Math = Love

Monday, August 10, 2020

Change of Plans

Well, my Blaugust Challenge isn't exactly going to plan. I did really well and blogged for the first three days of August. Then, life happened. And, now it's August 10th. Oops.

There's been a bit of a change of plans since I last wrote a blog post. In my district, teachers were supposed to report August 6th, and students were to start classes on August 12th. Our student start date has since been pushed back to August 26th. As this change happened just days before we were to report back for PD days, there were some scheduled trainings that couldn't be rescheduled. As a result, it's been an even weirder back to school experience than I expected. But in this case, I think weird is actually good.

August 6th - Teacher PD Day
August 7th - Teacher PD Day

August 8th - 23rd - SUMMER BREAK CONTINUES

August 24th - Teacher PD Day
August 25th - Teacher PD Day

August 26th - School Starts!

It was really nice to get to catch up with my colleagues, have a few faculty meetings about what to expect for the upcoming school year, and get some much needed tech PD for our Edgenuity adoption. Now, we have two weeks off to digest all the new information, play around with the new technology, and wrap our head around the fact that we'll be starting back to school soon face-to-face.

When we do start back, we'll ease back into things with two more days of PD to discuss changes/specifics/new issues that have arose. Honestly, I could get used to doing something like this every year.

Today has been a day of important but not very noteworthy back to school prep.

My kiddo had an eye doctor appointment. I was relieved to be able to get this out of the way before school started. Thankfully, everything seems to be normal so far. I didn't get glasses until 8th grade, but I should have got them much sooner. My eyes have drastically different prescriptions which meant my brain trained itself to just use my good eye all the time, so no one ever realized that I needed glasses. We're trying to stay on top of things with the toddler, so it was a relief to hear that everything seems good so far.

I succeeded at buying a few more clothes. Let's just say my post-baby body and my pre-baby body are not the same. I got rid of a lot of stuff that didn't fit quite right anymore, and I've just recently started trying to fill in the missing pieces before school starts back up. It's not the easiest thing to do in the middle of a pandemic.

I also did a bit of baking that will hopefully make the start of the school year a bit smoother. I made a batch of blackberry muffins to put in the freezer. I wrap them individually in cling wrap, and they are perfect to toss in my lunch box for a quick snack during the day at school. I baked and froze a batch of banana bread muffins a couple of weeks ago, so I should be well stocked in the muffin department for awhile.

I also mixed up chocolate chip cookie dough to put in the freezer. This means fresh baked cookies during the school year when I have no time or energy to bake.

I bought freezer labels a few weeks ago on Amazon (affiliate link), and I'm obsessed with labeleling EVERYTHING. The labels come off my rubbermaid containers without leaving any residue. And, I no longer have to wonder what's inside all my containers in the fridge and freezer OR how long it's been in there. I may or may not have been inspired by seeing all of the labeled containers inside the home kitchens of the Bon Appetit test kitchen employees earlier this summer before all the controversy happened.

One of my summer projects has been to organize my recipe binder. I've been keeping my tried and true recipes in a binder for almost two years now. Now, they are actually broken into categories that are labeled and have tabs.

Whenever I try a new recipe from a cookbook or the internet, I type it up in a template I made on my computer. I make sure I put the original source of the recipe so I know where things came from. Then, I print it out and place it in a sheet protector in the appropriate section of my recipe binder. I make notes on the recipe about how things turned out, things to do differently next time, or substitutions I tried. For example, I learned the hard way once when I substituted the brown sugar in my chocolate chip cookie recipe with white sugar on accident.

I like that I will be able to easily print all the recipes again to create almost a family recipe book of sorts to share with others or pass down to my kiddo in twenty years or so.

Okay, I guess that's enough rambling about baking and recipes and stuff that most of you probably don't care about at all. I better get off here anyway so I can tend to the buzzing dryer in the laundry room and the cranky toddler who is expecting dinner in the near future.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Shifting my Perspective

I started writing this as a blog post about how I've been working on cultivating healthy and productive habits in my life since school shut down in March. It turned into a rambling reflection on my morning walk and what I can take away from it and apply to the upcoming school year. While it's not exactly what I was going for, I guess it still means I have a blog post idea for tomorrow which will be Day 4 of the MTBoS Blaugust Blogging Challenge.

