are tried and tested. If the lesson sucked, the blog post will tell you that, and how to improve it.
  8. Find blogs to read weekly by checking the list of bloggers from the link in #7.
  9. Check out Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem Based Lesson search engine:
  10. Like the Facebook MTBoS page: Another way to connect with math educators –
  11. Use this Chat list of Educational Chats to find chats that interest you. They list themselves as “official” but of course there is no such thing. It is rather comprehensive, and although the chats change times each year, it is pretty complete and accurate. 
  12. Check out some of the books that have been written:
  13. Check out Global Math Department weekly presentations:
  14. Check out Jo Boaler‘s site,, which is important to helping change your mindset and the mindset of your students in regards to learning math. The three week’s of Inspirational Math have some great videos and activities to share with your students.
  15. Find and join a facebook group that applies to you, I really like doing BreakoutEDU in class, so I find the Math teacher’s breakout group helpful:
  16. And finally check out the Desmos Bank– a directory for Desmos activities

Do you have suggestions or ways to help others become connected math educators? I am sure I missed some!  Toss them in the comments below!!!

Here’s to a great 2017-2018 year of being a connected Math Educator!