Math Talks and the World’s Cutest Table Tents

Tuesday morning I checked my class sizes to discover that they are at 35, 30, 33, 39, 39, and 37.  And I had a minor melt-down.  I quite literally spent some time curled in the fetal position on the floor of a coworker’s classroom. And then I spent some time crying in the admin’s office.  I love my administrators and my counselors.  They are going to be spending hours getting this worked out this week to see if they can make my class sizes balance more with what the other 8th grade math teachers have.  There’s a few reasons why mine are higher, mostly having to do with Honors math.  But I won’t get into that because it’s a bit of a touchy subject and I’m doing my best to not complain too much about all of this.  So, complaining done.

(Update 8/31/2014: School started last week, with all of the excitement and exhaustion that entails.  My classes have settled down into sizes of 37, 32, 33, 37, 36, 33.  Thirty-seven math students isn’t ideal but is manageable. Is the prime-ness of 37 what makes it feel so much larger than 36? I really can’t complain, though, because they are all great kids!)

Math Talks

What I really want to talk about is something new I’m going to try that I’m excited about. I’m totally revamping how I do warmups this year.  Each day will have a specific activity that we do, but each day will also be different.  The common theme among all of them (except Friday Frizzles) is that they are all math talks.  Fawn Nguyen gives a great explanation here of how to do math talks.  I plan to follow her basic format for my Tuesday and Thursday warmups.

Monday: Talking Points (read more here)

Tuesday: Visual Patterns

Wednesday: Classroom Circles (read about restorative classroom practices here)

Thursday: Would You Rather

Friday:  Friday Frizzles (a standards-based quiz; students get to nominate the learning goals to be on each quiz and I’ll choose a couple too).

So why the change? My students come into my classroom talking.  One of my pet peeves has always been figuring out how to get my students to stop talking and do their warm-up.  The crazy thing about that, is that I want them to be talking – talking about math.  Rather than continue to wage this losing battle, I’m going to see if I can channel this energy to work for me. I’ll let you know how that works.

The World’s Cutest Table Tents

Another big change that I’ve talked about before is having my students change groups at least weekly.  These groupings will created randomly either by having students draw a card as they walk into class or by using Instant Classroom. When students walk in and are assigned to group 3, I want them to know exactly where table three is without asking me.  My thought was to make table tents (like a name-tent).  So, today I invited a couple of the young women that I work with at church to come help me in my classroom.

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Attacking my giant stack of papers to be cut.

Arranging my new 'bulletin board' display, (courtesy of Math Equals Love and Everybody is a Genius).

Arranging my new ‘bulletin board’ display, (courtesy of Math Equals Love and Everybody is a Genius).

My favorite thing, though, was when I gave Julia the task of creating the table tents.  Here’s what she came up with

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I don’t know if this picture fully does justice to their cuteness?  Do they seem a little Japanese to you? Yep, that’s because Julia is half Japanese and lived in Japan until very recently.  I’m so stinkin’ excited about my table tents!  They don’t stand up very well, but I don’t care because it’s more important to me to be able to store them flat. They’re so cute! I especially love the picture of ‘Nessie’.  The girls thought that I’d better be sure to put some manly boys in the #3 Bumble Bee group.

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