This morning I did NOT want to go for a walk. I wasn't feeling the greatest, but I'll spare you the details. Shaun even suggested at one point amidst my complaints about not feeling the best that I could go back to bed. My response? "But I already have my shoes on." Yes, I can be stubborn like that.

I convinced myself that I would just walk around the block a single time instead of my normal 1 mile loop of late. The weather was gorgeous, and our kiddo is always super calm (a stark difference from his constant energy the rest of the day) in the stroller. By the time I had made it to the stop sign at the end of our street, I decided that I might as well do my usual walking route. I was slow. Very slow. But, I did it. And at the end of the route, I decided to push myself a bit by tacking on that extra loop around the block that I'd originally set out to complete when I left the house.

Now, I am most definitely not an athlete. My crowning athletic achievement in life is running for twenty minutes without stopping once in the fifth grade. I wasn't athletic back then, either; I just wanted to impress my PE teacher. Yes, I was a teacher's pet, even in PE class. My gym teacher must not have acknowledged my efforts as much as I had hoped for back then. We did the twenty minute run once per quarter, and I ran less and less each time before giving up. If we were caught (gasp) walking during those twenty minutes, we had to sit in the middle of the gymnasium and watch all of the remaining runners finish.

Okay. Enough middle school memory sharing. As I finished my walk, Runkeeper proudly told me that this was my 15th fastest time. Super impressive, right? Maybe it would be if I'd used Runkeeper 50, 100, or 1000 times. Nope. I just checked. I've logged 19 activities. So, 15th fastest is really the same as saying "Almost your slowest time ever, Sarah!"

After I was back in the house and cleaned up, I went to check my email. Runkeeper was congratulating me on setting a new personal record. Wait...that doesn't make sense. I opened the email to see that I had set a record for farthest distance and longest duration. Why hadn't the app congratulated me about these accomplishments earlier when I had finished instead of applauding my "15th fastest time?"

So, why am I rambling on and on about my morning walk? And, what does this have to do with teaching math? I think there are definitely applications.

The app is built for runners. Athletes. Competitive people who are constantly pushing themselves to be better and faster.

I'm not a runner. I'm not an athlete. I'm just a mom of a toddler who is trying to get healthier. If you look at my speed today, I was a failure. I'm choosing to see myself as a winner instead. I won today when I got out of the house and told myself I was going to walk even if I stopped after a loop around the block. I won today when I got out of bed and put my running shoes on. I won today when I took literal steps toward building this habit of a healthy lifestyle.

I can't fault the app too much. In fact, I'm guilty of being stuck in a single mindset when it comes to thinking about back to school. I don't think it's fully set in that I go back to work this week. I don't think it's set in that I will have students in my classroom next week.

That amount of actual planning I have done is abysmal because I keep getting hung up on the fact that school will look so different. I'll be teaching face to face, but that will only last until students and staff start testing positive for COVID-19.

For the past two years, I've made it a goal of mine each year to increase the number of hands-on/interactive activities that I do with my students. I highlight them in my lesson plan book in a certain color so at a glance I can see how well of a job I am doing engaging my students.

This has been my focus. It's how I grade myself when I think about whether I'm doing a good job in the classroom or not. For me, I'm an effective math teacher when my students are engaged with hands-on, minds-on activities. And while that phrase could describe a wide range of tasks, I have a very specific style of tasks that I have specialized in, My filing cabinets are full of laminated activities, dry erase activities, craft supplies, and manipulatives.

This year, those are a no go. Kids sitting in groups. Kids leaning in to look at the same set of laminated cards. Kids touching and manipulating the cards together to complete a matching task. Kids sharing a large dry erase board and a handful of markers. Kids coming up to my desk to get their group's work checked. Kids high fiving with excitement when they finally solve a tough problem. What I would have once described as an ideal day in my classroom now describes an ideal setting to spread COVID-19.

