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Teaching Reflections: Year 9 (2020-2021)

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.

#MTBOS Blaugust

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 trusty Scotch 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. 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!

Free Download of Blaugust 2020 Calendar

Blaugust Calendar (PDF) (755 downloads )

Blaugust Calendar (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (704 downloads )

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.

August 11, 2020 – Change of Plans – An Extended Summer Due to COVID

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, and I’m obsessed with labelling 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.

August 16, 2020 – Back to School Prep – 2020 Pandemic Edition

This year’s back to school prep looks different than normal. If it were a normal school year, I would be spending the last week of summer laminating everything within sight. I would be spending as much time as possible in my classroom. Not this year.

Oh, I’ve got plenty to do. But, I’ve been waiting to find out for sure what I’m teaching this year before I do too much prep. And, I only found out my teaching schedule yesterday. This year I will be teaching 4 hours of Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry, 1 hour of Statistics (non-AP), and 1 hour of Algebra 2 (on-level).

Today’s big accomplishment was printing my lesson plan book for the year. This has been on my list for awhile, but I didn’t want to press print until I actually saw the master schedule. And, I’m glad I waited since the Algebra 2 class was a bit of a surprise. I’m not too worried since it’s a class I’ve taught the previous two years. Though, the strange circumstances of teaching in a pandemic means it will be like starting from scratch this year. I hope to do a bit of tweaking to my lesson plan book soon to make a shareable version in case anyone wants to print a copy for themselves. Be on the lookout for a future post about my lesson plan book!

What else have I been accomplishing lately regarding school?

I’ve decided I want to continue my puzzle of the week tradition. I’ll be switching out my traditional magnetic puzzles with pieces to manipulate with puzzles that can be solved using your brain/pencil and paper. Since I have some students who will be in my classroom for the third year in a row, I want to remind them that the puzzle corner is a bit different now thanks to COVID restrictions. I’ll be cutting apart these no touching signs, laminating them, and hanging them up. One is for the puzzle corner. I’m not sure where I’ll use the other 3. Maybe my dry erase boards which have been used by students in the past???

Our bell schedule is changing this year since we have a traditional day bell schedule and a distance learning day bell schedule. I typed up the bell schedule in a nice font and printed a few copies on orange card stock.

I’ve been doing a bit of back to school shopping. I decided to trade in my traditional teacher tote bag from the last couple of years for a backpack. It will be interesting to see how I like it.

I also picked up a couple of new water bottles at Tuesday Morning while I was waiting on my new glasses to be ready at the eye doctor earlier this week. In the past, I’ve used plastic cups with straws that stick out the top to drink from in my classroom. The thought of COVID-19 flying through the air of my classroom has me too nervous to drink from a straw that has been exposed to classroom air all day long. So, I picked up these bottles which have a cover for the drinking spout which can be easily opened/closed without touching the spout. I never thought I would have so many crazy paranoid thoughts floating through my head while standing in the drink bottle aisle…

I do know that I need to make a real effort to stay hydrated this year. I find that I don’t drink nearly enough when I am wearing a mask.

It’s kinda hard to tell, but I had to turn my supply drawers in my classroom around so students can’t access my class sets of markers, glue, scissors, rulers, calculators, etc. We are not allowed to share any supplies this year, but I don’t exactly have a place to put all my large supply drawers. So I’m hoping that turning them around does the trick. Maybe I will cover the backs of the drawers with paper so students can’t see the contents. Hmmm…

I also did some classroom decluttering and got ride of 5 chairs and two tables from my classroom. We have to have assigned seats this year, so I can’t have students grabbing an extra chair and pulling it up to work with a group or set at the puzzle table. It’s definitely going to be a strange year. But I’m excited to get to teach again. I haven’t taught a proper math lesson since March, and I miss it dearly.

September 12, 2020 – Five Tiny Wins

It’s Friday. I’m not really sure what day it actually feels like, but it definitely doesn’t feel like a Friday. At the same time, I’m sooooooooooo thankful it is Friday because I’m experiencing a level of teacher exhaustion that I didn’t really know existed. Seriously, I don’t think I was this tired last year when I had a crying newborn who woke me up a million times a night.   Teaching math in the midst of a pandemic is definitely not for the faint of heart. Today I want to take a chance to focus on some tiny wins from the last couple of weeks. 

