Archive for June, 2015

This past month I have been working summer school. I did a project that I have done before (find the other reflection here). Last time I incorporated all subjects in 3.5 hours a day for 2 weeks. This time I had a little under 2 hours/day for 4 weeks. It sure does make a difference on how I taught everything.

Using Tiny Tower App was again a hit. Students really enjoy playing the game and discussing why they are building the floors that they have. Allowing students to just explore the game and build, they learn what helps them make more coins or bucks. Once they figure it out, they start sharing with their friends. I don’t have to tell them anything except to follow the directions to get started. After that, they are free to play and share with each other. Throughout the month I had them keep track of how many floors and residents that they had each day and then we created graphs at the end of the month to compare their towers. There are many other activities you can do, bur this is what I had time for this month.

During the building of the popsicle stick towers, students were in groups and each group was given a budget of $1,000. At the beginning of the month, we had the following prices.

  • bundle of 50 regular sticks — $100
  • bundle of 10 regular sticks — $15
  • bundle of 10 large sticks — $25
  • (salad dressing) cup of glue — $40
  • glue stick — $25

Many students worked day to day with the warning that prices could change. After a couple of days, students were paid based off of how well they completed other activities in class. (We had workbooks to work through with different math topics) Prices also were changing at the store. Prices changed based off of supply and demand. It helped them to understand that sometimes planning ahead helps. Toward the end of the month, the prices were going up. There were a couple of groups who talked and were not quite to the required minimum height of 10 inches.

The last time I did this project, I told students to research on the iPad before they began building. This time I just told them to plan. Just about every group this time used the same method. For next time, I would tell students to turn in their designs and they have to stay with them. I could also tell students that the Lincoln Log style (which every group used this time) would not be allowed. That would get them to be more creative in their designs.

Overall, the month was great I enjoyed watching the students work together, build, tear down (yes, more than one group destroyed part of their tower throughout the month) and be creative.


Math Through Towers

Posted: June 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

Back in 2012, I spent two weeks with students on a Tiny Tower Project. You can find the beginning of the project here, with links to the other posts following.

This year, with a different set of students in a different school, I decided to revisit the project. However, this time we had 4 weeks. On the first three days, students started playing Tiny Tower. They quickly jumped into playing the game and discussing the different floors that they were building.

IMG_4219On the 4th day (Monday, June 8) students chose their groups and began building. Their requirements this year was to have a tower that is at least 10 inches tall, the base at least 36 square inches and the top needed to be flat and at least 16 square inches. They also had a budget of $1,000 to spend. The popsicle sticks were different sizes and sold in different amounts. The prices changed over the month depending on supply and demand. Students also could purchase Elmer’s glue or a glue stick. A few asked if they could bring their own supplies, but they were told that they had to purchase all items from my store. Throughout the month, there were days that students had pay days based off of the work they did outside of the construction process.

They had a competition to build a tower over 14 days. Today was the day that we did the testing. There were three different challenges that we looked at. We also had an overall winner.

  • Who had the tallest tower.
  • Who had the most budget left over
  • Who had the strongest tower.

You can see from the picture how everyone did on the competition. We had one group that did not reach the required height. They did not win any of the challenges, so we didn’t have to make decisions if they should win or not.

Below are the photos of each of the groups with their towers. Then we have the video of all the towers being tested of their strengths. Each book is 4.6 pounds, but we just said they were 5 pounds. Then of course, I built a tower and the last video is of that. Tomorrow I will write my reflection from the project.




Mean Girls (they took three days to come up with a name and then decided on a movie they watched)


Black Dragons


Elmo Street


4 Musketeers (there were 4 at the beginning of the month)


Little Einsteins


Game Builders


Soccer Stars (photo bombed by Andy Ott)


Blue Birds


An Awesome School Year

Posted: June 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

One year ago I was getting settled in my new home of Stillwater, Oklahoma. I didn’t know many people here and I didn’t know the town. I spent the month of June learning how to get around town as well as looking for a job. Toward the end of the month I had a tweet from Enid Public Schools letting me know about math positions that they had open in their district.

Even though Enid is an hour from Stillwater, I took a job not knowing the greatness that was to be.

The crew on the first day of new teacher training.

The crew on the first day of new teacher training.

First, I met the most amazing teachers who I would be working beside. I couldn’t believe how we all got along right away. We were strong and meshed well. We had many ideas and helped each other during the entire school year.

Celebrating the Chrome Book win

Celebrating the Chrome Book win

Even during the beginning of school trainings that we had, we worked together to win an cart of Chrome Books for our building. . . . and boy do we know how to celebrate. We started out strong and we knew how to help students learn.