Just as I redefined my morning walk as a "win," I need to redefine what counts as a win in my classroom. This year, I won't be highlighting hands-on activities in my lesson plan book. To be honest, I'm not sure what I'll be highlighting. I think the best back to school prep I can do over the course of this new week is to shift my thinking and redefine what a winning day in my face-to-face classroom (or virtual classroom) will look like.

If you've put up with my rambling this for this long, I'm impressed. I present to you one imaginary gold star. I'll be back again tomorrow (with hopefully less rambling) to continue the Blaugust Challenge.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

8 Sticks Puzzle - Printable Version and Google Slides Version

Yesterday, I bemoaned the loss of my classroom puzzle corner. I've been trying to come up with some ways to keep incorporating puzzles in my classroom in a pandemic-friendly manner. My favorite puzzles are the ones with pieces that students can manipulate. This leaves me two options. I can shift to posting puzzles in my classroom that can be solved using only your mind. Alternatively, I can try to create virtual puzzles. I'm not thrilled with either path, but I think either of these options is better than no puzzles at all.

Yesterday, Elizabeth Provencal tweeted me to ask if she could recreate my Factoring Monic Quadratics Activity in Google Slides. Of course, I agreed.

When she tweeted the results, I was intrigued by the fact that her Google Slides link automatically created a copy in the user's google drive folder. Check it out yourself here. I started to think that this would be a useful thing to be able to do if I recreated some of my puzzles in Google Slides.

Earlier this summer, I did manage to make one new puzzle for my classroom before realizing that there was no way I would be teaching in a classroom where my typical style of puzzles would be allowed any time soon.

The Eight Sticks Puzzle is from Amusement in Mathematics by Henry Ernest Dudeney. The book is available for free through Project Gutenberg.

The puzzle: Arrange all eight sticks (four of them being exactly half the length of the others) to form three squares, all of the same size. The sticks may overlap, but there must be no loose ends hanging out.

Originally, it was worded "Arrange the eight sticks," but my husband tried solving the puzzle with only six of the sticks. So I changed the wording to "all eight sticks" to emphasize to students that they needed to use ALL the sticks.

To make my classroom version which I can't use, I just took a letter sized piece of paper and cut it up with my paper chopper.

With the paper in landscape orientation, I cut 6 one inch strips.

Then, I cut two of those one inch strips in half. This left me with eight sticks (four of them being exactly half the length of the others).

I will say this wasn't the easiest thing to do with only one hand since I was still in a cast from my hand surgery at this point in the summer.

I took the resulting eight strips of paper and placed them in a laminating sheet.

Then, I ran them through my trusty Scotch laminator (only $20 from Walmart!) before cutting them apart.

If school ever returns to normal, I plan on putting magnets on the back of the sticks so students can manipulate them easily. In the mean time, I guess I'll be trying to figure out how to incorporate my new Google Slides version of this puzzle. I'm not sure how effective it will be when used with students because I've never tried using anything like this with students.

And, honestly, I'm still not sure how to use it with students. With my magnetic puzzles, I never promoted them to students. They just noticed them on the wall and were instantly drawn in. With a puzzle on Google Slides, I have to be a bit more involved in getting students involved. Maybe I just post a link in Google Classroom on Mondays and see who bites? This is totally new territory for me. I welcome any and all ideas!

After some googling, I learned how to share a link to the puzzle that forces each user to make a copy to their own google drive. It turns out it's as easy as a quick edit to the URL that google gives you to share with others. Maybe everyone else already knows about this trick, but in case you're like me and didn't know how to share a document that always creates a new copy, here are the instructions.

Here's the link to download your own copy of my Google Slides version of the 8 Sticks Puzzle. Want a download of the original instructions? You can download them here.

Now, I'm off to add my second sticker to my Blaugust Blogging Challenge Calendar. See you back here tomorrow with more thoughts about this upcoming crazy school year.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust: Challenge Accepted

When I saw @druinok's tweet about her yearly #MTBoSBlaugust challenge this morning, I did a bit of a double take. August? How in the world is it August?!? Of course it is August. I had a doctor's appointment yesterday on July 31st. It naturally follows that today is August 1st, but I would say that I'm probably not alone in thinking that it doesn't really feel like the beginning of August. This pandemic has thrown off so many things, and one of the first to go was the sense of time passing normally.