Win # 1: (More) Organized Baking Supplies

After thinking that I should label all my containers for years, I finally did it. I also splurged and bought a few new small containers to match the rest of my modular rubbermaid containers. So far, I’m using one for baking soda and one for salt. I’m not sure what to use the other two for yet, but it makes my heart happy that all the containers come up to the same height now.

The labels aren’t pinterest-worthy or anything, but because I used freezer labels I can easily change out the labels if the contents change without any sticky residue left behind. And, now when I have people over and they want to help out in the kitchen they don’t have to guess which container is flour and which is powdered sugar…

Win #2: A Welcome Back Card

Inconveniently, I had to miss the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days of school because my toddler decided to bring home some daycare germs (thankfully not COVID) and infect the entire family. Luckily, my district allowed me to work virtually from home for three of those days which meant I only had to use one sick day. But missing so many days of school right at the beginning of the year was very stressful and not at all ideal. One of my students (who I also taught last year) was so excited when I came back that she made me a little card.     

Win #3: Business Card Pockets

We were each given an Amazon gift card at the beginning of the school year to buy something for our classroom. I used part of mine to purchase business card pockets. I’ll update you guys with pictures when I actually use them, but I’ve got big plans to organize my wall of cabinets in my classroom. My plan is to put an adhesive business card pocket on each cabinet door. Then, I will cut cardstock to business card size. This will let me slide in a label to each business card pocket that says what is stored in that cabinet.

Win #4: Artful Math

My copies of Clarissa Grandi‘s amazing Artful Math books arrived! She graciously sent me a copy of The Artful Math Activity Book and The Artful Math Teacher Book. I already got a digital sneak peek earlier this year, but I’m excited to dive in and make some beautiful math art. Hopefully things start to return to normal soon so I can start incorporating things like this into my classroom once again.    If you haven’t checked out Clarissa’s beautiful website,, stop everything and do it now. You will be blown away by her creativity! Also, you can get a free chapter of her book for joining her mailing list. Keep an eye out here for a full review of these books once I spend some more time making some math art!     

Win #5: Learning to FINALLY use my Crockpot

I’m FINALLY learning to use my crockpot. I’ve had it for years, but I have only ever used it a handful of times. I’ve decided that with all the craziness of this year that I owe it to myself to learn how to use it so I can make life easier on myself. I’ve been scouring recipe books and the internet for easy crockpot recipes. I’m hoping to gain enough confidence that I can start inventing my own recipes, but that’s quite a way off in the future.    I decided to make my first crockpot meal of the school year on the first day of school. I was so paranoid that I would forget to put things in before I left for school, so I ended up setting my recipe binder and the crockpot out on the counter before I went to bed the night before. It worked! It was such a nice feeling to walk in our house after a long first day of school and smell dinner cooking away. I still had to boil a pot of pasta (and honestly – it took all my energy to get off the couch and make that pot of pasta), so I was super thankful that the rest of the meal was taken care of. Being sick threw off my crockpot plans for the past couple of weeks, but I think I’ll try a new recipe this coming week. 

So, those are some of my tiny wins for the last few weeks.

August 21, 2020 – Digital Activities Repository

I’ve been blogging for over nine years now. And, those nine years have been full of resource sharing. Now, it feels like the tables have turned with the pandemic. Instead of me sharing resources with you guys, I keep getting all these emails, DMs, tweets, etc full of links to virtual/digital versions of the activities I’ve blogged about over the years. This has been amazing, but I haven’t done a very good job of organizing all these links. I especially haven’t done a good job of sharing them. As a result, many of you are recreating the same activities over and over. So, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog post to sharing links to these digital versions of activities that have been shared with me. Hopefully this will save you some time and prevent someone from reinventing the wheel over and over again.

Have you digitized one of my activities? Send me a link, and I’ll add it to the post! Mega thanks to everyone who has been creating activities and sharing them. I *think* I included all the links that people sent me. If I missed one of them, please send it again so I can include it.

Question Stacks

Farica Erwin has created a page on her blog that is chock full of digital question stacks. Thank you so much for sharing! Can we just bask in her amazing organization skills as well?!?

While you’re at it, check out her card sorts, too!

Building Polynomials

Liz Mastalio has digitized my Building Polynomials Activity. Check out the digital version of the building and naming polynomials puzzle in Google Slides.

Polynomial Division Using the Box Method

Liz Mastalio has also digitized this activity to help introduce students to the box method. You can download Liz’s digital version on Google Slides.

Twos to Nines Challenges

One of my most popular blog posts is a beginning of school activity I put together a few years ago called the Twos to Nines Challenge.

