Math = Love: 5 New Things I Tried in my Classroom this Year

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.


  1. How did you create the lesson plan book? What software did you use?

    1. I made it using Publisher. You can check out my files here: