Math Tips & Measurement

Is there a workshop, training, or professional development that you feel made a long lasting impact on your instruction? Although I used different math curriculums through the years, I continued to use tips I  learned at a week long Math Their Way workshop.

EXPLORATION: This is an important classroom management tip that should be taught in undergrad.  Students need time to explore, use, play, and make discoveries with the manipulatives before they use them with a lesson.  

Are you planning a measurement unit in the near future? Get out the rulers, measuring tape, or other tools that you will use during the unit now.  Add these to your Friday fun day choices or let your students use them during inside recess.  Instead of making a helicopter with a pencil and a ruler, your students will be more attentive during your measurement lesson - if they have had time to explore before the lesson.  
Not every learning opportunity has to have a written response. Open-ended activities are great ways to encourage self-learning, creativity, and critical thinking. Pictured above is an easy center you can organize during your measurement unit that is open-ended.  Ribbons, scrap materials, and a variety of measurement tools are all that is needed.

Conversations at this center are interesting.  Some students will pretend to be a fashion designer, others will organize the materials by patterns or colors, and others will pretend to be a store owner. You will see collaboration and hear conversations about math. Students are making connections about what type of jobs or careers would use this type of math while practicing math skills.
Help students make real life connections with measurement with this road tape from Target's Dollar Spot. Distance is another form of measurement.  I cut different lengths and attached it to cardstock. Quick and easy measurement center that students will love.
Students can practice non-standard units of measurement and make the connection that 12 inches equals a foot with these foam feet.  The foam feet are from Dollar Tree.
Measure Me Centers: Seasonal & Literacy themes
Practice, practice, and more practice is needed when students learn to measure.  It is helpful if there is a line showing students where to measure when they learn how to use a ruler.  Once your students become proficient at measuring, give them pictures without a line.  
Treasure boxes is another tip that I continued to use - no matter what curriculum I used. Treasure boxes can be any small container.  I prefer Ziplock containers because they come in a variety of sizes and have colorful lids.


  • I used the color of the lid to organize my groups.  Different teams used different colored treasure boxes each day.
  • It is helpful to have defined workspace if your students use the treasure boxes in a small area like their table.  You can use a small piece of felt or shelf liner (see picture below).  I found the shelf liner at Dollar Tree.  Each roll has 60 inches.  I got six  workspaces out of one roll (10 inches).
  • Train your students to put the lid under the box, next to the workspace.

You can add anything to the boxes that you like. Send home a note to parents and ask for their help in organizing your treasure boxes.  Ask for a variety of materials like:

  • Keys
  • Pinto beans
  • Q-tips
  • Lids from juice or milk 
  • Toothpicks
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Buttons
Treasure boxes are perfect for teachers who teach math using math stations.  They are open-ended and no prep once you have organized a class set.
Put pennies and quarters in one of your treasure boxes.  Coins can be real or pretend money.  This box is a good extension for a money unit or Presidents Day.  Since it is open-ended students, you might see students making patterns by coins, color, heads/tails, or height (stacking coins).  Other students may arrange the coins to spell words.
If you use my Black History Month unit, you know that Dr. George Grant invented the golf tee.  Add golf tees to one of your treasure boxes.  Students can make patterns, shapes, or spell words with golf tees.
Q-tips can be used to make Roman numerals, make shapes, or letters.  I have had good success asking and getting parents to donate household supplies like Q-tips. 

What workshop or professional development has made a long lasting impact on your instruction?

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Read and Follow Directions

Does this sound familiar:
  • What am I supposed to do on this assignment?
  • I don't know how to do this.
  • Can you tell me how to do this?
One of the jobs we have as teachers is to help our students become lifelong learners.  Students need to know how to read and comprehend in order to make this possible.  Comments and questions like the ones above are signs that students need to work on comprehension skills or be given more opportunities to work independently.  There can be a variety of reasons why students struggle to work independently - learned helplessness, lack of confidence, etc.

You can help your student build confidence in their reading skills and strengthen their comprehension skills by using the cards in the picture below.

These cards include simple commands or tasks for the students to do.  Most of the tasks involve some type of movement so these have the added bonus of helping with the wiggles.

Keep a set of cards where you teach.  When your students need a stretch break, hold up a cards, ask a volunteer to read it, and then let your class do it.