It has been turned into a Google Slides activity by Meghan Smeenk.

KellyLove shares a slightly different Google Slides version.

Scott McEwen has created Desmos versions of this activity as well. Each challenge is a separate Activity Builder.

Nine Squares Puzzle

Cathy Gloade has been busy at work creating digital versions of a ton of activities. Check out her entire collection including some from other sources here. You can read my original post about this activity here. And, check out Cathy’s Google Slides version.

Jennifer Massey has also created and shared a version of the Nine Squares Puzzle.

Make It Even

Cathy has created a Google Slides version of Make It Even as well. You can find Cathy’s Google Slides version here.

Twelve Envelopes Puzzle

Another popular beginning of year blog post of mine is the Twelve Envelopes Puzzle.

Check out Cathy‘s Google Slides Version.

Scott McEwen shared a Desmos version of the 12 Envelopes Puzzle with me as well. It’s modified from a version created by Nathaniel Highstein.

Sum to Twenty Puzzle

Cathy has also converted my Sum to Twenty Puzzle to a Google Slide Presentation.

Perfect Square Puzzle

Yup. We’re still not done with Cathy’s awesomeness. She has also converted the Perfect Square Puzzle to Google Slides.

That’s Logical Puzzles

I taught a Math Concepts class a few years ago for ninth graders who weren’t ready for Algebra 1. One of my favorite ongoing activities we did was the That’s Logical Puzzles. The book is out of print and hard to find, so I was super excited to see that Megan Ludwinski has made a Google Slides version of the puzzles.

Big Magic Puzzle

Last year, I shared a magic square puzzle called Big Magic. Tricia Stohr-Hunt has turned it into a Google Slides activity for you.

Build It Activity

Blue Crab Math blew my mind when she created a virtual version of Build It!

Check out her Google Slides version here.

5-4-3-2-1 Challenge

I love doing the 5-4-3-2-1 Challenge with dry erase pockets.

Ms. Tish has created a Google Sheets version.

Hidden Animals

So maybe this is cheating because it was already a digital activity. But I thought that it might be of interest to some of you since we are having to do so many things digitally now. Check out my Google Slides version of Frank Tapson’s Hidden Animals here. Students are given a sentence in which they must locate the name of a hidden animal.

8 Sticks Puzzle

I blogged a few weeks ago about a Google Slides version I created for the 8 Sticks Puzzle. You can find it here.

12 Basic Functions Challenge

I created the 12 Basic Functions Challenge to expose my Pre-Calc students to a wide variety of parent functions.

@hypertrig has created a digital version and is willing to share it. I don’t have a shareable link, unfortunately.

Factoring Monic Quadratics Activity

Last year, I created a factoring practice activity where students had to match the factors with the monic quadratics.

Elizabeth Provencal recreated it as a Google Slide Drag and Drop Activity.

Blocko Game

Blocko is one of my absolute favorite games to play with students when teaching probability.

Liz Mastalio created a Google Slides version for students to use as they play along.

Have more? Send them my way!

September 16, 2020 – Goals for the 2020-2021 School Year – PANDEMIC STYLE

Earlier this month, I shared the files and inspiration behind my 2020-2021 lesson plan book. One of my new pages for this year is a goals page. I decided I wanted to pick 5 priorities for this school year and commit them to writing. My plan is that once per month, I will reflect on how I’m doing in regards to my goals and how I can further improve.

goals for the 2020-2021 school year page in teacher lesson plan book

So, what are my goals for 2020-2021?

1. Google Classroom
2. Parent/Student Contact Log
3. Blog Regularly as Reflective Practice
4. Stop Reinventing the Wheel When I Don’t Have To
5. Desmos Computational Layer

I’ll elaborate on each of my goals below.

goals for the 2020-2021 school year page in teacher lesson plan book

Google Classroom

This is my third year using google classroom. Each year, I’ve tried to use it effectively. But if I’m honest, I only really used it to send out assignments when I was unexpectedly absent OR to post answer keys to study guides.

Maybe it’s cheating a bit to set this as one of my goals this year because I don’t really have a choice in the matter. I MUST master google classroom this year. We are teaching face-to-face, but we frequently have students quarantining after being exposed to COVID or because they are exhibiting symptoms. Sometimes these quarantine periods can last up to 24 days. Students need to know exactly what they are missing when they can’t be in the classroom with me.