Normally, August 1st means kicking my back to school prep into high gear. This year, I just don't feel like it. I won't be spending much time in my classroom before our professional development days start up. As a result of the pandemic, we're reporting back in person two days earlier than planned to allow for extra professional development and training to help us prepare for this very weird school year that is soon to start. On August 6th, I'll be back at work. To be honest, it hasn't really sunk in yet.

I haven't designed any new posters for my classroom this year. Instead, all the decorating I have planned is to rehang the handful of posters that have fallen down since March. Usually, I eagerly take down my posters at the end of each school year as I start to dream about the new decorations I will make over the summer. Not this year. When students report to my classroom on August 12th, they will see a room that looks very much like last year's classroom. And, that's okay. (In case you're curious, my district's current plan is to have students receiving face-to-face instruction four days a week.)

I won't be carting boxes of newly laminated puzzles to school that I spent hours making this summer. If students aren't allowed to share a tub of colored pencils, they shouldn't also be touching the same puzzle pieces. The same goes for all my go-to math activities involving laminated cards. Back in May when I got to close out my classroom for the summer, I brought home my laminator and a heap of colored paper so I could start making new activities for the fall. That obviously didn't happen. The paper is still sitting in the floor of our guest bedroom, and I'm not excited about the prospect of carting reams and reams of paper back to school.

I never dreamed back in May that our virus numbers would be so much worse now. I used to be shocked when there were 100 new cases in Oklahoma on any given day. Now, we're excited when the number is under 1000.

I've spent the last 8 years in the classroom figuring out exactly who I am as a teacher. I'm the teacher with the super decorated math classroom. I'm the teacher with the puzzle corner. I'm the teacher with hands-on activities. I'm the teacher who loves coming up with creative ways to take notes. And, all of a sudden, these things that define me as a teacher have been violently yanked away. I'm worried that I don't know how to get kids excited about learning math without hands-on activities, groupwork, games, and puzzles.

Before I get to feeling too sorry for myself, I have to remind myself to keep things in perspective. I am blessed. I'm not fighting for my life in a hospital COVID unit right now. I have a job. I'm not worrying about how I'm going to feed my family right now. I am not alone in these feelings or these new circumstances. Twitter is full of amazing educators who are in the midst of figuring out all this stuff right now.

I saw someone post an image the other day that asked people to be patient with the schools this year because we are all first-year teachers this year. And, wow, do I feel like a first year teacher! I mentioned in my last post about my hand surgery that I was hoping to get back to blogging more. I can't thing of a better way to get back to blogging and get back to feeling excited about this job that I really do love than to participate in the #MTBoSBlaugust Challenge.

If you want to join in and commit to blogging more this August, I thought I would share a free printable (Link to Download) I made to add to my planner to track my blog posts this month. My personal goal is to write a new blog post every day. Don't expect super polished posts of amazing, tried and true resources. These are very much going to be just me processing the world around and sharing what I'm learning. I added a space for you to write in your own goal. Maybe you want to just post once a week? Or maybe a goal of 5 or 10 blog posts? Make this challenge what YOU need. I look forward to following along with your posts no matter how often you choose to post! Just be sure to tweet them out with the #MTBoSBlaugust hash tag so I can find them.

I cheated a bit and added my sticker for today's blog post before ever writing this post just so I could take a picture of the calendar for this blog post. I know it's probably cheesy, but I actually get really motivated by things as simple as getting to pick out a sticker to reward myself for a task. It also gives me an excuse to use up a bunch of random cheap stickers I bought a few years ago when I tried out a Passion Planner.

So, here's to a month of rambling blog posts while I try to rediscover in my passion for teaching math and my teacher identity in this world of pandemic teaching. I hope you'll join me!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Life Lately...

