Math = Love: Math Lessons in the Making

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Math Lessons in the Making

This summer, I've been scouring thrift stores and yard sales for stuff.  Not just any kind of stuff, but the type of stuff that can make math come alive.  The only problem is that I don't know what that stuff is until I see it.  It started when I asked my mom to keep an eye out for Barbie dolls when she stopped by a certain thrift store.  I've read so much about the Barbie Bungee activity on other blogs.  I decided it is a must-do with my Algebra 1 students next year.  The only problem is, I didn't own any Barbies. 

I didn't stop at just buying Barbies.  I'm a very visual person, so here's pictures of my "stuff."  I already know how I'm going to incorporate some of it into my classroom, but I'm still waiting for inspiration on how to use others.  So, if you have any great ideas on how to use this stuff to help my students experience the power and beauty of math, please share!  And, are there any other unconventional teaching tools that you think every math teacher should have in their classroom?  

I picked up this Guess Who? Game at the thrift store.  I've got plans to repurpose it into a "Guess My Equation" game.  Instead of asking if the person is wearing a hat or glasses, one student will ask another, "Is your equation in point-slope form?"  "Does your equation have a positive slope?"   

My sister actually made these in her elementary art education class this semester.  I don't know what it is about these, but I just think "math" when I see them.  These will definitely be finding a place on my wall in my classroom.  Last year, I hung up some geometric string art that my sister had done, and it was a big hit. 

Oatmeal Cans.  I don't have plans for these *yet.*  If I was teaching geometry, these would definitely be making an appearance when we talked about the surface area of a cylinder.  But, I'm teaching algebra instead.  Hmm...

Aren't these the cutest little container tubes?  I don't know what they're from, but I picked 20 of them up at a moving sale for $2.00.  I'm planning on making some self-checking activities for my students to use as remediation or extra practice if they finish early.  And, I think these cute containers will work perfectly to keep these activities organized. 

Bingo Chips.  I bought red and yellow bingo chips last year to use to model adding and subtracting integers.  I'm excited to see if there are any other ways I can use bingo chips in my classroom. 

I picked up this Katamino game at a garage sale for $2.00.  It's brand new and still wrapped in the plastic.  I had my first experience with pentominoes in the second grade, and I've loved them ever since.  I plan on keeping this in my classroom for early-finishers or those crazy days where everybody is gone except two people. 

Playing Cards.  I've seen tons of math ideas using playing cards.  I can't wait to try out a few with my students!

Slinkies.  If these will successfully travel down the stairs at my school, I can see myself challenging my students to write a linear equation that models the height of the slinky at time t. 

These lovely ladies will be participating in our First Annual Barbie Bungee Competition. 

These men may also be participating in the bungee jumping festivities.  My dad told me that I needed to give the boys a more manly option.  I found these at a garage sale for 25 cents each. 

This isn't a math lesson, but I'm excited that I will have a trash can behind my desk next year.  Last year, my classroom only had one trash can, and it was as far away from my desk as possible.  I guess I could make this into a math problem by asking my students to estimate how much less distance I will cover in year if I don't have to walk across the room to throw something away. 

I couldn't resist picking up this light-up hula hoop for a dime.  This will definitely be making an appearance in my Algebra 1 class' unit on ratios and proportions.  Now, I just need to find a couple more hula hoops so I can make it into a group challenge. 

I found this bucket of 30 sets of Tangrams on Amazon for $9.00.  These will be used for early finishers.  Or maybe, I could plan a day of math Olympics where students compete to complete various math-related games. 

I saw a post on pinterest that said these foam rollers can be used as mini dry erase erasers if you take out the plastic part.  My students are in desperate need of new erasers for their dry erase boards, so I'm looking forward to trying these out to see if they work. 

My mom picked up this globe for my classroom.  I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with this yet, but it will look pretty cool setting on top of my pi filing cabinet until I come up with an idea. 


  1. In one of the classrooms that I subbed in, they simply used athletic socks to erase their boards. Also the marker can be stored in the sock. If you put out there that you are looking for socks that have lost their match, I'm sure you would score a bunch.

  2. Nancy in IndianaMay 29, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Our school uses socks as dry erase board erasers, too. Some teachers buy a cheap pack or two at the beginning of the year, and others ask families to send in any unmatched socks from home.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I love Guess Who! And I love your idea to re- purpose idea too.
    You've inspired me to take out my goodies and photograph them and post. Check 'em out!


  4. I also bought Guess Who with the intention of re-doing the cards. Maybe that can be my project for the afternoon since the game has been languishing in my closet for months. I'd almost forgotten about it! I made a version about linear inequalities several years ago just using file folders as boards and my students have great mathematical discussions when they play it.

    I think the tubes might be from M&M minis. They'd be great for holding those bingo chips, too.

  5. LOVE your blog! You could find the diameter of the earth (Fermi style estimation) and use the globe as a prop to use when explaining:

    1. Thanks, Danielle! That looks like it would make a fun lesson!

  6. I believe the container tubes were for pogs and slammers...