It is my goal that my Google Classroom classwork tab for each class will represent a comprehensive list of what we did EVERY DAY of the ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR. Does this do away with my need for a lesson plan book? No, not at all. My lesson plan book’s purpose is to provide me an “at a glance” view of what each course is doing each day. It’s a place to write notes to myself about what went well and what needs to be overhauled in the future. I will say that when you get three days behind in filling out your lesson plan book, though, that google classroom then provides an excellent resource for remembering what you did each day!

We’re currently 14 days into the school year and my google classroom is still up to date, so I guess I’m doing good so far. I’ve learned some lessons about using google classroom effectively, but I will save those for my first goals check-in post.

Parent/Student Contact Log

Parent contact is an area which I can definitely improve upon. It’s probably one of my weakest areas. I often wait until parents contact me, and I know I need to be more proactive in my approach. This year I’m teaching almost entirely juniors and seniors, so I’m hoping I can also be more proactive in communicating with them to hopefully avoid having to do as much bad news communication with parents.

In the past, I tried to keep a paper-based parent contact log. It did not work at all. I would fill out a page or two, and then it would sit collecting dust the entire rest of the year. As soon as I forgot to log a single conversation, I would decide that it just wasn’t worth it to keep logging conversations since my log was no longer 100% comprehensive. This is one of those areas where my perfectionism flairs up. If I can’t do it perfectly, I just don’t want to do it at all.

This year I tossed all my old (blank) parent contact forms and have taken a digital approach. I don’t let myself archive any emails from my inbox until I’ve added them to my contact log, so that’s forcing me to stay of logging things as I strive regularly for inbox zero.

I based my digital log off of a log my school required us to keep back in the spring when we were first experiencing distance learning. I don’t want to share too much until I make sure it actually works.

Blog Regularly as Reflective Practice

When I first started blogging as a student teacher, I was constantly reflecting on my teaching practice. I talked about what was going well and what was going not so well. Somewhere along the way, my blog posts shifted into “Here’s a cool puzzle!” or “Here’s a printable activity I made for my students.” That shift isn’t a bad thing. It probably resulted from just gaining confidence in myself and my teaching skills.

But, like everyone else in the teaching profession right now, I’m feeling like a first year teacher all over again. I don’t have perfectly polished digital activities to share with you that you can implement tomorrow. But, I do have built and my reflections on what worked well and what didn’t work at all. This year, I want to focus more on blogging to share these reflections. For it’s through the writing of these reflections that I get a chance to learn from these lessons. And, hopefully you learn something, too.

Stop Reinventing the Wheel When I Don’t Have To

I don’t have to make all my own activities. I don’t have to make all my own videos. It’s okay to borrow and adapt resources from others. It’s okay to borrow them and not even make any attempt to adapt them at all. I didn’t write it as a goal on this list, but my number one goal for this school year is to SURVIVE. I have three preps this year. Even though I’ve taught each of them before, I’ve never taught any of them in the midst of a pandemic. I’ve never taught any of them using only digital resources. I’ve never taught them to students quarantined at home.

I need to remind myself that I am still a good teacher even if I am relying on the work of other teachers. So this year, I will create resources when I feel inspired, and I will adapt and use the resources of others when I need to.

Desmos Computational Layer

I’ve played around a tiny bit with Desmos Computational Layer, but I know I have SOOOOOO much still to learn. As I make my own activities this year, I hope to become more proficient in CL. I’ve already learned a bit this year that I’m super excited about. But, learning this little bit has shown me how much more there is to learn. I’m hoping to share one tiny tidbit of CL I’ve learned each month when I post an update on how my goals are going.

I’ll be back next month with an update about how my goals are going. I’d love to hear about your goals for this school year!

November 8, 2020 – Things Teenagers Say Volume 57

Join me today for Volume 57 of Things Teenagers Say. This is my regular round-up of the crazy and memorable things I hear my students say in class. 

It has been what feels like a million years since the last volume. As I was preparing to transfer my blog over to my new domain name over the course of the last few weeks, I found myself rereading some old volumes of Things Teenagers Say. I was shocked to realize that I’ve only published one volume since switching schools. That doesn’t sound too bad until you consider the fact that this is my third year at my new school! I decided it was time to remedy this oversight. So, I hope you enjoy this 57th volume of Things Teenagers Say

Things Teenagers Say

So, what have my students been saying lately? Let’s take a listen.

I love fishing for compliments. It’s my favorite sport.

Oh my gosh. 9 to the 8th power is a big number.

