Whiteboard Equation Solving

You can use water-based markers on a whiteboard

It was a happy accident last year. A student (or maybe it was me I don’t actually remember) wrote on our classroom whiteboard in marker. Not dry erase marker. Oh dear!! We’ll have marker on our board forever, I thought. Before panicking though I grabbed some paper towels and a water spray bottle and was so happy to see that it came off!!

This mistake prompted me to use it as a teaching tool in the classroom.

How to mix water-based markers & dry erase in class

If you are doing something that you find yourself having to re-write on the board every period, AND you want to cycle all the students through something, this technique works really well.

For this class period, we were working on solving 2 step equation word problems. I set the class up this way.

  • 2 groups worked on writing and solving their own word problems modeling them from one of 4 types. This means they changed the numbers, names, situations etc for the problems to make them unique to them.
  • The other two groups were at the board solving one of two word problems as a team. They were able to underline, circle and mark up however they wanted. When they finished the problem, they checked in with me to see if they were correct.

Check out some short video clips from some of our classes.

Using the word problems

My plan for after this day was to use the word problems the kids wrote. I took pictures of their problems and solutions and then went to write them up and use them as our “Do Now” aka warm-up to kick off class. We used two of them the day after this activity and kids were really successful!! Notes were allowed as was collaboration with shoulder partners.

My long-term plan with this is to sprinkle them in for a few weeks, weaning them from the use of notes and then from collaboration.

Here are some of our problems. You’ll notice that some are solved correctly, some are very realistic, and some not so much. Some of them are solved incorrectly but everyone tried to write a word problem modeled after what I had written for them. Select a picture to view it at a size where you can read all the words and then scroll through. There is one problem that shows all the steps that I had written on the board for them. This is some great note-taking!!




Integer Mind Maps

Our Mind Map Project

This fall I took an independent study class. The class was full of things, but one portion was an app that required you to create a mind map. I really haven’t done that before, and part of the course required that you create one that could be used in your classroom. I created one for our current unit of study at the time: Integers.

Upon looking at it, I realized it could be a really nice way to keep everything straight. We discovered the rules for integers by using integer chips. I felt pretty good about the exploration piece of this. I pre-taught the kids in Math Lab so they’d have more time with the chips, and then we worked through the rules in our groups in class. Each day we’d add to the mind map. Occasionally, I posted a new picture of our classroom board mind map on Google Classroom. Continue reading “Integer Mind Maps”

Thank you Middle School PTO for our calculators!

Calculators are a must have in seventh grade math class. Mrs. Dawson has math classes all throughout the day, and has found a system for making sure that calculators are always available when you need them. The students were asked to buy calculators, as well as the PTO kindly buying enough for everyone to use during class. They are a part of our shared bins on every table, which also includes highlighters, pens, sticky notes, scissors, pencil sharpeners and erasers. Most of these items the students were asked to help supply the classroom with, and they are definitely being put to good use.

The calculators in particular are a very important aspect. Students borrow calculators from the bins when they need them, use them during class, and put them back at the end of the period. This system has been working so nicely that bringing calculators to class is no longer a need. Mrs. Dawson is even planning on removing calculators from the supply list next year. Thank you so much to the PTO for helping give us this opportunity!

-Written by Maren Friedman with editing help from Ellie Storm

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A note from Mrs. Dawson

I put out the opportunity on Google Classroom. I presented it as a chance to write this from a student perspective  and to thank our PTO for supporting our classroom. Within just a few minutes I had two replies from students. “Wow! I’m so excited!” I shared with my family. “Kids are willing to write about this.” It was a really great Thanksgiving surprise when Maren shared her document with me the day before the holiday.

Our entire classroom culture has changed because of these bins with calculators. The kids have what they need and don’t have to worry about bringing their calculator to class every day. They just have to remember to leave it at the table (we’ve only lost one twice … and it has come back both times!) I originally asked the PTO to purchase them for me because I didn’t have many extras in case kids couldn’t buy their own. I also wanted to have a few for when kids forgot them in class. But there’s a constant struggle – when to loan, when to say “you need to remember your calculator.” It creates a stress that the classroom doesn’t need. I watched how the kids used the classroom bin supplies, and they were using them properly: leaving the green pens, scissors, post-its etc. “What if we add the calculators?” PTO bought us 14 and I had another 6 that I could use to have enough for my largest class. Let’s give it a go! I’m so happy I did.