As the year went along, we came together several times to give students a way to express themselves through their work. Two of the most amazing Literature and Language Arts teachers worked together to have a poetry slam.

This was also the first year that I had students stop using white boards and just write directly on their desks. Students also took over Gus the Emporia State Gorilla’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, allowing them to share what they were learning. We even participated in the Global School Play Day in February. All of this made for a wonderful year!

All of the great staff and memories slowly came to an end as we said goodbye to our students in May. It’s never easy saying

End of the year.

End of the year.

goodbye to your kids at the end of a school year. Which is part of the reason why it was a difficult decision to take another job.

I have accepted a 7th grade math position with Stillwater School for the fall. I am excited about teaching in the town that I live in and become more of a part of the community here in the time to come.

I will dearly miss all the staff and students at Longfellow Middle School and in Enid Public Schools, but I know that great things will continue to happen with the great staff and leadership that is in the building.

A Mathematics Book Study

Posted: June 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

brain:mathematicsThis past winter, I led a book study on the NCTM book Principles to Actions. Since then, I’ve been reading How the Brain Learns Mathematics by David A. Sousa. I enjoyed the book so much that I blogged about it here. I also have heard from several math educators that they would like to do another book study . . . so here we are.

I’m thinking that this book would be a great way to visit with others and dive into some more mathematic talks. I’m thinking about having 5 meetings via Google Hangout. Since it is summer, I think that I could do things a little different for a few of the chapters.

Here are the dates that I think would be great to meet to discuss the book. (Please fill out the form below if you are interested.)

  • Tuesday, June 30 – 8:00 pm CDT – Chapter 1: Developing Number Sense and Chapter 2: Learning to Calculate (33 pages)
  • Tuesday, July 14 – 8:00 pm CDT – Chapter 3: Reviewing the Elements of Learning (29 pages)
  • Tuesday, July 28 – possible three times for the three chapters covered (as needed by participants)
    • Chapter 4: Teaching Mathematics to the Preschool and Kindergarten Brain (19 pages)
    • Chapter 5: Teaching Mathematics to the Preadolescent Brain (31 pages)
    • Chapter 6: Teaching Mathematics to the Adolescent Brain (30 pages)
  • Tuesday, August 11 – 8:00 pm CDT – Chapter 7: Recognizing and Addressing Mathematics Difficulties and Chapter 8: Putting it all Together (55 pages)

If you are interested in participating, please fill out the form below.

Get Their Attention

Posted: June 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

Over the past few months I’ve been reading a book. I saw months because the school year was coming to an end and I was too exhausted to read, however, I did pick the book up again today. The book, How the Brain Learns Mathematics is by David A. Sousa and can be found here.

The book has been very eye opening and has gotten me to thinking about children. Many struggle with some concepts of mathematics, which has some arguing that we are trying to teach higher concepts too early. This book has pointed out to me that the human brain growth is not linear, but is in fact sporadic. What does that mean? Well, it means that students learn at different speeds.

I know that for many of you already knew that. So what can we do to help legislators understand this? Forcing them to take a test. . . . wait, that’s not what this post is about.

Today I started reading chapter 5, “Teaching Mathematics to the Preadolescent Brain”. Why only started? Because it got me thinking.

For those who teach ages 6-12, you know that many things are happening with kids this age. First, you notice that these kids look at their friends to know who they are and how they feel. They are connected to their emotions so much more than anything else. That’s because of the development of the brain. The book explains white matter and gray matter, but I won’t try to explain to you.

Here are some things to consider when teaching math (or any subject really) to students this age:

  • Standing at the front of the room and saying, “Today we are going to learn about . . . ” is going to pull up some fear with some students or get them to turn off because they already know about the topic or really don’t care. Instead, tell a story or capture their interest through their emotions. Remember that these students are on an emotions high, so use it to your advantage!
  • Do you stand at the front of the room and have the students facing the front all the time? Do they tune out. Then one day you play a game and they are really into the activity and participating? Well, it’s because it’s a change! Try change around your classroom on a regular basis. Get students up and out of their seats. When the students become comfortable and don’t see anything change, then they start to get bored. Remember, they look at media when outside of school to stimulate their minds, so yes, we do need to entertain to keep the students’ interests.
  • Lastly, we must make sure that students are getting a great mathematics experience at a young age. If they are not taught the foundations and the reasons why the math works, then students are going to forget the “tricks” and in turn start to turn away from math. Make sure teachers are teaching the WHY and not just the do in math. Need some help understanding the whys? Check out Nix the Tricks by Tina Cardone.

I hope to share more as I continue to read this book. Take the time to understand how kids work and you will see a difference in your classroom.