Hi there, strangers. It feels like it's been FOREVER. Life has been a bit on the crazy side, and it seems like blogging is the first thing to go when life loses a sense of normalcy. And, we all know that life hasn't been normal for quite some time now. 

So, other than the fact that we're in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, what's been making life so crazy? It's a long story, and it all starts with cake. I present to you the world's most expensive birthday cake.

When my husband requested sponge cake with jam and whipped cream for his birthday, I was happy to oblige. I love baking, and I was excited to try a new recipe. Instead of turning into the highlight of the day, the cake led to the worst birthday ever after I managed to break my finger after getting it a bit too close to the beaters on the hand mixer. Nothing quite says happy birthday like having to finish assembling and decorating your own birthday cake because your wife has broken her finger... 

It was the type of accident that shouldn't have been a big deal. I felt so silly. How does a person break a bone making a birthday cake? A trip to urgent care the next day showed that my finger wasn't just broken. The bone was shattered. A visit to the orthopedic surgeon revealed that I had not only a broken finger requiring surgery but also an enchondroma, a (most likely) benign bone tumor. The bone tumor had been eating away at my bone and had weakened it so much that the incident with the beaters that should probably have just left me with a bad bruise had left me with a shattered finger. The nurse practitioner told me during my follow-up that my bone had turned to jelly where the tumor was. Gross... 

And, that's the story of how I ended up getting to experience not only my first broken bone but also my first surgery and first experience with anesthesia. Surgery went well, but the recovery was rougher than I expected with some weird side effects that lingered a few more days than I expected. I had to have a pin placed in my finger to stabilize all the tiny bone fragments. This wasn't too bad in and of itself. What was really inconvenient was being told by my doctor that I wasn't allowed to spend any time outside for the next month. Under no circumstances could I do anything where there was the risk of getting sweaty. This is not the thing you want to hear in June in Oklahoma. 

I owe a great amount of thanks to my super amazing husband who stepped up and did all the diaper changes, all the bath times, and all the toddler outfit changes for an entire month while I was pretty useless with my arm in a cast. Three splints, one surgery, and two casts later, life is now starting to return to normal. I'm currently in hand therapy twice a week. I kinda underestimated just how hard it would be to move my finger following surgery and a month of not moving inside of a cast. 

It's been interesting to see the various ways that math pops up in physical therapy. For example, at my first therapy appointment, they measured the amount of movement in my ring finger at 30 degrees. A week later, I had improved that number to 80 degrees. I'm always telling my students how much math is in the real world, but I sometimes forget what that actually looks like myself since the math I encounter on a daily basis is much more of a traditional textbook nature. 

Now that school is starting back soon, you can plan on seeing me around much more on this blog and twitter. In my district, teachers return August 6th and students on August 12th. Here's to starting the craziest year yet of my teaching career. Hopefully it won't involve any more broken bones...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Square in Square Puzzle

When looking through my camera roll, I recently found some pictures of a weekly magnetic puzzle that never made it up on the blog this school year. Imagine that...

The puzzle is called Square-in-Square, and it's a creation of the brilliant Peter Grabarchuk (affiliate link).

You are given sixteen rectangles. Among these rectangles, only two can be placed next to one another to form a perfect square with another perfect square depicted on it. Can you find the two pieces? Or will you be tricked by the fourteen imposter pieces?

At the time I discovered this puzzle and typed it up for my classroom, it was available on, one of my favorite online sources for puzzles. That website has since been bought out by a jigsaw puzzle company and turned into a website that redirects you to Amazon to sell you jigsaw puzzles. Thanks to Internet Archive, there is an archived version of the website I can point you to now. Want to browse the other free printable puzzles that used to be available, here's an archived link to the general collection of puzzles that used to be available.

The only flaw I've found with using this puzzle both with a group of teachers at a presentation I gave last summer and with the students in my own classroom is that people don't read the instructions carefully enough. I've had multiple people try and pair up ALL the pieces instead of finding only the two pieces that actually pair up to form a perfect square in a square.