Is is ANOTHER day of inside recess?  Ahead of time, copy these cards on colorful cardstock, punch a hole, and put them on a ring. 

Divide your class into 5 groups and give each group a ring of cards.  Each group will complete the tasks on the cards.  Rotate sets of cards until each group has done all of the cards - time permitting.

Students are reading and following directions plus MOVING!

Set up a literacy center with the Read*Color* Write printable included in this FREE download.  This is a good way to assess your students' skills.  There is an answer key included so you can make this a self-checking center.

There are also 30 read and follow direction task cards included with this free download.


Random Acts of Kindness

It seems like we are bombarded with negativity.  It is easy to let all of this weigh you down. Who wants that? The best way I have found to bring back the positive spark is by practicing a few acts of kindness.  

An act of kindness can be for an individual or group. A few school related ideas you can try are:
  • Bake cookies and put in the teachers' lounge to put a smile on your co-workers' faces.
  • Do a co-worker's recess duty.  The gift of time is one of the best things you can give a teacher.
  • Invite your co-worker's class to join your class for a special event. Give your co-worker a break during this time.  I.E.  Your class performs a Reader's Theater play.  Your class can write their own plays with this free template.

Acts of kindness are like flowers. Something beautiful happens after you plant the seed. More and more acts of kindness begin to pop up where you planted your seed.
Have you noticed a higher rate of conflicts with your students lately?  Introduce random acts of kindness to your class.  You will be surprised at the positive impact this will have on the climate of your class.  I found some videos and songs that you can use for your lesson.  I also included a couple of response pages.  You can download this Q.R. Code listening center free.

I am joining other TPT sellers to build a wave of positive thoughts.  You can find more free lessons by searching on TPT for:

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Connecting with Students: Love Languages

Have you read the book, The Five Love Languages? The first time I read this book, I felt the same way I did when I went to the eye doctor and was fitted with a pair of eyeglasses. Suddenly, I looked at the world in a whole new way. Everything was crisp and clear!

Gary Chapman, the author and marriage therapist, found in his practice that couples express and interpret love through five languages:
  •  Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch. 
Love languages is a perfect tool for a teacher's toolbox. The principles of this book can help teachers connect with their students.

Think about your class to see if you can identify your students' love language.  Do you have a student that:
  • Greets you in the morning with a hug.
  • Wants to hold your hand when you walk to recess
  • Hugs you good-bye at the end of the day.
You can connect with this student by:
  • Putting your hand on the student's head or shoulder when he or she is waiting line to ask you a question and you are speaking to someone else.
  • Holding his or her hand when this student is the line leader.

A student with the gifts love language will:
  • Bring you heart-felt gifts to show you that he or she is thinking about you.  This student may spend his or her recess time picking dandelions to make you the perfect flower bouquet.
You can set up a special supplies box. Put fun supplies like glittery pencils, twistable crayons, or gel pens in the box.  Show your class an example of someone's paper who showed improvement, has neat handwriting, or wrote an amazing story.  Let this student use the special supplies box during work time.  The student will see using the special supplies as a gift - even though he or she doesn't get to keep the supplies.  Plus, you have the bonus love language of words of affirmation by sharing how wonderful the work was.

Students whose love language is words of affirmation will:
  • Tell you that you are their favorite teacher.
  • Write you notes and pictures
  • Compliment you as a person or your job as a teacher
Write a few words in this student's journal, tell them when you notice them doing something positive, or write a happy note like the one in the picture.  You can get a FREE COPY of the note in the picture.

The student with quality time as his or her love language may be the student asking for quality time in the wrong way.  Students who don't get their needs met at home, will try to get those needs met at school.  

Connecting with these students - giving them quality time - can be difficult when you have 20+ students.  With a little bit of effort, you can make it happen. Here are a few "stolen moments" that you can use with the quality time students (QTS):
  • Ask QTS to come to your teacher table before you begin calling reading groups.  Look at his or her writing journal or homework.  Ask him or her to tell you about it.  Just a few minutes can pay big dividends.  Your QTS goes away feeling connected with you and is now less disruptive.  Win!  Win!
  • Organize lunch buddy groups.  Once a week invite a group of students to eat lunch in your room.  Quality time doesn't always have to be one-on-one.  A small group like this will work, too.
How do you connect with your students?

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. Click HERE to read my blog's disclosure statement.