Math = Love: Two Cubed Times Three: How a Math Teacher Celebrates Her Birthday

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Two Cubed Times Three: How a Math Teacher Celebrates Her Birthday

Monday, I was blessed with the opportunity to do a rare thing: celebrate my birthday on a school day!  My birthday almost always falls on Thanksgiving Break or the weekend.  So, I can count on one hand the number of times that I've been able to celebrate at school.  This was my first birthday celebration at school as a teacher, and I was pretty excited.

I had been talking up my birthday for weeks.  Well, I guess it was actually more of a lament.  I lamented the fact that my age was no longer going to be a prime number.  In fact, I was going to have to spend the next 1,826 days as a prime number.  There were two typical responses.  Response 1: What is a prime number?  This response was quickly followed by an "I'm so glad you asked!" and a short math lesson.  Alternately, Response 2: You love math way too much.  To this, I just smiled.  It's true.  I do love math.  And, I'm glad my students can see my passion for the subject through my words and actions.

The celebration started a little early on the Friday before my birthday.  I found sweet messages like this one written on my dry erase board.

A sweet birthday wish...

On the morning of my birthday, I changed the date and holiday to match the occasion.
My Mathematical Birthday Celebration

I was quickly informed that my monthly celebration was a tad too restrictive.  Apparently, other people are born in November, too.   After going to the teacher's lounge to make some copies for the day, I returned to find a lovely birthday surprise. 

Birthday Cake!

A birthday cake!  The giver was so sweet and apologetic: "I got you a birthday cake!  They left off the Miss and misspelled your name.  I'm so sorry, but I got you a cake!"

Here's a picture of me and my beautiful, thoughtful cake.  

A student brought me a birthday cake!

See the birthday hat?  I bought it myself.  :)  I went into Family Dollar on Sunday night, and I bought 3 bags of candy and a birthday hat.  The cashier asked, "Are you going to a party tonight?"  I just smiled and said, "Not quite."  The candy was for my students to eat on my birthday.  The birthday hat was for me to wear on my birthday.  I've stopped even trying to explain my random purchases to cashiers.  I've decided that weird looks from cashiers are just a part of being a teacher.  

Soon, I was greeted by two more students bearing another birthday cake!  My students sure know how to make someone feel special!  
Homemade Birthday Cake - Complete with a Math Problem for My Age

See the math problem that equals my age?  I have trained my students well!  :)  And, the decoration above the word "Happy" is a number line.  We've been graphing one variable inequalities, so this was especially fitting.  (Though, I didn't realize it was a number line.  I thought it was one of those markings that you would find on a football.  Of course, it wouldn't make any sense to put that on MY cake.  I didn't figure out it was a number line until the girl who drew it was bragging about the awesome number line she had drawn on my cake to her friends.  Oh, that's what that was.  There weren't any numbers on it, so I couldn't tell.  The longer dash in the middle of the number line was supposed to give it away.  Oops...)  

The second birthday cake also came with a card and a "Birthday Girl" ribbon.  I was pretty excited about this!  

My Birthday Girl Ribbon - I was so proud of this!

A Happy Birthday Card

Of course, the best way to celebrate your birthday is mathematically themed birthday bellwork.  My Algebra 1 students have been working on compound inequalities.  So, they found this problem when they entered my classroom:  Someone who doesn't know Ms. Hagan well enough to know that today is her 24th birthday guesses that she is less than 30 and greater than or equal to 22.  Write this statement as a single inequality, if possible.  Is it an "and" inequality or an "or" inequality?  Then, graph this inequality on a number line.

Algebra 1 - Birthday Bellwork - Compound Inequalities

This problem ended up leading to some great discussion!  Half the class was convinced it was an "or" inequality, and the other half was equally convinced it was an "and" inequality.  It was fun to see them realize that both "and" and "or" could be found in the problem. I love using the highlighters on the Smart Board to graph the intersection of two inequalities.    

We spent the rest of the hour reviewing inequalities for our test the next day.  One of my students decided to make fun of my birthday hat.  "Are you sixteen?  Because that's what sixteen year olds wear on their birthday."  I'm pretty proud of my response.  "Well, the package said "Ages 3 and Up" when I bought it.  Why don't we practice writing this as an inequality?"  

Inequalities to the Rescue!  

And, just so you know, my age is in the solution set for this inequality!  

My Algebra 2 students have been working with radicals.  We've been using the birthday cake method to find the prime factorization of the radicand.  So, their bellwork was to find the prime factorization of my age.  I told them there would be a contest for the most beautiful birthday cake.  My second period Algebra 2 class took this contest very seriously.  My fifth period Algebra 2 class couldn't have cared less.  

Algebra 2 Birthday Bellwork - Prime Factorization
Here are pictures of some of my favorite birthday cakes:

Prime Factorization Birthday Cake

Prime Factorization Birthday Cake

Prime Factorization Birthday Cake
One student didn't exactly follow the instructions.  They just drew me a birthday cake without the prime factorization.  I asked, "Where did the x squared come from?  That isn't a prime factorization."  "Oh, I just thought you wanted us to draw you a cake.  I decided your cake should be decorated with something mathematical."  I guess that works, too.

Another Birthday Cake

One of my 8th graders surprised me with a birthday cupcake!  

A Birthday Cupcake

Me and My Birthday Cupcake!
All in all, it was a fabulous day.  We had fun.  We ate cake.  We did math.  We did lots of math.

And, I can't forget to write about my birthday presents from my family!  They were appropriately themed.  I received an infinity necklace, an infinity scarf, and some awesome math games!  (There were non-mathy things, too.)  I'm so excited to try these out!

Mathematical Birthday Gifts


  1. Happy belated birthday Sarah! It is so obvious how much your students love you. How sweet of them to celebrate your birthday in such a fun way. Have a great Thanksgiving.

    1. And, a belated thanks for the belated birthday wishes! :)

  2. Happy belated birthday!

    I may have just added those math games to my wish list on Amazon. :-)

    1. So far, I've played Swish and Sumoku, and I'd definitely recommend them! Oh, and a belated thanks for the belated birthday wishes! :)

  3. What is the dice game? I have the rest of them. My students love SUMOKU and Equate! I do math intervention with 5th graders also and have them hooked on Sumoku to practice factors/multiples and mental addition. They love it. I use Equate with my 7/8th graders. I love your blogs and the info/documents you share for your INB. I am helping teach 8th math this year and am using a lot of your ideas - I was scared they were "too big" for INB - but they are loving it. We are going into exponent rules next week.