If your notes aren’t pretty, you’re doing it wrong. I live by that.

I don’t even brush my hair anymore. It just kinda straightens out over the course of the day.

Me: I have a dentist appointment today.
Student: Can we come?

Regarding some celebrity:
From some angles he looks like WOAH but from other angles he looks like trash.

I keep forgetting that football games exist, that they are a thing that happens.

You might dress like you have good taste in music, but OMG…

I truly believe my pet iguana is cuter than my girlfriend.

My car’s name is Monica.

If your parachute fails, you have the rest of your life to figure it out.

Student 1: I don’t know what diseases you have.
Student 2: I don’t have any diseases.
Student 1: Not even heart disease? I mean cardiovascular disease…

So which one of you is going to compliment my hair first?

Student 1: [Insert Name] has been gaslighting me.
Student 2: I thought you were going to say gas chambering.
Me: You’ve been reading too many Holocaust books.
Student 2: Yeah, you’re probably right. I started a new one today.

If I ever get my appendix taken out, I’m going to get it gold-plated and wear it around my neck.

Me: Copy these special right triangles on a new sheet of notebook paper. They are going to be your trig BFFs this semester.
Student: I thought you were our BFF.

In regard to Desmos Period Marbleslides
That’s not even how gravity works!

Oh dude! I could save money on my mortgage. I just got an email!

Student 1: Have you ever wondered what’s inside of an Adam’s Apple?
Student 2: Apple!

Delta Math is my favorite pastime.

I wonder if Australians make upside down jokes about us.

When Mrs. Carter gets a little too excited about introducing polynomials…
Multiple students: Just how many activities are we going to do today?!?

He’s going to fail so hard he’s going to succeed. That’s how hard he’s going to fail!

One of the other math teachers on my hall came to school today to find her heater wasn’t working. When the repairman was walking around on the roof to fix it, a student proclaimed “It’s Santa!”

Student 1: I love hangman.
Student 2: You suck at it.
Student 3: Suck is not a nice word.
Student 2: Okay. You are not good at it.

Do you know what scares me? Balancing a checkbook.

My afternoon pre-calc class promised that if I ever become verified on twitter that they will throw me a party to celebrate. They said they want to be able to throw out the question “But is your math teacher verified on Twitter?” during arguments…

January 11, 2021 – 25+ Prompts for Checking In with Students During Distance Learning

Here are 25+ prompts that can be used for checking in with students during distance learning. If you are in the midst of distance learning, you might be interested in checking out some of the digital activities I have shared. I will be updating this list as I add digital versions to activities.

Update 1/12/21: Jennifer White has created a Desmos Activity Builder with these Check-In Screens to make them easy to add to your Desmos activities!

3 Things I Remember from Today’s Lesson

distance learning check-in prompt

Today’s Muddiest Point

exit ticket template ideas pdf

I think I’m starting to…

distance learning check-in prompt

My favorite part of today’s lesson was…because…

distance learning check-in prompt

I used to think…but now I know…

distance learning check-in prompt

What do you think the goal of today’s lesson was?

distance learning check-in prompt

What was the most important thing you learned in class today?

Your best friend was absent today. Summarize today’s lesson.

distance learning check-in prompt

What is one thing your teacher could do to help you?

distance learning check-in prompt

What is one thing you could do to better prepare for your next quiz?

What would you like us to review tomorrow?

distance learning check-in prompt

Rate your understanding of today’s lesson a scale of 1-10. Explain.

The best part of class today was…

distance learning check-in prompt

Summarize today’s lesson in EXACTLY 10 words.

exit ticket template ideas pdf

You’re the teacher. Write a quiz question (and answer!) over today’s lesson.

Draw a picture to demonstrate the most important concept you learned today.

distance learning check-in prompt

What was the most challenging part of today’s lesson? Why?

distance learning check-in prompt

If you were the teacher, what part of today’s lesson would you take out? Why?

Draw an emoji that represents your understanding of today’s lesson. Explain.

I wish my teacher knew…

distance learning check-in prompt

The thing that helps me learn best is…

distance learning check-in prompt

My favorite thing we do in class is…because…

My least favorite thing we do in class is…because…

distance learning check-in prompt

What are you looking forward to doing this weekend?

exit ticket template ideas pdf

Weekly High? Weekly Low?

distance learning check-in prompt

This class is A) too slow B) too fast C) just right. Explain.

distance learning check-in prompt

If I could change one thing about this class…

distance learning check-in prompt

An unanswered question I still have is…

distance learning check-in prompt

February 19, 2021 – Things Teenagers Say Volume 58

Join me today for Volume 58 of Things Teenagers Say. This is my regular round-up of the crazy and memorable things I hear my students say in class. 