Want the printable version I typed up for my own classroom? You can download it here.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

5 New Things I Tried in my Classroom this Year

Every year I try what feels like a million new things in my classroom. Some are life changing. Others are just meh. I end up doing them one year and decide they weren't worth the effort/upkeep. Part of the problem of having a blog is that I often blog about all these ideas before I really know if they are classroom gamechangers or stupid ideas that turn out to be very impractical in the classroom. I frequently receive blog comments asking about something I blogged about during my first year of teaching that I haven't done first year of teaching. I don't really know how to respond to these comments because this idea that the person is so excited about is to me a dud. 

As I reflect back on this very weird school year, it got me thinking about which of the new ideas I tried that were worth keeping. So, I present to you: 5 New Things I Tried This Year (and am still excited about!) 


One of my most-used new classroom tools this year was a cube timer (affiliate link). I bought mine on clearance at Mardels, but you can find lots of different brands of them on Amazon with different time amounts that will hopefully match how you plan on using it in the classroom. So, how does it work. Flip the cube so that the time facing up is the amount of time that you would like to set a timer for. A timer will automatically start. When the timer goes off, just flip the cube so the blank side is facing up again.

I did ACT practice as daily bellwork this year (something I definitely still need to blog about). On the ACT, students are given 60 minutes to complete 60 math problems. So I wanted to give my students practice trying to spend no more than 60 seconds on each day's bellwork. It was so easy to flip the timer cube at the beginning of each hour. I know I was way more consistent in timing my students this way than if I had tried to use my cell phone timer. Fun Fact: the timer cube I purchased was marketed towards people doing high intensity workouts. Ha ha ha. That's definitely not me.


My students LOVED the math joke of the week that I added to my classroom this year. Students would tell me how much they looked forward to coming into class on Mondays because it meant seeing a new joke. One student would wait for students to come into class, force them to read the math joke of the week, and then raise the flap with great fanfare. Still others would remind me when I had forgotten to change the joke out that week. Whenever they did this, I would give them the binder full of jokes (all of them already in sheet protectors to make the switch-out easy) and let them pick the next week's joke. This felt like such a privilege. They would flip through the jokes, laughing at each one, until they found the perfect joke.

This will definitely be an ongoing thing in my classroom going forward.


My mom found a book binding machine (affiliate link) at a thrift store about two years ago that I currently have borrowed. I used it this past summer to create a custom lesson plan book. It was completely worth the time and effort I put into making it if you ignore the fact that I only got to use 3/4 of the pages due to school shutting down for COVID-19.

The year before this past year, I used a planner I picked up at Big Lots as a lesson planner. It worked, but I got tired of writing in my subject names at the beginning of each week.

Last summer rolled around, and I decided I could make my own and have the subjects written in for the entire year. On top of that, I could customize it for our school calendar and mark out the days that we were out of school or had professional development.

As the year progresses, I highlight hands-on/minds-on activities in yellow. This helps me to keep my pulse on when I've gotten into a rut of just doing notes/homework/repeat. I highlight all my assessments in blue. 

When I showed my principal my lesson plan book during my last observation, he was surprised that it was only filled in up to the current day. I guess this is more of a lesson record book than a lesson planning book. My planning tends to occur on notebook paper and a ton of post-it notes. I use this book as a reference of what we did each day so that when a student comes and says they haven't been here in two weeks, I can figure out exactly what they missed.


Another thing I'm really glad I did this past year was use the binding machine to create a bound copy of the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Math. This was most useful when I found myself in meetings. It was so handy to be able to actually pull out the standards when questions came up instead of just talking about what we thought was in the standards.

I recently closed out my classroom for the summer, and I made sure that I brought home my printed/bound standards book. I'd recommend creating a nice printed copy of your standards to every classroom teacher who hasn't already done so.


I know that there is nothing new at all about this idea. But somehow it took 8 years of teaching to finally get around to creating a Weekly Agenda.

My students did regularly reference the board, and it will definitely be something I continue to keep doing in the future. I think I'll be making magnets for things such as Quiz Days, Notebook Checks, etc. on bright colorful paper so that they stand out more on the Agenda.