I’m really grateful that Maren organizes the bins for us every Friday. She and Maya stay a few minutes into lunch and Maya washes our tables while Maren organizes the bins. The day before Thanksgiving I went in and added another little compartment to the bins – Maren noticed that the bins are truly a disaster on Fridays. She said something along the lines of what I’ve been thinking, “Wow are people trying to mess these up?” I’m hoping with this addition that keeping them organized will be a little bit easier. *A note on this system – each table has its own color of calculator and each is labeled 1-4 with the letter and color label from that table.

Thank you again to the PTO for this generous donation to our classroom. I don’t need to have calculators on next year’s supply list for school due to this successful system!! We are all super happy to have them. And I am so pleased to see the kids treating them well, and remembering to leave them in class!

Pi Day! (2018)


Gail Brisson nabbed some pictures for us as the kids were rotating through each station. View our slideshow below. Read on for more about our Pi Day celebration. Many thanks to our 3 parent volunteers that helped us with the day. We really appreciate your help! Many thanks to our judges and to all the Math 7 team members that made this day possible. It was a lot to coordinate but we pulled it off.

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Pi Day was a fun celebration for our 7th graders!! We had to delay a day due to a late season snow storm (read all about our delay in our Week #26 updates) but we celebrated anyway just a day late!! The kids rotated through a series of stations that included:

  • Pi Recitations for a judge
  • Pie Eating
  • Game playing and pi wordsearch
  • Pi Chain making and math problem challenge
  • Calculating Pi
  • Project Viewing

Here are just some of the links to the many projects that our 7th grade Library Media Literacy classes made!! They worked hard at this and embraced it.  Continue reading “Pi Day! (2018)”

Using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for Teaching (2018)

Two years ago I was a long-term sub teaching 8th grade math in a classroom where the SmartBoard wasn’t working properly. It wouldn’t stay calibrated, rendering it really not usable. Instead of declaring it dead, I noticed the Apple TV in the room and had a brainstorm – could I airplay from my iPad pro to the Apple TV and use it for instruction? The short answer was yes, and I used this set-up for classroom teaching. At the time I wrote about it on my husband’s blog. I am posting that here because while many things have changed and improved in two years, the heart of the matter is still very relevant. Read my original post about using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for teaching math.

I’ve divided this new post into two parts: “Getting there” and “How I’m using things.”  If you are only interested in how I’m using this technology, please skip to the second part. I included the first part because I want to thank the people who helped me with this, and I want to remember it. Continue reading “Using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for Teaching (2018)”

How I use Trello as a Lesson Plan Book (2018)

Anyone who chats with me about computer things realizes quickly that I LOVE Trello. Every time I discover some new way to involve it in my life one of my family members remarks, “You know you really should work for Trello or at least get paid as an ambassador!”

I used to use Google Drive exclusively for tutoring, but then I’d find it challenging to keep things in order. Trello was helpful with its cards, but it wasn’t until after using Trello for a full year tutoring students that I realized that the calendar feature was the lynchpin for using it very successfully. I tutored my son through Algebra 1 and we needed to keep a daily log to show his school that we were actually doing work. I wanted something that we could just share with them virtually, so I went looking at the power up opportunities. Fortunately for me, a calendar was an option. The calendar allows you to put due dates in all your items, and they appear on the date they are due on the calendar view.  Continue reading “How I use Trello as a Lesson Plan Book (2018)”

Whiteboard Fun (2017)

Last week somehow a regular, water based marker ended up on the ledge of one of our whiteboards. I’ve heard tragic whiteboard stories from my own kids over the years about permanent markers being used on whiteboards and ruining them so I immediately panicked. My kids had told me that if you go over the marker in dry erase marker it will come off. I did that. Nothing. Oh dear. Then we thought to try water. Gone. “Oh yes, the marker wasn’t PERMANENT, it was just water based.”

After I got home that day I realized this was a happy accident. There are so many times that I’d love to have a problem or problems persist during the day but instead have to write them again for each class period. How could I use this effectively to offer better instruction? Differentiation would be the first use. I had an idea!! Continue reading “Whiteboard Fun (2017)”