Things Teenagers Say

Student 1: I’m so confused.
Student 2: If you’re confused, just don’t be. 

Your dog may be cuter, but mine is more adorable. 

Did you know that the best time to cry is when you are driving at night? 

Student 1: If we had an Adam Sandler Party, what Adam Sandler character would you come dressed as? I’m going to come as the Adam Sandler in Water Boy.
Student 2: I’m going to come as the Adam Sandler in Forrest Gump.
Student 1: Adam Sandler wasn’t in Forrest Gump.
Student 2: Yes he was.
Student 1: That would be Tom Hanks.
Student 2: Are you sure? I thought that was Adam Sandler.
Entire Class: [Laughter]

He might be the nicest person in the world. most people who look super mean are actually really nice.

He has a photogenic memory. 

Have you really never heard a pig bark? 

Student 1: I’m legally blind.
Student 2: Legally blind? What’s that mean. Wait, isn’t that a tv show.
Student 1: That’s Legally Blonde.
Student 2: I love that movie! 

Student 1: My brother is looking at a job in Wyoming.
Student 2: Why are there even jobs in Wyoming? Nobody lives there.
Student 1: People live there.
Student 2: I don’t even think Wyoming exists.
Student 1: I’ve been there.
Student 2: You were probably in Nevada or Montana. Wyoming doesn’t actually exist. 

Student 1: Hey – what are we doing in English today?
Student 2: Do I look like a school calendar? 

Abs are overrated. 

I love being virtual, but being virtual does not love me. 

Is this clear paper? (This was said while pointing to my box of laminating sheets…)

What’s your favorite Minecraft sound ever? 

These markers are the best thing that’s ever happened to me…today.

Student: I was listening to Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Madison. Parkinson. Parker.
Rest of Class: Parton.

You’re not supposed to help her. We’re in a war to win.
(Said during a game of Quizizz)

March 6, 2021 – Follow Math=Love on Facebook

Good news! You can now follow the Math = Love blog on Facebook. If you would like to get updates in your facebook feed whenever I publish a new blog post, give me a like or a follow!


May 26, 2021 – Things Teenagers Say Volume 59

Tomorrow is the last day of school. I have only one more day of semester tests between me and summer break. Let’s celebrate the ending of the weirdest ever year of my teaching career with a new volume of Things Teenagers Say. This is my regular round-up of the crazy and memorable things I hear my students say in class. 

Things Teenagers Say

Student 1: Where’s Stonehenge?
Student 2: Stone Heads? What are Stone Heads?

It’s not a mullet. It’s a mop, okay?

Student 1: We had a cow that we thought was going to die. My dad and I made a bet.
Student 2: Did you win?
Student 1: No. I lost ten dollars.

I still have a bedtime. That’s the kind of parents I have.

What? The IT guys can’t make the internet work, but they can block every website that exists.

I’m not the favorite, and I’m an only child.

Math equals love? Math equals the death of babies.

Student 1: Bill Gates got divorced.
Student 2 :Bill Gates is still alive?!?

Student 1: So you are telling me I’m like a dream?
Student 2: Yes. Like a weird dream.

I would be such a good lifeguard IF I knew how to swim.

If you had a banjo and threw it off a cliff before playing it, it would sound like this.

If I’m not leaving the house, I want McDonald’s. If I’m leaving the house, I want Chik-fil-a.

I want to go to a marriage counselor with someone I don’t even know and talk about all our problems.

There are two types of couple lock screens – the really cute ones and the really dumb ones.

Student 1: You watch dog walking videos? Why don’t you just go walk your dogs?
Student 2: My dogs aren’t real dogs. They sit around all day. They don’t like to watch.

I’m bad at tic tac toe. I practice at work when I get bored.

Do you know what I like to do? Walk up behind other people and blow my nose.

We need to try and play every single sport our senior year.

Student 1: You don’t even have an icepack in there. How do you keep your lunch cold?
Student 2: Well, it doesn’t get hot. Icepacks are overrated.

Work at your own pace. Does that mean procrastinate as long as possible?

May 30, 2021 – 1932 Geometry Lesson

1932 geometry lesson

Can you imagine hiring a stenographer to record everything said in your geometry lesson? It was very interesting reading the transcript of this 1932 geometry lesson!

