The paths to "Eureka" moments: Teaching Mathematics in Secondary Education

Archive for the ‘H1’ Category

Zombie Apocalypse! Math games

Today I played a game I’ve re-named as Zombie Apocalypse!

I was inspired by this blog Math = Love who in turn found it on this blog: Out Rockin Constantly

My students loved the game! It helped them use some of their skills on evaluated expressions with exponents and develop new skills by seeing patterns and problem-solving. Everyone was involved as they did their own work on their personal whiteboard and the class quickly became a room of zombies with a few lone survivors.

The game was amazingly simple and can be adapted to any topic. Read the description by Nathan Kroft in Out Rockin Constantly for more details!

Math 8_November 11

Here is a cool tool for solving algebraic equations!

Use the balance scale to practice! 


Connecting Geometry

Now that I am a full-time middle school teacher, I’m constantly looking for ways to connect math topics to my students’ lives. We’re looking for ways to…

So, I thought I’d share a good geometry resource I found!

This video (and the others in the series) connects drawing (something my middle school kids are totally into) with geometry. The facts are solid, and the history is great!


Extra-curricular Reflection #3

Softball Game

Walking up to the stands, I heard my name “Look, its Ms. Becker”, “Hi Ms. Becker!” I had talked with several of my math students about their softball games and determined to come see the recreational department teams play. It was great to see their enthusiasm for the game, their encouragement towards each

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other, and analyze the positions they played. I was surprised to see one student, typically distracted in my algebra class, pitch the entire second round of innings. She was focused, methodical, and very talented. She struck out many batters and ended up winning the game for her team. She did not waver under pressure and threw few balls, walking no one while I watched.

As I watched her from behind the fence, I thought, “Well, that’s it. Now I will have to expect more out of her in class.” It is interesting how an outside event affected my view of this student. Now that I knew she was capable of intense focus and drive, I felt I could use softball, or the dynamics of the game, to inspire focus and motivation in algebra. There are many aspects of math that can be applied to baseball/softball. In this way, I hope to incorporate student interest in my math lessons.

Extra-curricular Reflection #2

Teachers versus Students Volleyball

The tension built as we walked out on the court. Our adversaries were warming up with their traditional drills, their uniforms and knee pads giving them the professional edge over our mismatched bare-kneed team of teachers and interns. As we began playing, our objective was obvious- get the ball over the net. Out opponents however, as an experienced team, worked to touch the ball three times before sending it flying in our direction. While we were inexperienced and sloppy, our strategy began paying off as we kept pace with the skilled middle school girls’ team. It was teachers versus students, and it was close. Our simple but effective strategy won out in the end as the teachers won, beating the students by 7 in the last game.

images (1)This experience was awesome. At first I was nervous as I was thought dressing down would make me “less of a teacher” in the mind of my students. Instead, it seemed to humanize me to my students, showing them I was competitive and enjoyed athletics. Students and principal cheered together as both teams focused on the little white ball flying back and forth across the court. In the end, the teachers won. I didn’t like this outcome as I thought it would probably be best to let students win, since teachers had also won in the basketball game. However, the students took it well and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Extra-curricular Reflection #1

Activity Day at Middle School

6a00d8341fa9ad53ef00e54f0c5a108833-800wiOn special days at our middle school, the academic day ends early and students and teachers participate in a variety of fun activities- Activity Day! On this particular day, several tables were set up with games like “guess what’s in the box”, where students stuck their hands in a black box only to feel slimy spaghetti or Jell-O. Other tables had puzzles and board games, while the gym shook from the bass as the school dance took place. It was fun to see students relaxed and in a non-classroom setting. As I helped to direct the “guess what’s in the box” activity, I was able to connect with my students on a more personal level, joke around with them, and observe their friend groups outside the classroom. It was also helpful to see where students’ interests took them. Some students preferred to dance the whole time, while others preferred to sit at the doodle-design activity table.


Understanding students’ interests will definitely help me as I plan math lessons and activities. This will especially be helpful as I look to connect math topics with the real life experiences of my students.

Student Choice! Stations Lesson

H1-Honor student diversity and development.


Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt learner centered curricula that engages students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.

As a teacher, the content I teach must be accessible to all students of diverse learning profiles, readiness levels, and interests.

On the fifth day of our Algebra unit on functions, I decided to do a stations activity. The stations were designed to allow students to work on various ways of working with functions. The activity enabled students to choose the areas where they felt they needed additional practice.

Functions day 5

The stations were:

1)    Domain/Range: Worksheets with multiple ways of representing given information.

2)    Input/Output: Worksheets with many different functions and problems where students are asked to find either specific inputs or outputs.

3)    Graphing: Students are given several related functions (shifted along either the x or y-axis) and asked to graph them on different coordinate planes. (See graph paper)

DomainRange Worksheet     function_output      graphing_coordinate_plane 

As with other workdays, students were encouraged to work collaboratively and use dry-erase markers on their tables to demonstrate their work. “Go-to” people were designated at each station as peer leaders to whom students could direct questions before asking me.

After the stations activity a differentiated quiz was given to all students. The quiz had two versions based on student readiness level. The only difference between the quizzes was the complexity of the math involved; the function content was the same. Prior to giving the quiz,  I explained why I was giving two different quizzes. “Those who showed an understanding of functions (based on pre-assessment) receive a quiz with more complex math as well as functional notation. This is to challenge each student, not to label one group “smart” and another “dumb”. All students received the same type of questions, just different levels of math complexity.”

Functions Quiz 1   Functions Quiz 2

This lesson was planned so as to be learner centered. It allowed students to work with the content in a variety of ways and from multiple perspectives. Students were able to work collaboratively- challenging each student in a developmental way. Finally, the quiz was given in such a way as to give each student the opportunity to succeed and demonstrate their academic knowledge.

In creating this lesson I was able to grow in my understanding of how to differentiate instruction and assessments. I focused on individual student readiness levels and was able to formatively assess where students had strengths and weaknesses. By giving students the choice of which stations to work at, they were responsible for their own learning and quiz preparation.

In the future, I will continue to strive to make my lessons student-centered, differentiating my instruction to meet students where they are at developmentally.