Verbatim Record of a Recitation in Geometry Article.

I recommend giving the entire article (linked below) a read!

Verbatim Record of a Recitation in Geometry Article.

Source: School Science and Mathematics 1932-12: Vol 32 Iss 9

July 13, 2021 – NEOK Math Teacher Gathering

I want to officially invite you to the second-ever Northeast Oklahoma Math Teacher Gathering! It’s a free one-day conference designed by teachers, for teachers. Our first conference was in 2019, and it was a BLAST. We even had teachers from several states away attend. If you are within a reasonable driving distance from northeastern Oklahoma, this invite is for you!

This conference is for anyone who teaches math at any grade level. It is being organized by @druinok, @RebeckaMozdeh, @Johnsonmath, and myself. We would love for you to join us.

NEOK Math Teacher Gathering

This year’s conference will be August 5, 2021 at Collinsville High School. I will likely be presenting two sessions (details still to be finalized). We are also still looking for PRESENTERS!

Registration information as well as information about presenting can all be found here. Want a better idea of what the conference will be like? You can check out all of the details from our 2019 conference here.

If you do attend, make sure you hunt me down to say hi!

August 9, 2021 – 2020-2021 Goals Update

Today was Day 1 of the 2021-2022 school year, so I guess it’s time I actually set down and reflect on my 2020-2021 goals I set at the beginning of last year. In reality, I’m just procrastinating on prepping my never ending to-do list for my first day with students on Wednesday…

goals update

My original plan was that I would reflect on how I was progressing towards these goals each month. That. Didn’t. Happen. We all know just how insane the 2020-2021 school year was. Adding something like a monthly goal update to my to-do list was just too much.

goals for the 2020-2021 school year page in teacher lesson plan book

Goal 1 – Google Classroom

It is my goal that my Google Classroom classwork tab for each class will represent a comprehensive list of what we did EVERY DAY of the ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR.

So, how did I fair? I’m going to give myself 3 stars out of 5. I did pretty well at this until about April.

I found myself waiting several days and then updating it all at once. That’s fine for students who were there in class.

It’s not ideal for students who were choosing distance learning. They could still access their daily assignments on Delta Math, so most did not run into any issues actually doing the work.

Still, I never got into a great daily routine of making sure it was 100% up to date before leaving for the day.

Tweet about Google Classroom Issue

I also ran into an issue with how I had organized/set up my Google Classroom. I was super proud of myself for putting each day’s classwork in it’s own topic. Then, students could see all of the work for any given day in the course.

In February, I made the discovery that you are limited to only 100 topics per google classroom. I was able to work around this by combining previous topics into months, but this was super annoying and tedious when I had to do it six different times for each google classroom that I have set up.

If I were to do it again, I would circumvent this issue by creating a new google classroom at the start of the new semester.

Students start on Wednesday, and I still need to decide if I am going to organize things by week or by unit. I still have work to do to improve in this area. Setting up daily/weekly routines is a must.

Goal 2 – Parent/Student Contact Log

I decided to keep a digital parent/student contact log during the 2020-2021 school year. Each time a student or parent emailed me or I called a parent, I logged it in a giant google doc.

I made a simple template and copied and pasted it a million times so I had a table for each student’s name in my google doc.

Parent Student Contact Log Template

This is by far the best documentation I have ever kept in my almost decade in the classroom. It was nice to be able to look back at all of the contact I had participated in on a student by student basis.

I was able to make note of the best ways to get in contact with various parents and what we had discussed in each conversation.

I think that because I also logged every email from every student that it kinda ballooned into an annoying daily project. Every email letting me know that a student had completed an assignment late or a student needed me to update their grade resulted in not only having to complete the task but having to log it in the google doc.

While it was useful to see which students had been in contact with me and which ones hadn’t, I soon began to despise my google doc because of the extra work I had given myself. Still, I’m going to reward myself 4.5/5 stars.

I think moving forward I will only document parent contact and not student contact to make life much easier on myself. Especially since my class sizes this year are looking to be very large. Last year, they were greatly reduced due to the pandemic.

Goal 3 – Blog Regularly as Reflective Practice

This year, I want to focus more on blogging to share these reflections. For it’s through the writing of these reflections that I get a chance to learn from these lessons. And, hopefully you learn something, too.

I had really good intentions when I set this goal. I wanted my blog posts to not just be resource sharing posts. I wanted to share more about my thought processes behind crafting lessons. I wanted to share what worked and what totally flopped.

What I didn’t foresee when I set this goal in August was that by November I would decide to stop using Google’s Blogger and switch to WordPress and my own domain. This ended up entailing A LOT of work.

So, most of my blogging time went to improving things on my blog and reorganizing old posts/updating download links/etc instead of writing new reflective posts.

I still have work to do transferring downloads and breaking apart some old posts, but I am so much happier with my blog now that it is self-hosted on WordPress! All of the work has been totally worth it.

Now that blogging is so much easier to do (Google’s Blogger was becoming very unfriendly to work with), I’m hoping this is a goal I can continue to work on this coming school year. I’m awarding myself 2/5 stars with room for improvement going forward.

Goal 4 – Stop Reinventing the Wheel When I Don’t Have to

I don’t have to make all my own activities. I don’t have to make all my own videos. It’s okay to borrow and adapt resources from others.

It’s okay to borrow them and not even make any attempt to adapt them at all. I didn’t write it as a goal on this list, but my number one goal for this school year is to SURVIVE.

I have three preps this year. Even though I’ve taught each of them before, I’ve never taught any of them in the midst of a pandemic.

I’ve never taught any of them using only digital resources. I’ve never taught them to students quarantined at home.

I need to remind myself that I am still a good teacher even if I am relying on the work of other teachers. So this year, I will create resources when I feel inspired, and I will adapt and use the resources of others when I need to.

If there any goal on this list that I feel like I can cross of my list from this past year, this is it. I gave up so many of my perfectionistic tendencies this year. I stole/borrowed resources from so many teachers. Most importantly, I survived an entire year of teaching during a pandemic.

Was it perfect? Certainly not. But, perfection wasn’t the goal. Teaching kids math and maintaining my sanity were my goals. And, this was a success. I’m awarding myself 5/5 stars.

Goal 5 – Learn Desmos Computational Layer

I got off to a good start with this. I made several activities for my Pre-Calculus class that taught me several new elements of Computational Layer. Then, I started implementing Goal 4 (Stop Reinventing the Wheel) which promptly put a stop to this. I started just adapting others’ Desmos activities.

I still want to learn more, but I’m going to have to give myself 1 out of 5 stars.


This was my first time setting school year goals like this. The problem was that this school year was full of pivots and changes and endless opportunities to be flexible.

So, my goals at the beginning of the year didn’t necessarily reflect what I needed on any given Tuesday in April. Even so, I think this was a worthwhile exercise. And, it’s making me realize I need to set some goals for this new school year!


Monday 14th of September 2020

i have to throw in my crock pot recipe... Chicken breasts, chicken broth, seasoning (I use chicken seasoning, minced garlic, and season salt). 7 hours on low. Shred chicken while in the broth and drain. Broth can be used for gravy or my kids like chicken “French dip” sandwiches. Chicken keeps in the fridge. When my kids were little, we used the chicken for “a plate of things I like” (meat, cheese, veggie/fruit, cracker). Now they like to have it to make themselves wraps (a plate of things they like in a tortilla)

Mary Anne Hardy

Sunday 13th of September 2020

Love this! Two comments: #1 love the labels, I use the same containers for my baking supplies and have used them for over 20 years. I have a medium one with chocolate chips. Also a small one with baking powder. #2 Two "go to" crockpot ideas: A) chicken or boneless pork with a bottle of BBQ sauce. I put in crockpot in the morning before school on low and its ready for dinner B) variation on OkieDrapers recipe: 5 frozen chicken breasts,1 15.5 oz can of black beans (drained), 1 15 oz can corn (drained), 1 15 oz jar of salsa. Cook on high 4 hours or low 7-8 hours. Add 1 8 oz package of cream cheese (throw it on top) and let it sit for 30 minutes. Stir together and shred the chicken. Great with chips or as a taco filling or on rice.

Nancy Swank

Saturday 12th of September 2020

I love your organized baking supplies - they look beautiful! We returned to in person (hybrid) this week. Even though it's the 5th week of school, I definitely felt 1st week of school tired by Friday!


Saturday 12th of September 2020

Super easy crockpot recipe: put frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot, cover with salsa, cook for at least 4 hours. I don't measure the salsa, just make sure there is a layer over the chicken breasts. About an hour before you want to eat, shred the chicken then let it continue to cook. This makes a great chicken taco filling. I like to add some instant rice when I shred the chicken--this keeps it from being too watery.

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